Israel?

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the sunny beach of Tel Aviv, where I’m resisting a second mimosa because it’s ten am and maybe I should have some self control?

Nah.

Anyway, I’ve been in Israel for the last week, doing tons of cool stuff which obviously I’m going to write about.

First, the fun stuff. How did I get here? *bragbragbrag* Flights to Israel are stupid expensive, so I wasn’t looking forward to dropping over a thousand bucks to haul myself across the world. It took a few weeks of searching, and just as I was resigned to hopping a complicated points-based itinerary through Europe, I happened to see- somehow- a single day of flights out of Boston that were priced at $600 rather than the normal $1200. Even better, the flights were on Delta.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times, the American Express Business Platinum card will give you a rebate back on points redeemed for your chosen airline. For new sign-ups, the bonus is 35%, but I’m grandfathered in (until October) at a 50% rebate. Delta happens to be my preferred airline, so I redeemed 30,000 American Express membership reward points for my flight. This effectively meant I paid $300 ‘worth’ of points for my round trip itinerary to Tel Aviv and back. Yay!

Of course, I still had to get to Boston, but luckily flights out there from San Francisco are very cheap. (And I used points, obviously).

This is the second time I’ve given myself the benefit of the doubt and scheduled a day long layover somewhere in the hopes that I would go explore the city. It’s also the second time that I’ve been a total lazy-ass and sat in the lounge for the whole day while watching Netflix and generally mucking about online. I’m so impressed with myself.

Anyway, here I am, hanging out on the beach and roasting in the Middle Eastern summer sun. Maybe that’s why flights were so cheap?

Up next- exploring Jerusalem, being Biblical, and hiking at the Dead Sea.

See you guys soon!

-Carissa “I’m Literally Melting” Rawson

Where Are You Going? The Best and Cheapest Airports for International Flights

Hello Dear Readers!

As I continue to write, I realize that a lot of things I take for granted, a lot of people probably don’t know. Things like: where do I get cheap flights? What’s the best way to look up airfare? Are all airlines created equal?

To that end, I’ve decided to make a list of the best/cheapest airports to fly out of, depending on where you want to go internationally. I know when I first started, I had no clue, so here you are:

Europe:


1. New York’s JFK is by far the cheapest airport there is, often flying to/from Spain for less than $400 roundtrip on full-service airlines (think Delta, American Airlines, and United). There are frequently price wars here, and I’ve seen itineraries as low as $300 for these trips.
2. Washington D.C. is another cheap one. Though not as common as JFK, you can still often find flights for less than $500 on full-service airlines.
3. Boston can often be had for as nearly cheap as D.C. and JFK. Specifically, it often flies to Dublin, Ireland, for around $400 on full-service airlines (Aer Lingus). Flight routes mean that this flight path is the (one of?) the shortest to Europe, mileage-wise.
4. Chicago will pop up occasionally, though not as often as the above two.
5. Miami handles a lot of international traffic, and before flight prices got so low, was the cheapest I was ever able to find ($700 Miami-London in 2011).
6. Atlanta will also have some pretty good deals to places like Paris and Amsterdam, though these are sporadic and you need to jump on them quickly.
7. WOW Air and Norwegian are budget airlines, which have begun launching flights across the country for ridiculously cheap prices. For example, San Francisco-Edinburgh can be had for as low as $69 one-way. A return ticket will run you $250, though, and these airlines add fees on for everything. Checking a bag will cost you about $60 each way, but may be worth it if you find a cheap enough ticket. I flew WOW from D.C. to Paris last September for $500 roundtrip and found their coach seats to be quite roomy, and their planes are all new, which is nice.
8. As mentioned above, Norwegian is also really cheap/ new, and has awesome deals around Europe and Scandinavia. Last December, I scored a roundtrip New York-Oslo ticket for $335 and spent an amazing few days in Norway. It’s always worth looking at their price calendars, as prices change drastically from day to day.

Asia:


1. San Francisco is one of the best for flying to Asia, with roundtrip flights to Japan and China running daily for $500 or less. (They also go other places, but I most often see cheapest flights to these two countries) I flew Japan Airlines from here last May (using points), and absolutely loved their seats. International airlines will always best US airlines for legroom and recline, so if you can find one with a good price, take it.
2. Oakland, the sad smaller sister of San Francisco, has far fewer amenities but can also run really cheap flights. It’s also an easier drive and is better to park at than San Fran.
3. Los Angeles, similar to San Francisco, has tons of daily flights to Asia, which can be had for $500 or less. It’s also usually the cheapest location for Australia, which usually runs about $1000 (or more) roundtrip. I recently snagged a seat on Virgin Australia for $700 during a price war, and it’s a nonstop 15 hour flight, which should be fun.
4. Houston, as strange as that may seem, can have some pretty good deals too. In May, I flew roundtrip to Bali for ~$500 on Singapore Airlines as part of a celebration sale. Word of warning, though- flying from Houston takes you the long way around the world. We went Houston-Manchester (UK)- Singapore- Bali, which totaled 24 hours of flight time. It was too long.
5. Seattle and Portland will pop up at times, though not nearly as often as LA and San Francisco. Their flights tend to cost a little bit more, say $600 or so roundtrip.
6. New York’s JFK also has flights, though far less often. You’ll find JFK a lot on this list, as I find that overall they’re the cheapest for international flights.

Africa:

1. JFK is one of the few to offer sale or otherwise affordable flights to Africa. I’ve seen some go for around $700-$800. This isn’t common, though.
2. Another option, if you’re not averse to connections, is to fly one of the cheap flights to Europe as outlined above, and hop down to Africa from there. I often see flights from the EU and the UK for very cheap- anywhere from $300-$500.
3. London, Zurich, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam are the ones I see popping up most often with discounted flights to Africa.

Middle East:

1. Los Angeles runs a surprisingly large amount of flights to places like Dubai that aren’t too expensive. On a regular day, I snagged a roundtrip flight Los Angeles- Dubai for less than $700. They’ll even have fares going as low as $500 on occasion.
2. Seattle, which is where my flight to Dubai connected to, can be one of the cheaper options as well.
3. JFK, of course, is on the list. Flights can cost between $500-$700 here. A flight from JFK to Amman, for instance, was $700 in April on Royal Jordanian, which is a pretty decent airline.

Central and South America:

1. Though I’ve never been to South (or Central) America, there are regularly cheap flights down that way. Los Angeles in particular has flights to Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, etc. for decent prices- say anywhere from $400-$800, depending on your tastes. Southwest will even fly you to Costa Rica, with roundtrip flights often less that $300.
2. Dallas, Southwest’s home field, serves Southwest’s cheapest flights to Central America. This is a new area for them, so they’re priced very competitively. Additionally, expect to see expanded flight options in the future, as Southwest has already stated that they’re making this area a priority. Here’s the link to their flight map, which will show you all the routes they fly.
3. Boston is one of the cheaper ones too.
4. JFK, as always, makes the list.
5. San Francisco, though not as often as Los Angeles, will have decently priced flights. The same holds true for much of California. Overall, it’s usually the cheapest state to fly from.
6. Atlanta, every once in a while, will have good stuff.
7. Orlando is a major airport and often has sales.
8. So does Miami.

The Caribbean:

1. Many of Florida’s airports run very cheap flights to the Caribbean and back- think: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Miami.
2. Atlanta, Delta’s home base, will often have discounted flights across all the Caribbean islands. Delta’s competitor’s, American Airlines especially, tend to start price wars over these fares, and it’s not uncommon to see a roundtrip flight from, say, Atlanta to St. Maarten for around $200.
3. Washington D.C. is one of the more common ones for sale flights to down to the Caribbean as well.
4. As always, JFK makes the list.
5. Charlotte, NC is also often an easy one to find flights from.
6. Dallas, using Southwest, will have good prices as well.
7. Boston, specifically flying JetBlue, which runs fare sales every month or so.

Ok! So I think that covers most places you’d want to get to from the U.S. Keep in mind, if you aren’t near any of these hubs, it’s often still worth it to look at prices for these flights and then book separate tickets from your nearest airport to these hubs. This is called positioning, and is used very often in order to keep prices down on airfare.

I follow many different sites to track airfare prices, but my favorite is Secret Flying. They post throughout the day on all sale fares that they find, and have gotten me some of my best prices to date. I follow them on Facebook too, so it’s always a part of my news feed.

As always, being flexible on your dates is the easiest way to get cheap airfare. Even within the span of a week there will be very different prices on flights, so if you can, (I know, a lot can’t between work and kids), try to maintain a window of open time rather than set-in-stone dates. When searching for flights, I almost always start with Google’s Air Matrix, which shows month long blocks for almost every airline (minus Southwest).

I hope this has helped you all! Let me know if you have any questions!

-Carissa

Miraculous Miraval- Bacon Meditation

Hello Dear Readers!

Ok, final post on the Miraval, and then we’ll get to explore a whole new country. Which one? You’ll find out! *Ooh mystery*

Remember how I mentioned Miraval was an all-inclusive resort? Obviously, this meant that all the food was included. Here’s the thing, though. This place is super focused on wellness, which meant that while you could order an alcoholic beverage, it was discouraged, but there were free unlimited smoothies available. Obviously I had to try every single type.

And the food. Oh man, the food. Like, I always gave celebrities serious props for being thin and beautiful because they have to eat lettuce all the time, but the food here was amazing and healthy. I’m pretty sure this is how famous people eat and don’t end up starving to death.

We did floating mediation while we were there too, which meant we literally wrapped ourselves up in silk hammocks and swung suspended in the air while a woman rang bells at us.

I’m not the best at meditation, so I was like “….prayer….gratitude…inner peace…bacon…”

It was a pretty neat experience.

We also pampered ourselves with 80 minute massages at the spa. I don’t know about you guys, but if I’m not getting beat up in a massage then I don’t feel like it’s worth it. Put some elbow grease into it, man! This was definitely one of the best massages I’ve ever had. The poor masseur was sweating by the time he finished, which equals A+ in my book.

We spent time at the pool, me in the sun and Jill in the shade because her delicate flower skin hates sunlight.

We got up at an ungodly hour and went for a hike through the mountains, which we didn’t want to do and tried to cancel but it cost money so we went. And it was awesome.

Finally, we did what was called “a swing and a prayer,” which is where you get hoisted up thirty five feet in the air and voluntarily drop yourself, swinging through the air as you scream like a maniac. (Ok, I was the only one who screamed).

To my credit, I also hung upside down like a Cirque-Du-Soleil performer because I’m fancy.

I’ve got to tell you guys, I wish we had so much more time here. The Miraval Resort is like a little slice of heaven in the middle of the scorching hell desert of Arizona, and I can’t recommend it enough. If I could afford it again (lol), I would totally go back. One day?

-Carissa “The Acrobat” Rawson

Miraculous Miraval: Terrifying Ziplining

Hello Dear Readers!

I promise I haven’t died- I’ve just been really busy. (As per the usual).

So, where did we leave off? I’m pretty sure I had just told you guys all about traveling to the Miraval Resort with my sister, Jill. Like I said, redeeming the points was a no-brainer, and we had an absolutely awesome time.

In addition to all sorts of wellness classes, (like yoga, meditation, and spiritual healing), the resort also had challenge courses. Of course Jill and I signed up to go ziplining.

Now, I’ve ziplined once before. I was on a cruise and one of the shore excursions in Dominica was this crazy rope walk through the trees with ziplining. The issue there was that, well, it was Dominica, which meant there were zero safety codes. Which is how I found myself zooming towards a tree on a duct-taped cable with no brakes and a mattress at the other end.

Suffice to say that my first time was a little scary. However, since this was in the good old US of A, I had high hopes as to the safety standards of our course.

And yes, it was safe, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying. 

Like I said, this was considered a ‘challenge course,’ which meant apparently that in order to get to the zipline, you had to scale a fifty foot telephone pole.

Like, with your hands. And your feet. There was no nifty basket to haul my carcass up there.

Someone help us

I’m not that bad with heights, really, but the last time I tried crawling up a sheer surface with my bare hands I got so scared that I straight fell off.

Jill, also, has a horrific time with this concept.

So it was with no little amount of trepidation that we watched the first couple people scale this pole, looking like monkeys as they hopped from rung to rung. I told Jill I’d go first, so I wouldn’t have time to psyche myself out, and began climbing as soon as I was told.

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Pictured: not that bad

It wasn’t so bad, at first. Really. But right at about twenty feet, I realized the ground was really far away, and the rungs were super tiny, and also ohmygod what am I doing.

Ohgod ohgod ohgod

I didn’t fall, at least, but I panicked and raced the entire rest of the way up to the platform, arriving and nearly collapsing with relief.

Just kidding. I was hanging onto the pole for dear life. The employee eventually had to pry me off, assuring me that I was securely connected to the cables hanging around the platform.

Then it was Jill’s turn.

You guys.

You guys. 

It started simply enough. Here comes Jill, crawling up this pole, with all the rest of us shouting encouragement and urging her to come up. I stood at the top and berated her, as any good older sister does.

And there she was, a mere two rungs from arriving at the platform. Her head was even peeking over- all she needed to do was grab this rung.

It was at this point that she looked down. And oh, the panic was real.

It was like a movie. She hung there, hyperventilating, convincing herself she couldn’t do it.

There we all were, calling, calling, encouraging her to reach, just one more, and there she went- one arm outstretched- grasping for the rung.

She caught it with the tips of her fingers, and in slow-motion they slipped, her petrified face dropping out of view as she fell.

The air stopped moving but for her terrified yelp as- thwack- with a stretch, her rope caught her and she swung back around to the pole, clinging to the rungs and sobbing.

She was back several feet down and as red as a tomato, (she’s a ginger, you know), trying to gain control of herself and overcome her panic.

And she did. Scarcely a minute later, she began climbing again, this time her face filled with resolve as rose up.

Finally, she crawled up over the platform, and we all cheered wildly, congratulating her on making it.

After that, the zipline was cake.

-Carissa “Badass” Rawson

Miraculous Miraval: Chakras and Zen

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the gorgeous Miraval Resort near Tucson, Arizona. My sister, Jill, and I have been staying here for the last few days, doing all kinds of awesome things. I’ll write about those later (ziplining!), but first I want to tell you how we managed to stay here, because this property is absolutely incredible, and you all need to come here. 

Secluded in the desert

The Miraval Resort is very unique- it’s one of few all-inclusive resorts in the United States, and its rooms can go for as much as $2000/night. However, as of June 29th, Miraval has teamed up with Hyatt in order to allow points earning and redemptions at the resort.

Us with our driver, cheesing before we left the airport. (The ride is included!)

The Miraval exceeds the normal category 1-7 chart, costing 45,000 points/night for the first person, and 20,000 points/ night for the second person. That’s an awful lot, and speaks volumes about the quality of this resort. The Ellen Degeneres show even came here, and did a segment about it:

However, in order to celebrate their new partnership, Hyatt is offering 50% of your points back if you stay here between June 29th-September 15th. As soon as I saw this place, I knew I wanted to come here. And with 50% off, why not?

So I went ahead and booked two nights for Jill and I here, costing a total of 65,000 points (after the 50% back). Now, I had that amount already in my Hyatt account, but the rub here is that you’ll need the full amount of points in your account when you book, totaling 130,000, and they refund the points back to you after you complete your stay.

This kind of sucks, but is definitely worth it. Chase is a transfer partner of Hyatt, so I went ahead and transferred 65,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points into my Hyatt account. (You can earn Ultimate Reward points with many different Chase cards) I’ll have that many left over when they refund me, so I’ll have to use them somewhere else (the Park Hyatt Maldives, perhaps?)

This trip has truly been once in a lifetime. Jill and I don’t get to spend much time together, so getting some sister time has been really awesome.

We were…a little tired after our 6am flight

The Miraval is a wellness resort, so it’s full of classes offering all kinds of different things to do. We’ve been super busy, what with all the meditation, hiking, and spa treatments. When you book with points, your package also includes a $175/ per person/ day credit that you can use at the spa, or on different, extra classes, like horseback riding and ziplining.

I’ll write about that next! Until then, I’m going to go meditate and ponder chakras.

-Carissa “Zen” Rawson

F is For Family

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve been spending the last few weeks with my family, enjoying every moment. To that end, here are some classy family photos, which I know you guys are dying to see:

Disney love runs in the family

Celebrating Fourth of July like real Americans: with beer and fireworks!

Speeding down the river in Branson, Missouri, with my cousin and grandma.

And finally, last but definitely not least, my very own babies:

F2B1A31B-EA87-4998-932E-50622FD591D2

I’ve missed them so much!

-Carissa “Ants in my Pants” Rawson

Grand Ole Nashville

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m currently located in sunny California, taking my longest break from traveling yet this year (over a week!). I’ve been hanging out with family, shopping judiciously at Target, and getting back into a workout schedule.

In short, it’s been great.

However! Before I got here, I had to move all my things cross country- from Washington D.C. to Yucaipa, CA. Since I’m a huge weenie and was also driving alone, I planned my trip across a five day span, including a couple nights spent with family in Branson, Missouri. I figured if I had to be driving, I should at least make it as un-awful as possible.

Which is how I found myself detouring an hour out of the way to stop in Nashville. I’ve been meaning to come here for years, but never managed to find the time.

Nashville is…well…I have never been to a city that was so proudly country.

I know, I know, that should be obvious, but look:

Everything is loud and musical and packed with good old American honky tonk folk. Coming as a visitor, it was really cool and also a bit absurd. I mean, do you really need that boot?

Anyway, I had planned on doing the whole tour of Nashville with the Grand Ole Opry and whatnot (no, I didn’t manage), so to that end I found myself eating at a place called The Stillery right in the middle of downtown. This place is “best-rated” in Nashville, and it deserves its title. Good food, good music, and excellent cocktails.

Afterwards, I popped back into my hotel for a bit before heading back downtown. My hotel was close enough that I could walk, so I did.

As I made my way down the road, one of the many musicians littering the streets of the city struck up a conversation with me. He introduced himself as Mike, was on his way to work, and was totally impressed at my being a travel blogger. (I’m famous!)

“You can write about my band! I’ll give you the musician’s tour of Nashville!”

This seemed really cool, so I readily agreed.

Our first stop was at the most famous bar in Nashville, called Legends Corner, where he high fived the doorman and proceeded to take me up to the empty VIP section.

Super cool, right?

I was there for about two minutes before the bartender came and informed us that the VIP wasn’t available for us and we had to leave. *facepalm*

It was a great start to the night.

The tour of downtown then turned into a nighttime search for coffee so he could play his set without falling asleep. Then, having failed at that, he settled for ice cream, and we headed back to his bar to wait for his band to start.

Busy even on a Sunday

The conversation went downhill from there. I learned many *interesting* facts about him, until there were more red flags waving at me than at a communist rally. (I won’t elaborate here, as most things he said are decidedly less than PC).

At that point, luckily, he had to go start playing and I settled myself down to listen in safety. (What was he gonna do, jump off the stage at me?)

He’s the one on the left

First, though, I grabbed myself a beer. As expected, I was carded, but this I didn’t mind.

I then returned to my seat and began drinking it. Scarcely two minutes later, the bar’s enormous bouncer beelined straight for me.

And me only.

“I’m going to need to see some I.D.,” he told me. I tried and failed to look agreeable while handing him my license. I think I even accidentally rolled my eyes.

He squinted at it suspiciously, ran his fingers across the top as if to verify its legitimacy, and handed it back, returning to his corner with the satisfaction of a job well done.

At this point I was fairly irritated with my night in Nashville, having met a crazy musician and then been bullied by the bouncer, so I resolved to finish my drink and head back to my hotel.

Enter Shannon.

This woman came blitzing out of nowhere, loud and giggly, and asked me “are you here alone?”

Of course I replied that I was, and she gestured frantically back at her friend, (also named Mike), so they could come up and sit at my table. Wingman skills on point, amirite?

Anyway, we ended up having an awesome time. Shannon, who had already had a few drinks at this point, bought us each a round, which I enjoyed and Mike immediately dropped onto his pants. We then listened to the music and hung out, until Shannon, stumbling slightly, declared that she was ready to go home.

We cleaned up and I Uber’d back, because let’s be real I’m the laziest person alive.

Next up, Branson!

-Carissa “Honky Tonk” Rawson

Poutine on the Ritz

Hello Dear Readers!
Remember when I said I ended my night in Montreal reasonably sure I wouldn’t be hungover?

Yeah.

I guess my plan to drink lots of water and not enjoy too many adult beverages backfired on me because I woke up absolutely miserable.

But time pauses for no man. So I heaved myself out of bed, showered, ate, and dragged myself into the back of a cab in order to go to the Biodome.


And guys, this place is awesome. It’s the old Olympic Park, which the Montreal-ans have converted into a number of different spaces. The Biodome itself is this huge indoor stadium, divided into four separate sections. They’ve recreated different ecosystems in each section and filled them with plants and animals from the ecosystems.


Pictures don’t really show how cool this is, but it’s really neat to walk from the tropics to a cool fall day in a matter of moments.



I also got myself a ticket to the insectarium (ew) and the botanical gardens (awesome). The gardens are huge, and I spent a wonderful amount of time wandering through them.

Then, since it was getting late, I headed out to La Banquise, courtesy of this recommendation here, and indulged myself in a huge pile of greasy poutine.

Mmmm

 

It was just what the doctor ordered for my hangover and I enjoyed practicing my 2 words of French on the wait staff, who politely indulged in my ridiculousness.

In total, I spent almost exactly 24 hours in Montreal. I met some cool people, found a secret speakeasy, gorged myself on poutine, and wandered around some really beautiful places. In short, I had a wonderful time.

I’ll be back.

-Carissa “Schwarzenegger” Rawson

Feeling French in Montreal

Hello Dear Readers!
I was in Vermont just recently (for school) and found myself with a spare day, so decided to make the quick drive up to Montreal. I’ve been to Canada a few times, but only on the west coast, and I was really looking forward to seeing if French Canada was worth all that jazz. Spoiler alert: it totally is.

Anyway, it’s two and a half hours from Northfield, Vermont, up to Montreal, so I hopped in my rental car and sped up the highway to check out French Canada. I anticipated no problems at the border, since it’s, ya know, just Canada, but the border patrol agent was having none of me.

He asked me a thousand questions, looked extremely skeptical when I said I was just staying for a day, and questioned me specifically on what I was going to do in Montreal.

“Well,” I told him, “I hear the poutine is good.”

He busted out laughing and then sent me to extra security. Clearly, poutine is not the winning answer.

After they scanned my passport, examined every stamp in the book, and interrogated me (politely. It is Canada, after all) about my plans, they finally let me through.

And then I was in! It was only about another hour to Montreal, where I stayed the night at the Intercontinental. (I used my Ambassador status to get awesome perks).

Since I was just there for the night, I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste my time. I know I’ve told you guys about the Spotted By Locals app before, but it’s essentially a curated list of things to do and see in specific cities, made by the people who actually live in them.
Which is how I found myself in a secret speakeasy hidden down a set of stairs, sipping on a handcrafted cocktail and generally feeling very posh.

I hung out at the bar there for about two hours, just enjoying my drinks and the general atmosphere, before striking up a conversation with the two people next to me.

This side of Canada is weird, in that it’s…very French. But at the same time, they’re very similar to us. They’ve got all the same stores, roads, and buildings, but everything is written in French and everyone is perfectly bilingual. They slip from English to French and back almost unconsciously, which is really cool but also really difficult for me to understand as a non-French speaker.

But it’s fun! These two were very much French Canadian, and I spent a good portion of time staring back and forth between them as I attempted to deduce what they were saying via body language.

Eventually, they told me they were headed out to a different bar, and invited me to come along.

Now, as a single female I’ve got to be careful about where I go. So I did the natural thing and asked,

“You aren’t gonna murder me in a back alley, are you?”

To which they responded, that no, of course they weren’t, so clearly that was good enough for me.

(I know I’m being flippant about this guys, but I am actually extremely careful and would never head out somewhere without telling someone/if I felt the least bit unsafe/ etc etc. Don’t worry.)

We left the speakeasy and walked a few minutes down the road, to this very fancy, very busy night club.

Now, I know you’ve all seen photos of what I wear. I was in green pants and my walking shoes, coupled with a blouse, which was the nicest thing I had with me. As a traveler, I just don’t have room for fancy pants clothes.

Me.

In contrast, the guy I was with was in a full suit and the girl had on a cocktail dress. I was in no way fit for entry and thus hid behind the both of them as we walked into the club.

I then spent the whole night thinking “Don’t look at my feet, don’t look at my fe- oh god he’s seen the tennis shoes.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a real night club before, but this place was really cool. It was packed, shoulder to shoulder, and between the giant bottles of Grey Goose and sparklers, people shouted at each other and sipped glasses of wine. And this was on a Thursday.

We were there until at 2am, at which point the guy in our group had had a little bit too much to drink, so his friend (they were just friends hanging out) decided it was time to go. We Uber’ed back to my hotel and I let them in the lounge, where we hung out and drank coffee until the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, a little more sobered up, they took off in a cab and I trudged up to my room, reasonably sure I wasn’t going to be hungover.

Ha.

-Carissa “Fancy Pants” Rawson

Ambassador Status- Elite on the Cheap

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I want to talk to you about the Intercontinental Ambassador program. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s unique in that it’s a loyalty status you can purchase rather than earn. This is good for people who want to be treated like royalty without having to spend a lot of money/nights at hotels. The program’s benefits are pretty cool:

 They also gift you with 5,000 bonus points, which is enough for a free night at any of IHG’s PointsBreak hotels. The program costs $200 to buy into, but having that free night certificate can easily save you that much or more, depending on where you stay.

For instance, the Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora will run you $1000/night for a room, but using the certificate will snag you the second night for free, saving you a full $1000. You can also redeem reward points with this, so you can stack offers and create a longer stay for yourself.


I know, that sounds expensive. You can stay wherever you’d like, though. The Intercontinental San Francisco will usually run about $200/night, so even just using it there will save you the cost of the membership. Intercontinental’s hotels span the globe, so there are a lot of choices for you.

I also find a lot of value in the room upgrades. As I said in my post about the Intercontinental Moorea, I was upgraded to an entire bungalow, at a cost difference of over $1200 for three nights. That’s awesome!

Even better, when you go to renew your status, the price drops to just $150. Or, you can pay $200, receive 15,000 bonus points (instead of 5,000) and get 10% back on all points redemptions. This stacks with the IHG credit card’s 10% back, so you’ll receive 20% of your points back on every single booking.

Is It Worth It?

It’s not hard to find value in this program- though if Intercontinental is not somewhere you’d usually stay, or you aren’t looking to travel to one at least twice within the year, I wouldn’t recommend it. Otherwise, I think this is a fantastic way for those who don’t normally earn hotel status to be an elite without a lot of commitment.

-Carissa