Thursday, July 15, 2010

Travel report: Lisbon & Spain - brought to you by Nadia

It has been almost a month since our trip to Lisbon and Spain and we have many fond memories. We had good weather for the most part, except for some unexpected chilliness initially in and around Madrid. The entire adventure (and an adventure it was, but more on that in a bit) was great and we loved all the sun, beautiful places, and delicious food and drink.

Our adventure began in Lisbon, Portugal where spent the day sightseeing from Marquês de Pombal, Baixa, Alfama, Bairro Alto to Belem. Originally we had reserved 2 days for Lisbon but due to flight delays (again more on that below) we were forced to take in the whole city in 8 hours. Interestingly it was enough time, at least by our standard sightseeing pace, and the only thing we had to omit was the Maritime Museum. While Lisbon is an important capital city, it is fairly small (not in a negative way) and very easily seen in a full day. We were able to take in Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Sé de Lisboa, Praca do Comercio, the Alcazar, Elevador de Santa Justa, Sant’ Anna tile shop and Torre de Belem. No trip would, of course, be complete without excellent food so we took time to enjoy a nice lunch on a side street near Rossio Square, and stopped in at Café Pastéis de Belém. Our lunch which consisted of seafood was scrumptious and the pastéis (custard baked in flaky dough) were amazing. When we ordered one each (they are tiny) the waiter did give us a strange look, but once we consumed our portion and asked for round two of the delicious dessert, he knowingly smiled and nodded. All around Lisbon is a wonderful city to visit.

When we arrived in Madrid we knew that we would not be doing many of typical touristy things because I had lived in Madrid when I studied abroad and Patrick had visited. As a result we decided to do more of a walking tour, on the relaxed side, instead of running from one museum or monument to the next. Our first day in Spain started with a walk to the Chocolateria San Gines, where each enjoyed a robust of cup of thick hot chocolate and delectable churros. That day we took on the Palacio Real, various beautiful plazas, a little shopping at El Corte Ingles, some wonderful helado (basically gelato), gorgeous neighborhoods and dinner at a very cool restaurant in Barrio Salamanca called Teatriz.

While in Madrid we also took trips outside of the city to San Lorenzo de El Escorial and Toledo. Both places are worth a visit so if you have time to spend outside of Spain’s wonderful capital, do check them out. The gathering of Spanish soccer team fans inside a bull ring in Toledo was quite a sight. Hundreds of red and gold/yellow clad fans cheering on their team playing on the big screen at the World Cup in South Africa. Additionally, in the city we also checked out Parque del Buen Retiro on one of the most perfect, warm summer days. If visiting Madrid keep in mind one other place, the Plaza de Santa Anna. It is a pleasant place to sit and people watch as well as enjoy some of the most divine tapas.

Our trip also included a few days in Andalusia, where we checked out Seville, ancient Cordoba, Cadiz and even ventured as far as Gibraltar. Seville is a wonderful city (so-called birthplace of flamenco-we did see a fun show), with both a modern and ancient feel to it. We stayed in the Barrio Santa Cruz with its many narrow, albeit confusing, streets and really had a chance to be in the middle of all the sights /sounds of this magnificent city. Cordoba is small but worth the day trip, especially for its old mosque. Cadiz is an Atlantic coast town, worth seeing if you are into maritime history and enjoy seafood. Our Gibraltar excursion was more of “it would be cool to say we’ve been there” trip than anything special or unusual. It is an interesting place to visit for these few reasons; piece of Great Britain in mainland Europe, you can literally see the African continent and it is literally a settlement of people on a rock.

Now that all the good has been discussed, we should turn to the disappointments of the trip. Since our trip did not begin in the Iberian Peninsula, but rather in Austria and Poland (where each of us spent 3 days visiting our families before we took off on our Southern European excursion), the itinerary was more than complicated. Our award tickets from California to Frankfurt –making that city the “open-jaw” part (then splitting up and going to our own countries mentioned before), and having our Madrid and Lisbon tickets (also award but separate) be a completely different itinerary/airline made the flying part almost impossible. With a complicated itinerary like that, everything needs to happen on time. Unfortunately, my flight out of southern Poland was 3 hours delayed, making it impossible for us to meet up with enough time to transfer to our Iberia flight. I will spare you the tiny details but will mention that we did end up losing a day in Lisbon, had to buy additional tickets for a flight that just left early, experienced a flight with a pilot who was unable to land an airplane, ridiculous delays with no reasons given, melt down at a security check, and pleading to get onto an airplane after the gate door closed. So the major takeaways from this journey are that you should minimize the flights (in favor of renting cars or traveling on trains), stick to a geographically simple itinerary and allow plenty of room for error. Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Priority Club Chase Credit Card

From View from the Wing:

Chase just launched a new suite of benefits for the Priority Club card that are pretty unique. This of course is the loyalty program for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn hotels.
  • Annual free night certificate. These are valid for a year and are good at all Intercontinental Hotels properties except their handful of all-inclusives.
  • 10% rebate on Reward Night redemptions, up to 100,000 points rebated per year.
  • No foreign currency transaction fee.
They’re offering 30,000 points with first purchase. I’ve seen better signup offers in the past, but I haven’t yet found better for this new card.
The card earns 5 points per dollar at Intercontinental Hotel Group properties, so worthwhile for spend when staying with them (or as I am wont to do, worthwhile for large meeting spend on the card).
It offers 2 points per dollar on gas, groceries, and dining – there’s better leverage for this kind of targeted spend elsewhere.
All other spend earns only one mile per dollar, I’d certainly rather earn an airline mile or more likely one Starwood point than one Priority Club point. So while it’s a great card to have, it’s not top of the wallet for most spend.
But there’s no annual fee the first year, and afterward the $49 fee is certainly paid for in the value of the annual free night certificate.
And once you have the card, it becomes your go-to for foreign spend, previously folks would use a Capital One card perhaps because they didn’t tack on the foreign currency conversion fee – it’s nice to be able to spend abroad and still earn ‘real’ points albeit at a modest rate.
Plus the 10% rebate on points redemptions is a nice benefit for Priority Club regulars.

This is a great offer - especially the no foreign currency transaction fee. I suggest you look into it! :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NEW Design - hope you like it....:)

I tinkered a bit with the font, colors and background - I'm relatively happy with the result.
I found this cool background in the blogspot tools, very appropriate! :)

Anyway, if you are checking out this blog once in a while - please add yourself as a "Fellow Bandit" and get notifications when we post something new. That way we know we're not simply writing for ourselves on here! :)

Also, once in a while - please click on the ads on the right side of the screen - no need to buy anything but it would be great to earn a little extra cash from this as well! :) We think all these nifty travel tips are worth it, no? Thanks a bunch!

Nadia will be writing up our Spain/Lisbon trip in a little bit - keep a watch out for that.
I recently organized a last minute mileage accumulation plan for a friend of ours ( she needs to to to a wedding in Japan in September - for free of course) - 75000 Continental miles within 8 weeks or less.... I will put the plan on here in the next few days. Stay tuned - there's lots to come!!!

Southwest Airlines fan? I'm not but if you need 16-32 RapidReward Points here you go...


Southwest Airlines Chase Credit Card: 16 credits after the first purchase equals a free round trip and the ability to earn up to $500 in Southwest gift cards for spending in the first three months. The more you spend, the larger the gift card amounts.

This link provided by Lindsay via FT and fatwallet eliminates the first year annual fee.

And here is the link for the Business Card offer. I highly suggest a  "double dip"!!!! I did not see anything preventing you from applying for both. No first year annual fee on the biz card either.

Means 32 Rapidreward points - enough for 2 tickets...Enjoy....

And as always - your Credit is important - don't over commit, always pay in full and keep your credit score over 700+. Simply take advantage of the bonus offers that American Banks so readily provide - you don't know how good you have it. In Europe they could only dream of getting 35000 or 50000 miles for anything, let alone a credit card application.....So got those sign-up bonuses fellow bandits!

Frontier Summer promotion - pay for first bag - second bag is only $1...

No need to register!

Here's the LINK to this promo. Normally the second bag is $30, so you'll save $29.

This is only valid for travel between July 7th and September 6th, 2010...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Interesting trip down Miles memory lane

From View from the Wing:

Top 10 Miles/Points Program Deals of Times Past

10. Free status offers for Marriott Gold, Avis Presidents Club (still active…), Virgin Silver, Hilton Gold, Starwood Gold, Continental Silver just for becoming an AT&T customer.
9. Class of Service Bonuses on Upgrades (Earn more bonus miles on United than it took to upgrade US-Hawaii, the upgrade more than paid for itself).
8. 1-800-Flowers 100 miles per dollar with Delta. On December 30, 2003 1-800-Flowers sent out an email saying they would award 100 miles per dollar spent on flowers. Presumably they had bought a ton of Delta miles which needed to be awarded or else they would expire. So they thought they would generate some cash with this rapidly expiring asset. The email was targeted, but anyone could use the promotion. And it wound up being much bigger than they anticipated…
7. Double, triple, quadruple bonus dipping (Continental, US Airways, Priority Club). About 9 years ago some members earned six-figure mileage flying cross country on Continental. Once upon a time you could fly a handful of flights and earn Chairmans Preferred (100,000 mile flyer status) on US Airways. And many folks have earned several free nights with Priority Club with single night stays. All because computer systems let folks stack different bonuses — many of which were targeted for different members, but those same computer systems didn’t check to see whether the member signing up had actually been targeted. A double error! Sadly computer systems have gotten more sophisticated with time.
6. Savings bonds, travelers checks, prepaid visa debit cards. Over time there have been huge opportunities to buy money with your mileage earning credit card, at little or not cost, and then pay off your credit card with the money you purchased. Rinse, repeat. Whether savings bonds, travelers checks (thanks, AAA!), or visa debit cards which you then turn into money orders, these eventually get shut down — because the company offering them winds up eating the credit card transaction fees without generating real business. But many frequent flyers have earned many millions of miles.
5. KLM Status Match and Millions of Free Miles: In the Fall of 2001, KLM wasn’t just matching status — they were matching the account balances in your competitor elite account as well!
4. LatinPass 1,000,000 Miles: During the first half of 2000, you could earn a million miles (with the dreaded LatinPass program) for flying a total of 9 international segments on 9 different partner airlines.
3. InsideFlyer-Starwood. In the Spring of 2002, Randy Petersen was giving away 2500 Starwood points with each Inside Flyer magazine subscription. Back then Starwood points converted 1->2 into Qantas, including bonuses. 52,500 Starwood points yielded Qantas points. Doing the math, it was possible to buy 21 Inside Flyer subscriptions, transfer the Starwood points to Qantas, and redeem for travel on the Concorde. Donate the magazines to charity and further reduce your cost basis.
2. Goldpoints/valumags: Around Christmas 2001 it was possible to earn more than 100 miles per dollar with your choice of several airlines by purchasing magazine subscriptions from Valumags through the Goldpoints shopping portal. Some members donated the magazines to non-profits for the tax deduction, reducing their cost basis even further.
1. Pudding Guy. Enough said. The dude is famous.

Continental 25K deal for Chase Checking account has been extended...

So the 25K Continental OnePass Miles for opening a checking account (personal and/or checking) and using your associated Chase debit card has been extended until 9/30.

LINK (personal) 

LINK (business)

This is a quick and easy way to earn 25K for a personal checking account (open with $100, get debit card -$25 annual fee - make 5 debit purchases & 1 credit purchase with card - voila 25K continental miles) & business checking account (say you are running a consulting business - self proprietorship, they only need your SSN - deposit $500, get debit card ($65 annual fee I believe) and make 5 credit purchases - voila another 25K. Always verify what you need to do to get the miles from the bank employee (they should give you a print out of what exactly you will need to do in order to receive the bonus miles).

Since Continental OnePass program will be dead within the enxt 24 months I highly suggest earning as many Continental miles as you can right now. Apply for a Continental Chase Credit card for good measure - I did and thus, with2 checking accounts and 1 credit card sign-up bonus I got 75K Continental miles within 5 weeks.
Those miles will fold into my United account soon and will allow me many more travel options in the future.

As the late-night commericials say - Don't DELAY! :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY - Starwood American Express Card

Through FrugalTravelGuy:

Now through July 6th there is a special Offer for new applications for the Starwood Preferred Guest card. It applies to both the personal and business card and offers 30,000 SPG points on each card for $1000 of spend in the first 3 months. To get the $1000 spending requirement done - buy US Mint Coins or pay all your utilities and bill for 3 months with this card alone.

Use this link

I highly suggest getting this card - this is even more valuable than the 50000 United Mileage Plus Credit Card. Starwood points can be transferred to a lot of different airlines 1:1, to LAN even 1:2....

In addition, if you transfer 20000 to any airline, Starwood gives you an extra 5000 miles as a bonus...So we are looking at really 35000 miles here potentially! If you want to use LAN Airlines even 70000 miles, not too shabby.

The best offer for this always has been 15000 after first use. SO GO FOR IT - only until July 6th!

I suggest you sign up for Starwood first and then get both the personal and business card (business card - you operate a self propriotorship Consulting Firm....always works!)

Unfortunately, me and Nadia won't benefit since we both had those cards before... :(