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Booking Glacier: I Used Points for Free Flights and Hotel Nights – and Still Paid $1,000

Later this week, I’m heading to Kalispell, Montana, to hike in Glacier National Park with my friend Angie. I can’t wait – it’s been 10 years since I’ve been in Montana!

glacier national park

Me in Montana – 2007

Though I’m excited, I found it admittedly difficult to cobble this trip together with points and miles – rural places are not kind to our hobby. So I paid about $1,000 out-of-pocket because I really wanted to go.

Here’s how I minimized costs as much as possible.

Flights to Glacier National Park with US Bank Altitude Reserve points

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Pro Tip: Purchase In-Flight Wifi Before You Fly

Just a little reminder and tip.

I rarely pay for in-flight wifi. It’s kinda nice to be uncontactable for a little while. Most domestic flights are ~5 hours max anyhow, and usually shorter.

But I found myself needing to get some work done on a plane this week and made the decision to rely on American’s in-flight wifi from Gogo.

(Typing on a computer in a cramped economy seat is another issue altogether. And I highly recommend one of these for seatmates who can’t stop staring at your screen.)

Yes, I like saving big on in-flight wifi

Yes, I like saving big

The all-day pass I bought 5 minutes before boarding my American Airlines flight was $16. But on the plane, they wanted $24. So I saved a tidy $8, a  ~33% discount, just for paying in advance.

Note that prices can vary based on the flight. But in general, if you need or want it, it’s better to purchase an all-day pass ahead of time.

And WHERE you buy the pass makes a difference for American or Delta all-day passes. 

Why buy an in-flight wifi pass

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Booking Hawaii: Part 2 – Using Citi ThankYou Points for Award Flights on Delta and United

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When last we parted, all was happy and good. Flights for 4 people were booked to Honolulu. Then life, as it does, got in the way.

Jay went back to New York for a too-good-to-pass-up film job. That’s right – I am now in Dallas alone. *cue torrential tears*

That was a whole other wrenching experience, but it also had consequences for this planned trip.

“So no Hawaii trip?” “I can’t.” Crap.

No Honolulu for you?

No Honolulu for you?

I called Connexions Loyalty (the travel agency Citi uses to book flights with ThankYou points) to ask if I could transfer the ticket to my little brother. I knew it would be a long shot, but worth trying.

The best they could do was cancel the ticket and give Jay the credit – no transferring, no name-changing. Oh, and there would be a $200 fee to redeem the credit. That stung, but at least part of the ticket will be put toward eventual travel.

By the time this all shook out, I accumulated more Citi ThankYou points. And continue to earn 30,000 to 40,000 ThankYou points per month.

Then I thought, why not take my little brother anyway?

How to add another person to the trip?

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Delta Beats American If You Credit Premium Flights to Alaska Mileage Plan

Or, “Why I’m Flying Delta Again”

In my quest to credit partner flights to earn elite status on Alaska Airlines, I’ve been focused on flying coach with American. That’s because ALL AA economy flights get 100% credit with Mileage Plan.

Welcome indeed

Welcome indeed

If economy is your preference, American is by far better than Delta – if your end goal is to earn status or redeemable miles with Alaska.

But, if you fly Business or First, Delta wins hands-down. And, it might even be worth it to fly Delta anyway.

Let’s take a look.

Why Delta as a means to Alaska Airlines status?

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16 Points & Miles Predictions for 2016

Happy New Year! I thought I’d hop on the bandwagon with the predictions. So here’s my effort.

"Everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?"

“Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?”

2015 was a crazy year

A portrait of the Fidelity AMEX card

A portrait of the Fidelity AMEX card

Out and Out’s Points and Miles Predictions for 2016

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Get FREE Airline Lounge Memberships Through Business Programs

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I love going to the Admirals Clubs. And I also love not paying for them.

I’ve written about this before. But now my membership has expired, and I’m about to redeem for another free year of Admirals Club membership.

I don’t have the Citi AAdvantage Executive card or the Citi Prestige card. They’re fine in their own right, and I’ve had my eye on the Citi Prestige for a sec, but I won’t need it for its lounge perk.

The Admirals Club @ CLT can be a nice place to hang and get some work done

I’ve been doing this since the Amex Platinum Card nixed the benefit at AA Admirals Clubs a couple of years ago.

If you book travel for other people (who don’t care about the points), you can easily build up enough to get a free membership yourself.

All the award opportunities

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What to Do in Iceland: South Coast

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Iceland is a bit of an enigma for us frequent flyers. It’s not that it’s hard to get to – it’s just a 4.5 hour flight from New York – but the only airlines that fly there are Icelandair, Wow Air, and seasonally… Delta. Flights are cheap enough. Wow had KEF on sale recently for about $200 R/T, and Icelandair/Delta are around $600 R/T, depending.

There are only a couple of chain hotels, and they’re all in the northernmost capital city in the world, which is Reykjavik. Club Carlson operates two properties – the Radisson Blu 1919 and the Radisson Blu Saga, 44,000 Gold Points per night and 38,000 Gold Points per night, respectively, and Hilton also has their Hilton Reykjavik Nordica property there.

Anyway, I’m hoping to kick off a little series about what to do in Iceland, and I’ll start with the South Coast. Originally, I was going to do a post called “What to Do in Iceland (Hint: Not Reykjavik)”, but then decided to expand and break down the individual sections, because they are all vastly different. So I hope you enjoy!

South Coast

When you get to Iceland, you’ll find there is one road that is constantly referred to: The Ring Road, or Highway 1. It loops around the entire perimeter of the island. There is no way to go through Iceland, only around. The interior is uninhabited, and uninhabitable. The land in there has never been tamed, and is severe. Aside from glaciers, there are deep fissures and crevasses that are extremely dangerous.

Iceland has always had and still has deep roots to fishing. It is a huge source of export for them, and as such, most of the population has settled along the coast over the centuries (remind you of anywhere else?).

The South Coast of Iceland only has one major “town”, if you can even call it that: Vik. The town is tiny, really just a collection of hotels and a gas station, and a few restaurants.

Arrive

You probably passed this driving into Vik (waterfalls of Iceland's South Coast)

You probably passed this driving into Vik (waterfalls of Iceland’s South Coast)

After driving in from (most likely) Reykjavik, Vik, will be your next big stop more than likely. Side note: “vik” means “bay” in Icelandic. Reykjavik translates to “smoky bay” and the town of Vik is simply “bay.”

Approaching Vik

Approaching Vik

On the way from Reykjavik, you will have most likely stopped at the “Golden Circle” and maybe explored Reykjavik and the Reykjanes peninsula a little bit. You are most likely going to Jokulsarlon (“glacier lake”), Vatnajokull (“vatn” is “water” and “jokull” is “glacier” – this one is Europe’s largest and is about 11% of Iceland’s total surface area), and to see the astounding black sand beaches and huge columns of natural basalt, and maybe the simple, understated and completely elegant lighthouses.

Black sand beach in Vik

Black sand beach in Vik

You are not going for the weather. Vik is very rainy. They receive about 3 times the precipitation that Reykjavik does, and about 5 times what the North Coast receives. But it doesn’t matter. Iceland has its weather and it’s worth going anyway. You are bound to hit a good patch of weather at some point.

Stay

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Just booked: IAD-ATL-DUB-ATL-IAD in May for $223 R/T A/I!

Per the Flight Deal, fares to Dublin (and several other destinations), Delta is aggressively attacking fares to United hubs.

How aggressive?

Base fares are pricing at $1 OR LESS. You are only paying the taxes and fuel surcharges!

IAD-ATL-DUB is pricing out at $323 for several days in early May and it’s still available. I got in on this and can’t wait to go (although not thrilled that it’s on Delta – I credited to Alaska for the first time).

Screenshot 2015-01-05 22.44.48

$1 base fare!

Screenshot 2015-01-05 22.43.53

I will earn ~4,500 Alaska miles by crediting to Mileage Plan even with the V fare bucket. You’d earn just 1,105 with SkyMiles

In addition to all of this, I had a $100 egift certificate I bought with my American Express Platinum back in the day and never used, which brought my total down to $223 round-trip and all-in. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, and at just over $200, I couldn’t say no!

If you want to get in on this, I’d recommend booking ASAP. I’m usually not one for breaking news, but I’m super excited about going to Ireland and wanted to share in case anyone else would like to go. Lots of other cities/countries/continents/airlines are included in this sale so play around get yourself a great deal – especially to a place you’ve always wanted to go!

Be sure to look at the Flight Deal links above and play with dates into and out of the hubs. A list of airline hubs is here and the best place to check out flights is the ITA Matrix.

Good luck and godspeed!

 

Taking another look at Alaska Airline’s MileagePlan program

You're interesting

You’re interesting

I’ve been curious about Alaska’s MileagePlan program for a while. Between trying out Delta, then racing to qualify for status on American, Alaska has always been that airline that I’ve known about but never really explored. MileagePlan was discussed quite a bit at April’s FTU, and since then, I’ve been looking into the program more.

Pros and Cons

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Canceled the PRG card and Amex let me switch credit allocations

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I just reviewed my latest post and I’ve written about Amex a LOT recently. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. Chase’s products are functioning smoothly and as they should; I still love the Arrival card; still jammin’ on my Club Carlson Visa. The only anomaly recently has been with Amex.

Smell ya later, PRG

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Trip Report: Delta First Class JFK-SLC-SEA and Business Class SEA-JFK

I was a bad boy for both flights and showed up at the airport in time to hop into the boarding lane and sit down at my seat. The events leading up to both points were harried. Teeth were knashed, hands were wrung, but I made it. I didn’t have time to make a visit to the new SkyClub at T4, though I was very close it. I’ve been there before and wasn’t overly impressed. If anything, I would’ve liked to’ve seen if the recent Amex Platinum Card changes have thinned the ranks somewhat, because last time was a crowded, near-hellish experience. And at SEA, I didn’t want to miss any of FTU so left as late as possible.

I do have to give it to Delta. They’ve got things figured out. Their operations are great, they’re profitable, and the flights I were on were damn near full. Good for them.

I wish Delta’s SkyMiles program was different. I wish they treated their partners like partners and not bastard stepchildren (American, by contrast, treats their partners very well). I wish they’d step off of this revenue kick they’ve been on lately and keep things like how they were before. But that’s all “wishful” thinking.

The flights

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