Monthly Archives: October 2015

Road Trip Time

I know that I have recently been writing about our travels through Europe by plane and train but remember, the title of this blog is “Air, Land and Sea” so it only seems fitting that it’s time to write about a Road Trip.  I have a friend who is willing to go on a Road Trip with me.  We did one a couple of years ago through Charleston and Savannah and we were still speaking when we got back – or rather I should stay we were still friends when we got back as she had laryngitis.  Too much talking and laughing.

She wanted to go to the beach, I wanted to go someplace that I haven’t been before and after about an hour, we made our decision.

We are planning to be gone about a week give or take a day.  We will drive first to Lexington, Kentucky to see if any of the horse farms are open to visitors and visit the International Museum of the Horse.  I was told today that the road between Paris and Georgetown is beautiful and with the time of year that it is, it should be spectacular.

The next day we will continue touring a little and then head to Mammoth Caves.  Never having been there, I’m excited but was also disappointed to find that they no longer offer the boat tours through the caves.  We did go ahead and reserve a tour for Tuesday afternoon and then another for Wednesday morning.

After our tour and lunch we plan to continue driving to our furtherest point – Memphis!   have been looking forward to visiting Graceland for decades and that will be one of the first things we’ll do.  We also are interested in walking along Beale Street, eating really good BBQ, taking a riverboat ride on the Mississippi and also Sun City records where Elvis recorded some of his early hits.  We also want to go to the Peabody Hotel to see the duck walk?  What, you haven’t heard of the duck walk.  Follow this link and you’ll learn a little bit more.  Of course, I’ll take photos to show you.

Three days is what we have planned for Memphis and then we move on to Nashville on Halloween.  We had wondered what we would do on Halloween and we came up with a great idea – The Grand Ole Opry.  Now to get tickets – wasn’t easy a week before but we managed to score them and when I write about it I’ll tell you how we did it.  Lots of things to see and do in Nashville particularly if you are a country fan.

I’m hoping to add some more IHG property nights to my Accelerate promotion that I wrote about here.  I’m on a quest to get more points.

Wish me luck and I’ll keep you updated on our travels!

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IHG Hotels and the Accelerate Promotion

Whether I have any intention of staying at a specific hotel brand or not, I always sign up for their promotion.  As much as I think that I know my travel plans, or lack of them sometimes, there have been instances where last minute travel opportunities arise and I wished that I had signed up for a certain promotion.

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I am working on the Accelerate promotion that IHG is sponsoring until the end of the year.  To participate you must first be an IHG Rewards Club member.  You can sign up here.  Once you sign up you can then go to the Rewards Club tab and find your offers.  You do have to specifically sign up for these promotions – it is not automatically done for you.

Some of you may not know what IHG Club or brand is.  IHG is the loyalty club for Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn and all their various sub-brands (Express, Suites, Resorts), Crowne Plaza, EVEN, Staybridge, Candlewood, Hotel Indigo.

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Every person who registers for this promotion has different objectives to meet in order to complete all the offers that have been given to them.  I have six offers presented to me and in order to receive the 50,000 IHG points, I must complete five of the six. Remember, that your offers and mine will probably be difficult – yours could be easier or more difficult.  You do not have to complete all your objectives to receive points.  It is like stair steps in the sense that each step you take will give you extra points.  One of my offers was to have a one night stay and I would earn and extra 5000 points on top of the points that I earned just from staying at a Holiday Inn.

When I did this promotion a couple of years ago there were more points to earn and I wanted to earn them for an upcoming trip we had planned.  I would look for the least expensive hotel rates near Holiday Inns where I lived and book them.  In one weekend I had booked a Friday night and a Saturday night stay near Washington Dulles Airport where I lived since their rates went down over the weekend when business travelers were not staying there.  I went to the hotels, checked in and never stayed there.  You might be thinking that is a waste of money to pay for a hotel and not stay there but for all those points I earned, we were able to parlay that into a 3 night stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague this year.  Since I also have the IHG credit card, I was automatically given top status and when we checked in, I was upgraded to an Executive Suite. Basically, the $54 dollars that I spent in the hotel that I did not stay in gave me this luxury hotel in Prague at no charge at all!  I have taught Blogger Hubby that spending a little money will reap its rewards later.  He’s become a believer.

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This is where I am though I do have three more nights that have not posted.  I have just fulfilled a weekend stay (while attending my Chicago Seminars) and I charged it on  my IHG credit card which means those two offers have been fulfilled.  To date I have earned an extra 10,500 points on top of those that I earned from staying at the hotel.

I hope you consider participating in a hotel promotion particularly if you travel or want to travel.  With these points my plan is to stay at the Intercontinental in Paris next year – I hear that it is nice there.

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EU 261 – Help for Those who Need Assistance in Making a Claim

Last week I posted about EU 261 which dealt with delays and compensation because of the delays from EU country to EU country OR flying on an EU carrier to an EU country from a non-EU country (like the United States) OR flying home from an EU country to a non-EU country on any airline.  If you want to read that post again, click here.

We had a seven hour delay which entitled us to the compensation of 600 euros.  I’ve heard from many people that it is difficult to get reimbursement from the US carriers.  They often deny that mechanical is a valid reason for getting compensation even though the EU Court of Justice did rule that mechanical delays allowed for compensation.

This weekend, as I attended the Chicago Seminars, I learned of a company that could help you out.  It is Get Air Help.  Your flight can go back three years and they will still work for you.  They gather all the paperwork and submit it to the airlines.  If they are still unsuccessful they will even take them to court!  Of course there is a fee and that is 25% of your reimbursement from the airline.

Howie, over at Frugal Travel Guy, wrote last week about another company Botts & Co, solicitors in the UK.  They will do the same as Get Air Help however their commission rate is 25 euros plus 25 % 27% of your reimbursement.  If you are awarded nothing, then you owe nothing to the company.

If you have been delayed and didn’t know to do anything or had difficulty with the airlines, you might want to consider one ofd these companies to help you get your legal reimbursement.

I have not dealt with either company and do not have personal knowledge but thought that I would pass the information on in case you want to learn about these companies and know that there is help for you.

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The Chicago Seminars

By the time you read this, I’ll be winging my way to Chicago for the Chicago Seminars known in my family as the Miles and Point Conference.  Yes, there will be hundreds of us (between 400 and 500 hundred) going to the seminar over two full days.  We will be  learning more about traveling, manufacturing your spending, using Expert Flyer, using ITA for flights, Best Rate Guarantees in Hotels, breakout sessions for the airline of your choice as well as the same for hotels from the bloggers you have grown to respect and follow.

This is my 4th year attending these seminars.  The first year I was completely overwhelmed and they were all talking a language that I was just learning.  The second year I felt that I was beginning to “get it”.  Last year I felt more confident.  I was beginning to recognize people that I had seen in previous years, made friends that I have stayed in contact with and I knew what to expect and I was actually able to participate by offering travel tips.

The conference, in my mind, is extremely reasonable in price.  It runs from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon and costs $100.  The Holiday Inn in Elk Grove Village is the host hotel and they do have overflow hotels.  I have been fortunate to stay at the host hotel for my past three years and will be there again this year.  I book immediately so I will be at the host hotel.  The hotel gives us a great breakfast and the conference fee gives us lunch whether or not you are staying at the hotel.  Sunday, when everyone is leaving, the hotel hires school buses to make sure everyone gets to O’Hare for their flights home.

I have learned so much at these seminars and feel like I am one of their biggest fans and supporters.

In addition to what they do for us, they also run a raffle with donated travel items and all the money raised goes to Wounded Warriors.  How great is this!

I urge you to consider attending next October.  Information usually comes out in May and I’ll write about it here.  I’ll have reports on the seminar in the following weeks.

Target Prepaid Redcard and VISA/MC Gift Cards

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but rumors had been floating that in some Target stores in different locales around the country  their registers were hardcoded so as to not accept gift cards which to load your Redcard with.   Loading gift cards that are pin enabled have become my favorite way of meeting minimum spend on credit cards as well as just manufacturing points.

Paying attention to those rumors I went yesterday to my handy dandy Target store to load two gift cards that I had just purchased at a Simon Mall. After trying numerous times, the clerk called over one of her managers and they as well had no luck in allowing me to load with the gift card (pin had been set to use it as a debit card).  She looked up in her clipboard for a memo or something that might explain it.  All she could tell me is that it is a computer glitch and they are working on it.  She didn’t know if this would be permanent or just a temporary snafu but I am betting on it being the way things are to come.

For those who have gift cards that have not been loaded on to your Redcard like me, I plan on going to WalMart and getting some money orders.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I went to Simon Mall for my gift cards.  They are the property owners for many, many malls within the United States.  At their information counter in the middle of the malls, they have a rack of gift cards though the VISA gift cards are locked in a drawer.  If you ask the attendant for them, you can purchase up to $1000 per day and the cost for each card is only $3.95. a few dollars less than what you would purchase them from in a grocery store.  Here is a link to the location of Simon Malls.  If you are in one, you might want to consider purchasing a couple.

As soon as I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

EU Rule 261 – Important if you Fly into or out of Europe

I’m going to take a little break from my trip report in Europe to talk about a different subject that may, at one time or another, affect you. That subject is a flight delay or cancellation while flying from an EU country to another EU country OR from an EU country to elsewhere OR flying into Europe on a EU carrier.  In my case I was flying from Milan via Brussels to Washington Dulles this summer.  Since I had a delay, I’ll be addressing that and will not write about flight cancellation.

BACKGROUND – We were flying on an award ticket that we had booked through United Airlines.  We flew from Milan’s city airport – Linate – at 6:30 AM to Brussels on Brussels Airlines and then we were booked on the noon flight on United Airlines to Washington Dulles with an arrival time in IAD at 3:00 PM.  While in Milan I was received  email alerts  informing me that our flight from Brussels would be delayed one, then two hours.  We arrived in Brussels around 8:30AM and after we went through security we went immediately over to the Passenger Assistance desk.  Interestingly enough, there were two lines there – one for Chicago passengers and one for Washington Dulles passengers.  When it was my turn, I was then told that the delay would be seven hours long!  Once I had processed that information, I then began asking questions.  Was there another flight that would leave Brussels before 7 PM?  I was told “yes” but it was through Chicago and it would arrive 30 minutes before my rescheduled flight.  I asked about flying into another city such as Boston, Philly, etc then taking a flight to Washington Dulles.  “No, there was nothing else”, I was told by the agent.

They offered us a 14 euro voucher for lunch, but not dinner and that was it.  We sat down and tried to strategize.  I powered up my iPad and found that there was a flight to Munich that would get me into IAD much earlier.  I got back into the very long line and by the time I reached the agent at the desk, it was too late to try and make the flight to Munich. in order to change planes to get to IAD.  I could have made it if they had rerouted us when I first approached the Passenger Assistance desk.  I expressed my displeasure that they did try to find other flights to get us home other than the one via Chicago.

Remembering that there was some rule about delayed flights in Europe, I asked the agent about it and they gave me a pamphlet about filing a claim.  Apparently they have to have the information on the counter but they don’t have to tell you anything or really answer any questions. Beyond that they were not helpful.

EU 261  – sets out the compensation that passengers will receive in the event of a delay or cancelation, or when they are denied boarding because of overbooking, or when the airline is unable to accommodate them in the class that they had booked their seat in.  You must be departing from any airport in the EU or arriving in the EU on an EU carrier or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.   You must have a confirmed reservation and have checked in; your ticket was purchased at a fare available to the public and that includes an award ticket from a frequent flyer program.  You are not entitled to compensation if you are denied boarding on the grounds of health, safety, security or invalid travel documentation.

DELAYS – if your flight is delayed 4 hours from your scheduled departure, you may be entitled to compensation between €250 -€600 depending on the distance of the flight.

If you are within the EU and are traveling  1,500 km or less –  you are entitled to receive €250.  If you are traveling over 1,500 km then your compensation would be €400.

If you are traveling between the EU and a non-EU country and are traveling 1,500 km or less  then your compensation is €250.  If you are traveling 1,500 – 3.500 km then you may receive €400 and if it is 3,500 km or more then you may receive €600.

ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION – the airlines have to provide meals (vouchers for meals), two telephone calls , fax or email messages for you.  We were given phone cards that could only be used in Belgium.  As I stood in line, I heard the agent calling an elderly couple’s son in the United States to let them know what was happening.  If the delay causes you to spend the night, they will provide a hotel and transportation between the airport and the hotel.

If your airline offers  you an alternative flight with a similar schedule, the compensation may be reduced by 50%.

You also have a choice with either the above compensation OR reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the proce at which it was purchased for the part of your trip not flown

You may not be entitled to the compensation if the delay or cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstance such as bad weather.  This does not include mechanical.

WHAT I DID – I sent a message to United asking for compensation under EU Rule 261.  After two weeks I heard nothing.  I then sent another message and within a week I received an email from United Customer Care apologizing for the delay.  I was given two alternative options instead of the €600.  The first option was a $1000 voucher for travel on United or United Express for one year.  At first glance, the idea of each of us receiving a $1000 voucher sounded great.  We had another river cruise planned for next year however…..we could only use the voucher on United and we could get to Paris but we would either have to pay cash or use points to get to Marseille where we were staying before our cruise.  This is what we were told:

Travel Certificate(s), including but not limited to (1) the validity
period of one year from the issue date with no extension, (2) there
will be no refunds, (3) the Travel Certificate(s) will not be reissued
if lost or stolen, (4) the certificate may be redeemed for credit up to
its face amount only towards the purchase of an electronic airline
ticket(s), where eligible, from United, and (5) if the face amount of
the certificate exceeds the cost of the ticket for which it is
surrendered, any residual amount will be applied to the same Pin for use
toward another ticket until either the original issued amount is
depleted or the expiration date has been reached, whichever comes first

Our second option was 30,000 miles deposited into our Mileage Plus account.  Valuing each point at 1.5 cents, then this would be valued at $450.00, less than the €600 we were entitled to.

Upon further thinking, we had been saving up the miles in our account and as nice as the 30,000 points would have been, I think having €1200 in our pocket would certainly make our trip next year even nicer.  By choosing to not accept any of the alternatives, we have the flexibility to use the cash as we want, we aren’t locked into only using United Airlines – this is the best decision for us.

What I do now is to fax to them the signed form indicating what I am electing to so and it will be processed in six weeks. I will not receive a check but instead will receive a prepaid VISA debit card.

As difficult as it was sitting in an airport for about eleven hours, getting home at 9:00 PM, leaving the airport at 11:00 PM it is nice receiving some compensation for it.  It’s even better that we were on a reward ticket!  I’m sure that most requests for compensation do not go as smoothly as ours did, but we are very satisfied.

If you are delayed, save all your paperwork as they will ask you for your flight number and ticket number.  I also wrote notes to myself to put in my letter when I asked for compensation. I do not know if that helped or not but I am hoping that when they read that we were not offered other flights, that they could understand why we were upset.  Also, you have to apply for the compensation – the airlines are not going to voluntary come to you.  They do have to have information on the agents counter but they don’t really tell you what it is.  Be proactive, ask questions, save everything and research and file when you get home.

Remember, if you have a delay, cancellation, in a different class ticket than what you were booked in, involuntary bumping – there are compensations for you but you must seek them out.  The main exclusion to these is extraordinary circumstances (click on link for examples) such as bad weather and a list of other reasonable reasons why there would be a delay.

If you have received a denial letter from your airline because they consider mechanical delays to be extraordinary circumstance, know that they are wrong.  Send a copy of your letter seeking reimbursement and their letter denying your claim to the National Enforcement Body of the country you were flying out of or on whose airline you were on.  Here is a link to the list of the various enforcement bodies.

Have you been delayed?  Have you applied for compensation?  If so, what was your experience?

 

UPDATE – I was successful and received my prepaid debit card for $677 for both myself and Blogger Hubby.In this instance, it was not as difficult as I had been led to believe.  Thank you United Airlines.