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.