August 26 2014

AirAsia Flights from $4 (!), Alaska Award Flights from 5,000 Miles, JetBlue 20% Discount

Here are some interesting airfare deals currently available.

AirAsia “Big Sale”

Low-cost carrier AirAsia is offering some really inexpensive flights for a variety of destinations including China, Australia, Bali, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

For example, the (starting) price is $9 for a Jakarta to Singapore flight:

AirAsia

Other destinations start as low as $4.

Note that you must book by August 31 and the travel period is March 1 to October 24, 2015.

Here is the promotion page.

 

Alaska Airlines Fall Award Sale

Alaska is offering award flights for as low as 5,000 miles one way.

For example, these are rates for flights from San Francisco:

Alaska Award Sale

I did not see a booking deadline, but valid travel dates are August 30 through October 31, 2014.

Here is the promotion page.

 

JetBlue 20% Off

Finally, JetBlue is offering 20% off on domestic U.S. fares with code FALL2014.

You must book by tomorrow (August 27) and travel between September 3 and December 18, 2014. Do note the blackout dates and other restrictions.

Here is the promotion page.

 

As always, please be sure to read the terms of each offer carefully.

Happy travels!

August 21 2014

Travel Tip: Avoid Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

Credit Card

Credit cards are a great tool as long as you manage your finances well, don’t pay interest and fees, and can control your spending.

You can earn cash back (or miles or points) for your credit card purchases – which means you’re leaving money on the table when you pay with cash instead (assuming price is the same).

I try not to judge, but I literally cringe to see people pay cash when they could use a credit card instead.

And credit cards come with consumer protections that cash lacks. If your cash is lost or stolen, it’s gone unless you’re lucky and someone returns it. If you lose a credit card, you just call the card issuer to report it. The card is cancelled and you’re not responsible for unauthorized charges.

Whether or not I’m traveling, I avoid carrying a lot of cash. It’s safer and easier; there’s less to lug around and look after.

But this isn’t a sales pitch for credit cards. Rather, it’s a post to help you avoid a potential downside of credit cards.

The problem: foreign transaction fees

Many cards charge a fee when you purchase something in another currency. This often happens while traveling abroad, but can also happen when you’re using the card in your home country but buying from a foreign merchant.

The fee varies from card to card, but I have seen it as high as 3%. That may seem a small number, but it adds up if you travel frequently. And why pay it at all if it’s avoidable?

The solution: pay with a card that does not have foreign transaction fees

To determine if a card has these fees you can simply call the number on the back of the card and ask. Alternatively, look in the fee disclosure (usually labeled something like “pricing and terms” on the card issuer’s website).

Below is a random example, with the subject fee (3% in this case) boxed in blue:

Citi Fee Disclosure
Click to enlarge

There are plenty of cards that charge 0%, and those are the ones I use when traveling.

By the way, using cash to avoid this fee is usually not an ideal solution. You’d still have to buy the foreign cash – at a price. That price might be charged separately or it might be built into the exchange rate, but either way you are paying to convert currency. As an individual you have less negotiating power than a credit card issuer (usually a bank) so you’ll get an even worse exchange rate than you would using a credit card.

August 18 2014

Travel Wardrobe Planning with Instagram

I’ve been thinking about what clothes to pack for an upcoming trip to a new destination (I’m a girl, okay?).

I’m not a fashionista by any means, but I do try to “clean up” when I leave the house.

Practically speaking, I’d like to pack clothes appropriate to the weather I’ll encounter.

Culturally, I try to respect the local standards of attire. I’ll still stand out as an outsider (that’s unavoidable), but I figure the less I stick out the better – for safety and other reasons. That’s particularly true in certain parts of the world where immodest attire can lead to worse consequences than just unwanted stares.

Monaco Dress Code
What NOT to wear, according to this sign in Monaco

So…how to find up-to-date information on what people wear in a particular city?

I came across a genius suggestion on the TripAdvisor forum.

For real-time, on-the-ground “intell” on what people wear, someone suggested browsing Instagram under the hashtag for your destination.

For example, if traveling to Copenhagen, search the tag #copenhagen and you instantly get an up-to-the-minute feed of photos labeled as such.

Clever, no?

Category: Tips | LEAVE A COMMENT
August 17 2014

Skype Credit 30% Off at eBay

Skype is a great travel tool as it makes international phone calls economical – whether you’re at home calling abroad or vice versa.

Last week I wrote about how to save money on Skype. Today there is a new deal that’s just as valuable – but easier to obtain.

You can simply buy Skype credit for 30% off through eBay.

Skype Credit via eBay

I made a purchase and received my redemption code within minutes. (However, once redeemed, Skype itself took a while – about an hour – to reflect my updated account balance. Just FYI.)

You do need a PayPal account for this transaction but it only takes a few minutes to create one if you don’t already have.

Enjoy.

August 16 2014

Free(ish) Travel Accessories Including This External Battery Pack

With last month’s Transportation Safety Administration announcement of enhanced screening on electronic devices, I’ve been diligent about charging my devices before approaching airport security.

I also made a mental note to get an external battery pack for additional peace of mind.

Found one today for (almost) free.

Sears has a selection, some of which will earn a rebate equal to the cost of the device (before tax).

For example, the WOW power bank below is priced at $14.99 and would earn a rebate of the same amount.

Click to enlarge

A few things of note:

  • Use store pickup to avoid shipping costs.
  • On some items, the rebate is less than the item’s full cost.
  • The rebate is not in cash but in the form of Shop Your Way points (the currency of Sears’ and Kmart’s loyalty program). I don’t know when these particular points would expire, but the window usually isn’t huge so don’t forget to redeem them before expiration.
  • If you don’t already have a Shop Your Way membership you can sign up during the checkout process.

(Thanks to Slickdeals.)

August 9 2014

International Phone Calls and How to Save 30% on Skype

I find Skype a great tool in general, but it has been even more useful lately as I’m planning a lengthy international trip.

When at home I use it to call international phone numbers if using my cell phone would be cost ineffective, and when traveling I use it to stay in touch with home.

You can do a lot for free on Skype, but some services are not free. For those, here are a few money-saving options currently available.

For 30% off

Purchase Skype credit from TigerDirect while combining the following offers:

  • A $15 off $100 coupon from the merchant. To my knowledge there are two coupons currently available – one expires August 10 and can be generated here; the other expires September 30 and can be generated here.
  • The Amex Sync offer giving a $15 statement credit when you spend $50+ at TigerDirect. The offer, mentioned in this post, expires August 31. (I don’t believe this offer is on Twitter or Facebook so it would only be available to those who have it in the “Offers For You” tab on their Amex account.)

Your net cost should be $70 for $100 worth of Skype credit.

TigerDirect GC Order
Cost of $100 in Skype credit BEFORE Amex Sync rebate. (Click to enlarge.)

For 10% off

Another Amex Sync deal offers $25 off a $250+ purchase at Best Buy (discussed here) through September 2. Best Buy sells Skype gift cards.

$250 is a lot of Skype credit (more than I’d personally buy at one time) but you can always buy a lesser amount and make up the difference by purchasing other items at Best Buy (*cough* Amazon gift cards *cough*).

I don’t know of any at the moment, but if you find a discount offered by the retailer that works on Skype gift cards, it should combine as well.

Not Skype, but another option worth a look

I have not researched this product, but currently Amazon has a OneSimCard (with $10 of credit) for $40.52.

OneSimCard
Click to enlarge

On the surface this is not a deal because you can get the same thing for $39.95 directly from OneSimCard.com ($29.95 for the card and $10.00 for the airtime credit).

To make it a deal, use the Amex Sync offer for a $10 statement credit when you spend $50+ at JCPenney (blog post), which sells Amazon gift cards in store. It’s a two-step process because you have to go to JCPenney and buy an Amazon gift card, then use the gift card to buy the SIM card. Personally I wouldn’t make a special trip to JCP, but I’d certainly drop in when the store is on my way anyway.

Remember that Amazon prices can change any time so be sure to double check your cart before paying.

Enjoy the remaining weekend. I know many of us bought the Europe/Asia mistake fare a few months ago and are now busy planning for those trips, so I hope this is useful.

Category: Amex, Deals, Tips | LEAVE A COMMENT
August 8 2014

Hotwire $20 off $100, Travelocity up to 30% Off, and Other Hotel Promos

Welcome to the weekend! I’m in the middle of planning a two-month trip and, as usual, trying not to spend money on it.

So far so good – booked a domestic flight for $3 in taxes (using 4,500 British Airways miles), an international flight for $6 in taxes (using 20,000 American miles), and a few hotel nights for $0 (with various points from my stash).

I’m sure I’ll have a full report once it’s all over, but for now much remains to be booked. Since my destinations have few chain hotels (at least in the programs I have points in), it’s hard to use points. And I don’t have enough points for 60 free nights anyway.

So I’ve been paying closer-than-usual attention to random offers. Thought I’d take this opportunity to share the good ones I’ve come across.

Travelocity

Lately Travelocity has offered compelling discounts when booking a hotel via mobile app. Today there are two:

  • $30 off $100+ with code MOBILE30GO. Book by August 10, complete travel by December 31, 2014.
  • $40 off $150+ with code MOBILE40GO. Same date restrictions.

Travelocity Mobile App Discounts (exp Aug 10)

Terms of each offer restrict the discount to your first app booking, so it seems you can only use one or the other. Sadly I’ve already used a mobile coupon (albeit when they were offering an even better $40 off $100+) so I can’t use these, but they are generous discounts if well used.

These coupons work on multi-night bookings, so if you find a property with a low nightly rate to start with the final price can be a steal. Like this example of a 3.5-star hotel for $27/night including taxes.

Other offers:

  • Use code HOTEL40 for $40 off $250+ (expires August 30, 2014). Just used this myself to book 6 nights in a 3-star property for $35/night before taxes. Not too shabby.
  • Use code SUMMER50 for $50 off $300+ (expires August 31, 2014).
  • Use code SUNNY15 for 15% off $200+ (expires August 10, 2014).

TIP: The latter offers don’t require booking through the app, but I have sometimes seen lower prices on the app (for the same exact room and dates).

There is a list of excluded hotels but I didn’t find it terribly long. However, I did have trouble with one of the codes until I saw the fine print exclude “pay later” rates (although “free cancellation” rates worked). If the checkout screen doesn’t display a box for a promotion code, likely it is because you selected a non-qualifying rate and/or property.

Hotwire

Hotwire is offering $20 off $100+. You must book by 11:59 PM today (August 8) and travel by August 29, 2014.

Hotwire $20 Off

I did not find a public link as the offer is “exclusively for subscribers,” so check your inbox for the email (mine came this morning). Or you can subscribe and see what happens. (The subscribe page also mentions getting $10 off for subscribing.)

Orbitz

Though I don’t see one this very minute, Orbitz regularly offers coupons ranging from 10% to 15% off (and occasionally offers much more) so just keep an eye out.

Meanwhile, you can play their Instant Vacation Gratification game with prizes ranging from gift cards to Orbucks credit to a trip to Cancun.

As with all deals, please pay attention to all T&Cs.

Have a great weekend.

August 5 2014

Tip: Always Register for Miles & Points Promotions

There are tons of hotel points programs and airline miles programs. And they’re always running various promotions. OCD as I may be, I simply don’t have the time or mental bandwidth to keep track of them all.

So every time a new promotion comes out, I register for it even if I have no known plans to participate. It only takes a moment, so as soon as I see the email I just sign up. Then I can forget about it, and if travel plans crop up that fit the promotion I don’t miss out on the points or miles because I neglected to register.

And it’s always nice to get “surprise” points after the fact.

Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Miles got me there for free!

A few months ago I mentioned a particular American Airlines promotion where you could earn about 1,000 miles for spending a few minutes on their website and potentially several thousand more bonus miles for flying. I registered myself and several other people (whose frequent flyer accounts I manage) and then just forgot about it.

Today I logged into one of those accounts and, lo and behold, it showed not only the 1,000 free miles, but 4,000 bonus miles attributed to the same promotion. Apparently my mom had a flight during the promotion period that I didn’t know about and it triggered bonus miles. I only manage her loyalty accounts; I don’t manage her travel plans (half the time I don’t even know where in the world she is on a particular day) so I always just sign her up for everything.

Moral of the story… always register when there’s no cost to do so. And don’t forget to check our permanent Travel Deals Page for promos you may have forgotten to register for.

Anyway, have a great rest of the day. Since that “where in the world” quip will probably earn me a you-should-call-your-parents-more-often lecture, my next task will be to make a pre-emptive phone call. 🙂

Category: Tips | LEAVE A COMMENT
August 4 2014

Enticing Hotel Deals – Including a 3-Star in Santorini for $17

Anyone fancy a fall getaway to Santorini Island? Expedia has the 3-star Blue Diamond Bay for $17/night on select dates. The promotion says October 31 to November 1 but I was able to find the same price on several other dates.

Blue Diamond Bay Santorini

Technically this is an “exclusive deal” for members…but membership is free and I didn’t see any limitations on who can actually book.

So if interested, try your luck and let me know how it goes!

If Santorini doesn’t do it for you, check out the sale site and see if anything else interests you. There are options all over the world and many are pretty enticing.

 

August 2 2014

Updated Amex Sync Offers – Save at eBags, Courtyard by Marriott, Loews Hotels, and More

Happy weekend!

We’ve had some pretty epic sunsets here lately so I thought I’d share the view from my run (okay, stroll) the other day:

Sunset
How ’bout this for a sunset?

Anyway, to the business at hand…

Many new American Express Sync offers have cropped up while others have expired, so I thought it would be useful to compile an updated list.

There are several good travel-related offers including eBags, Hilton, Courtyard by Marriott, Loews Hotels & Resorts, and American Express Travel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the American Express Sync campaign, it’s a great program. Since I began using these offers not even two years ago I’ve saved literally hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, while exerting minimal effort, on things I would normally buy anyway.

Here’s my primer on how to use Amex Sync deals.

Also remember that many of these merchants sell gift cards. So if you don’t plan to buy anything there during the promotion period, you can buy a gift card for future use and lock in your discount now. Some even sell gift cards to other retailers so you can, for example, use a Best Buy offer to save money on Amazon purchases by buying an Amazon gift card at Best Buy as long as the offer terms don’t exclude gift cards. (But be careful buying gift cards online as those purchases are sometimes processed by third parties and won’t trigger the credit. Merchandise purchased online should be fine, however.)

Current offers

  • 1-800-PetMeds.com – spend $100+ get $20 back (exp. Sep. 15, 2014)
  • 7 For All Mankind – spend $250+ get $50 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014) #Amex7FAM
  • Amazon – varying offers [I’ve seen spend $20+ get $20 back, and spend $40+ get $20 back] (expires Aug. 31, 2014), targeted only (not available via Twitter or Facebook)
  • American Express Travel – spend $250+ get $50 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014)
  • Best Buy – spend $250+ get $25 back (exp. Sep. 2, 2014) #AmexBestBuy, TIP: sells gift cards to Amazon and many other retailers
  • Bonefish Grill – spend $25+ get $10 back (exp. Aug. 4, 2014)
  • Bonobos – spend $150+ get $50 back (exp. Nov. 1, 2014)
  • Buca di Beppo – spend $50+ get $15 back (exp. Aug. 17, 2014) #AmexBucadiBeppo
  • Cheesecake Factory – spend $75+ get $10 back, (exp. Aug. 31, 2014) #AmexCheesecake
  • Costco – spend $25+ get $25 back (exp. Aug. 15, 2014)
  • Courtyard by Marriott – spend $100+ get $20 back (exp. Sep. 30, 2014) #AmexCourtyard
  • Delivery.com – spend $25+ get $5 back (exp. Aug. 3, 2014) #AmexDelivery
  • Dell.com – spend $599+ get $50 back (exp. Sep. 15, 2014) #AmexDell
  • DollarTree.com – spend $101+ get $20 back (exp. Sep. 2, 2014)
  • eBags.com – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014) #AmexEbags
  • Elephant Bar – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Sep. 30, 2014)
  • Gelson’s – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Sep. 21, 2014)
  • Henri Bendel – spend $200+ get $50 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014)
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts – spend $250+ get $50 back (exp. Sep. 2, 2014) #AmexHilton
  • Hulu – spend $20+ get $10 back (Aug. 31, 2014)
  • JCPenney – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Sep. 2, 2014), #AmexJCPenney, TIP: sells gift cards to Starbucks, Shell Gas, Subway, and others
  • Jetsetter.com – spend $150+ get $30 back (exp. Sep. 30, 2014)
  • Loews Hotels & Resorts – spend $200+ get $50 back (exp. Oct. 29, 2014), possibly available via Facebook only
  • Lucille’s BBQ – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Oct. 31, 2014)
  • Modnique.com – spend $200+ get $40 back (exp. Sep. 7, 2014)
  • Musashi Restaurant – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Oct. 29, 2014)
  • P.F. Chang’s – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Sep. 15, 2014)
  • Photos.com – spend $100+ get $20 back (exp. Aug. 16, 2014)
  • RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen – spend $50+ get $15 back (exp. Sep. 15, 2014)
  • Sally Beauty – spend $20+ get $5 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014)
  • Sports Authority – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014) #AmexSportsAuth
  • Sprouts Farmers Market – spend $50+ get $10 back (exp. Aug. 11, 2014) #AmexSprouts
  • Texas de Brazil – spend $100+ get $20 back, certain locations excluded [see T&Cs] (exp. Aug. 31, 2014) #AmexTexasBrazil
  • Ticketmaster.com – spend $75+ get $25 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014)
  • TigerDirect.com – spend $50+ get $15 back (exp. Aug. 31, 2014)
  • Vivid Seats – $10 off a purchase of $50+, use promo code AMEX 2014 (exp. Sep. 30, 2014)
  • Whole Foods – spend $75+ get $10 back (exp. Sep. 30, 2014) #AmexWholeFoods
  • Wine.com – spend $100+ get $30 back, use promo code AMEX30 (exp. Sep. 14, 2014)

If I missed anything please leave a comment or shoot me a note.

Enjoy and, as always, be sure to read the terms and conditions of all deals you participate in.