July 31 2014

Free Money from Amex, 25% Off Frontier Flights to/from Washington Dulles

Just a few short and sweet ones today…

Frontier Airlines – 25% off to/from IAD

If you’re traveling to/from the DC area later this year, Frontier Airlines is offering a 25% discount.

Frontier Dulles Promo
Click to enlarge

Terms of note:

  • Use code FLYDULLES.
  • Book by 11:59 PM Eastern today (July 31).
  • Travel between August 19, 2014 and February 28, 2015.

Be sure to consult the T&Cs for blackout dates and other restrictions, and remember that Frontier charges fees for carry-on bags (but items fitting under the seat are free).

American Express Shop Small

In what appears to be a mini-version of an annual holiday promotion from Amex, the company is offering up to $15 in statement credits when you shop with qualifying small businesses in select cities (Houston, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Sacramento).

Amex Shop Small (select cities)

$15 is not going to change your life (I hope). But if you’re in, or traveling to, one of these cities in August you might as well eke out a free lunch if convenient. (Hint: if the total bill is over $10, do split payments to maximize the deal.)

As always, please read the full T&Cs, but here are two of note:

  • Must register and pay with an eligible card. (Registration begins August 1.)
  • Must spend at a “qualifying small business location.” (A directory will be available starting August 1.)
  • Promotion ends August 31, 2014.

Enjoy!

July 28 2014

New IHG PointBreaks Hotels Bookable for About $35 per Night

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) just released its newest batch of PointBreaks properties.

I consider PointBreaks one of the best deals on hotel stays, with award nights offered at the deeply discounted rate of 5,000 IHG Rewards points per night.

IHG brands include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, and Staybridge Suites, among others.

I value IHG Rewards points at $0.007 each, so using 5,000 points is like spending $35 for a hotel night. A good deal for any IHG property; a fantastic deal for the luxury properties on the list.

As you’ll see in the full list below, there are quite a few upscale properties in this round. In the Central & South America region alone there are four InterContinentals and two Crowne Plazas.

InterContinental Cali pool
The InterContinental Cali – a steal at 5,000 points per night

I pulled up a random date for the InterContinental Cali. The cash rate is $469/night but, as you see below, the PointBreaks rate is only 5,000 points.

InterContinental Cali PB rate

The full list can be found here, and I have pasted it in its entirety below for convenience. These properties are available at the discounted rate through September 30, 2014 (while supplies last).

Ways to acquire IHG points

If you’re short on points, I previously suggested ways to earn IHG Rewards points.

Additionally, IHG is currently running a promotion offering a 60% bonus when you buy points.

IHG Promo - 60 bonus on purchased points
Click to enlarge

If you purchase 11,000 points, you’d pay $138 and receive 17,600 points including the bonus. Your cost would be $0.0078 per point ($138 ÷ 17,600). Buying points this way would enable booking a PointBreaks hotel for about $39/night ($0.0078 x 5,000).

Technically this offer is targeted, but it is widely targeted so if you’re a member just search your inbox for the email (mine came on July 25). If you’re not a member, it doesn’t hurt to sign up and see if you get the email (and if you don’t, call them to request).

With the co-branded credit card (described in this post) you also receive a 10% rebate on award redemptions, meaning your net cost is 4,500 points/night (about $35).

List of participating properties

Below is the full list. Award nights are capacity controlled and desirable properties go quickly so if you would like to snag one I would not dawdle.

Each member is limited to two PointBreaks reservations (of unlimited duration) per property. Once a property sells out of PointBreaks nights the 5,000-point rate will no longer display on the booking page.

 

UNITED STATES

ALABAMA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GADSDEN
W-NEAR ATTALLA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PELHAM – OAK MTN PK AREA

ARKANSAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BENTONVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MOUNTAIN HOME

ARIZONA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES YUMA

CALIFORNIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES EL CENTRO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SAN DIEGO-LA MESA (SDSU AREA)
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LINCOLN-
ROSEVILLE AREA

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SACRAMENTO
NE CAL EXPO

CONNECTICUT
HOLIDAY INN DANBURY-BETHEL @ I-84

DELAWARE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES HARRINGTON
(DOVER AREA)

FLORIDA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS NICEVILLE-EGLIN AFB
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PALM COAST

GEORGIA
CANDLEWOOD SUITES AUGUSTA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ATLANTA-CONYERS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MILLEDGEVILLE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES SAVANNAH AIRPORT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES THOMASVILLE

IOWA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CLINTON

ILLINOIS
HOLIDAY INN CHICAGO NW CRYSTAL LK CONV CTR
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CHICAGO-DOWNERS GROVE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ROCHELLE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES ROCKFORD

INDIANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BEDFORD
STAYBRIDGE SUITES ELKHART NORTH
STAYBRIDGE SUITES FORT WAYNE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BLOOMINGTON
N-MARTINSVILLE

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES TELL CITY

KANSAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ABILENE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GARDEN CITY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS JUNCTION CITY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LANSING-LEAVENWORTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LAWRENCE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PITTSBURG

KENTUCKY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS HENDERSON N EVANSVILLE SOUTH
HOLIDAY INN LOUISVILLE AIRPORT SOUTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PIKEVILLE

LOUISIANA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SULPHUR
(LAKE CHARLES)

MARYLAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS POCOMOKE CITY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PRINCE FREDERICK

MICHIGAN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BAD AXE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CHARLOTTE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS GAYLORD
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ROSEVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES SOUTH HAVEN
CANDLEWOOD SUITES DETROIT-SOUTHFIELD
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES THREE RIVERS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WIXOM

MINNESOTA
HOLIDAY INN FAIRMONT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WORTHINGTON

MISSOURI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FARMINGTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES INDEPENDENCE-
KANSAS CITY

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS JEFFERSON CITY
CANDLEWOOD SUITES KANSAS CITY AIRPORT

MISSISSIPPI
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MAGEE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MCCOMB
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VICKSBURG
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WEST POINT

NORTH CAROLINA
HOTEL INDIGO RALEIGH DURHAM AIRPORT AT RTP
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CLAYTON (SE RALEIGH)
CANDLEWOOD SUITES GREENVILLE NC
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES STATESVILLE

NORTH DAKOTA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DICKINSON

NEBRASKA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ALLIANCE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS OGALLALA
STAYBRIDGE SUITES OMAHA 80TH AND DODGE

NEW JERSEY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS WOODBRIDGE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MEADOWLANDS
AREA

HOLIDAY INN CLINTON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES TOWER CENTER
NEW BRUNSWICK

NEW MEXICO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ALBUQUERQUE-N.
BALLOON FSTA PK

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES GRANTS – MILAN
STAYBRIDGE SUITES LAS CRUCES
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LAS VEGAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS SILVER CITY

NEW YORK
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES EAST GREENBUSH
(ALBANY-SKYLINE)

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ROCHESTER
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WEST COXSACKIE

OHIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES DAYTON-
CENTERVILLE

STAYBRIDGE SUITES COLUMBUS-DUBLIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS LONDON-I-70
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS OAKWOOD VILLAGE

OKLAHOMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ADA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES ENID-HWY 412
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES MUSKOGEE

OREGON
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS GRANTS PASS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS PORTLAND WEST/HILLSBORO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES KLAMATH FALLS
CENTRAL

PENNSYLVANIA
STAYBRIDGE SUITES ALLENTOWN WEST
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS MEADVILLE (I-79 EXIT 147A)
CROWNE PLAZA READING

RHODE ISLAND
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES PROVIDENCE-
WOONSOCKET

SOUTH CAROLINA
CROWNE PLAZA GREENVILLE-I-385-ROPER MTN RD
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LEXINGTON-HWY 378

SOUTH DAKOTA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VERMILLION
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WATERTOWN

TENNESSEE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES COOKEVILLE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CHATTANOOGA-
HIXSON

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS KNOXVILLE-STRAWBERRY PLAINS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LENOIR CITY
(KNOXVILLE AREA)

TEXAS
HOLIDAY INN HOUSTON EAST-CHANNELVIEW
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES FALFURRIAS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES KILGORE NORTH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES UVALDE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES WHARTON

UTAH
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LOGAN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES VERNAL –
DINOSAURLAND

VIRGINIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES CHRISTIANSBURG
CANDLEWOOD SUITES WASHINGTON-FAIRFAX
HOLIDAY INN NORTON

WISCONSIN
HOLIDAY INN CONFERENCE CTR MARSHFIELD
HOLIDAY INN NEENAH
STAYBRIDGE SUITES MILWAUKEE WEST-OCONOMOWOC
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES OSHKOSH-SR 41

WYOMING
HOLIDAY INN RIVERTON-CONVENTION CENTER

 

EUROPE

FINLAND

HOLIDAY INN TAMPERE

FRANCE
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AMIENS
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS GRENOBLE – BERNIN
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS LILLE CENTRE

GERMANY
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS FRANKFURT – MESSE

ROMANIA
INTERCONTINENTAL BUCHAREST

SLOVAKIA
CROWNE PLAZA BRATISLAVA

SPAIN
HOLIDAY INN VALENCIA

TURKEY
CROWNE PLAZA ANTALYA
CROWNE PLAZA ISTANBUL – HARBIYE

UNITED KINGDOM
HOLIDAY INN BRENTWOOD M25, JCT.28
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BURTON UPON TRENT
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CAMBRIDGE-DUXFORD M11, JCT.10
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS NEWCASTLE – METRO CENTRE
HOLIDAY INN NORTHAMPTON
HOLIDAY INN PRESTON
HOLIDAY INN SLOUGH – WINDSOR
HOLIDAY INN WOKING

ASIA

INDIA

HOLIDAY INN PUNE HINJEWADI

INDONESIA
HOLIDAY INN RESORT BATAM

JAPAN
CROWNE PLAZA – ANA KANAZAWA

CHINA-PEOPLES REPUBLIC
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CHANGSHU
HOLIDAY INN JIUZHAI JARPO
CROWNE PLAZA XIANGYANG
CROWNE PLAZA ZHONGSHAN XIAOLAN
CROWNE PLAZA ZHONGSHAN WING ON CITY

 

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA 

EGYPT
CROWNE PLAZA RESORT SAHARA SANDS PORT GHALIB RESOR

KUWAIT
HOLIDAY INN KUWAIT – DOWNTOWN

SAUDI ARABIA
HOLIDAY INN YANBU

SOUTH AFRICA
HOLIDAY INN JOHANNESBURG – ROSEBANK

ZIMBABWE
HOLIDAY INN HARARE

 

CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA

HOLIDAY INN CORDOBA

BRAZIL
CROWNE PLAZA BELEM
HOLIDAY INN MANAUS

COLOMBIA
INTERCONTINENTAL CALI

COSTA RICA
INTERCONTINENTAL COSTA RICA AT MULTIPLAZA MALL

GUATEMALA
INTERCONTINENTAL REAL GUATEMALA

HONDURAS
CROWNE PLAZA SAN PEDRO SULA

PANAMA
INTERCONTINENTAL MIRAMAR PANAMA

 

MEXICO 

MEXICO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS CD. DEL CARMEN
CROWNE PLAZA TOLUCA-LANCASTER
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES TOLUCA ZONA AEROPUERTO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS GUADALAJARA AUTONOMA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS VILLAHERMOSA TABASCO 2000
CROWNE PLAZA NUEVO LAREDO
CROWNE PLAZA TUXPAN
HOLIDAY INN VERACRUZ CENTRO HISTORICO

 

CANADA

ALBERTA
HOLIDAY INN HINTON
HOLIDAY INN HOTEL AND SUITES LLOYDMINSTER

BRITISH COLUMBIA
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES LANGLEY

ONTARIO
HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS AND SUITES BARRIE
STAYBRIDGE SUITES TORONTO MISSISSAUGA
HOTEL INDIGO TORONTO AIRPORT

July 27 2014

Earn Double or Triple Points with Hilton’s Fall Promotion

Hilton recently announced its fall promotion, titled Triple Your Trip, and it’s very similar to last year’s fall promotion. Read on for my analysis and for tips on maximizing the offer.

Hilton Triple Your Trip 2014

Details

  • The promotion period is August 1 to October 31, 2014.
  • Earn double points for qualifying stays on weeknights (Monday through Thursday).
  • Earn triple points for qualifying stays on weekends (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights).
  • Must register prior to your first check-out. The registration page is here.
  • There is a (rather lengthy) list of non-participating properties.

Analysis of double points offer

Base members (those at the Blue membership level) normally earn 10 points per dollar spent. Earning double points through this promotion would yield another 10 points (highlighted in yellow on the chart below). Electing the “Points and Points” earning option gives a further 5 points/$. Total earnings: 25 points per dollar spent.

I value one Hilton point at $0.004 (four tenths of a cent), so 25 points is worth about a 10% rebate to me (highlighted in blue). Important to keep in mind that this “rebate” is not in cash but in the form of Hilton points.

(If you’re curious about how I value a point at $0.004, I explain in this post [scroll down to find it in the second half of the “Analysis” section].)

Elite members earn additional bonuses which “beef up” their return slightly, with top-tier Diamond members earning the equivalent of a 12% rebate (highlighted in salmon).

Here’s a summary of what is earned at each membership level:

Double points analysis

Analysis of triple points offer

Everything is that same as above except you earn 20 bonus promotion points per dollar (highlighted in purple) instead of 10.

Again, at my $0.004/point valuation, you’d earn a rebate worth anywhere between 14% and 16%.

Triple points analysis

Tips

First of all, don’t forget to register. I always just register for these things at the beginning, even if I don’t plan to stay during the promotion period. That way if an unexpected stay comes up I don’t lose out on bonuses for forgetting to register.

Some ways to potentially double/triple dip:

  • Sync and pay with an eligible American Express card to earn a $50 statement credit when you spend $250+ at a qualifying Hilton Hotels & Resorts property. (This offer expires September 2, 2014; details in this post.)
  • Alternatively, paying with a Hilton co-braded credit card would earn another 7, 10, or 12 points/$ (depending on which card it is).
  • Check the Hilton offers page for any potentially combinable promotions.

Finally, as always, be sure to read the T&Cs carefully.

July 26 2014

Thoughts on Air Travel Safety

Regular readers (hi mom and dad!) may have noticed things were quiet here this past week. One reason is logistical as I was occupied by a work project. But the more relevant reason is that my capacity to think about travel was consumed by the aviation tragedies of the past week. Posting about some airfare sale or whatever just felt trivial in light of such calamity.

First and foremost, my thoughts and condolences to those directly affected. Malaysia Airlines, TransAsia Airways, Air Algerie – any one of these incidents alone is a tragedy and catastrophe. All three in a week is beyond devastating.

I objectively know that commercial air travel is, statistically speaking, exceedingly safe. Indeed, many of the week’s reports cite aviation experts attesting to that fact, and as many offer statistical data to support it.

So I won’t rehash the stats here, but rather share my personal, subjective reasons for considering air travel safer than any other mode of transport.

View from Above
One of my favorite views

Trained pilots

I live in a car-crazy city; it is simply not practical to go about life here without driving every day. Yet every time I get in a car, whether as a driver or passenger, I’m nervous.

I can be the most cautious, defensive driver ever – but I still can’t control the fact I share the road with all kinds of loons. Drivers who are drunk, texting (even though it’s technically illegal), applying makeup, otherwise distracted, or simply reckless. Heck, I myself am guilty of some of these occasionally.

In fact, people don’t even need a license to get behind the wheel. (Legally, yes. Logistically, no.)

When flying, the pilots operating your aircraft are specifically trained to fly it safely. Further, the pilots of every other plane up there are trained as well. In ground travel you share the road with the aforementioned loons, but at 30,000 feet everyone piloting is trained and screened.

Even the amount of time off a pilot is to have before flying is regulated, which is more than can be said of surgeons and other professionals whose job is (or should be) equally focused on preserving life.

And note the plural noun – pilots. On commercial flights there is not only a captain but also a first officer at the controls. You don’t have that kind of “back-up” in a car or even most other mass transportation such as a bus or train.

Regular maintenance and safety inspections

I have seen (or heard) cars on the road with brakes so worn they sound as if they’re grinding metal at each stop. I know someone (coincidentally, a doctor) who put 60,000 miles on a car without changing the oil because she didn’t know it was something you’re supposed to do. Again, you are sharing the road with these braniacs (and their poorly-maintained cars) when you drive.

In contrast, I am confident there is a long list of maintenance work that commercial aircraft undergo regularly and an equally comprehensive list of pre-flight safety inspections that occur before every commercial flight takes off.

Even non-mechanical things are checked – the weather, for example.

I’ve had many flights delayed or cancelled for mechanical or weather reasons, and when it happens I try to remember that inconvenience is a relatively small price to pay for safety.

Conclusion

None of these things guarantees a perfect experience (as the tragedies of this past week remind us), but in the big picture I still consider commercial air travel exceedingly safe compared to the alternatives.

As I wrote in a prior post on travel safety tips, everything in life has risk – from bungee jumping to driving your kids to school to merely sitting on the couch. It’s not a matter of avoiding risk (which is impossible because everything has risk), but of managing risk well.

July 19 2014

20% off Virgin America, Up To 30% off Travelocity, and a Delta SkyMiles Dining Offer

Happy weekend to everyone. There are a few deals to share but I am in the Land of Slow Internet today so will keep it brief.

Travelocity hotel discounts

Travelocity Mobile Coupons

Travelocity has two good weekend offers for mobile bookings:

  • $30 off $100 with code MOBILEGET30
  • $40 off $150 with code MOBILEGET40

Must book by tomorrow (July 20) and complete travel by December 31, 2014. Terms say it is good on your first hotel booking on the Travelocity app and there is a list of excluded hotels, but otherwise these are nice healthy discounts.

Virgin America discount

Use code LARGE20 for 20% off First Class or Main Cabin Select fares on Virgin America.

Virgin America First & MCS Promo

Must book by tomorrow (July 20) and take off from August 1 to September 1, 2014.

Delta SkyMiles dining promotion

This has been on my permanent Travel Deals Page for a while but I thought it was worth a quick mention. The dining program affiliated with Delta is offering a new member bonus worth 2,000 miles.

Skymiles Dining Promotion

It requires dining once at a participating restaurant (must spend $30 or more) and completing a review (takes just a few minutes), so this is a really easy way to earn 2,000 miles if you’re going to eat out anyway. (If you don’t eat $30 worth on one occasion you can buy a gift card to use over multiple visits.) Must register by December 31, 2014.

Be sure to see if there are any restaurant week events in your area or along your path of travel to potentially sweeten the deal.

If you’re unfamiliar with dining programs, I explain towards the middle of this post.

Enjoy the remaining weekend.

July 17 2014

The Nile is More Than Just a River

The Nile is the world’s longest river, flowing for approximately 4,200 miles and serving as a water source to eleven countries.

By both measurements, it easily beats the Amazon (~3,900 miles, 7 countries), the Yangtze (~3,800 miles, one country – albeit a massive one), and the Mississippi (~3,800 miles, 2 countries).

To ancient Egypt it was more than just a river; it was a primary source of sustenance. Although bordered by several large bodies of water – the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Suez, and the Gulf of Aqaba – Egypt is mostly arid desert. (Hint: avoid visiting at the peak of summer.)

The Nile creates a fertile green valley amid that great expanse of desert. Without it, one wonders if ancient Egypt could have risen to its heights. Egypt’s position was based on agricultural wealth, which in turn was attributed to the river.

In my infinite wisdom, I did visit at the peak of summer. But the 115-degree weather was survivable, and the highlight of my 12-day trip was sailing the Nile for four nights aboard the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV.

Sun Boat IV Outdoor Dining Room
Outdoor dining room on the Sun Boat IV

The boat itself was very nice – of the 200 or so that regularly cruise the Nile, Sanctuary’s four boats are among the most luxurious. But the sights along the way were spectacular. Indeed, while seeing the Pyramids was the motivation behind the trip, these sights further south left a greater impression.

That structures built in 2,000 BC (meaning they are 4,000 years old!) are still standing at all is impressive. That some are nearly unblemished is astounding. You can still see not only intricately carved designs, but even the colors of some painted surfaces.

Sailing from Luxor to Aswan, here are some of the sights along the way.

Luxor

The Temple of Karnak – an enormous complex of halls, temples, and other structures built over a span of almost 2,000 years – is located on the east bank of the Nile near Luxor.

A series of ram-headed sphinxes lines the approach to the temple complex:

Ram-headed sphinxes at the Temple of Karnak
Ram-headed sphinxes at the Temple of Karnak

Perhaps Karnak’s best-known feature, the Great Hypostyle Hall:

The Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak
The Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak

Also on the east bank is the Temple of Luxor:

The Temple of Luxor at dusk
The Temple of Luxor at dusk

Several statues of Ramses II (AKA Ramses the Great) at the Temple of Luxor are well-preserved, offering a detailed look at the pharaoh’s features:

Ramses the Great at the Temple of Luxor
Ramses the Great

On the west bank lies the Necropolis of Thebes, where many of Egypt’s pharaohs (including Tutankhamun, AKA King Tut) were buried in the Valley of the Kings. There’s not much to see above ground:

The Necropolis of Thebes
Valley of the Kings

The action is in the tombs below, though unfortunately the semi-dark environment doesn’t photograph easily.

Inside the tombs of the Necropolis of Thebes
Wall carvings inside a tomb

Near the Valley of the Kings is the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh:

The Temple of Hatshepsut
The Temple of Hatshepsut

These are the Colossi of Memnon, two enormous statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III designed to guard the entrance of his funerary temple (though little remains of the temple itself):

The Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon

Dendera

The very well-preserved Temple of Hathor, goddess of love and joy, is near the small town of Dendera:

Inside the Temple of Hathor in  Dendera
Inside the Temple of Hathor

The ceiling was being cleaned at the time. In this picture, one side has been cleaned and the other hasn’t:

Ceiling of the Temple of Hathor in Dendera
Half-cleaned ceiling in the Temple of Hathor

Kom Ombo

The Greco-Roman temple at Kom Ombo is a double temple – it is one building containing two temples, each with its own entrance and chapel. One is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god; the other to Horus, the falcon god (and one of several sun gods).

The Greco-Roman temple at Kom Ombo
The double temple at Kom Ombo

Aswan

Near the city of Aswan (famous for its dams), the Island of Agilkia houses the Temple of Philae.

Because its original location, the Island of Philae, is now submerged, the temple was moved to Agilkia and reconstructed stone by stone.

The temple itself is fine (it’s actually very nice, but honestly I was templed-out at this point); however, the setting on an island in the Nile was by far my favorite temple setting of the whole trip.

The Nile River seen from Agilkia Island
The Nile River seen from Agilkia Island
Coffee break inside the Temple of Philae
Coffee break at the Temple of Philae?

Logistics note

My entire 12-day trip was booked with tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, which has an excellent reputation in Egypt. (The reputation is deserved, in my opinion.) At the time, in 2012, tourism in Egypt was extremely low as a result of the Arab Spring and the company offered rates that probably only allowed it to break even – at best. (I have no inside information, I’m only speculating.)

While I have not seen rates so appealing since, I would say the rates on the company’s website as of this writing are still reasonable for what you get – a well-executed tour with a luxury operator.

As for safety, I can only offer my personal perspective which is that I never felt unsafe during my visit despite the political circumstances. (A&K provided armed guards who traveled with us, which I appreciated but considered an abundance of caution rather than a necessity.)

Perhaps the news coverage we receive in the United States is hyped, perhaps I just lucked out that nothing happened the days I was there, perhaps the tour operator did a good job of insulating its clients from the “real world,” and perhaps it’s other things that don’t occur to me. But I can definitely say I had a great visit and never once felt threatened.

Better yet, when you go while no one else is going you get the sights almost to yourself. I have heard that on an average day several hundred tour buses visit the Pyramids of Giza. I counted five the day I visited. Granted, I wasn’t there the entire day, but one can reasonably infer that the volume of tourism was greatly diminished.

And I was very pleased to have gotten a 5-star, professionally organized tour at a vastly reduced cost – probably less than half of what I could have arranged on my own for comparable accommodations (even with my deal-scrounging habits).

With that, let me leave you with some pictures of life along the Nile as seen while sailing.

Life along the Nile (1)

Life along the Nile (2)

Life along the Nile (3)

Life along the Nile (4)

July 14 2014

JetBlue Bonuses, Virgin America Signup Promo, and $25 Best Buy Offer

Hope everyone had a great weekend. For a Monday pick-me-up, here are some nice promotions (travel and otherwise)…

$25 off at Best Buy

A new American Express Sync promotion offers a $25 statement credit on a purchase of $250 or more at Best Buy.

If you don’t need anything during the promotion period, you can lock in the savings by purchasing a gift card for future use. (But note certain types of gift cards are excluded in the fine print, and I would also avoid buying gift cards online as they’re often processed by a third party which wouldn’t trigger the credit. Merchandise bought online should be fine, though.)

Many Best Buy stores also sell other retailers’ gift cards (such as Amazon).

To double dip, be sure you have (or sign up for) a My Best Buy loyalty account since a $250 purchase would earn $5 worth of loyalty points.

To triple dip, combine with other eligible promotions or coupons that may be offered by the retailer.

If this offer is not in the Offers For You tab when signed in to your American Express account, you can add it via Twitter (hashtag #AmexBestBuy) or Facebook. If you don’t know how, please see my Amex Sync primer.

Don’t forget to check out the long list of other Amex Sync offers, many still valid at this writing.

Three JetBlue bonuses

JetBlue Promotions

JetBlue has a number of summer/fall promotions worth noting, including:

As always, please pay careful attention to the terms of each offer you participate in.

Virgin America signup bonus

Virgin America Signup Promotion

If you’re not already a member of Virgin America’s loyalty program, there is currently a promotion for new members. You can earn:

  • 500 bonus points for signing up.
  • Additional bonus points after completing your first flight by Dec. 31, 2014. (2,500 points for Main Cabin, 5,000 for Main Cabin Select, or 7,500 for First Class.)

Those who are already members can earn bonus points for referring new members, so find/make some friends who aren’t in on the game yet. 😉

Restaurant Week reminder

Finally, don’t forget LA Restaurant Week starts today and similar events in other cities are coming up later in the year.

July 12 2014

An Afternoon in Las Tacas, Chile

Las Tacas is a small resort town on the northern coast of Chile which I stumbled upon during a drive between Santiago and La Serena.

I had never heard of it, and even today as I Google its name relatively little comes up. There is no Wikipedia page and there are few English-language web pages (or even Chilean pages offering an English translation).

I am not sure if the place is obscure in general, or just obscure to foreign visitors. Perhaps the Chileans like having it to themselves?

Nonetheless, this town is super photogenic.

LasTacas pano

My photos were taken with a cheap camera and I present them un-retouched and unfiltered. All I did was crop them to fit the page.

There is a stunning white sand beach:

LasTacas white sand

The water is deep turquoise:

LasTacas turquoise water

The buildings, which I think of as a mix of Mediterranean and Southwestern architecture, are spotless:

LasTacas architecture

I doubt there is much in Las Tacas to occupy a long stay, and I can’t say it warrants a trip in and of itself. But if you find yourself driving along the coast of Chile, it is definitely worth a stop if for no other reason than to snap a few photos.

It would also make for an easy day trip from La Serena, which itself has good – but different and busier – beaches.

For me, it turned out to be a great place to have a nice meal with a fantastic view amid a long drive (Santiago and La Serena are about 480 km apart).

Some (local?) kids seemed to enjoy it too:

LasTacas kids in raft

July 11 2014

Free Slurpee at 7-Eleven & Free Meal at Chick-fil-A Today

I wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth for either of these deals, but if you’re in the area anyway…

7-Eleven

Today is free Slurpee day at 7-Eleven since the date matches their store name. (Clever, no?)

Slurpee banner

To sweeten the deal, use their app to get more freebies all week. More info here.

7-11 Addt'l Offers

Chick-fil-A

In slightly healthier news, today is also Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day. Come dressed as a cow and get a free meal or entree.

Chick-fil-A promo

Given my lack of exercise discipline lately I could probably just come as myself and get a free meal. (Well, hopefully not.)

Have a great weekend!

Category: Deals | LEAVE A COMMENT
July 9 2014

Restaurant Week Events in Los Angeles, NYC, Denver, Miami, DC & More

For my Los Angeles foodie friends, and those visiting our fair city soon (welcome! and please forgive the traffic), dineLA Restaurant Week is coming up.

And I’ll show you how to triple-dip on this offer!

If LA doesn’t fit your plans, just scroll down for similar events in other cities.

Los Angeles Restaurant Week

LA Restaurant “Week” (it’s actually 14 days long, from July 14 to 27 this year) is a great way to dine at some top restaurants at significant discounts.

Lunch menus range from $15 to $25, and dinner menus from $25 to $45.

For example, Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao is offering dinner for $45 per person. Since it is an all-you-can-eat joint (albeit a very nice one) and the menu doesn’t change for Restaurant Week, it’s easy to see value relative to the normal $62 price.

Unlike Fogo de Chao, most participating restaurants serve a special fixed menu for the event. I have found those to be great deals as well, with high-end establishments offering multi-course dinners for much less than their normal prices. (I know $45 is not a cheap dinner per se, but we are talking about value.)

Some interesting options:

  • BOA Steakhouse has a 3-course lunch for $25. (The Sunset Blvd. location is particularly good for celebrity-watching if you’re into that. Despite living in LA, I’m very ignorant about celebrities and typically don’t even know who most of them are, but occasionally still manage to recognize one and get a kick out of it.)
  • Chinois on Main has a 3-course lunch for $25 and 3-course dinner for $45. (Speaking of “celebrities,” last time I was here Wolfgang Puck came out and visited with each table in the dining room. Nice guy (based on our 20-second convo).)
  • Cicada has dinner for $45. (Good food with a crowd comprised more of downtown business types than Hollywood types.)
  • Mr. Chow Beverly Hills has lunch for $25 and dinner for $45. (Lots of paparazzi lurk outside…if that’s a sign of anything.)
  • Patina has dinner for $45. (Primarily a business crowd, but this is one of my favorite LA restaurants.)

If you prefer lower-key restaurants there are plenty of those as well. There’s a search tool on the Restaurant Week website, with a variety of sort options, so take a look and make some plans. You can always hit the gym “tomorrow” to work off the food. 🙂

How to double dip

American Express is offering a $5 statement credit each time you spend $21 or more at a dineLA restaurant and pay with a valid, registered credit card. The registration page is here.

b-Pic Amex dineLA promo

Now, since a credit is offered for each transaction of $21 or more, you know what to do if the bill is $42 or more, yes? (Split the payment into multiple transactions and/or multiple cards. Just make sure all cards are properly registered first.)

How to triple dip

Choose a restaurant that also participates in a travel provider’s affiliated dining program to earn miles or points at the same time. If you’re unfamiliar with dining programs, I explain in this post. (It’s too late to register for the particular offer discussed therein, but the post has a general explanation of dining programs.)

Other cities

Many cities’ restaurant events have already taken place this year, but there are still upcoming ones in 2014. Here is a small sample:

Be sure to read above for suggestions on how to double – or even triple – dip. I have seen the Amex deal offered in several other cities. (I did not check for all cities, but a Google search should turn up the appropriate registration page for your city if there is one.)

If I missed your city please add it in a comment!

Category: Amex, Deals | LEAVE A COMMENT