The Most Family Fun You Can Have in Vegas for Under Ten Bucks

Pinball Hall of Fame in Las VegasI

Wall to Wall Pinball Machines at the
Pinball Hall of Fame, Las Vegas

The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas houses the world’s largest pinball collection, with over 200 vintage games available for play.  

The games are from the 1950s to the 1990s, and have been meticously restored and maintained by pinball maven Tim Arnold.  

We met with Arnold when we were in Vegas in 2012, and he graciously  explained everything that goes into running such an enormous operation.

The Pinball Hall of Fame

There’s no admission charge, and all the older pinballs are set to 25 cents per play, with newer 1990s models set to 50 cents per play.

You and your family can have a lot of fun here for a roll of quarters!

The museum is a nonprofit, and all proceeds go to local charities, such as the Salvation Army.

Arnold says:

I like the Salvation Army a lot because they’re kinda like us. They’re downtown on the cheap side, and they put all their emphasis on the areas that need emphasis, and not a lot on hierarchy and organization.

The Pinball Hall of Fame is located about 2.4 miles east of the strip at:  1610 E Tropicana Ave, Las Vegas, NV.  The museum is open every day from 11 am to 11 pm, except Friday and Saturday, when it stays open until midnight.

Fantasia at the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas

Fantasia at the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas
Photo by Joel Shprentz

The Neon Museum Family Activities

Another Las Vegas Institution well worth a visit is the Neon Museum and its boneyard of discarded signs from casinos from days gone by.

Our family greatly enjoyed our visit to the boneyard.

If you are looking for some family friendly activities in Las Vegas, the Neon Museum has expanded its educational programming to include a series of events for kids and families. 

Here are a couple of noteworthy events for kids coming up:

  • Saturday, April 19, 10 a.m. to noon – Orienteering in the Boneyard.  Families will use compasses to participate in a maze-version scavenger hunt in the famous Neon Boneyard.  Appropriate for people of all ages
  • Saturday, May 24, 2 to 4 p.m. – Drawing History in 3D.  Children will learn how to draw their own 3D/anaglyph sign based on historic signs in the Neon Museum’s collection and make their own 3D-viewing glasses.  Recommended for kindergartners through sixth graders.

Family drop-in events are free and open to the public.  All children must be accompanied by an adult. Register by sending an email to education@neonmuseum.org.

Sign Design: Past, Present and Future

On Tuesday, April 22, the Neon Museum will host its next PRISM Times of the Signs event, a panel discussion:  “Sign Design: Past, Present and Future.” Continue reading

Around The World in Eighty Minutes

2014 Around the World Embassy Tour

Embassy of Spain Open House

More than 50 embassies representing six continents open their doors to visitors on Saturday May 3, 2014 from 10 am to 4 pm for the annual Around the World Embassy Tour in Washington, DC.  

Participants can travel the world as they experience the food, art, dance, fashion, and music of different countries.

Last year, offerings included karate demonstrations, dance performances, sari wrapping lessons, and henna demonstrations.

These events are a not just an exhibit of diplomacy.  According to the Washington Post:

…the real reason everyone loves them so much is because if you play it right, the day is an all-you-can-eat buffet. With booze!

2014 Around the World Embassy Tour

Embassy of Malaysia Open House

This year, 54 embassies are participating:

Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Chad, Colombia, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea,  Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine,  Venezuela,  Zambia, and League of Arab States. Continue reading

Europe on Less Than $5 a Day

European Embassies Open House 2014

Embassy of Finland Open House

One of the fun things about living in Washington, DC is access to the cultural offerings of the embassies:  concerts, art exhibits, films, and receptions.

On Saturday May 10, 2014, 28 embassies from European countries will open their doors to the public for the annual European Union (EU) Embassies’ Open House.

The free event, which runs from 10 am to 4 pm, is a day of family fun, food, and culture.  The open houses offer visitors a look inside the embassies and provide a unique opportunity to experience the cultural heritage and national traditions of the 28 member countries of the European Union.

2014 EU Embassy Open House

Embassy of the Netherlands Open House

A free shuttle bus runs between the embassies, allowing you to maximize your experience of traditional music, dance, food, film, and art.  

I’ve heard that you can tell which embassies are offering free food by how long the lines are!

This year, participating embassies include:  Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, France and the Federal Republic of Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Delegation of the European Union, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Republic of Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden.

Here are a few of the highlights that caught my eye: Continue reading

Herndon Date Night: Half Off on the Half Shell

Groupon Deal at Ice House Cafe

Half Off at Ice House Cafe
Herndon, VA

I’m done with Resturants.com.  I gave up on Entertainment Book a long time ago.

But there are still a couple of dining discount programs that I keep an eye on.

The first is the Dining Rewards Network, that allows you to earn miles or cash back for dining at certain restaurants and paying with a registered credit card.

The second is Groupon.

Of these two programs, Groupon definitely offers the better deals, because you can get as much as half off.  The Dining Rewards Network is better for earning a few extra frequent flyer miles to keep your account active.

I find that there are still a few quality seafood restaurants in both these programs in the Northern Virginia area.

Case in Point:  The Dining Rewards Network

  • Tara Thai in Herndon, Virginia:  This restaurant consistently serves delicious food, beautifully presented, including many fresh fish and seafood options.  Highly recommended. The prices are reasonable, too.
  • Clydes of Tysons Corner:  See my review here.

Groupon:  A Date Night Deal

  • Groupon Deal Ice House Cafe

    Groupon Deal Ice House Cafe
    Herndon, VA

    The Ice House Cafe, Herndon, VA:  There are a few local gems in “downtown” Herndon that have stood the test of time.  The Ice House Cafe is one of the few joints around with an oyster bar, and live jazz on the weekends.

Groupon is currently offering a choice of several 50 percent off deals:

  • $17 for one dozen oysters or clams and two soups of the day or house salads, valid Monday–Thursday (up to a $35.90 value);
  • $17 for one dozen oysters or clams and two soups of the day or house salads, valid Friday or Saturday (up to a $35.90 value);
  • $24 for two dozen oysters or clams, valid Monday–Thursday (up to a $48 value); or
  • $24 for two dozen oysters or clams, valid Friday or Saturday (up to a $48 value).

Free Guidebook: The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel

Free Lonely Planet Guide:  The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Free from the Lee County
Visitor & Convention Bureau

My first paid job in the environmental movement was an internship at the Conservation Foundation in Washington, DC.

I worked for ecologist John Clark, a pioneer in the conservation of wetlands and barrier islands.

He had just published a the seminal guide to ecologically-based land use planning:  The Sanibel Report:  Formulation of a Comprehensive Plan Based on Natural Systems.  The report is a case study of how to develop a land use plan consistent with the carrying capacity of natural systems.

I have always been curious about Sanibel Island in Florida — was the conservation plan able to keep development in check?

Today, much of the island is preserved as the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  Sanibel, and neighboring Captiva island are best known as a shell collector’s paradise.  Eco-tourism is the major industry.

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau is promoting the area by distributing a free copy of Lonely Planet’s guidebook, Discover the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, published in July 2012.

This is a full color softcover, pocket-sized travel guide — 176 pages, plus a pull-out map. There are no ads.

This guide covers:

  • Beaches: Beautiful beaches of every style, including world-class shelling, secluded white sand and sunsets
  • Nature & eco travel: From pristine beaches to wetlands and wildlife refuges
  • History & culture: Meet the pioneers, from the Calusa Indians to the Koreshan, and lively artists colonies
  • Entertainment: Shopping or nightlife,  from jazz bars to dives and boutiques
  • Dining: Everything from bargain seafood joints overlooking the water to ethnic eats
  • Sport & activities: Get your hiking boots on, your kayak prepped, or hop on a bike
  • Accommodations:  Choose from historic cottages, vacation rentals or chain hotels

Sign up here to request a free hard copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook.

If you prefer a digital version, you can download the Kindle edition free of charge from Amazon.com.

50K Frequent Flyer Miles x 2

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

My favorite feature of the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases is free access to my  credit score every quarter.

If you are opening a lot of credit cards to earn points and miles, you definitely need to stay on top of the impact on your credit score.

Barclay’s offers free access to the real FICO score from Transunion.  You are also eligible for a free FICO credit score from Barclay’s if you have the The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®.  

This benefit has been available for the past six months, so I have been able to watch my score gradually increase over time as I took a break from opening new credit cards.

At first blush, you might think that your credit score would go down from opening a lot of rewards credit cards.  It does.  Your score temporarily drops a few points for each credit inquiry on your credit report.

Components of FICO Credit Score

Components of FICO Credit Score

However, if you pay your bills on time and in full every month (and you should only be in this game if you do) your score could actually increase over time.

That is because an important component of your credit score is credit utilization, or how much of the total credit line is being used.

If your total credit line increases as you open more cards, and the percent of credit utilized decreases, that can have a positive impact on your credit score.

Free FICO Score from Barclaycard Arrival:  My Credit Score Increased Over Time

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

Free FICO Credit Score from Barclaycard Arrival

Six months ago, when I first gained access to my official FICO score via Barclaycard, my score was roughly 779.   That is in the excellent range.  (Sorry, I don’t have a screen shot.)

I wanted to give my credit score a rest, so I stopped applying for new credit cards for a while.  As credit inquiries gradually dropped off my report, my score rose to 810 in January 2014.

Three months later, in April 2014, my credit score rose again to 825 out of a maximum score of 850.  This is amazing considering the large number of credit cards I have applied for over the last several years.

Stay Alert for Offers for 50K Frequent Flyer Miles

My “strategy” when I first got into this game was to look for rewards cards that offered 50K bonus miles for new applicants.  First, I applied for the Southwest credit card for 50K, and then the Southwest business card for 50K.  Next I applied for the Delta card for 50K, and then the Delta business card for another 50K.  After that I applied for the United card for 50K, and the United business card for 50K.

I am self-employed so I am eligible for small business credit cards because of my environmental consulting business.

I got a lot of free flights from these airlines!

Actually though, I think a consolidation strategy makes more sense for a lot of people, especially leisure, budget travelers.

Nevertheless, I didn’t follow my own advice, and last summer I applied for the American Airlines AAdvantage credit card for 50K bonus miles.

With my credit score now well above 800, I was now ready to consider applying for additional travel rewards credit cards.  So this weekend, I applied for the American Airlines AAdvantage business credit card for 50K bonus points.  This card has a $3,000 spend requirement in the first three months to get the bonus, and it has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.  There are other offers out there for “Executive” versions of the AA card, but they had higher spend requirements than I was comfortable with.

Eyeing the Barclaycard Arrival Continue reading

Why Diversification in Frequent Flyer Programs is a Bad Idea for Budget Travelers

Frequent Flyer ProgramsIt seems obvious to the casual observer.

Diversification is a good idea in the stock market, but it is a bad idea as far as frequent flyer programs go.

In order to maximize award travel, you need to concentrate your earning strategy on one or maybe two frequent flyer programs.

Miles and points have no value if they are not used.  Zilch.  So there is little value in gathering a few miles here and a few miles there unless you will have enough to redeem for an award ticket or hotel room.

Miles and Points Programs Are Loyalty Programs

Frequent flyer and hotel programs are loyalty programs so it stands to reason that they reward loyalty.  If you spread your spending around, the less likely you are to accrue enough points in any one program to redeem an award, or to benefit from elite status.  Now I am not one for elite status, but if you are doing a lot of traveling, and can arrange your travel to concentrate on a particular airline or hotel chain, you may accelerate your points earning as you move up the loyalty program ladder.

35,000 Miles Won’t Get Me Where I Want to Go

Let me give an example.  Last year, I opened a The US Airways Premier World MasterCard® for a bonus of 35K miles.  I thought this was a great deal because the miles were awarded after making my first purchase — there was no minimum spend requirement.  Free miles, I thought.  (The offer now is for $30K miles after your first purchase, with an annual fee of $89.)

US Airways fit into our family’s travel plans, because they had a lot of flights from Washington National (DCA) to Hartford (BDL).  The US Airways card came with two $99 companion passes, so I thought it would be a good way for our family of three to save on travel expenses.  Furthermore, it allowed award redemptions for 5,000 fewer points. (Economy awards on US Airways normally cost 25K miles, but if you have The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®, they cost only 20K miles.)

When it came time to book our travel, there was ready award availability at the “economy” level for flights from DC to Hartford.

So what’s the problem? Continue reading

Darn Tough Socks Make My Day

Darn Tough Vermont Socks

Darn Tough Vermont Socks

Experienced travelers know that the key to a pleasant journey is comfortable footwear.

When we were in Vermont last fall, I discovered some great Merino wool socks at a local outfitter — Sam’s in Brattleboro.

Sam’s occupies at least three buildings in downtown Brattleboro, across the street from the Latchis Hotel where we stayed.

It is one of those stores with an endless selection of hats, gloves, coats, boots, sweaters, and of course socks.

The socks — Darn Tough Vermont — are manufactured in the Green Mountain State.

I bought a couple of pairs, and now I am a convert.

There are a variety of styles for men, women, and children:  socks for hiking; socks for skiing; socks for running; and socks for everyday wear.

The socks come in different weights, sizes, lengths, and colors, and they all have an unconditional lifetime guarantee.

If our socks are not the most comfortable, durable and best fitting socks you have ever owned, return them for another pair, or your money back.

Vermont Country Store

Vermont Country Store

These socks are expensive, but sometimes you can find bargains on last year’s styles.  I wear mine around the house, for walking the dog, and when I know I’ll have to take my shoes off  at airport security.

You can purchase the Darn Tough socks directly from the manufacturer.

They are also available from outfitters like REI or on Amazon.com.

We found a huge display of Darn Tough Vermont socks at the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham.  This is a really fun store that sells all kinds of old fashioned candies, toiletries, toys, and everything else made in Vermont, from cheese to maple sugar candies, to rugged clothing.  Be sure to check out the upstairs loft for discounted merchandise!

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

Japan Dreaming: Save 25% on United Saver Awards to Japan

United Airlines is offering a 25 percent discount on award tickets to Japan, just in time for the cherry blossom season and festivals.

This is the bargain of the century!

Round-trip coach tickets for nonstop flights from Washington, DC to Tokyo price out at over $2,000 in April 2014, but can be had 52,500 miles with this sale!

The regular “saver” award price is 70,000 Mileage Plus miles.

What’s more, there is plenty of availability for Dulles International Airport (IAD) in both directions!

Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD

Saver Award Space from IAD to NRT

Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD

Saver Award Space From NRT to IAD

I did not check availability for other departure cities — but the offer is good for travel from the mainland U.S. and Canada.

The offer is valid for coach tickets purchased by April 17, 2014, for travel between April 1 and April 30, 2014.

A sample itinerary I checked priced out to 52,500 miles plus $120.50 in taxes for a roundtrip ticket, or $2,480 in cash.

That means that you could get enough miles for a roundtrip ticket to Japan just by opening a single credit card and meeting the minimum spend requirement.  That’s extraordinary if you think about it!

Here’s the link to the full Terms & Conditions.

Destination Hotels’ Instant Status: Sign Right Up!

Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC

Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC

I’m just back from two business trips to North Carolina.

Last week, my meeting was held in the Carolina Inn, a fabulous historic hotel on the campus of the University of North Carolina.

I’ve stayed there several times before, sometimes with a very good Priceline rate.

Destination Delivers

When I checked in, the desk clerk offered me a brochure for the Destination Hotels and Resorts loyalty program, Destination Delivers.  ”It’s a pretty good deal,” she said.  ”You can get room upgrades.”

When I got to my room, I went online to check out the benefits.  Anyone can sign up, and you are automatically granted “VIP Status.”  The benefits of VIP Status are somewhat elusive, but they seem to include:

  • 10% off the Best Available Rate 

Use promo code D2BAR1 to receive 10% off the Best Available Rate.  Offer is based on availability.   

  • 20% off the Best Available Rate

Get 20% off the Best Available Rate during your birthday month.  Mention promo code D2BDAY.  Must show valid ID to receive discount.

  • Room Upgrade Late Checkout

A room upgrade could be a very useful benefit, especially at a historic hotel like the Carolina Inn, where the standard rooms are quite small.  This benefit is only offered when available.   

  • Late Checkout

Again, when available.

Destination Hotels and Resorts

I’ve stayed at two of the Destination Hotels and Resorts, both on Priceline stays, and they were both fantastic!

There are more than 40 other hotels and resorts in the Destination portfolio, including many at ski resorts, and city hotels in Washington, DC and Chicago.  All the properties are in the United States.

What’s the Catch? Continue reading

2014 Fodor’s Travel Guides: Now Free on iTunes

Fodor's Rio City Guide App

Fodor’s Rio City Guide App

Fodor’s has updated its series of 22 free travel guides for iPhone and iPad and the 2014 editions are now available on iTunes.

Just in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, city guides for Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo have been added!

Each App features:

- Expert info:  Read about things to do and get expert tips
- Interactive Local Maps:  Discover what’s nearby
- Booking Tools:  Book hotels, tours, and more
- Planner:  Save favorites and create lists

Fodor’s local travel experts vet every recommendation.  You’ll find information on neighborhoods, cheap things to do, kid-friendly attractions, shopping, nightlife, performing arts, and more.  These are not your parent’s stuffy travel books!

Fodor's Apps Feature Interactive Maps

Fodor’s Apps Feature Interactive Maps

The interactive maps make it easy to find nearby hotels, sights, restaurants, bars, and clubs and to access reviews from the map.

Listings are searchable by destination, price range, or category of interest.  Look for properties designated “Fodor’s Choice,” representing the best of the best.

The Fodor’s apps were recognized as the “2013 Travel App of the Year” by the Society of American Travel Writers, and were featured in Wired Magazine’s 2012 App Guide as a Best Travel Reference App.

How can Fodor’s afford to give away its guidebooks for free?  The apps include the ability to book hotel rooms via Expedia, buy event tickets via Tickets Now, and make restaurant reservations via Open Table.  Fodor’s is likely earning a commission if you make purchases via the app.

Fodor's 2014 Travel Guides Free on iTunes

Fodor’s 2014 Travel Guides Free on iTunes

Here are links to the city travel guides:

Fodor’s U.S. City Guide Apps

Fodor’s International City Guide Apps Continue reading

Two More Chances at $10,000 from Barclay’s “Be Your Possible” Contest

Barclay's Contest "Be Your Possible"I logged in to the online account for my “Barclaycard Arrival” and noticed a contest Barclay’s been running in honor of Women’s History Month.  

The “Be Your Possible” contest will award four $10,000 prizes.  There are two more chances to enter, by April 1 and April 8, 2014.

Being your possible means you don’t let anything stand in the way of accomplishing your goals and reaching your full potential.

Barclay's "Be Your Possible" Contest

Barclay’s “Be Your Possible” Contest

It’s easy to enter the contest via Facebook.  You just need to write a 200-word essay on one of these topics:

  • Empower your career
  • Be your own boss
  • Invest in your future
  • Your money smarts

The writing prompt is simply:   “Tell us your financial goal and how you plan to achieve it.”

All eligible entries will be judged based on the following three criteria:

  • Appropriateness to category theme (50 points)
  • Level of detail/clarity of expression (25 points)
  • Originality and usefulness of content (25 points)

 What do you think?  Is this contest worth your time?

Silent Clowns Film Series: Free at Lincoln Center; Discount Tickets in DC

Charlie Chaplin's Silent Films at the Alden Theater

Charlie Chaplin’s Silent Films at
The Alden Theater, McLean, VA

The Silent Clowns Film Series, is New York City’s free showcase for classic silent film comedy.

The series presents monthly showings of the silent movies of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Lloyd, and many others, with live musical accompaniment by renowned silent film accompanist Ben Model.

Every program features a spoken introduction and Q&A by film historians Bruce Lawton and Steve Massa.  The programs are presented on weekend afternoons, and are geared to classic film fans and families.

The Silent Clowns Film Series is held in the Bruno Walter Auditorium, located in the NY Library for the Performing Arts, at the back of Lincoln Center.

The next show is Saturday, April 12 at 2:30pm, and it features several Charlie Chaplin Films produced by the Mutual Film Corporation.  The show features these iconic Chaplin’s films:  The Count (1916), The Pawnshop (1916), The Immigrant (1917), and The Adventurer (1917).

Silent Clown Film Series Comes to Washington, DC

April 16, 2014 marks Charlie Chaplin’s 125th birthday.

Charlie Chaplin, aka The Little Tramp, is the most iconic and influential comedy star of the silent film era.  He starred in classic films including The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times.  

To celebrate Chaplin’s birthday, the Alden Theatre, outside Washington DC, is hosting a screening of Chaplin’s best movies, with commentary by film historian Bruce Lawton and live music by accompanist Ben Model. Continue reading

A Little Bit of Scandinavia at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Stressless Chairs at Raleigh-Durham Airport

Stressless Chairs at Raleigh-Durham Airport

Forget the Sky Club.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) you can relax in a lounge area filled with leather Stressless chairs and Scandinavian rugs.

The lounge is furnished by a local contemporary  furniture store — the Ambiente Collection.

You’ll find it just beyond the security area in Terminal 2, to the left of the down escalators.

There is seating for eight or so, and the chairs are more comfortable than anything else you will find at the airport.

If you have some time to kill, you might want to wander down to Gate D-8, where you will find 2nd Edition Book Sellers.

RDU 2nd Edition Book Shop

2nd Edition Book Shop at RDU

The shop claims to be the only used bookstore in a U.S. airport.

You’ll find a well-curated collection of almost-new popular titles, as well as many interesting, offbeat selections.

The book store also features rare and collectible editions.

Washington’s Airports: Pretty in Pink

MWAA Cherry Blossom FestivalWashington DC’s airports are getting in the spirit of the National Cherry Blossom Festival with pink lighting to greet visitors flying in for the event.  This year, peak bloom is forecast for April 8-12, 2014.

Check out some spectacular photographs of Dulles International Airport (IAD) decked out in pink by photographer J. David Buerk.

At both Reagan (DCA) and Dulles airports, food and retail concessioners will feature specials such as pink cocktails. donuts and apparel, through April 13, 2014.

The most interesting offering looks to be the Pink Hana Roll with salmon and avocado at Matsutake Sushi, at Gate A18.  You can find a complete list of specials at IAD shops and restaurants here.

Save 20% on iTunes Gift Codes

20% Discount on iTunes Cards at PayPal

20% Discount on iTunes Codes at PayPal

If you have a PayPal account you may be eligible for a special 2-day offer:  20% off an iTunes code, redeemable for yourself, or sent as  a gift.  Try this link to pull up the offer.

The 20% off offer is only applicable to one iTunes Code valued at $25, $50 or $100.  Please note that this is an e-code only; this offer is not for a physical gift card.

The offer is only available from March 20, 2014 (6 am PST) to March 21, 2014 (7:00 pm PST).   Hat tip to SlickDeals

Gift Card Purchases to Meet Minimum Spend on Rewards Credit Cards

Sometimes gift card purchases are helpful if you are trying to meet the minimum spend requirement on a new credit card to qualify for the rewards bonus.  Essentially, you can front load your purchases of essentials like groceries, or in this case iTunes credits, for use on future purchases.

For instance, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 1x on All Purchases offers new applicants $200 toward your next travel redemption, after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after opening the account.  A few gift card purchases for items that you know you will need in the near future can help you meet the minimum spend requirement.

Caution:  In no circumstances should you open a credit card for the rewards if it will cause you to spend more than you would otherwise.  Furthermore, if you do not pay off your bills in full and on time every month, you will be socked with high interest fees that far outweigh the value of any rewards.  

$3 per Day Parking at BWI

Save 40% on Parking at BWI with Econopark Express

Save 40% on Parking at BWI at
Econopark Express

I live just six miles from Dulles International Airport (IAD) but often find myself flying out of  Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI).

Because BWI is a hub for Southwest Airlines, there is more competition and you can often find cheaper airfares.

The last time we flew out of BWI, we found cheaper long-term parking with a  an “offsite” vendor.  In reality though, the parking was no further away from the airport than the “onsite” parking.

Park for $3.20 a day at BWI

There’s a terrific deal available from Groupon for 40 percent off parking at BWI with Econopark Express.  

The deal offers long-term parking for $4 a day, but there is a coupon today (3/19/2014)  for 20 percent off, bringing the rate down to an amazing $3.20 a day.  Use coupon code LOCAL20 at checkout.

There are 3 options available: Continue reading

Get It Now: Free Dublin Book from Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet's Dublin GuideLonely Planet is offering free copies of its Dublin travel guide for Kindle or iOS in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

This is a an electronic version of the complete 256 page book, published in October 2013.

The regular price of the digital version of Lonely Planet Dublin is $22.99.   

Lonely Planet Dublin, is a comprehensive travel guide, for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Here’s the description from the publisher:

Inside Lonely Planet’s Dublin Travel Guide:

  • Full-colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience – including history, literature, music and architecture.
  • Useful features - including Walking Tours, Day Trips and For Free
  • Coverage of Grafton Street, Temple Bar, Merrion Square, the Northside, Kilmainhaim and the Liberties, and more Continue reading

Half Price Tickets to the National Building Museum

National Building Museum Great Hall

The Great Hall
National Building Museum

My favorite museum gift shop in all of Washington, DC is the bookstore and gift shop at the National Building Museum.

The shop features books on architecture, design and city planning, but you can also find a large selection of fun and funky stationary items, jewelry, accessories, kitchenware, and more.  The selection of children’s toys is especially terrific!

When my daughter was an active toddler, the National Building Museum was one of my favorite places to visit on a rainy day.  There are lots of stairs to climb, and long corridors to explore, and even an indoor fountain.

These days, there is an ongoing Play, Work, Build exhibit for kids aged 2 to 6 years old.

Half Price Tickets to the National Building Museum

You don’t have to pay admission to visit the museum gift shop, cafe, or the colossal Great Hall, but if you want to see the exhibits, you must buy a ticket.

National Building Museum

National Building Museum
The Pension Building

Admission is normally $8 per adult, $5 for youth, students and seniors, or $3 per person if you only want to visit the kids’ Building Zone.

TravelZoo is offering half priced tickets to visit the exhibitions at National Building Museum. Continue reading

Join Blue Wings to Support Social Change Agents

ANA's Blue Wing/Wings for ChangemakersAll Nippon Airlines (ANA) has launched the Blue Wings/Wings for Changemakers  program to support and expand the reach of social entrepreneurship.  

Blue Wings is a partnership with Ashoka, a nonprofit network that takes an open source approach to tackling pressing social problems.

ANA is sponsoring the work 5 Ashoka fellows by supporting their transportation on ANA routes.

If you register with Blue Wings, you can vote for your favorite change maker, and ANA will donate 50 cents to their cause.  If you book travel on ANA through the Blue Wings website, 1 percent of your fare will be donated to the change maker you have selected.

Blue Wings offers a social networking platform to follow the progress of these five social change projects.

Find out how you can support social change through the Blue Wings program!

Japan Dreaming: Pretty Good Number One

Pretty Good Number OneFishing 4 Deals focuses on budget, domestic travel.  But anyone can dream, right?

Lately, I have been dreaming about traveling to Japan.

There are a number of things that intrigue me about Japan:

  • the natural beauty
  • J-pop culture
  • traditional arts like pottery and paper making
  • the trains
  • manufacturing industries
  • hot springs
  • old Japan
  • fashion
  • the gardens and temples
  • and, of course, the food

To indulge my fantasy, I picked up a copy of Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo, by Seattle-based food writer Matthew Amster-Burton.

The book is about an American couple and their adorable eight year old daughter Iris, who rent an apartment in Tokyo for one month.

 Tokyo is the opposite of the DMV.  It is the least annoying place I have ever been to.  –Matthew Amster-Burton

Amster-Burton used Kickstarter to crowd source the publication of the book in ebook form.

Here’s what one reviewer said about  Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo, published in February 2014:

The layers of the city, its extraordinary food pleasures, its quirkinesses, emerge as the author and his family spend an intense month living in Tokyo and exploring widely . . . Warning:  this book will make you hungry.  You’ll yearn, as I do, to catch the next plane to Tokyo, so you can get eating.  –Naomi Duguid, writer and traveler
Japan by RailAmazon has the kindle version of the book on sale for $3.99.I am not going to Japan any time soon, but in the meantime, I enjoy reading travel books.

I’ve picked up a copy of Japan by Rail, which offers incredibly detailed advice, down to how to find your platform, where to stash your bags, and where to exit the train station.

I am planning my miles and points accrual strategy with this trip in mind, focusing on collecting United miles and Ultimate Rewards points for the airfare, and Barclaycard Arrival points for the Japan Rail Passes.

The goal is to stay at hotels as close to the train stations as possible.  Japan Rail has a network of hotels throughout the country adjacent to rail stations.  These hotels offers discounts to rail pass holders.  The JR hotels would be super convenient but are mostly lux properties on the expensive side. Continue reading

My Go To Women’s Travel Vest — $10 off @ Duluth Trading

Travel Vest from Duluth TradingI needed a lightweight travel vest with lots of pockets to hold my iPhone, tickets, passport, etc.

After surveying the options, I chose this utility vest from Duluth Trading.

It’s marketed as a gardening vest but I think it makes a great travel vest.

It would also work for bike riding, dog training, horseback riding, hiking, etc.

It’s not perfect, but it serves the purpose.

What I like:

Women's Travel Vest

Women’s Travel Vest from Duluth Trading

  • plenty of pockets, 12 to be exact:  2 zipped pockets on the inside (lower); inside slip pocket with velcro fastener for a cell phone; 2 zipped chest pockets on the outside; 2 deep front pockets with snaps, and a few smaller pockets
  • the large lower pockets are elasticized to keep items secure
  • you can unzip the vest from the top and the bottom
  • there is a bit of shape to the vest

What I don’t like: Continue reading

MasterCard Contest: Win a Trip to London to See Justin Timberlake in Concert

MasterCard Contest to See Justin Timberlake Every time you swipe your MasterCard, you are entered into a contest to win a trip to London!

MasterCard is running a contest as part of their Priceless Surprises campaign to win a chance to see Justin Timberlake live in London on The 20/20 Experience World Tour.

They launched the campaign with an amusing video with JT that aired during the Grammys.

Every time you use your MasterCard you are automatically entered into this contest (just like the Visa contest to win at trip to the winter Olympics.)

If you want to increase your chances of winning, TWEET or INSTAGRAM using the hashtag #PricelessSurprises.  The more you tweet and post, the more chances you have.

The grand prize is a 5-day/4-night trip for winner and a guest to attend a 2014 Justin Timberlake concert in Europe as part of his 20/20 Experience World Tour. The trip includes round-trip coach air transportation, hotel, ground transportation, concert tickets, and a city tour.  The grand prize also includes $6,000 that may be used to help offset taxes.

 The value of this “priceless” prize:  approximately $19,500. Continue reading

This Week Only: KIND Bars on Sale at Staples

KIND Bars on Sale at Staples

This Week: $13 for a Box of 12

I have some business travel to North Carolina scheduled later this month.

Whenever I travel, even on a short trip, I like to bring an assortment of KIND fruit and nut bars with me, just in case.

They have just the right combination of sweet and salty, and they are loaded with protein, fiber and antioxidants to get me through the day.

These snacks can be expensive, so I was happily surprised to find them on sale at Staples.com this week.

This Week Only:  KIND Bars on Sale at Staples Continue reading