Off To Europe

I’m leaving for Europe tomorrow morning so I will not be writing any new posts for the nest week.  I notice many bloggers post while they are on trips, but why waste your time doing that?  Enjoy what you worked so hard to go see!

I am going with a friend of mine from Georgia.  We used to work together at Delta.  She finally decided to use her “One Great Team” pass and asked if I would like to tag along.  Sure! A free flight that won’t even cost me miles? I’m there!  I thought for sure with a pass like that we would get business class but now it doesn’t look like we will.  I am beyond disappointed.  After the horrendous trip to and from Thailand in coach, I vowed to never do that again.  No more economy class tickets on flights lasting more than 4 hours! I thought I could do it, but I can’t.  I thought taking 2 trips in coach was better than 1 in business.  It’s not.

The Positive Space passes she has, are put on the standby list in the order of check-in time.  She had me buy a ticket to Atlanta so we could leave from there and she wouldn’t have to fly back and forth.  Well…if she had come up here today, we could have left at 7am tomorrow and checked in BEFORE the 4 people that checked in at noon today.  It also would have saved me $225 for the ticket to Atlanta.  Oh well.  Whaddya gonna do? Live and learn.

Nice, Free (almost) Hotels

In exchange for the free business class (ahem) ticket to Europe, I agreed to use some hotel points for rooms.  I ended up having to pay for a couple of them, but not much.  For 6 nights in hotels in expensive European cities, we are paying a total of $185 each.

I redeemed 1 Chase anniversary night, 25,000 miles and paid $170 for 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Munich City Center. (retail value $569)

I redeemed 20,000 Starpoints for 2 nights at the Sheraton Prague Charles Square Hotel (retail value $398)

And we are spending 1 night at the Ibis Munich City hotel for $110 total because there is a convention in Munich on our last night and I was unable to get a room there.

So $1077 for a week’s worth of hotels for $370 total is not bad.  I would have preferred to not pay anything, but it’s not so bad because I am splitting the cost with a friend.

I hope nothing “bad” happens while I am gone.  Seems every time I go away some change occurs with gift cards or Bluebirds or Walmart or….something!

Please “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter(@lauraroland) and Instagram (zinnia7).  I will probably post a few pictures while I am gone.

Happy Travels!

 

 

Laura’s May 2014 App-O-Rama

App-O-Rama Results: 170,000 points

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I am a very conservative App-O-Rama’er.  (is that a new word?) If you are unfamiliar with what an App-O-Rama is, see this post.

Most people do five or six cards at one time, I usually do three or maybe four depending on how good the offers are.  At this time, we seem to be in sort of a drought of good offers so I only applied for three. Continue reading

Coming Home to Changes

We have just returned from a wonderful 3 week trip to Thailand booked entirely on Miles & Points.  Once all my bills come in, I will share with you the complete total cost of our trip, including meals, activities and transportation costs.

There were definitely some not-so-great moments on the trip, such as P getting sick, Hubby taking his iPhone for a swim and me getting an ear infection after our first dive.  But those small negatives in no way outweighed the many positives of the trip.  Over the coming weeks I will post some trip reports and hotel reviews AND how P met his school goals in science, culture, reading and math on the trip.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Wow…did many things change while I was gone.  I’m sure if you read other Miles & Points blogs you already know all about them.

The worst one for me was the decision by CVS to go “nationwide” with their policy of not accepting credit cards for purchasing Vanilla Reload cards.  That really hurts!

VanillaReload

My precious. No more.

In my area, it was already difficult to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card.  The 2 CVS stores in my area would sometimes allow it, depending on the clerk.  There was a sign on the register stating that they could only be purchased with cash, however, the register would still allow a credit card purchase.  So if you pushed the clerk a bit, they might try it.  But I was denied more times than I was allowed.  There were a few CVS stores in Ohio that would do it, and Hubby had some luck buying them in other states on business trips.  There are a few other retail outlets that will still allow you to purchase VRs with credit cards but sadly, none are in my area.  Hopefully I can have Hubby do some recon on his next business trip, as there are a few stores in Oklahoma City where he travels most often.

There are still other options to load your Bluebird card to pay bills.  Such as buying VISA gift cards from giftcardmall.com.  This is not a good option if you require immediate gratification, as it takes about a week to receive.  I usually only do 2 of these a month.

Yesterday I did a “test purchase” of a VISA gift card at Kroger.  I got burned once in the past with a Mastercard gift card I bought at Kroger.  I was stuck with the $500 gift card after it would not load to my Bluebird account.  (of course there are other ways to liquidate it, but it was still a pain) But I read recently that people have had luck with the VISA version of the card that looks like this:

VisaGiftCard_USBank

 

I bought a $50 card, which cost $4.95.  That’s kind of an expensive test, but it will be worth it if it works.  I plan to take it to Walmart today and try to load it to Bluebird.  Remember, you can load $1,000 a day and up to $5,000 a month to your Bluebird account and then use their online bill pay or checks to pay your every day bills such as mortgage, car payments, utility bills etc.

Award Program Changes

Both American Airlines and US Airways made some pretty big changes to their programs in the past couple weeks.  American did so without warning! Ouch!

One of the big changes at American was no longer allowing a stopover at a North American gateway city.  This didn’t really impact me personally because CVG isn’t an international gateway (for anyone).  But I could have made it work with some creative routing.  Basically if you lived in (or near) a city with international service on American Airlines you could basically book 2 flights for the price of one.  Your home city being your stopover.  This would only work in cities like New York, Miami or Chicago on American.  Partner airlines could open a few more possibilities but again, not for CVG.  I won’t get into any more details about how it worked because you can’t do it anymore.

American also changed the structure of their award chart and the names of their redemptions, but fortunately the miles required for awards did not change.  Only the names.  They also kept their “off peak” awards in place which was a huge relief to me.  I have used those several times for off-peak travel to the Caribbean.

US Airways Free Checked Bag

The US Airways credit card was unique in that it did not allow cardholders a free checked bag, which is usually a standard benefit of other airline credit cards.  That is changing on April 30, 2014.  If you have a US AIrways card with at least a $79 annual fee, you will receive a free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 4 companions.

One Bright Spot!

IHG announced that redemption levels for 100 IHG properties will be going DOWN on April 15, 2014 and that for the remainder of 2014, there will no increases in reward night pricing!  Yay! I have not yet seen a complete list of properties, which is surprising as this change takes effect today.  I am hoping that the property in Munich I want to stay at this summer is one of the 100 properties!  Once I come across a list, I will post it here for you!

Use Those Miles!

The fact that these American Airlines changes were made without any advance notice just shows how fast the value of your miles can change.  Earn ’em and burn ’em!   They may not be worth as much next month (or tomorrow) as they are today!

Happy Travels!

 

 

IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks List Preview

IHG Rewards PointBreaks are reduced award redemptions at IHG Hotels.  IHG Hotels include not only the “standard”  Holiday Inn, but also upscale properties like Crowne Plaza and Intercontinental.

A PointBreak award is only 5,000 points for a free night.  The list of PointBreak hotels changes every couple months.  The current list can be found here.  The new list will be released on Monday, March 24, but IHG members can get a preview tomorrow in the IHG Community Forum.  The new list will be for stays from March 24 until May 31.

Most of the time the PointBreaks properties are not in the most popular areas at the most popular time of the year.  But sometimes, once you read more about the property, it doesn’t sound so bad! For example, the Holiday Inn Prague Airport is part of the January-March PointBreaks.  If you were visiting Prague (in February) you would probably think the airport is not the best place to stay for a leisure trip. But the hotel is only 10km from the city centre, and you can take a bus to the metro for a 4 stop ride into the  city.  So, for 5,000 points a night? Yeah…maybe it would not be such a bad deal.  Rooms at the Holiday Inn Prague Airport start around $115 per night or 15,000 IHG points.

A  better PointBreaks deal is going to be on the new list that will be released on Monday.  The InterContinental Mumbai.  If your travel plans take you to India in the next couple months, this is a steal!  It will probably sell out quickly, so if it interests you, jump on it!  Rooms at the IC Mumbai are around $175 per night or 25,000 points.  It looks like a beautiful hotel in a great location.  On a PointBreak Reward, you could stay 5 nights for the price of 1!

With Spring Break approaching it would be great news to see some beach properties on the list.  I was seriously considering a stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket in April, but in the end decided against it.  The normal award rate is 30,000 points per night and if it shows up on the PointBreak list tomorrow, I may change my mind!

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket

Happy Travels!