Jordan, Like a Boss

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the *acute* comfort of my very first Ryanair flight, a four hour debacle commencing in Tel Aviv and culminating in Kaunas, Lithuania. I’m taking Harrison for a very special surprise birthday trip- having managed to keep our destination a secret until we arrived to the airport in Tel Aviv. Pretty cool, right?

Even cooler is the fact that last weekend Harrison and I took a weekend trip to Jordan. That’s one of the nice things about Israel; it’s located in the Middle East, which means that direct flights to quite a lot of the world are extremely short.

Now, before I talk about all the fun we had, I do want to tell you guys how I managed to minimize costs for the trip. This is a points and miles (and travel) blog, after all.

In case you didn’t know, relations between Israel and the rest of the Middle East are…tense. It’s the reason I took a sketchy unmarked flight across the Sinai, and also the reason that the base price for a thirty minute flight between Israel and Jordan starts at $350. This a is a 70 mile journey, folks.

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But basically a world away.

Luckily, British Airways is one of the last few airlines that maintains an award chart based on distance flown rather than ticket cost. And since the two airports are so near each other, the cost for a reward flight on British Airways is a mere 4,500 Avios (and some fees) each way.

British Airways is a transfer partner of American Express, so I transferred over 9,000 Membership Rewards (worth ~120 dollars) for two tickets for Harrison and I, meaning we spent about $250 in points and fees for our $700 flights.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t award availability for our return flight, so we used the land crossing. That story will be coming soon.

We stayed a total of three nights in Amman, and I finally, finally got to use my buy-one-get-one-free night certificate from Intercontinental (you can pay $200 for a year of elite status at IHG, which, among other benefits, gets you one free weekend night/ year with purchase of another night). With two nights covered, I redeemed 25,000 IHG points on our third night.

All told, we spent $302 and 25,000 points on three nights at the Intercontinental Amman. Even better? That aforementioned status (Ambassador) guarantees you a room upgrade, and since availability must have been good, they exchanged my twin bed room with a king size suite overlooking the city- for all three nights!

The breakdown for our costs is this:

Regular Price Our Price
Flights $700 9,000 Avios (worth $120) and $130 in fees
Hotel $1560 25,000 IHG points, one free night certificate, and $302
Total Cost $2260 $432

I’m not going to lie, seeing this breakdown makes me feel pretty awesome. And it just serves to highlight how valuable points and miles are. In case I haven’t harped on that enough.

Stories of our trip are next!

-Carissa “Queen Noor of Jordan” Rawson and Harrison “Basically Her Sidekick” Goldensteinbergowitz

 

Easter-ing Like An Adult

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been a hot few years since I’ve been home for Easter due to one reason or another (just kidding. It’s travel. It’s always travel). But! This year I finally managed and let me tell you something. I have been Missing. Out.

So I’m not religious by any stretch of the imagination, and neither is my family, which is why I never really made such a big deal out of Easter. Sure, there’s some chocolate, and some good food, but nothing too crazy.

What I neglected to realize was that my family celebrates Easter like a boss. You see, all the kids are grown up now, with my two younger cousins 19 and 21 and myself 29. But rather than stopping Easter egg hunts, which let’s be real are ridiculously fun, the Easter Bunny has instead evolved the process.

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I’m not ashamed

In addition to booze, we hunted Easter eggs containing the best surprise ever- money!

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Including an action shot of Nala

After entirely way too much fun, we then moved the party to Disneyland.

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Obviously

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We also paid six dollars to go on a scavenger hunt around Disneyland, walking thirty thousand steps and riding absolutely nothing. Yes, that’s right, we paid Disneyland to not ride their rides.
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Ain’t nothing bringing this dog down.

-Carissa “I Super Swear I’m An Adult” Rawson

Big News!

Hello Dear Readers!

I absolutely could not wait to share this news with you all. Are you ready?

I’ve been hired as a travel writer! I’ll be putting together articles for Points With a Crew, and already some of my stuff has been published!

What does this mean for us?

Well, nothing, of course. Spirits of Adventure is my baby and my blog, so keep up here for all my personal travel stuff, trip reports, etc. But if you’re jonesing for posts a little more often, I’m publishing five times a week on all sorts of different topics.

I’m completely elated for this opportunity. All my life I’ve wanted to be a writer (you know, the kind that makes money), and now I finally am!

Here’s to happy travels, guys.

-Carissa “Big-Shot” Rawson

London, Baby!

 

 

Hello Dear Readers!

Now, if you’ve been following my saga, you know that our flight cancellation led to a complete desertion of our plans (do you know how many hours I spent on those??) and the snap decision to head down to London for four days instead of staying in Scotland. Joni had already visited Scotland, you see, but still had never been to London.

So it was that after our very long day in Inverness, we again woke up at oh God help me o’ clock, and started the train ride from Edinburgh to London King’s Cross. In all actuality, it wasn’t so bad, as traveling by train is decidedly less stressful than flying. We merely showed up a few minutes early, got on, plugged in, and watched an entire season of Outlander. Easy peasy.

I’ve been to London quite a few times before, but somehow there’s still always so much to see. This trip I took Joni all around to the usual tourist things, but this time was also the first time we ever had a London Citypass, which meant we actually ended up doing tons of stuff I’d never done before.

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Such an astonishing view of Big Ben.
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On the city bus tour
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Westminster Abbey, where we got to skip the line. Thanks, Brit!
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Pictured: world’s most cultured dog.
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We even did a Harry Potter walking tour!
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Carlos (from University of Edinburgh) came into town to see us 😀
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We checked out the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

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I’m not even sorry.
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Have you guys heard of Choccywoccydoodah?
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And my favorite part? Business class back home!
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I’ve literally never been happier.

-Classy Carissa and Business Class Brit

 

Outlander-ing Our Way Through Scotland

Hello Dear Readers!

After our initial snafu with the flight situation, Joni, Brit, and I all arrived safely to Scotland. Since all our original plans were a bust (luckily most everything was refundable), we decided to make new, better plans.

And what better than going and visiting all the Outlander sites we missed the first time around?

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Brit trying to go through the standing stones
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The anatomy hall where Claire and Joe Abernathy meet.
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Jamie’s print shop in Edinburgh! (Seriously how did I miss this when I lived here?)
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The set of the governor’s mansion in Jamaica. (Backstory, we were super not allowed in here so Joni and I played dumb and wandered in as if we were lost and confused. I don’t think the receptionist fell for it.)

And although essentially all of our plans were canceled as a result of the flight changes, we still reaaally wanted to go on the private Outlander tour we had booked up in Inverness. So it was that we got up before the crack of dawn to board the three hour train to Inverness:

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Help me I need sleep.

And spent the day wandering around the highlands going to visit different Outlander things. This tour was actually pretty cool, as we didn’t go just to filming locations- we also saw actual clan Fraser lands and real Scottish history.

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Clan Fraser’s current lands
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Culloden, the home of the last Jacobite uprising.
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I can’t actually remember what this is…all I can recall is that the Lord of the castle still lives there and is hostile to visitors, so we skedaddled as soon as he came outside.
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Something else from Outlander! Maybe Joni can help me out with what it is.
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I told Joni we needed to look solemn, as we were standing at a gravesite.

We boarded the train late back home to Edinburgh, exhausted but totally happy. Next stop? London, baby!

-Carissa “I’m the Solemnest” Rawson

Flight Cancellation, Meet Flight Compensation

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been a busy few weeks here in Carissa-town. Joni and I just got back from a week long trip to the UK, I renewed my annual pass to Disneyland, and- oh yeah- I worked at my job.

As always, my life is hectic to the point of chaos, but I’m used to it. Comfortable with it, even. I find peace on long-haul flights with nothing to do but watch movies and blog. It’s my safe zone.

But you know what isn’t my safe zone? Airports. More specifically, the Los Angeles airport. Have any of you ever flown through there? The place is a nightmare, a sprawling mess of dysfunctional security lines and angry customers, sprinkled all over with the dust of its constant construction.

So it was that Joni and I left five hours early for our flight to the UK, laden with luggage and bleary eyed, ready to spend three hours in LA traffic.

To our immense surprise, the drive took only a little over two hours, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we boarded our plane on time (me in peasant class, Joni flying fancy up front) and took off right as we were meant to.

Shortly thereafter, however, the pilot landed again, citing a “small engine issue.” An hour later, they had us deplane and bussed us back to the terminal, telling us to come back in two hours to board again.

At this point, we already knew we’d miss our connection in Amsterdam, so both of us were on the phone with KLM, who insisted that the plane had taken off as scheduled. You know, despite the fact that we were on the phone, talking, from a terminal in Los Angeles. The call ended with them doing a virtual shrug and advising us to call back later.

Ok, sure. So instead we headed back to our deplaning area, where a few harried gate agents were still typing furiously at their computers.

Why were they typing furiously? Well, it turns out that our entire flight was canceled, and rather than updating the system, they were instead rebooking every single person on the flight right then.

So it was that we were booked on a flight- not to Inverness- which was our original city, but to Edinburgh. And Joni? She was bumped from business to the back with Brit and I.

Ah well, at least we were going to make it? *foreshadowing intensifies*

By the time we made it out to the British Airways check in desk, which was our new airline, the entire airport was jammed full of angry re-accommodated passengers, all jostling each other for elbow room. Not to be deterred, Joni and I entered the special assistance line, which we were quickly dragged out of as British Airways informed me they ‘don’t accept dogs.’

Long story short, I ended up in a massive argument with the British Airways people, we nearly canceled our trip, and at the end of it all I ended up on an Air France flight connecting via Paris in premium economy, and Joni routed through London Heathrow on British Airways in sad regular economy. (Ok, she did purchase an upgrade to economy plus).

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I guess this is roomier?

We met up in Edinburgh, our entire trip in disarray and zero plans left with what to do.

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At least it’s still Scotland!

Frazzling? Yes.

Annoying? Also yes.

But the redeeming factor? Since we were flying to the EU, our canceled flight fell under European flight delay jurisdiction, which meant that they owed Joni and I $682 each.

Considering I paid under $400 for my round-trip flight, how mad can I be?

-Carissa “Thanks for Paying Me to Fly!” Rawson

Aspiring to the Hilton American Express Aspire

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written specifically about credit cards and reward travel, and for the first time in a long time, I’m actually caught up on my trip reviews.

So today I’m going to talk to you about a credit card I’ve been lusting after ever since it was launched in January 2018. The card, the American Express Hilton Aspire card, is an ultra-premium credit card that combines a disgustingly high annual fee ($450!) with some of the best benefits available in the credit card business.

What Do I Get For All That Money?

• 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide

• 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants

• 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other purchases

Hilton Honors Diamond status

One weekend night reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new card and each year of card Membership

• A second weekend night reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio after spending $60,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year

Priority Pass™Lounge Membership

• $250 Airline incidental fee annual statement credit

• $250 Hilton resort annual statement credit

• $100 on-property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package

• No foreign transaction fees

• Access to the American Express concierge

150,000 point sign-up bonus

What’s the Big Deal?

1.Hilton Honors Diamond status– this is the highest status Hilton offers, and provides tons of benefits for elite members. The Aspire card is the only card on the market to offer top level elite status simply for holding a credit card.

2.One weekend night reward at a hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio with your new card and each year of card Membership– this free night is unrestricted, meaning you could use it at the Conrad Maldives if you so please (which costs $2,000/night). It’s very easy to find a hotel that will cost more than your $450 annual fee.

3.Priority Pass™Lounge Membershipif you aren’t interested in getting other premium credit cards, like the American Express Platinum Card, then this could be a good option for you as Priority Pass has airport lounges all over the world. It’s awesome to get away from the stress of the terminal.

4.$250 Airline incidental fee annual statement credit– this credit can be used on the airline of your choice for things like: purchased upgrades, purchased seats, bag fees, and an annual lounge membership.

5.$250 Hilton resort annual statement credit– use this at your free night for the ultimate in smug satisfaction.

6.150,000 point sign-up bonus– 150,000 bonus points is nearly enough for two free nights at the Conrad Maldives. Combine it with your other free night for three completely free nights at the best hotel in the world. If that’s not your jam, 150,000 bonus points also equals 30 free nights at Hilton’s category 1 hotels. Enjoy the upgrade your Diamond status brings you.

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At the underwater restaurant in the Maldives.

I actually recently applied for this card myself but was turned down due to having too many American Express cards. Yeah, that’s a thing. I have an offer to upgrade from the lower tier American Express Hilton Card, but it comes without the sign-up bonus, which is really kind of crappy. Let’s be realistic though, once my Diamond status runs out in March, I’ll probably head right over to this card.

Enjoy the luxury!

-Carissa “How Many Cards is Too Many?” Rawson

Spain With a Service Animal

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m on my way home from my very first international trip with Brit, and boy has it been a learning experience. If you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, you’ll know that nearly two years ago I took Nala, my 10lb yorkie, with me all around Europe. It was great. I booked pet friendly Airbnb’s hung out at outdoor cafes, and when I wanted to tour inside something, I simply left Nala at home for a few hours.

Europe is so pet friendly.

Europe is not service dog friendly.

I know that’s a sweeping accusation, so let me refine it. Spain is not service dog friendly. I really wish I had some positive things to say here, but simply put, my trip was extremely uncomfortable from start to finish. The lack of relief areas in the airport sucked, the hotel requesting additional documentation for her training was stressful, being thrown out of restaurants and kicked out of markets was dismaying, and the constant disbelief and doubt was a struggle. (What do you mean she’s your dog? What’s wrong with you?”)

Worst of all? The lack of awareness within the country meant that people were constantly after Brit. Calling her, grabbing her, petting her, dragging their dogs over to her…like I said, they’re very pet friendly. Unfortunately, Brit is not a pet. My stress came to a peak as I went through security at Madrid airport, where I put Brit into a stay and prepared to walk through the metal detector, at which point the security guard called her over and straight through ahead of me. He then grabbed her and began roughhousing, which Brit totally went with because she’s a dog.

Mid-play, as I’m freaking out, one of the other security workers realizes what’s going on and tells him to stop because she’s a working dog and you’re not supposed to touch them. I thanked her profusely, but this basically just sums up my entire experience in Spain.

I’m going to keep this brief before it becomes a ten page complaint fest of what an awful time I had.

Enjoy some nice photos of Brit looking cute instead.

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At the terrible Airbnb in Barcelona that I left early. Brit for scale. (This is literally the whole apartment!)
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At the amazing (Hilton) hotel I went to instead. Brit for scale. 
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All the photo I took of myself during this trip
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A dog posing in front of a dog

-Carissa “For The Love of God She’s a Service Animal!” Rawson

Mileage Running- Mad Genius, or Just Mad?

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s that time of year again, where I make intensely insane decisions for the sake of status. Last year, I flew for a weekend to Nice in order to make Platinum status with Delta for 2018.

This year? This year I flew from LA to Spain in order to make Platinum Premier status with United for 2020.

You may be asking yourself, “for the love of God, why?”

Sometimes I ask myself the same thing. But the long and the short of it is this: ThePointsGuy values Premier Platinum elite status worth $4,580 for the year of 2018. Why? For the huge number of benefits you get as a result. (Free economy+ on all flights, free exit row seating, free upgrades to business and first class, free priority boarding, free checked bags (all of these things are for you and up to 8 companions on your ticket), Star Alliance gold status, and free access to all Star Alliance lounges whenever you’re flying on them).

More than this, though, I am acquiring my Premier Platinum status through a status match challenge. It’s pretty common, as airlines try to poach frequent fliers from each other. So just before my Delta status expired (which I earned through real flying), I emailed United, asking for the challenge.

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The requirements for a status challenge are that you fly 18,000 miles on United owned aircraft (so no partner flights) within 90 days. For me, that’s an easy trip to Israel and back.

Or so I thought. I didn’t know about the United owned aircraft clause, so after I completed a trip to Israel in November, I was still like 8,000 miles short of my goal and had until January 26th to complete it.

This put me in a bit of a bind. You see, I could either let the challenge lapse and not get status on United, which would have probably been the easy route.

I have been meaning to stay home more often, after all.

But the thing is, I was planning on using my United status for 2020 American Airlines status (worth $3,430), and my 2020 American Airlines status for 2021 Delta status (worth $4,025). It was a serious waterfall effect, you see.

Which is how I ended up on a plane to Spain a mere seven days after returning home from my most recent trip. This time, my service dog Brit flew with me, and she was a total champ. Brit happens to be a bit of a potty snob, as she’s used to the lush, rolling hills of Illinois in which to do her business. Airport service dog relief areas are not her jam.

“Please let me potty”

Which is how she ended up holding it from Los Angeles-Houston-Frankfurt-Madrid.

She’s a better woman than me.

-Carissa “Never Gonna Stop” Rawson

Georgia: Touring Tbilisi

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from sunny Barcelona, where the beaches are white and literally no one pays attention to the do not pet patches on Brit’s vest. I took it off, if you were wondering. 

This next post is all the extra bits from our trip to Georgia, where we walked around more than is sensible and equally ate more than is sensible. 

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I love food!

Enjoy!

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Wow flattering
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We are in love.

-Carissa and Brit “No Seriously I’m a Service Dog” Rawson