Big Value at the Ritz-Carlton Resort, Laguna Niguel, California

 

The December 2016 offer was simple.  Be approved for the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards card and receive 3 free nights (Tier 1-4), 3 Club Level Upgrades, Gold status for one year, $300.00 Airline credit and all that goes with the Visa Infinite Card Package, Fee is $450.00 a year.  www.Chase.com

Ok, this is a big deal.  This card is packed with an enormous amount of value.  But I hesitated to apply as one of my essential questions, in Points and Miles use, is will I still find value in the card after the Promo perks are used up.

I did the math, applied and was approved for the card.  First Benefit, $300.00 Airline Fee credit.   Simply put, no more luggage fees (up to $300.00 total per year).  Second, find a Ritz-Carlton and make it an expensive one.  We needed a hotel  between San Diego and Los Angeles, California.  Hello Laguna Niguel, a Tier 4 Hotel! Room rate…$903.33 per night (Room and taxes).  Done!  Remember Ritz-Carlton is a part of Marriott, so Gold at one = Gold at all and the “Free Night” includes room rate plus taxes.  Upon arrival, the Front Desk clerk stated “we’ve taken the liberty of upgrading your room to ocean view”.  Why yes! That will be just fine, Thank you very much.

This Hotel is everything you would imagine a Ritz-Carlton should be, Exquisitely Grand and loaded with marble, everywhere.  Upon entering our room, we found a wonderful welcome gift and a personalized note waiting for us..  At 5:00 pm, the “Cookie Guy” came by and dropped off a plate of cookies.  From Valet parking, Fantastic Customer Service and Spectacular Ocean Views, this Hotel ranks “tops” in my list of “Wow” Hotels!.

…and I still have 2 more free nights to use!

The Ritz-Carlton card, during it’s first year, is a screaming value if you want to experience a Grand Hotel Chain.  I believe today’s current promotion will give you two free nights (Tier 1-4) and a plethora of money-saving benefits that should far exceed the $450 annual fee.  If I had stayed three nights, the potential value could have exceeded $2500 in room rates and taxes alone, not to mention, the $300 in Airline baggage savings.  Definately worth a look.  http://www.Chase.com

 

A Common Affliction

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

MCI, Delta, Enterprise and Me, A Review

Off to California we go!  Flying from the dreaded Kansas City Airport (MCI) to Los Angeles (Lax).

MCI, as I’ve mentioned before, makes me crazy.  It doesn’t belong in a large city, it belongs somewhere else, like Bulgaria or Siberia.  The design is horrible and inefficient. However, from the shuttle bus, through security and to the gate staff, they were magnificent.  Their level of friendliness and efficiency make the airport bearable and our first choice for a hub to the world (that was painful to say).

I have a love/hate thing with Delta.  My experience is usually either good or somewhat bad.   Moving millions of people, luggage and cargo can’t be easy so I’ll cut them some slack.   United, however, consistently loses our luggage which Delta doesn’t seem to do, so Delta get’s one in the win column here.

Thru American Express Business Platinum, I was able to book two round-trip first-class seats from MCI to LAX on Delta for $796.40, using 79,640 Membership Rewards Points.  Using my Business Platinum, Amex gave me BACK 39,820 of those points.  That gives me about .02 cents in value.  That is a huge bargain, especially for a first class flight.  Delta didn’t lose our luggage and were friendly and on-time.  I am a happy guy.

Next to Enterprise Car Rentals on Bellanca Ave in Los Angeles.  I reserved a large car for 7 days for $230.00 using 15,000 Chase Sapphire Points.  This is an “Meh” value (.015) as I usually like to get closer to .021 on Sapphire Points, but whatever.

This location provided the most friendly, efficient and fastest Car Rental experience I have EVER had.  It was incredible.   We were greeted by the desk, wished an early happy birthday and out the door to pick a car in less than 4 minutes.  The gentleman outside, had us in a car in less than 3 minutes and we were out the gate.  Wow!  I usually enter  with a bad attitude expecting delays and problems only to be in awe at their efficiency and politeness.  I actually felt bad for being “me” and judging so quickly.

Now we are off for a 3 hour, 60 mile drive through LA traffic, at 5:30pm on a Wednesday.  For THAT part of the plan, I should be beaten.  But everybody else did their part and did it extremely well.  MCI, Delta and Enterprise Car Rental get Gold Stars for their performance today.  The writer, however, needs to time things better.  Driving the 405/101 freeways in LA at 5:30 pm, Really?!

No One Likes a Grumpy Country

When I travel to another country, I endeavor  to learn it’s culture and experience as much of it as I possibly can.  I want to know what is most important to them, what makes them smile.

If the country has a culture of kindness, I will make the effort to return to them the warmth and respect that they have generously shown to me.  I am humbled.

If they have a culture of suspicion or disdain, I am anonymous, invisible and looking for the exit.  I expect nothing and offer the same.

I have been to both.  I prefer the first.

Amex Platinum Renewal? Thoughts From Our “For What It’s Worth Department”…

Amex Platinum annual fee is coming due.  Time to get serious, how bad do I need the card, how bad do they want to keep me.  Called the Amex # and asked for the Retention Department.  Transferred and the dance began.  We finally settled on two options; $300.00 credit or 30,000 Membership Rewards Points, if I agreed to renew.  The card has a $450 annual fee and is loaded with benefits.

$300.00 credit is great.   All of the cards incredible benefits for $150.00 ($450 fee-$300 credit) or:

30,000 MR Points, valued at ~.019 per point=$570 in possible travel value, hmmm…A round trip plane ticket to LAX for two costs~$700 or ~60,000 MR Points (Insider Flights) AND with the Amex Business Platinum, thru Amex Travel , I get half the Points back.  So ~$700 in value for 30,000 points is what I end up receiving.

I took the 30,000 points and ran away with a big smile.  That’s value!

Always give the card issuer a chance to keep you.  If you’ve been a good client for them, everybody  wins.

Blood/Plasma Doner? Watch where you travel 🌼Retweets Appreciated

Giving blood and plasma can be one of the greatest gifts that you can give to a community or in a time of crisis.

Many Bloodbanks have strict rules on when you are allowed to donate if you have been to certain countries within a period of time.

Our Bloodbank in Missouri won’t let you donate for ONE full year if you’ve been to Cambodia, 30 days if you’ve been to China or Vietnam.  These are just a few examples.

My wife has a rare blood type that can be used on anyone.  She gave often and made a difference.   Now she is unable to donate for a year and the blood bank is having a fit.  Check with your local facility for their rules especially if you have a rare, high need blood type.  Donate before you go.

What’s In Dallas, Texas? Why Arlington, of Course!


Off to Dallas for the weekend.  Lilly attended the #WorldVentures International Annual Conference “United” at the AT&T Arena.  23,000 people are getting motivated in a big way.

Me, I’m off to explore the City of Arlington, a suburb of Dallas.  The first thing I noticed is the many areas of lush green trees, I expected a dryer landscape (yes, I need to get out more),    The second thing, Traffic!  I like people who drive like they have a purpose in life.  Dallas drivers have taken this to a whole new level.  These guys are serious and have two speeds; Stopped (for a traffic light) or 150 miles per hour.  You better be on your “A-Game” or don’t even attempt  it.  Construction is everywhere and slow or confused drivers are tempting fate in a big way.

The AT&T Arena (home of the Dallas Cowboys) is perfectly located near Six Flags over Texas, the Globe Life Park (home of the Texas Rangers) and The International Bowling Campus.  I have absolutely no idea what a Bowling Campus is or does, but it did peak my curiosity, so I had to take a picture.  There is also a BMW Dealership in Arlington (my personal Kriptonite).  They were way too wonderful (Vanessa Rogers) and I shouldn’t have been allowed to go near the place without some form of adult supervision (Lilly), but she was busy and that was that.  I recommend them highly.   bmwofarlington.com

Hotels are abundant and your Points can go far here.  Eating is easy and all the chains seem to be present.  Parking is challenging near any event venue so plan ahead and be early for everything.  If you are a sports fan, you will love it here.

Great weekend in this little corner of Dallas, Texas and we’ll be back soon.

My Tuscan Wish, to Live in Italy

As I have wandered the world, Italy has always held my heart.  To own a Home in Tuscany, to live there, such a wonderful dream.  I smile; silly thoughts.  It’s just a house…as my mind drifts, I am reminded of a quote from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun.

“What are four walls, anyway?  They are what they contain.  The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game.”

I love silly thoughts

 

Transylvania! No Tourist Traps Here.

Romania is so much more than Dracula’s Castle.  Tourism is relatively new here and if you get out of the big cities, you’re in for a treat!  Romania is divided into regions, one of which is Transylvania.  The Romanian answer to any question, is to eat…and eat hearty you will.  Pork, beef and chicken are very popular dishes and almost everything comes with some form of potatoes.  Prices are inexpensive and the hospitality is fantastic.

We flew into Bucharest and took a bus to Poiana Brasov, Transylvania, where our hotel came with our very own bat.  We named him Evan and he was attached to our window the whole time.

We went to Dracula’s Castle in Bran.  Bran is out in the countryside, a beautifully quaint hilly small town…with a large Castle and a dubious past.  It is THE “Dracula’s Castle” but the locals can’t seem to agree if Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) ever slept there.

We Traveled to Sibiu, a medium sized community with a great City Square, where the residents gathered to discuss whatever one discusses in Sibiu.

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Brasov
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Evan the Bat
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Dracula’s Castle
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Dracula’s Castle

Sibiu

Romania was one of my favorite trips.  Gypsies were everywhere, traveling on horse-drawn carts.  It was like walking back through time.

Transylvania is a “must see” on your Travel List!