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Virgin Atlantic coming to PHL

Yesterday, the Awesome Nerd and Adam from Food from Scratch were exceedingly excited to share with me the news that Virgin Atlantic was going to start serving Philadelphia later this year. The press release is here. While Virgin Atlantic isn’t a part of a global alliance and unfortunately, its relationship with Continental ends February 13th, this is nevertheless some exciting news for PHL and a reason to rack up frequent flyer points through Elevate. I’ll be looking forward to cheap flights to SFO and LAX.

1. Earn points by shopping through Virgin’s Red Store.

2. Link your Elevate account with TopGuest and for every Facebook or Foursquare check-in (or location-based tweet) at a Virgin location (airport terminal, baggage claim, etc) get 25 bonus Elevate points.

3. Check out more of Elevate’s partners (they have a ton of hotel ones) here.

4. Enter the Next Stop Sweepstakes here for a chance to win free roundtrip tickets between SFO/LAX and PHL.

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Dining out for miles

Just as you can earn extra miles on top of whatever you spend through online shopping, you can also do so through one of Rewards Network‘s dining programs, which are associated with specific airlines. Focus on which airline(s) you want to increase your mileage account at and register for their dining accounts (sometimes there are bonus miles to be had just by signing up. Have your mileage account number handy. Currently you can receive 1000 miles as a sign-up bonus):

AAdvantage Dining

MileagePlus Dining

SkyMiles Dining

Dividend Miles Dining

All you have to do is eat at a restaurant on a dining program’s list and pay with a registered credit card. You can register up to five credit cards, but be aware that since these programs are all run by Rewards Network, you can’t register the same card in two different dining programs. Therefore, I have my Chase Sapphire Preferred registered with MileagePlus dining, so I can’t go and register it with AAdvantage Dining.

After the payment is processed a few days after you dine, you’ll receive an email from the dining program telling you to fill out a review. Fill it out. It’s short and multiple choice. About a week or so after that, your miles should post to your mileage account.

A surprising number of restaurants are part of the dining program and they’re not just crap ones. I take advantage of getting extra miles by defaulting to dining program restaurants in my neighborhood, but I’ve also been surprised by receiving miles for going to places I just plain wanted to go to and didn’t realize they were part of the program. For example:

1. Tiki’s Bar and Grill by Waikiki Beach. Okay, there was a certain amount of shame involved in my coming here, but I had a strange and powerful urge to drink something fruity out of a snarling head that was likely to cause much intoxication. And so I did.

sometimes tourists get a little wild at Tiki's

2. Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club and Grill on Maui. They had some great happy hour specials and I was so depressed after eating at Aloha Mixed Plate (They serve their lomilomi salmon in tiny little thimble-sized containers! There was barely any mac salad! They gave a tiny spoonful of poi! The ono was dry!) that I needed several beers. Getting several miles helped, too.

Mixed plates at Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina.

3. McGarry’s Pub in Midtown Manhattan. The Neurotic Nerd and I were waiting in the rain for the megabus. It didn’t come. I needed to pee. Solution: We went to the nearest bar. We ordered two shots of vodka. And then a few days later, I got an email telling me I earned United miles.

Anyway there are plenty of restaurants that are registered with the network and I was quite upset at first that some I went to frequently were. All this time I could have been earning extra miles. Plug in your zip code or whatever city you’re traveling to into the search box and a list of nearby restaurants will pop up. There is also an app you can download to search for restaurants while you’re on the move. Bonus points for you (literally) if you can organize a school or conference dinner at a registered restaurant, for which you can put on your registered card and will be reimbursed for. (I did this. It was a huge bill that also helped me make a minimum spend. I got a boatload of United miles.)

How many miles can you earn? You get 3 miles per dollar spent (that’s including tip, tax, etc) as an online member and 5 as a VIP member (after you’ve completed 12 dines in a calendar year).

You may be thinking, oh Flying Nerd, that is a heck of a lot of dines to get to VIP status. Yikes. But worry not! I made it to VIP status faster by simply splitting the check between 2 cards that were both registered under the same account. So if you split the check two ways each time you dine, you’ll make it to VIP status in 6 dines. I guess you could be a jerk and split a check onto three registered cards, but I am not a jerk. “Dine” simply means transaction — that includes a single drink at a registered establishment. Get drinks at the bar. Settle up. Then sit down at dinner, split the check, etc.

There are always ways to earn bonuses in addition to this basic miles earning, you just have to register for them. Once registered for the program, you’ll either get an email about bonuses or you can log into your account and click on the bonuses tab at the top of your screen. Right now, the Sweeten the Deal bonus is running until the end of the year. After you spent $125 at program restaurants, you’ll receive an extra 3 miles for each of those dollars. So if you’re a VIP member, that means 8 miles per dollar spent.

Last week, we went to our usual BYOB pizzeria and split the check, which meant I finally made it to $125 to qualify for the Sweeten the Deal bonus for my MileagePlus Dining account and the boyfriend was closer to making the $50 spend required for his 1000 mile sign-up bonus for his MileagePlus Dining account. The only unfortunate aspect to this was that we ran out of wine and respectable craft beer to take along to dinner and I had to sheepishly smuggle in some errant PBRs in my purse and pour them into our glasses when the server wasn’t looking. Oh yeah and when I tried to fill out our separate online reviews, I forgot the password I had set up with his account, entered the wrong one too many times, got his account locked and then unsuccessfully tried to impersonate him on the phone with MileagePlus Dining. Lesson here: add self as authorized user to every account you to control.

Motion sickness remedies

All the motion sickness remedies I travel with: ginger root supplements, sea bands, ginger bits from Hawaii, gin-gin candies, sea band’s anti-nausea ginger gum, two varieties of white flower oil or pak fa yeoh (one that makes me smell like an old Chinese lady and another one that makes me smell a little less like an old Chinese lady), zentrap thin strips and dramamine. I still have yet to find something that really reliably works.


Mission Statement

After having spent the last six years in two different doctoral programs and earning two Master’s degrees in subjects that require extensive explanation to most laypeople (at the end of which everyone, including myself, is left asking why I would study such things), I’ve learnt an awful lot. Sure I know a few dead languages, but that’s not my concern here. Graduate school has taken me to very many places, not excluding the land of despair. But I’ve traveled all across North America, Europe and elsewhere, often for months at a time. I’ve taught for a summer in Taiwan, spent this past summer in Greece watching other people dig stuff up, and attended conferences in South Africa and Hawaii. All for free (or for getting paid to do so). And since my family is split up between Asia and the middle of the Pacific, well, you get the picture. I travel a lot and I’ve always traveled a lot. Academic travel grants have taken me to places I never would have visited otherwise and given me good reasons to be in those places. I am very rarely just a tourist. Being completely obsessed with miles and points allows me to travel even more frequently and with some level of luxury. I discovered this boon later on in my academic career, and not before a slew of random jobs that I held on top of teaching to sustain my constant travels (liquor promo girl, wine taster, mascot handler, airport employee, doing voiceovers for toys and talking gadgets, etc.). And so my mission is this: to help other nerds take flight. Being in grad school or on an academic budget need not suck. Along the way, I’ll review some of my experiences and report on important issues such as how to transport twenty pounds of fresh-picked apples over the Canadian border on Greyhound and how much raki one should stock up on when on Crete (a lot). I’ll also have guest bloggers chiming in from time to time, commenting on related aspects of the academic experience and offering recommendations on how to address them, including but not restricted to: bed bugs, alcohol, eating well, hypochondria, shoe shopping, destitution and filthy, unwashed undergraduates.