Eric Carle Book Signing and Hotels.com Promotion

I’m so excited for Sunday!  It’s the Eric Carle pre-release booking signing of his new book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.  I’m getting a few copies for family and I plan to give one to my boys’ art teacher.  I stopped by the library and picked up the museum pass yesterday.  I already pre-ordered my books so they will be waiting there for me.  Everything is all set…now we just have to wait until Sunday!

A little status update on the Hotels.com deal that I wrote about earlier.  Signing up for the promotion couldn’t have been easier.  I filled out the information on-line and got the email with the code and instructions on how to submit the “paperwork”.  I created PDF’s from my trips earlier this year to show that I stayed at several hotels this year and emailed them in.  A day or two later, I received an email saying that I was accepted into the program.  And yesterday I booked a hotel through Hotels.com for my college’s Alumni Weekend.  I applied the code when checking out and a message appeared stating it will take a few weeks for the free hotel night to show up.  I plan to use that in November or December for a little weekend getaway.  Maybe we’ll head up to Portland, Maine for some clam chowder at Gilbert’s Chowder House.  Yummy!

Sorry I haven’t had much to say about credit card promotions lately.  It’s just been really slow on the credit card front.  I keep checking to see if a new one (worth getting) has come up.

There is a US Airways Grand Slam Promotion going on right now.  I haven’t looked much into because I don’t think it will be worth it to me.  If you want to read more about it, check it out on the Million Mile Secrets site.  I really liked his summary.

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Starwood American Express Card New Lower Minimum Spend

Starting today the Starwood Amex Card has lowered its minimum spending requirement for the second bonus from $15,000 to $5,000 within 6 months.  This definitely makes it a more attractive card for most people.  You earn 10,000 points after first purchase and 15,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months.

I really like this card for its flexibility.  I’ve talked about this many times before on the blog.  Starwood points can be transferred to a number of frequent flyer programs.  And if you transfer 20,000 at one time, you get a 5,000 point transfer bonus.  These points can also be used at Starwood Hotels which include Westin, Sheraton, W, Le Meridien, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, Four Points, aloft, and element Hotels.

I personally have this card and I am very careful as to how I use the points.  I used some of our points on our trip to Hawaii last year.  I love the Cash & Points option when redeeming at their hotels.  We stayed at the Westin Ocean Resort and Villas for $90 plus 4,800 points/night.  They’ve now upped the category for that specific hotel to a category 6, so it would cost more now. 

You can see some of my other posts about Starwood here.

HT: Frugal Travel Guy

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Air B&B

I was listening to Marketplace Money this weekend and they talked about a web site called Air B&B.  It’s an alternative to booking a hotel on a vacation.  It’s a site that allows people to rent out their guest house, extra room at their house, vacation condo, etc.  The site allows people to rate the location and the guests, much like Ebay.  I did a quick search on Hawaii for the week that we’ll be going next year.  And I found the rates to be very good compared to hotels.  They even had a listing for a one-bedroom at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas where we stayed this year.  And the rate was much better than if you booked through Westin.  This may be a great option for families, instead of booking suites or multiple rooms at a hotel.  If anyone tries it, please let me know how you like it.

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Free Things to Do at Disney

I love this article on the Frommer’s Family site..  It has 10 free things to do at Disney.  It’s nice to have a list of fun, free things to do considering how expensive Disney can get.  I especially like the watching the fireworks from the Disney Polynesian Resort and going to the Campfire Sing-a-long at Fort Wilderness.  Here’s the full list in case they ever pull the article:

  1. Explore Downtown Disney - My kids loved downtown Disney when we went.  They loved building racecars at the Lego store.
  2. Cruise along the Boardwalk
  3. Visit Disney Value Resorts (you can park for free for 3 hours if you tell the attendant you’d like to visit the resort)
  4. Ride the Monorail - They talk about how you get a bird’s eye view of the resort.  I got a tip from a friend that it’s also a great place to take your kids who need a nap.  It’s air conditioned and runs in a continuous loop.
  5. Enjoy a campfire with Chip ‘n’ Dale (at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort)
  6. Catch a fireworks show from Disney’s Polynesian Resort - They suggest bringing a picnic dinner.  Again you can park for free at the resort if you tell the attendant you want to explore the hotel.
  7. Hunt for Hidden Mickeys at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – I love this idea.  What a great scavenger hunt for the kids.
  8. Go on a safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  9. Sample some new types of cuisine - Get pre-dinner samples Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  10. Enjoy holiday fun at Celebration - We visited Celebration when we went to Disney based on a suggestion from my parents.  The kids really enjoyed walking around and getting ice cream.
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Knowing Your Score and Looking for Savings

All right here’s a little questionnaire for you:

  • Do you drive across town to fill up gas at the station with the lowest price?
  • Do you clip coupons to save on groceries?
  • Do you check your credit reports on a regular basis for errors and do you know your credit score?
  • Do/did you shop around for a mortgage with the lower APR and did you compare apples to apples when you did the comparison?  Did you look at the fees involved?
  • When buying a car, do you buy new or used?  Do you pay for it in full or get a loan?  If you get a loan, do you negotiate the cost of the car separate from loan discussions and do you shop around for a loan?

My point with the above questions is that I think that many to most people think about the first two bullets and some to most people don’t think about the last three.  However, the last three bullets could save you far more money than the first two bullets. 

I wrote about how your credit score is calculated in a previous post.  You credit score is one of your most important assets.  It can affect the rates you get on loans, the cost of your car insurance, whether you get an apartment and/or job, and many others.  Ben Schlappig wrote a great article about credit scores in his TravelSort column.  No credit card sign up bonus is worth ruining your credit over.

I’m going to steal a picture from Ben’s column to illustrate a point.  He had an example of how your credit score may affect the interest rate you receive for your mortgage.

Now you may be saying, what’s the big deal about a 0.2% difference between the ranges?  On a $300,000 mortgage, if your credit score is in the 700-759 range, instead of the 760-850 range, you would end up paying approximately $12,000 more over the life of the loan.  And if your credit score was in the 680-699 range, instead of the 760-850 range, you would end up paying approximately $25,000 more over the life of the loan.

When looking at loans of any kind, make sure you shop around.  And if nothing else, make sure you know your credit score and try to keep it as high as possible.  It could save you a ton of money in the long run – money you could use to take fabulous vacations.

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