Category Archives: Education and Conferences

Chicago Seminars 2016 – a Must if you are New to this Game of Point/Mile Collecting

I cannot say enough GREAT things about this seminar – which I have absolutely no affiliation with other than being a very happy attendee.  This will be my 5th year in attending and each year I come away with more confidence to broaden what I do.  The seminar was begun by Rick Ingersol of Frugal Travel Guy and taken over by Howie Rappaport.  If you have a chance, go on over to Howie’s blog.

First of all, this seminar is, in my opinion, very, very affordable.  The entire weekend of seminars beginning Friday late afternoon to late afternoon on Sunday and including your lunch on both Saturday and Sunday is $105.00.  The event is at the Elk Grove Holiday Inn, a short shuttle stop from O’Hare Airport.  If at all possible, try to stay at the host hotel but if not, book a room at one of the overflow hotels where shuttles will run you back and forth to the event.  If you are in an overflow hotel, keep checking back at the host hotel because there are ALWAYS last minute cancellations, even the day the seminar begins.  I would go to the host hotel first and see if there were any openings before checking into the host hotel.

Most times there are two concurrent seminar topics running in adjacent rooms.  Tough decision which to choice or better yet bring a friend, spouse or find a friend and offer to share notes..  Bring a sweater too – some rooms are very cold, others just right or hot.  You just never know.

Bring your laptop (I do), a notebook for jotting down information, your iPhone to take pictures of the screens to help you remember.  The main thing that you should bring with you is a willingness to meet people, include others in your conversations, share and to ask questions.  So much of what I have learned has been in the lobby between classes, or over a beer in the connected restaurant or over a meal with a newfound friend.

You may ask why am I attending for a 5th time.  Well, as most of you know, I am a YOUNG senior and although I have plenty of free time (ahh, retirement is grand) I do sometimes take a little longer to “get it”.  My first time attending I felt overwhelmed and that everyone was speaking a language that I didn’t get and I felt too embarrassed to ask any questions.  I hid out in my room some of the time though I did have a great excuse of my broken foot in a cast and needed to elevate it.  The second time I had taken a couple of trips, knew the words but still a little unsure of the strategies.  I spoke more, sat with strangers and involved myself in the conversations.  I knew what to expect the second time and even spent an extra night (Sunday) so I wouldn’t miss Sunday afternoon and wasn’t as rushed.  The third time was really the charm for me.  I met a great group from Boston and a really nice woman from Texas.  She and I have stayed in contact passing on deals to each other.  We joined a large group for dinner and had so much fun.  Last year, I felt like one of the more veteran attendees and it was answering questions from newbies, encouraged those who stayed outside of circles to join us.

No matter what your level or expertise in this hobby is, I know that you will take home a new trick as well as new friend.

Here is the link to the registration form   Please consider attending, you will not regret it, I promise







A Gift for Travel Photographers – or for yourself!

I don’t know if you are anything like me but sometimes I don’t like  gift giving.  I guess I should qualify that statement and say that  I really do love giving gifts.  I love seeing the joy when a gift is a hit, the excitement of something random that is just what they want.  This is what gift giving should be like but most times it’s not – it tends to be a nice gift.  Most times  I stress too much about what to buy, is it something they want, does it fit their style, does it fit, etc, etc, etc.  This year I found the PERFECT gift for our son.  Here is the story about the gift – now stay with me because you may like this gift as well.

Blogger Son #1 has a great eye for photography.   He is our family photographer photographing the babies that have come into our family, engagement photos, candid wedding photos, and all family gatherings. He has been in art shows with his photographs, he is a published photographer for two cookbooks and wrote a travel blog about his travels around the world told in part through his photographs.

When you think of travel photographs what do you think of?  For me I think of all the beautiful photographs that the National Geographic photographers have taken to grace their articles and magazines.  Many people have commented to Blogger Son #1 and to me that he should submit some of the photos to Nat Geo but he hasn’t yet.



I read on the National Geographic website  that they have seminars for amateur photographers.  They have half day, full day and a weekend long seminar this year.  They offered different themes in different locations around the country.  Some of the themes that they offered are Creative Travel Photography, Adventure Travel Photography, Nature and Landscape, People and Cultures, Photographic Eye, Storytelling Photography, and stories from actual National Geographic Photographers telling the stories of how they were able to capture some of those images which we are all familiar with that have been on the covers and pages of National Geographic.

Knowing this and seeing where the locations were made my Christmas giving easier for me and a great gift for our son – there was even one in the city that he lives in!    We typed up a certificate offering him either two half day seminars or one full day seminar.  If he decided to travel to go to these seminars, then he would be responsible for the travel.

Each seminar has a different photography focus and I wanted  him to find the one that best suited his needs.  He chose “Creative Travel Photography”.

If you want to give a gift of photography or if you would like to improve your photographic skills or take them to a different level, please go to this link for  National Geographic  and find the seminar that holds your interest.

Here are a few of the pictures that he has taken during someof his travels.  I hope you enjoy them and if you want to look at more or perhaps purchase some, please go to this website.












Chicago Seminar – American Airline miles and Cadillac

WOW — what a weekend I had.  I learned so much from the speakers and I was able to fine tuned other ideas that I never implemented because I wasn’t sure what was being taught to me.  Most importantly, I was really able to connect with others attending the conference and share ideas on travel, manufactured spend and booking travel.

I won’t go into everything at this time, you’ll find bits and pieces of what I learned coming out this next month but I will tell you a real deal that is going on now.

Do any of you collect American Airlines points?  If so, I have an amazing deal for you and it takes almost no time at all.  If you test drive a Cadillac, you’ll receive 7,500 points.  If you and your spouse both test drive, you’ll receive 15,000 as a couple.  This is an amazing offer.  You can either make an appointment to test drive the car at 844-469-2234 where you will speak to a concierge who will set up your appointment.  Be prepared for about a 30 minute wait time.  You might be able to set up the appointment with your local Cadillac dealer.  This is no end to this deal but it does say quantities limited.  Make sure you have an AAdvantage Loyalty number and to be safe, bring that number with you.  Some have reported telling the dealer when they arrive for the test drive that they are there for only the points and some dealers will give them the certificate and not make them do the test drive. For all the details about the offer, please click this link.   If do you this, pleases report back to me and I’ll list everyone’s experience.


The Chicago Seminar

Chicago Chicago the toddlin’ town.  That’s right…I’m here in Chicago to attend the Chicago Seminar put on by Howie from The Frugal Traveler and supported by many of the big time bloggers whose blogs many of you read.  This is my third time attending this conference.

It’s true, generally they have the same speakers who go over some of the same topics and yet I always come away with a few morsels of knowledge that I didn’t know before.  Whether it is that something finally “clicked” or it indeed is new it doesn’t matter.

The “classes” begin on Friday night.  We go to more classes on Saturday with a cocktail reception in the evening and then again continue on Sunday till about 4 PM.  There are two education rooms side by side so you do have a choice of which topics you want to attend and this is done at registration time earlier in the year.

What I also like about these conferences is the interaction with other participants who love to share and help in between sessions, over a meal or drink.

It is always held at the Holiday Inn at Elk Grove Village, close to O’Hare Airport.  We get a great group rate which includes two breakfast for those staying at the hotel, and two lunch at the hotel for all conference attendees.  We also get our points which if why I always do the IHG promotion in the fall knowing that I’ll have a few nights at this Holiday Inn.  I believe the conference was about $100 for the entire weekend.  The hotel price was probably very similar in price.

To cut down on the expense of flying into Chicago, this year I tried something different.  I flew Southwest into Midway since they had a great sale fare of $99 however, the conference is near O”Hare.  I was able to take the train (did a transfer at Clark/Lake) at a cost of three dollars.  It was very easy as the train stop was at Midway.  However, it took about 90 minutes to get to O’Hare.  Unfortunately I am flying out of Midway on Monday morning so I’ll have to do this in reverse including getting a shuttle from the hotel to O’Hare.  I’ll probably leave very early from the hotel as my flight is about 10:30 AM. When I arrived at Midway I noticed that the TSA and security line was extremely long.  I did not see any TSA pre-check but that is not saying it wasn’t there – I just didn’t see it.  Will I do it again – perhaps in flying to Chicago and to the conference since I have extra time in the beginning (I got here a day early because of the sale) but I will not do it flying home.

Look forward to some great reports from the conference in the next week or so.