Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2012 Resolution: More Spontaneous Travel


As the rest of NYC gets glitzy and glammed-up for their NYE endeavors, I write to you in a perfectly-content state of mind (from my couch in jeans and tee, mind you) about my 2012 New Year's Resolution which is to include more spurts of spontaneous travel spread throughout the year.

All of my life, I've considered myself to be a pretty spontaneous, adventurous and outgoing person. I love the thrill of a new challenge, exploring the unknown (traveling), and I will take up any opportunity to be social in a new environment.

Unfortunately, I'm sure many can relate to this next statement: when you find yourself in a relationship, you sometimes can get [too] comfortable with staying in, being cozy, and enjoying just each others' company. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that lifestyle, and believe me, I thoroughly enjoy snuggly moments, but somewhere in the mix of that you can start feel like you're about to lose your true self.

The reason why I'm making it imperative to include more "spontaneous" travel into the new year is because I want 2012 to be a year of growth, and I want to regain my independence; throughout life, I've learned some truths within, and one of those is that I firmly believe that traveling and the exploration of other human surroundings is a key to understanding the essence of life.

So while Kevin is away on business throughout 2012, I will make it a point to travel solo, with friends, and maybe even soon-to-be friends with a similar perspective and interest in traveling.

My first spontaneous travel will be a road trip with another actress/long-time friend/coworker of mine, Tiffany. We plan to drive to Texas (Dallas, Austin, & Houston), while spending time during our "stopover" in Tennessee.


I'm really excited for this upcoming trip. I have never taken a road trip like this by myself or with friends before, and I have an amazing friend/foodie who is helping me plan all the nooks and crannies (Shout out to Dave if you're reading this!).

Here's what I'm most excited about:
  • Trying all of the best southern BBQ joints along the way (pulled pork and beef brisket are two of my favorite foods). As you can see, dieting is not on my resolution list, and I'm quite OK with that.
  • Documenting my hotel stays along the way (hint: the majority of our stays will be at Club Carlson properties, and you'll soon find out why. Also, I might integrate a Wyndham Rewards stay in the mix somewhere).
  • Taking cheesy tourist pictures along our way, buying state-shaped magnets, and singing along to CDs that may or may not include the Spice Girls.
  • Most importantly, I'm excited about the memories that await us!
Be sure to keep an eye on my "planning in progress" tab over the next few days as I will share the details of the trip.

Do any of your 2012 resolutions involve more travel? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Quickies: 2,000 Free Jet Airways Miles, Save 35% at Carlson Hotels, Hilton's 1st Quarter Promo

Jet Airways: Receive 2,000 bonus miles when you sign up for a free Jet Airways JetPrivilege account. This Indian airline is not currently part of an alliance [yet], but they do partner with some major airlines including United, Delta, and American Airlines. You could hold on to these free miles or exchange into another mileage program using points.com. (Thanks, Live From A Lounge)

Carlson Hotels: I received a targeted offer to save 35% off your stay [of at least 2 consecutive nights] when you book select hotels at radisson.com, countryinns.com, or parkinn.com by January 10. The coupon/offer code is: S2G35OFF. This offer is available during specific dates between January 20 and March 31, 21012. Plus, you'll receive 1,000 bonus Club Carlson points if you book your stay directly on the Radisson, Country Inns, or Park Inn website.

Hilton: Earn 1,000 bonus Hilton HHonors points per night of an eligible stay, or 5,000 bonus Hilton HHonors points per eligible weekend stay of two nights or more at participating Hilton Worldwide hotels and resorts around the world from January 1, 2012 through March 31, 2012. A weekend stay is defined as Thursday through Sunday, and there is no limit to the amount of bonus Hilton HHonors points you can earn. (Thanks, The Gate: Flyertalk).

I'm not too crazy about this promotion because I do not think this is an attractive incentive to stay at a Hilton. Here's why: Hilton has 7 categories of their hotels, and as a bench mark, do know that a category 4 property cost 30,000 HHonors points to redeem. The 1,000 points won't get you anywhere closer to your next points redemption with Hilton.

Nevertheless, I did register anyway. After all, free bonus points are better than no bonus points, but I won't be going out of my way to stay at a Hilton for this promotion.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Virgin Atlantic: RT Inter Island Flights in Hawaii for 6,000 Miles + Flyer Club Bonus Miles & Transfer Partners

Since I am in the beginning stages of planning our Hawaii getaway in June, I've been keeping an eye out for award redemption opportunities, allowing us to visit Maui for a few days during our vacation.

Over the past few days, there has been a recent buzz surrounding a huge surge of award availability to and from Honolulu that's currently being discussed on some of the blogs and forums. With that news, it definitely sounds like now is the time for us to book our flights to and from Maui.

A few days ago, Dan's Deals had posted about a possible glitch on the Continental website that had produced an abundance of award availability for flights to and from Honolulu, departing from most major US mainland cities. There are flights available for as low as 20,000 miles one way for non-stop service to HNL (Honolulu) in economy and 40,000 miles for the same route traveling in business class.

Personally, I think that if you've been yearning to go to Hawaii for some time, now is the time to consider booking with your Continental/United miles, because apparently award availability in the "Saverpass" category is usually very sparse.

Kevin and I had already booked our Hawaii trip by purchasing one-way, non-stop service tickets from EWR to HNL back in November when Hawaiian Airlines had their mega sale for travel in June 2012 (by the way, I heard the sale sold out in less than 24 hours, figures...). We paid only $445.40 for both tickets including all taxes and fees.


As far as our return flight, we booked with my American Airlines miles. Since there was an extremely limited availability of flights from HNL - EWR in June (in fact, I only saw flights available for 37.5 miles or 45k miles one way, no thanks), we decided it would be best to book our flights using the HNL - LHR (London) route with a "stopover" in EWR for 30,000 miles per ticket.

Essentially, we will fly out of HNL on June 17, arrive back in EWR for our "stopover" and then "continue on" to London in October. American Airlines allows a free domestic stopover when flying internationally, so we were happy to take advantage of that and be able to score a free one-way ticket to London for a later October vacation.

Anyway, back to Virgin Atlantic here. With the Continental glitch, many travelers have jumped on the opportunity to redeem miles and travel to HNL in the coming months. I'm happy to hear that many people were able to successfully redeem their miles to make Hawaii part of their 2012 travels!

Once you're in Honolulu, it's easy to assume that you'd be tempted to explore more of Hawaii's beautiful islands; it's no surprise that there's been much discussion about traveling between Hawaiian islands using award miles. (Dan's Deals also has a great post summarizing his review of each Hawaiian Island).


Most airlines charge 10,000 miles for flights between the Hawaiian islands, but with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, you can get a round trip flight for 6,000 miles on Hawaiian Airlines. Even better news: Virgin Atlantic does not charge a fuel surcharge like most airlines do, so you'll only be paying ~$5 in taxes (Hat Tip: Jared @ Online Travel Review).

I'm guessing you don't have a collection of Virgin Atlantic points at the moment, but that's OK. If you have American Express Membership Rewards points or Starwood Perferred Guest (SPG) points, you can transfer on 1:1 ratio to your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Account. You may also transfer other partner reward points (including Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors) to Flying Club points. The complete list of transfer partners can be found here.

If you don't have a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account (I didn't either until today), you can enroll here with my referral and you and I will both get bonus points after completing our first flights.


With the cold weather that's about to hit the NYC area soon, Hawaii can not come soon enough. I'd love to hear from other readers who have visited Hawaii, so please feel free to share your experiences.

I'd also love to hear from readers who have upcoming travel to Hawaii. Did you book your trip using miles? I'd love to learn about your plans! :)


Monday, December 26, 2011

Quickies: Earn Triple SPG Points, Free Kingfisher Airline Status, Double Miles on United / Southwest

Starwood Preferred Guests: By registering for the SPG® Better by the Night promotion, you’ll earn double Starpoints on two-night stays and triple Starpoints on stays of three nights or longer when you stay from January 9 through April 8, 2012. Stay at over 750 participating hotels and resorts in North and Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and begin earning unlimited bonus Starpoints.


Don't have a free SPG account yet? Enroll here.


Kingfisher Airlines: For a free Silver status upgrade, register here and enter 549852 as the first six digits of your MasterCard. If you do not have a Kingfisher King Club account yet, you may register here. Kingfisher will soon be part of the Oneworld Alliance in February, and you can enjoy the perks of silver status which includes, two free checked bags, priority boarding, and the option of exit row seating (more leg room) on American Airlines flights. Registration only takes 5 minutes or so, and you will receive 250 bonus miles upon joining. If you're feeling extra kind today, you may use my Kingfisher King Club account #760613755 as your referral at the bottom of your registration page (I'm not quite sure of the perks of that). 


Tip: If you are having a problem on the MasterCard silver status page, be sure to turn off your popup blocker so you can successfully register.


Double Miles on United: If you'll be doing some flying on United/Continental up until January 31, you may be able to qualify for double miles if your ticket/travel dates match the criteria below & if your account is targeted for this offer.

Promotion details taken directly from promotion page at United.com:
Ticketing dates: December 5, 2011
through January 31, 2012
Travel dates: December 5, 2011
through January 31, 2012
Offer: Register, purchase and fly qualifying roundtrips in first, business and select economy classes* on United® and Continental® between December 5, 2011 and January 31, 2012 and earn double award miles.

Tip: I recommend taking a screenshot of your registration page. I registered Kevin for this promotion because he has several flights lined up in January, however, when I logged into the promotion page at a later date, it said, "promotion no longer available". Luckily I had a screen shot showing his successful promotion registration incase we might need to fight for the miles.

Double Miles on Southwest (Stackable): Register to receive double tier points on Southwest flights from now to January 31. Also, Gary @ View From The Wing found out that is promotion is stackable with another Southwest double tier points promotion (registration required) if your travel is to/from one of these 6 airports: Newark, LaGuardia, Boston, Manchester, Providence, and Orlando. This offer applies to travel booked by December 30th and flown between January 4 and February 15th.

The stackable offer works out great for us because Kevin will be traveling RT to Denver from Newark in mid-January. I'll keep you posted if the combined offers work!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Radisson Big Night Giveaway #2: Our Stay at The Radisson Piscataway

We did it! We completed round 2 of the Radisson Big Night Giveaway, earning Kevin's Club Carlson account 50,000 bonus points (not posted yet, but I can assume it will post within a week or so). We completed a stay at the Radisson in Piscataway, NJ this past Friday.

So why did we decide to book this property? Well for one thing, it was about half way between my parents' house and our apartment, making the Christmas Eve commute a bit better. Most importantly, we were able to reserve this room using Radisson's 30% off coupon, bringing the room down to about $81 including taxes (plus, I booked it using MrRebates.com, which will get me a few bucks back too).

My parents also joined us for the night (also on the quest for an additional 50,000 points of their own), so we used it as an excuse for us to get together as a family, killing two birds with one stone. Boom.

Overall we were very impressed with the property. Check in was quick and easy, and my parents and Kevin and I both got rooms on the 5th floor, away from all of the noise from a convention that was taking place. The manager also gave us complimentary hot breakfast tickets because of Kevin's elite status (I matched the status with a free Gold Marriott status he had; more information about that in my earlier post here).

Kevin was very familiar with the area, because coincidently, his old office was located directly across the street from the hotel. We decided it would be nice to grab some dinner with my parents at a local Korean BBQ restaurant he recommended.

Dinner was fun, and when Kevin & I returned back to the room, we relaxed with a nice bottle of Chardonnay and called it a night. We slept well (my next bed will definitely, without a doubt, be a California king), and after breakfast the next morning, we checked out quickly and were on our way to our Christmas Eve festivities.

Below are some pictures of our stay. Enjoy!
The Radisson in Piscataway, NJ is a category 1 Club Carlson property; however, don't let that deceive you. The  hotel is spacious, clean, quiet, and nice. The only downside was its location, which was among many office buildings in an isolated area, but it is located right off of 287, the main highway.
The bathroom was basic, but very clean and packed with an array of toiletries.
The shower was squeaky clean, and the shower head had great water pressure.
Some of the bathroom toiletries: mouthwash,  a shower cap, amenity kit (cotton swabs, a nail file, and cotton balls), shoe mitt, body wash, body lotion, shampoo, and conditioner. The mouthwash was weak, and I did not use any of the bath products only because I am a slave to my beauty routine and used my own that I have packed from home. 
The bed was HUGE, definitely a California king, making me not miss my queen-sized bed much. However, all of the Radisson hotels are equipped with "Sleep Number" beds, allowing you to adjust the bed's firmness to your liking. Personally, I am not too crazy about the bed because I prefer a softer, down-pillow top mattress, but the comforter and pillows were soft and fluffy, and we did get a great sleep (10 hours! Maybe the wine is to blame?)

Here is the remote for the Sleep Number bed along with instructions on how to use it. Just FYI, useless information, my "Sleep Number" was 30, and Kevin's was 35. As you can see, we both prefer a softer bed (and a high heat setting, whew, less arguments there).
The sitting area in the corner of the room
The desk was stocked with a Keurig machine, microwave popcorn, and Milano cookies. Inside the fridge (to the left, not pictured), there were 2 complimentary bottles of water.
Kevin and I took my parents to an authentic Korean BBQ restaurant only 4 miles away from the hotel!  Above is a picture of bulgogi being cooked right at our table. Yum!
Management gave us complimentary breakfast buffet tickets to use at their in-house restaurant, Fusions. Club Carlson matched Kevin's Marriott Gold to their Silver elite status.
We arrived at breakfast at around 9:40, 20 minutes before closing, so most of the food from the hot buffet was being put away. The waitstaff and chef were nice enough to offer to cook us fresh omelets instead. Here is my very large spinach and feta omelet which was delicious. The service was fantastic; they really did go out of their way to make sure we were happy and well-fed.

Merry Christmas

With the holiday weekend in full swing, I've been meaning to squeeze in a few posts that have been sitting in my mental queue. Besides taking mental notes, I decided to pack my MacBook Air with me with attempts to post during some downtime during our Christmas Eve celebration at my relatives' in Brooklyn.

However, with the Giants vs. Jets game blaring, my rowdy uncles screaming after each play (there is an equal number of Giants and Jets fanatics in my family, so you can imagine the noise), my little cousin begging me to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas with every ounce of attention, and with several seafood dishes coming out one after another (yes, I'm Italian), you can only imagine how distracted I was to focus on writing.

Aside from all of that, the bigger epiphany that struck me, prompting me to put down my computer was the notion of just pausing, and letting myself just enjoy my crazy surroundings. After all, I was with my entire family, who I see all together merely twice a year. It was a gift in itself for me to indulge in the presence of  all of the loved ones that surrounded me. Nothing else should matter at that moment.

Relationships with people are far more important than anything else on earth, and we should cherish them at every opportunity.

I hope every family across the globe embraces their family and close friends this weekend. Close your eyes and take it all in. These are the memories that will be imprinted forever in your heart.

To sum up the post, I want to leave my readers with a few gifts. After all, 'tis the season for giving. It's not much, and theres no contest, just leave a comment asking which gift you might want and it's yours.


  • 1 Year Free Membership to Shoprunner.com.
  • A voucher to use at Noble Tree Coffee & Tea - Chicago, IL. (Half 1/2 of Coffee & 1 free coffee).
  • A voucher for $10 off your next Southwest flight.

Merry Christmas,

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Results: American Express Gift Chain Paper Route

Well all good things must come to an end, and it's a wrap for the American Express Gift Chain promotion. I had a lot of fun with this one... maybe too much fun. I participated by taking advantage of both methods of entry: purchasing & the mail-in method. You can take a look at the gifts I got previously from the purchase method here in my earlier post.

Dedicating an hour or so, I registered AMEX cards belonging to Kevin, Mom, Dad (2), and a dear friend of mine (permission granted of course). Do the math and thats 50 hand-written envelopes, 50 postcards and 50 postage stamps (44 cents x 50 = $22).

Oh, and the agreement was that we'd split the prizes 50/50 which is fair for both parties- free $ and surprise gifts for them & a token for the time/postage cost on my end.

Here's the fun part as the gifts continue to roll in:

Mom
  • Nike.com: Shareable $10 American Express Gift Cards. (4) =$40
  • Lenovo: $10 American Express Gift Card
  • Pottery Barn: $100 American Express Gift Card
  • YoYo.com: $25 Statement Credit
  • Bed Bath Beyond: 1 Year Shop Runner
  • Nike: $2.25 Statement Credit
  • Game Stop: $20 Game Stop Gift Card
  • Vente Prive: $5 statement credit.
  • RueLaLa: $5 statement credit
  • REI: $2 statement credit
Total summary of gifts: $150 in AMEX gift cards, $39.25 in statement credits, $20 in Game Stop Gift Cards, 1 year membership to Shop Runner. Not bad for a $4.44 cost!

Kevin
  • RueLaLa: $10 statement credit
  • Pottery Barn: $15 statement credit after shopping at Pottery Barn with minimum $15 purchase
  • J Crew: $20 statement credit
  • American Eagle: $5 statement credit
  • REI: $2 statement credit
  • YoYo.com: $5 statement credit
  • Lenovo: 1 Year Shop Runner membership
We are still waiting on Kevin's last 3 gifts to roll in, but we did already make a $15.51 purchase of several cute Christmas ornaments at PotteryBarn.com (free shipping too). After the $15 statement credit posts, our new ornament collection will cost us a grand 51 cents.

I have not received a complete report on what JR & my dad received yet, but from what they tell me, it seems like they got many shareable $2 Dunkin' Donuts cards and $5 statement credits. 

Dad also got a $20 statement credit that will post after a future $20 purchase at AmericanEagle.com. Using my free Shop Runner membership, and a 40% off discount code, I was able to score a cute dress and PJ pants for $20.17 shipped. After the statement credit, my purchase will only cost 17 cents. Boom.





Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quickies: Trip Alertz Free $, American Airlines 150K Miles Contest, Free Hilton HHonors Gold Status

Along with a new layout (I hope you like), I decided to occasionally post some "Quickies", which will list  easy, no-frills access to points, miles, and other notable offers that might just entice my fellow points travelers.

Here ya go...
  • TripAlertz.com: Receive $25 Trip Alertz cash for joining, and $5 Trip Alertz cash for each email referral you make. It only takes seconds for your friends to join, and there are no limits as to the amount of referrals you're allowed. Have fun with this... and be incredibly close to your next impulse vacation. Thanks for letting me refer you; I can already feel the hot sun on a Cancun beach- ha, I wish! :) Thanks to Ben @ One Mile at a Time (detailed info on his post).
  • Hilton HHonors: Gary @ View From the Wing posted about a FREE Gold Status upgrade for Visa Infinite Gold card users. Tip: if you are not a Visa Infinite Gold card holder (I'm not), using code 411945 works like a charm.
  • American Airlines/Alaska Airlines: In celebration of their changes to their elite program, they are giving away 150,000 AAdvantage miles and 150,000 Alaska Airlines miles to a lucky sweepstakes winner. For more information and to enter, click here.

All Hits Finally Posted For The US Airways Grand Slam Promotion

Wow! The US Airways Grand Slam promotion seems like it was a century ago, but it sure felt great to log-in this morning and see the final bonuses credited to our accounts!

Between September 14-Novemeber 14 2011, US Airways had their annual "Grand Slam" promotion where you could earn "hits" by participating in various US Airways & partner offers. Those who participate each year are on a mission to get the most bang for their buck by tackling this promotion strategically. It's addicting and loads of fun, I'll tell you.

Personally, I jumped on the bandwagon for this promotion on November 1(right after the inspirational Chicago seminars!), leaving me only 2 solid weeks to get my hits in. I knew I didn't have enough time to go for the home run of 110,000 free bonus miles, but I certainly still wanted to participate.

I decided that for my first time around, I'd go for 12 hits for me, and 4 hits for Kevin (which he had no idea I was even doing until he saw +3000 miles in his Dividends Miles account).

Having never flew US Airways before, I had a 0 balance in my account at the start. I'll summarize my hits/miles/cost:

  1. Share Miles: Since I had a 0 balance, my dad shared 1,000 miles with me using points.com and we split the ~$40 transaction fee. We both got a hit from this transactions. Cost: $20
  2. Swap Miles: I believe exchanged 50 AA miles for 10 US Airways Miles to receive a hit. Cost: $0
  3. Audience Rewards: Answered a few "2 mile" trivia questions for a hit. Cost: $0
  4. Dividend Miles Dining: Joined US Airways' dining program and completed a dine/review at a qualifying restaurant, which happened to be a restaurant I frequent often. (also, received 1000 new-member bonus miles from this). Cost: $25
  5. Thanks Again: Purchased a $25 Restaurant.com gift card. Cost=$3
  6. Dividend Miles Tool Bar: Completed 3 searches after downloading/using the tool bar. Cost=$0
  7. Super Shuttle: Reserved a shuttle from Phoenix airport terminal to a nearby hotel in the same terminal. I even left the driver a 25 percent tip. In notes section, I wrote, "leave without me" so they wouldn't have to wait and delay other passengers. Cost=~$5.50
  8. E-Miles: Joined, completed some surveys, and transferred 500 miles into my Dividends Miles account.
  9. Biscoff Gourmet Snacks: Sent a "Thank You" gift to a casting director for getting me a nice gig. This hit now counts as a tax-deductible business expense. Cost: ~$18
  10. DM Shopping Mall: Purchased a $25 Restaurant.com giftcard. Cost: $3
  11. Century Insurance: Requested a free quote for Auto Insurance, and received 200 miles for doing so. Cost: $0
  12. Magazines for Miles: Subscribed to Glamour magazine by redeeming 600 miles. Cost: $0
Total miles received at the end of the day: 17,533. I spent about $75 on "normal" every day purchases that I would have made anyway (besides the Super Shuttle/points.com transaction fee). In my eyes I am very happy with my success with this promotion my first time around. All it takes a bit of focus, organization, and a good game plan.

As for Kevin, his hits were simple, costing $0 which ended up getting him a quick 3,000 mile and a free subscription to Vogue (for me of course, lol). Here's how he did:

  1. Audience Rewards: Answered a few "2 mile" trivia questions for a hit. Cost: $0
  2. Dividend Miles Dining: Joined US Airways' dining program and completed a dine/review at the same qualifying restaurant. (also, received 1000 new-member bonus miles from this). Cost: $25
  3. Dividend Miles Tool Bar: Completed 3 searches after downloading/using the tool bar. Cost=$0
  4. Magazines for Miles: Subscribed to Vogue magazine by redeeming 700 miles. Cost: $0
With the Grand Slam promotion buried for 2011, I am happy to say that I very much look forward to the 2012 version in which Kevin and I will fully participate.

To learn more about the 2011 Grand Slam promotion and rules, please visit: http://www.usairways.com/en-US/dividendmiles/grandslamrules.html

Have you participated in the Grand Slam this year? If so, share some of your experiences. How did you do? Did all of your "hits" and miles finally post? I'd love to hear about your success.

-x0 Angelina

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1000 Free Priority Club Points in 90 Seconds

Thanks to Jason @ MilesQuest for this easy freebie.


Here's how to earn 1000 Priority Club points for watching a 90 second video.
Step 2: Enter in one of the promo codes along with your log-in info:
SKAEXGTNC4
SKAEXR6WC4
SKAEX8M4C4
SKAEX9KYC4
Step 3: Watch the 90 second video.
Don't forget that you can also receive 1,000 more bonus points by registering for Priority Club's Dining Program & completing a dine at a qualifying restaurant. More info below:
Priority Club Dining: New members can earn 1,000 bonus priority club points after completing their first dine of $30 or more at a participating restaurant within 45 days of joining. After that, enjoy 3 miles per dollar on future dines.
-x0 Angelina

Monday, December 19, 2011

Groupon Resort Stay Voucher & $10 Groupon Bucks With Groupon Local Purchase

Let's just face it, with the chaos of the holidays approaching us, and the bitter cold weather (yesterday it was 18 degrees here!), who doesn't want to get away? What's even more stressful in the equation is that Kevin and I have been so busy working out of town that we rarely have experienced quality time together throughout the last 3 months. We decided it was time to be impulsive and plan for a nice, romantic escape in January.

Yesterday Groupon was offering a 7-day resort stay voucher for $399 which could be redeemed at several locations across the U.S, Mexico, and the Caribbean. I admit that I was extremely skeptical at first because I was afraid I was signing us up for annoying time-share pitches, but with our dire need for a change of scenery, I thought, "what the heck?"

Plus, another incentive was earning 15 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at Groupon through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal (~6000 points).

At the current moment, we are waiting for our voucher to be ready so we can start browsing resorts. Personally I am leaning towards Cancun, so I hope there are properties available during the time we want to get away!



Speaking of Groupon, it seems that lots of companies are on a mission to help our local small businesses. Last month, American Express endorsed "Small Business Saturday" which was a huge hit in the communities across the country. Now this time, Groupon has a holiday treat for both us and the small businesses that we support.

If you don't have a Groupon account already, now is the time to get one (thanks for letting me refer you).

After being one of the first 150,000 people to register, get ready to earn $10 back in Groupon Bucks when you purchase a Groupon local deal for $10 or more by December 24, 2011. The Groupon Bucks will be deposited into your account by 12/31/11 and will expire by March 31. The Groupon Bucks could be used towards any future Groupon local deal.


Go on and support the businesses in your community. Whether you are purchasing a deal to your favorite restaurant or are looking to try something new, remember that small businesses are what defines the essence and individuality of your neighborhood. Be proud to support them!

-x0 Angelina

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Marriott Joins The "Free Night" Trend for 2012

According to an article just published by USA Today Travel, Marriott seems to have also jumped on the bandwagon and decided to launch a "stay 2, get 1" free night promo for early 2012.

The details of the promotion are: Marriott Rewards members who complete two paid stays between 2/1/12 and 4/30/12 will earn a free night at any category 1-4 hotel property. This promotion pairs very nicely with the Marriott Rewards Gold Challenge. ;).

The free night can be used up until Sept 30, 2012 & each member can earn a maximum of 2 free nights (after 4 stays).

Registration by March 31, 2012 is required to participate for this promotion. Please note that registration is not open to all Marriott Rewards members yet. Personally, I was able to successfully register. I wouldn't miss out on this one!

I am very excited about this because Kevin and I might be staying 4 nights at a fantastic Marriott International property in March, hopefully allowing us to break up the nights into 4 separate stays to earn us the 2 free nights!

Please refer to the official press release from Marriott for the complete details

-x0 Angelina

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm "Gilty" Again...

I know I recently posted about how I was disappointed with Gilt Groupe for their sneaky change to their Mileage Plus/Onepass new member promotion, but hear me out on this one.

I had to send a "thank you" holiday gift to a casting director & of course you know that I love to kill 2 birds with one stone by meshing my crazy points hobby with my career. I decided to look for a small token gift that was A.) under $40, B.) can serve as a tax deduction, and C.) yield me the most points for my dollar.

I am aware that FTD is having a promotion with several airlines (25 miles per dollar with U.S. Airways &  30 miles per dollar with American Airlines just to name a few), but I was turned off by their ridiculous shipping & handling fees ($15.95 for it to arrive 12/28!). 

I decided to bite the bullet and place my order with Gilt (I created a new account using my Continental Onepass number and an old college email). The total of my gift came out to $40.95 including shipping. That purchase should get me a 1,500 Continental One Pass miles bonus plus 5 miles per dollar.

In an ideal situation, I believe it would be fair for Gilt to honor the previous order I made for $10 before they posted a $25 minimum-purchase requirement. I'll be sure to contact them shortly & share their response for others who might be in the same boat.

If you're interested in taking part of Gilt new member promotion to earn 1,500 bonus miles, you may register at http://www.gilt.com/united.

What holiday gifts have you purchased this year while maximizing points/miles bonuses?

-x0 Angelina

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

500 Free Southwest Rapid Rewards Points & Southwest Joins Chase Ultimate Rewards

Yay, I woke up to some great news! Thanks to Brian, The Points Guy, for letting us know that Southwest Airlines will soon be a partner in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Chase Ultimate Rewards points will transfer 1:1 to Southwest beginning January 5, 2012. I have yet to fly Southwest, but nevertheless this is exciting news because Southwest has excellent award redemption options for domestic flights, and they also fly directly out of Newark, NJ- my home airport.

Now as we celebrate the integration of Southwest into the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, why not pregame with some free points?

Here's how to earn an easy 500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points:
You can receive 500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points just by registering for 2 email subscriptions and remaining subscribed for 3 months. Each subscription will get you 250 points each. Enjoy!

-x0 Angelina

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1 Down for "Gift Me": My Stay at Days Inn Reading Wyomissing, PA

I love when I get to kill two birds with one stone and really get to integrate my crazy points hobby into my career. I booked the commercial gig shooting in Reading, PA that I previously blogged about, and I decided to book a night close to set instead of doing the five hour round trip commute from NYC. (duh).

I went with booking the Days Inn Reading Wyomissing because it is conveniently located less than 5 miles away from the filming location & the price was reasonable at $58.xx after taxes with the AAA discount. The good news is, when I arrived to work this morning, I was told we were getting a nice per diem to cover our travel expenses. I'm happy that my stay is no longer an out-of-pocket expense. :)

Most importantly, I booked a Days Inn because it will count as 1 out of 2 qualified stays in the current Wyndham Rewards "Gift Me" promo. As mentioned in my previous post about the promotion, every 2 stays gets you 6,500 points plus a 1,000 point booking bonus, which is enough to redeem for a free night at a later time.

Based on the reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor, I must admit that I was pretty horrified and intimated about my stay and was preparing for the worst.

Here is an honest assessment along with pictures:

Location: Fantastic. The Days Inn Reading Wyomissing is located close to all of the major highways in Reading and there are several restaurants and stores that are close by. I was able to walk next door to a great sushi place, and let me tell you: you know you ordered too much takeout when they put 4 pairs of chopsticks in the bag, and you're the only one who's actually eating it. Enough said.

Lobby/Check-In/Property Amenities: Check in was fast, and the front desk lady was friendly. The lobby was clean and very quiet. In fact, I can't imagine there being more than 5 rooms occupied because all of the guest windows were dark and the parking lot is empty. There isn't a gym on site, but I was told that I had access to Gold's Gym a mile away. I'm too lazy to go at the moment, but I probably should. Ahem, Sushi Overload.

Room: I must admit I was ticked off that I got the TINY, creepy corner room all the way on the 4th floor & I know that there are definitely better room options available. The bed is barely queen-sized and the TV is from the mid-90s. All though the room is disticntly-dated, the room and the bathroom are immaculately clean, and the bed is comfortable. I really don't see why Trip Advisor reviewers butchered this hotel so much.




That's all for now. It's time to rest up for day 2 of the shoot tomorrow!

x0-Angelina

Another Easy Way To Earn $20 from Serve by American Express

Update: 12/17: Some readers have contacted me saying their $10 sign-up bonus was not instantly credited. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I was able to have Serve provide us with a phone number to contact them for them to take care of it!


" Serve 
@ 
 They'll post, but we have high volume. It's causing a few gaps. Have them call 800-954-0559, 24/7. We'll take care of it!"

Also, speaking of Twitter, be sure to follow Serve @Serve because they have frequent twitter contests for chances to win free & easy money. I was one of yesterday's #FundMyFriday winners of $25!

We love free money, and lately American Express has been extremely generous to us. Serve and American Express have just announced a new promotion where you can earn $20 just for signing up for a new account (free) and answering a quick trivia question by December 31, 2011.

So what is Serve?
Serve is secure and simple digital payment service by American Express that makes it easier to split the bill, pay friends back, or simply send and receive money. Transactions may be completed instantly online, through a mobile device, or through the reload-able Serve card that is usable where ever American Express is accepted.

Here's how to receive a total of $20 in your Serve account:


1. Sign up for your free Serve account here (I thank you for your referral).
2. Activate your account with the email validation code that will be sent to your email.
3. Snag another $10 by answering an easy trivia question here:
(My trivia question was easy - "Which zodiac sign is a crab?" answer: Cancer).

You’ll need to provide your name, email, and last 4 digits of SSN. You can either request your money via check (7-10 business days) or via online transfer to a linked bank account. They will also mail you a Serve ATM debit card which can be used wherever AMEX is accepted.





That's it! It took me a grand 4 minutes to complete all 3 steps. The sign up $10 was posted instantly & the trivia $10 credit should be posted within 1 business day. Update: 12/15: My trivia question $10 was posted today.

-x0 Angelina

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shipped to Seattle and Back - My First Mileage Run

This is Kevin. I'm your self-imposed host for the night. Time for a friendly hijack. :)

Completed. 4802 flown miles in less than a day's span. Whew. Luckily that converts to 6002.5 elite qualifying miles by having Continental OnePass silver elite status.

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I am Angelina's "mister", or in this case, her
travel experiment. I went to Seattle and back this last Saturday.

Interesting trip to say the least.

Before I get into the details of the trip, a bit of background on myself will set the stage right.
Before I met Angelina (or Ang for short) I was Homo-Travel-Ignorosis.

I knew NOTHING about travel, frequent flier miles, yet alone, "elite qualifying" miles (EQM for the cool), airline "status", the benefits of traveling with points and miles, nada.

Armed with a man-purse, an iPhone and Dan Pink's new book, Whole New Mind, I set off to learn something new, but this time not from a book.

You see, I am a book worm at heart; however, this Saturday was to be a different one. A couple days before booking the trip, we we're both watching a documentary called "A Human Experience", and there was one line that inspired me to become the travel rat for Ang's experiment.

"When traveling outside of your own comfort zone, away from your reality, that's when you're really learning."

Combine that awesome truth about life with the fact that I was only one trip short of Gold Elite, and you have a round-trip flight to and from Seattle only hours apart.

In the end, the whole experience came to be more than just a flight with an obvious objective, but a true learning experience. I set out to just go with the "flow". No prejudgements. No place to be except to "be". On my trip I met...

- An old disheveled woman at the gate who people thought were crazy. I took the time to know her and her story. She reminded me of my mother. I felt really good after the conversation and I believe she did as well.

- A traveler named Sonny. I didn't know his name until I saw him on the same return flight. And then it clicked, he was also doing a mileage run! Spoke with him briefly, connected and exchanged phone numbers. I explained to him that intuitively I knew, when he sat down next to me on the first flight to Seattle, that he was also doing a mileage run. My gut was right!

- A Filipino bartender (I am half Filipino) whose family was from NJ, a girl who was contemplating  opening up her own therapist practice, two Romanian tourists, and a gentleman from Las Vegas. With each encounter, I stepped out of my comfort zone to learn a bit about them. I smiled with them, laughed with them, learned a bit and explained to them why I took this flight- to achieve Gold Status and then to share what I learned about my experience on this very blog post.

I told a story to the last person I spoke with...

...about a friend of mine who stood in line trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He turned to his first friend who suggested to become an accountant. With the economy in shambles, it would be a steady job. The second friend explained to him why a nursing career would be the best move. Lastly, he turned to a stranger in line who told him with passion how he was going to change the world by becoming a...

I never finished the story, but I told her that at this moment, that was my job... to make an impact on her.

That is why I choose to put my book down and pick my head up this trip. The people I met were all worth it...

...as well as the Gold Status.

Cheers,

Kevin

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wyndham Rewards: Choose Your Gift Promotion

I received an email from Wyndham Rewards about their latest holiday "Gift Me" promotion which allows you to choose a free gift (6,500 bonus points, plus 1,000 bonus points for booking at WyndhamRewards.com) after every completing 2 separate stays at participating hotels in the Wyndham Rewards program with an arrival date on or before February 1, 2012.



Since I am crossing my fingers about booking a commercial that's shooting two days next week, I thought it would be smart to register for this promotion just incase I would be spending a few nights in Reading, PA (some of their hotels are relatively inexpensive in that area. I saw a Days Inn listed at $44 per night for the dates I might need it).

The gift I "choose" upon registration was of course a free night. To learn more about the promotion, please visit the official promotion page. The image below shows the hotel chains that are included in the Wyndham Rewards program.


Has anyone else thought about taking advantage of this promotion?

-x0 Angelina

American Express Gift Chain - Going The Paper Route

Apparently I just can't get enough of The Gift Chain American Express promotion. After playing my luck with my one and only AMEX, I still had the itch for more surprises. Kevin also has an AMEX, but it is a company card, so he decided it would be best for him to play it safe and avoid making charges in order to participate.

In that case, we decided it was worth a shot to register his card and try the free participation method using a good old pen and paper. You technically can submit 10 entries per registered card, but it's time consuming because you must hand-write each entry and include it in separate hand-written envelopes. 

According to others who have had success using this method, prizes are usually awarded via email within 7-10 business days. Below are instructions on how to participate using this method taken directly from the program terms and conditions:

Free Participation: To receive a Gift without making a Qualifying Purchase, during the Promotion Period, hand write your name (exactly as it appears when you registered in the Promotion), complete address, city, state, ZIP code, phone number (including area code), email address and name of the Qualifying Merchant Gift Pool in which you would like to participate (while supplies of Gifts in that Qualifying Merchant Gift Pool last) on a piece of paper and mail it in an envelope to: “AMEX Holiday Gift Chain - Free To Participate Request”, P.O. BOX 4900, Fenton, MO 63099 (“Mail-In Request”). Requests must be postmarked by December 21, 2011 and received by December 28, 2011. Limit one (1) request per outer-postmarked envelope. Upon receipt of your request, a Sponsor representative will “participate” for you in the specified Qualifying Merchant Gift Pool and you will be sent an email which will advise you of the Gift that you are eligible to receive and how to claim it Free Participation requests mechanically reproduced or made in any fashion other than as specified herein are void. Any requests received from a Cardmember who has not registered his/her Card by the time the Free Participation request is received will be deemed null and void. If a request does not include the name of a Qualifying Merchant but is otherwise complete, Sponsor will randomly select a Qualifying Merchant Gift Pool into which request will be entered.

I'll surely keep you posted as to what we get this time around, in the meantime, feel free to take a peak at the "gifts" I received in my first batch.

-x0 Angelina

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hotel Status Match Success From Free Status Upgrades

I promised I'd post an update on my progress of hotel status matching using my newly-aquired free Platinum Accor Status and free Gold Marriott Status. Last week, I sent emails to Club Carlson, Omni, Best Western, & Priority Club asking if they could match status to my Accor A|Club Platinum status.

Here's a summary of the responses I received:

Club Carlson: 
"We would like to offer to match elite status that you have, with either 
Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, and Starwood only. We can match 
top level to Gold Elite and second level to Silver Elite. Our newest 
Concierge Elite level cannot be matched, it must be earned."


With that said, I responded back with a screen shot of my Marriott Gold Account & within 24 hours my Club Carlson account was matched to their Silver Elite level.

If you are interested in contacting Club Carlson about their status match program, please send an email to  goldpointsplus@carlson.com with your name, Club Carlson number, and a screen shot of your elite status with one of the accepted hotel brands. Responses are generally very quick.

Omni:
"At this time Omni Hotels does not offer tier level status matches.  Omni Hotels recently upgraded the Select Guest program to include a complimentary membership in GHA Discovery which gives members special privileges at all 12 luxury GHA brands around the world. In addition to earning tier night credits at all GHA brands, GHA Discovery offers an exciting ‘Local Experiences’ benefit.  More information can be found at www.ghadiscovery.com"

I'm not sure if I will be staying at a GHA property anytime soon, but I did sign up for the free status anyway just in case. It only took a couple of minutes to create an account.

Best Western: 
Best western has a promotion called, "Status Match, No Catch" where they will match any status from another hotel brand. You may email, mail, or fax proof of your elite status with another hotel brand and they will upgrade your account. Here is a direct link to the form you would use. I sent them an email containing a screen shot of my Accor A|Club Platinum status, and I was matched to Diamond status with Best Western.

Priority Club: 
I have not received a response yet. I will attempt to contact them again by this weekend.

If you currently do not have elite status with any hotel brand at the moment, please refer to my earlier post about how to get free gold status with Marriott. You can use the gold status as a way to receive elite status with the other hotel brands I mentioned.

Does anyone else have any hotel status match success stories? I'd love to hear!

-x0 Angelina

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chase & Continental/United VIP Mall Lounge: Houston & Short Hills, NJ

Has holiday shopping caused you to spend more time at the mall than in the air? Don't worry, Continental, United, and Chase are bringing the VIP airport lounge experience to the Short Hills Mall in NJ and the Houston Galleria Mall in TX this holiday season. 


Here are the details taken directly from the email (specifically for the Short Hills, NJ location):


Take a break from shopping at the VIP Lounge in The Mall at Short Hills, NJ. Exclusively for Continental and United Chase Cardmembers, the Lounge is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to Mall closing through December 24.


Just show your Continental or United Chase Card to get in. The VIP Lounge is located on the second floor near Bloomingdale's and features these daily amenities, all with our compliments:


Comfortable seating
Free gift wrapping and bag check
Flat-panel TVs, newspapers and magazines
Recharging stations for your phone
Complimentary beverages and snacks

Weekly Features:
Football Sundays, Toys for Tots Tuesdays, and Carlo's Bakery Fridays.





Has anyone stopped by yet to check it out at either location? If so, let us know how it is! Click here for the complete details at the Chase VIP Lounge website.


I think I might have to make an excuse tomorrow to go shopping to check it out and report back here. Shopping + Airport Lounges + VIP style sounds like a girl's most perfect way to kick off the weekend, ha! :)


-x0 Angelina

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lots of Free Points & Miles Everywhere Today

Today there are a few easy ways to earn free points and miles. I was also thrilled to find out that I was one of the daily instant winners of the 1,000 Marriott Rewards points via their Facebook sweepstakes! :) This is what the winning screen looked like for me:


Remember, you can enter twice daily until the grand prize winner is determined in January 2012. You may find more information about the Marriott Facebook Sweepstakes in here my earlier post.

Also, for those who use Twitter, you can earn 500 Hawaiian Airlines miles simply by linking your Hawaiian Airlines account to your Twitter account. If you don't have a need for Hawaiian Airlines miles, you can transfer them to Hilton HHonors points at a rate of 5,000 miles for 10,000 points.

Don't forget that TGI Fridays is having a promotion for new members which you can earn 1,000 bonus Club Carlson Gold Points and 100 bonus stripes credits to use towards free food rewards when you join by December 18, 2011. Plus, receive a complimentary appetizer or dessert! Sign up here.



-x0 Angelina


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