Wyoming – Jackson Hole Paragliding

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. 

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Starwood Hotel American Express Card

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.

Bumping

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.

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Back from Wyoming and the End of Coins

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.

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New credit card deals

According to The Frugal Travel Guy we should expect some new credit card deals on the 19th and 24th.  He was asked to take down his Continental and United links.  Hopefully this isn’t the end of the Continental card (it will go away with the merger with United), but that’s something to consider.

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Credit Card Retention Bonuses

When you go to close credit cards be prepared for the card issuer to offer you a retention bonus.  This may be in the form of miles or credits to your account to offset the annual fee partially or wholly.  Think about what you’d be willing to take as a retention before you call.  There are certain cards that I am willing to do more for than others.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Starwood Hotel card is one that is very valuable.  The annual fee is lower than most cards at $65, but it was raised to that this year from $40.  The points that you earn from this card are very flexible.  You can use the points for hotel stays at Starwood hotels (Sheraton, Westin, etc) or transfer them to airline frequent flyer points.  When you transfer 20,000 to an airline program, you get a bonus 5,000.  This is why most people that play this game consider them the most valuable.

Today was my day to call and cancel cards that are almost up for annual fees.  I had one Starwood and one American AAdvantage card that were up.  I really didn’t want to cancel the Starwood, but I also didn’t want to pay the annual fee.  I was just hoping that they would do something to lower the cost of the card or give me miles.  Now I’m not a big spender on this card, so I wasn’t sure that they would offer me anything.  But they did offer me a $25 credit to stay (which lowered the fee back down to what it used to be).  I was happy with that, so I took that. 

When I called to cancel the American, I also was not expecting anything.  I opened this card to get the sign-up bonus.  I only spent was I needed to to get the bonus.  It wasn’t up for the annual fee until September, but I called now because I just wanted to get some of the canceling out of the way.  They first offered me an extra bonus of 10,000 miles if I spent $5,000 in 6 months.  That’s not worth it to me so I said no.  They then offered me 2,500 miles just to keep the card open.  I asked if I had to keep it open for a certain amount of time and they said no.  I took that and will call back and cancel in September.  So a free 2,500 miles for about 5 minutes of my time – not too shabby. 

Obviously they are hoping I won’t remember to call back.  That’s why it’s important to stay organized with your applications.  I keep a spreadsheet of all the cards I applied for, when I applied for them, what the bonus is, what the minimum spend is, and what the annual fee is.  I check it on a monthly basis to see which cards I need to cancel.

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