If you’re not using Points and Miles, you really should be!

Ritz-Carlton, Marana Az. (Tucson)

Booked a room for 3 nights using 70,000 Marriott Points and a free night certificate. This place is a bargain at 35k points per night! The value of the Points and free night certificate is ~$945.

I checked the non-Points value to make sure that using points gives the better value…

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Looks Good. ~$945 in Points to get $1249.74 in value. If you have the Amex Spg Luxury Card, you’re automatically Gold with Marriott. If you travel or spend enough, you can become Platinum. Either way, when you check in, you’re eligible for an Upgrade. I checked in and was upgraded.

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~$945 in Points/free night certificate and now $3833.99 in value! Wow!

How did I earn the points? Spg Luxury card with 75,000 point sign up bonus. $450 year fee. WAIT! You get $300 of that back as a credit to pay a Marriott Hotel charge(s) and $250 of it back for airline incidentals (fly Delta and use it for gift cards to help pay for your flight). You also get a free night certificate and Marriott Gold status. Do the Math!

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved! http://refer.amex.us/MICHAmOzEI?xl=cp33

 

 

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Do you have what it takes to pursue the Points and Miles challenge? I’m not so sure…

Three years ago, I decided to take the “Hobby” of earning Travel Points and Miles seriously. I immersed myself in learning the “in’s & out’s” and after formulating a mediocre plan, I leapt from the proverbial edge and went all in. Three years, 14+ credit cards and 3,500,000 various points/miles later, I’m exhausted.

There is NO rest in this pursuit. Deals, opportunities, angles and tactics changes hourly. You must read, research and learn the nuances of every credit card, hotel chain, airline and car rental perk, challenge, coupon, offer and status opportunity available for the program that meets your goals. You must also learn about programs outside your sphere as they are often a “back door” to a program that is within your focus ie. booking with Alaska Air for an American Airlines flight when Alaska, who will take American Airlines Miles, requires less to do the same thing, yet you still board an American Airlines plane. It is literally like drinking from a fire hose.

The resources are easily available, but if you want to be at the “top of your game,” you must put in the time and effort. This, plus maintaining websites, blogs and writing books about what you’ve learned and experienced, make for a full day.

The reward? I have the ability to travel anywhere, in any way, for free; like I need more demands on my time. Ironically, the pursuit can become more interesting that the actual reason you started; to see the world in ways that most are unable; the most exotic cities, the best hotels and flights etc.

Having said all that, I do love it so. There is no greater thrill than to obtain top-tier hotel status, fly first class and see the world “simply” by accumulating points and miles. It becomes a type of currency that you earn through hard work, effort and being a step ahead. It can be glorious, but be warned, it is all-consuming and definitely not for the faint of heart. You’ll go to bed thinking about it and you’ll get up thinking about it. If your fortunate though, the bed you’re in will be in a place that is absolutely incredible.

 

Traveling Zen:::The Paperback Version is now Available!

Take me to AMAZON! 541E949B-10DF-4C91-810B-E2CFD159074D.jpeg

I Think I’ll just have a Tantrum!

 

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It will take a true traveler to appreciate this. Everyone else will most likely be unsympathetic and follow the thought with the statement “stop whining”. So be it.

Traveling is not just going from A to B, it’s a passion. I love it from choosing the destination, the planning, the getting there, the “there” and even the coming home. I love the “trip” almost as much as the destination.

This time last year, we were packed and on the 28th of February, we left for Asia; Vietnam, Cambodia and China. This was a big deal and I was anxious to see the results of all the planning, from using Airline Miles, Hotel Points and well, everything. It was a Grand Adventure.

Here’s the whining part. I have been melancholy all day. I am missing the adventure and due to “life”, there are no adventures planned in the near future. Nothing is horribly wrong, fortunately, but our travel has been put on hold. My writing simply pales in conveying the passion that a true traveler feels at being “grounded”, unable to explore the world.

Tomorrow will be a long day. I am thankful that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have and I realize that many others can’t travel and…Ugh, this is Crap!, blah, blah, blah… So, I’m a selfish #!@&! and this is all about me! I want more and I’m gonna sit here with my arms crossed and my bottom lip hanging out until I get my way.  I may even hold my breath or stomp my feet, me, me, me whatever; It’s time to go!

 

Trying Something New; A Video

Some thoughts just have to be spoken. Let me know what you think. I know it’s too long, but if you survive, an opinion would be appreciated. I’m reading and at few points the language gets kinda “salty”. 🤭🤓

Orlando, Florida! No Snow Here

I highly recommend getting away to Orlando if it’s cold where you are.  It’s a wonderful feeling to wear a t-shirt in January. Points and Miles work Great here!

  1. Fairfield by Marriott 3 nights $853.00 or 30,000 Points ($270.00 in value). Used 30k Points!
  2. Silvercar, Audi for 3 days $126.00 or free with Sapphire Reserve $300.00 Credit. Used Sapphire!
  3. Uber from Airport. Free with AMEX Platinum $15.00 each month Uber Credit.
  4. 2 Allegiant Air r/t tickets. $210.00. Used Ritz-Carlton $300 Credit to pay for carry-on, seats and priority boarding (2018) Bought Tickets In 2017 using Ritz-Carlton 2017 Credit. Total cost $0
  5. Ate on the plane $16.00 or free with Ritz-Carlton Credit. Free

Total out of pocket for 4 days 3 nights in Orlando. $0.00. Even the 30k for Marriott were from a sign up bonus. Probably will cancel Ritz-Carlton next month when renewal comes. Anyway, enjoy the view!

 

The Beauty of Travel

One of the best parts of Travel is the joy of experiencing the beauty of art and culture of other countries.  The pictures below were found and posted by https://www.instagram.com/kulikovanastya08, who, please forgive me if I’m wrong, is from Ukraine. She has an excellent “eye” for beautiful paintings.

 

Going From A to B. The Second Half of 2017; By the Numbers.

 

Our return from St. Louis marked the end of our 2017 Travels.  It’s been an amazing year and I am looking forward to 2018.  Our next trip is to Florida in January. In an article dated July 31st, 2017, I broke the numbers down for the first half of our year.  I’ll list the numbers for the second half of the year and then I’ll do a grand total for 2017. We started the second half with a trip to Santa Fe, NM and ended the year in St. Louis, MO.

  1. 12 trips, ranging from 1-7 days
  2. Stayed in 12 different hotel Brands
  3. Stayed in 1 VRBO
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~11,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~8,740 Miles
  7. Rented 6 Vehicles
  8. Used 3 Ubers
  9. Endured 9 different Airports
  10. Held Lilly’s hand for 24 airplane take-offs and landings
  11. Visited 12 US States

Clearly the second half of the year was a bit more sedate than the first half.

Here are the combined numbers for Travelinggump.com’s 2017 Travels:

  1. 28 Trips, ranging from 1-17 days.
  2. Stayed a total of 119 nights in various Hotels
  3. Stayed in 2 VRBO’s
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~60,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~15,440 Miles
  7. Rented 13 vehicles
  8. Endured 31 Airports ( A few more than once).
  9. Held Lilly’s hand for 86 take-offs and landings
  10. Visited 19 US States
  11. Visited 5 different Countries
  12. Took 7 buses
  13. Took 4 Taxi’s
  14. Used Uber 9 times
  15. Used Lyft once
  16. Used one Roller Coaster to get to and from the Great Wall of China
  17. Used 3 Tuk-Tuks
  18. Added well over 1.5 Million Points/Miles to my travel portfolio
  19. Reached Diamond status with Hilton, Platinum with Marriott/Ritz and Starwood, Spire Elite with IHG (Intercontinental and Holiday Inn) and Discoverist with Hyatt (Ho-Hum).
  20. Loved Every Single Minute Of It All! (except maybe the tummy bug I caught in Vietnam, not so much).

Wishing you Happy Travels and a Wonderful 2018!

Michael

Mission: Napa. How Hard Can It Be?

The Master Plan:  Go to Napa, California and tour a few wineries. We’ll go in September and meet our oldest daughter, Lindsay and her husband, Ben. This will be great! Sounds simple enough, right?

I use Delta Miles and get two tickets. I Reserve two rooms at the Hampton Inn in Napa using Hilton Points. SilverCar?, yes please. Done, a well oiled machine at work here… Total out of pocket, maybe $220.00 (most of which was Silvercar as I’m sort of a princess when it comes to Audi). And that was that…inexpensive and efficient.

Then…our second oldest daughter, Nicole  found out that she and her husband, Andy could join us. This was fantastic news! We never seem to get enough time with our kids, especially our two oldest daughters. I match our Delta tickets using a Delta companion fare and we are set. We’ll fly to Napa together. We’re excited, they’re excited. And that was that…

Then… Lilly makes an interesting observation;  The Grandkids. See, if something goes wrong in our daughters’ world, we’ve got to be there for the kids. Now we’re all on the same flight.  This is a problem. We bite the bullet, trash our two Delta tickets and book United Airlines with United Miles…and some cash. Problem solved, all is well and right again. And that was…

Then…wait, we need another room. Hello Hilton, what do you mean full!? That’s fine.  We want our kids close anyway. Goodbye Hilton, Hello Airbnb. Everybody chips in and we’re back on track. And that’s…

Then…our oldest Points out that there is six of us now and the Audi seats five. Crap! Goodbye Audi, hello Enterprise and a… Minivan.  And that…Oh, Gawd, a minivan. Ugh

Finally! The day arrives. We are outta here!  Lindsay is already on her way. We fly out on United and Nicole flies out on Delta a few hours later. We should all get to San Francisco at about the same time. An excellent Master Plan executed with catlike precision… We land in Chicago and settle in for a delicious breakfast. It’s right about here that the wheels came off the wagon…

It started with a text. Nicole’s Delta flight was delayed 30 ish minutes due to a “fluid” leak. This is still ok as it works with the Atlanta connecting flight. I booked the flights for her using my account, so I start getting delay notifications on my phone. Ding, ding…now it’s an hour delay then an hour and a half, ding ding ding! Ok Delta, we only have two hours to work with here.

The news is really getting grim, it’s a fuel leak, delay, delay, delay and now we’ve passed the connecting flight time. Alternate fights to Atlanta…none. Crap! Nicole has brow beaten everyone she can and we are far away in Chicago. Delta keeps texting flight delay times.  My phone is blowing up. They are now sending another plane with a departure of 6:30pm and an arrival in Atlanta at 9:30pm (ish).

Delta feels they can get them to San Francisco sometime Saturday, maybe. Screw Delta, Hello United! United has a flight that would work well. Two one-way tickets to San Francisco please. $675.00 each or 12,500 miles plus $81.00. I used Miles which I transferred from my Chase Sapphire account. Then I called United and verified that it all worked, thumbs up…Done. And that’s that…

Then…as we are boarding our plane, Nicole calls and they won’t issue boarding passes at the gate. Are you $&#%* Kidding me! I’m on the phone with United, Nicole is also on with United, Lilly is on her phone with Andy. At one point, I was on two phones. It’s chaos.  The line is moving and United wants me to “certify” my account before they’ll issue Nicole’s boarding passes. Their flight on United is getting ready to close the gate and they can’t board.

Now we’re on our plane and they’ve closed our doors, the United representative, who keeps putting me on hold, comes back and casually says “what’s your least favorite vegetable?”. I bark the answer and he puts me back on hold. I’m losing my #%!* and about to have a stroke. He then comes back and says “you’re certified, have a nice flight”. That’s it? That’s it…bye. Ooooo k! I get a text from Nicole; they are on the plane, finally. I slump down in my seat, exhausted. I’m starting to giggle as I say to myself, “I hope our car rental goes smoothly, I mean, what else could possibly go wrong?”

 

That Points WOW Moment! And it’s a Big WOW!

It’s Wednesday and we’re siting on the couch.  Bored.  Lilly says “the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Indian Market is this weekend”.  Now, this is our only open weekend for the next month and maybe we should stay home and do housy stuff, right?…No way! Roadtrip!

The issues: 1.  The Santa Fe Indian Market is a big deal and getting a Hotel room two days before it starts could be an expensive problem.  2.  Santa Fe is a 12 hour drive.  3.  We need a Hotel on the way there, one when we actually get there and one on the way back, (my ass isn’t driving 12 hours in a row if I don’t have too).  I know, a three night trip like this is a bit impulsive but it’s SANTA FE!  Live a little…

The Solution:  The first place to reserve a Hotel is Santa Fe.  I mean, this is all just academic if we can’t find a room there.  I check the usual suspects and Hilton is the only one and they want $783.00 for the night.  Yeah, No, not paying that; let’s check points, 50,000, sounds like a lot right, not really.  Hilton points are worth the least (.006) of any Hotel chain that I watch.   In addition, they are easy to get.  The American Express Hilton Surpass card usually comes with around 80,000 points if you sign up and follow the rules.  50,000 points is worth around $300.00 (50,000 x .006).  I like this, but what about taxes?  Look below, I printed it as if I was going to pay for the room with cash. $901.96 or 50,000 points ($~300 in value and taxes are included).  I used points (Duh) and booked the room.  Also, because I keep an eye out for Hilton promo’s etc, there is no way that I spent $300.00 to acquire those points, most likely a third of that.

For one of the other nights, Marriott was the clear choice.  Marriott points are worth ~ .009 each, making 10,000 Marriott points worth about $90.00.  So, I booked the room using points instead of paying the $149.15.  Again, watch for Marriott Promo’s.  The Chase Marriott credit card also is usually available with 80,000 points if you follow their terms.  I don’t have $90.00 invested in that 10,000, most likely about $25-30.

The third night, I’m paying for the room ($130.00) to complete an IHG (Holiday Inn) promo.

This will be a 1700 mile, 4 day roadtrip.  How about a rental car?  Silvercar isn’t available (ugh) so I’m forced to wade into rental car hell.  After the usual headaches, Hertz emerged from the abyss with a full-size vehicle at $69.00 for 4 days.  I had some old Hertz points lying around and got the price down to $36.00.  Booked with Chase Sapphire Reserve for the Primary Collision Insurance.  So that’s that and we’re on the road again!

Happy Travels

 

Mattress Run? Um. Ok…

Are you serious?  It’s like a 5k run thing, right?  That is the usual response I get when I’m planning a Mattress Run.

So what is it?  I’ll dumb it down from the beginning.  This is partial example of the current IHG Acceleration Promotion:

I’m interested in the 5,600, the 20,400 and the 1,500 Stay once in August.  By staying at 2 Holiday Inn Hotels in the month of August, I should be eligible to earn 27,500 points + the normal points you earn for a paid room stay+the points you earn for using your IHG credit card.  Total possible; around 32,000 points.  (I had an earlier stay to help complete the “fill 3 out 4 categories, earn 20,400 points” which gave me even more points).

Next look around for inexpensive Holiday Inn Hotels. I found two nearby and booked the cheapest nights at each (different nights).  Total out of pocket $190.00.  Check in, go to the room, stay or don’t stay.  Earn 32,000 ish points.  A “Mattress Run” usually does not involve staying.  Anyways…

IHG points have a value ~.007 cents each.  31,000 x .007=$217.00.  You paid $190.00 (.00612 each).  Not bad…

Now what…let’s put that 32,000 points to work.  Let’s say the Napa Valley, California area in October.  You’re feeling like wine and Fall colors.  How about this:

King Deluxe room, 2 nights (15,000 points per night) or you can pay cash at $384.56. Remember you paid $190.00 with the Mattress Run, that’s half price.

There are excellent Hotel Promotions offered frequently.   This is one way of maximizing value and making friends and family feel like you’ve lost your mind.