The Pyramids Round Two

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been an atrociously busy last month, with no end in sight. In a little over a week I head for Vietnam, with a two day stopover in Hong Kong (Disneyland Hong Kong! Dim Sum!). Harrison and I will be spending a total of two weeks in Vietnam, with the first week at a beach resort and the second in Ho Chi Minh, the capital city.

But I digress. First I need to finish telling you guys about Egypt.

Ahh. Egypt. Land of smog and noise and traffic and history and beauty. The locals have written volumes about their love-hate relationship with Cairo, and I have to say after living there for six weeks I completely agree.

Hence, when I got back from my week in Israel, I was dreading the return to the city. Life is so difficult there compared to anywhere else. But Joni was coming to visit so I needed to get back there and get going.

I’ve got to tell you, coming back there and going full tourist was a better experience than just living there. (As I would imagine is true for any city). All told, Joni spent five days with me in Egypt, and we saw many things, including the Pyramids.

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Here we go again

You guys remember my Pyramid story, right? Well I knew she couldn’t fly all the way from California and not see them, so I reluctantly returned to the scene of the disaster, prepared for the worst. Luckily, in the two weeks since I had last been, the Egyptian government banned solicitors from historic sites in an effort to boost tourism. I thought it was a farce, until we showed up and the aptly named “tourist police” were parked all around the area, ensuring no wayward hawkers made their way past the barriers.

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Practically empty

It made for a much more pleasant experience. And no, we didn’t go inside. You literally could not pay me to go back in there. But we did ride camels, and I had a nice dicker with the camel owner over the ride in Arabic, which Joni thought was impressive and in reality consisted of about the same five words repeated in Arabic over and over again. (No! 15 guinea! No more! I’m not paying!)

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We also went down to the Sphinx, which I managed to miss the first time around, so I’m glad I got the chance to see it. While there we found a tour guide who took the best photos- enjoy!

-Carissa “Where Do I Even Live?” Rawson

Hello From Cairo!

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the middle of downtown Cairo, where I’ll be living for the next six weeks!

I know I mentioned this before, so none of you should be surprised. I’m studying here in order to improve my Arabic, and so far it’s been great! And by great I mean really really hard but also effective. Granted, I’ve only been here for three days so far, so we’ll see what lies ahead.

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The view from my balcony

Apologies for the lack of pictures thus far. The inside of a classroom isn’t all that exciting.

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Ooooh, Tahrir Square

See you soon!

-Carissa “نور” Rawson

The Price of Platinum Status

Hello Dear Readers!

So. I have done some silly things for status. I think we can all agree on that by now.

But I have a story for you here. And it is a silly, silly, story.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Carissa who was nearly a Platinum Elite on Delta. In fact, she had earned 73,000 miles, and needed a mere 2,000 more in order to qualify as Platinum for the year of 2018. But she only had until December 31st, 2017, in order to qualify, and she had no more trips planned.

So she did the only thing she could do.

She booked the farthest, cheapest flight she could find. She booked this on December 12th, flying the 13th, and returning the 14th.

And that is how she ended up in Nice, France, for the night.

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I’ll admit to you guys, I was feeling all kinds of smug waking up on the beach in France on a Sunday morning, having a cappuccino and a croissant, watching the poor schmucks running by in the rain.

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And I will tell you, I felt decidedly less smug when I arrived to the airport that afternoon for my flight.

You see, my final exam was on Monday.

And when I arrived at the airport, my flight was just…delayed. Indefinitely. It wasn’t cancelled, it just simply had no time at which it was going to take off.

No matter, I thought. It was noon, and I had all the hours in the world to make the plane, fly home, and head to my exams the next morning.

Three hours later, I was still in the airport in Nice, pacing as I contemplated the fact that my connecting flight had most definitely taken off without me.

Another two hours and I had downed two more cups of coffee. I stood anxiously in front of the flight departure board, begging boarding to begin on a plane that hadn’t even arrived yet.

One more hour and the flight finally arrived, disgorging its disgruntled passengers as the whole lot of us crowded at the boarding gate, clamoring to get on.

So we did. And we flew on to Brussels, where the plane landed without a hitch.

It was now 7pm, and my connection was due to take off at 3pm.

So I stood in line at the Brussels airline counter, checking my watch repeatedly as I contemplated the 200 angry passengers in front of me who had also missed their connections.

It was at this point that I happened to glance up, and miracle of miracles, saw my flight to Edinburgh, not yet departed, making its final boarding call.

It was the last flight of the night.

It was beyond passport control.

It was in a different terminal.

And that is the story of how I raced through the entire Brussels airport, slamming my passport down at border patrol and wheezing that my flight was about to leave.

It is the story of how I arrived to my plane, dripping sweat, with my backpack on my back and doubled over gasping for breath, in order to be the last person to board.

It is the story of how I made my final exam the next morning.

Don’t be like me. Don’t fly right before your exams.

-Carissa “But, Like, I’m Platinum” Rawson

Holiday Gifts for Travel Junkies

Hello Dear Readers!

So, today I’m going to do something a bit different. I began writing this blog as a catch-all for travel- from rewards points to fancy hotels to stories about the things I do. But lately it feels like all I’ve done is tell you guys these stories. And that’s good, really it is. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

The thing is, I’ve got more to say. So I’m gonna try this a bit. Maybe some reviews on cool travel items I’ve found/used (no, they don’t pay me for it…yet (Though I did join Amazon’s affiliate program so if you buy through the linked photos they will maybe give me money? Who knows!)) Or some recommendations for what to pack based on where you’re going. Maybe even inspirations for dream vacations (I did a couple of these some months back, but wasn’t sure of the reception)

Do these things interest you guys? Let me know in the comments!

And without further ado, my abbreviated list of the coolest and best travel gifts for the holidays (and no, not the awesome novelty ones that you’ll use once and throw into the back of your closet):

1.An excellent travel backpack:

I found my current backpack, an Osprey FarPoint 40, using this list. And it’s gone with me everywhere. I switched from a rolling bag to a backpack fairly early on, because cobblestones are hell and most of the world isn’t paved.

2.Packing cubes:

I know, these sound dumb. I was as skeptical as you, believe me. But then I got some, and my life was changed. These things squish your clothes smaller than you would have ever thought possible, and keep everything super organized so when you get to where you’re going, you can unpack in seconds.

3.A plane amenity kit:

I can’t tell you how many flights I took before I finally gave in and accumulated my amenity kit. Half the time airlines will give you bits of these free- but if you don’t want to take forever to gather it all, buying premade ones is cheap- and worth it. My own kit has a pair of socks, chapstick, an eye mask, earplugs, breath mints, a toothbrush/toothpaste, and some lotion. Trust me, they make a huge difference on the plane.

4.Noise canceling headphones.

This probably seems obvious to a lot of you, but I can’t recommend these enough: I initially went with a huge, bulky pair (like the ones you’re probably thinking), but I got tired of carrying them around all the time. Now I use noise canceling earbuds, and they’re both tiny and effective. Awesome!

5.Laundry sheets:

Look, travel isn’t always glamorous. And if you’re gone for a long time, your clothes are gonna get dirty. I always keep these laundry sheets in my bag, so any sink I come across can be turned into a makeshift washing machine and I don’t have to keep turning my underwear inside out.

6.A universal adapter:

I actually forgot this once, in Australia, and ended up paying $25 Australian dollary doos for an Australian adapter. Don’t be like me. Bring your own. This one is good for basically the whole world and costs much less to purchase online.

7.A microfiber towel:

I’m going to guiltily admit to you all that I don’t have one of these. But I wish I did. I have dried myself off with t-shirts…at least 5 times. Do yourself a favor. Save your clothes. Bring a towel.

8.A reusable tote:

Raise your hand if you buy souvenirs on vacation! Right, that’s 99% of you who said yes, and 1% who were lying. I always bring my extra bag with me because I end up bringing more crap home than I left with. I also use it as my mini bag on planes, in which I stash all my carry on necessities (amenity kit, iPad, cellphone, etc), so I never have to take my backpack out of the overhead bin. These things can cost 99. cents and take up no room. Get one!

9.A portable battery charger:

People make fun of me for this brick- I don’t blame them, because it is literally the size of a brick and who needs that much charge? But I’m the one laughing after I’ve recharged both my iPad and my cellphone 4 times without needing to rejuice this thing. It’s excellent for things like camping trips where you’ll be away from electricity for a day or two.

10.A tablet:

Ok, this one can be changed up, truly, depending on how attached to your laptop you are. But I didn’t want to haul a heavy computer around the world, so I invested in an iPad and a keyboard case, and saved myself a lot of back pain while managing to stay relatively functional. (I do all my blogging on here, even).

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Proof

11.A laundry bag:

Again, something really simple but really necessary. I hate packing dirty clothes with clean ones, and a cheap bag keeps everything neatly separate.

12.A packable rain jacket:

Something small, light, very foldable and super useful when it’s yucky drizzling outside.

So there you go. I realize this list isn’t all that glamorous- I mean, soap, really? But these are the kinds of gifts that will make a big difference in the quality of your travel. I’ve tried and error-ed in a lot of big ways through my trips, (falling into a volcano, anyone?), and these are the trusty things that have made the cut and earned a permanent place in my bag.

Hope you guys like em!

Merry Christmas!

Carissa “Nondenominational Holiday Greetings” Rawson

Choices

Hello Dear Readers!

Missed me? I’ve been gone for a few weeks now- and I promise I have good reasons why. First, I just spent three weeks in Australia, where my internet access consisted of…well, almost nothing basically. I might as well have fed my phone to a kangaroo for all the good it was worth.

But I’ve been back for a few weeks now, and I’ve been struggling to make one of the most difficult choices in my life.

You guys may have remembered that I said I was attending the University of Edinburgh in the fall. Such was the plan for most of this year, as I made my way around the world, hopping from place to place and having the time of my life.

However, a few months ago I was offered my dream job. My dream job.

And I took it. I made plans to move my life (and dogs) across the country and settle down for what I hoped was a good long time.

But there was always something in the back of my mind. Something wondering…a niggling little thought.

What if I went to Edinburgh? What if?

 

So I was stuck with a problem. Dream school or dream job? You guys will recognize this as a gold-plated problem. But a problem it was indeed. Because, you see, these choices were 180 degrees different, and choosing one essentially meant I lost the other. For good.

Like I said, I chose my dream job.

But then the what ifs got me.

And I realized that while my dream job was the dream for the person I was- the girl who lived to work and, essentially, just wanted to be a badass- my dream school is the dream for the person who I want to be.

And so, for the first time in my life, I am choosing the risky road. I am choosing happiness. I am choosing me.

I’ll see you all in Scotland.

-Carissa

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

Dipping in a Toe: The First Steps for Starting Reward Travel

Hey there everyone,
How are you guys liking the new format? I figured since I finally had enough content, it was time for a refresh on the website. I think the new look is pretty cool, and helps to highlight a lot of the awesome pictures that we have. (Not that I’m biased). Anyway, today I’d like to talk to you guys about the actual steps, in order, that you should take if you’re looking to start into the rewards travel game. Credit for this idea goes to my aunt, whom I am attempting to corrupt at this very moment. (Hi Angie!) Anyway, I realize that a lot of these posts probably come off as complicated for someone just looking to start in the game. Hence, this post.

a2a54309-e28c-421e-beb5-df594fcbea62The first question you always want to answer when looking to start points hacking is what do I want to do with these points? I know that may sound simple, but there are so many different options available to you that knowing what you want to do first gives you a really good direction from which to start.

I, for example, wanted to fly to Europe for free. I had read a few blogs stating that the British Airways signup bonus (50,000 British Airways Avios) was enough to get you to Europe and back, twice, if you flew from Boston. So that’s where I started. In August of 2015 (believe it or not) I got my first card, and from there everything has built upwards.

But what if you wanted to do something else? What if you wanted to go to Hawaii? Or take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas? Each option requires different rewards, and figuring out all the information can be tough.

First things first, though. You can’t get into the reward travel game with bad credit. Banks are giving out these offers in the hopes that you’ll continue to be a loyal customer, and they aren’t willing to risk this kind of money on people who don’t have good credit. So:

  1. Check your credit. There are numerous websites that will offer you a free credit score, even as often as 1x a week. I personally use Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Credit Journey, and Nerd Wallet to check my different scores. Credit Karma will offer you both your Experian and Transunion score, which banks pull most frequently from, so I’d go with them first.
  2. Look up credit card specials. The Points Guy has a top 10 list of credit card offers that they maintain, along with different and excellent ways to maximize your points. If you’re worried that your score isn’t good enough, nerdwallet.com will tell you your approval odds for each card.
  3. Decide where you want to go. Bali? Argentina? Hawaii?
  4. Get your first card. For people whose scores hover in the 700’s-720’s, or for someone who doesn’t have much credit built up (not many loans, past credit cards, etc) I would recommend going with mid-level credit cards rather than top-tier right away. Let the banks build their trust in you. Some of these cards include:
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred– the little brother of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this card still offers 50,000 points to sign up and a minimal fee of $95/year (waived the first year)
  • Hilton Honors American Express, either the Surpass, which is $95/year, or its little brother, the no fee version. The no fee card currently has an increased signup bonus of 75,000 Honors points.
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red card, which is $95/year and offers 40,000 points after your first purchase.

5. Follow different blogging sites, which will tell you awesome deals as they occur and keep you up to date on specials. Often, it can be worth your while to purchase airfare on sale and save your points for lodging. I follow View From the Wing, Secret Flying, Travel Pirates, The Points GuyDeals We Like, Running With Miles, Flyer Talk, Award Wallet, and many more. For the most part, I keep up to date on Facebook, which is a constant feed of the best specials out there.

6. Google is your friend. Want to know the best way to spend 100,000 American Express points? Google will give you a hundred top ten lists, and you can peruse at your leisure.

7. Read my blog! I know, I know, shameless plug, but I’m going to start highlighting different ways to spend points for vacations, because I realize that just deciding where to go and how to do it can be a little…overwhelming.

Was this even helpful? It seems like a primer guide is a little difficult to write. Anyway, the most important takeaways are these: know your credit score. Know it like the back of your hand. Have an idea in mind and apply with purpose- don’t start off just hoarding points. If United miles get you there faster, get a United card. If Southwest does the trick, get Southwest. Never carry a balance. It will tank your score and leave you unable to peruse further points accumulation. And finally, remember to have fun! These are points with a purpose, and using them correctly can give you amazing, unbelievable adventures that you would have never thought possible.

-Carissa.

P.S. I’ll be back later with vacation ideas because who doesn’t like to dream?

Diamond is a Girl’s Best Friend: Hilton Honors for the Rest of Us

Hey Guys!

So, my family and I have just spent the last few days in Chicago. We had a really awesome time and got to see the Hamilton musical (thanks to the American Express Concierge). Trust me, it’s worth the hype. So good!

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about the Hilton Surpass American Express card. Now, I’m personally a big fan of the Hilton Honors program, because owning the American Express Platinum gives you automatic gold status with Hilton, and because I find that a lot of the Hiltons around the world offer great mixes of points + cash rewards. This card will actually give you Gold status, so even if you don’t have the Platinum card, you can enjoy these benefits. On top of this, Hilton also often offers cool bonus promotions. Currently, you can earn 2000 bonus points/ night, for every night you stay, no matter where or how much it costs. On top of that, they’re also offering 500 more bonus points if you book through the app.

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However! The Hilton Surpass American Express card has an increased signup offer at the moment, at 100,000 Honors points if you spend 3k in the first 3 months (instead of 75k). This card has a number of benefits:

  • Complimentary Gold Status
  • 12 Hilton points per dollar spent at Hilton
  • 6 points per dollar at US restaurants/ gas stations, and supermarkets
  • 3 points per dollar on everything else

So, what can you do with 100k points?

Well, I spent 80,000 Honors points to save tons of money on a hotel in Dubai. Using the points + cash reward, I was able to drop a 1000sq ft suite from $272/ night to $64 and 16,000 points/ night. Over the course of five nights, that totals $1040. Not bad!

Or, if you’re looking to maximize your free nights, Hilton Category 1 hotels start at just 5,000 points/night, meaning you can spend 20 free nights in hotels around the world. Even better, using Hilton’s current promotions, you earn 2500 bonus points for every night you spend, effectively making your redemptions 50% off. This means you can stay 2x as many nights! That’s right, 40 free nights in a Category 1 hotel. And if you’re a Gold member, every one of those nights comes with free breakfast (for 2), early check-in, late check-out, and room upgrades.

And, because you’ve stayed so many nights at Hilton, you’ll be bumped up to Diamond status, which equals even more awesome benefits. Most importantly, this status gives you Club access at Hilton hotels, which means free food and free drinks all day. Awesome!

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This signup bonus is for a limited time only, and is absolutely worth it. Get it before it’s too late!

-Carissa “Goldmember” Rawson

Disneyworld on Point(s)

Hey guys!

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So if you know me, you definitely know I love to spend time at Disneyworld. It’s honestly one of my favorite places to be, and David and I go down as often as possible. However, the cost is prohibitive for many families. A lot of the time, we’ll go and stay at a cheap hotel because they’re everywhere around Disney. But sometimes, we want to stay somewhere nice. Somewhere with a little more…magic.

So how do we do this affordably? Everyone knows that the Disney ecosystem is built to suck every last penny from your wallet, but there’s definitely something special about getting to stay within the resort and revel in the benefits that being on property brings. However, oftentimes, the costs of the hotels can get as high as $800/ night. I don’t know about you guys, but I am totally not rich enough for that.

Fortunately for us, there are two hotels within the Disney resort that are no longer owned by the Disney corporation. Starwood bought them some time ago, which means…you guessed it! You can use points (from the SPG Amex cards) to stay for free at Disneyworld.

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The two hotels, the Dolphin and the Swan, are a little older than the rest of the hotels, and their theming isn’t *quite* as nice as some of the others, but they are walking distance from Epcot, and get their own special entrance. Because they’re part of the Disney resort, guests staying there also receive the cool extra benefits, such as early entrances to the parks and free transportation everywhere. This can save a bundle in parking fees at the resort.

The Dolphin is considered a Category 4 hotel, which means staying there will cost you 10,000 points per night. However, on award stays, Starwood gives you the 5th night free, effectively bringing the cost down to 8,000 points/night. For a hotel that regularly costs over $300/night, this is a fantastic redemption value.

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And did I mention that it’s on Disney property?

So, when David and I are heading down in May, the room rate for the Dolphin is $329/night, not including taxes and fees. All told, the total for five nights would be $2117.59. Instead, we’re spending 40,000 points (5th night free) for the entire stay!

That is a serious chunk of change, and totally worth it for families who are heading down to Disneyworld.

For my Georgia and New England readers, there’s also a special going on right now for a third night free in honor of the Super Bowl. All you have to do is call to book before February 28th, and stay anytime before January 31st, 2018. There might be a way to stack this with the Citi Prestige’s 4th night free offer, but I haven’t tried.

Anyway, these are some tips for saving money down there. If you guys are interested in learning more, let me know! I have tons of info, and obviously love talking your guys’ ears off.

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Such grace. Such Beauty.

-Princess Carissa of Arendelle

Some Like It Easy: An Awesome Offer for Us

Since I imagine many of you are new to/ have never really participated in the rewards card game, today I wanted to highlight a new card that just came out at the end of last year.

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The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has a number of benefits, which include:

  • 2x miles on all spending with American Airlines
  • 1x miles on all other spending
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic flights operated by American
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back on redemptions (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year)
  • No foreign transaction fees

However, the most lucrative part of this offer is the sign-up bonus, which is 40,000 AAdvantage Miles after your first purchase (and once you pay the $95 annual fee). That’s right! There’s no minimum spend for this card, which means you can buy something as small as a Starbucks and land yourself 40,000 points.

That’s enough for roundtrip tickets from the US-Europe, or (almost) 3 roundtrip flights around the United States.

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Look where you can go!

That’s awesome! I paid for parking with my card and shelved it, since I’m not a huge American Airlines flyer, but I’m definitely looking into the best ways to spend my points.

So you guys know, Barclay’s Bank generally pulls from Transunion rather than Equifax. Most other banks will pull Equifax, so this will give you some breathing room on new card openings.

This is a really easy way to slide into the points earning game, with minimal investment and some pretty major rewards. What would you guys do with 40,000 points?

-Carissa