Archive | December 2014

Go Somewhere in January – cheap or FREE

You can always go somewhere in January if you ended up sticking around the house for the Christmas season. If there are only 2 of you, it becomes very easy! When you start adding kids to the mix, then it starts to become tricky and more costly.

We go over this on our “Try This Once” page.

I am going to post cheap fares out of Detroit and “free” fares out of Detroit for weekends in January.

You need to know that your flights can still be free when you have “points” through 1 – yes just 1 credit card sign up bonus. The Amex Gold Rewards Card.

Ok, cheap fares out of Detroit. These are round trip prices

Thur Jan. 8 – Sun Jan 11 – Houston -$169, Dallas – $182, NYC – $205, Tampa – $182, Denver $136

Next Weekends after that – pretty much same prices. Now there are always deals/coupons etc so keep an eye out! But for $200 or less those are some nice destinations for sure.

I found those quickly on Google Flights, so Southwest isn’t in there and they have great deals too!

I myself collect points. Avios to be precise. I like flying my family for free places.

The reason I mentioned the Amex card is if you get the card, refer your partner, then you will have a $350 travel credit (25,000 + 10,000 points) and your partner will have a $250 credit (25,000 points)

There. any of the above flights are free with your Amex bonus upon sign up and spending $500 on it.

That is one way to “fly free”

The second way is finding reward flights or using up your Avios “points” We have a page devoted to collecting Avios and a page devoted to booking free flights so the info. is already there.

Ok Reward Flights out of Detroit. These are also round trip point amounts.

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When you get the Amex card you can transfer your points 1:1 to Avios, AND combine points with your partner in a family account. So, if it is just you – you would have 25,000 Avios. If it is you and a partner you would have 60,000 Avios in a family account if you referred them.

I will put these up if there is plenty of availability.

Thur Jan. 8 – Sunday(or Monday) Jan 11 – Charlotte 9000 Avios/ Miami 20,000 Avios/ Dallas 15,000 Avios/ NYC – 9000 Avios

Thur Jan 15 – Sunday(Monday) Jan 18 – Charlotte 9000 Avios/ no Miami/ Dallas 15,000 Avios/ NYC – 9000 Avios.

Thur Jan 22 – Sunday(Monday) Jan 25 – Charlotte 9000 Avios/no Miami/ Dallas 15,000 Avios/ NYC – 9000 Avios.

Thur Jan 29 – Sunday(Monday) Feb 1 – Charlotte 9000 Avios/no Miami/ Dallas 15,000 Avios/ NYC – 9000 Avios.

So, there you have it. Cheap flight. Free Flights. Weekends in January.

This is the card.

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Karen’s back – WHAT A DEAL!

I didn’t think all-inclusives could get so inexpensive!

She can get you to Varadero, Cuba starting on Jan. 9 from UNDER $700 taxes included!

If you have been thinking about it, now is a great time to book for after the busy Christmas season.

Just take a look! Incredible.

Call her at 519-542-1009 or email karen@traveldiscounters.ca

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Some amazing deals right there! Tell her you saw her at borderfreetravel.com!!!

Banking Hotel Nights

I have done a few posts on this over the months and believe it to be good advice for those of you looking to book hotels next year. It can just be for a weekend getaway or if you plan on staying in hotels for travel sports with the family, or any reason really.

It works really well when you AND a spouse/partner travel together and can maximize the free nights.

I can say from personal experience that we haven’t paid for a hotel room in a few years and have stayed in quite a few lately. It takes time to get these nights, but at the same time it is not like you are going somewhere every weekend like some of those bloggers.

Like I said, you can double dip on certain credit cards which makes it even more attractive to do this.

There are no fee cards, fee waived first year cards, and some cards carry about a $120 fee.

I’ll talk about 4 of those.

1. Marriott Rewards Visa. – read the link. Just a great card. This is what the “pro” bloggers call a no-brainer. Get it and if you have a spouse/partner they should get it too. Between the two of you there could be up to 14 free nights in a hotel. Not “high end” hotels, but ones that would go for over $100 a night. There are definitely high end Marriotts but our post is on the “average” ones. No fee first year seals the deal.

This card itself may be enough for many families for a year. I really can’t think of a better card to get right now for what they give you.  In that post you are getting $2000 in free hotel rooms in Florida – and that is just 1 card!

2. Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Card – This one will cost you $120 per year and you will get 20,000 Starpoints.  Starwood points are worth the most in the “points world” ranging from a low of .02 to a high of .05 per point depending on how you use them. Good thing about this is you can refer your partner and receive an extra 10,000 point bonus. You receive points after spending $500 on the card. Between you and your partner that would be 51,000 Starpoints. This can get you almost 17 nights (3000 points per night weekends) in many of their hotels. You can combine points for a family account as well. These hotels are 4 Points, Sheratons and Aloft hotels to name a few.

Pretty good value for $240 total. You can also transfer those points to airline points. Another benefit would be stay 4 nights in a row, get 5th free – but that is is class 3 hotels (7000/night) or better.

3. IHG (Holiday Inn) Mastercard. This one will cost you $120 and you will get 60,000 IHG points.

Holiday Inn properties generally go for 15,000 – 30,000 points per night (and higher) depending on location, quality, etc. They are valued at .07 cents each, so $420 worth of hotel stays for $120.

4. Best Western MBNA Mastercard. This one is free but it will only get you 20,000 BW points right now.

This offer isn’t great but they usually up the bonus once a year so we are hoping that is soon.

Their hotels start at 12,000 points so that bonus only gets you 1 night right now, but it is free.

So there are a few. Best bet is the Marriott Visa.

Have you tried Airfarewatchdog?

With the Christmas season upon us I have noticed for a few months that flights around Christmas have been not going down in price, and “reward flights” have been very scarce.
This all makes sense – it is a very busy time for people wanting to visit family via airline and others just looking to get away for holidays.
I have followed Airfarewatchgdog for over a year now and find their app fun to use.

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You just type in your “Departing from” information and it loads fares from your location AND locations near there. For me it is Detroit and it also loads fares from Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Toledo.
It gives you “more details” when you want specifics on the particular flight as well.
It also sends me a “low fare alert” a few times a week either through email or on my phone.
I like that. My phone beeps and a message comes up “Today’s low fare alert DTW-TPA” or something like that.
The desktop version will tell you more at a glance which is very important as well.
You might need to be flexible with your days, but still a great app/site to use.
This site does include Southwest which is a bonus as Google Flights does not.
It also gives you options for hotels in your destination city and reviews of the particular flight you pick.
Yes you can get this stuff off Hotwire, Expedia etc, but this site compares them for you as well.
Anyway, it is just another travel tool I like to use and find it fun to search with!

Question – Detroit to Cozumel

I had 2 co-workers ask me this week about getting to Cozumel from our area using their Amex MR points.

The both had the sign up bonus of 25,000 points and referred their spouse for another 10,000 points.

So they had over 35,000 points and their spouses had over 25,000 points.

“Which airline should I transfer my points to” is a question I am asked many times a week.

It all depends where you are flying. I like BA Avios because the flights we take are short to medium haul flights within the US and you get the best bang for the buck using Avios. (See our Avios page)

But this is a one-time thing to try this “free flights” thing out.

I get it. Seems too good to be true. You know what? I paid my interest to the credit card companies and banks for about 20 years and still do with a mortgage but now I’m taking what they are giving me and not paying a dime in interest. You can too.

Back to Detroit to Cozumel.

Well, first thing I do is check this awesome website. This tells me how many award points are needed to travel from one location to another with each of the airlines. I love this site.

This picture comes up for my search.

dtw-czm

I need to show the other half of the illustration so you can see points needed.

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Sorry for doing it this way, I’m not that great with this sorta thing.

Point is, if you look at the top 4, it is 12,500 points for AA, 14,500 for BA, 17,500 points for US Airways and 17,500 points for Avianca.(one way)

Sorry, award notes for AA says “Excluding Hawaii/Mexico.”

I checked AA and it was 17,500 points per one way flight.

So then option 2. British Airways Avios. It says it is 14,500 points one way. I’m going to check that on BA.com.

A couple things about that flight. The website picture I put up says the cheapest way is Detroit/Miami/Cozumel for 14,500 points. If you can’t find that there is Detroit/Dallas/Cozumel for 15,000 points + $31.

It offers way more options to go through Dallas so that would be the easiest way to do it.

The other options are through US Air and Avianca for 17,500 points, but 15,000 points using Avios is your best bet.

Now, the best part. With BA Avios you can pool your Avios in a family account and both my co-workers would have 35,000 + 25,000 = 60,000+ Avios. That is exactly what you need for this flight.

There are other things to consider when going on a trip like this. The first thing would be checking all-inclusive prices with our travel agent Karen (on holidays till next week) to see if you can get a great deal.

But if you want 2 free flights to Cozumel, there you go. The Amex Gold Rewards card for you, refer your partner to it, and after you both spend $500 on it – you have enough points for a free flight to Mexico ($31 in taxes).

See our page on Booking Free Flights on how to do it exactly.

Here is the Amex Card that gets you started.

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Reward flights

I did a post awhile back on Booking Award Flights – patience and flexibility.

Well I needed patience and flexibility this week as I planned our March break trip to Florida.

I learned many things looking up flights this week that will help me in the future booking these free flights.

These distances came up the most in looking up Avios usage.

DTW – PHL/CLT/DCA/NYC – 4500 Avios one way (Reads Detroit  – Philadelphia or Charlotte or Washington,DC or New York City)

DTW – MIA – 10,000 Avios one way.

PHL or NYC or DCA or CLT – MIA – 7500 one way

So from this example if I want to fly directly to Miami from Detroit it will be 10,000 Avios x 4 flights = 40,000 Avios x both ways (2) = 80,000 Avios.

Those flights are hard to find, so I need a connecting flight out of PHL/CLT/DCA or NYC. So now I need to go DTW/CLT = 4500 then CLT/MIA = 7500 = 12,000 x 4 flights = 48,000 Avios x both ways (2) = 96,000 Avios.

That is a 16,000 Avios difference or almost 1 full round trip flight to Florida!

So I started to think of ways of reducing the number of Avios used to get to Florida.

Last year we flew out of Cleveland to Miami and that was 15,000 Avios x 4 = 60,000 Avios total – which is great but we don’t want to drive to Cleveland again.

Hmmm…can I possibly make my second flight shorter? Like can I make the flight from either Charlotte/Philly/NYC or Washington,DC to Florida shorter? YES. Will it make a difference? YES.

Here is the thing. We stay in the Tampa area. When we land in Miami, it is a 4+ hour drive to Tampa.

It’s not fun after a flight. trust me.

So then I think, “What about Northern Florida” If I am driving 4 hours anyway, why don’t I look up flights landing in Orlando or Daytona Beach or Jacksonville?

For the sake of keeping it brief I’ll use Jacksonville as the example.

NYC – JAX – 9000 Avios (need connecting flight from Charlotte)

PHL – JAX – 7500 Avios

Washington DC – JAX – 4500 Avios

Charlotte, NC – JAX – 4500 Avios

Part of the “trick” here is to get as far as you can on the least amount of Avios.

For us in the Detroit area, Charlotte, NC is the “sweet spot”

That is as far as we can go on one flight using 4500 Avios.

Charlotte – JAX is 4500, but also to Orlando is 4500, Tampa is 4500,  West Palm Beach is 4500, Ft. Lauderdale is 4500 – Miami is 7500.

That little distance – Miami to Ft. Lauderdale – 30 miles makes a huge difference.

It is 3000 Avios one way for one person. Times that by a family of 4 both ways. That is 24,000 total Avios difference.

In short, you can save a free flight or two by looking at a map and having some patience and flexibility.

Bottom line…

Scenario 1. Detroit – Charlotte – Ft. Lauderdale = 9000 Avios x 4 x 2 ways = 72,000 Avios used.

Scenario 2. Detroit – Charlotte – Miami = 12,000 Avios x 4 x 2 ways = 96,000 Avios used.

Saved 24,000 Avios.

Researching this took both PATIENCE and FLEXIBILITY.

Karen says “POST THIS DEAL”

Our travel agent Karen is adamant I post this deal on an all-inclusive to the Las Americas 4 star Resort and Spa in Columbia. You save $800 a couple, the first child stays, plays and eats free and it is for Toronto departures in January. Less than $1000 including taxes seems pretty great!

Check out her new page for more deals that are updated constantly!

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Credit Card Spreadsheet

I teach business and part of that is teaching Microsoft Excel.

I like Excel and think it has many applications, but I realize most people don’t like spreadsheets.

If you google “credit card spreadsheets” you will usually find helpful spreadsheets on how to manage your finances and such  – very organized!

This is different. On this ss I don’t want balances and interest rates and that stuff, I want important information like the bonus I received and when I have to pay an annual fee.

“But why that?” you ask – “isn’t the interest rate and balance the important stuff?”

It sure is important – and that is the number one thing to remember with credit cards – pay off your balance in full every month!!! (if you can) If you can’t pay off the balance in full and plan to carry a balance don’t put the purchase on an Amex card!!!

But…I am extremely organized when it comes to my finances…that is why I can take advantage of these offers. If you are as well, you should consider getting these bonus offers these companies put forward.

I know many people that are very good with money that are OK with free groceries every so often or free light bulbs at a Canadian Store that sells tires using their credit card. That is fine – but honestly I laugh every time I see a certain advertisement that offers $40 in free groceries when you sign up!!!

I ask myself a simple question. “$40 in free groceries, or $250 in travel…or a free flight?”

Anyway, here is a screenshot of my simple spreadsheet that does what I need it to do.

ss

These are not my numbers or when I signed up, but close enough – and the fees and sign up bonuses are accurate.

What this does is tell me when a certain card fee is about to kick in and I can choose to pay that annual fee or perhaps cancel that card.

It also shows me what the bonus was to sign up for that card.

In this “made up” scenario (which can be done by anyone) the total credit card fees paid over a 2 year period from Jan. 2012 to Jan. 2014 were $1209.00. $400 of that was refunded – so net fees are $809.00 (Amex Plat 2 x $200 travel credit)

“Ouch – there ain’t no way I’m paying $800 for credit cards in just 2 years” “And 10 cards? This guy is crazy”

Sure, 10 cards may be too much for some people, but $800…hmm…what did “I” get for that $800?

You won’t believe what you get in this “made up” scenario.

$350 in travel

110,000 Best Western points – about 5-9 nights depending on hotel class.

36,000 Starwood points – about 5-12  hotel nights depending on hotel class.

80,000 Amex MR points – $800 in travel or 4 flights to Florida

50,000 Marriott points – about 3-5 nights depending on hotel class.

20,000 Aeroplan – convert to Avios – another flight to Florida

60,000 IHG points – about 2-4 nights depending on hotel class.

Do some totals.

I’ll go with the going hotel points “rates” as I know them.

1.  110,000 BW points at .7 cents each = $770 in hotel stays.

I have done 1 valuation and you have already pretty much broke even.

2.  36,000 Starwood points at (at least) 2 cents each = $720 in hotel stays.

3.  80,000 Amex points at (at least) 1.5 cents each = $1200 flights or more

4.  50,000 Marriott points at .7 cents each = $350 + 1 extra free night stay – so about $500 in hotel stays

5. 20,000 Aeroplan worth about 2 cents each = $400 in flights

6.  60,000 IHG points at .7 cents each = $420 in hotel stays.

7.  $350.00 travel credit from Capital One Mastercard

So, $800 in CC fees gets you about $2400 in hotels, $1600 in flights and $350.00

So, $800 gets you $4350.

Those valuations are actually low so it’s more. You could easily get $5000 – $6000 in travel out of those cards, but there you go.

Varadero for $565 plus taxes!

Karen found us another great deal for the weekend!

Memories Varadero Beach Resort out of London, Ont – that part is good for those of us in the Sarnia area.

Leaving in about a week!

Looks beautiful! If you can’t go then, give her an email or call – she has plenty of deals.

karen@traveldiscounters.ca or 519-542-1009 – SHE JUST FINDS DEALS!

Remember she has been doing this since the 80’s! She will find you something.

The total after taxes ends up being $880 for a week all-inclusive!

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Detroit To New Orleans Cheap!!!! on Spirit Air!

Just a quick post. Right now fares to New Orleans are super cheap on Spirit Air.

Check their website – some really good deals right now, but you probably have to act fast!

Spirit Air.