Anime and Claymation Camps at Smithsonian

Anime Young Artists Residency Program

Anime Young Artists Residency Program

If your kids have too much time on their hands this summer, maybe you can interest them in these bargain-priced summer workshops at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

There are two programs to choose from:  the Anime Young Artists Residency, and the Claymation Young Artists Residency.  Both are part of the Imaginasia series of family programs the Sackler and Freer galleries.

Anime: Young Artists Residency:  Monday, July 28 through Friday, August 1, 2014

ImaginAsia’s five-day workshop is for eight to sixteen-year-old art students interested in anime drawing.

Trace the origins of manga drawing and anime films through the Freer and Sackler collections of Asian art.

This five-day program  runs from 10 am to 3:00 pm each day. Bring notebooks of your drawings to the workshop and your own brown bag lunch. Art supplies provided.

The cost is $100.  Application available online.

Act quickly because today, July 15, 2014, is the application deadline for this program.

Claymation: Young Artists Residency: Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 8, 2014

Claymation Young Artists Residency Program

Claymation Young Artists Residency Program

Learn storyboarding, scene design, and claymation techniques from Erik Swanson, an instructor at the Corcoran School of Art + Design.  Students create their own claymation videos featuring a heroic figure they discover in the galleries.

Participants receive a DVD featuring all of the videos made in the class.  iPads will be used to create the claymations.  For ages 9–18.

This five-day program runs from 10 am – 3:30 pm each day.  The registration fee is $100.

The application deadline is July 20, 2014.  Apply online.

Fishing4Deals Giveaway: Two United Club Lounge Passes

United Club Lounge Pass Giveaway

United Club Lounge Pass Giveaway

Schools finally out!  Summer is in full swing, and that means vacation time!

I’m celebrating by giving away a pair of United Club lounge passes!

United Airlines sells these passes for $50 apiece.  They also offer them as a benefit of the United Mileage Plus credit card, which is how I got them.

The lounges offer a variety of amenities:   
  • free bev­er­ages and light snacks
  • com­pli­men­tary bar service
  • agent assis­tance with reser­va­tions
  • high-speed wire­less Inter­net access
  • charging stations for your cell phone and laptop
  • con­fer­ence rooms (at select locations)
  • com­pli­men­tary use of pho­to­copy and fax machines
  • cur­rent magazines and newspapers

Here’s the link to all the United Club locations with their hours and amenities.

These two passes expire on November 31, 2014.   

There are three easy ways to enter this giveaway

  1. Sign up for updates from Fishing4Deals by subscribing on the sidebar to the right.
  2. Leave a comment on this post answering this question:  Where are you going on your summer vacation?
  3. Follow @Fishing4Deals on Twitter and tweet this message:  @Fishing4Deals is giving away a pair of United Club lounge passes.  RT for a chance to win!

This contest closes Monday, July 14, 2014 at 12 noon, Eastern time.  The winner will be chosen at random.

If you don’t win, you may be able to pick up some lounge passes for cheap on Ebay.

Good luck, and happy summer!

Dulles Flyer: On-Site Parking Specials at IAD

Discounted Parking Options at Dulles International Airport

Discounted Parking Options at Dulles International Airport

One of the costs of travel that is hard to offset with credit card points or miles is airport parking.  Even my Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which allows redemptions for most categories of travel expenses, does not routinely cover airport parking.

At Dulles International Airport (IAD) near my home, daily parking fees range from $10 a day in the remote economy lots to $25 – $35 per day for valet parking right in front of the terminal.  The intermediate option in terms of price and convenience is garage parking at $17 per day.

Park Four Days, Get One Day Free

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) at IAD is running a summer special through July 13, 2014 for the garage parking:  park for four consecutive days, get one day free.  You must apply for a special coupon code online, and present your coupon and parking ticket to the cashier upon exiting,  Even with the special, you’ll make out better with economy parking; but if you’re pressed for time or facing afternoon thundershowers, it may be worth considering.

There are over 8,000 garage parking spaces, and more than 12,000 spots in the economy lots at IAD.  I always opt for the economy parking, and usually wait less than five minutes for a shuttle bus.

Dulles FlexPark:  Monthly Parking for Frequent Flyers

Another special offer from MWAA is for unlimited parking for one monthly payment.

Dulles FlexPark offers several options, ranging from reserved parking in a premium spot to general garage parking.

The cheapest option — at $275 per month — is for unlimited parking in any unreserved space in the garage.

Frequent travelers, or those working at the airport, may save as much as 47 percent off the posted rates (depending on level of program and number of days parked).

See the complete program description and access the online application here.

Express Bus Service from Metro Silver Line Starts July 26

The Metro Silver Line is opening July 26, 2014, and you can bet I’ll be there for the ribbon cutting!

When the Silver Line opens, the Wiehle Avenue station in Reston will be the closest Metro station to IAD.

Silver Line Express buses will carry travelers to Dulles airport for a fare of $5.00 each way.  Express buses will run every 15 minutes during weekday peak hours, and every 2o minutes at other times.  The new buses will be specially configured with spacious luggage racks.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them.  

Download Free Magazines in Airports

Read Archie comics for free with Inflight App

Read Archie comics for free with Inflight App

If you long for the days when flight attendants handed out magazines on long flights, you may be interested in a new app available for free on iTunes.

Inflightavailable in the iTunes store, allows you to download free magazines to read on your iPad or iPhone while in the airport or in flight.

Inflight is not the greatest thing since sliced bread because the magazine selection is quite limited.

But if you are a sportsman who is keen on Field & Stream, a photographer who reads Popular Photography, a tinkerer who loves Popular Science, or a liberal who enjoys The Nation, read on!

Download Magazines for Free with the Inflight App

Here is how it works:

  1. download the magazines at home
  2. when you get to the airport, open the Inflight reader app to start a 24-hour reader session
  3. read the magazines on the airplane — you don’t need an internet connection

    Field & Stream

    Field & Stream: free with Inflight reader

The app works at 600 U.S. airports and 30 international airports.

About two dozen magazines are currently offered.

The Inflight reader app is a way for magazine publishers to market their content to a captive audience; they make their magazines available for free for 24-hours.

Did I mention Archie and Betty & Veronica?

They are available for free on the app, too.

Six Terrible Reasons Why My Husband Opened the Wrong Credit Card

Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200I’ve been married almost 20 years but my husband never fails to surprise me.

Today we were coming home from the 4th of July picnic at my Mom’s nursing home when he mentioned something about a Kohl’s charge card.

You have got to be kidding!   Store-branded credit cards are almost always a bad idea:

  • the rewards are limited to the store at hand
  • the opening bonus is insubstantial
  • you are taking a hit on your credit score for a very limited benefit

If you have a good to excellent credit score, and you pay your bills on time and in full every month, there are far better offers out there.

This is the same guy that has been refusing for months to consider applying for a travel rewards credit card — one that would provide a sign-up bonus worth hundreds of dollars and put us not the path to our next vacation.

 Travel Rewards Credit Cards and the Noncompliant Spouse

Kohl's Credit Card

Honey, you shrunk the credit card bonus.

Okay, so this is my hobby, not my his.  After 20 years, I’ve learned to live and let live.

But lordy, lordy, a Kohl’s charge card?

There are a million and one better options that provide flexible rewards that can be redeemed for travel.

My husband is an independent thinker who has his own opinions about things.  He has told me he didn’t want to keep track of another credit card and that is that.

The Six Worst Reasons, Ever, to Open a Kohl’s Charge Card

Here are the reasons my husband offered for opening the Kohl’s Charge Card.

  1. the 20 percent discount on that day’s purchase
  2. a 15 percent discount for a future purchase
  3. cardholders get special coupons
  4. he shops at Kohl’s four or five times a year
  5. the card is a nice color
  6. the checkout girl was cute

Do the Math, Folks

We probably spend $500 to $600 per year at Kohl’s, if that.  Generously assuming a 20 percent discount on all purchases, we would be saving $120 per year at most.

Contrast that with the $400 bonus and cash back savings on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.  This card pays 2x points on all purchases!  

Plus you get 10 percent of your redemptions credited back to your account.

Say we charge $10,000 of purchases in a year.  That would be $200 cash back when redeemed for travel expenses.

So, in the first year, when the annual fee is waived, we’re looking at $400 plus $200, plus $60 for a total $660 in rewards toward travel expenses.  You can read my full review of the pros and cons of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® here. 

There are numerous other bonus offers that may be even more lucrative, and other credit cards like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred that offer 3x bonus points on all department store purchases, including Kohl’s. Continue reading

Foreign Visitors Can Fly Anywhere in Japan for $100

Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare: Fly Anywhere for $106

Japan is a nation of islands with great geographic diversity — from the snow capped peaks of Hokkaido to the tropical beaches of Okinawa.

While much of the country is connected via high speed rail, if you are short on time or want to visit more far-flung regions, you may be interested in one of the many discount airfares available to foreign visitors.

Increased competition by discount airlines in Japan have led to an array of discount offers on domestic routes:

  1. Experience Japan Fare
  2. One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare
  3. Japan Airlines Welcome to Japan Fare
  4. Star Alliance Japan Airpass
  5. ANA Visit Japan Fare

The most flexible of these is the Experience Japan Fare.  You can purchase tickets while in Japan allowing for more spontaneity, and there are no blackout dates.

The major downsides of the Experience Japan Fare are that tickets must be purchased 3 days in advance and are non-changeable and nonrefundable.

The Experience Japan Fare:  Up to 75% off Domestic Airfares

All Nippon Airlines (ANA) offers the Experience Japan Fare to international visitors to Japan.  You can fly anywhere in Japan for 10,800 Japanese Yen, including taxes and fees.  At today’s exchange rate (June 24, 2014) that’s $106 US dollars.

This is a gigantic bargain!  For instance, the regular one-way fare between Tokyo and Okinawa is 46,000 Yen.  The Experience Japan Fare at 10,800 Yen is more than 75 percent off!

Eligibility for the Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare

Experience Japan Fare

The Experience Japan Fare   is meant for visitors to the country.  There are  three conditions to be eligible for the fare:  You must:

  • reside outside of Japan;
  • hold a passport issued by a country other than Japan; and
  • have an international ticket from any airline to and from Japan.

How to Fly Anywhere Within Japan for $100

The Experience Japan Fare of 10,800 JPY per flight (this includes the 800 JPY tax) is good for tickets issued from April 1, 2014 until October 25, 2014.

There are some rules to keep in mind:

  • Reservations must be made at least 3 days prior to the departure date.
  • Tickets can be purchased up to 14 days before departure.
  • There is no limit on the number of segments you may fly.
  • Seats are limited and may not be available on all days or on all flights.
  • You will accrual frequent flyer miles.
  • One checked bag is included in the fare.
  • No changes and no refunds allowed.

Please note this important caution:  There may be instances where it may cost less to include all Japan domestic flights within your international flight discount fare if you are connecting to/from an ANA international flight.

Further information on fare conditions is available online.

Other Airlines Offer Special Fares for Foreign Visitors to Japan

There are several other discount fares with comparable prices.

One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

To be eligible for the One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare, travel to Japan must be a carrier in the One World Alliance and tickets must be purchased before arrival in Japan.

oneworld Yokoso/Visit Japan Fare.

One World Yokoso Visit Japan Fare

One World includes JAL, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qantas and several other airlines.

Tickets cost 10,800 Yen and are valid for two months.

Blackout periods apply: Continue reading

Attention Foodies: Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
July 20, 2014

Tickets are going fast for the sixth annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival set for Sunday July 20, 2014 in Shelburne, Vermont.

Vermont is the premier artisanal cheese state, with 44 cow, goat, and sheep cheese makers throughout the state.

The 2014 Cheesmakers Festival will offer cooking demonstrations, cheese-making demonstrations, and tasting seminars.

2014 Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

The Cheesemakers Festival takes place at the historic Shelburne Farms, a scenic 1,400-acre agricultural estate with a working farm and inn, on the shores of Lake Champlain.

The event features:

  • over 40 award-winning cheese makers
  • over 200 products to sample and purchase
  • local wineries, breweries and distilleries & artisan food producers

Festival runs from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Tickets are available online here, but act quickly because they are already 75 percent sold out.  Tickets cost $50 plus a $3.25 box office surcharge.

Seminars include “Sweet & Stinky,” “Beyond the Curd,” and “A Vertical Tasting.”

The Vermont Cheese Trail

If you can’t make the event, there is a do it yourself tour of the Vermont Cheese Trail, with 12 cheesemakers open to the public.

I’ll be in Ann Arbor that weekend, but this looks like a fun event to keep in mind for the future.

Four Ways to Win a Family Trip to Universal’s Harry Potter World

Win a Trip to Harry Potter World

Win a Trip to Harry Potter World

There are at least four active contests to win a free trip for a family of four to Universal Studios in Florida to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the brand new Diagon Alley.

Some of these contests end tomorrow, so enter now for a chance to win!

I’ve been fascinated by all the press accounts this week about the new Hogwarts Express ride and Diagon Alley and I’m dying to go!  The park will officially open to the public July 8, 2014.

Here are four ways to win a free to trip to Universal Studio’s Harry Potter World

Fandango Harry Potter World Sweepstakes

One lucky family will enjoy the action and fun of Universal Orlando® Resort, including early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.  The grand prize includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare to Orlando, Florida for a family of four
  • Hotel accommodations on-site at the new Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Ground transportation between airport and hotel in Orlando
  • Admission to both Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks, including Early Park Admission* to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ one hour before the parks open
  • Tickets to Blue Man Group
  • Admission to Wet ‘n Wild® Orlando waterpark

Enter here by 9 pm PT on June 30, 2014.

Southwest Vacations Universal Orlando Sweepstakes

Enter here for a chance to win a Southwest family vacation package  to Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks.  The family vacation package includes:

  • Roundtrip air fare for up to four via Southwest Airlines® to Orlando, Florida
  • Three-night stay at one of four on-site hotels at Universal Orlando® Resort
  • 3-Day/2-Park Tickets for up to four people to Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure® theme parks
  • Four-day rental car from Alamo
  • Two (2) wands from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™
  • Four (4) tickets to Blue Man Group show at Universal CityWalk®

Enter by June 30, 2014.  See the official entry form for details.

Orlando Visitors Bureau Sweepstakes

The Orlando Visitors Bureau is sponsoring a sweepstakes for an Orlando Family Vacation for up to four people to travel to Orlando, Florida.  You have your choice of visiting Universal Orlando, Disney World, or SeaWorld.

Enter here for your chance to win:

  • Round trip airline tickets to Orlando
  • Four-night accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Orlando including a half-day cabana rental and a $100.00 food and beverage credit.
  • Two-day tickets to your choice of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando
  • Round trip ground transportation from Orlando International Airport to the hotel

Entries must be received by 11:59 pm ET on June 30, 2014.

Continue reading

IHG Froze My Rewards Club Account

IGH Rewards Club Account Frozen

IGH Rewards Club Account Frozen

Have you seen the movie Frozen?  Well, that’s exactly what happened to my IHG Rewards Club account.

A couple of weeks ago, I was researching hotels for an upcoming  summer trip.

I noticed that I could not pull up the IHG web page on my computer.  A notice popped up that the site was down.  When this continued for more than a week, I finally realized that something was wrong.

IHG Froze My Rewards Club Account

I called IHG and was told that the website was not down.

However, my access to the website had been terminated for — dare I say — fraudulent activity.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet, Duh

IHG Rewards Club (formerly known as Priority Club) allows you to stack more than one promo code on to a reservation.

These promo codes allow you to earn extra points for your stay, sometimes a lot of extra points!

I had found a list of IHG promo codes on a blog somewhere and had attempted to enter as many as possible on to my account.  About half the codes I tried were accepted.

Don’t Enroll in Random IHG Promos

The customer service rep told me that my IHG Rewards Club account had been frozen because I had applied promo codes to my account that I found on the internet.

She warned me to use only promo codes that had been emailed specifically to me.

Using random promo codes would result in IHG confiscating all my points and permanently terminating my account.

Some of the travel hacks you read about on the internet can backfire.  This hack had apparently been working for quite some time.  About the time I discovered it, in June 2014, IHG had pulled the plug.  Consider yourself warned.

Have any travel hacks backfired on you?  Please share in the comments.

Eight Percent Cash Back on Holiday Inns is Back!

1960's Era Holiday Inn

1960′s era Holiday Inn

Did you know the name Holiday Inn given to the original hotel was a joke?  

The name was a reference to the 1942 Christmas-themed film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

Well the name stuck!

I long for the 1960′s when Holiday Inn’s beckoned road-weary family travelers with amenities such as outdoor swimming pools, bonded babysitters, room service, and free dog kennels.

Yup, free dog kennels.  A summer road trip was easier to organize in those days, if you set your sights on lodging at a Holiday Inn every night.

Eight Percent Cash Back at Holiday Inns and other IHG Hotels

1960's Holiday Inn Soap

1960′s Holiday Inn soap, found on EBay. Who buys this stuff?

Ebates is a cash back shopping portal that offers rebates on online purchases including hotel bookings with IHG Hotels.  The regular payout rate is 4 percent cash back, but currently, Ebates is offering 8 percent cash back on hotel reservations with IHG.

You can go through the Ebates portal, and you will still earn points for your hotel reservation with IHG.

IHG includes:

  • Holiday Inns
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Hotel Indigo
  • InterContinental 
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites 
Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Orem, Utah

We chose the same upholstery pattern in blue

Of these brands, Holiday Inn Express is my current favorite.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Orem, Utah in 2011.  The modern decor at this hotel was inspiring.  I loved the tiled lobby and hand blown glass decorations.  But what really won me over was the upholstery pattern in the rooms — the same fabric we had chosen for our dining room chairs.

We booked a standard room via Priceline, and got a very competitive rate of $49!

The fine print from Ebates states that cash back is only available for commissionable IHG rates.  Specially negotiated rates such as IHG Friends & Family are not eligible for cash back.  Further, it may take up to 40 days after travel is completed for cash back to show up  in your Ebates account.  

I’m not sure how long the 8 percent cash back will be in effect at Ebates.

Eight Percent Cash Back from IHG Hotels at FatWallet

FatWallet is a similar online shopping portal that I have had great success with.

FatWallet is currently offering a payout rate of 8 percent at Holiday Inn Hotels only.  The other IHG brand hotels are offered at a payout rate of 5.5 percent.

If you use the links in this post to make a purchase with Ebates or FatWallet, I may receive a referral commission.  You can earn commissions as well by referring your friends!

50,000 Membership Reward Points with $1,000 Spend

My daughter received a terrific offer from American Express in the mail the other day.

The offer was for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold charge card.  

On the envelope, printed in big, gold letters, was this message:

FOR A LIMITED TIME:  TREAT YOURSELF TO A WELCOME OFFER – 50,000 POINTS VALUED AT UP TO $500 THAT CAN BE USED TOWARD YOUR NEXT TRIP, GIFT CARDS AT SELECT MERCHANTS, AND MORE

“The Sky is not the Limit,” the letter inside proclaims.

Targeted Offer for Amex Premier Rewards Gold charge card

The offer of 50,000 Membership Reward points requires just $1000 in spending in the first three months, and the annual fee ($175) is waived the first year.

What’s more, the card earns 3x points on airfare, 2x points at gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x points on everything else.

Wow.

The only problem is that my daughter is in eleventh grade.  She is a part-time hostess at a chain Mexican restaurant and is hoping to pick up some babysitting gigs this summer.

$500 sounds like a lot of money to a high school kid.  This is a pretty enticing offer.

  • I wonder what kind of “credit limit” she would qualify for?
  • I wonder what kind of balance she could run up, and how she could ever pay it off?
  • I wonder what kind of fees, interest charges, and penalties there are if you miss a payment?

All of which reminds me of a song by children’s poet Shel Silverstein:

Your Credit Card Won’t Get You Into Heaven Continue reading

Fabulous Deal on Price’s Seafood Restaurant

Save at Price's Seafood in Harve de Grace, MD

Save at Price’s Seafood in Harve de Grace, MD

Update:  Deal Extended.  $16 for $40 of crabs with coupon code:  Save 20% off sitewide with code SUMMERSTART. Valid 6/19/14 12:00 am ET through 6/21/14 11:59 pm PT. Restrictions apply.

I’ve raved about the sweet crabs at Price’s Seafood Restaurant in Harve de Grace, Maryland before.

This bayside restaurant serves up bushels of crabs and other seafood specials.  It’s not fancy, just a genuine crab shack by the Chesapeake Bay.

Price’s Seafood restaurant is a great midway stop if your driving between New York and Washington.

LivingSocial Deal on Price’s Seafood

LivingSocial is running a fabulous deal where you can get a voucher for $40 worth of seafood for $20.  (Please note that the terms of the offer exclude Fridays and Saturdays.)

But you can do better than that!

 Price's Seafood on the Chesapeake Bay

Price’s Seafood on the Chesapeake Bay

If you collect United Mileage Plus points, you can get 6x points by going to LivingSocial via the United Shopping Portal, and an additional 15 percent off with coupon code UNITED15.  

You must act quickly because this offer expires today, June 16, 2014!  You’ll get the voucher for $17, plus earn 102 Mileage Plus points in the bargain!

100 points isn’t worth much, but can be useful if you need a transaction on your account to keep your miles from expiring.

Alternately, if you go through the cash back shopping portal at FatWallet, you can get 10 percent cash back.  I have had very good experience with FatWallet.  They track all your purchases and the cash back posts fairly promptly.  With this route, you’ll get $2.00 cash back on your purchase.

Hat tip to Just Another Points Traveler.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them.

Free Tour of the Historic Woolrich Mill

Woolrich Factory Tour

Woolrich Factory Tour

As soon as I opened the email from my husband (see picture to left), I knew a road trip to central Pennsylvania was in my future.

Factory tours are de rigueur on our family vacations.  I’ve been to an aluminum smelter, a silk tie factory, a newspaper printing operation, an airplane factory, a ski-doo factory, a cheese factory and a toothpaste factory.  If we ever make it to Japan, we’ll probably go to the Toto toilet factory, the Ramen noodle factory and the Toyota factory.

We are members of the Society of Industrial Archeology which often arranges small group tours to industrial sites.

2014 Woolrich Woolen Mill Tour Dates

Woolrich Woolen Mill in Woolrich, Pennsylvania has been in operation since 1830.  It is the oldest continuously operating mill in the United States.

Several times a year, Woolrich offers tours of the mill to members of the public.  The tour shows how wool is spun into yarn and woven into fabric and blankets.Woolrich Factory Tour

The 2014 factory tour dates are:

  • Saturday, June 21, 2014
  • Saturday, August 16
  • Saturday, September 13
  • Saturday, October 18, 2014

There will be four tours offered on each date, at 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, and 2:00 p.m.

You must register early, and in advance, by calling 570-769-7401.

On the day of the tour, you’ll receive a $10 gift card to use at the Woolrich Outlet Store.  The best values are found in the Back Room, where Woolrich fabric is sold by the bolt, yard or pound.

Photographer Christoper Paine has chronicled a few of the remaining textile mills (as well as some of the closed mills) in a photo essay for the New York Times, entitled “Fruits of the Loom.”

Here are links to a video and blog post about the Woolrich Mill Tour.

Meet a Spy: Tony and Jonna Mendez at the Spy Museum

Meet a Spy

Meet a Spy — Tony and Jonna Mendez

Did you see the Argo?  Now you can meet the spy that inspired the movie at one of three free events sponsored by the International Spy Museum!

International Spy Museum Briefing

Meet the Tony and Jonna Mendez.  Both are former CIA Chiefs of Disguise, responsible for changing the identity and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives around the world.

Tony is most famous for his rescue of American diplomats from Tehran during the Iranian Hostage Crisis as depicted in the award-winning film Argo.

Rendezvous Info

The rendezvous takes place in the book store at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.  Admission is free, and no pre-registration is required.

There are three dates scheduled:

  • Friday, June 27, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, July 25, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, August 22, 2014; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

 

Ann Arbor, Michigan on Miles and Points

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair 2014

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair 2014 Poster

I graduated from the University of Michigan, and haven’t been back to Ann Arbor in years.  The winters there could be pretty harsh, but the summers were beautiful.

When I heard about the Ann Arbor Art Fair Do, I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out my old stomping grounds, see some good friends, take in the art fair, and hang with miles and points enthusiasts.

What is a Do?

When frequent flyers get together for an informal gathering, they call it a “do.”   The Ann Arbor do is a relatively small gathering that features several guest speakers.

Who is Drew?

The guest speakers at the 2014 Ann Arbor Art Fair Do will be Drew who blogs at Travel is Free and his wife Carrie whose blog is Freakin Flyers.  Drew and Carrie have been traveling long-term for practically nothing, and should have a lot of stories to share.  Tahsir Ahsan, aka the Bengali Miles Guru, writes for Hack My Trip and will be speaking on rental cars and how to manufacture points and miles.

The “do” is an annual event organized by a guy who calls himself “Bikeguy” on the Flyertalk forum.  As a relative newcomer to this hobby, I hope to pick up some tips and tricks from the veterans coming from around the Midwest and elsewhere.

What to Do in Ann Arbor

The big event of the week will be the Ann Arbor Art Fair, which is a street fair of juried artists and craftspeople near the campus of the University of Michigan.  The event has grown in recent years to encompass four concurrent art fairs all over town.  There will be entertainment as well as fine arts and crafts.

Robert Own Coop

Robert Owen Coop
Photo by Inter-Cooperative Council

Since this trip is a “reunion” of sorts, I want to visit some of my favorite places on and off campus like the Dana building and the Inter-cooperative Council houses where I lived.  I hear Lenny Bruce coop is long gone, but Robert Owen coop is still going strong.  I also want to stop by Dominick’s Italian cafe, where I waitressed one summer.

I’ll be on the lookout for urban fairy doors in the downtown area, something that I find very intriguing.  I’m looking forward to spending a day with my friends at Pickerel Lake, a small undeveloped lake about 20 miles from Ann Arbor.

Where to Stay in Ann Arbor

This is a miles and points conference and I am using points to get to Michigan.  I have reservations on Southwest, where my nonstop flights price out at 6,500 Rapid Rewards points each way.  Curiously, the nonstop flights on this route require fewer points than tickets involving plane changes.

I earned these points through a combination of flying Southwest, and making purchases on my Chase Southwest credit card.  There is currently a promotion for the card which offers a 50,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $69.  The Southwest credit card is an outstanding deal for budget domestic travelers, and award seat availability on Southwest is very good.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair draws several hundred thousand visitors so hotel rooms are at a premium.  I used Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points to book a room at the Sheraton Ann Arbor for the points and cash rate of 3,500 points and $55 per night.  This hotel is located several miles from campus in hotel row near the Briarwood mall.  There is an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, and they offer a shuttle for local transportation.

The Palmer House Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

The Palmer House Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

By using the points, I am saving about $100 per night.  I earned these points by opening the Amex SPG credit card and making purchases on the card.  Through the end of June, this card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points, after spending $5,000 in a six month period.  The annual fee of $65 is waived the first year.  If a friend refers you for the card, they will earn a 5,000 point bounty.  (Let me know if you would like a referral.)  

Frank Lloyd Wright House on VRBO

In looking for a place to stay for the weekend, I came across the Palmer House, a beautifully preserved house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, complete with all the original Wright furniture.  The house sits on two acres overlooking the University of Michigan Arboretum. Continue reading

Welcoming Air China to Washington, DC in Style

Welcoming Air China!

Welcoming Air China!

I was on hand yesterday for the arrival of Air China’s inaugural flight from Beijing into Dulles International Airport (IAD).

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) invited some local people to participate in the gala welcoming ceremony as part of their “Discover Dulles” program.

The airport authority sure knows how to throw a party.

The 25 Discover Dulles participants, along with about 50 journalists, were transported to the airfield via IAD’s infamous mobile lounges for a close up view of landing.

It was an exciting moment when the plane touched down.

We were rushed back onto the mobile lounge and whisked closer to the terminal so we could view the aircraft run the gauntlet through the ceremonial water arch.

Air China Lands at IAD

Air China Lands at IAD

Two fire trucks were dispatched to pump a stream of water over the airplane to celebrate the arrival of the inaugural flight.  This is aviation’s equivalent of christening a new ship.

After the plane landed, the Ambassador of China and Virginia Governor McAuliffe were feted by Chinese lion dancers.

Several traditional Chinese musicians played at the reception.

Water Cannon Salute

Water Cannon Salute

 

The speeches heralded the 7,000 mile avionic bridge that had been established between Washington and Beijing, and the cultural, diplomatic, and economic exchanges that would ensue.

Oh, and the swag!  Each participant received a goodie bag with a propellor paperweight, a model of the airplane, and other “stuff.”

Traditional Chinese Musicians

Traditional Chinese Musicians

This was a fun event:   I got to meet some Chinese journalists, airport personnel, and aviation geeks.

Keep  your eyes peeled for other opportunities like this on the Discover Dulles webpage.

Earn More, Burn Less  

In honor of the new service, Air China’s frequent flyer program, Phoenix Miles, is running a promotion on travel between Beijing and Washington, DC.  

You can earn fifty percent more than the regular miles on flights, and award travel will be discounted.   Continue reading

Dulles Flyer: What is the #icelanDChase?

Icelandair Ticket Giveaway Washington DC to Europe

Icelandair Reps Will be Giving Away Freebies on the Streets of Washington, DC

Icelandair is celebrating its new year-round service from Washington D.C. by giving away round-trip tickets for two to any of Icelandair’s more than 20 destinations in Europe!

Icelandair representatives will be hitting the streets of the nation’s capital to give away one pair of tickets each day from Thursday, June 12, 2014 through Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Additional prizes include thirty $100 gift certificates for travel, tee shirts, Icelandic music CDs, and cool merchandise.

How can Washingtonians join the #icelanDChase?

You can search for the location of each day’s tickets, by finding clues and a password on Icelandair’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

  • Follow #icelanDChase on Twitter for clues
  • Clues will be given at various times of the day until the tickets are found
  • The first person to arrive at the location and reveal the password to the Icelandair representatives will win tickets for two to any one of more than 20 destinations in Europe
  • For further information, see the Terms and Conditions

    Where can you Fly on Icelandair?

    Where can you Fly on Icelandair?

You can find Icelandair on Facebook (facebook.com/Icelandair) or Twitter (@Icelandair).

Note the blackout dates, which exclude travel during the summer, or over the Christmas holiday:  May 21, 2014 through September 5, 2014; and December 15, 2014 through January 6, 2015.  

If You Don’t Live in Washington, Here are Two  Other Contests to Iceland

1.  Icelandic Fourmula is giving away a trip for two to Iceland!  This online giveaway includes:

  • Roundtrip coach class airfare for two
  • room accommodations for three nights/ four days at a luxury hotel in Reykjavik
  • City of Reykjavik Welcome Card
  • VIP room for 2 at the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa.
Icelandair Launches Year Round Service from IAD

Icelandair Launches Year Round Service from IAD

Fill out the entry form online to enter for a chance to win this Iceland getaway!  Enter by December 31, 2014.

Click here for sweepstakes rules and conditions.

2.  X-Men X-Treme Adventure

This contest is for a trip to Iceland, or weekly packs of Flipz, X-Men memorabilia, Schick razors and cash.  Enter before October 31, 2014.  

The Grand Prize Winner will receive a trip for two to Iceland and $2,274 in cash for personal expenses.  The trip must be taken between October 31, 2014 and March 31, 2015, but cannot be taken over Christmas, New Years or public holidays in the U.S. or Iceland.  The official rules are here.  

Family Travel for Real Life: The Do

Family Travel for Real Life

August 23, 2014 in Sterling, Virginia

Is it a seminar or is it a movement?  The Deal Mommy is organizing a “do” for deal mongers with a passion for family travel.

Family Travel for Real Life will be held August 23, 2014 at the Hyatt House Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Sterling, Virginia, right near IAD.

This hotel has reasonable weekend prices, so why not plan to stay the weekend and take in the sites.  If you’d rather not go downtown, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center is just down the street.

Family Travel for Real Life Will Cover These Topics

  • Scheduling around a school calendar
  • Saving money without relying only on credit card bonuses
  • Condo rentals and hotel rooms for families traveling overseas
  • Booking award tickets when you need more than two
  • Destination planning for families
  • Camp Mom:  traveling with your kids for less than the cost of camp
  • How to save on theme park vacations

Several top notch speakers are already lined up, with more to be added:

  • Carolina Travel Girl:  Where to stay when a hotel room won’t cut it
  • Jason Steele:  Booking award travel for families
  • Shawn of Miles to Memories:  Booking loo00ong summer vacations

Follow this hashtag on Twitter to stay in the loop:  #FT4RL

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and sessions will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (possibly 5:00).  Lunch and an afternoon snack break are included in admission.

Sign up early because the first 25 registrants can get tickets for $49.  After that, tickets are going for $59.  Here’s the link to register!

Two “Free” Tickets to Hershey Park for “Neighbors”

Two Free Tickets to Hershey Park

Two Free Tickets to Hershey Park for Residents of PA, VA, MD, & DE

If you consume any of the beverages pictured above, here’s a nice opportunity to get two free tickets to Hershey Park!

We visited Hershey, Pennsylvania last spring and had a great time, even though we did not go to the amusement park.

“Free” Tickets to Hershey Park

To qualify for the free amusement park tickets, you need to purchase twenty single Pepsi products at Giant or Martin’s grocery stores.

Participating products include:

  • 20 oz. Pepsi-Cola® products (any flavor of Pepsi®, Mtn Dew®, Sierra Mist® and Mug®)
  • 20 oz. Aquafina® products (any variety)
  • 18.5 oz. Pure Leaf® products
  • 11 oz. Starbucks® Iced Coffee drink bottles

But hurry.  Purchases must be made by June 12, 2014, and certificates must be postmarked by June 30, 2014.

The offer is only open to residents of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Discounted Tickets to Hershey Park at Giant Food Stores in VA, WV, PA, & MD

Discounted Tickets to Hershey Park at Giant Food Stores in VA, WV, PA, & MD

You will need to mail in your original receipts along with a certificate to receive a free ticket to Hershey Park.  There is a limit of two tickets per household.

The regular price of tickets to Hershey Park $59.95 for ages 9-54, and $37.95 for kids 3-8, and seniors 55-69.  If you can find a good price on these beverages, this deal can save you a lot of money!

Discounted Tickets to Hershey Park

What if you need more than two tickets, or don’t like Pepsi?

Select Giant Food Stores in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia sell discounted tickets to Hershey Park. Continue reading

Dulles Flyer: See Air China’s Inaugural Flight into IAD

Inaugural Air China Flight to Dulles June 10, 2014

Inaugural Air China Flight to Dulles June 10, 2014

Dulles International Airport (IAD) in will welcome Air China’s inaugural arrival from Beijing to Washington, DC on Tuesday June 10, 2014 with a special ceremony.

Twenty-five lucky members of the public will be invited to view the aircraft landing and the ceremonial water arch of Air China’s first flight into IAD. 

In addition to viewing the landing of Air China’s first flight, guests will attend a VIP Ceremony and ribbon cutting at the Main Terminal.

Would you like to be a part of this exciting event?

Click here to enter for a chance at an invitation.  Entries must be received by 10:00 a.m. Friday, June 6, 2014.

Participants will be transported via mobile lounge to the airfield.  Upon conclusion of the landing and aircraft parking, the mobile lounge will return to the Main Terminal where participants are invited to attend the Air China Inaugural Ceremony.

Air China will offer four nonstop flights per week to Beijing beginning June 10, 2014.

Moon National Parks Sampler: Free for Kindle

Moon National Parks Sampler

Free for the Kindle

Thinking about a road trip to the National Parks this summer?

Pick up a free e-copy of the Moon National Parks Sampler to get some ideas.
Moon Handbooks are geared for the independent traveler.
Moon National Parks Sampler
The National Parks Sampler includes maps, itineraries, and travel planning tips for:
  • Acadia National Park
  • Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Four Corners including Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Canyon
  • Mt. Rushmore & the Black Hills
  • Yellowstone & Grand Teton
  • Yosemite
  • Zion & Bryce
The 385-page book, published in May 2012, provides an overview of some of North America’s most iconic destinations.
Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

The information in this sampler is excerpted from individual Moon national parks guides; once you’ve chosen your travel destination, check out the full-length Moon guide to the park of your choice.

Don’t have a Kindle?
I have the most basic version called the Kindle Paperwhite.
I like it because it’s easy on the eyes and you can use it outside in full sunlight.  It’s very lightweight, holds 1,000 books, and has a weeks-long battery life.
The biggest disadvantage of the model I have is that there is no backlighting if you want to read in bed at night.
You can often find great deals on refurb Kindles on Amazon.
If you don’t want to travel with with yet another electronic device, you can download the free Kindle app for smartphones, tablets, and computers.
This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!  

Continue reading

Why We Chose Wildwood Crest for Our Jersey Shore Vacation

Doo Wop in Wildwood, NJEvery town on the Jersey Shore has a distinct personality.

One summer, we landed in Wildwood because of our interest in neon signs and mid-century architecture.

The thing that attracted us to Wildwood  were the dozens of mid-century motels still standing, though sadly, many have been razed to build condos.

There are three distinct towns on the barrier island:  North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest — where the greatest concentration of mid-century modern resorts still operate.  The motels, are themed, with Vegas-like neon signs, plastic palm trees, and fantastical architecture.

The Wildwoods

The Wildwoods — Great for a Family Beach Vacation
Photo by Joel Shprentz

Doo Wop Motels in Wildwood Crest

In Wildwood Crest, which is the family-oriented southern stretch of beach, you’ll find the Jolly Roger, the Astronaut, the Apollo, the Gondolier, the Safari, the Aztec, the Tangiers, the Viking, and many others.

The architectural style is known as Doo WopGoogie, or Populuxe.  These  terms describe the kitschy style of Wildwood’s 200 motels built in the 1950s and 1960s. Continue reading

Win a Staycation: Ride the Capital Wheel

The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

Here’s a contest that caught my eye, mostly because of the chance to ride the brand new Capital Wheel.

The Maryland Office of Tourism is running a sweepstakes for a staycation at National Harbor, right on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County.

National Harbor is a multi-use riverfront development with outlet shopping, dining, entertainment and lodging.

I call this a staycation sweepstakes, because it includes hotel, meals, and entertainment, but not plane fare to Washington, DC.

Enter the National Harbor Summer Getaway sweepstakes by June 25, 2014, for a chance to win this prize package:

In addition, the grand prize includes four offers from the Potomac Riverboat Company:

  • Two VIP boarding passes (each pass admits two):  Alexandria – National Harbor Water Taxi;
  • Four VIP vouchers: National Mall Water Taxi;
  • Four VIP boarding passes:  George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens Cruise;
  • Four VIP vouchers:  Washington Monuments Cruise.

I entered this contest.  I think it would be a blast to stay on the other side of the Beltway and get around via water taxi for a couple of days.  Does it tempt you?

 

Win an Entire Year of Family Nights Out!

Fandango Family Movie Night Sweepstakes

Okay, here’s another sweepstakes offer I couldn’t help but share.

Fandango is offering a chance to win everything you  need to have the perfect family movie night every week, for a whole year!

The grand prize winner will receive:

  • Four Fandango movie tickets per week
  • Dinner out for four
  • Concessions
  • Gas money to cover your trips to the theater

Fandango is valuing this prize at $13,000 — it’s kind of astounding to think that that’s the cost of family entertainment these days.

They are also offering twenty weekly prices of $100 each in Fandango promo codes.

The sweepstakes runs from 5/28/14 to 6/27/14

You can enter online here.

Portraits Alive! Smithsonian Teen Program

Portraits Alive!

Portraits Alive!

Summer vacation is almost upon us, but it’s not too late to think about fun activities for that awkward age:  teenagers 14 to 16 years old.  They are too old to go to summer camp, and too young to get a job.  Or something like that.

Here’s a novel idea for a practically free three-week summer program offered by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Portraits Alive! is a museum theater program based on people in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Students create a collaborative museum-theater piece after choosing a portrait from the museum’s collection.  Each program participant writes and performs an original vignette to accompany the portrait.

Okay, so my kid wouldn’t be interested in this program in a million years, but maybe you know someone who would!  Some of the students are actors, others are writers or have an interest in history.  Check out this short video of last year’s performers on You Tube.

The fee for the three-week program is just $100, which defrays the costs for costuming, dry-cleaning, workshops, and supplies.  Teens can earn community service hours for their participation.  

There are two sessions this year:

  • Session 1: June 30 through July 18, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Session 2: July 22 through August 8, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The National Portrait Gallery has just extended the application deadline for the program until June 6, 2014.  E-mail ProvostG@si.edu to request an application.  Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by Monday, June 9 2014.

The National Portrait Gallery is not the stuffy museum you might imagine. Continue reading