Travel

Category Archives for Travel.

Booking BAP: A $5,000 Trip to Europe for $238 & Points!

My free digs in Amsterdam

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In a few weeks, I’ll be in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague for the first time. I am calling this trip “BAP” (after the 3 cities).

This is the trip I booked waaay back in August 2016 for biz class seats with Etihad miles. At the time, I paid ~37,000 miles for round-trip seats from New York to Brussels on Brussels Airlines. Etihad has since raised the price to 88,000 miles – which can still be a good deal to Europe in Business.

That was about 9 months ago – the furthest out I’ve ever planned a trip. At the time, I figured I’d fill it in when the time came. Which is now.

brussels amsterdam prague

I’m coming for ya, Brussy

Here’s how I put together a $5,00+ week-long trip to Europe for $238 out of pocket.

Booking BAP (Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague)

1. To New York and back

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Hotel Review: The Drake (Hilton), Chicago

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This past week, I ventured up to Chicago to see Hamilton and hang out with some old college buddies.

I booked 5 nights at The Drake hotel Chicago, located on the Magnificent Mile/Michigan Avenue, with Hilton points. The 5th night was free on this award booking, so I paid 200,000 Hilton points (50,000 X 4) for the entire stay.

the drake hotel chicago

My eventual room would’ve cost $1,400+ out of pocket

Because I’m Diamond with Hilton, I got an upgrade to a King Bed on the Executive Floor. Similar room rates to when I stayed say this would’ve been ~$1,404 in cash. But I didn’t have to pay taxes on the award booking, which are over 17% per night (!!!).

That means my Hilton points were worth .07 cents each – and more when you count the free breakfast and free food in the evenings. That’s a good rate for Hilton points!

I took a Lyft from Midway after flying on Southwest from Dallas-Love Field. Traffic was backed up, but I made it to The Drake in about 30 minutes.

Arrival and check-in

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Bahama Breeze: Part 3 – Wanderings in Nassau

The cute promenade at the Fish Fry

During my time in Nassau, I managed to make it into town twice. The first time was in the middle of the day on a Saturday. And the second was a Monday night, which we quickly found out was not the best time to visit.

If you stay in Nassau (maybe because of the 4 free nights at the Atlantis from FoundersCard/Total Rewards Diamond status), you will probably end up on Bay Street at some point. Wait, I made a little map:

nassau

Lay of the Nassau land (click to enlarge)

So that’s kinda what to expect.

And here’s what I did during my explorations beyond the Atlantis!

Bahama Breeze Index

Beach bummin’ in Nassau

1. Downtown/Bay Street

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Confirmed: FoundersCard Gets You Total Rewards Diamond Status Through 2018

Yes! FoundersCard's best benefit returns for another year

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I’ve written a lot about FoundersCard over the years.

One of their cornerstone benefits since 2014 has been free Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status.

Thankfully, it’s made a comeback every year. Including this one!

Total Rewards Diamond Status

Yes! FoundersCard’s best benefit returns for another year

You can get Total Rewards Diamond status through January 31st, 2018 – nearly a full year.

The bad news is FoundersCard currently costs $495, plus a one-time $95 fee, if you’re new.

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Been better, been worse

However, if you have a trip to Vegas in the near future, it could be worth it anyway.

What you get with Total Rewards Diamond status

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Mexico and Bust: Eating at All the Hyatt Zilara Cancun Restaurants

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OMG, y’all. I have never eaten so much in my life. I seriously – like legit – have new stretch marks from how much I gorged myself during my recent free stay at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun.

I knew I wanted to write about the food and drinks at the various restaurants. But found balance a hard one to strike because I was literally always eating and drinking. So I was torn between wanting to capture the moment and be in the moment. But I have enough to  give you an idea of what to expect.

Also, I tried every dang restaurant there – some of them twice.

hyatt zilara cancun restaurants

Love is a many splendored thing

I was impressed by the quality, selection, and creativity of the dishes. There was a huge variety. And all the drinks are made with top-shelf liquor.

Girdle thy loins, let’s look at each one.

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Index

Hyatt Zilara Cancun restaurants

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Review of My Free Stay at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

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Ahoy, mateys! I have so much to tell you about – just back from a week of meetings in Austin.

I’ve been meaning to report on the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, so here goes.

I booked 3 nights with points in late January.

The flights were paid with Citi ThankYou points (which I’m always rolling in). And I charged the $55 round-trip airport transfer to my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which trigged part of the $300 annual travel credit. And because it’s an all-inclusive, food was covered (more on that in a future post!).

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

Hyatt Zilara Cancun from above

So flights, hotel, food, and transportation were all completely free. I did bring $100 in cash to leave as tips for the drivers, bartenders, servers, and housekeeping staff.

This trip would’ve cost north of $2,000 out of pocket.

But back to the hotel!

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Index

Arrival and check-in

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My Experience Getting the Southwest Companion Pass With Starwood Points

Yessa!

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It is here! My coveted Southwest Companion Pass.

After a disappointing New Year’s Day announcement that hotel transfers would no longer count toward the Companion Pass, to a reversal a few days later after much criticism, the beginning of 2017 was a wild ride for Southwest.

Southwest Companion Pass

Back n forth on January 1st

I wasn’t surprised by the announcement – I predicted it would happen a year ago – but it was underhanded and calculating for them to “close the loophole” on January 1st with absolutely no forewarning.

It was sleazy and the opposite of transparent. And for those few days, I was kind of happy to not have the Companion Pass. Because why would I want to commit to a company that makes those sort of changes without warning?

Made it official on January 5th

Made it official on January 5th

But they did the right thing, and added a generous 3-month deadline. So that turned me around. Although they have devalued their revenue-based points system without notice twice in recent memory. So I still have that thought in the back of my mind.

My experience getting the Southwest Companion Pass

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Bahama Breeze: Part 2 – Exploring the Atlantis Resort in Nassau

Atlantis Resort Nassau

I referenced the enormity of the Atlantis Bahamas complex in my earlier review. But wow, this place is gigantic!

Walking through it all would be a nigh impossible task. There’s a free shuttle bus to get around the various towers. Most places are a 5- to 30-minute walk, depending on which tower you stay, and how quickly you walk.

Atlantis Resort Nassau

View from Dolphin Cay

The Atlantis is a city unto itself. It would take several weeks to experience the dozens of bars and restaurants, swim in all the pools, and walk around the beaches of Paradise Island. So go into it knowing you won’t see everything. But do sketch out a rough idea for what you’d like to see and do.

Atlantis Resort Nassau

You won’t get to all 21 restaurants and each of the 19 bars and lounges – not to mention everything else!

I had a Casino Experience Pass included as part of my 4 free nights, and that set us on a course to exploring the Atlantis.

Bahama Breeze Index

Using the Casino Experience Pass

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Booked: 3 Free Nights at Hyatt Zilara Cancun With Points!

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What I like most about the points and miles hobby is setting a goal, then attaining it.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to stay at the all-inclusive and adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun. And in a few weeks, I’ll be there!

Hyatt Zilara Cancun Points

Coming for ya, Zilara!

I used 75,000 Hyatt points for a stay that would’ve cost over $1,900 out-of-pocket. Here’s how it came together.

Booking a Hyatt Zilara Cancun Points Award

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I’m Switching to Alaska and Southwest (With Companion Pass) Next Week

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American who? Delta what? Beginning 2017, I’m exclusively flying and crediting everything to Alaska or Southwest.

If I have to fly American, that’ll be credited to Alaska. Thanks to Alaska’s merger with Virgin America, I might not see the inside of DFW much next year. DAL is gonna become my new jam – and it’s only 10 minutes up the street.

Switching to Alaska and Southwest

I’ll be at DAL a lot more than DFW in 2017

I’m also going to transfer 90,000 Starwood points to Marriott to get:

I easily value that at least $5,000.

Bring on the Alaska and Southwest “Love”

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Bahama Breeze: Part 1 – Review of My Free Room at Atlantis Beach Tower, Nassau

View from the balcony

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There are a few things in life that make me say, “Hell, yes!” as fast as 4 free nights in the Bahamas.

atlantis beach tower review

Exterior of the Atlantis Beach Tower

I wrote about the details of how I did it, but in a nutshell:

Booking was simple. I requested my dates (December 10th to 14th), booked a non-stop flight there from DFW to NAS with Avios points, and booked a flight back (with a connex at MIA) with American miles.

I was aflutter about the experience, how the benefit would play out, and what the room would be like. I am happy to report it was a wonderful trip.

Bahama Breeze Index

Arrival and check-in

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6 Last-Minute Stocking Stuffer Gift Ideas for the Frequent Traveler

An incredibly affordable and thoughful gift

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Yeahhhh buddy, ’tis the season (for putting things off to the last minute)!

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, there’s still time to order gifts before Christmas with free 1-day or 2-day shipping.

Here are some cute stocking stuffers for anyone who travels often. And hey, if you get an Amazon gift card, maybe you’ll treat yourself to a couple of these. (Or if you buy one, use your Discover It card for 5% cashback through December 31, 2016. Just remember to activate your bonus before you shop).

6 Gift Ideas for Travelers

1. Noise-canceling earbuds

For the love of gods, yes yes yes. These little guys are worth their weight in gold if you want to work or read during your flight. And if you get the seat next to a screaming child (we’ve all been there), they can go a long way toward preventing that third Aleve (or is that just me?).

gift ideas for travelers

The prices run the gamut

Earbuds are like cars: there are cheap ones, and there are really not cheap ones. What’s funny is how, at all price ranges, you can find a solid pair with nearly all 5-star reviews.

I’d personally go middle-of-the-road, but whatever you decide on will surely be welcomed with open arms. I mean… ears. 🙂

2. Travel tubes

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