Category Archives: Uncategorized

Win a $50 Disney Gift Card

In A Cents is giving away a $50 Disney gift card.  For details, click on this link.  While you are there, look around his site.  There is some really good information on his blog.

AirBnB – a Housing Option when Traveling

airbnb (Photo credit: Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta)

Have any of you heard of AirBnB?  I bet you know what VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) is.  Well, this is something similar.  Whether it is renting an entire house for a vacation or a room in someone’s home for a few nights, you will find what you need on this site.   There are many reviewers that share their experiences.

They describe themselves as “a global community marketplace that connects travelers seeking authentic, high-quality accommodations with hosts who offer unique places to stay.  With Airbnb, guests can access truly amazing experiences – from stays in castles to holidays in treehouses, caves, or even private islands.”

You can find some unique and very different accommodations   There are properties in 192 countries.  This is a great alternative to a stay in a hotel particularly when you are with your family and want to give your  grandkids or your children room to spread out   Some properties will also have kitchen facilities which will make it convenient. If you don’t know where in the city to stay, let them help you with the neighborhood guide.

Head on over to AirBnB and see if it might meet your need when traveling.

Hotels and Points for Hawaii

Our to-do list for Hawaii

tickets booked to and from Hawaii  –  checked

inter-island flights – still need to do

car rental – researching

tips from friends and readers where to go and what to see  — checked

hotels booked on two island  — checked

Yes, we booked our hotels.   We had SPG points, Hilton points and 2 free nights at a Hyatt from our credit card.  We really want to use points to pay for our hotel stays.

I needed first to find out if there were any Hyatts on Kauai and the Big Island.  Turns out that there is one and it is on the island of Kauia – just as I had hoped.  I went on their website, clicked on the Gold Passport tab, put in my dates and waited for the great news that we would have a lovely room for two nights – for FREE!!!!  Except, that didn’t happen.  Apparently there were no rooms available for redemption.  My heart sank.  This was the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa.  Oh, I wanted to be bathed in luxury.  I needed to think more about this.  On the website site I decided to send a message explaining that this was my first time in Hawaii and I had some difficulty navigating their website and could they help me use my free night certificate for the nights I wanted..  I really didn’t help but I needed to say something to them.  I sent the email off and waited patiently for their reply.

Grand Hyatt Kauai
                       Grand Hyatt Kauai

Meanwhile, I needed to continue with our planning.  My next best option was to use the SPG points.  I found a nice Sheraton on Kauai that I made a reservation for 12,000 points per night.  I could always cancel this reservation if Hyatt came through. We booked it.

Then it was on to our stay on the Big Island of Hawaii.  They also had a Sheraton and although I didn’t have enough points for free nights, they do have the option of paying fewer points and combining it with cash.  That was a doable option.  I looked further and there is a Hilton although it is requiring 50,000 points per night and we are planning on staying three nights.  I have plenty of those points but I hate burning through that many points but it was an options.  In my mind, I play out the different scenarios.  IF the Hyatt free nights come through, then I can cancel the nights on Kauai with the SPG points and then use them on Hawaii and cancel the Hilton points.

hawaii hula

We checked our email and we had a reply from Hyatt asking us to call them.  We did and explained what we wanted.  No problem and we were booked.  I felt like doing a dance.  I know, it’s rather silly but I was so excited at staying at such a beautiful property and the fact that we could use our free certificate would be icing on the cake.

Now, we need to cancel the Sheraton hotel that we booked with points on Kauai and have the points redeposited so that we can cancel the Hilton property and use the SPG points on the Big Island.  Sure, it has taken me a little time to figure all this out but I knew what my options were and I had a Plan B.

As you could tell, Hilton properties require more points but for me they are very easy to obtain.  With my AmEx Hilton Honors card, I get 5 times points in grocery stores.  I can purchase Vanilla Reloads at a grocery store here.  Last week I bought $2000 worth of  VR’s with my Hilton card and earned 10,000 Hilton points!  SPG points can be used at several hotels, require fewer points but can be more difficult to get those points. I think since I am using about three quarters of my SPG points that I need to move this card up toward the front of my wallet and replenish and grow my SPG points for the future.

I have a lot of Club Carlson points but they didn’t have any properties in Hawaii.  They are now saved for our big trip in 2014 to South Africa..

What hotel points do you have and collect?  Are you happy with the redemption values? Are you thinking about becoming a loyalty member of a different brand and is so, why?

Radisson Hotel and Suites, Sydney, Australia

With all the Club Carlson points that I accumulated during their big promotion last year we decided to stay with them when we were in Australia.  Radisson has two hotels in Sydney.  One is the Radisson Hotel and Suites near Chinatown and the other is the Radisson Blu in the Central Business District.  They both were valued at 50,000 points per night.  I asked some friends from Sydney which they would choose and they thought the one near Chinatown would suit our needs the carlson

Being near Chinatown and away from the Central Business District opened up a variety of meal choices that the one in the central business district didn’t have.  We would also be within a block of one of the main streets (George Street) where we could get on city buses and we were also within walking distance (a few blocks) of the Harborside Park where there were parks, kiddie playgrounds, restaurants, aquarium, etc.

our bedroom
our bedroom

I emailed the hotel concierge a few months before our arrival to inquire the best way to get to the hotel and to request that a room be ready for us even though we were arriving around 9 AM.  She gave me several suggestions on how the various ways of getting to the hotel and then her recommendation.

Since we were Club Carlson loyalty members and had gold elite status due to our Club Carlson VISA card, we were given a very nice one bedroom suite with a full kitchen and balcony with two chairs and a table.  Elite status does pay off.  Additionally, the last night of our stay was FREE because we were Club Carlson members and we were booked our hotel room with points.  You only have to stay two night to get the last night free.  If I had been thinking clearer I would have booked the first two night and then have Blogger Hubby book the second two nights.  That way we would have gotten two night even free-er. )Yes, I know that is not a word!).  You need to think and strategize when using points and miles.

living room
living room

We found that the employees who worked the front desk were extremely helpful to us.  We would inquire as to where we could find a store that sold wine and wasn’t outrageously expensive as specialty wine stores can be; where we could eat a moderately priced dinner; where we could pick up a few groceries, etc.

If you are going to Sydney and would like to stay someplace that has lots to offer, I would suggest the Radisson Hotel and Suites on Liverpool Street.

FTU, Tampa; Chicago Seminar and Online Communities

I’ve mentioned how I quickly learned about the value of points and miles when we wanted to go to Australia/New Zealand earlier this year.  I took a crash course in points and miles so I could book our flight and get our tickets and then I tried to fill in the blanks in my education of points and miles.

What really helped me was attending the Chicago Seminar last October as well as Frequent Traveler University this past April.  I felt that I needed to go at least twice.  My brain was on overload in October though I came home with lots of information.  These seminars are fairly inexpensive and the groups get a discount with the hotel and lunches are included as well as a cocktail party. There is always time in the evenings to meet others and share experiences or to ask questions.

Seminars last all day and many times you have two choices of what classes to attend.  My son Chris attended with me this past April and he came away with quite a bit of knowledge and appreciation for the information that was being shared as well as the Grand Prize that was given in the raffle (they always have a raffle and the money goes to worthy organizations).

Frequent Traveler University will be holding another seminar – this time in Tampa, Florida on September 27-29.  Accommodations will be at the Grand Hyatt with a negotiated rate of  $119 per night (and you get your points too!).

Friday night begins with a welcome reception and the actual seminar starts ay 9:00 AM. The seminar cost $100 and includes lunch for both days.  If you are interested, go to this link: Frequent Traveler University

I am going back to Chicago in October for the Chicago Seminar which are being held October 11-13 at the Holiday Inn in Elk Grove Village.  There are shuttles from O’Hare to take you directly to the hotel.  Many of the speakers will be the same at both seminars.  For more information on the Chicago Seminar, click on this link: Chicago Seminar

I also urge you to read both Milepoint and Flyertalk.  Both of these are online communities of frequent flyer enthusiasts who will share information, answer your questions, sometimes get snarky with you and other will expect you to do your homework and not have everything served to you on a silver platter.

How to Get and Have a Great Experience at a Bargain Price

I’m always looking for a bargain as well as an experience when I travel.  When we traveled to Sydney recently, I signed up for Groupons for Sydney.  I would daily get an email listing of their daily deals.  I wan’t interested in meals, massages, etc but rather things to do.

I felt like I scored big when we bought tickets for a Tall Ship cruise out of Campbell Cove (in The Rocks area).  Our tickets cost $59 each and included a two hour tour of Sydney Harbour, live entertainment, open bar with hot appetizers and a salad dinner (seafood or pasta).  Before I purchased the tickets, I emailed them to see if there was space for us on the date I wanted.  Once that was confirmed then I pushed the Buy button.  We then added this event to our calendar!

We are so glad that we did this tour as it was one of our highlights in Sydney.  It was overcast so we brought our raincoats with us but as we found out later, we didn’t need to as they had plastic raincoats that they passed out for free.  Luckily it didn’t rain very hard nor for very long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe live entertainment was a guitarist who sang songs that we all knew and sang along with him as well as some Aussie songs – always “Waltzing Matilda” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”.

We could all join in as they hoisted OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAup the sails .  There was also a crow’s nest where you could climb up and get a beautiful view of the harbor.

Our tour was at 5:30 so we were able to see the sun as it began setting down over the horizon.  All in all, it was a great experience.


If you have time before your next trip, sign up for the Groupons for that city and see what great deals you can get.