Saturday, December 29, 2012

E-Rewards and Delta Airlines

I just got an email from E-Rewards this past week that stated that they would no longer be offering Delta SkyMiles as a redemption option. This was a choice on the part of Delta. It appears as though E-Miles is also dropping Delta as well.  Those who have been using Delta as their redemption choice will now have the option of either American Airlines or United Airlines on E-Rewards. From what I've understood, E-Miles users would need to cancel their current account and then sign up with another carrier to be able to earn frequent flyer miles.

In the email that mentioned E-Rewards dropping Delta, it appears that people who have been with the program for a bit (I only signed up in June) will be getting a 25% bonus on their "earnings each quarter. This can be a great bonus. I've earned about 3,000 SkyMiles in the past six months on the site, so that would've raised the total to nearly 4,000 based upon partial redemptions.

In addition to airline rewards, those like to travel are also able to choose from a variety of hotel partners that include HiltonHonors and Club Carlson.  $100 in E-Reward money equals out to 7,000 HiltonHonors points, which is almost enough for a free night at some of the lower-level Hilton properties.  Those who are not into traveling can also earn gift cards to several vendors. All of the rewards are like money that can be earned in spare time. Travel rewards can pay off in wonderful trips that wind up costing very little.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Recent Articles on Saving Money on Plane Tickets

I've recently written a couple of articles that discuss some of the easy ways that people can get a free plane ticket. The first focuses mainly upon how people can earn frequent flyer miles and talks about credit card bonuses, search bars, and online shopping portals. The Top 5 Ways to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles probably includes most of the most common methods, but it should be able to teach people some good tricks to try.

The second article on How to Get Cheap Airfare talks about frequent flyer miles, but it also discusses some alternate ways to get a free or discounted ticket. By using a variety of methods, there is little reason to pay the full price on a legacy airline for a flight.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The 1880s Train in Keystone, South Dakota

Pics of the Train and Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Source: Photo by Author
1880 Steam Train
1880 Steam Train
Source: Photo by Author
1880 Steam Train
1880 Steam Train
Source: Photo by Author

Ride the Train

It was early June, and we were winding up a family vacation with a short trip to check out one of the United States' most famous landmarks--Mount Rushmore. After spending over a week in Colorado with very warm weather, the weather as we woke up in Gilette, Wyoming was a bit of a shock to the system. As we made the relatively short trip to Rapid City and then on down to Mount Rushmore, the weather was quite cool for June (46 F) and drizzly. As we drove toward the monument out of Rapid City, we noticed the fog settling in.

I had my concerns, so we stopped for a pizza before ascending the last couple of miles in our journey.
We strapped the kids into their car seats after our pizza, and began our ascent. Unfortunately, the fog was still there and it obscured the mountain. On the bright side, we did find out that there is a really nice pile of rocks at its base. We debated staying the night, as several decent-looking hotels advertised cheap rates. Instead, while we were eating pizza, we picked up a brochure for a ride on a local steam-driven train.

The 1880 Train runs along an old Black Hills line between the tourist towns of Keystone and Hill City. A round-trip takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and offers some great views of some of the nearby mountain peaks of of the Black Hills. The railroad follows Battle Creek which saw an influx of prospectors around the turn of the twentieth century. The conductor on the trip discusses some interesting facts about the locomotive and the surrounding area as the trip proceeds, which is a nice feature of the trip. Concessions are also available for purchase on the train. A round-trip ticket costs $24 for an adult or $12 for a child between 3 and 12 years of age. One-way tickets get a small discount, but you'd have to get your way back to your point of origin if you have no one to meet you at your destination.

This train ride is a great experience as it takes riders back to the primary mode of mass transportation for late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americans. While the locomotive does not travel as fast as a car, it is quite relaxing. Surprisingly, our small children seemed to enjoy most of the ride and were fairly well-behaved.

As we rode the train, we started to see breaks in the clouds. Fortunately, we to advantage of this after our ride, and drove up the mountain to see Mount Rushmore. It's a great national monument, but it's definitely not all that there is to do in the Keystone area.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When to Visit Yellowstone Park

Memorial Day Might Not Work

Sure, you've always heard about Yellowstone National Park and its many scenic wonders. It's quite possibly the most famous of the national parks. Much of the park is very mountainous with lots of lakes and canyons to see. There's a mud volcano, several sulfur springs, and, of course the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful.
Note the Snow on the Side of the Road--Photo by Author
I've always wanted to visit Yellowstone to see its impressive beauty. This past summer, I got my chance. I had a work-related gig in Colorado, and it was only slightly out of the way to go through Montana into Yellowstone. We drove through the park on Memorial Day weekend. Being originally from West Virginia, I'm used to 80-90 degree days by Memorial Day. Even spending the last year in Grand Forks, North Dakota, we had fairly comfortable temps in the 50s to 70s for the previous month, so I expected something fairly comfortable. Was I in for a shock to the system.
This is Old Faithful--the White Stuff that looks like dots on the grass is falling snow--Photo by Author
Knowing that we would be going through a mountainous region, we packed jackets for our trip. It was a good thing that we did. As we entered the park from the north on US 89, the temperature was in the low 40s. By the time we got to Old Faithful, the temp was 34 and snow began to fall. As we sat waiting for the geyser to blow, near blizzard conditions set in as depicted by the attached pic. Needless to say, our first trip to Yellowstone was quite memorable...a Memorial Day trip with blizzard conditions.

After looking at Weather.com, it became quite obvious that May can still be a bit iffy with the weather in Yellowstone. May high temps average a not-so-balmy 52 degrees. In all, only June through September see average highs for the month above 60 degrees. July and August peak out at 72 and 71 degrees, respectively. When we arrived on our cold May day, the entire northeast quadrant of the park was inaccessible for...get this...snow. As we drove through the parts of the park that were open to traffic, we saw snow banks higher than our minivan. An interesting trip indeed. We did get to see some interesting things, not the least of which was a late May snowstorm. Therefore, my advice on the best time to visit Yellowstone would be a 10-day window of around July 25-August 5. All I can say is, I would have hated to have been camping in a tent on the day we drove through.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Earn 100,000 Miles on Delta with Trips to London

I received a targeted email from Delta Airlines today that discussed bonus Skymiles for those who travel to London Heathrow in the next few months.

Those who register for the promotion at the above link and who travel to Heathrow between October 1 and January 31, 2013, will get a nice chunk of bonus Skymiles. The first round-trip will result in 15,000, the second 35,000, and the third 50,000. That's a total of 100,000 for the three trips, in addition to the actual miles flown, which will normally be at least 4,000 from the East Coast of the United States. Business class tickets get bonus miles on top of the miles flown.

Those who have the Delta Skymiles credit card will get 2 miles on top of the miles flow for each dollar spent on the flights. Each flight in addition to the first three will earn an additional 50,000. Business travelers going to London in the next four months could seriously cash in and perhaps qualify for an around-the-world ticket in the process.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2500 Delta Skymiles in 5 minutes

This deal is now dead. I got 2,000 deducted because I did not eat at a Delta Dining establishment. Frequently, there are opportunities for free airline miles that take very little time or effort. One of these opportunities is available from the Delta Skymiles Dining Program. Those who sign up for the program and create an online profile before October 1, 2012, can pad their accounts by at least 500 Skymiles. There is the possibility to pocket 2,500.

I decided to try this over the weekend after I heard about it. I checked my Delta account today, expecting to see the 500 points that were supposed to accrue from signing up. The other 2,000 miles are supposed to show up after dining at one of the restaurants and filling out a review within 30 days (unfortunately there are none in the network near Grand Forks). When I looked into the account activity, it showed that I had been credited with the full 2,500 miles. I don't know if this will work for everyone, but the entire process took less than five minutes. Most people value miles at around 1 cent each. So, that's about $25 worth for less than 5 minutes of work. Again, the link to sign up should be good until October 1, 2012.

Many people may think that 2,500 miles is not worth the effort. That's 1/10 of a domestic flight, and with other ways to get miles without flying, a free flight is ever so closer.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Worst Hotel Chains in America

MSN Money just today listed the 10 worst hotel chains in America based upon reports by both Consumer Reports and J. D. Power & Associates.  At one time or another I have personally stayed at most of these chains, although it has been a while for some of them. One thing that can be noted quite easily from the list is that two parent chains dominate the list.

Choice Hotels, and Wyndham are all quite prevalent on the list. The higher level hotels associated with the chains are not listed, but the budget and intermediates are. Much of the problem seems to be bad upkeep. All of the hotels in a given chain are not equal. I have stayed at some Days Inns (part of Wyndham) that are really nice. Others are just a step above the Bates Motel. My only experience with Motel 6, which appears to be the third worst on the list, was not good to say the least. Most of the hotels associated with Motel 6 in the United States appear run-down. Driving across the TransCanada Highway, however, many of the towns had a Motel 6 that looked as good or better than most of the other chains in the area.

Unless a hotel is associated with a high-end chain, it is always good to look at the reviews on Expedia.com or Trip Advisor to see what other travelers have said about a given hotel. Of course, it is probably a good idea to avoid the specific hotels listed in the 10 worst hotel chains piece, especially if the pictures are any indication of the "value" they provide.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Places to Stay in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Airport Marriott

The Marriott Hotel chain frequently runs a Mega Bonus promotion in which guests who complete two separate stays receive a free night at any of their category 1-4 hotels. I recently (December 2011) had the opportunity to take advantage of this offer while staying in the Cleveland, Ohio, vicinity.
There are several choices in the Cleveland area that would have worked. A couple of hotels in the downtown area appeared attractive on the company's website. However, being downtown locations for a leisure trip, the $24/day parking fee was not something that was attractive for a free night. Instead, I chose the Cleveland Airport Marriott, which includes complimentary parking.
The location is still within a short drive from the downtown area, and there are several lots that cost a fraction of the $24 for parking. From my room, I could see the skyline of downtown Cleveland, which indicated the close proximity of the town.
The cost of the Cleveland Airport Marriott generally runs around $99.99/night ($89.99 for AAA). The Marriott properties in the downtown area run in the neighborhood of $200/night or more during the week (less for weekends), according to my search for a suitable property.
The Cleveland Airport Marriott is about a 10-minute drive to the downtown region. It includes an on-site restaurant/bar, known as AMP-150. We ordered room service for breakfast, and the food was quite good. The pool area is quite spacious and includes a whirlpool. Unfortunately, the jets were not in running order. The king bedroom was quite nice with a 37-inch flat-panel TV. The bathroom sink and end tables had granite counter tops. The bed was the standard for the Marriott chain, and these beds are generally quite comfortable.
One downside was the $9.95 fee for the in-room internet service. For someone who is used to staying at the less upscale Fairfield properties, I'm used to having free WiFi. In spite of these small inconveniences, the stay at the Cleveland Airport Marriott was quite refreshing, and in spite of the close proximity to Hopkins Airport, there was little-to-no noise from the landing planes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Free Flights for Four Years Sweepstakes

Allegiant Airlines, a discount carrier that flies out of many smaller markets to major tourist destinations is offering the opportunity to win free flights for four years. The sweepstakes is available through liking the airline on a Facebook app. The sweepstakes runs through September 28, 2012, and the Grand Prize for the event allows users to fly to a destination that they choose up to 12, yes, 12 times per year.

My home airport is currently Grand Forks GFK, so I had the options of Las Vegas, Phoenix-Mesa, and Orlando. People are limited to one entry per person, but the odds will still probably be steep. Still, it doesn't hurt to give it a try.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hawaiian Points Toolbar--One Month

Last month, I discussed the Hawaiian Airlines toolbar that computer users can install to earn one point for every three searches. Users are limited to 5,000 miles per month with this tool. I searched for the month of August because I downloaded the toolbar around the first of the month to see if I could come close to the limit.

I did not. After a month of searching, I was able to rack up just under 90 Hawaiian Miles in my new account. Does this mean that this toolbar is useless? No. Just last month, I booked a trip for my 10th Anniversary. I had to transfer Marriott Rewards Points to Delta Skymiles because I was just over 100 points short of having the amount needed for the tickets. A couple of months with a Delta toolbar would have come in handy and saved me thousands of Marriott Rewards. Delta does not appear to have a search toolbar, but it does show that a handful of airline miles can make all the difference when booking a reward.

I still have the Hawaiian Miles toolbar, and at the rate I'm going, I may have enough for an inter-island ticket in about 10 years. The good news is that the miles aren't really costing me anything.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Budget Lodging in Europe--Ikea Hotels

The Swedish furniture maker Ikea has recently announced that it is going to go into the budget lodging business. The Ikea hotels that will make up the chain will not be linked to the brand in name or furnishings, but are expected to offer guests a simple room, a solid breakfast and easy check-in. Luxury amenities will be nonexistent.

The budget hotel business is booming. Motel One is a German chain that saw revenue increase by about 70 percent last year. Motel One charges the equivalent of about $60-$70 per night, about the cost for many budget hotels in America.

The increased number of budget lodgings may keep prices lower for Americans who plan on traveling to Europe. With the cost of airfare and food that can frequently be incurred, American travelers should find this to be a very beneficial development.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Earn Hawaiian Airlines Miles for Internet Searches

A tip that can earn those attempting to hack travel some frequent flyer miles on Hawaiian Airlines is just a click away and costs nothing. Every new download and search on the Hawaiian Airlines toolbar until August 11, 2012 is an entry for 40,000 HawaiianMiles, which is enough for a round-trip ticket from the mainland to Hawaii. The toolbar that has a search function that will earn searchers 1 mile for every three searches. There is a limit of 5,000 HawaiianMiles per month. That's 15,000 searches, so very few people would be able to get to this limit.

Another cool feature of the toolbar is the shopping feature. Those shopping from Amazon.com can earn one HawaiianMiles mile per dollar at the retail giant. If you are already planning to buy from Amazon and don't have another perk that it gives you, why not use the toolbar? There is even a handy little tab that will get users directly to the Amazon shopping site to earn the miles. Those using a credit card affiliated with an airline will usually earn at least another mile per dollar in addition to the mile mentioned above.

There are several ways that HawaiianMiles members can cash in their miles. The obvious one is flights. A round-trip inter-island flight goes for around 15,000, depending upon the season, etc. A flight from the continental US will go for around 40,000 miles. Those who aren't planning to use the miles for a flight can get gift cards to various hotel chains including Marriott and Outrigger/Ohana. The best reward may be transferring miles into HiltonHonors points at a 1:2 ratio. Miles must be transferred in 5,000 mile chunks. They pay 10,000 Hilton points for each 5,000. Not bad for doing something you would be doing anyway.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

250 Free SkyMiles with E-Rewards

There are many survey sites out there, and some of them are scams. Some can be beneficial, however. Delta Airlines partners with a site called e-rewards. Since Delta is a partner, those signing up and filling out one survey within 2 months can get 250 free Delta SkyMiles.

I tried out the site and filled out a survey within a day or two. The 250 SkyMiles showed up in my account almost immediately. Those who fill out more surveys can get e-rewards that are measured in dollars. These are not dollars that you actually get, but they are "dollars" that can earn free merchandise or travel rewards. The lowest amount that will earn a Delta award is $25, and I earned it in a little over a month. 500 SkyMiles can be had for $25, and I again got this in my account within minutes of requesting it. There is no progressive earning system with Delta, so it's just as well if you cash in the reward immediately after getting it.

A few hotel chains also have rewards available. These include Carlson, Hilton and La Quinta. The partners are subject to change at a moment's notice, but they are on board at this point. The rewards with these hotels will earn points in loyalty programs. For example, $25 in e-rewards will get you 1,000 Hilton Honors points. $100 will get $7,000, so it may be worth it to save up in that instance.

Most of the surveys can be done in about 5-10 minutes. Even if you don't qualify, e-rewards will usually give around $0.25 or $0.50 to try. It would be possible for someone qualifying for most of the surveys to easily get close to the $25 per month. This is just one more way to get miles for nothing but your time.

Please note that I do not earn anything by promoting this site. It is not a scam. It is just an opportunity for some free miles or travel points for spending a bit of time online filling out surveys.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review of Marriott Rewards Program

I recently published a review of the Marriott Rewards program via my account at HubPages.  I have a few travel-related articles at the HubPages site.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

500 Free Delta Miles

Until August 31, 2012, Delta Skymiles members can sign up as a member of Accor Hotel's loyalty program and earn 500 Delta Skymiles.  Not bad for five minutes of work.  Here is the link to earn 500 Delta Skymiles.  It appears that just signing up for an account suffices, and it will get you a bit closer to that free flight to Hawaii that you're dreaming of.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review of Marriott Rewards

I frequently post on another site known as HubPages.  Just this week on that site, I gave a fairly lengthy review of the Marriott Rewards Program.  I've found the program beneficial over the last ten years.  Loyal guests can earn free hotel stays, airline miles, or complete vacation packages.

HubPages is a revenue sharing site on which writers can earn a few extra pennies here and there for articles that get traffic.  Anyone can sign up for HubPages, but the articles are frequently reviewed by editors. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Links to More of My Travel Writing

This blog is not the only site I have.  I also occasionally write about travel at the HubPages site.  Here are some of my travel-related posts on that site:

Amboseli National Park: A Kenyan Safari Adventure

Something to Do in Keystone, South Dakota Other than Visit Mount Rushmore

Things to see in the Old Town Square in Prague

When to Visit Yellowstone Park

You too can write at HubPages and make a bit of money in the process.  Sign up here.  I encourage you to check out these posts on travel.