Back from Hawaii and Thinking About Disney

You may have noticed a lack of posts for the last week or so.  The reason I wasn’t posting is we were in Hawaii!  Yes, the long awaited trip was fantastic.  I’ll post a trip report over several days in the coming week(s).  I’m finally getting back on East Coast time so I’ll be awake enough to put one together. 

And after taking such a lovely vacation, I want more.  I’ve turned my attention to our trip to Disney that we have planned for this April.  Originally, I was planning on using Starwood Hotel points to book a room at the Disney Swan resort.  However, I have reconsidered that.  Disney is running a promotion (that ends today) where you can book some of their hotels for 30% off. 

Here’s why I reconsidered my hotel strategy.  When redeeming points, I want to get at least a 2 cent return for each point redeemed.  We are planning on staying in Disney for 5 nights.  The only option to redeem points at the Disney Swan was the free night option (cash and points was not available).  Since we were staying for 5 nights, I could do the redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free option.  Each free night would cost me 10,000 points.  So I would have to spend a total of 40,000 points for the stay.  Now you could say that that means I’d have to get at least $800 worth of value out of the stay.  But you can redeem 40,000 Starwood Hotel points for 50,000 airline points (Starwood gives you a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline).  So I want to get at least $1,000 worth of value out of the stay.  Plus I’d really like to do better than $1,000 in value because I value Starwood points more than other points.

Technically, I would have done better that that with booking at the Swan.  A night at the Disney Swan resort was running about $240 (not including taxes/fees).  Since we were staying 5 nights, that would be nearly $1,250 in value.  But I needed to look at the alternatives.  With Disney’s promotion, I could book a night at one of the moderate hotels for about $140-$150/night.  And since it was a hotel run by Disney (unlike the Swan, which is on Disney property but run by Westin), I could also take the Disney Express to the hotel from the airport (so I won’t have to pay for transportation from the airport to/from the hotel).  Plus I still had a credit with from this promotion last year where you got a free night if you booked one night through them.  With all that taken into consideration, the hotel stay would only cost us $660 in total.  We’ll be staying at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort, which both a friend and recommended.

Every time I plan a trip, I look at the alternatives.  That’s why it’s not possible to give people a one size fits all strategy for booking a trip.  In general, I try to minimize out of pocket expenses.  However, in this case, it made more sense to pay money for the hotel stay than to use points.


United Explorer Bonus Miles Posted!

I try not to count my chickens before they hatch.  So I was pretty cautious with the new United Explorer card.  I already had the previous United card and the Continental card.  I canceled both of the cards in 2011.  I wrote about the 50,000 miles sign-up bonus for the United Explorer card in a previous post

There was wording in the terms and conditions that concerned me: “This one-time bonus offer is only valid for first-time United MileagePlus Explorer cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing United Airlines cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer. United MileagePlus Explorer cardmembers will only receive one 50,000 bonus miles award if they apply for both the United Explorer Card and the Continental OnePass Plus Card after 7/19/2011.”  The part that concerned me was “Previous and existing United Airlines cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer” since it didn’t specify United Explorer cardmember – it was more generic.

But I am happy to say that I was approved for the card and I received the sign-up bonus miles!  Although I didn’t get instant approval, I also didn’t have to fight for approval.  I was approved without having to make any calls to the customer service line.

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PBS Special – Overdraft

I have a strong suspicion that many people who read this blog are interested in a wide range of financial topics.  I work for a large financial services company and our CEO regularly discusses financial topics during our all-employee meetings.  One topic that he talked about at length was the growing US Debt Crisis.  He talked about it at the time when Congress was in a heated battle of it.  And what I found most interesting/frightening was some charts that he put together to show that even with the budget cuts they were talking about, we were still in serious trouble.

There is an upcoming special on PBS called Overdraft which is scheduled to air in the spring of 2012.  Click here to see the trailer.  Based on the people in the documentary, it seems like it will be very interesting.  The list of people featured in the documentary are:

  • Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey 
  • President Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States 
  • Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana 
  • Jay Fishman, Chairman & CEO, The Travelers Companies, Inc.
  • Judd Gregg, former Senator from New Hampshire Joel Klein, Columnist, Time Magazine 
  • Peter Orszag, Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget 
  • Raghuram Rajan, Economist, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago 
  • Andrew Romano, Senior Writer, Newsweek Magazine 
  • Alice Rivlin, Founding Director of the Congressional Budget Office and Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget  
  • Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi and Saatchi  
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Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

Can I hear a woot, woot?!  Okay, so I’m a little excited today.  I just received my Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card and activated it.  I was a little worried about being eligible for the bonus on this card.  I had both the previous United card and the Continental card.  I had both of these card before July of 2011 and have already canceled both of them.  There was some wording in the Terms and Conditions that made it appear that they could possibly deny me the bonus because I already had a United card.  However, I’m happy to say that the customer service representative confirmed that I will get 50,000 miles after the first purchase on the card!  I’m not sure if everyone will have the same experience as I have, but this is great news. 

With the addition of these miles, we’ll have nearly 250,000 United/Continental miles.  So I may need to start learning more about the Star Alliance.  My current plan for these miles is to book a trip to multiple European cities using the stopover and/or open jaw option with the Star Alliance.  But my plans may change as we won’t be able to take that trip until 2014 at the earliest because of already planned trips and available vacation time.

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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a special day around our household.  It’s my birthday, my husband and his twin’s birthday, and my sister-in-law’s birthday!  So it may be kind of surprising that we’ve never been to a Groundhog Day celebration – that is, until today.  Connecticut has its own groundhog to give that annual prediction of when spring will come.  His name is Chuckles.  And today we had the pleasure of witnessing the prediction.  And his prediction was… 

Winter is canceled this year!  And go Patriots!

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