How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall . . . on the Cheap?

$25 gift card with ticket purchase
$25 e-gift card with when you pay with Masterpass

The old Carnegie Hall joke is a cliché, but here’s a deal that will get you in to concerts there for as little as $5.

Carnegie Hall has partnered with Masterpass to offer concert-goers a $25 MasterCard eGift card when purchasing a ticket valued at $30 or more.

You need to purchase the tickets online at carneigiehall.org, and checkout with Masterpass.

The offer is good on any “Carnegie Hall Presents” performance ticket of $30 or more.  There are lots of concerts to choose from as shown in the listing of upcoming events!

Upcoming "Carnegie Hall Presents" concerts
December 2016 “Carnegie Hall Presents” concerts

Please note that this offer is limited to one Mastercard eGift card per person, per performance.  The deal is good for purchases through June 30, 2017.

Masterpass is a digital wallet that can be used to make purchases online and in-store. You can fund it with a credit or a debit card.

I don’t have any experience with this form of payment.  If you do, please share in the comments the pros and cons.

Other Ways to Save on Tickets to Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall offers many other options for discount tickets.  There are:

  • $10 tickets for  for students
  • $20 tickets for young adults
  • 30 percent discounts for members of the military and the New York Police Deparment.

In addition, there are public rush tickets for $10 — even for sold out concerts — and you can often find obstructed view seats for half price.

What’s more, Bank of America cardholders receive ten percent off the full ticket price when using their card and promotional code BAC24503.

Free Happenings at the New York Public Library and Bryant Park

Mardi Gras Celebration at Bryant Park
Mardi Gras Celebration at Bryant Park, February 14, 2014

When we were in New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to stop by the offices of the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO).

In the olden days before the internet, you could pick up lots of great tourist information and maps at various international tourism offices in New York.

Walking down Fifth Avenue on our way to JNTO, we passed the main entrance of the New York Public Library and stopped.  I had never been inside the library to see the iconic Reading Room.  We were there.  We had to go in.

It turned out that the Reading Room was closed to the public due to ongoing repairs. I asked the lady at the information desk what other parts of the library we should see, and she encouraged us to sign up for the free building tour.  So we did.

Free Building Tours of the New York Public Library

The tour guide was terrific.  We got to see the Periodicals Room, the Map Room, and learn about the history of the library and the history of New York City.  We never made it to JNTO, but this was a most worthwhile detour.

The New York Public Library offers free one-hour tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays (except during the summer.)  Sign up at the reception desk in Astor Hall.

By the way, if you are in New York at Christmastime, the New York Public Library displays an enormous Christmas tree, decorated with beautiful birds.  There were lots of people taking family photos in front of the tree.

Free Ice Skating at Bryant Park

While you are in the vicinity, you might want to try out the free ice skating in Bryant Park, which is right behind the library.  There is a large skating rink and during the holiday season the park is ringed with vendors like a European Christmas market.  If you need to rent skates the cost is $15.  Compare that to Rockefeller Center where admission is $12 for adults, $15 for children, and skate rental is $12.

The rink at Bryant Park is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day from late October through  through March 1, 2015.

Juggling Class and More at Bryant Park

Bryant Park offers lots of other free entertainment:  Ping pong; juggling classes; Tai Chi; fitness club; and more.

Take a ride on Le Carrousel, which plays French cabaret music.  It costs $3 per ride, or $15 for ten tickets.  There is no charge for parents to ride alongside their small children.

On Saturday February 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. there will be a free Mardi Gras celebration at Le Carrousel, featuring a Cajun band and a magician.

* * *

I can’t tell you how many reports I’ve read about the Andaz Fifth Avenue on other miles and points blogs.  They all praise the view of the New York Public Library.

Next time you are passing by, I suggest you go in.

Museum Free-For-All in Los Angeles January 31, 2015

Museum Free-For-All in Los Angeles January 31, 2015
Open House at 20 Los Angeles Museums

Twenty Los Angeles area museums open their doors to the public on Saturday January 31, 2015 for the tenth annual Museum Free-for-All.

The list of participating venues includes diverse art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science museums.

There are a number of top attractions participating — such as the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the California Science Center, but if I had my druthers I would head over the the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Kids love dinosaurs and what could be better than an active excavation site for dinosaur fossils?   We spent half a day at the Tar Pits when we last visited LA with our then school-aged daughter.  Regular admission is $15 per adult and $8 per child, so free admission is a really great deal for families!

 Los Angeles Museums Participating in 2015 Free-for-All

Here are links to the museums that are participating in this year’s open houses.  The Jan. 31 offer is good for general  admission only and does not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 
Annenberg Space for Photography 
Armory Center for the Arts 
California African American Museum 
California Science Center
Chinese American Museum 
Craft Folk & Art Museum 
Fowler Museum at UCLA 
The Getty Center 
The Getty Villa (Timed tickets required)
Hammer Museum 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) 
Museum of Latin American Art 
Museum of Tolerance (Feb. 1)
The Paley Center for Media 
The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits 
Pasadena Museum of California Art
Santa Monica Museum of Art 
Skirball Cultural Center
The Torrance Art Museum 
USC Pacific Asia Museum 
William S. Hart Museum 
Zimmer Children’s Museum (Feb. 1)

Weekly/Monthly Free Admission Days in Los Angeles and Other Major Cities

If you can’t make it this coming weekend, plan to take advantage of the regularly scheduled free admission days at Los Angeles area museums.

FreeMuseumDay.org publishes a calendar of free museums and free museum days for LA and for these major cities:

Check it out!

When It’s Cheaper to Fly Than to Take the Train

Empire State Building on a Clear Night
Empire State Building on a Clear Night
Joel Shprentz Photo

Last year, our family took the train up to New York for Thanksgiving.

This year, it was cheaper to fly.

That’s because we were finally able to use the two companion passes that came with my US Airways credit card.

The companion passes can be a pain the the neck because of all the limitations, but this holiday season the stars were aligned in our favor.

US Airways Credit Card Benefits Saved the Day

I purchased a ticket on the US Airways shuttle for myself, and secured companion pass tickets for my husband and daughter.  The tickets cost $99 each, plus tax of about $20.  This was about $4oo in savings, compared to the cost of two full price tickets.

We each checked a bag, which normally costs $25 per flight.  We know we’d need extra suitcase space for all the sales we hoped to hit on Black Friday.  The checked bags flew free because of the credit card.  This equalled another $150 in savings.

Black Friday Sales Did Not Disappoint
Black Friday Sales Did Not Disappoint
Joel Shprentz Photo

The US Airways credit card carries an annual fee of $89, but it came with 40,000 frequent flyer miles. I am saving those miles for another trip.

The current offer for the US Airways credit card is even better:  50,000 Dividend Miles after the first purchase and payment of an $89 fee.  Plus, you get the two companion passes and free checked bags.

If you are following along, that is a terrific deal!

You have to be a bit crazy to fly the day before Thanksgiving.  I am happy to report that despite a two hour weather-related delay, everything went smoothly.

Click here to compare current credit card offers.

Forget Uber. Dial 7 Car Service from LaGuardia

Dial 7 Car Service Beats Uber
Dial 7 Car Service Beats Uber

I have $20 worth of unused credits sitting in my Uber account, but when I flew into LaGuardia (LGA) last month I found a much better deal on ground transportation to Manhattan with Dial 7 car service.  

I am a budget traveler so limousines and black car services are not my thing — but this car service was the cheapest and fastest way to get my family of three and our bags to the hotel.

The driver was punctual, polite and pleasant and the cars were comfortable, convenient and commodious.

The regular fare from LaGuardia to downtown is $34 plus tolls and tax, but I used a discount code for $5 off.  Unlike Uber, car services are regulated and required to carry insurance.

How to Book Dial 7 Car Service from New York Airports

You can call Dial 7 at (212) 777-7777, but it is easier and cheaper to book ahead online.  The airport specials available with online booking are as follows:

From LaGuardia Airport $34
From JFK Airport $48
From Newark Airport $48

Rates do not include tolls or gratuity.

Special coupon codes are frequently available.  Check these sources:

For instance, I recently spotted this deal on Twitter:  $5 off LGA rides (Code: DECAIR1); $7 off JFK/EWR rides (DECAIR2).

When you get to the airport and have gathered your bags, you simply call Dial7 and they will direct you to your waiting driver outside.

There are many similar car services in New York — this is just the one I happened to try.

Everything worked seamlessly, on the busiest travel day of the year!  It beat standing in the cab line in the rain or taking the airport shuttle bus and stopping at a dozen hotels.

Thoughts?

Where Can You Find the Best Bagels in New York?

Brooklyn Bagels & Coffee is actually in Manhattan
Brooklyn Bagels & Coffee is near Penn Station in Manhattan

On 8th Avenue, just a few blocks from Penn Station, is a small bakery and coffee shop that makes the best bagels in New York, IMHO.

The bakery, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company is in the Chelsea neighborhood at 286 8th Ave.

They serve all manner of bagels, bialys, lox, smoked whitefish, and a dozen flavors of cream cheese.

The bagels come in two sizes, “big” or “mini” — but I warn you, the big ones are enormous.

You can find a variety handrolled, kettle-boiled bagels:

plain, sesame, poppy, onion, garlic, rye (with seeds), everything, cinnamon raisin, egg, multi-grain, whole wheat, whole wheat everything, whole wheat oats & raisins, whole wheat sesame, pumpernickel and salt

Earn Frequent Flyer Miles at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

Earn Frequent Flyer Miles at Brooklyn Bagels and Coffee in Chelsea
Earn Frequent Flyer Miles at Brooklyn Bagels and Coffee in Chelsea

To be perfectly frank, I don’t know if this is the best bagel shop in New York or not.

The bagels are very fresh and very good, and the place earns four stars on Yelp.

But the key thing is that this shop participates in the Rewards Dining program.

I favor the United Mileage Plus Dining program, but most of the major airlines run a similar rewards program with the opportunity to earn their frequent flyer miles at the same list of restaurants.

If you make ten purchases at participating restaurants in a calendar year, you can earn 5 times United Mileage Plus miles every subsequent time you dine at a participating restaurant. (You earn 3x miles for the first ten purchases.)  Couple that with a rewards earning credit card to increase your savings.

Thus, if you stop in for bagels or coffee once in a while, you will be on the fast track to earning five times miles at hundreds of participating restaurants.

Do you earn frequent flyer miles through the Rewards Dining program?  Have you find any gems that you would like to share?  

 

My Room Rate Dropped Four Times in Four Weeks

Gotta Love the Thanksgiving Parade!
Gotta Love Hello Kitty at the Thanksgiving Parade!
Joel Shprentz Photo

Do you ever wonder how much the person sitting next to you on the plane paid?  It seems that airfares are constantly changing and totally unpredictable.

The same can be true of hotels.  The room rates go up and down depending on the hotel’s model of supply and demand.

We had a recent hotel stay at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway.  I locked in two award nights well in advance — 50,000 Club Carlson points for a two-night stay.

We decided to add a third paid night on to our stay, so several weeks ago, I made a reservation to extend our stay.  The room rate at the time was close to $300 per night, plus tax, bringing the total to nearly $350.  That’s a lot to pay for a room at a 3 star hotel.

Amazing View from the Empire State Building
Amazing View from the Empire State Building, but Chilly!

It wasn’t worth bidding for a Priceline hotel because it would be really inconvenient to move hotels for one night.  Also, since we were traveling with our teenage daughter, we needed a room with two beds, and Priceline only guarantees that the room will accommodate two adults.  In New York City, hotel rooms are notoriously small, and often cannot accommodate three people.

Check the Room Rate and Call if it Drops

I had booked the room at the AAA rate.  Each week I checked online to see if the rates had dropped.  If so, I called the hotel and requested that they adjust my rate.  I did this four times, and four times, the hotel graciously adjusted the rate downward.  We ended up paying $172 for the room.  With tax, it came to $200.

Great Sales at Macy's
Great Sales at Macy’s
Joel Shprentz Photo

I love the location of the Radisson Martinique, right in K-town in the center of Manhattan.

We took advantage of pre-Black Friday sales at Macy’s, and went up the Empire State Building — both less than two blocks away.

Thanks to the Martinique app, the hotel comped us breakfast each morning.

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

Click here to compare current rewards credit card offers.

Pay What You Wish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pay what you can at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pay what you wish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the commercial travel deals sites that I follow is Travelzoo.

They regularly send out enticing offers — not just for flights and hotels, but also for shows and cultural attractions at a deep discount.

 Economize on Visits to the Met

New York City is an expensive city to visit so a Travelzoo deal for cut rate admissions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum caught my eye.

Travelzoo is offering admission tickets to the Met for $19, or four tickets for $60.

The usual “recommended” admission to the museum is $25 per adult, and free for children under 12.

The regular fee includes admission to the museum including all special exhibits plus same-week admission to The Cloisters.  The website states:  “To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.”

But when you go the purchase tickets page, you see this notice in the fine print:

If you would like to pay less than full recommended admission, please go directly to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to pay as you wish.

I turns out that that the Met and a number of other New York City institutions are required to accept voluntary donations for admission.

You can pay whatever you want, every day, all year long.

The execution of this policy was the subject of some litigation in 2013.  The lawsuit contended that the  museum was obscuring the option to pay less than full price, because the sign by the entrance indicated “suggested donation” in small print.  You can read more about this issue in The Atlantic and the New York Times.

I have fond memories of visiting the Met and the Cloisters as a kid.  Both were pretty magical places, where I felt transported back in time.

I think the admission fee is fully worth it to visit a world class art museum.  However, if the cost of admission is holding your family back from a visit, know that you can pay what you wish and it is perfectly okay.

Pay What You Wish at the American Museum of Natural History

Pay What You Wish at the American Natural History Museum
Pay what you wish at the American Museum of Natural History

Some other New York museums that have the pay what you wish policy are the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Continue reading —>

The Real Reason I Collect Miles and Points

My sister and daughter at Herald Sqaure in NYC
My daughter and sister at Herald Sqaure in NYC

My sister lives in Helena, Montana (HLN) the capital of the Big Sky State.  The population of Helena is less than 30,000 people.

The airport there is really tiny.  Long-term parking is $15 per week; you leave your payment in the drop box when you exit.

There are only about six flights per day out of HLN.  The flights are not only scarce, they are also expensive.

My sister wanted to come east for our Mom’s 90th birthday and our Uncle’s 95th, so I offered to buy her a ticket.

Well there was no way she was going to let me buy a ticket.

But she would allow me to pay for her ticket with frequent flyer miles — miles that I had accrued largely through credit card sign-up bonuses.

That’s the reason I collect miles and points!

Extreme Travel Hacking for the Sandwich Generation

When I attended my first frequent flyer meet-up a few years ago, one of the old timers informed me that frequent flier miles should not be used for domestic flights.  Excuse me?

I was told that I could get a much higher value if I redeemed points for international first class travel.

Over the past several years, I have redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles for flights — and all of these flights were economy class domestic travel.

Most people think of family travel as traveling with children.  Our family travel is traveling to see family, or flying family members in for a visit.  To me, that is maximizing the value of frequent flyer miles!

I don’t care whether I have to spend 25,000 miles or 50,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket.  The “point” is that we use the miles to get where we need to go.  

Continue reading —>

The Culture Flyer — Half Price Show Tickets in Baltimore

Culture Fly: Half Price Events in Baltimore
Culture Fly: Half Price Events in Baltimore

New York has TKTS.  Washington has TicketPlace. And Baltimore has Culture Fly.

Every Thursday, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance sends out the Culture Flyer — a guide to free and half price performances and events for the coming week.

You won’t find tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra or to traveling Broadway shows here.

But there are plenty of offers for free and half-price theater and dance events, art openings, concerts, and other fun stuff.

If you are interested in the offbeat and the avant-guard, Baltimore definitely beats straight-laced Washington, DC!

Culture Fly: Half Price Events in Baltimore
Culture Flyer: Weekly Newsletter

For example, this week the Culture Flyer features:

  • Rocky Horror Show at Spotlighters Theatre
  • Cabaret Macabre by Happenstance Theater
  • Bay Street Brassworks Concert
  • 3-D Printing Lab for Teens

and dozens of other discounted offerings.

You can find the Culture Fly calendar online, or you can sign up to receive weekly emails of the Culture Flyer newsletter.