July 25 2015

Bonefish Grill, Chipotle, Shutterfly, and Choice Hotels Promos

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Here are a few deals…

 

Bonefish Grill

Obtain a Bonefish Grill $10 off coupon here and enjoy a free(ish) dinner on the house.

Although I haven’t been to Bonefish Grill in a while, I recall some entrees priced in the low teens (or maybe even single digits?), so $10 off is a great deal since there is no minimum required for the coupon.

The lobster tails pictured above don’t look too bad.

Terms do say “one coupon per table” so…everyone sit separately at the bar? 😉

The coupon expires August 3.

 

Chipotle buy one get one free

Get a Chipotle BOGO free coupon playing their Friend or Faux game.

Just click “play now” to play the game. Took me about a minute, and you don’t have to get the correct answers. At the end you’re asked for a phone number where they’ll text you the BOGO coupon.

It says the coupon comes within 7 days but mine came in under 2 hours.

I didn’t notice an expiration date for the game, but the coupon itself expires August 15.

 

Shutterfly $20 off $20+

Shutterfly $20 off $20

Also free-ish is this Shutterfly $20 off $20+ offer. Use code JOLLYJULY and note the offer expires July 28.

 

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels GC

Finally, Choice Hotels is offering a $50 gift card after two qualifying trips.

Gift card options include Amazon, Walmart, several gas stations, and a handful of restaurants.

Do note the promotion requires two separate qualifying “trips.” Per the FAQs, consecutive nights at one hotel only count as one trip, regardless of check-ins or check-outs.

Also, a trip is defined as one night or more at some brands (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria, and Ascend Hotel Collection) while 2 or more consecutive nights at other brands (Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, or MainStay Suites).

And note the somewhat-convoluted redemption process. After the two qualifying trips you’re awarded 8,000 points which can then be redeemed until 10/31/15 for one $50 gift card.

If you value 8,000 points more than a $50 gift card to one of the participating retailers, then don’t redeem them for the gift card. To help you decide, I previously wrote a long analysis when they ran this offer last year.

Registration is required (register here) and check-in must occur by August 19.

 

Have a great rest of the weekend.

July 20 2015

$68 Transcontinental Flights, Discounts on 76 Gas & Hyatt Gift Cards

Evening, everyone. Here are a few quick notes on some good deals.

eBay gift card sale

The eBay gift card sales are back!

Pick up a $100 76 gift card for $90:

76 GC

Or a $200 Hyatt gift card for $175:

Hyatt GC

Here are some other offers:

These are from reputable corporate sellers (not a random person selling on eBay) and the good ones tend to sell out quickly.

To double dip, pay with eBay gift cards acquired at a discount. For example, Kroger grocery stores currently have a digital coupon for $10 off when you purchase $50+ of eBay gift cards. (Download the store’s app to your phone, log in to load the coupon to your account, then go to the store and buy the gift card.)

To triple dip, earn 2% back by via eBay Bucks (enrollment is free).

 

Spirit airfare sale

Spirit Airlines is having a nice sale, with routes priced at $68 roundtrip including taxes.

Many routes are included; here are just a few examples:

From Los Angeles:

LAX Flights

From Boston:

Boston Flights

Book by 11:59pm on July 21, 2015 for travel on select dates from August to November.

Spirit is a low-cost carrier so do factor in extra costs (such as carry-on bag fees, although a personal item is still free) and set your expectations for a no-frills experience.

But $68 for a long-haul flight across the country is a bargain (albeit only a mediocre deal for the shorter routes)!

July 11 2015

Finishing My Fredericton Trip Report and Pondering the Wisdom of Off-Season Travel

Posts from this trip:

 

For many, travel decisions are mainly driven by the destination. People decide where they want to go, then book flights and lodging accordingly.

That’s a perfectly reasonable approach, but it doesn’t work as well for me. Because my travel list is long. Basically, I want to go (almost) everywhere.

When “everywhere” is your preferred destination, specific locations are somewhat irrelevant.

Combine that with my other favorite sport – deal hunting – and much of my travel decisions are driven by economics. Where can I go cost-efficiently at this time? (To clarify, “cost-efficient” and “cheap” are not synonymous.)

With this strategy, I’ve had some fantastic travel experiences for nearly-negligible costs.

I jetted off to Amsterdam on a whim, staying in one of the finest hotels in the world, for a total cash cost of about $200 (flights, hotels, and sightseeing included).

I took a 12-day, luxury tour of Egypt for a fraction of the typical price.

Recently I stayed at – to name a few – the very nice Delta Fredericton for $25/night, the 4.5-star InterContinental San Francisco for under $50/night, and the new Staybridge Suites Birmingham (in England, not Alabama) for about $32/night.

 

But bargains occasionally entail compromise

For example, an award flight might not be available on my preferred date.  So I have to adjust my schedule.

Or – to the point of this post – I end up visiting a place during the off-season. Like the arid desert that is Egypt in the peak of summer.

Or Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, in the middle of winter.

My week-long Fredericton trip was almost entirely economics-based, with a total cash cost of about $100 – flights and hotels included. (I don’t typically count meals and ground transportation since I incur those regardless of whether I’m traveling.)

  • The flights were free. I didn’t even spend frequent flyer miles because I added Fredericton as a stopover en route to Birmingham, England. (On a round-trip international award ticket, United allows one free stopover.) I probably paid incremental airline fees and taxes, but I don’t have the breakdown for the Fredericton portion so let’s just say $25.
  • One night at an airport hotel for an overnight layover was $56.
  • One night at the Delta Fredericton Hotel was $25.
  • A week at the Crowne Plaza Fredericton cost $0 in cash. A PointBreaks hotel at the time, it cost 4,500 IHG points/night (the 5,000 PointBreaks rate minus a 10% rebate from my IHG credit card). I have a six-figure IHG point balance – earned through reimbursed business travel or other low-cost means – so this stay hardly made a dent.

In the on-season, my hotel costs would have been much higher as I doubt the Crowne Plaza would have been offered on PointBreaks.

 

So what’s Fredericton like in the off-season?

In a word: cold.

For those unfamiliar with Fredericton’s location, it is in eastern Canada, above the US state of Maine. So it’s basically like going to Maine in January. Except colder.

This was Fredericton’s town square when I visited:

Officers Square
Officers Square in Fredericton. Cold, eh?

Ideal for ice skating – if that’s what you’re there for.

Alas, I didn’t bring my skates. And everything else there is to do outdoors was severely constrained by weather.

Not that I had a bad time. In fact, it was a nice – if not optimal – trip.

I toured the Beaverbrook Art Gallery when it was otherwise devoid of visitors. While paying the entrance fee, the cashier made small talk and I mentioned I was visiting from California.

A few of the rooms were closed for renovation so he charged me half price, then left me to roam the exhibits. The collection was okay. For a small gallery in a remote-ish part of the world, you can’t expect The Louvre.

As I was about to leave, a staff member approached and said, “They told me you’re visiting from California. I’m sorry some of the rooms are closed to the public but if you like I can take you to see them.”  While I didn’t think much of the collection at that point, I did not want to refuse the gracious offer so I accepted.

Turns out, the non-public rooms held all the gems. There were some stunning paintings and tapestries. This person not only escorted me through them, but took time to explain many of the pieces and the general history of the museum, including how some of its treasured pieces were acquired.

It’s unlikely I would’ve been offered this very detailed tour of the museum’s restricted areas during peak season.

Beaverbrook Art Gallery Sculpture
On the grounds of Beaverbrook Art Gallery

The museum has several famous works, including three Salvador Dali pieces and one by Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund). Of course, with my impeccable timing, all were on tour at the time.

So, as with everything else in life, off-season travel has its pros and cons.

 

Is off-season travel worth it?

On the balance, I’d say yes – in moderation.

At the extremes, it’s not worth it if you can’t at all enjoy the destination’s intrinsic appeal. To point out the obvious:

  • You can’t snow ski in summer when there’s no snow.
  • You can’t go sailing in winter when the water is frozen.
  • I wouldn’t try to hike the Inca Trail, which requires long days of trekking and several nights of camping, during rainy season.

Conversely, other destinations are only mildly inconvenient in the off season. In those cases, I’m willing to go if the cost-benefit analysis is favorable.

I didn’t mind Egypt in the summer. While it was hot, most of what I wanted to do didn’t require extended outdoor exposure or high physical exertion.

I was driven to the Pyramids and other sites in air-conditioned vehicles; I only had to get out and walk around a little once there, and that was tolerable with good sunscreen and proper hydration.

The remainder of the trip was spent gorging myself on gourmet food while sailing the Nile on an air-conditioned luxury boat. Do-able.

Sunboat
Outdoor dining patio on Nile River cruise boat

Wishing you, as always, safe travels.

 

July 3 2015

Free Drink, Two Amazon Offers, Triple Hilton HHonors Points, and Complimentary Museum Admission

Finally! Friday is here! Happy Independence Day weekend, everyone.

If you’re flying Southwest tomorrow, enjoy a free cocktail on board.

Southwest Free Drink

The airline extends this offer on various holidays but doesn’t advertise it much, so you’ll likely have to speak up and ask for your free drink.

But at least you can’t complain about the price. 🙂

Triple Hilton HHonors points

Hilton is offering triple HHonors points at participating properties in the Americas through January 30, 2016.

Be sure to read the terms. Also note you must book the triple points rate (see example below) and the stay must be at least two nights.

Hilton 3x Rate

$15 off $50+ on Amazon when paying with American Express Membership Rewards points

This is a nice offer, but it’s targeted and requires having an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points.

Receive $15 off a $50+ purchase when you use Membership Rewards points to pay.

Amazon MR promo

If targeted, you’ll see a banner at checkout. Click on the “learn more” button then find the box to link your Amex card. It looks like this:

Amazon MR instructions

After following the prompts to link your card, you’ll see the option to pay for your order by redeeming Membership Rewards points.

Here’s the catch: the redemption rate is 1.43 points to 1 cent. That’s a terrible conversion rate.

I value a Membership Rewards point at 1.7 cents, yet this offer only yields about 0.7 cents of value.

So the trick is to redeem just one point on your order (which is all it takes to qualify for the $15 off). The remaining balance is billed to your Amex card.

Payment screen redacted

Don’t forget to use promo code SWP07AXP15.

Note there are also offers for Chase and Discover cardholders. I wasn’t targeted for those, but if interested keep an eye out when logged in to your Amazon account.

Bonus Amazon tip

If you’re a Prime member but have yet to use the Subscribe & Save service, Amazon is offering $10 Subscribe & Save credit with promo code TRYSNS10.

Offer ends July 31, 2015.

Free museum admission

Finally, don’t forget this weekend Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission to over 150 museums, science centers, and botanical gardens.

Enjoy the long weekend.

July 1 2015

Lots of Free Travel Books

Happy alllllllmost Independence Day! Is it just me, or do these “short” work weeks seem to drag on forever?

As I normally do this time of year, I re-stocked on poolside reading material. Thought I’d share some travel-related finds.

At this writing, the Kindle version of the following books is free. (However, Amazon prices can change any time so double-check the price before ordering!)

Without a Kindle device, you can still read e-books with a free Kindle reading app.

Machu Picchu: Appreciating the Lost City of the Inca

Machu Picchu

Secret Europe: 50 Truly Unforgettable Experiences to Inspire Your Next Trip

Secret Europe

101 Tips to Reduce Luggage Weight

Luggage

London, England Travel Guide Book – A Comprehensive 5-Day Travel Guide…

London

Cruising the Inside Passage Alaska

Inside Passage

Spanish Tapas Recipes: Authentic Tapas Recipes from the Tapas Bars of Spain

Spanish Tapas

Ireland: For Travelers!: The Tourist Guide To Make The Most Out Of Your Trip To Ireland – Discover Where To Go, Eat, Sleep & Party

Ireland

USA’s Best Trips: 7 Amazing Road Trips

USA's Best Trips

A Naturalist Guide to the Galápagos Islands – 2nd Edition

Galapagos

Onboard French: Learn a language before you land

Onboard French

Rome: The Best Of Rome For Short Stay Travel

Rome

Getting High: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

Annapurna

Top 14 Places to Visit in Norway

Norway

Italian Travel Phrases for English Speakers: the most useful 1.000 phrases to get around when travelling in Italy

Italy

The Happy Camper: How I Quit My Corporate Job and Sold Everything to Travel Full-Time

Happy Camper

Ladakh in Pictures  

Ladakh

Havana Tips and Tricks: Interesting Facts and Tips On Havana And Cuba

Havana