We’ve been writing this blog for about three and a half years now.  Realizing that many of you have not been reading us that long, I thought I would dredge up some of our older posts that are still timely.  Hope you enjoy!

Most military members are aware of at least some of the military-run resorts that are set up to offer military families as first-class hotel at a discounted rate.  The four resorts are:

Shades of Green at Disneyworld

Hale Koa in Waikiki, HI

Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, Korea

Edelweiss in Garmisch, Germany (the German Alps)

All of these are fantastic to stay at, I particularly enjoyed staying at Edelweiss during my first R&R from Iraq.

However, there are several lesser known military resorts that I find many people are totally unaware of and thus never taken advantage of.  Here are a few:

Pililaau

Pililaau Army Recreation Center
Pokai Bay, Hawaii
Pililaau Army Recreation Center (PARC) located on the Pokai Bay and is one of the best beach facilities on the island. It captures the essence of “old Hawaii” with beachfront property surrounded by rustic farms and homes. PARC is located just 35 miles from Waikiki and 18 miles from Schofield Barracks, on the beautiful Leeward Coast. The gentle waves and white sand beaches delight swimmers, snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts.

PARC is comprised of 39 beachfront cabins, one distinguished visitor cabin, an equipment rental center, club facility and cove pavilion area for group outings. All cabins are air conditioned, with ceiling fans, cable TV and telephone. The kitchens are equipped with cooking utensils, tableware, dishes and linen, a private sundeck and barbecue grill.

I love this one as it is a nice quiet way to enjoy Hawaii and sits near my favorite beach on Oahu.  A real get away as opposed to the excitement of Waikiki.

Kilauea

Kilauea Military Camp
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Island
(808)967-8333 • www.kmc-volcano.com
Located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Military Camp (KMC)
sits amidst spectacular scenery, natural wonders, and cultural treasures
including the marvels of the active Kilauea Volcano. Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park is Hawaii’s number one visitor attraction in the state featuring one of the
most active volcano on earth. It has also been designated as a World Heritage
Site (one of 20 in the United States) by the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as an International
Biosphere Reserve.
This one can’t be beat – cabins next to a volcano?  How great is that?
Seward Lingcod%20Fisherwoman
Seward Military Resort
Seward, Alaska
(907) 224-2659 • www.sewardresort.com
The Seward Military Resort is offering a very affordable package from March 31st to May 13th!  Package includes Lodging, Gray Whale Tour and admission to the Alaska SeaLife Center.  An amazing price starting as low as $99 per person!
If you are a fisherman, this one is the best.  They will not only arrange a halibut charter, but when you get back they will cut your catch into one pound packages, vacuum seal and freeze them for you!  Anchorage is only two hours away and the visits to the glaciers and nature are fantastic.
Take advantage of these other resorts as well as the main ones.  They are all a well deserved perk of being in the military.  Note that many of these facilities are now managed by IHG so you can get points in the Holiday Inn program as well as a great vacation.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

There are many ways to save on rental cars, and many, many blog posts on how to save money when renting cars. There are many valid methods out there, but this is the way I save the most money.

 

First off, I applied and was approved for the Discover It card. I did this mainly because the Discover shopping portal is incredibly lucrative, both in portal multipliers but also in payouts, and you need the credit card to access the cashback portal. If you use CashBackMonitor, and you should for all online purchases, the Discover portal is almost always at the top of portal multipliers. For instance, I purchase from Staples a lot for reselling, as I get 5x Ultimate Rewards when using my Chase Ink. Staples is almosts always 5% cash back when going through the Discover portal.

 

On the other side is payouts. (HT to FrequentMiler) You can redeem for pure cash back through the portal, but there are more lucrative payouts, such as for rental cars. You can currently get half price rental certificates for Alamo and Executive Rentals (which are both owned by the same company). They are only available in one denomination ($20 for a $40 certificate), but multiple certificates can be used for one rental; however you need to call in to use more than one, and not every Alamo agent is receptive to it. If you get one that doesn’t let you, just HUCA (hang up, call again).

 

When I have my certificates, and I’m booking online, I always make sure to go through a portal (usually TopCashBack has the best cash-back rates for Alamo, make sure to check on CashBackMonitor). Make sure to join Alamo Insiders, which is their free loyalty program and often has better rental rates. Also make sure to put your favorite airline’s loyalty program number to pick up airline miles as well.

 

Then when paying for the balance of the rental (usually only taxes), I use my Chase Ink Visa, for two reasons. First, it offers primary collision liability insurance, which few credit cards do and which saves on insurance increases should you get into an accident. Secondly, if your card is enrolled in Visa SavingsEdge, you can get 4% cash back on Alamo rentals. I find that Alamo rentals are very easy, usually being checked out at a kiosk instead of needing to wait for a person.

 -Andy

Using this strategy, I’ve saved a ton of money on rentals. What are some of your strategies for getting cheap or free rentals?

 

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

A lot of places actually offer military deals, but don’t advertise them forcing you to ask.  I think both parties feel embarrassed when the answer comes back “no” so I am very glad when they advertise or promote the fact that they have a deal for the 1% of us who serve our country.  Here are some I found tonight:

Aira Hotel in Vegas - 10% off with Promo Code ZMILTRT.  A really nice relatively new hotel in the middle of the Strip.

Disneyworld Hotels - Up to 40% off.  Spouses of Service Members can use this without the SM being present!

Hilton Hawaiian Village Offers Mother’s Day Special - Only $159/ night from 8-14 May.  This is about a 25% discount off the regular rate.

Southern California Theme Park Discounts - Conveniently listed together on this Anihiem County Website.

USAA Travel – I am pretty suspicious of most military travel sites, but I trust USAA.

United and JetBlue Airfare - 5% off with Veteran’s Advantage.  Not free, but a ton of discounts on travel that more than pay back the membership fee for me every year.  A lot more than just airfare, but I have written about it before here and here.

Let everyone know if you have found a good military discount out there so we can all benefit.

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I am ⅔ of the way done with my reviews of my trip to SE Asia. Thus far I’ve posted:

 

Review: United Business Class 757-200 JFK to San Francisco

Review: United Business Class 747 San Francisco to Hong Kong

Review: Intercontinental Hong Kong Deluxe Junior Suite

Review: Singapore Business Class 777-200 Hong Kong to Singapore

Review: Westin Singapore Seaview Suite

 

And then we’ll have for later:

 

Review: Intercontinental Singapore

Review: EVA Royal Laurel (Business) Class 777-300ER Singapore to Taipei to JFK

 

Today, I’ll be talking about our stay in the Holiday Inn Express Patong Beach Phuket, right in the thick of things on the main beach town of Phuket Island. We arrived at HKT from our 1.5 hour Jetstar flight from Singapore. I purchased the relatively cheap Jetstar tickets using my Arrival+ card, so I could redeem my Arrival points for a statement credit. One of the unfortunate things about staying at Patong beach is the drive from the airport; it takes 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.

 

We found a shuttle for about $12 per person (in Thai Baht) and settled in. There were a lot of flight arrivals at that time, and it took 50 minutes until we got to Patong. Fortunately, the shuttle dropped us right in front of the hotel, which we found is only a 5 minute walk from the beach. And next door is a scooter rental place, and next to that is a 7-11. Pretty awesome location I must say, it was only about a 10-15 minute walk to Bangla Street (the center of town).

patong1

 

I actually paid cash for our three nights there. It’s only 10k IHG points per night, but then again it’s only $60USD per night, plus I was participating in the Fall’s IHG Into the Nights promo, and these stays counted.

 

The lobby is open and beautiful, and the desk attendants were most friendly, as is the case with most Thai establishments. Check-in was quick and easy, and she showed us around the property, including the breakfast area (breakfast is complimentary there) and the courtyard pool, which is very beautiful.

patong2

 

Our room was on the 3rd floor right off the lobby, and facing the courtyard, and featured a very comfortable king-size bed and nice if not luxurious bathroom.

patong3

 

Breakfasts were good, not great, but free food automatically tastes better. It never felt crowded, and had a surprisingly laid back feel despite it’s location. Hanging out by the pool in the early evening was a surprisingly chill experience.

 

We of course hang out at the beach a lot. Fortunately it wasn’t high tourist season, so it wasn’t too packed. There are still too many hawkers walking the beaches for my taste, but that’s the price you pay for going to Patong Beach; a lot of the island’s other beaches (which are easily accessible with scooters) are a lot more remote.

patong4

 

We took a day trip to Koh Phi Phi, and to see Maya Beach. It is super touristy nowadays (thanks Leo…), but also super beautiful. You’ve got to check it out, at least once in your life.

patong11

 

patong10

 

We also of course rented a scooter to check out the island. I highly recommend checking out Patong Gokart Speedway (full disclosure – my wife’s best friend’s family owns the place). We had a lot of fun. After that we went to an amazing seafood joint, Savoey, where you pick out the fish you want, and they prepare it in any style you wish. It was amazing.

patong5

 

 

patong9

A spa we hit for massages that was exceptional was Burasari Spa. There are cheaper options all around for sure, but we got a steam bath, aromatherapy, and a 90 min massage for $60 per person, all in a beautiful setting removed from all the bustle of Patong.

patong6

 

patong7

Finally, no trip to Patong is complete without a stroll along infamous Bangla Road at night!

patong12

 

All in all, it was a great trip and a great (and highly affordable) place to stay. I doubt we’ll be going back to Patong Beach, but if we do, we’ll definitely stay here again!

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Uniform friendly carry-on

 

This carry-on piece looks like it’d be perfect for packing a uniform for a weekend. Check this out:

 

Vocier C38

 

Unfortunately it’s a little pricey…a little bit being $775. Yeah, I’m not getting this anytime soon. But if you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, and/or get incredibly annoyed by a wrinkled uniform when travelling, this might be for you.

 

USAA free Vantagescore

 

Thank you Doctor of Credit (one of my favorite blogs) for posting on the announcement that USAA will be offering a free VantageScore to members (and possibly nonmembers too), and how this really doesn’t mean much.

 

Another website for discount car rental rates

 

Miles to Memories clued me in on another car rental website I’d never heard of, called Car Rental Savers, that automatically inputs the best coupon and corporate codes to get you the best price. Also always remember to enter your reservation into Autoslash.

 

I’ll be a doing a post later on how I save a ton of money on car rentals.

 

Mobile passport on your phone

 

Lifehacker has a post on what I think will be the future – mobile passports on your phone. They’re in effect here in the US – unfortunately only in limited circumstances at ATL. I can’t wait until they’re more widely accepted.

 

If you are thinking of becoming a US Bank member and have their credit card

 

Check out this post by Chasing the Points…it’s a must read!

Posted by glenn | No Comments

While we stick to military related topics for the most part, we do point out when great deals are to be had.  This one in particular is probably of interest to military members as we spend a lot more time in Hiltons, Marriotts, and IHGs than Starwood and Hyatt which seem to be frequent flyer blogger favorites.  Hard to find those last two that are within per diem most times.

I have had several email offers of bonuses for Hilton lately.  Combined, they make quite a return on investment.

First, Hilton is offering double points if you register here.  You could optionally choose double miles, but I would argue that points are more valuable and a couple of free nights at a good hotel is certainly equal in cost to a free flight.  This deal runs 1 Mar – 31 May.

Next, if you have the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, they are bumping up their typical 10 points per dollar to 13 points per dollar.  See the bonus offer here.  This is a great card to have as it also gives you Hhonors Gold meaning free internet and breakfast, plus a couple of free nights when you sign up and another free night if you spend $10,000 annually.  This easily makes the $95 annual fee worth it.  This bonus also runs until 31 May.  There is a cap of 5,000 bonus points, but you’d have to be spending an awful lot on Hiltons to exceed that threshold ($1,667).

Then there is the American Express Offer for $50 back for a $250 spend.  This runs until 5 April.  If I don’t have the opportunity to use this on a stay, I will try buying a $250 Hilton gift card, which should meet the conditions (it doesn’t say ‘stay’, it says ‘spend’).  If you don’t already know how to get American Express Offers, see Jen’s Deals We Like blog post on them.

Hilton Offer

So now is the time to stay with Hilton and really rack up the points.  Normally, most properties give you 10 points/$.  Hilton is famous for giving you both their points and miles from a variety of airline programs per dollar.  However, you can also elect to receive 50% more points in  lieu of the airline miles.  I recommend this as a better value than the small number of miles that you would get.  The wide variety of Hilton-affiliated credit cards can earn you anywhere from 6-12 point/$.  I have a couple of Hilton cards, but try to use the Reserve version which is 10 pts./$.  So let’s say 25 points/ $ normally.

Maximizing the next few months, you can earn:

10 x 2 = 20 points/ $ for the hotel cost

5 points/ $ bonus in lieu of miles

13 points/ $ for using the Hilton HHonors Reserve card

2.5 points/ $ as a HHonors Gold member bonus which comes with the card.

So that totals to an incredible 40.5 points/$ until June!  So if you spent $1000 in hotel stays, that equals approximately 40,000 points.  That is enough points to redeem for 8 Category 1 nights or up to 1 night at a Category 8 hotel.  That’s about a 50-80% return on investment!

I’ve already booked a couple of nights at the Hilton in Waikiki over the Memorial Day weekend for a mileage run/ vacation for the wife and myself.

 

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“C-130 rolling down the strip,

64 Rangers on a one way trip,

stand-up, hook-up shuffle to the door,

jump right out and count to four”

I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the luckiest guys in the U.S. military.  Not only did I make Brigadier General, but I was assigned to one of the handful of GO positions on jump status.  Now, my fun meter has just about pegged with all this winter weather this year, but when it is time to jump, it’s time to jump.  Even if it is 5 degrees outside.

Snow Jump 010

Plenty of time to get the safety brief and “suit up”.  Here the Jumpmaster is checking me out.

Snow Jump 016 Snow Jump 019

First time for me to jump out of a C-17.  It was such a better ride than a C-130!  The seats had a heater behind them that sort of worked.  Nice to jump out of a plane that is not older than I am!  It had warmed up to 16 degrees by the time we got on the bird.

Snow Jump 025 Snow Jump 027

The Drop Zone was at Ft. A.P. Hill, near Fredericksburg, VA.  The 130 mile an hour wind chill wasn’t there long enough to matter, not would I feel it with the adrenaline running through my system!  Then the beauty of the thing.  Checking your canopy to ensure everything deployed right and then enjoy the silence.  I love the silence of floating 1200 feet over the earth and observing my fellow jumpers weaving around the skies, the ground crew ready to receive us, and in this case the beautiful whiteness of the snow blanketing the DZ.

There was almost no wind, so steering my MT-6 was easy.  Then came the landing, which can be rough for a guy my age.  But this was beautiful!  Six inches of snow let me land softly and I only had to brush off the snow from my ACU’s.  I felt pretty proud that I managed to land within 100 feet of the ground crew.  I did commit an airborne faux pas, by unhooking my reserve chute and dropping it on the ground too hard, which caused it to pop open.  They had warned me that these new reserves were really sensitive and I had guarded it very carefully up until that time.  I guess I owe the JM a case of beer!

Snow Jump 002 Snow Jump 003 Snow Jump 006 Snow Jump 008

I was the first out the door on the first stick so I got to observe the other five passes.  Here are photos of the other jumpers exiting the plane.  It was a great day, 19 degrees out, but no wind, which made the setting beautiful.  The troops deployed to the woods to continue their tactical operations, while I bade them farewell (no one wants a GO hanging around)!

I used to joke that I jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, until one USAF guy asked me “I thought you jumped out of Air Force planes?  They have no ‘perfectly good’ airplanes!”

Anyone out there a jumper?

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

Today we have another guest post from Army Brian (can’t reveal more, he’s one of those high-speed bad-ass guys):

 

“A reoccurring issue I face when traveling is gym access.  Finding a hotel on TDY with a decent gym can be a challenge and is always hit or miss.  While many hotel chains have improved their game with respect gyms, some hotels still only have a treadmill, elliptical, and a few free weights.  For me it is further complicated by the fact that I am often not given a choice of which hotel to stay in due to a conference or someone else booking the hotel rooms.  While I usually end up in a nice hotel, I can’t always count on a good gym.

 

An option I’ve routinely used is the YMCA.  Even though I’m not a member of any specific YMCA, I’ve always gotten in for free if I ask to speak with the manager or membership director and let them know I’m active duty military on TDY orders.  I do offer to pay for a temp membership, but inevitably they let me in for free.  Though I try not to abuse their hospitality by asking for more than a week long pass.  If you’re traveling and need to hit the gym, try the YMCA.  Just be prepared to pay for a single day or short term pass.

 

For anyone who likes to ride and/or use spin classes, I recently found a solution for getting in some spinning time when I can’t get to a class.  Try BeatBurn Indoor Cycling by lolo ($3.99), a spin class without the class.  Using your iPhone and the music on your phone, the app coaches you through a spinning session.

http://lolofit.com/apps/beatburn_indoor_cycling

 

I agree with Brian, it can be a pain to try and stay in shape while travelling. As I’ve said before, I generally enjoy waking up early where I am and going for a run through the city, as it makes me feel better, and I can get a pretty good layout and see some sights that way.

 

However, with most of the Northeast looking more like Hoth, I’ve had to come up with some indoors or even in-the-hotel-room workouts that are worthwhile. I had a pretty good routine, but found a better one, the Batman workout, on Distractify:

batman workout

 

I just did it last night because I was too wimpy to brave the elements to get to the gym, and it’s pretty awesome. (I blast “N.I.B” by Black Sabbath while I’m doing it!).

 

Also, our friends over at DD4M have an awesome link on gym discounts for military members, check it out!

 

What is your workout routine while travelling?

-Andy

Posted by glenn | One Comment

This post may only apply to a very slim minority of you, but for those of you who were able to take advantage of the American Express Campus Edition card and loading at campus bookstores, that capability is going away on March 1st. I just recently received this email:

campus edition

The way to leverage this deal was to load this card, which is a prepaid card, similar to but in a different class from Bluebird, Serve, and REDbird, with a credit card that offered category bonuses at bookstores. I was fortunate enough to have one of the old Citi Forward cards, which is no longer available for new applicants. It was marketed primarily to students and urbanites, and offered 5x Thank You points on restaurants, bookstores, and entertainment. You could load up to $1k per month at campus bookstores on to the Amex, offering an easy 5k TY points per month (or 10k if your spouse also had one).

 

I didn’t hit this really at all until TY points became transferrable to airlines, then I started to hit it hard. Unfortunately, this will be my last month loading. (sadly I’m pouring out a beer for my fallen manufactured spending opportunities).

 

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(There are no affiliate links in this post)

Direct link to offer: https://www262.americanexpress.com/dapply/web/applycard/us/personal-card/api/hil/hilton-hhonors-surpass-card/hhsc-024?wt.mc_id=CMEM_BUfyV3B89yK-nY

HHonors-Card

On Feb 28th, this awesome 80k offer for the Amex Hilton Surpass expires, so if you’re hurting for Hilton points and/or want automatic Hhonors Gold status (which in my opinion is the best mid level status to have), make sure you drop your application sometime in the next week. I am going to go for this one.

 

In addition to the points and the status, the Surpass has the best earnings rates for any other Hilton cards. 12x points at Hilton properties, 6x points at restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 3x points for all other purchases. This is better than the high-end Citi Hilton Reserve.

 

The annual fee is $75, but remember that military members get their annual fees waived by American Express.

Posted by glenn | One Comment

In my job, I can never take a lot of time off.  So my wife and I take several long weekend vacations a year – which also works to rack up a bunch of FF miles.  Valentine’s Day was fortunately on a long weekend this year, so I took the wife to Sonoma for wine tasting and sightseeing via Alaska Airlines which flies directly into the Charles M. Schultz Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, CA.

At the airport, I picked up the usual visitor’s guide so I could get a map of all the wineries.  It conveniently listed about half the wineries in red and explained that these were wineries that had a wine tasting room with VISA Signature benefits.  I had never checked out VISA Signature benefits and looked them up.  After all, I have six VISA Signature cards and I think you’ll find most of the miles and points cards are VISA Signature.  Now I had taken advantage of American Express Sync offers many times.  If you are not familiar with these, check out Jen’s Deals We Like blog which I think details these deals better than any of my fellow bloggers.

The VISA Signature were new to me and I was thrilled to see that one of them is free wine tasting and discounts on purchases at over 60 Sonoma wineries.  After a morning driving through Bodega Bay and the Russian River we hit several wineries in the Kenwood area.  Each one had a slightly different deal, but free wine was part of all of them.  The standard at the wineries we visited was a guest paying $15 for 5 wine tastings.  The VISA Signature benefit at most was two free tastings.  Between the wife and I this meant four tasting which frankly was plenty for us.  More than that and I am afraid I would end up with a DUI.  And for those of you who say you should spit, not swallow, I understand but didn’t see a single person following that rule.  Although we did pour a lot of remnants into the little spittoons on the counter.  We easily saved over $100 with this VISA Signature benefit.

I found that VISA Signature offers a lot more deals than just wine tasting in Sonoma.  They include the following:

  • Discount for BCBGMaxazria (my wife and daughter like this place, but I don’t get the name)
  • 20% off of Food on Foot Tours in NYC (this is one I would love to try)
  • 10-20% off of Greyline double decker bus tours (I can’t count the number of sities that we have done this in)
  • 10% off of Super Shuttle
  • A free 8×10 at JCPenney family portraits
  • Six months free CLEAR membership to speed you through the airport
  • A ton of discounts/ free nights at resort properties

As you would expect, these deals all require you to use a VISA Signature card which should be no problem as you are already using them to collect points and miles.Vacation 1158

Vacation 1154

For the record, we visited St. Francis, Chateau St. Jean, Landmark, Muscardini, and Anaba.  We liked St. Francis the best and bought a wonderful Port there.  It was really nice to enjoy 75 degrees after spending all winter on the East Coast!

 

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

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