I Just Blew All My Points for a Trip to Japan

Springtime in Japan, how perfect!
Springtime in Japan, how perfect!

I have been dreaming about a trip to Japan for a long time.

Our family kind of lives moment to moment.  It is hard for us to make long-range plans because we never know what might come up.

Spontanaity has its advantages, though.  Sometimes, when you see an opportunity you can to jump on it.

Other times, it can be frustrating because tickets sell out, you can’t get reservations, and you miss out.

We have been saving miles and points for a trip to Japan for several years.  Between my husband and myself, and a few strategic credit card applications, we had 300,000 frequent flier miles, enough for two roundtrip business class tickets to Japan.

OMG, My Husband Retired!

My husband retired last fall.  I wasn’t really expecting it.

What does “retired” means these days, anyway?  I mean, he stopped going to work every day.  But, what’s next?

What’s more, our daughter graduated from high school in June.  We suddenly have more flexibility than during all those years when we were tied to the school calendar.

So I did exactly what you might expect.  I planned a trip.  To Japan.

All Dressed Up With 300,000 Points and Nowhere To Go

I am totally conflicted about miles and points.

Sometimes I think they’re a total scam.  It seems there is never availability for where you want to go, when you want to go.  Or, the only flights available on frequent flier miles follow ridiculous routings.

Both United Airlines and All Nippon Airlines (ANA) fly nonstop from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo (NRT).  You can use United Mileage Plus miles for either airline.  It’s a code share thing.  Both airlines offer lie-flat seats in business class on this route.  But I couldn’t seem to find saver seat availability.

Then, miraculously, I found seats in both directions for travel during peak cherry blossom season!  The routing would require an extra 15,000 frequent flier miles apiece.

Suddenly miles and points seem like magic!  We’ll be traveling to Japan on United in business class, and returning via ANA in first class!  The tickets are costing us 165,000 miles and $37 apiece.

That’s unbelievable!  $37 to fly roundtrip to Tokyo in lie flat business class and first class.  It kind of renews my faith in this hobby.

This will be our first trip to Asia.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few things I learned from booking this trip, as well as some deals I’ve run across along the way.  I am beyond excited!

If you have any tips on travel in Japan, I’d love if you could share in the comments!

Fifteen Lonely Planet E-Books for $15

Pay what you want for the first five books.
Pay what you want for the first five books.

Need some travel inspiration for the New Year?  

Lonely Planet’s survey books are always a good place to start for some trip planning ideas.  Now you can get fifteen Lonely Planet electronic travel books for $15, via Humble Bumble.

Pay What You Want for $300+ of Lonely Planet E-Books

These books are available in PDF, ePUB, and MOBI formats.  Here’s how it works:

Pay any amount you choose to get five Lonely Planet travel books in electronic format.  The books are:

  1. The Lonely Planet Book of Everything
  2. Best in Travel 2016
  3. The World’s Great Wonders
  4. Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Photography Tips
  5. Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips
Bid above the average and get six additional books.
Bid above the average and get six additional books.

Pay at least the average pledge ($8.61 as of now) to get an additional  six books and probably more.  Included here are:

  1. You Only Live Once
  2. The World
  3. Volunteer:  A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World
  4. How to Survive Anything
  5. From the Source Italy
  6. From the Source Thailand
  7. ? More books coming soon
$
Pay$15 and get four additional books.

Pay at least $15 to get four more books in addition to all the previous books:

  1. The Travel Book
  2. Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World
  3. Lonely Planet’s Wild World
  4. Wine Trails

That’s a total of $15 for fifteen or more books.  The money goes to one of several charities — including Doctors Without Borders, a personal favorite.

FWIW, my husband says he’s gotten lots of technical books via Humble Bumble.

Ten Percent Off Target Gift Cards — One Day Only

10% off Target Gift Cards 12/21/15
10% off Target Gift Cards 12/21/15

Target is offering ten percent off its gift cards for one day only, on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

The discount is good for up t0 $300 worth of Target Gift Card purchases, whether made in store or online.

For online purchases of e-gift cards, there is a limit of one transaction per household.

The deal is available in Target stores Dec. 20 from opening to closing time, but quantities are limited and there are no raincheck offered.

Online, the sale runs from midnight PST December 20, 2015 to 11:59 PST December 20, 2015.

The first day for redeeming the gift cards is Monday, December 21, 2015.

HT Reddit.

200 Posts in the Queue

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

First off, you may have noticed that my pace of blogging has fallen way off lately.

I’ve learned it’s hard to blog when traveling, particularly when internet access is spotty.

Then, there’s always a lot to catch up on when I get home.

Stick Around, There’s More to Come

I have some 200 unpublished posts in my queue.  Some are first drafts, some are ideas that I want to write about, and others are merely titles.

The unfinished posts are on topics such as these:

  • Ten Reasons Why I Loved the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan in Paris
  • Spontaneous Travel, the Oregon Coast, and Rest Stop Hotel Coupons
  • A Weeklong All-Inclusive Vacation for $600
  • Fun Things to Do with Teens and Tweens in Helena, Montana
  • Why Paris is a Priceline Bidders Paradise
  • Evolution of a Points and Miles Blogger
  • Three Easy Day Trips from Paris
  • Some of My Favorite Place-Based Blogs
  • DIY Foodie Tour of the Latin Quarter
  • Where to Stay on Sanibel Island
  • What is the Open Skies Biz Bed Experience Really Like?
  • The Best Frequent Flyer Program for Budget Domestic Travelers
  • Zion to Bryce Revisited

What I want to write about may not be what you want to read about.  Sometimes I feel like this blog is all over the map.

As I consider the future direction of the blog, I am open to reader suggestions.

Feel free to drop me a line, or share in the comments!

How to Unmask Priceline Express Deal Hotels

Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App
Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App

Travel companies are so keen to have you try their mobile apps that they provide a variety of incentives to do so.

Most often, these incentives are in the form of loyalty program points.

If you find that you get more value from discount travel brokers like Priceline, you may be interested in their latest holiday offer.

For a limited time, Priceline is revealing the name of five Express Deal Hotels to iPhone and Android app users.

Priceline Express Deals Unmasked

Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App
You can get five “Unwrap Credits” to unmask the name of the hotel.

To participate in the offer, you must download the latest version of the Priceline app and sign in to your Priceline.com account.

Your account should now show five “Unwrap Credits.”

You can use the credits to reveal the name of an Express Deal hotel before booking.  Express Deals do not require bidding.

Not all hotels are participating in this promotion.  Eligible hotels are marked with a red bow!

The offer runs through January 3, 2016.

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

United Club Lounge Passes for Fun and Profit

United Club Lounge in Chicago
United Club Lounge in Chicago

If you need some cheap lounge passes for an upcoming trip, check out my listings on Ebay!

I am auctioning off two sets of two United Club lounge passes.

United Lounge Passes:  Bidding Starts at 99 Cents!

 

The bidding in both auctions starts at $.99 and both will run for seven days.

If you are looking to snag a bargain on United Club lounge passes, head over to Ebay and checkout these listings.

The One (Travel Deal) That Got Away

Silent Auction Travel DealsOne of the best travel deals I’ve ever landed was purchased at a PTA silent auction at my daughter’s elementary school.  For something like $20, I picked up a family membership to a Virginia science museum.  The membership granted our family free admission to that museum for one year.

But the real deal was the local museum’s affiliation with the Passport Program of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC).

Over 300 science and children’s museums across the country and around the world participate in the ASTC Passport Program.

If you join one museum, your family can get free admission to any of the participating museums!

Among the offerings are gems such as:

  • the Museum of Flight in Seattle;
  • the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia;
  • the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago;
  • the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City; and
  • the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.
Free Admission to the Pacific Science Center
Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia

ASTC Passport Program Saves the Day!

I’ll never forget the time we visited my sister in Seattle.

We had ridden the monorail over to Seattle Center.  But the sky was overcast —  not a good day to go up the Space Needle.

All of a sudden it started pouring.  We ducked in to the Pacific Science Center.

Our whole family got in for free, thanks to the ASTC Passport.  It turned out to be a fantastic museum and we ended up spending several hours there.

Silent Auctions are Your Best Friend

In recent years, silent auctions for charitable causes have gone online.  The trick is to find a little known auction where there is less competition.

I stumbled across the annual fundraising auction for the Society of American Travel Writers last week.  I thought I was golden.  There seemed to be very few active bidders, and the travel prizes were great.  I placed a lowball bid for a trip to New Orleans.  The package included a stay at a Bed & Breakfast Inn, lunch, and a fat tire bicycle tour.  Unfortunately, I was outbid on that prize, but the winner still ended up with a great deal.

Passports with Purpose Annual Auction

Passports with Purpose annual AuctionAnother great annual event is a fundraiser sponsored by Passports with Purpose.

This event is a raffle, rather than a silent auction.  All proceeds go to support an international charity.  This year the beneficiary is Worldreader.

For a donation of $10, you can win a chance at dozens of great travel prizes — everything from tours to hotel stays to travel gear.

You can check out the prize catalog for the 2015 campaign here.  Proceeds will go to buy digital readers for libraries in Kenya.  It’s a great cause and an easy way for frequent travelers to give back.

$10 “Rebate” on $100 Ebay and Amazon Gift Cards at Safeway

Save on Gift Cards at Safeway through November 3, 2015
Save on gift cards at Safeway through November 3, 2015

Safeway is running a sale on “Fall Fashion” gift cards through November 3, 2015.

If you buy $100 of select gift cards, you get a coupon for $10 off your next grocery purchase of $25 or more.

The “Fall Fashion” deal is interesting because several of the participating gift cards are for merchants that sell a wide variety of goods.

These all purpose merchants include Amazon, Ebay, and Overstock.com.

If you do your grocery shopping at Safeway, you can get, in effect, a ten percent discount off a $100 Amazon or Ebay gift card — not bad.

Participating gift cards -- Buy $100, Save $10
Participating gift cards — Buy $100, Save $10

Be aware that the $10 Safeway coupon expires 7 days from date of issuance and can’t be used towards the purchase of another gift card.

Participating cards include:

  • Amazon
  • American Eagle
  • Cabelas
  • Bath $ Body Works
  • eBay
  • Macy’s
  • NIKE
  • OverStock.com
  • Sports Authority

Charlottesville, Virginia on Miles and Points

Charlottesville, VirginiaWe are making a last minute excursion to Charlottesville, Virginia.

I’ve never been, and am really looking forward to it.  Charlottesville should be very pretty this time of year.

There’s no football game on the calendar, but the town seems to be completely sold out.

I am finding availability however, in a relatively new hotel on the outskirts, a Hyatt Place.  The rooms look pretty nice, just like the Hyatt Place Universal Studios we stayed at in Orlando.

A room at the Charlottesville Hyatt Place is going for $259 per night plus tax. That is way more than I want to pay.

The Trouble With Orbitz Rewards

It occurs to me that I just earned over $100 in Orbitz Rewards via a recent series of contests.  In my mind, that should be worth one free night.

Orbitz is showing room availability at the Charlottesville Hyatt Place at the same rate as the Hyatt website, $259.  I’m thinking, after crediting my $100 in Orbitz Rewards, that $159 a night might be the best I can do.

However, it turns out that Orbitz calculates tax on the full room rate, and only then subtracts the Orbitz credits.

With tax, the room rate is $289.  One night at the Hyatt Place in Charlottesville would be $184, after factoring in $105 in Orbitz Rewards.  That’s still quite pricey for my budget.

A Night at Hyatt Place Charlottesville is 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points

I don’t have any points in the Hyatt Gold Passport program, but it is worth checking how much this hotel goes for on points.

Hyatt Points and Points Plus Cash Chart
Hyatt Points and Points Plus Cash Chart

The Hyatt Place Charlottesville is a Category 2 hotel, which costs 8,000 points per night; or at the points plus cash rate, 4,000 points plus $55.  You have to call in to request the points plus cash rate.

The hotel was sold out of points plus cash rooms.  But there was still availability showing for 8,000 points per room.

Ultimate Rewards Points Transfer to Hyatt Immediately

Fortunately, I have a small stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  These points can be cashed in as statement credits at the rate of one cent per point.  8,000 points are worth $80 in cash.

I chose to transfer 8,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt Gold Passport account.  The good thing about the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is that the transfers go through immediately.

I was able to reserve reserve a room — before the hotel sold out completely — for 8,000 points.   That’s a pretty good deal in my book.

The hotel business is all about supply and demand.

Rooms in Charlottesville were very expensive on our chosen date, but the price in points of the Hyatt hotel remained static.  8,000 points might not be such a good deal on a low demand night, but in this instance we made out okay.

Free for Kindle: Lonely Planet’s Tackling the UK

Free for Kindle
Lonely Planet Guide to UK: Free for Kindle

Lonely Planet is offering a free e-book to England and Wales that provides travel information for the cities where the Rugby World Cup is taking place this year.

Even if you are not traveling for the games, you may find this travel guide to Great Britain to be useful.

The book, Lonely Planet Tackling the UK: Explore England and Wales during the rugby this autumn, is available free for Kindle from Amazon.  

Lonely Planet’s Tackling the UK travel guide includes tips for saving time and money on transit, food, accommodations, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping.

Tackling the UK covers these destinations
Tackling the UK covers these destinations

The book covers London, Brighton, Gloucester, Milton Keynes, Exeter, Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Cardiff.

This 386 page book was published August 1, 2015, so the information should be current.