Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my trip report to SE Asia so far, although thus far it’s only been the two flights. I have to apologize for how long it’s taking me to post it, I’ve had a really busy month in the ER lately, so I guess that’s a reasonable excuse. BTW, I should’ve mentioned this earlier – thank you to my beautiful wife Gayle for all the pictures. I am not a photographer at all, and she is very talented!

hk6

When we arrived to Hong Kong it was about 6pm, and as I’m sure all of you who’ve visited HK, it was immediately apparent how their airport and infrastructure make ours look like a third world country’s. The airport and the train to HK island are beautiful, clean, and efficient; the train comes about every 3 minutes without fail!

hk11

This post is just about the Hong Kong Intercontinental, but HK is probably my favorite city in the world, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t post some pictures from the gondola to Lantau island to see the giant Buddha, or from High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel, or from the world’s largest floating restaurant. Part of the reason we love HK so much, other than the city itself, and the wooded running paths throughout it, is because we have a bunch of friends that live there, and take us to breathtakingly good Szechuan restaurants that aren’t reviewed anywhere. I would tell you where we ate, but I don’t know the name of the place, and don’t exactly remember where it was (too much wine!).

hk1

 

 

(the lobby of the Peninsula, packed for High Tea)

hk4

(on the gondola to Lantau Island; not good if you’re afraid of heights!)

hk5

hk2

(on our way to the world’s largest floating restaurant)

hk3

(Jumbo Kingdom, the world’s largest floating restaurant)

 

Of note, there are two Intercontinentals in HK, the Icon HK and the Icon Grand Stanford; we stayed in the former (and the former is only 45k IHG points per night vs 50k for the latter).

 

The first two nights we booked at the Best Western Harbourview, on discount fares. It was ok, but we were really excited about the Icon, as we’d read great reviews. Plus, rooms there are only 45k IHG points, which to me is a steal, considering the location right on the harbor in Tsim Sha Tsui (totally off topic, check out this hilarious stand-up about Tsim Sha Tsui!). So we packed up early, took the subway (which is I think the best subway in the world), and got there around noon. I’m Platinum Elite thanks to my Chase IHG card, which includes noon check-in.

 

We arrived in the beautiful open lobby, with views over the harbor, and were greeted warmly by 3-4 different people. There wasn’t much of a line, but they ushered me to other side of the main desk because I’m a Platinum. I’d booked a normal room, but they offered me choices of upgrade – either a normal room albeit with a harbor view, that was available immediately, or a deluxe junior suite, that was on the side and looked over the Eastern Harbor, but that wouldn’t be ready for an hour. We were in no hurry, so we chose the latter.

hk7

 

hk8

We hung out in the lobby for an hour, snapping pictures of the harbor, and they gave us complimentary drinks. At almost exactly an hour later, the associate arrived to take our bags (despite our protests) to our room with us. When we walked in, we were VERY pleased:

hk10

 

hk9

hk12

It was huge, and beautiful, with the windows next to the bed overlooking the harbor. The coffee table had a basket with fresh fruit, there was a huge walk-in closet to store our stuff (which wasn’t much), and the bathroom was huge and had a spacious tub, rainfall shower, and amenities by Salvatore Ferragamo. We had dinner plans that night with one of our friends, but were almost disappointed because we just wanted to stay in the room!

 

I didn’t check out the spa facilities or gym, and it was slightly too chilly to go in the pool. The next morning, after an early run around a nearly empty Tsim Sha Tsui, we checked out the breakfast buffet, and it was huge, delicious, and fantastic (although expensive – $35 each). They never let my coffee mug go empty either – a big plus! After breakfast we gathered our bags, and headed to the train to go to the airport, for our next leg HKG – SIN – HKT. Although we wanted to stay in HK, we were very excited about hanging out on the beach in Thailand! This hotel stay was, so far, my favorite IHG hotel stay ever!

 

 

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

A thread on Flyertalk caught my eye the other day and I thought you may be interested.  It seems that Marriotts are now enforcing the actual rules when it comes to allowing customers to use the Federal Government rate.  It’s not that people with no association to the military are trying to use that discounted rate.  These are military contractors who are typically are required to bill the Government no more than Per Diem for their travel.  However, hotel chains usually have a separate rate for Federal Government contractors which is sometimes higher than Per Diem.  You would think that the hotels would know those rules and match the Per Diem rate, but maybe they think they could get a few more bucks from contractors.  So they contractors try to slip one by and often do.

I have to admit that I am very rarely asked to show ID to provide that I am military when staying at a hotel booked under the Government Rate which clearly specifies that you need to show a valid ID.  Laziness on the part of the check-in staff?  Maybe, but maybe they just look at me and think “this guy’s got to be military with an excellent haircut like that”.  Sounds like I’ll be showing my ID from now on, at least at Marriotts.  It will be interesting to see if other hotel chains follow.

Why does this affect you?  Well just like each flight only has  a certain number of seats available for 25,000 miles, hotels only set aside a certain number of rooms per night at the Government Rate.  If someone books all those rooms you are out of luck.  I know that I have sometimes had to get a room far away from where I wanted due to no Federal Government rooms being available.

Read the whole thread here and let us know what you think.

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

I’ve written before about Travelpony, which is kind of a social media hotel discount website. I’ve used it twice, once at JFK and once in Hong Kong, getting deep discounts through a combination of an already discounted price and promotional credits.

They’re now offering a $35 credit to new users through the end of the year, if you use my referral link. That’s better than the $25 it had been! I don’t use this site when staying at a major chain hotel, as you won’t accrue loyalty points when it’s booked through Travelpony. When it’s a smaller chain or non-chain hotel, however, this can bring huge savings. Check it out!

Posted by glenn | One Comment

Alright guys, I’ve gotten a couple emails asking for referrals for free stuff (I know you love your free stuff!), and there are a couple of these promos ending soon, so I figured I’d put them out there. Full disclosure, I get referral bonuses for many of these, so if you don’t want to use my links, feel free not to, but if you do use mine, I highly appreciate it! Once you sign up, make sure to give them to family and friends.

 

-First off, the $30 signup bonus for first time Uber users ends in a week, on the 23rd. If you haven’t signed up for Uber yet, use my link to get a free ride up to $30.

 

-Silvercar is a really cool rental car concept that I used once in Dallas and it went swimmingly. They only rent out silver Audi A4s, and only in the following cities thus far; Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, and San Francisco. If you’re interested and want a free $25 off your first rental, sign up using this link. \

 

-If you like the app Hoteltonight, but would like to use it in Asia, I suggest trying the very similar app Hotelquickly. It’s the same concept – highly discounted hotel rooms when booking for that same day. I used it to book a room in the Best Western Harbour View in Hong Kong for $70, and with the $15 credit I had from using a referral, it was only $55. If you download the app, use my referral code ASHEE1 for a $15 credit.

 

-I use cashbackmonitor to decide which shopping portal to use whenever I shop online – it takes barely any time and adds valuable points or cash back on the majority of my online purchases. I usually use portals for airline miles, but oftentimes I get a better rate on cashback, and it’s usually through Topcashback. If you are new and sign up through this link, you get a free $10. I’ve gotten $196.62 back so far this year, and never had a problem with redemptions.

 

-No purchase fees for American Express gift cards. If you purchase Amex GCs for manufactured spending (this is not something I do with any frequency, but I know a lot of our readers do), use the code OCT14FC to get 100% off purchase fees, good until 2/28/2015.

 

Free credit scores

There are many ways to check your credit scores for free. I use Creditsesame most often, or maybe Creditkarma. There are also free scores by using credit cards, such as your Transunion score when using Barclaycard cards, or your Experian score when using US Bank cards. Doctor of Credit is a great blog to add to your RSS feeds, and in addition to everything else, he gives several ways to get your credit scores for free, but here is an interesting one – getting it through Lendingclub. If you’re a lendingclub user, you’re golden. If you wanted to join, and want $25 credit, email me and I’ll send you a referral link. Also, if you’ve used a credit card at Home Depot in the past year, you are entitled to a free year of credit monitoring – check it out on this page.

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

I sometimes think to myself that I have too many credit cards. I have over 20, in addition to other various cards like Amex Serve, Chime card, etc. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know who had the most. I’d heard rumors of guys having over 30 on Flyertalk, but I wanted the real answer.

 

To my utter shock, the Guiness World Record for most credit cards goes to Walter Cavanaugh, of CA, who in 2005 had 1,497 credit cards, dating back to the 60s. That adds up to a total credit line of $1.7 million dollars! Can you imagine his credit report?!? He says he’s only been denied for a card once! I usually get denied several times per year, for too many credit inquiries.

 

He has a wallet that holds 800 of them and weighs 38lbs! He also says he has perfect credit and only uses 1-2 cards on a daily basis.

 

Here is a video the news made about him.

 

My questions to him are:

-How do you not get dinged for too many credit inquiries? Do you engage in serious bumpage?

-Do you have a master spreadsheet to keep everything organized? My spreadsheet is already complex; I can only imagine his.

Posted by glenn | 8 Comments

Currently United has a promotion where they will give a 20% mileage bonus on any hotel points that you want to convert to UA miles.  Sounds OK until you realize the conversion rate is not in your favor.  I dug into this and comprised the following chart for converting hotel points into miles for the various hotel chains and the three major U.S. airline programs.  Multiple lines are listed for some exchange rates per the hotel program.

Hotel Chain AA UA DL
Best Western 5k=1k NA NA
Carlson 2k=200 2k=200 10k=1k
50k=5k 50k=5k
100k=10k 100k=10k
Choice 5k=1k 5k=1k NA
Hilton 10k=1.5k 10k=1k 10k=1k
Hyatt 5k=2k 5k=2k* 5k=2k
InterCon 10k=2k 10k=2k 10k=2k
Marriott** 10k=2k 8k=2k 10k=2k
20k=5k 16k=5k 20k=5k
30k=10k 24k=10k 30k=10k
70k=25k 56k=25k 70k=25k
140k=50k 112k=50k 140k=50k
Starwood*** 2.5k=2.5k 2k=1k 2.5k=2.5k
Wyndham 6k=1200 6k=1200 NA
16k=3200 16k=3200 NA
30k=6000 30k=6000 NA
Accor NA NA 4k=2k
*= Bonus 5k miles if redeeming 50k points
 **= Can convert 1UA mile to 1MR Point
 ***=Earn 1 SPG Point for every $ of DL airfare

 

So this chart only tells you that you are going to get less miles for the number of points with SPG being a notable exception for AA and DL.  But still how do you compare the value of a hotel point against a mile?  Fortunately, I already did a detailed analysis of the value of a hotel point here.  For brevity, the values were: Marriott = $0.0056/pt., Starwood $0.0124/pt., Hyatt $0.0091/ pt., and Hilton $0.0039/pt. based upon Average Daily Rate and the number of points for an average room.

How about the value of an airline mile?  Well, the old wisdom used to be $0.02/ mile, but the reality is that the average is more like $0.015/ mile these days.  Use whichever one you think is more accurate based upon your experience.

Now let’s compare  70,000 Marriott points = $392 or you convert those to 25,000 AA miles = $375.  So let’s call that even and you could use the points for a hotel stay or an airline flight depending on what you need more.  Let’s keep exploring.  UA and Marriott have made a tie-up and part of the reward is that they give a 20% better exchange rate.  So 56,000 Marriott pts. = $313 or 25,000 UA miles = $375.  Ok, now that is a good deal.  If you take advantage of the current UA deal, you would get an extra 20% on top of that so 56,000 Marriott pts. = 30,000 UA miles = $450.

Compare your hotel points to miles and see what you come up with.  Remember, you can convert hotel points to miles, but not vice-versa with one key exception.  United allows conversation of 1 UA mile to 1 MR point.  Where you can multiple this return is that Marriott (and Hilton/ Starwood) gives you a fifth free night for redeeming four in a row.  Thus, you can get an extra 25%.  So let’s say you redeem 100,000 UA miles ($1500) for 100,000 MR points ($560) and get another $140 for free.  Not the greatest deal, but if you have accumulated a boatload of UA miles from CCs or a lot of flying, it may still be worth it to you to save the cash.

 

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

Everyone should know by now that IHG ( the Holiday Inn chain) are managing many of the Army temporary quarters facilities (Army vernacular for a hotel).  We wrote about it a couple of years ago and the number of these hotels of posts has slowly, but steadily, grown to 39.

IHG Army Hotels

IHG is a great hotel chain with properties about everywhere you would think of going.  You can earn 3 points for every dollar you spend there, so you can work up a free stay pretty fast when you must go on TDY.

IHG Hotels

 

Now they are upping their game by building new Candlewood Suites at certain posts.  I discovered this by driving on Ft. Meade and doing a double take at the sign on the construction fence.  These should be much better accommodations to stay at than the traditional Army temporary quarters that they took over.

Ft. Meade 002

Several have already opened in Ft. Hood, JB San Antonio, and Ft. Huachuca which just opened last month.  I am not sure when the one at Ft. Meade will be ready, but my engineering expertise tells me that it will be late Spring.  Must be others in the works that they have not revealed yet.  If you spot one going up on your post, please let everyone know.

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

Via Pearls of Travel Wisdom, eligible veterans can receive up to 100,000 HHonors points per year for stays while job-searching, for training, or for relocation. Here in PA, eligibility opened up on November 3rd (article here). This unfortunately is not offered in all states, but it would be worthwhile to check and see if your state is eligible.

 

Hilton made headlines last year when they announced they’d be hiring 10,000 veterans over the next 5 years. Hilton already has great benefits for Active Duty and Veterans. Kudos to them for this additional benefit! You often see Hyatt or SPG get all the ink in the blogosphere, but I’m hard-pressed to find another hotel chain (or any travel-related chain for that matter) who goes to bat for servicemembers like Hilton does.

 

Unfortunately it’s not very easy to find. If you live in PA, go to this website, type in Hilton in the search bar, and the downloadable forms will pop up. As of this time, participating states are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas and Arizona, but I anticipate more will be opting in soon. If you’re a veteran in one of those states, google it to find the applicable forms.

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

I guess with a name like American Airlines, you should be the airline that supports our veterans more than most.  American Airlines always shows their patriotism this time of year.  They have several very cool veterans events and offer you the opportunity to get some extra RDM through donations to the USO.  American is the official airline of the USO and from 1-15 Nov. will give you 15 miles for each dollar you donate (minimum $25).  This is a great way to add those extra AA miles you need to reach that next award level.  Just to be clear, these are RDM and not EQM.

All of their events and details of how to donate can be found on this page.

AA Veterans Day

Another way to support the USO (and the troops) is to buy AA Gift Cards.  10% of the value you purchase will be donated to the USO.  If you plan to buy some tickets on AA, why not take this extra step and see that some of the money goes to a good great cause!  Details on purchasing these special gift cards is found here.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Something that has become a tradition in the three years we have written this blog is to advertise the Veterans’ Day deals that you can get every year.  Here is this year’s list.  Some discounts or freebies are only on Veterans’ Day and some are for the whole weekend.  Hope you have a chance to use these for you and your family.

Applebees – Free meal for Active Duty and veterans.  Note that I would consider active Reserve Component in their definition of active.  Veterans need some proof of service.  Many states are now issuing veterans IDs!

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse – Lunch up to $9.95 in value on 11 Nov.

Bob Evans – All you can eat hotcakes on Veterans” Day.

California Pizza Kitchen – free pizza, salad, or pasta on Veterans’ Day

Carraba’s – Free appetizer 8-11 Nov

Cheeseburger-in-Paradise – Free All-American Burger on 11 Nov.

Chili’s – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Chuck E. Cheese – 20 free tokens from 9-12 Nov.

Denny’s – Build your own Grand Slam from 0500-1200 on 11 Nov.

Friendly’s – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Golden Corral – Ok, this one is a little weird.  Free meal from 1700-2100 on 17 Nov.  Yes, 17 Nov., don’t ask me why.

Hooters – Like you needed an excuse to go to Hooters.  Free meal up to $10.99 on 11 Nov.  For the record, my wife loves to go to Hooters for the hot dogs.  No jokes!

Hurricane Grill & Wings – Free meal on 11 Nov.

Krispy Kreme – Free donut and small coffee, no ID required!

Longhorn Steakhouse – Free appetizer on 11 Nov.

McCormick & Schmicks – Free meal on 9 Nov.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt – Free six oz. yogurt.

Olive Garden – Free meal from a “Special menu” on Veterans’ Day.

Outback Steakhouse – On Veterans’ Day, get a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage.  From 12 Nov. – 31 Dec. all military get 15% off.

Red Lobster – Free appetizer 10-13 Nov. for a special menu.

Shoney’s – Free burger on 11 Nov.

Spaghetti Warehouse – Buy one entrée, get one free starting 4 Nov.

Tim Horton’s – Free doughnut on Veterans’ Day.

Uno’s Pizza – Free individual pizza on 11 Nov.

Village Inn – Free breakfast plus a 20% off coupon on your next visit.

And once your hunger is satisfied:

Busch Gardens – 50% admission on Veterans’ Day

Colonial Williamsburg – Free Admission on Veterans’ Day  includes dependents!

Knott’s Berry Farm – Free admission for SM plus one from 2 Nov. – 4 Jan.

Mount Vernon – Free admission on Veterans’ Day

Sea World – 50% off on Veterans’ Day

Home Depot – Yes, they offer 10% off to all active duty, including Reservists, but on 11 Nov. the discount includes veterans.

Lowes – Ditto

Sports Clip – Free haircuts on 11 Nov.

There are also a bunch of car washed offering free washes on Veterans’ Day so check your local one.

If you know of other Veterans’ Day deals, please post them here for everyone to take advantage of.

Get out there and thank everyone who thanks you for being a veteran!

EDIT:  My HHC Commander listed these in his latest FRG Newsletter:

BED BATH & BEYOND November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Big Lots 10% off your entire purchase. Offer available to active duty, Guard/Reserve, veterans, retirees and their immediate family members, with valid ID. Call ahead to verify.

buybuyBaby November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Christmas Tree Shops November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Dollar General. 10% discount on entire purchase on Veterans Day. Offer good for all active-duty military, retirees, veterans, Guard/Reserve, & immediate family members. The coupon can be found in the store circular, or by asking an employee. Also good online, use Coupon Code VETERANS DAY. More info.

Face Values Discount Health & Beauty November 9, 10 & 11th, 20% off your entire purchase. In-store only. US Military ID required at time of purchase.

Free Car wash. Thousands of car washes around the country are offering vets a free car wash on Veterans Day,. Find a list at Grace for Veterans, which helped veterans receive 101,537 FREE Washes.

Great Clips: On Monday, Nov. 11, customers who come in for a service can get a free haircut card to give to their favorite veteran. Veterans can also receive a free haircut or get the free haircut card. Haircuts are redeemable until Dec. 31.

Home Depot/Lowe’s Military Discount: They are offering all active duty personnel, reservists, retired military, veterans and their families a 10% discount off their purchases in honor of Veteran’s Day.

JC Penny: Veterans, active duty and family members receive an extra 20% off in stores Nov. 6-11 with coupon.

Jos. A. Bank Specials: Veterans Day Sale- 1 Day Only! JoS. A. Bank Veterans Day Sale Orders.

Sports Authority 15% off all purchases. All Veterans and Military personnel please stop by your local Sports Authority store to receive 15% OFF YOUR ENTIRE PURCHASE!

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

For the international leg of the first part of our trip from JFK – SFO – HKG, I used US Airways miles to book business class (known as BusinessFirst) on United 747 flight # 869, which leaves at 1:25pm and arrives in HKG at 6:40pm, a 12 hour flight. There was a tight connection, even with our first flight arriving on time – good thing we weren’t late (or didn’t check bags!). We probably could’ve stopped in the lounge for pictures, but what would be the point of a lounge review if we didn’t actually “lounge” there?

united6

We took our time through the terminal, and when we got through the passport control at the gate, they’d already started boarding, but fortunately there was no line for business class boarding, so we whisked down the gangway. I had picked our seats on the second deck; this flight has 52 business class seats, divided into 32 on the first deck and 20 on the upper deck. I’ve never before been on a double decker plane, so this was pretty cool.

united1

The upper deck had a 2-2 configuration, which I’m not a huge fan of; if you’ve got a window seat and need to get up, you need to pounce over your seatmate. On the seatmap, some of the seats are facing each other, but you actually cannot see over the divider in the middle (unless you’re like 7 feet tall!).

united seatmap

 

The seats were completely lie-flat in sleeping position, and 20 inches wide. There were large monitors, and a separate area between the window seat and the window for storage, such as laptops or headphones. The seat controls were easy and intuitive, and the movie selection was quite good, although I spent most of my media time listening to music and reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which I can’t recommend enough – I could not put it down!

united2

 

united3

united4

Immediately after we sat, the flight attendant offered us a libation; I went with champagne (not sure what kind – unfortunately I’m not very sophisticated). We received a cheapish-looking amenities kit, along with socks – not the cheap-o emergency-room-booty kind fortunately.

united5

The amenity kit had the usual stuff – eyemask, toothbrush, earplugs, comb, lotion, handwipes, etc. Not quite as nice as the EVA amenity kit…(later).

united6

Meal service came fairly promptly after reaching cruising altitude, and it was actually quite good! Starters were a good salad, hot bread w/ butter, and a fruit plate. For the main entree, I opted for beef, which was decent, and my wife got shrimp, which was also very good. Over the course of our 12 hour flight, the food was actually quite good, contrary to what I’ve read before. We only had two meals because of some (more) melatonin to get into Hong Kong timezone. I have to say – the combination of flying West and taking melatonin got me into that timezone right away, and my wife only had a day of jet lag.

united8

united7

During the middle of the flight, a call went out overhead asking for a doctor – so of course I had to respond! With all the flying I’ve done, this is actually the first time I’ve heard a call for a doctor. I went back to the rather large flight attendant area to speak to the patient. I won’t say what was wrong with him, but he was better after about 20 minutes, and the crew was incredibly grateful. In fact, as I was exiting the plane, the lead flight attendant gave us 3 bottles of wine to take with us! Perfect, as we were meeting with friends that night at a BYOB! Overall, I’d say the flight was an A-. It wasn’t up to par with the top tier of Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, but it was a very lovely experience, and one I would definitely do again!

 

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

« previous home top