About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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PV PLZ: How I Booked a $2,000+ Mexican Vacation for $90 With Points

A couple of days ago, I returned from a MUCH needed break slash reset in sunny Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. A friend and I stayed 3 nights Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. She flew down from Chicago. And I flew from Dallas.

I only paid $90 to watch the sunset in Puerto Vallarta for 3 nights

Out-of-pocket, I paid $90 in addition to 60,000 Hyatt points for the room and 15,000 British Airways Avios points for award flights on American. Here’s how I did it!

PV PLZ trip report index

Get me to Mexico!

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Confirmed: FoundersCard Members Can STILL Get 4 Nights in the Bahamas (I Just Booked It!)

Oof. It’s been a rough ride for Caesar’s Total Rewards fans this year. In particular, they slaughtered their Diamond elite tierno more lounge access for starters, unless you have a certain number of tier credits.

total rewards atlantis

I’m coming back for more, Atlantis

One of the best perks about Total Rewards Diamond elite status has been 4 free nights in the Bahamas each year (I took them up on it in December 2016). And that’s changed, too.

I’m Diamond with Total Rewards because of FoundersCard. That perk was renewed through the end of January 2019.

I’m NOT a high roller but still got 4 free nights in the Bahamas

And great news: you can still get 4 nights at the Atlantis Paradise Island (a Marriott Autograph property). I had no trouble booking it over the phone with next to 0 tier credits today.

But now, you have to pay resort fees for the stay, and they’re ~$54 per night. Which is still a great deal. Just not as good a deal as before.

Looks like I’ll be going back to Nassau in May! I’m thinking of staying only 3 nights and spending the last one at the new Grand Hyatt Baha Mar that isn’t even 1 year old yet!

Total Rewards Atlantis Information

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My $100 Haul of Free Mercedes-Benz Gear (The Card With This Perk Is Going Away!)

I’ve been meaning to write about this year’s edition of $100 in free Mercedes-Benz stuff (last year’s haul is here). I still have my glasses and water bottle, but lost the coffee cup to the TSA gods at LaGuardia. :/ (I now use a HydroFlask to transport coffee to the airport.)

I dusted off my certificate and headed to my local Mercedes-Benz dealership.

amex mercedes benz certificate

Thanks for the free jacket, water bottle, and keychain, Amex!

I ended up getting a nice fleece-lined windbreaker worth $89, a water bottle, and a keychain. Total cost: $0!

You get one of these $100 certificates every year with the Amex Platinum Mercedes-Benz card. But, as I just found out from Nick at Frequent Miler, it’s going away in January 2019. If you’ve never had it, get it while you can!

This year’s $100 Amex Mercedes Benz Certificate

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, New Mexico

New Mexico is pure magic. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.

Every time I’m there, I feel deep soul-healing. Those high desert landscapes are what my soul looks like, I think. I’m so completely at peace with the mountains and wind and all of it.

So I was definitely looking forward to staying at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya, nestled 25 minutes north of Albuquerque and 45 minutes south of Santa Fe in northern New Mexico.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Review

This little sign is where the magic began

Two friends and I drove here non-stop from Dallas – a solid 10-hour drive. We left at 4am, stopping only in Amarillo for an early lunch. A few hours later, we drove through the cute town of Bernalillo and into the 550 acres of the resort, technically located in Santa Ana Pueblo.

This is a wonderful, special resort. I highly recommend staying here if you ever get the opportunity. Here’s my experience and how I stayed for completely free! 

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Review – Arrival and check-in

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Out and Out’s Travel Goals & Plans for 2018 ✈️

Getting ready to give new life to this here dear blog. 2017 was a doozy; the beginning of 2018 wiped out a lot of my energy. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reading, relaxing, and healing.

It’s been a long ride but I’m finally feeling a bit more “with it” after getting back from Puerto Vallarta last night (!).

travel plans 2018

One magical trip already in the books – what’s next for Out and Out in 2018?

I also haven’t told you about my trip to Denver last month. In fact, the last trip I wrote about was New Orleans from November 2017, so I have some catching up to do!

When I’m not writing here, you can always follow me on Instagram for updates. I think of it as my auxiliary journal and always post pics from every new place I visit!

Travel plans 2018 – in the books

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Announcing: Dallas Points & Miles Meetup Group (Join Now and First Event Info!)

File under: things I’ve been wanting to do for a looong time – a proper points & miles meetup!

I was lucky enough to regularly attend meetups when I lived in New York a few years ago and always had a blast hanging out with the community. And looked for something similar in the Dallas area – I’ve missed the chance to geek out on points, miles, and travel. I got tired of waiting and made a group myself!

dallas points meetup

Now open for new members – Out for Miles!

Allow me to introduce Out for Miles – the first event will be March 15, 2018!

A new Dallas meetup is open

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AncestryDNA Vs 23andMe – Which Ancestry Test Is Best?

Over the holidays, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: starting tracing my ancestry. Because both AncestryDNA and 23andMe had DNA tests on sale for Cyber Monday, I decided to get both – and compare.

AncestryDNA Vs 23andMe

Which DNA test reigns supreme?

For the basics, they’re pretty much the same – with an edge to AncestryDNA because of its bigger database.

But the health reports addition to 23andMe blew me away. And it’s worth spending the extra money to unlock a huge amount of personal information you might not even be aware of yet. That’s scary and exhilarating – and makes you consider how much you really want to know.

Dang it, I already let it slip which one I like more. #fairandbalanced 🤷🏻‍♂️

AncestryDNA Vs 23andMe Review

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Allbirds 6-Month Review: How Are These Travel Shoes Holding Up?

Also see:

A little over 6 months ago, I wondered if Allbirds might be the perfect travel shoe. I tend to replace my shoes about every 6 months. But I’m happy to report the Allbirds still look and feel great. Though there is the usual wear and tear.

Allbirds 6-Month Review

My Allbirds held up wonderfully. And I have NOT been kind to them

I’ve worn them nearly every day and along all my travels. I tend to wear out my shoes. But whereas my old New Balances would’ve been literally falling apart at the 6-month mark, the Allbirds still have plenty of life left in them.

I want another pair!

Allbirds 6-Month Review

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Use Earny for Automated Visa and MasterCard Price Protection

I wrote about Trim and Paribus to track price changes and get a refund from merchants. Now there’s Earny, which tracks price changes and uses price protection from many bank Visa and MasterCard credit cards – and files the claims for you automatically. In return, they take 25% of the bounty.

earny app

Earny automates price protection with several bank Visas and MasterCards

I shop online a lot with my Citi AT&T Access More card (no longer available although you can still product change to it). All Citi personal cards come with Citi Price Rewind, which puts the onus on you to file a claim if you find a lower price. But now Earny automates the work. After you link your cards, nothing else is required to file a claim when Earny finds a lower price.

If you shop online a lot, this could save you big bucks!

What’s Earny?

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Monaco: A Currency Exchange & Cryptocurrency Rewards Prepaid Card

Recently, a friend recommended now is a good time to buy a little of 4 big cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, the new Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. So I bought $100 of each, mostly for the sake of curiosity. I do NOT recommend cryptocurrency as an investment (try these platforms instead!).

monaco review crypto

Monaco will exchange currency and earn crypto rewards with a prepaid debit card

And today, I heard about Monaco, which aims to exchange currency at perfect interchange rates (including crypto). And if you pledge to invest in the card, you can earn “crypto back” rewards – which you can redeem for real crypto.

There are NO fees because your money is always treated as local currency no matter if you’re spending US dollars, a foreign currency, or crypto.

Monaco isn’t available yet in the US. But they expect to launch globally any time now. If you use my link to sign up, you’ll get $10 added to your account for free. Ten US dollars. 😉

Exchange currency and oh god, do I have to think about crypto now?

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Best IRA Accounts: 8 Companies Compared (Self-Directed, Apps, & Roboadvisors)

Also see: 

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Acorns, an app I think is a great place to get started with investing (especially for millennials). Talking about investing is dicey. For one, because it’s personal (duh). For that reason, everyone has an opinion on it. And that’s where the confusion starts.

My view is: it doesn’t matter where you begin, so long as you do. You can always switch things around later. To that end, I feel Acorns has the most approachable interface for a beginner “despite” costing $1 a month. And there’s no minimum to start investing.

best ira accounts

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is RIGHT THIS SECOND. Start NOW!

That said, it’s an app and doesn’t let you choose your own funds (you pick from their portfolios). Same with StashWealthsimple, and Betterment. Of course, you’ll get the best deal with a self-directed account – but the minimums are dauntingly high for a beginner, with the exception of TD Ameritrade.

I’ll compare these companies for expenses, account and fund minimums, and quirky extras:

I am focusing on IRAs here – although they all have the option to simply be an investment account (which is why I excluded Robinhood – they do NOT have IRAs).

8 Best IRA Accounts Compared

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7 Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers (Many With Discounts)

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Merry merry! What a year it’s been. Some amazing products and services crossed my path this year. And I want to share them in case you need some gift ideas for the travelers in your life.

I have personally used them all. And can attest to their quality. It can be a challenge to shop when you don’t know exactly what to get someone. Consider these!

(And for good measure, here are some stocking stuffer ideas.)

Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers

1. A new blazer and/or chinos

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