Category Archives: General

Priceline Discount

I’m keeping it short and sweet today.  I have a Priceline discount.  The email says it expires on June 17, 2011.  But the web site says it expires on December 31, 2011.  So I’m not sure which one it is.  It is for Name Your Own Price hotel stays (3, 3.5, or 4 star) $10 off/night up to $50.  (They add $10/night to your bid.  If you are bidding for more than 5 days, they prorate the dollar amount down so it’s for $50 total.)  I won’t be using the discount.  The first person to email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com telling me that they want it, gets it.

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Presidential Coins

I’m guessing that this next method that some people use to accumulate a lot of frequent flyer points might sound crazy to some of you.  I want to cover all ways that people accumulate points, even ones that some people may not choose to do.  Even if it sounds crazy at first, you may choose to do this option for cards that have high spending requirements to get the sign-up bonus.  And this is a method that some of the hard-core gamers use to rack up big frequent flyer balances.  So here we go.

The U.S. Mint sells boxes of rolls of $1 coins (Presidential and Native American) at face value and they do not charge for shipping if you order over $500 in coins.  The point of the program is to get $1 coins into circulation as the life of a coin is much greater than the life of a dollar bill.

This program has allowed people to accumulate a lot of frequent flyer points.  I will explain how they do this.  However, I want to point out that it may not be in accordance with the intent of the program.

The Mint allows you to buy 4 boxes ($1,000) every 10 days.  They buy the boxes using a frequent flyer credit card.  This allows them to get frequent flyer points based on the spend.  The coins are then shipped to them.  Some people use the coins for purchases.  Others take the coins and deposit them in their bank account.  They then use that bank account to pay off their credit card they used to purchase the coins, making it a $0 sum transaction.

A few notes:

  • Be prepared for some funny looks from bank tellers if you bring the coins to the bank
  • Some banks may not accept the coins, so check with your bank ahead of time
  • US Bank will not give you points for these transactions
  • Chase has closed accounts of some account holders who abused the program – use it responsibly
  • Amex has issued financial reviews of some card holders

To order coins, follow this link to the U.S. Mint site.

For more detailed information about this, check out this Flyertalk thread.

If you decide to do this, use it responsibly.  Do not abuse the program.  Do not get greedy.

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Reflections

I wanted to share an extra post today given the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces last night.  This has brought up a lot of emotion for me.

For those of you who don’t know, I was working out of town on a project in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.  That is a day that I will never forget.

I had a standing meeting at 9 AM with out client.  On my way to the meeting, one of my coworkers told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  Thinking that it was touring plane, I said, “How can a plane miss the World Trade Center?  It’s huge.”  When I got to the conference room, the TV was on, and I saw the footage of the first plane hitting the tower.  We knew this was no accident.  However, there was work to be done and the client manager asked that we turn off the TV because we had work to do.

Near the end of the meeting, one of the clients came into the room and told us that the Pentagon was hit and that we were evacuating the building.  We all walked over to an office that overlooked the Pentagon and we could see the smoke bellowing up from the crash site.  It was surreal.  I was ready to just walk out of the building right then.  One of my coworkers was with me and reminded me that some of the other people from our company may not know that the building was being evacuated and we should probably let them know.

So we went back to our desks and told the other consultants that the Pentagon was hit and we were evacuating the building.  The news of the evacuation obviously hadn’t made it around to everyone because a different client manager came up to us and said, “Who’s in charge of you people?  We are not evacuating the building.”  Our most senior person on site that day said, “I don’t know what you’re doing with your people, but if mine want to leave, they can.”  I can’t tell you how much it meant to us that he stuck up for us, since some of my coworkers had friends and family working at the Pentagon.

We were now getting reports that the Vice President’s office was bombed.  Our phone lines weren’t working and I wanted to get a message to my husband before I left.  Luckily the internet was still up.  I sent a quick message hoping to reassure him, but because it was so rushed and talked about the report of the bomb, it just made him more worried.

Traffic in D.C. was at a stand-still.  You could literally walk faster than you could drive.  Since I had an apartment downtown, I invited the other consultants to my apartment until traffic cleared.  As we were walking over, I began to wonder if it was the best idea to go to my apartment.  I lived across the street from the FBI building and on a direct path between the Capitol Building and the White House.

When we got to my apartment, we put on the news.  While watching the news, my roommate got a call from her family.  The man who would have been her future brother-in-law was in the World Trade Center on a floor above 100.  He normally didn’t work at the World Trade Center; he was there for a meeting that day.  I believe he knew he wasn’t going to survive.  He made calls to his family to tell them how much he loved them.  We watched as the towers fell and tried to console my roommate, hoping that by some miracle her brother-in-law made it out.  We later learned that he did not.

That night in D.C. was eerie.  No one was around; the streets were empty.  The people from my project who lived downtown, wanting not to be alone, decided to go out together to get some food.  The only place we could find open was a restaurant at one of the near-by hotels.  As we walked over to it, the only thing we could hear were fighter jets circling the city.

My husband obviously wanted me to leave D.C. permanently.  I was on an out-of-town assignment which had me in D.C. Monday through Friday and home on the weekends.  Leaving the project would have meant quitting my job which for financial reasons, was not an option.  We luckily had 2 locations for the project – one in D.C. and one in Virginia.

The next morning was solemn.  I will never forget the walk to work.  It was like everyone was in a daze.  There was no talking, just glances of shared sorrow.  When I got to work, I asked the project to allow me to work in Virginia the rest of the week which they allowed me to do.

Since almost no flights were flying out of D.C. that week, I had to drive home for the weekend.  It was a long drive home and I listened to news reports the entire way.  I remember the feeling that the nation was closer; that all the petty differences we had didn’t matter anymore.

I am not happy that people lost their lives last night because I would never celebrate anyone losing their lives.  But I imagine that it brought some level of comfort to the families who lost loved ones on September 11th knowing that Bin Laden is not around to plan anymore attacks.

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Bumping

My first trip on an airplane was a three point trip with my dad and one of my brothers.  We flew from Buffalo to Los Angeles to Seattle and back for a total of $287 each.  We had a layover in San Francisco on our leg between LA and Seattle.  That’s where I learned the art of bumping.

When we arrived at our gate for a 9:30 AM flight in San Francisco my dad let the gate agent know that if she needed volunteers to be bumped we were willing.  And it turned out, she did need volunteers.  For giving up our seats, we were each given a guaranteed seat on a 12:30 PM flight and a $150 travel voucher which could be used for a future flight (this was a long time ago, typical bumps are worth around $400 now).  Right after our initial flight left, she called my dad up and said that she could get us on an earlier flight.  So she gave us new boarding passes for the flight which was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM.  We settled in to wait for the flight.  A short while later, she called my dad back up and let him know that the flight we had been rebooked on was now oversold.  She offered us another $150 travel voucher each and a guaranteed seat on the 12:30 PM.  We of course took it and did end up taking that flight.  We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get $300 each in travel vouchers for flights that only cost us $287.

Here are a few tips if you want to try to get bumped:

  • Get to the airport early so you have a better chance of being near the top of the bump list.
  • Don’t wait for them to ask for volunteers; let the gate agent know that you are willing to be bumped.
  • Travel during busy times.  This depends on the location.  If you’re traveling to business locations, Mondays and Fridays are going to be busy.  If you’re traveling to vacation destination, weekends are the busiest.
  • Be nice to the gate agent.  Depending on how long it is to your next flight, you can ask for meal coupons, a flight upgrade, or hotel accommodations.
  • Don’t check baggage.  It makes transferring you to another flight easier because they don’t need to worry about moving your bags.

Scoring bumps can pay for future vacations.  It’s also a great way for people to get started in the travel game, especially if they are not interested in doing the credit card game.  There are people who spend weekends flying around the country with the sole intent of collecting vouchers from bumps.

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Here we go on a great journey

Do you remember the first big trip you ever took?  Mine was an across-the-country trip with my family when I was 8 years old.  Imagine my parents and ten kids in a van driving from Buffalo to Los Angeles.  I honestly don’t know how my parents survived, but it was a great trip.  We got to see the Great Plains, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, the Rockies, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore (among many other sites).  I think it’s a trip that no one in my family will ever forget.  Now we were not wealthy people – I mean really, I’m one of eleven kids and my dad was a teacher and my mom was a full-time mom.  But my parents really did know how to stretch a dollar.  So I guess that’s where my love of finding deals and travel comes from.

I’ve learned a lot of tricks over the years – some when I worked for a large consulting company and traveled every week and others through blogs, friends and research.  I hope to share these with you through this blog so you can benefit from what I’ve learned.  And I hope I can learn some tricks from you.

The tricks I’ve learned allowed me to book flights and 6 nights at a 4-star hotel for my family of four in Maui for $115.  All trips won’t be as inexpensive as that but I’m sure you will learn some new ways to save money!

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