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Monthly Archives: July 2011
Awhile back I talked about the promotion that Amex Membership rewards was running on transfers to British Airways. The promotion ends on 7/31 and gives you a 50% bonus points on transfers. I got in on the 50k Amex Gold deal in June so I had some Membership Reward points. I don’t plan on keeping the Amex card after the year is up because I don’t want to pay the annual fee.
There were 2 offers out there for Membership Rewards right now – one for British Airways and one for Delta. You could get a 40% bonus with Delta if you transfer at least 50,000 miles. I don’t like Delta miles. They are hard to redeem for lower cost rewards.
I really like British Airways miles. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I will not use British Airways miles for travel to Europe because of the fees that British Airways charges on those flights. I like British Airways miles for travel on their partner airlines which includes American Airlines. British Airways also allows unlimited stopovers.
So if you have some Membership Rewards sitting around, you might want to consider transfering them over to British Airways by this Sunday.
I loved both the Junior Ranger Program and the Young Scientist Program! They both helped our kids get really engaged in the parks. And I learned a lot too from the programs. Here’s how the programs work:
Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program is a program that many of the National Parks offer. The activities you do are different for each park so that you learn about the park. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton required that the kids go to a Ranger Talk and do some activities like word searches or answering questions about the animals in the park. The activities you have to do change based on how old you are. Aftering completing the activities for your age group, you return your newspaper to a ranger at any Visitor Center. They review your work and swear you in as a Junior Ranger. At Grand Teton National Park, you have a choice of a patch or a badge pin. At Yellowstone, they only had the patches (which I preferred, but my sons preferred the pins).
Grand Teton National Park asked for a $1 donation to participate in the program. Yellowstone was free of charge (I think because this year is its 20th anniversary, the program paper actually had $3 at the top of the paper). Here’s a link to the Grand Teton program newspaper. Here’s a link to the Yellowstone Junior Ranger page. There are links on the page to the newspapers. There is one for 5-7 year olds and one for 8-12 year olds. Anyone can participate in the Grand Teton Junior Ranger program, even adults. One of the shopkeepers in the park told us about that and said his wife did it.
The Grand Teton National Park has another route to earning your Junior Ranger badge for 8 – 12 year olds. They hold Junior Ranger program event at the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center. It’s an hour and a half program. You can make a reservation for your child at any of the Visitor Centers. The day of the program you drop your child off at the flag pole outside of the Visitor Center. At the end of the program, you meet your child back at the flag pole where they perform the swearing in ceremony and receive their badge.
Showing the Ranger their work in Yellowstone
Swearing in Ceremony after the Grand Teton Junior Ranger Program
Swearing in at the Grand Teton Visitor Center After Completing the Activities
Young Scientist Program
This program was really neat. The program consists of an activity book that kids 5 and up complete to earn a Young Scientist patch or keychain. The activities revolve around the geyers and thermal features and the amount of activites you need to complete is dependent on your age. The basic premise is the kids need to hypothesize if geyers are alive. They then complete activities to test their hypothesis. This booklet does take awhile to complete, so be prepared to spend at least 3 hours.
The program is only offered at the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone and costs $5. As part of the program, you can check out a Young Scientist backpack to use free of charge. Included in the backpack is a wheel that shows you how hot a thermal feature is based on the color, colored pencils, rock samples, and a laser thermometer. The laser thermometer was so cool! You pointed it at the various thermal features and it would tell you how hot they were. The highest reading we got was 185 degrees!
There are so many great activities to do in Wyoming. We stayed in Teton Village outside of Jackson. I’ll talk more about where we stayed in another post, but today I want to talk about Jackson Hole Paragliding. I believe I mentioned before that one of my brothers works for a hang gliding company in New Zealand where they take people up on tandem flights. The hang gliding/flying community is a tight knit community. My brother was back in the States earlier this summer to visit with friends and family. When he was Stateside, he mentioned he was going to stop in Jackson Hole on his way home (about a month before our trip). I asked him why he was stopping there and he told me that some of his mates (love that he picked up that term from living in New Zealand) are working there this summer. I told him that we might be interested in “jumping off a mountain” while we were there, so he put us in touch with one of his friends, Cade Palmer who works for Jackson Hole Paragliding. My husband booked a paragliding trip with Cade.
We talked via email with Cade before we went on the trip. He suggested that we book a time early in our vacation because you are dependent on the weather for a jump. I’ve heard my brother complain a lot about how he couldn’t fly one day because the wind wasn’t good. So we booked an 8 AM jump for Monday. We were lucky and weather was good for flying that day.
Jackson Hole Paragliding jumps off the mountain at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (located in Teton Village). Since we were staying in Teton Village, it was a nice easy stroll over to the check-in location in the morning. The mountain was a little windy that day, but luckily my husband was able to jump from the top (only happens about 10% of the time, other times they just jump for a location a little lower). From what he told me, it was amazing. The people taking you up paragliding will ask you if you’re okay with doing tricks before they do any. My husband was up for anything. So he got to do some “pond-skimming” where they swooped down near a pond. They also skimmed near some trees. And they as they came out from the mountain, Cade asked him if he wanted to do some tricks. My husband said he was. Cade let him know that if at any point he felt uncomfortable, just let him know, and he’d stop the tricks. I got to see the tricks from the ground and it was incredible! They first did a corkscrew followed by a flip! Then they circled around us and came in for a landing. Check out some of the pictures from his flight below.
Jackson Hole Paragliding also take pictures and videos during the trip that you can purchase after. They are pretty cool (I’m kicking myself that I don’t have them to attach to this post right now). The pictures are taken from a camera that’s attached by an arm, so you get pictures and videos of yourself up in the air. They also take a picture as you’re landing from the ground.
As a side note, if you ever go on an adventure sport, please tip the person who takes you up. They see very little of what you pay to take the flight. My brother told me that $20 is a nice tip and very much appreciated.
Starwood Hotels has upped their bonus on their American Express card. The offer is now 10,000 points after first purchase and 20,000 points after you spend $4,500 in 90 days on the card. The points you earn from this card are the most flexible of all points that I know of. You can redeem for nights at Starwood Hotels (Sheraton, Westin, W, etc) or you can transfer them to a number of airline frequent flyer programs. When you transfer 20,000 to an airline, they kick in a bonus 5,000 points in the transfer. Here’s the link to the offer.
This card is the only card that I have that I am actually willing to pay the annual fee on because the points are that valuable.
One more note about yesterday’s bumping post – I mentioned that the agents weren’t asking for volunteers when I got there. I didn’t mention that they never asked for volunteers at all. I found that very strange because as the agent was processing our bump, she was telling the other agent that they were oversold by 9 people. And some of the people they were trying to get on were pilots and flight attendants who needed to get to Miami for their next assignment (they were not the pilot and flight attendants for that flight). And I heard the pilots and flight attendants saying that if they couldn’t get them on this flight, they would have to cancel the flight they were working on in Miami. The moral of the story is if you want to get bumped, ask the agent as soon as you get to the gate if they are looking for volunteers. They create a list of people who are willing to be bumped and use that list of they need people. Groups of 2 or singles are usually the first to get the bump because a lot of the time they don’t need many volunteers and they don’t want the hassle of breaking up groups.
We are back from Wyoming and it was a great trip! I’ll post more about the vacation in the coming days. Today though I will start with the end of the trip. We flew on American Airlines. I booked the trip late using miles, so we had 2 connections – one in Dallas and one in Miami. We only had a 45 minute connection in Dallas and a 5 hour layover in Miami. We landed a little early, so we actually had about an hour. On our way over to the gate, I noticed that a LAN (an American partner airline) flight to Miami later in the day was canceled. I figured that meant that some of those passengers would try to get on our flight and that our flight would be oversold. And I was right. When I got to the gate, the standby list was at 7 people. The gate agents weren’t asking for volunteers to be bumped, but I figured I’d give it a try. I went up to the agent and asked if they were looking for volunteers to be bumped. She said they were and they were offering $500 in travel vouchers per ticket and would guarantee a seat on a flight to Miami that would leave us with a 2 hour layover in Miami. I told her we were interested and we didn’t have to go through Miami because we were connecting there as well. She found us different route through Chicago that got us in 2 hours earlier than we were originally going to get in. So in all, we got in 2 hours earlier and got a total of $2,000 in travel vouchers! All because we asked. If you have flexible travel plans, always ask. These days airlines are booking their flights so full that you might just score some vouchers.
U.S. Mint Presidential Coins
The U.S. Mint is no longer accepting credit cards as a form of payment for the Presidential coins. I figured this was going to happen when the story went mainstream. I heard stories about it on NPR and an article about it on Yahoo News.