Florida and Nashville for under $600

My wife and I recently decided to use President’s Weekend to visit Florida again and – since I have a mid-Winter break as a teacher – I am continuing on to Nashville for the rest of the week. We used a variety of different mileage deals as well as knowledge of where to get discounts in order to book these tickets.

Flights to Florida
I searched a variety of methods including using British Airways Avios to book an American Airlines flight for 7,500 Avios per person but unfortunately the availability was just not there. There were a few business/first class flights but since their devaluation last year, it was no longer worth it (15K for the one way, not it’s 30K). In the end, I found availability using American Airlines miles themselves under their “Economy AAnytime” category which was only 20K per person. I had 32K available personally but my wife had 7K available to transfer. The cost was about $80 (annoying) and I had to buy the last 1K at a cost of $50. Baggage is free since this is an award ticket. Total cost: $130 (for miles) + $11.20 (Sept. 11th fees) = $142.50

Rental car in Florida
I don’t often use these deals, but I received a notice in my email from American Airlines that we could earn 6 times the normal mileage for renting through Hertz using certain codes sent to me via email. That’s exactly what we did, so for total cost of under $200, we got our three day rental. Total cost: $197.

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Housing in Florida
This is the cheapest part. My parents have a condo in Delray Beach. If you have family members who have places to stay in Florida, take advantage of it. Instead of spending any hotel points or money to stay in an AirBnB or something like that, it was free. Total cost: $0.

Return flights
My wife is returning to New York on February 16 and I am continuing on to Nashville to explore a city and state I’ve never been to! I found a return ticket for her using United because we received travel vouchers for $150 due to our complaint a few weeks ago on our last trip to Toronto. I found a deal for $211.10 (pretty good) on her return fare. We have the MileagePlus Explorer card, so baggage is free for the first two travelers. Total for her flight: $211.10 – $150 = $61.10.

As I mentioned, I am continuing travel to Nashville for three more days of relaxing break. I found a deal with Southwest Airlines for a direct flight using a ridiculously small amount of points: 6,699 for the one-way. Since we have more than enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points right now, I transferred 5,000 (I already had about 1,900 in my account) and booked the ticket. Total cost: $5.60 (Sept. 11th fee again).

Housing in Nashville
I did some searching using the various hotel points we have and found a good deal with Hilton Hotels for a Hampton Inn at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. For only 30,000 points/night I could book my three nights for free! The only snag was that I only had 80K. I researched the cost of the extra 10K points and found out it would have been another $100 to buy the points necessary.

Instead, I looked at some of the transferable options that I have access to. I shied away from using our Chase Ultimate Rewards point as we want to use that for a return flight for our honeymoon. Instead, I realized that I have had a few thousand Citibank ThankYou points lying around a checking account for years. I looked at their list of transfer partners and – low and behold – Hilton is one of them! At a ratio of 1.5:1, I transferred 7K for a redemption of 10.5K – exactly what I needed. Total cost for my hotel: $0. 

Rental car in Nashville
This purchase was deceptively simple. I usually use a website called RentalCarPerks for specific codes that have offers for Hertz, Avis, Budget, and more. Instead, Enterprise had the best offer – an intermediate SUV for $120. Yes, that was the cheapest option (not the compact or economy – those were more expensive). Total cost of car rental: $120.47

Return flight from Nashville
I used my own United voucher on a flight I found for $175.10. Again, having the United credit card allows for free baggage. Total cost for flight: $175.10 – $150 = $25.10

OVERALL TOTAL COST: $557.77

Chase Freedom Q1 2016 bonuses

For those who do not know, the Chase Freedom card has quarterly bonuses that bring your “cash back” percentage from 1% to 5% for a few specific categories. The last quarter of 2015 brought us Amazon.com and a special bonus toward the end of 10% “cash back.”

In the first quarter of 2016, bonuses will be for gas stations and local commuter transportation (defined clearly as not including tolls, parking, or Amtrak).

The reason why I keep writing that term in quotation marks is that – yes, it can be used to get a statement credit – but then you would only be getting 1 cent of value for each point you receive. Instead, if you have another Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus, you can transfer those points to a variety of airlines and hotel chains to maximize your point value. My wife and I recently redeemed points at 21 cents per point for a Korean Air first class plane ticket. It’s fantastic.

So, yes, please click here to active your Q1 bonus (you do not get the bonus unless activated). But, then, please ask me to refer you to the Chase Sapphire Preferred so you can maximize your benefit.

Great deal to Israel/Europe and Amazing videos of A380

There is a current promotion run by Flying Blue, the joint program of SkyTeam Members Air France and KLM for reduced-mileage costs to Europe and Israel (because for the purposes of flights, they consider Israel to be a part of Europe). Whereas normally the price would be 50,000 miles roundtrip, right now it would be 25,000 miles roundtrip as long as you book by December 10 for travel between January 15 – March 15. Find out more details at this DansDeals blog post.

A few weeks ago Emirates airlines released an amazing video of two rocket pack flyers following their Airbus A380 flight toward Dubai. Yesterday, Etihad did something similar with a rainbow fly-by and their own A380. It’s amazing what these Middle Eastern companies do for business, isn’t it?

AAdvantage devaluation and Transit strike at US airports

Two big things have happened in the past two days that need to be written about.The 2016 AAdvantage program

First, American Airlines has updated their loyalty program with major changes that go into effect in March 2016. The major bloggers have reported the details already here and here so I won’t go in depth about it but there are two big things for me as a domestic and international traveller:

  1. The award chart is getting more generous for short flights (less than 500 miles) wherein you can book roundtrip travel for 15,000 miles (instead of 25,000). While that matches using BA Avios for the same trip, it may still be worthwhile to use Avios if you have them because they do not have any cancellation fees.
  2. For long-haul award flights, all mileage requirements increases, including their highest tier for flights like the one I want to take from Bali this summer on Cathay Pacific (increasing from 67,500 miles one-way to 110,000 one-way). While this matches other airlines like United and Delta, it is still a shame.

Second, there is are major strikes brewing from two subcontractors that provide ramp workers and baggage handlers at airports in New York (JFK, Philadelphia, Newark, and more). Tonight at 10pm they will walk off the job and begin picketing in the morning – just un time for the holidays. We’ll see how long it lasts.

 

 

 

Please consult a miles and points compatriot before making large purchases!

I recently had a conversation with a coworker who spent over $2,000 on a trip to New Zealand on her credit card and – because she doesn’t have a large rewards-earning card – did not receive much award mileage because of it.

I urge anyone considering large purchases to discuss with friends and family about how to leverage this purchase to gain. There are many cards with $1,000 or $2,000 thresholds that, if reached, could yield free plane tickets or other wonderful bonuses.

Do the right thing: look up what bonus you could get!

Southwest Airlines booking and more deals

You may be interested to know that I am a full time math teacher at a public school in Brooklyn, so this blog is not my full-time profession (unlike this guy). That being said, I had my first set of students today and discussed a variety of things in an introductory day, including how I recently purchased two sets of plane tickets for my wife and I at a cost of $22.40 plus points.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 6.54.22 PMYesterday my wife and I took advantage of the promotion right now at Southwest Airlines offering insanely low mileage rates for trips across the country. We wanted to go to Chicago to visit friends and found some incredibly low rates for October. In the end, for 35,000 points + $22.40, we have a nonstop flights to Chicago’s Midway airport! This is a great deal considering that American Airlines or United Airlines might charge 50,000 points + $22.40 + baggage fees! Luckily, Southwest has free baggage on their flights.

In other news, I saw a great deal for tickets to/from LaGuardia/Miami (Unfortunately only for mid-week itineraries, otherwise I would have snatched that up as well).

Also, if you have a hotel stay coming up and Hilton is an option, you might want to consider buying points to pay for the nights you will be there since there is a great sale going on right now.

$399 round-trip from Houston to Moscow on Singapore Airlines

What many people don’t know is that airlines often have what’s called a “fifth freedom” route wherein it does not start or end at one of their hub locations. Singapore Airlines has many of these continued flights around the world. Its flight from Houston<-> Moscow is a 777-300ER with a wonderful economy section. The seats are wider than usual for international economy and the service is excellent.

Right now there is a special deal for $399 round-trip economy on this flight. Check out The Points Guy for more information.