Guest Post: David and Emily’s $850 Mayan Adventure

Here’s a great story from an adventurous young couple that grasped the WorldWanderlusting vision and spent 7 days discovering the wonders of the Mayan Riviera. It just goes to show you that you need not wait until you’re too old to adventure. Travel now!

From February 8th to February 15th, my wife, Emily, and I took a sweetheart trip down to the Mayan Riviera. We ordered the Frontier World MasterCard for both of us and the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card under my name. After buying $500 in expenses on each of the Frontier cards (groceries, gas, etc.), and paying the $69 initial fee, we were both awarded 40,000.  We then spent $1,000 in 3 months using the IHG card and were reward 60,000 points. This was such an amazing experience and it seems so surreal that we actually did it. And we did it all for $848.82 (not including the cost for 2 passports). This $848.82 included the initial credit card cost, taxes on the flights, hotels/hostels, food, transportation, entertainment, and souvenirs: everything. Here’s is how our expenses broke down:

Food: 1690 pesos. We only ate at a restaurant once. We ate at little taco cards, little vender shops, or just bought food from the grocery stores.

Transportation: 1624 pesos. We hate renting cars and we wanted to travel around like the locals. So, we took the bus everywhere and hardly ever saw tourist the entire time we were down there. At one point we both crammed into this little van, speeding around, and hoping we got off at the right site – a truly original experience.

Entertainment: 1750 pesos. This included visiting 3 cenotes, one of which we were able to jump into from up high, 2 visits to Pyramids (Chicchan Itza and Coba), bike rentals through the jungle, renting a scooter to drive around Islas Mujeres, buying snorkeling gear, and visiting the beautiful beach of Tulum and the ruins. We spent a lot of our time at the beach snorkeling with our own gear.

Souvenirs: 1182 pesos. Mostly clothes, candy, toys for our three boys, and little trinkets for our family.

Lodging: 650 pesos. Four of our nights were free using the IHG card. We stayed in Playa del Carmen. It was about a 10 minute walk to the beach each morning.

Total: 6,896 pesos

We pulled out $562.82 of American dollars and that covered all of the above.

So, $286 (cost of taxes, credit card initial fees) +562.82= 848.82. Oh, and did I mention? The only thing we brought with us was a backpack for each of us. Frontier gives a free check on bag on our return which we used for souvenirs.

With our passports, the cost was $1088.82.

Check out some of the pictures below to learn what we did down there:

The first thing we did, upon arriving there, was to walk to Puerto Juarez where we took a ferry to Islas Mujeres. We made it just in time to watch the sunset on the beach. This is a very laid back beach town. We stay in the Poc Na hostel for the night. 

We woke up the next morning and it was very peaceful. All we could hear was the sound of waves and tropical birds.

Mayan Trip 1​                                 Mayan Trip 2

That next day we rented a Moped to cruise around on the island. It’s so small that most people drive a moped or golf cart. Since it was our first time driving a moped, we had a blast seeing everything on the island.

That night we went back to Cancun and stayed in a much quieter hostel: Hostel Haina.  We then bought some groceries at Wal Mart and bought a tourist ticket to visit Chichen Itza for the next day (at first we thought we might be getting ripped off, but it was legit) Our tourist group left that next morning to Chichen Izta and then visited a cenote and a little Mayan town.

Mayan Trip 3                    Mayan Trip 4

We were hoping to climb up the huge famous pyramid at chichen itza, but we found out that no one has been able to do that for 10 years.

Mayan Trip 5                             Mayan Trip 6

We loved swimming in the cenote. The best part was swimming to the middle and looking up at the rocks and vines and sky. They told us that the Cenote was 150ft deep!

We got back to Cancun at 9:30 then caught a bus to Playa Del Carmen.

The next two days were much more relaxing and less adventurous then the first two. It was nice to slow down. We went to the beach and used a snorkeling set that we bought at the grocery store. The water was so clear, and we were able to so blue fish and yellow fish and striped fish. We even saw a stingray hanging out at the bottom. We would have liked to go snorkeling but we just couldn’t think of paying $60 for each of us. We liked the local food there and manly ate lunches of bread and fruit from the grocery store and then for dinner we would go to a small taco place or something. 

Mayan Trip 7

On Friday morning we got on the ADU bus and drove to Tulum.

When we got there, we walked the beaches until we found a cabana we could afford. Someone told us ask for a Fidel who lived down the beach. Just when we thought we weren’t going to find him, we found the place and they had one ​more cabana left for 400 pesos (about 35 dollars, way better then the other $250 cabanas that we saw there.) This place felt like paradise!

Mayan Trip 8                        Mayan Trip 9

We put our heavy backpacks into or cabana, and walked about a mile and a half back to the archeological site. This site was breathtaking! You get to see all of the Mayan ruins right along the ocean.

Mayan Trip 10                        Mayan Trip 11

Then you can walk down to the beach. This beach is ranked 15th best in the world! The water is so warm and blue and the rocky cliffs are awesome. The water also had lots of waves.

 Mayan Trip 12

Our cabana had no electricity so we just used candles for light. Pretty romantic, huh?

We got an early start the next morning so that we could catch a bus to Coba, Our last adventure. In Coba we got our first taxi on this trip to tack us to two Cenotes. These cenotes were different then our first one. They were more of underwater caves.

Mayan trip 13                      

The caves were quiet and a fun experience to swim around in. The water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. In the first Cenote we had the opportunity to jump in from way up high.

After the Cenotes we entered the Coba Mayan Ruin site. We rented bikes to tour the jungle area. We were surprised to find that we were allowed to climb up the tallest pyramid here! We climbed up and enjoyed the view from up top. It was a bit scary to be up there though.Mayan Trip 14

When we were done we took the bus back to Playa del Carmen and checked back into our hotel for our last night. In the morning, we hopped on the bus and headed back to Cancun and to the airport. It was such a beautiful place, my favorite place being Tulum. We did it all at such a great price too! We then came back home and gave hugs to our three little boys who stayed with their grandparents.  

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A Different Hotel Card is Now King of the Hill

It used to be very easy to answer the question, “What’s the best hotel card offer available right now.” Up until a few days ago I could easily answer, “The US Bank Club Carlson Premier Visa.” Yet a small adjustment they announced last week means that it is being supplanted.

The highlight of the Club Carlson card was that it offered a “last night free” bonus when booking with points. It essentially made it so that you could book one night and get a second night free – something we took advantage of in Boise, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. With the announcement last week, they are discontinuing that benefit, effectively devaluing Club Carlson points in our eyes by 50%. All of the sudden the 85k point bonus isn’t all that grand.

They’re “replacing” that benefit with an offer for a free night if you spend $10k on the card in a given year and pay the annual fee. [Wa…wa…waaaa – you know, the disappointment noise].

The Best Hotel Points Card

Enough about what was the best hotel points card and onto what is the best hotel points card.  It’s the IHG Rewards Club Select by Chase. Until May 31st, the card offers a 70k point bonus when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months. That bonus is easily attainable and there are also a number of other key benefits:

  • Platinum elite status (This means you don’t even have to sweet talk the front desk for free upgrades, late check out, and other nice perks).
  • A 10% rebate on all points you redeem (to a max of 100k points).
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • The $49 annual fee is waived the first year.
  • A free night at absolutely any IHG hotel on each card anniversary (makes the $49 annual fee to keep the card a no-brainer).

How We Have Used IHG Benefits

Each quarter, IHG releases a list of their “Pointbreaks” hotels which they offer for only 5k points per night. The best way to maximize the 70k points you receive is to take full advantage of these and travel where your points could get you as many as 14 nights! The list is never disappointing, either, with abundant options and amazing properties all over the world.

I capitalized on this for the last night of our insanely cheap trip to Italy, when we had a stopover in Dusseldorf. In addition to an upgraded room, we were also greeted with a cheese and fruit plate, drink vouchers, and free internet.

Also, as I noted, this is a card you should keep forever due to the impressive “free night at any hotel” benefit that you get in exchange for your $49 annual fee.  At a bare minimum, you’ll get a $100 hotel for $49, but if you play it right (and I hope you will), you can use that night for an otherwise very expensive hotel.paris

Sheldon executed on this brilliantly just days ago as he’s making his way around France and the Netherlands. (Follow @worldwanderlusting on Instagram if you want to see his pics). Here’s a shot of the view from the balcony of the $600 hotel room he got for paying the paltry $49 annual fee. Tell me you wouldn’t pay that gladly?

How You Should Use IHG Benefits

Our advice to you is the same as it is always, be flexible and maximize your efficiency in spending the 70k points that will come to you.  The first thing you can do is take a look at the IHG Award Chart, which tells you how much they require for each category.  You can find this for every hotel program on our “Using Hotel Points” page, which you should bookmark.

Make a plan to keep track of the next update to the list of Point Breaks hotels, and arm yourself with enough airline miles to be able to pounce on whatever is hot.  Looking at the list now, I’d love to go to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, or to Bucharest, Romania.

Lastly, if the card is good for you, get one for your wife, too.  Then you can put your nightst together and eye a couple nights in an uber-expensive IHG hotel like the one of these.  Tie it in with some other nights at a more points-inexpensive hotels for an epic vacation with pampered luxury you never knew $49 could buy you.

What do you think?  Is there another IHG hotel property that we need to know about?  Where have you used your free nights? Please don’t be shy.  Comment and share if you find this opportunity exciting.

Posted in Club Carlson, Hotels, IHG Rewards | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

24% off absolutely everything in Europe

Pictures like these have a way of exciting me about making a trip to Europe:

Austria CastleCinque Bell tower

But, as a bargain-hunter, I’ve got to say that this picture has me even more excited:

exchange rate

I know that one of the things that people hate most about international travel is calculating exchange rates, and sometimes I’ve simply opted just not to think about it in order to avoid travel-expense-depression. Yet, with the recent strength in the dollar relative to other international currencies – the Euro in particular – not only is it becoming much more simple, it’s also much more affordable.

When we went to Italy more than a year ago, every euro we spent on gelato (and believe me, we spent plenty of them) cost me more than $1.40, whereas today I can swap $1.06 for a Euro.

What this ultimately means is that now is the best possible time to visit Europe in the last 12 years.  Absolutley everything you buy in Euro-demonimated countries is 23% cheaper than it was just a year ago.  Italian suits? Yes. Fancy dinners in French restaurants? Yes. mugs of beer in Germany? Yes.

Now, I hope you’ve followed our blog for long enough to know that the old “but it’s so expensive to travel over there” argument just doesn’t fly with us.  You know that we and our followers have booked dozens of round-trip itineraries to Europe for less than $100 a ticket.

But if you haven’t followed our blog forever, you may be tempted to be turned off to that notion… you may have just scoffed, and/or now you’re expecting me to sell you on some kind of multi-level marketing scheme.  Stay with me, though, for just a second, though, because if you liked the 24% off part, you’re really going to like this.

The short of it is that we don’t neglect the awesome world of frequent flyer miles that allow us to travel almost everywhere almost for free.

There have been some amazing offers over the years, but the one that we are most excited about right now is a combination of applying for two separate cards that will get you a total of 100k points with American Airlines – the airline with the maximum efficiency in using miles to get to Europe.  As you can see on our Using Airline Miles page, you can book a round-trip to Europe with AAdvantage for 40k miles per person between October 15th and May 15th.

Those two cards are:

So between the two cards, you have to spend $3000 in the first three months and pay an $89 annual fee the first year.  Anyone who can meet those requirements and has a good enough credit score to get approved for the cards can reap enough points for 2 1/2 RT flights to Europe.  Do I need to say that again? Maybe you should just back and read it again. It really is that simple.

I will say that there is some urgency to this combination.  US Airways is merging with American Airlines and it won’t be long before at least one of these offers is no longer available.  In the meantime, though, it’s really the best way to get yourself to a Europe where everything is 24% off.

Because we sometimes get these questions, I just want to say that neither of these cards (or really any of them any more) are links that pay us to promote them.  At one point in time we made some money of this blog, but any more there’s not really an income stream… and that’s fine with us.  We continue to post and share ideas because this is genuinely enjoyable for us to see others embrace the ideas and join in on almost free travel.

Thanks for wanderlusting with us.

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Why You Need British Airways Avios in Your Wallet

You probably might ask yourself, why should I ever pick up the British Airways credit card.    Maybe you’ll never consider leaving the country (but I think you should).  Here is a little secret about the British Airways credit card that you may not know about.  It may even encourage you to pick up the card for yourself.

Link: British Airways Visa Signature Card

British Airways Award Chart

British Airways’ frequent flyer program is a distance-based award system.  This is a unique way for them to theoretically control the costs of your award ticket.  The Wandering Aramean has created an incredible tool to visually show you how powerful the Avios can be for you. Check out this tool NOW!

Here are the brackets based upon nonstop flights only.  Each zone reflects a specific distance (based on direct miles flown) from one airport to the next.

Avios Award Chart

This new chart takes effect April 28th 2015.

British Airways’ Avios in Action

The glorious thing about this award chart is the fact that the close airports will only run you 4000 or 4500 miles each direction for an award ticket. Let’s just see how something like this works for people who live in Phoenix, AZ.
British Airways Award Ticket

Los Angeles to where?

british airways award ticket

See Where You Can Go From LAX

Hmmm. Maybe SLC?

british airways award travel

This is what SLC looks like

How about Portland?

alaska airlines award ticket

Portland ROCKS with all of the Alaskan Airlines locations

The Good and Bad of British Airways’ Avios Program

Let’s summarize where the British Airways Avios are terrible:

  • Anything other than a direct flight.  Example: when you’re trying to fly from SLC-DFW-JFK-CDG.
  • If you live in an area that isn’t serviced by American, USAirways, or Alaska Airlines
  • When you’re trying to fly a huge distance

How about when you really need to start loading up some Avios?

  • When you live in a hub for American, USAirways, or Alaska Airlines these guys are unbeatable!
  • When you’re looking for single flights (without connections)
  • When you’re flying to somewhere close to home.  Example: SLC-PHX, or SLC-LAX are great examples of the HUGE value with British Airways

Awesome Examples of British Airways’ Avios Usage

Case #1- The Southernmost City in the World

Tyler was trying to fly from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Ushuaia, Argentina.  Because Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, and hardly has any flights his one-way flight was going to cost him $600.  Yuck!

He looked up the flight with British Airways and it told him that it was going to cost him 10,000 Avios.  He was STOKED knowing that he was going to save himself $600 on a flight by using his Avios instead of paying with dollars!!

Case #2- Climbing Machu Picchu

Umm.  Definitely on the bucket list.  My wife even had this on the bucket list before we met, so this will happen in my lifetime for sure!

Flying a quick flight from Lima to Cusco round trip is gonna run you about $500.  Because it fits within the first tier with Avios you’re going to use 4500 Avios each way to make this flight happen.  Saving my wife and $1000 and paying a measly 18,000 Avios sounds MUCH better!

Case #3- Disneyland

If you’ve always wanted to take your kids on a  plane, but it’s impossible because you have 4 of them, and the cost of the flights would choke you like an ex-husband.  You need to pick up some Avios.  LAX is a big hub for American, so they have direct flights from tons of locations, and many of them might only be 4500 miles each direction per person.

This gives you the chance to put your kids on a plane and help them to visit the not-so-happiest place on Earth!

Summary of the British Airways Avios Benefits

This shouldn’t be the only program you use, but you definitely need to have some of these in your back pocket.

What’s your story?  Have you used Avios?  Do you like them?

Posted in British Airways, Chase | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Download our eBook

We’ve been blogging for several years now and we love the following we have cultivated. Over the years we have made all kinds of friends, taken more than our fair share of almost-free trips, and swapped stories with readers. Talking about it is almost as cool as doing it.

Some time ago we compiled the gist of the WorldWanderlusting strategy into a 15-page eBook.  It’s something that is pretty exhaustive in terms of the instruction it offers, yet, you could read it easily in 10 minutes. As a case study we offered the simple instructions on how to get to Costa Rica for $69, but essentially it is a guide to the entire process – taking you from a frequent flyer mile newbie to an expert in very little time.

We have done the research and we know the ins and outs of the various systems.  If you’ve been following for a while, you probably do, too. But no matter what I think that you’ll find the brief guide informative and useful.

You can download the eBook for free and all we’re asking for in return is your email address.  We won’t hound you or sell your information, we just want to be able to reach out to you when we find incredible opportunities we don’t think you’ll want to pass up.

So if you are ready to download the WorldWanderlusting eBook, please visit this page and enter your email.

Download the WorldWanderlusting eBook

Travel Consulting Packages

Also, over the years we have found that as much as we try to educate people about the system – to teach them the ropes – there are many who just aren’t interested or available to spend the time to learn it.

For those people, we’re offering our expertise in helping book almost-free travel. We developed a four-tier model that varies in price and level of service. If you just want help with something simple, we’re ready to help. If what you’re putting together is a little more complex, we’re still making ourselves available.

There are so many ways we have facilitated other people’s mega-inexpensive travel – I just helped one of our customers book a 6-person family trip to Akumal, Mexico for less than $1000! Without our help they would have easily spent more than $4000.  It’s just shocking what a little knowledge about booking efficiencies and searching out the right combinations will equate to.

I could go on and on about it, but you’re best off to just visit the page yourself and see some of the examples about how we’ve helped others book the same kind of incredibly cheap vacations.  Whether you are looking for a couples getaway, or a family adventure, let us help you do it for a fraction of what you would otherwise pay.

WorldWanderlusting Travel Consulting

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Score any IHG Hotel for $49 EVERY Year

You’ve done it before.  You’ve skimped on the hotel room and purchased a room at the local Howard Johnson Inn for $49.  You were too cheap to rent the Holiday Inn Express down the road for $89.  The minute you open the door to the room regret fills your soul.  You stare at the bedspread that was first placed on the bed in 1989.  The bathroom has more mold in the corners than the block of cheese that’s been in the fridge for 6 months.

Don’t let yourself be caught in this trap.  Sleeping in your clothes isn’t going to produce the best night’s sleep.  You need to find a way to save on your hotel stays to make you feel more justified in picking the nicer hotels. Follow our blog to learn about saving on your nights in a hotel!

ihg hotel for $49

IHG Rewards Credit Card

Today you’re going to learn how awesome the IHG Rewards Card is, and why you need to get this card, and keep it forever.

Link: IHG Rewards Credit Card

Chase issues this credit card (like the majority of the best travel credit cards).  This thing has made a way to the “permanent” spot in my portfolio.  Here are some of the benefits of this card.

  • 70,000 Bonus Points after spending $1000 on purchases within the first 3 months.  This is an increase from the 60,000 they used to offer.
  • Platinum Elite Status (This is their highest tier) This doesn’t usually mean too much, but sometimes they’ll upgrade your room to a suite, provide some snacks, or just tell you how cool you are.
  • Free Night- Every year (after the first year) they’ll provide a free night at ANY IHG hotel.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 10% back on all points redemptions

Using the 70,000 Points

Thanks to Loyalty Lobby, who is a fellow blogger that focuses on hotel points.  He has listed all IHG properties with their required number of points per night.  Check out his hard work here.

Their properties range from 10,000 points per night on up to 40,000 points per night.  Ideally you can use the points on hotels that only charge 10,000 points per night, but they are hard to find.  Realistically you’ll be using about 20,000 points per night, which gives you between 7-4 free nights the first year.

You also have to remember how sweet it is when you can book a PointBreak hotel too.  Read more about the PointBreak hotels here.

Using the Free Night Certificate

Last year I used this benefit to pay for a hotel in Cedar City, UT.  The hotel normally would have cost around $120, so it saved me over 50% on the hotel.  I was satisfied that it had saved me so much, while also providing a delicious cinnamon roll in the morning after we awoke.

This year I decided to go much bigger.  I wanted to get a better value for my $49, which is something I seek to do on a daily basis.  Brad and I laugh about finding what we call “menu inefficiencies.”  This is when you search the menu high and low, not for what you actually want, but for whatever provides the best value.  Some people call it a sickness, I call it saving money.

Paris Le Grand Intercontinental

I’ve had this card for over two years now.  I was just charged a $49 annual fee, but I paid it with a smirk.  One of those smirks where you know you got the better end of the deal.

This hotel looks ridiculous.  It is opulent beyond any room in which I’ve ever stayed.  The hotel is right close to the Paris Opera House, and just a few blocks from the famous Louvre.Paris Guest Room

Yes, it was a good day when I booked a single night at the Paris Le Grand Intercontinental hotel for $49.  You normally can’t find this place for under $300 per night.  Paying 1/6th the cost of the hotel room is freaking awesome.

Fortunately it is across the street from the Park Hyatt Vendome, which will house us for two nights on our upcoming trip to Paris.  Staying three nights right in the action would easily cost us $1000.  Instead I chose to pay $49.  You should do so too!  Pick up this card today and start planning your next vacation.

Posted in Chase, Credit Cards, IHG Rewards, Priority Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

France for the new wanderer!

Hi everyone,

My name is Heidi and I am the intern for World Wanderlusting, and let me tell you how amazing this really is. I have study, searched, and discovered so many ways I can travel, not when I retire, but immediately with these guys’ help. I recently planned my trip to France and I am going to break it down for you so you can see how you can go to France for $510.Flight To

First off, lets look at getting to and From France. I will be flying into CDG in Paris and am booked to stay from April 19 to May 4.  I am going to use my Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select in order to gain 50,000 miles and then only have to pay my taxes which is $90.20 round trip! I used 40,000 miles out of my 50,000 to pay forBedroom flying in and out of Paris! How amazing! Now since this is my first time traveling to France I did decided to go big and spoil myself by using my Hyatt rewards and getting a two free nights in the Park Hyatt in Paris. 

 

After words I am going to stay in Auberge De la Baie for the night and then the following day go visit the breath-taking Mont St. Michel and spend a day or two perusing through the castle and all the nearby cities.

Some other cities and towns I will visit will be as follows:

  1. Chateau De Chambord:

  2. Lyon:

  3. Avignon
  4. Palais Ideal do Facteur Cheval:
  5. Arles
  6. Ventabren:
  7. Marseille:
  8. Paris:

Through Booking with Air BnB and my hotel cards I will only spend $420 on Hotels and $90 on Airfare! I can travel to France for $510!  What an amazing deal for two weeks in France. I cannot wait to do this trip. Where do you want to wanderlust? Let’s Help you get there and not when you retire, today.

 

 

Posted in Europe, Europe | 1 Comment