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

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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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Airbnb by the Numbers: An Update for 2016

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Back in 2014, when I rented my first Airbnb apartment, I felt like I was doing something crazy. Then, in 2015, I made an extra $60,000 from Airbnb rentalsafter taxes and expenses.

I love my new Dallas Airbnbs!

I love my new Dallas Airbnbs!

Mike from Upgrd playfully calls me a slumlord. My Airbnb posts tend to get a LOT of polarity in the comments; I’ve addressed my moral and ethical position in this post.

I get a lot of questions about why I do it and how it’s going. So here goes.

Why I still love Airbnb

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Goodbye to All That: In a Month, Dallas Here I Come!

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It begins: my last month as an official New York City resident.

Movers are booked.

The date is set to wake up and start driving away, all my things loaded in my new Subaru Forester – including the pup!

Resting after a run upstate

This little guy has spent his whole life in Brooklyn!

My dog will be 6 this year, and he’s never known much outside of New York. He’s gonna shed SO MUCH in Texas.

My house is sitting there, waiting to be lived in. I even went ahead and joined a gym in Dallas (and got a sweet discount thanks to FoundersCard).

The house

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Lyft: Cheaper & Better Than Uber, Now With Cashless Tipping

It took me a long time to get into the whole “Uber” thing. I was always like… why not just take a taxi?

The price wasn’t that much cheaper until recently.

The few times I uber-ed, the main thing I liked was the cashless tipping. The price, all things considered, was equal to a cab (I say/write this in NYC).

Then, they slashed fares. 

uber vs lyft

Underdog extraordinaire

And, I started going to Dallas a whole lot more, without a car. I grew accustomed to firing up Uber as I walked outside and getting a ride to my condo. Again, with the cashless tipping.

I love the simplicity of the bundled fare. You just get out when you arrive, and you’re on your way. The receipt comes via email seconds after the door closes.

…But now there’s no cashless tipping

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Come in Houston, er, Dallas: Buying a House and a Move Toward FIRE

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Alternate titles for this post: Airbnb helped me buy a house in Dallas.

Most of y’all know I run a few Airbnb properties here in NYC.

Well, I’ve been ferreting away the earnings for a long while.

I’ve been using my Fidelity Cash Management account as a defacto business checking account, and my Aspiration Summit account to save up a down payment (and an AMEX personal savings account to pay Uncle Sam) because it has a sweet 1% interest rate.

My new empire state?

My new empire state?

I haven’t posted my Dallas hotel reviews yet, and I haven’t meant to be not as chirpy as usual, but here’s what’s been up.

Way back in August, I flew down to Austin (and actually posted my review of my Austin hotel, go me) for a work meeting. On the way back, I tacked on a few days in Dallas and started shopping for a place in Oak Lawn/Uptown.

Why?

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Is Living In Cities Worth It?

I recently discovered a blog called Financial Samurai that got me thinking. Particularly the articles about living in cities:

I’ve mentioned before that living in New York forever might not be in the cards for me as part of my path toward FIRE.

It’s simply a shift in priorities.

The Good Things About Living in Cities

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Quick tip about booking NYC or DC flights with Avios

There are a few cities that have multiple airports, so this tip could work for:

  • New York (JFK, LGA, EWR) – NYC
  • Washington, DC (IAD, DCA, BWI) – WAS
  • Chicago (ORD, MDW) – CHI
  • London (LHR, LGW, LCY) – LON
  • Paris (ORY, CDG) – PAR
  • Tokyo (NRT, HND) – TYO

I encountered this when searching BA.com for space to get to Boston from New York.

When I search for award space, I usually just type in “NYC” – because I’m open to JFK or LGA. So I rarely specify an airport.

But BA.com will not give you the complete picture of award space if you don’t specify an airport. 

Make sure you search city code and airport code

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Trip Report: Riding On Amtrak Business Class NYP-BOS

Whew!

I’ve been a bad boy here lately with the updates. Between the Airbnbs, real estate, freelance articles, and other bits of life, I’ve had to neglect my posting schedule. The upshot, though, is that I’ve been getting ready for my first trip to Ireland, and am now writing this on an Amtrak train from somewhere in Connecticut.

Tomorrow is the day of the British Airways devaluation, and I was lucky to’ve booked BOS-DUB on Aer Lingus in business class (there is still some availability in October and Novermber FYI!). It’s an award I’ve long wanted to redeem, and in light of the devaluation, I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger. I was already going to Ireland anyway (on a Delta attack fare), but then when this happened, I pushed up my trip and redeemed some British Airways Avios. This particular award will be increasing from 50K round-trip to 75K round-trip. Still not bad for business class to Europe, but less is obviously better.

Anyway, being based in New York, I had to get myself to Boston. Getting back from Boston was easy: 4,500 Avios BOS-LGA and boom. But going to Boston, availability was dismal.

Redeeming Ultimate Rewards for Amtrak

NYC is Amtrak heaven. New Yorkers can get to nearly anywhere in New England, the Northeast, or Mid-Atlantic in just a few hours with relative ease.

The last time I rode Amtrak was probably in 2008 when I went down to DC for a weekend – but my memories of it don’t exactly allow for a full trip report. 😉

This time, however, I’m in business class at a seat with a table, connected to the (very very spotty) wifi, and writing a blog post with a rum and Coke Pepsi from the snack car next to me. Safe to say life is pretty good right about now.

There are blackout dates on Amtrak. Luckily, April 27th isn’t one of them. The blackout dates are centered around the holidays: New Year, Easter, July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, with a couple random dates through in throughout the year. If you want to travel any time that isn’t a holiday, you’re pretty much golden.

To boot, their zones are large and generous, and redeeming Ultimate Rewards for a bedroom or a business class ticket can make since if:

  • You want to experience the country by train
  • You have time to take the train
  • The train experience to where you wanna go will be roughly equal to flying (ahem, NYC-BOS or NYC-WAS)
  • You have to travel and simply must stay connected to a cell network
  • Flights aren’t available but the Amtrak availability is wide open (my case)
Amtrak zones

Amtrak zones

Here is a the Amtrak zone map and here is the list of award redemptions by zone.

NYP-BOS falls into the Northeast zone, so a regular ticket is 4,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. However, I redeeemed 6,500 points to be in the business class car. It was only a little more and still met my 2 cents per point minimum, so I went with that.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 12.13.49

Northeast zone chart

Note that you can only redeem points for one-way tickets. So if you need a round-trip, you will have to redeem for two one-way tickets.

My ticket selection

My ticket selection

The photo above is the price for two one-way business class tickets AKA 13,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. That’s still 2.2 cents per point, and a great stopgap when flights from NYC-BOS were over $400 for a one-way and there was no award availability on American or US Airways with Avios! And also better than paying cash…

Over $400 for a one-way

Over $400 for a one-way

$431 for a one-way flight that’s a little over an hour? No way. Amtrak was the best option for this trip.

The experience

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Confirmed: You can load REDbird at Target stores in New York

Here at Out and Out, I had this idea to make February “Manufactured Spend Month.”

With the impending blizzard, and then frigid single digit temps on the horizon, I used this nearly 50-degree day to manufacture some spend ahead of schedule.

First, I went to CVS with my Chase British Airways Visa Signature and got $1,000 worth of PayPal My Cash cards. The transaction went through flawlessly. And later this evening, I will pay my first round of rent utilizing RadPad.

After CVS, I dared to face the Target at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.

My heart was pounding as I went in. It’s perhaps the busiest Target store in the entire United States and some say one of the busiest in the Northern Hemisphere (Target does not officially publish their busiest locations), so I wasn’t sure what their stance would be on ol’ REDbird. Would it be par for the course or the one store where credit cards were NOT accepted for reloads?

My experience

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I rented an Apartment to Airbnb in NYC

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the craziest things I have ever done (other than using Airbnb as a verb in the title).

I just rented an apartment in Manhattan for the express purpose of listing it on Airbnb. 

airbnb-log-100009316-orig

As some of you know, I work in real estate in New York, so I’m privy to rentals and have seen a lot of spilled ink on the whole Airbnb debate. It’s a very hot topic in the city right now.

I heard of an apartment in the East Village that was sitting there, easy approval, beautiful block, door was open if I wanted to go check it out.

A few people in my office have Airbnb apartments and seeing their calendars full of green (which means days booked) got me thinking.

So when I walked into that apartment, I quickly ran some numbers and just like that, decided to go for it.

Starting up

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New York Story

New York Story

 

 

My new book is available in digital and paperback versions. It’s all about living and loving in the beast that is NYC. I wrote it while I was between jobs last year, and edited it in my free time. Very pleased with how it turned out, and with the response I’ve gotten so far.

For more info and to purchase, click here: New York Story

 

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My Best Advice: Can You Do It Softer?

That’s what I’ve been asking myself, anyway.

Living in New York can sometimes send my stress levels through the roof. It’s everything: time, crowds, expectations, competition for everything.

Lately, I’ve been using these two affirmations to check in with myself whenever I start to feel  my heart race (in a bad way):

  • Be OK in every situation.

This reminder has calmed me down so much. When someone cuts me off on the sidewalk, when I miss a walk signal, or I get to the subway platform only to watch my train speed away, I use this to remind myself that it doesn’t really matter.

I’m still alive, I still have my health and much to look forward to. A few extra seconds or minutes isn’t going to make or break anything. Plus, It’s probably a good idea to slow down for a bit. It’s all OK.

And then:

  • Can you do it softer?

That should probably be in quotations because that’s exactly what I’ve been asking myself lately, usually following “Be OK in every situation.”

“Can you do it softer?” Live softer, walk softer, be calm and manage energy levels.

No matter what’s happening, is there a way to change the energy I’m sending out? Can I convert that energy into something better? The answer is always yes.

But how?

Simply do it softer. “It” can be anything. Anything. Live with purpose, take calculated risks, be gentler, relax my muscles, step lighter.

After I remind myself that I’m OK, I push it that extra step. “Can you do it softer?” It’s wondrous.

Bottom line

These affirmations have helped me in the past couple of months.

And they are related to travel. Definitely. I also want to GO GO GO on a day of travel and hate getting in lines, especially when I think people are clusterfucking. This is why I love Pre-Check and Global Entry so much.

But on the off-chance that I have to wait in a line of any kind, I remind myself that it’s all fine. Even while traveling and getting all checked in at the airport – can I do that softer, too? Now there’s a challenge.

Do you have an affirmation? 

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