Travel

Category Archives for Travel.

Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia review: A repeat stay 5 years later – this time as a Globalist

Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia review

Last time I was at the Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia was in May 2016. The visit was my last trip before I left New York for Dallas in June 2016.

I was with my ex at the time. We were already drifting apart, but for this trip, we put that aside – and had a really great time. Philadelphia is a huge, historic city with tons to do, and being back was unexpectedly bittersweet.

After my two nights at the Kimpton Palomar, I drove over to the Bellevue ready to fully immerse myself as a newly minted Hyatt Globalist.

Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia review

Entrance of the Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia (lol @ my reflection)

As a digital nomad, I mostly stay at Hyatt Place locations within the Hyatt brand because they’re the cheapest for long-term stays. So I was ready to see what Globalist status would get me a fancy hotel like the Hyatt Bellevue.

Hyatt Bellevue Philadelphia review

Read More

Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia review: My first (free!) Kimpton hotel stay was a $500 value

Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia hotel review

Before this week, I’d never stayed at a Kimpton hotel. I realized I had two IHG free award nights (thanks to my Chase IHG card) that were expiring soon. So I combined them with my four Hyatt award night certificates and put together a fun week in Philadelphia!

I’ve always heard good things about Kimpton and how much it sucked when IHG bought them out. As luck would have it, there was an IHG hotel and a Hyatt hotel within a few blocks of each other.

The Chase free nights are good for hotels up to 40,000 points per night, and the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia was exactly 40,000 points. Cash rates were ~$250 per night, so my two award nights got me a $500 stay for completely free.

Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia review

Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia hotel entrance on 17th Street

I was stoked to have the Kimpton experience for the first time.

Kimpton is a fun, social brand that features funky artwork and decorations, and fit in with local city and neighborhood vibes. In this case, there was a lot of Benjamin Franklin imagery in a nod to Philadelphia’s presidential history. Note that Kimpton hotels are mostly in larger cities.

I hadn’t been to Philly since May 2016. It was good to get back for a visit and enjoy a new hotel brand.

Kimpton Palomar Philadelphia review

Read More

New River Gorge trip report: Almost heaven in wild and wonderful West Virginia

new river gorge trip report

Wow. Go now. It’s amazing. That’s my New River Gorge trip report – thanks for reading!

Oh wait – I need to be specific and add photos and say what I did and stuff? Well OK – but only if you need any more convincing. 😉

This was my first time in West Virginia, and I spent 9 days in Fayetteville, on the northern tip of New River Gorge National Park. Inaugurated in December 2020, it’s our newest national park that stretches 53 miles and 70,000 acres along the banks of the New River in southern West Virginia.

The state’s slogan is “Wild and wonderful” and their marketing tagline is #AlmostHeaven.

new river gorge trip report

One of the many wild and wonderful views in New River Gorge National Park

This section of the state lives up to both. And while the park is new, I definitely felt the crunch of tourism in the area. I assume new infrastructure will eventually get built to accommodate the flood of visitors, though the locals were hospitable and welcoming without fail.

And while I experienced crowds, if you go to the right areas at the right times, you can get entire miles of trail all to yourself. The three areas of the park I explored were Fayetteville Station, Thurmond, and Grandview – mostly on the west side.

Here’s more about each section!

New River Gorge trip report

Read More

FoundersCard Members: Enroll for a Marriott Platinum status challenge (15 nights in 3 months)

FoundersCard Marriott status challenge

Wanted to be sure I wasn’t gonna get Bonvoyed before I posted this, but can now confirm it works exactly as advertised.

For $395, you can join FoundersCard (Out and Out readers get a $200 discount on the usual $595 rate, and the $95 initiation fee is waived too) and get access to a long list of travel, business, lifestyle, and hotel benefits. A few of them, like Caesars Diamond status, AT&T discounts, Hilton Gold status, discounts on United flights, and many more can easily make membership worthwhile.

You can also take advantage of an exclusive Marriott Platinum status challenge. When you have 15 paid nights within 3 months, you’ll earn Marriott Platinum status for a year, which is a huge step up from Gold. When I stayed in Asheville last month, I took advantage of this offer.

And the next day when my points posted, I saw I was a shiny new Marriott Platinum elite member.

founderscard marriott status challenge

This was right outside the SpringHill Suites in Asheville

Here’s more about how I booked and further maximized my stay using this status challenge.

FoundersCard Marriott status challenge

Read More

Hiking day pack essentials: What I bring on every hike

If you follow me on Instagram, you might think it’s turned into a #hiking account. That wouldn’t be far off the mark! 🥾

Now that I’m a nomad, I’ve reconnected to traveling and being outside in a way that feels really good. That includes exploring new trails every chance I get.

So far, I’ve done hikes from 2 to 9 miles in a day, which seems to my range as of right now. Eventually, I’d like to build back my strength to do longer day hikes.

Every time I hit the trail, there are a few items I always carry with me – nothing more, nothing less.

Hiking day pack essentials

This little hiking day pack has served me extremely well, and it’s nothing fancy

On shorter, well-trafficked trails, you don’t need much. The outdoor stores lead you to think you need tons of gear, but you really don’t.

Here’s what I take on my hikes.

Hiking day pack essentials

Read More

Three months a nomad: Personal finances and points on the road

On March 21, 2021 (3/21 – like a countdown), I put all my stuff in storage and headed out on the road as a digital nomad. I spent the first month in Memphis to be near family and find my road legs.

Today, I’m in Asheville, North Carolina, after spending a couple of months in Tennessee, including Nashville (where I earned Hyatt Globalist status with my stay) and Knoxville (at an Airbnb).

digital nomad finances

I’ve been hiking so much and it’s been so so nice

I can already tell that where I’ll stay will be a combination of:

  • Award stays with points
  • Paid hotel stays
  • Alternative booking sites (Booking.com, Hotels.com, etc.)
  • Airbnb
  • Stays with friends
  • And maybe even some camping

There’s no set way I’m doing this other than I’m trying to stay around $1,500 per month for my accommodations.

And when I pay, I’m always trying to get something back: elite status, a booking rebate, more points, redeeming an Amex Offer, or meeting minimum spending on a new card (or ALL of these with a single stay like I’m doing right now in Asheville – y’all know I LOVE a good stack).

So I’m really using every trick in the ol’ trick sack to maximize this lifestyle – and help it perpetuate itself.

I have no idea how long I’ll do this. I guess for as long as it feels good. After all, I know I can always get my stuff out of storage and rent an apartment again. But now that I’ve pared down my possessions to a few bags, I don’t see myself doing that any time soon.

Digital nomad finances and how I’m managing them

Read More

Stacking Hyatt offers: A month stay for $1,100 & net zero points + Globalist status

Chase World of Hyatt card

Hi from Memphis! I have about a week left here. The last few weeks have been filled with family visits and wayyy too much home cooking (if that’s even possible?).

Next Sunday, I’m heading to Nashville for a month to stay at the Hyatt Place Nashville/Hendersonville – a Category 1 Hyatt hotel, meaning award stays are 5,000 Hyatt points per night.

stacking hyatt offers

A month of free Hyatt breakfast and unlimited coffeeeeee

I’ll be there for 29 glorious nights, visiting local breweries, walking nearby trails with my dog, and seeing what Nashville is all about.

For the 29-night stay, I paid $1,158 and 70,000 Hyatt points. But thanks to multiple deals going on right now, I’ll get all 70,000 points back – and come out on the other side as a Globalist (Hyatt’s top elite status tier) and with an extra free award night. Which means my “rent” next month is $1,158, plus I get free breakfast and coffee every day, access to a fitness room and pool, free toiletries, and room service.

Here’s how I did it.

Stacking Hyatt offers for a one month stay

Read More

Incentives for remote workers: Get paid to move to a new place

incentives for remote workers

The other day my mom sent a text about how West Virginia is paying remote workers $12,000 cash to move to the state. I must admit – it got me thinking. About a few things.

Right now, I’m a digital nomad, so I can theoretically live anywhere. But getting paid to move would surely sweeten the deal.

Could I really live in West Virginia?

I pondered it for a couple of days and even looked at houses online. Then I saw there are no Costco or Whole Foods stores in the entire state. But then I was like – so what? 

The biggest drawback would be living in a snowy place again. I’m not ready for heavy coats, frigid mornings, and driving on ice just yet, especially after my Texas experience.

Then I discovered there are many other places offering incentives for remote workers. It could lead to all new ways of living and traveling.

Incentives for remote workers

Read More

My plan to be a digital nomad and slow travel for the rest of 2021

As I sat in the freezing dark for hours earlier this month, lit only by candlelight, a crisp and salient thought began to form: fuck this.

My windows were covered in condensation that made puddles on the window sill. I put towels down and tried to wipe it up as best I could. My power came back in flashes and I ran around charging everything and trying to heat the place. Over the course of a week, I paid $700 for what little electricity I got. In the middle of the week, my lease expired.

I didn’t want to renew it, nor did I want to move elsewhere in Dallas. So, I called to give what I thought was my 30-day notice. But noooo, it’s a 60-day notice. They’ll “try” to get it rented sooner. Oh and keep the power on until the last day, they reminded me.

digital nomad

Lovely

So this is how it ends – talk about a whimper.

I picked the date, called my brother, and reserved a U-Haul. I’m gonna throw my stuff in a storage shed and live on the road for a while.

First stop next month: Memphis.

Digital nomad life

Read More

FoundersCard Review 2021: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

FoundersCard Review 2021

Time to update my FoundersCard review for 2021! I’ve been a member for 7 years by now. Each year, they add more (and more useful) benefits, keep the best ones, and refine their partnerships based on member demand and use.

The upshot is making the most of even ONE perk can outweigh the $395 membership – and the rest is gravy. And when you sign up with my link, your rate will never go up.

I’ve used the 15% AT&T discount, Hilton Gold elite status, and Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status (which is back this year through January 2022!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2021, mostly focused on business and lifestyle. A couple of the travel benefits have gone away, but I believe that’s reflective of where we currently are with Covid-19 and that they’ll return. Until then, what’s left is still a long list of benefits.

FoundersCard Review 2021

Has it really been 7 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again as a Charter Member

Here’s everything to know before you apply for membership.

FoundersCard Review 2021

Read More

Easy Status Match: Caesars Diamond to M Life Gold to Hyatt Explorist through December 31, 2020

caesar m life status match

This is rather niche, but it works! Through December 31, 2020, if you have Caesars Diamond elite status, you can match it to M Life Gold, and from there, to Hyatt Explorist. I just did it this past weekend.

The only hitch is you must do the Caesars to M Life match in person. And of course, have Caesars Diamond status to start with, which is a free perk you get from FoundersCard membership. You can also get it from matching your Wyndham Platinum or Diamond status, which you can get from having a Wyndham credit card.

If you’re in a place where there are Caesars and MGM casinos or hotels, like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or Tunica, it takes just a few minutes to get it done. I was at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, and walked over to the Gold Strike Casino. From there, I matched from M Life Gold to Hyatt Explorist online in under a minute.

caesars m life status match

Easy way to get Hyatt Explorist if you can work it out

Within Hyatt’s program, Explorist – the middle tier – isn’t all that different from Discoverist – the lowest tier – which also comes with having the Chase World of Hyatt card. But this is an easy way to get it for free and without completing a single stay.

Caesars M Life status match to Hyatt Explorist

Read More

Trip Report: My Texas-sized road trip to Austin, Big Bend National Park & Marfa

trip report big bend

I spent most of last week partying in Austin, hiking in Big Bend National Park, and driving. Lots of driving. I drove over 1,000 miles last week. But let me tell you: West Texas is insanely gorgeous. I had no idea. I kept thinking, “This is Texas?!” as I hiked and drove around the Big Bend area, very much in the middle of nowhere.

I was also able to squeeze in the River Road drive between Lajitas and Presidio (on my way to Marfa), 67 miles of pure twisty mountainous highway considered to be the most scenic drive in Texas and one of the most beautiful in the country.

All the hiking and driving made me feel, at times, that I was perhaps the last person on Earth. It’s such beautiful nature out there. And at night, you can see thousands and millions of stars and glimpses of the Milky Way, which make you feel like you’re on the fringes of the galaxy – which you actually are. Absolutely cosmic.

Big Bend trip report

At the terminus of Lost Mine trail, on the mountains… in Texas!

I wasn’t expecting so many mountains. Or to experience such biodiversity in Big Bend. For example, did you know there are bears in Texas? I sure didn’t. But sure enough, the park is populated with thriving black bears, along with mountain lions, deer, rattlesnakes, and lots of other critters that move between scorched desert to canyon to near-jungle, from cactus flowers to alpines.

Here’s more from the trip.

Big Bend trip report

Read More