Just a quick note — last May I got in on the crazy 100,000 BA miles sign-up bonus for the Chase British Airways Visa ($95 annual fee), and I still have a ton of unused miles from it. I’ve stopped using the card because I’m not crazy about the program switch to Avios miles that took place last November and I feel like I earn more valuable (and more) points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred (with which I earn Ultimate Rewards points. Those also transfer 1:1 to British Airways, so should I ever feel the need to top off my BA account, Ultimate Rewards gives me the flexibility to do so). So I called Chase and declared I was canceling my card, but the agent said she’d give me 5000 Avios points (posting to my account within the next 30 days) to not cancel quite yet. She justified that my annual fee wasn’t up until May anyway. So I didn’t cancel. Yet. Yay! Free miles!
Although I have always had grand dreams of travel, my wallet has usually prevented me from taking flight. But with my wedding approaching this summer (just like the Neurotic Nerd’s), and a honeymoon to follow, I quickly began researching how to get us where we wanted to go by spending as little money as possible. We have decided on, and paid for, our 7 day cruise to Alaska, which leaves out of Seattle. Because my cousin is a member of RCI, when booking the cruise, we got a voucher for a 7 day stay at any of the resorts in their directory (literally hundreds all over the world)! This means that next year, when we are planning our next vacation, we will not have to pay anything for the lodging.
Getting back to the cruise, though. We booked the cruise on our regular credit card (Citibank Thank You card) which earns us Thank You points. These points we use throughout the year to buy the clothes, shoes and other items we desire but usually can’t afford on a grad school income. Because the cruise leaves from Seattle, though, we decided we would extend the honeymoon with a 4 night stay in Seattle before the cruise embarks. The hotel where we are getting married is a member of the Marriott branch of hotels, so upon placing a deposit for the big day, we racked up 100,000 bonus points as a perk. The Waterfront Marriott Hotel in Seattle, however, charges 30,000 points a night. Knowing we needed at least 20,000 more points, I signed up for the Marriott Rewards Premier card, and we automatically earned 50,000 points after our first purchase (a dinner at a nice restaurant) which earned us double points as well. We added about 52,000 points to our already existing 100,000, which now means we will stay in Seattle at a category 6 hotel (the highest level) for free!
Getting to and from Seattle from NJ (where the wedding is) was also looking like it would be pretty pricey so I began to think of ways to earn and cash in miles. Over the 2011 holiday season, I knew we would be traveling to both NJ and CO from Chicago to visit both sets of families for our first Christmas as an engaged couple with both of them. I saw the opportunity to earn some miles, and I also had $400 worth of Continental vouchers gifted to me that I had to use before the end of 2011. So I looked into opening a Continental credit card, which gave 50,000 bonus miles after the first use (Flying Nerd note: this is now the United Explorer card, with different terms. I got this card back in August and this past week, Chase has automatically switched it to United, due to the United-Continental merger). We booked the holiday travel on these cards, and with the bonus miles, we have been able to pay for almost all of the flights to and from Seattle with miles. Only 1 one way ticket back, totaling around $300, will be left to us to pay. Seattle, here we come!
Only cashing in 120,000 of the 150,000 Marriott points also means that we still have enough for a one night stay somewhere else along the way, which could prove useful for the bachelor/bachelorette parties or for one of our upcoming nerdy conferences. The Marriott Rewards card also includes a voucher for a free night at any category 1-4 hotel good for up to 6 months after opening the account. Oh, the possibilities!
Because we have also reached the age where many of our friends are also getting married, planning is required to attend these festivities without going broke or showing up looking like grad students. One of my dear friends will be getting married in October in Georgia, so as soon as she gave me details about the hotel options, I began searching for ways to reduce the costs of travel and/or lodging. I discovered the Priority Club Rewards Card, which gave me 30,000 bonus points after the first use. However, having miscalculated the number of points necessary for staying at the hotel for 2 nights, I soon realized we would need 60,000 points. Before the panic set in, I went back to the web. I found another link for the same card, but this time, with a 60,000 point offer. I got my fiance to sign on up, and after using it one time, for a small purchase, we will now be staying at the hotel for free, and I still have 30,000 on my card as well. This leaves us with the cost of getting to Atlanta, but hopefully, we will find a good deal on Southwest, for which we will most certainly earn reward points.
As we look forward to toasting and being toasted, we can do so with some ease knowing that we are saving money and being savvy little graduate students with big dreams.
~The Noisy Nerd
This post is totally overdue — I stayed at the Doubletree Alana back in January during a staycation with my Most Awesome cousin and my favorite nephew. We spent one night there and took advantage of both a corporate rate and the More Points promotion (on top of the 25% point bonus for having Hilton Honors Gold status).
Although the Alana is a teeny bit of a walk away from Waikiki Beach (on the other side of Fort DeRussy park), we had a great time. Hilton Honors Gold gave us free parking and free continental breakfasts. We were welcomed with the Doubletree’s signature chocolate chip walnut cookies (and since my super amazingly adorable godson-nephew was present, it was really more like handfuls of chocolate chip cookies each, and we were “welcomed” every time we stepped in and out of the hotel). He was also very pleased with the fancy rainfall shower in our room.
The hotel is close to all the kitschy wonderfulness that Waikiki has to offer. Yes, I grew up in Hawaii, but I am far from bothered by Waikiki’s so-called touristy-ness. I find so much of it so charming. Waikiki Beach was more crowded than either I or my Awesome cousin had ever seen in our lives that weekend, but that left more time for eating Puka Dogs and shopping at the Japanese beauty shops.
We checked out a couple hours late the next day (which we cleared with the front desk) after a day at a beach and meandering down Kalakaua and Kuhio Aves and then headed to our next destination on our Waikiki staycation — the Embassy Suites!
If you like wine, as The Wine Nerd does (so much so that he even makes his own. See above. He also works in a wine bar. He really likes wine.) and you have friends who want to drink your wine, it may behoove you to join a wine club to scoop up some promotional bonus air miles:
Thanks to my friend The Flying Nerd, I have embarked on a quest to accumulate frequent flyer miles. In addition to this newfound hobby, I also enjoy coming across new bottles of wine. Given my talent of multi-tasking, I set off to accomplish both in one fell swoop. During the process of a 2-minute search on the Delta Skymiles website, I came across an offer from the American Wine Cellars Club.
Receive 2,000 bonus miles for the first shipment of 6 bottles at $41.94. For those of you who struggle with math, that’s $6.99 a bottle. Not a bad deal. (3000 more miles would be given with the 3rd wine club shipment, but the Wine Nerd need not commit to so much of their wine, so was satisfied by the 2000-mile initial offer.)
Is it worth the price?
Each person will come to a decision on whether the price is right depending on your circumstance and preferences. Individuals value items differently, such as bottles of wine and airline miles. Below is how I decided that the offer was right for me.
I value my SkyMiles at $0.01, so 2000 bonus miles are worth $20 to me. I then see the offer as 6 bottles of wine for $21.94. Do I value 6 bottles of low-end wine at $21.94? Yes, but only to serve those bottles to my box-wine-loving friends — except The Flying Nerd of course…
- I’ve always wanted to learn the origin of the phrase “one fell swoop”
- Yes, you will have to call and cancel your membership to the club. Normally I dread this task, but the company understood my motivation for joining the club and the whole call lasted less than 90 seconds.
There is a certain part of my incredibly dignified and studly personality that still allows for a little weakness when it comes to Hello Kitty. I share this weakness with The Awesome Nerd (although she doesn’t see it as weakness, more like full-blown obsession, and her 9 year old son sees the excess of Hello Kitty paraphernalia in their house as a form of child abuse. I asked him about this. He looked at me with terror-filled eyes and said, “They’re all looking at me.”). Because of this, the Awesome Nerd alerted me to this article about EVA Air’s Hello Kitty plane. There are three Hello Kitty-themed Airbus A330-300 planes and they’ll serve Japan, South Korea and Guam. “Passengers get special baggage tags, Hello Kitty headrests and pillows, Kitty-chan soap, and Hello Kitty food.”
I want to fly on them SO BAD.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had the full blown Hello Kitty experience in Taiwan (the Taiwanese take Hello Kitty very seriously). I’ve eaten at Sweets, the Hello Kitty restaurant in Taipei (where my photo of the Hello Kitty burger above is from). There is also a Hello Kitty maternity ward in a hospital and should I ever decide to bear children, you can bet they’ll end up with Taiwanese residency because of it.
About three years ago, when I was teaching in Taipei for a summer, I hopped back to Hong Kong for a bit and miraculously, my flight took off FROM THE HELLO KITTY GATE. Here are the photos: