Archive for the Travel Tips Category

Update, and money savings in Australia

Posted in Australia, Travel Tips with tags , , , on January 3, 2013 by getgowing

Greetings

from

Sydney!

(Though I’m sure with my posting frequency by now I have probably 5 people reading this)

Koala hug  :-)

Koala hug, though more like a cheap feel ūüėÄ

I’ve only been here a little more than a week, but so much has happened!!! An Aussie Christmas, a few more scuba certifications while swimming with massive rays, New Year’s Eve on the Sydney Harbor, and of course trying out Virgin Australia long-haul business class. ¬†And I haven’t even done my 2 night stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney which would usually go for about 850 USD per night. ¬†But I wouldn’t Get Gowing if I actually paid that much for it. ¬†Nor could I afford it anyway. ¬†I’ll be writing some of those posts while I’m here in Oz so you will get some good reading in.

In the meantime, here’s a tip I just stumbled upon in the Sydney CBD (Central Business District, all their cities have one, and it’s pretty self explanatory what it is). As an American traveling here, costs can eat you alive pretty quickly. A typical meal that would be about 6-8 USD, like a sandwich and a drink, will be around 10-15 AUD (Australian Dollar). One of the obvious ways to save money is to cook your own food, but sometimes that isn’t feasible. If you head into Chinatown, there are relatively cheap meals there, and also in shopping mall food courts. The Market City shopping center 5 minute walk away from Central Station has all Asian food in the food court, but most offer a selection of 3 entrees + rice or noodles for 7.90-8.90 AUD. OR in the heart of the CBD in the MLC Center underground where there are several eateries; most of them cater to businessmen and women and only serve lunch. ¬†So when I got there around 3:45-4pm, many of them were offering their leftovers from lunch for only 5 AUD! ¬†I picked up a combo box of rice with green and red curry chicken from a Thai place, and an awesome chicken avocado cheese mixed greens pesto panini for 10 AUD. ¬†Every dollar here and there adds up.

Advertisements

British Airways & SWISS first class for $700, & background on the cheap Myanmar first class fares

Posted in Deals, Travel Tips with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by getgowing

In the travel hacker world, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding one-way and round-trip tickets originating in RGN (Yangon, Myanmar).  For now a third time this year, there have been INCREDIBLE fares for travel from Myanmar to various Canadian destinations.  For example, I recently booked this one-way:

Yangon-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore in Malaysia Airlines business

Singapore-London Heathrow in British Airways First

London Heathrow-Zurich in British Airways business

Zurich-Montreal in SWISS First

Usually a one-way itinerary like this would cost in the range of $9,000-$12,000

I PAID $702

Now I cannot take any credit in discovering this “fare mistake.” ¬†I originally read about the first version of this from a post by Matt at upgrd.com (late April/early May 2012), and the most recent version originally from a post by View from the Wing (Sept 27, 2012). ¬†The current FlyerTalk discussion about the latest round can be found here. ¬†The crux behind this is somewhat of a mistake fare by the airlines, but primarily due to the Myanmar government fluctuating their currency by ENORMOUS magnitudes.

Compared to the USD, the Myanmar Kyat (MMK) changed from 6.41:1 to 822:1. ¬†That’s a factor of ~128x. ¬†If you took $1,000 to purchase MMK, you would have 822,000 MMK. ¬† After the valuation change, if you sold them at 6.41:1, you would then have ~$128,000! ¬†What a payday that would be!

The red bars (which I added) are the approximate time periods for the airfare mistake sales.

The MMK fluctuations occurred primarily around 3 periods:  early April, early August, and early September.  And about 2.5 weeks after the initial fluctuation is when the feed frenzy of airfares happens.  So if you took a $12,800 fare, it would only be about $100, of course overly simplified.

I bet that Burmese government is enjoying the extra tourism revenue caused by this, at the expense of the airlines. ¬†My guess is that this is not the last time we’ll see them play with their currency. ¬†Keep an eye out for the next dip, I’m sure another sub-$1,000 premium class fare will pop up shortly thereafter.

Currency fluctuations are key ways to Travel above your means and within your budget.  I have a friend that used to buy round-the-world tickets in business class and first class, and only pay about $5,000 for it.  After you include the miles you earn which you then redeem later, it was a steal.  And again, he would buy a round-the-world ticket from a country which has a high exchange rate to the USD.

Shortcut to Elite Status benefits, incl. waived checked baggage fees

Posted in Aegean Airlines, Airlines, Deals, Miles, Travel Tips with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by getgowing

For most people, the act of flying (airports, checked baggage fees, TSA screenings, and middle seats) can be a painful experience. ¬†When you fly enough with an airline to attain elite status, many of those painful experiences go away. ¬†Elite passengers don’t pay for bags, have expedited check-in and security lanes, access to more coveted seats (bulkhead, exit row, window & aisle seats towards the front of economy), and even get to board earlier so it almost guarantees them overhead space, at the very least.

Unfortunately, most of us leisure travelers don’t attain any status with an airline because we only fly a few times a year. ¬†Well I have recently stumbled across a solution to remedy this.

The three main airline alliances:¬†Star Alliance,¬†One World, and¬†Sky Team represent the majority of the airlines around the world. ¬†And within those alliances if you have elite status on a member airline, there are reciprocal benefits for all the other airlines in the alliance. ¬†When you become elite on a Star Alliance airline, you also become that airline’s elite member, as well as a Star Alliance Silver or Star Alliance Gold elite, depending on what level you achieved on that individual airline. ¬†In regards to United States based airlines, US Airways and United/Continental are members of the Star Alliance. ¬†Using United as an example, their entry level Premier gets Star Alliance Silver, while their Premier Executive and 1K elites get Star Alliance Gold.

United MileagePlus partial elite benefits chart

Usually, you would need to fly 25,000 miles in one calendar year to attain status on either of those airlines to achieve their entry level Elite status. ¬†And then you would need to fly another 25,000 miles in the next calendar year to re-qualify as an elite for the following year. ¬†Well, also in the Star Alliance is Aegean Airlines. ¬†Aegean holds the key to the elite status door that so many of us usually can’t open.

When you fly one airline in the Star Alliance, most of the time you can credit those miles to another member airline within the alliance. ¬†(Same goes for One World or the Sky Team Alliances) ¬†For example, if you took a flight on United, you could “bank” those miles to Aegean Airlines’ Miles&Bonus frequent flyer program instead of to United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program. ¬†The key to Star Alliance Silver or Gold is the mileage levels needed to attain status on Aegean Airlines.

ONLY 4,000 miles for entry level status!

Only 16,000 more miles for one full year (not calendar year) after you attain Miles&Bonus Blue status, for a total of 20,000 miles for TOP TIER alliance status!

As you can see, qualifying for Aegean Airlines’ elite status is astoundingly much easier than any other airline I’ve ever seen. ¬†And an Aegean Airlines’ Blue member is a Star Alliance Silver gets certain benefits when flying United, such as:

  • 1st checked bag free
  • Priority check-in area
  • Priority boarding
  • If you’re nice, you may even be able to get Priority Baggage Handling just by asking the agent when checking your bag (meaning your bags are supposed to be the first ones that come out at baggage claim)
  • Better customer service treatment when things go awry, like when weather affects things, or when a flight is oversold.

What being a Star Alliance Silver does not do is make you a United Airlines Premier member.  By looking at the chart above, Premier members would also get complimentary first-class upgrades when available.  By being an Aegean Airlines elite, you are only privy to the benefits granted to Star Alliance Silvers.  A slight difference.  Even the baggage fees alone make it a worthwhile deal.  If you took two domestic roundtrips and checked one bag, that would be $100 in baggage fees.  The waived baggage fees is a big benefit, though for me not waiting in line for anything is one of the biggest benefits of being an elite.  When I first became an elite, I was accustomed to showing up around 2 hours early for a flight, allowing 20-30 minutes for checking-in, and another 20-30 for security.  Now, its rare that I spend 20 minutes total doing all of the above.

If you flew one transcontinental round trip (NYC to Los Angeles), that is already 4950 miles. ¬†For the price of one roundtrip, you could already be an elite. ¬†HOWEVER, there is a catch. ¬†(Of course it couldn’t be just that easy) ¬†Not all tickets earn the same amount of miles. ¬†The deepest discounted tickets that leisure flyers purchase (on United/Continental or US Air) may only earn 50% mileage instead of 100% mileage, so it would take about two NYC-LAX roundtrips to qualify. ¬†So if you wanted a ticket that earns 100% mileage on the same flight, you would have to spend a little more. ¬†If you know you will be taking this flight again in the next year, and the ticket only costs $40 more, you would still be saving $10 in baggage fees next year. ($25 fee each way, $50 total for a roundtrip)

Here is the chart describing what each fare earns on Star Alliance partner airlines when banking the miles to Aegean.

To determine how many miles your ticket will earn, check either the fare basis code, the fare class, or the booking class of the ticket. ¬†It is a single letter, sometimes in parenthesis…or if it is a fare basis code of several letters and numbers, it is the first letter in that code. ¬†Go to the chart from the above link, find the corresponding airline that ticketed your itinerary, and see where that fare class is.

Sign up for a new Aegean Airlines Miles&Bonus account here, and if you want to try this method for elite status, assign your Miles&Bonus number to your next flight instead of banking it to the operating airlines’ program. ¬†New signups to Miles&Bonus also get a 1000 mile bonus for enrollment (not used for elite qualifying purposes, only for redeeming for awards).

If you have multiple accounts over various airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc., read my previous post regarding Award Wallet. ¬†It will simply your life….never have to remember another password again….and show you your mileage/point balances as well as expiration dates….All in One Place!

This can be a complicated topic for the uninitiated.  Feel free to ask me any questions via
email
, Facebook, or the comments below.

Resurrection!…. and managing accounts.

Posted in Award Wallet, Travel Tips, Websites with tags on August 26, 2011 by getgowing

Hello everybody! ¬†I’m back from the dead. ¬†Throughout my hiatus, I was meaning to update this blog, but enjoying my destination kinda got in the way. ¬†Sorry. ¬†I’ll be writing my reports from my first round the world trip back in April and this trip too. ¬†Stay tuned.

After signing up for a few credit cards and doing various promotions, I have too many accounts with various airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and other miscellaneous reward programs to keep track of. ¬†Luckily I came across Award Wallet. ¬†Not only does it store your account numbers and passwords (can have the website securely store it, or store your passwords natively on your computer), but also shows your balances, as well as expiration dates. ¬†Its free to sign up, and nowadays, I’m not sure what I did before without it. ¬†Currently it helps me remember information for over 15 reward programs (airlines, hotels, car rentals, survey sites, casino points, credit card rewards). ¬†Even if you don’t have that many accounts, even if you only have 2 or 3, its still a valuable tool to keep track of all your expiration dates in one place.

One of the great features of the website is that you can use it to manage multiple users. ¬†Lets say I manage my entire family’s accounts of frequent flier miles. ¬†I could use the site to store all their account numbers & passwords/pins and I can label them “Mom” or anything I choose.

Sign up for a regular account is free. ¬†I was skeptical at first, too. ¬†But then all the major players of this travel hacking game use this site too. ¬†Can’t be that bad or unsafe then. ¬†(Here are the FAQs if you are still a little wary.) ¬†Until they last, I have a few free coupon codes to upgrade to an Award Wallet Plus account. ¬†As long as you are a new user, you too can have a free Plus account. ¬†From the FAQs, here are the benefits of upgrading:

Regular vs. Plus account

I have a referral link for anybody interested in joining. ¬†(Get Gowing Award Wallet referral signup link)¬† If you are interested in the code for a free upgrade to Award Wallet Plus, leave a comment here or on the Get Gowing Facebook Page and I’ll send you one.

Calling Delta Customer Service

Posted in Delta, Miles, Travel Tips, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 24, 2011 by getgowing

Sorry I haven’t been updating any trip reports (since I now have two Asia trips pending). ¬†I am here in Japan to rehearse with the Tenrikyo Aimachi Marching Band. ¬†We are performing in exhibition at the Basel Tattoo in Basel, Switzerland, in mid-July. ¬†I’ve been busy catching up learning my positions and music. ¬†But once those are learned, be assured I’ll be putting up all my pending posts!

Part of my itinerary coming to Japan was FRA-SVO-NRT (Frankfurt-Moscow-Tokyo Narita) on Aeroflot, a SkyTeam partner with Delta. ¬†Now when I purchased the tickets, I made sure to purchase a high enough fare class so that I would earn 100% MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles – miles solely for gaining status with the airline) instead of 75% or 25% with cheaper fares. ¬†Well apparently in the past week or so, Delta changed the earnings so that my fare classes would only earn 75% instead of the full 100%. ¬†I wrote an email (through their comments/complaints section on their website) stating my disapproval of this, and their response was that I was given 100% MQMs, though the amount definitely wasn’t 100%. ¬†SVO-NRT is about 4675 miles, and I was only given 3,600 miles. ¬†Clearly not 100%. ¬†After two phone calls to Delta, and one email complaint about this, I was given full credit of these miles.

Anyway, the point I was going to make is that if you are calling Delta, or perhaps any other phone customer service that is 24 hours, you may have better luck with agents that are more cooperative and helpful late at night, rather than during normal calling hours. ¬†Many seem to not worry as much about their call handling time and are just helpful. ¬†However, I think these are the times where there are also a handful of agents that are still new to the job, so they don’t encounter as much volume in their training process. ¬†But at least late at night, your wait times will be considerably less. ¬†Your mileage may vary.

Tips for traveling with kids

Posted in Travel Tips with tags , , , , on June 5, 2011 by getgowing

I do not have any kids, so I cannot really give much advice. ¬†But here’s a great column I read every now and then, and she recently compiled an A-to-Z Guide to Traveling with Kids.

Stacking deals to increase your miles / cash-back bonus

Posted in American Express, Big Crumbs, Credit Cards, Deals, Evrewards, Miles, Promotion, Travel Tips, Websites with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by getgowing

In 13 days, I will be arriving in Tokyo for my trip to Japan. ¬†And after Japan, I’ll be heading to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands. ¬†Since there will be a decent amount of non-flying travel involved here, I want to use this trip to try out backpacking through these areas instead of lugging a suitcase around everywhere. ¬†Last time I went to Japan, I was lugging two suitcases through the Tokyo subway during rush hour. ¬†First and LAST time I ever do that again. ¬†So I did my comparing, shopping, test-fitting, and was ready to purchase, what I think, is the perfect backpack for me.

Whenever I buy anything online, I’m not trying to just find the best price….I’m also looking to maximize my mileage earning potential (or cash-back bonus potential) while paying the best price I can find.

I first use Google, Yahoo, or Amazon to find what site has the best price. ¬†In this case, Campmor.com was the cheapest, by about $39. ¬†Next I take note of the other sites that were more expensive. ¬†Many businesses will match, or even beat, a price a competitor offers for the same item. ¬†Even if a business doesn’t advertise price matching, many times if you call them, they will do it for you anyway for the possibility of repeat business from you.

Now I have a pool of a few sites where I can buy my item for around the same cheaper price. ¬†I next check to see if my credit cards have them as a vendor in their online shopping malls (like: ShopDiscover or Membership Rewards Shopping) where I can get extra points/cashback/miles just for shopping through their online mall. ¬†Also I will check if any hotel or airline programs offer deals like 4 points/$ or 3 miles/$ for spending through their link of a site. ¬†A GREAT site to compare all of these at once is evreward.com! ¬†It’s still in beta, but it compares all these deals so you can see how much bonus you can earn on your purchase, and handpick what you want to use.

Evreward.com search for eBags

Lets say in this exercise, you are trying to maximize your mileage earning (instead of cash back).  Recapping:

  • Negotiated a cheaper price through price matching
  • Earning miles by making a standard purchase on your mileage earning credit card
  • Earn BONUS miles by making the same purchase through the airline’s website

So instead of buying in a brick-and-mortar store, you buy online, hopefully save yourself from paying sales tax, probably get free shipping, and earn a handful more miles doing so.

.

.

.

.

BUT WAIT, there’s more!

If you know in advance you will be making a big purchase, or if you don’t but are a habitual shopper, you should go through another site to reap some cashback rewards from a certain site, as well as all the bonuses from above. ¬†That sentence was a little vague, sorry. ¬†Big Crumbs (link is one paragraph later), offers cash back on purchases made through vendors on its site, even on purchases on eBay, and signup is FREE! ¬†But where you can get a triple dip from this site is that they offer cash back on gift cards! ¬†SO….

  • Using your mileage earning credit card, buy an American Express gift card from Big Crumbs(1.6% cashback)
  • Negotiate that price match to a cheaper price
  • Shop through your airline’s online shopping mall to earn bonus miles
  • Use the gift card to purchase the item
If you like what you have been reading on this blog, or even if you don’t, please help me out and use my referral link to sign up for Big Crumbs. ¬†Just use my link or click on the banner below. ¬†Besides gift cards, they have some crazy awesome rates for other vendors, like 36% return on fees from eBay, or other stores/services that give upwards of 40% back! ¬†And as your cash back builds up, payouts occur monthly. ¬†(Original post continues beyond the banner)

Lets make some assumptions to give you real world numbers.  Be forewarned Рmath intensive from here to the end.
You are buying a $1,100 TV. ¬†You are able to price match it on a competitor’s website for $1,000. ¬†Your mileage earning card earns 1 mile/dollar. ¬†Your airline’s online shopping portal gives 5 miles/dollar for shopping through them.

Scenario 1 (buying with no regard to what I have talked about here):

  • Investment: ¬†Spend $1,100
  • Return: ¬†Gain 1,100 miles for using your mileage earning credit card
Scenario 2 (using these techniques to maximize return):
  • Investment: ¬†Spend $1,000 + an hour of time for research
  • Return: ¬†Gain 1,000 miles for buying a gift card on Big Crumbs. ¬†Gain $16 (1.6% cashback) on ¬†your $1000 gift card from Big Crumbs. ¬†Gain 5,000 miles for buying through your airline’s online shopping mall. ¬†In total = (1,000mi + 5,000mi) + $16 cashback = 6,000mi + $16 !!!
Scenario 1 vs. Scenario 2:
Scenario 1 you gain one hour of work. ¬†Scenario 2 you lose one hour of work. ¬†But you gain $116 and 4,900 extra miles. ¬†Is an hour worth $116 and 4,900 miles to you? ¬†I’d take a job that pays ~$116/hour in a heartbeat.

However, this is not what I did when I bought my backpack. ¬†I chose a slightly different route. ¬†Because of the recent British Airways Chase Visa credit card signup bonus I wrote about, I now have 100,000 miles with British Airways. ¬†And I also have a plethora of miles with Delta. ¬†Now, one of my new adventures that I want to take is a true long-haul First Class experience. ¬†Delta doesn’t have any real first class in their fleet, and therefore doesn’t allow any first class redemptions on any partner airlines either. ¬†That is not the case with my British Airways miles, however. ¬†I plan on flying First Class on Cathay Pacific to Asia, which will cost me 150,000 British Airways miles. ¬†That is in addition to the backpacking trip through South America that I want to take in Business Class on LAN Airlines which will cost 80,000 British Airways miles. ¬†So I need to get to 230,000 miles on British Airways somehow. ¬†(Let’s not forget the extra 50,000 Membership Reward Points I was given just for making a phone call!) ¬†My options are:

  1. Spend on my British Airways Chase Visa credit card which earns 1.25mi/dollar
  2. Spend on my American Express Platinum card which earns 1 Membership Reward point/dollar
I can transfer my AmEx points to British Airways, 1 point = 1 dollar. ¬†This would be a no brainer, since with my Amex I’m essentially only getting 1 mi/dollar vs. BA Chase getting 1.25 mi/dollar. ¬†BUT American Express is running a promotion, now through July 31, 2011, where you will get a 50% bonus on any transfers to British Airways. ¬†Now the AmEx gets 1.5 mi/dollar if I transfer before July 31. ¬†So I’m going to be using my AmEx to buy my backpack.

The backpack costs $279 full retail. ¬†And I found that most stores are charging that much. ¬†I did find one store Campmor.com, that sells it for $239.98. ¬†Sweet. ¬†Now I have a significant price difference to get it matched to. ¬†After contacting several stores, the best price I could work out is either from Eastern Mountain Sports, or eBags. ¬†Both offer free shipping. ¬†EMS has physical stores in my state and all the nearby surrounding states, so I’d have to pay sales tax on my bag. ¬†eBags is online only, so free shipping and no sales tax. ¬†I was able to negotiate EMS’s price match lower, so that after sales tax, I would be paying the same, about $239. ¬†I went with eBags because you get a 5% rebate on all purchases which you can redeem on a later purchase with them. ¬†Not sure if I will ever use them again, but at least its something more than EMS offers.

At this point, I have all I need to come out ahead of the curve with this purchase. ¬†BUT, if I shop through American Express’s Membership Rewards shopping mall (but also requires the use of my card attached to my account, not a gift card) I can earn 4x bonus Membership Reward points!

So I could earn 4 MR points/dollar, with a transfer bonus of 1.5 mi/point, comes to a whopping 6 MILES / DOLLAR! ¬†I already feel like a million bucks. ¬†BUT…..I actually will get even more points than that.

The price match guarantee policy for eBags is that you buy your item first, then if you find the same exact item in stock from another site within 10 days of purchase, they will reimburse your credit card the difference. ¬†So I will still get the 6 mi/dollar for the original purchase, then get back $39.02 for the price difference. ¬†Here’s the math:
Investment = $279.00-$39.02 = $239.98
Return = ($279.00 x 4 MR shopping mall bonus) x 1.5 AmEx/British Airways transfer promo = 1,674 British Airways Miles
Overall miles per dollar = (1,674 / $239.98) = 6.975 Miles / Dollar

I think I did pretty well compared to just using the British Airways Chase card at only 1.25 Miles / Dollar.  Now in actuality, American Express will probably take away 39 Membership Reward Points ($39.02 rounded down) because it thinks that the $39.02 reimbursement is a return.  In that case, I will only earn:

($279 x 4) – 39 = 1,077 points
(1,077 x 1.5) = 1,615.5 miles = ~1,616 miles
which would bring my overall to 6.73 miles / dollar.  Still a good deal.
%d bloggers like this: