Almost-Free Caribbean Dream Vacation

Our recent trip to Ireland was epic to say the least. We discovered exactly why its called the Emerald isle – an abundance of green foliage assaulted our senses, and we enjoyed every moment of it. I’ll run you down the stories and share the pictures later because right now I want to talk about the only thing our Ireland vacation lacked… sun.

I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We did have a couple great days and the rain and clouds were tolerable and made for excellent pictures.  Yet, when I got home I had a message from a friend who, in seeing our Ireland pictures, finally grasped how freaking amazing it is – what we’re doing with credit card travel rewards. He loved the Ireland idea, but he and his wife have a different dream… a sunnier one.

They’d like to go to the Carribbean. They’d like to feel their toes in powdery white sand. They’d like to have some boat drinks. They want warm water and hot sun. I don’t blame them one bit.

His question was simple, “I have been trying to take my wife on her dream vacation and  you might be able to help. We have been dying to go to the US Virgin Islands, mainly st thomas or st john. Do you know of any cards or anything that we could sign up for that would give us a bunch of airplane miles or something that would help us negate the cost of just even getting us down there for a week?”

caribbeanHe asked the right guy. Another friend had posted this pic of white sand and crystal blue water and I was already Caribbean dreaming.  Here’s what I cooked up:

How to plan an almost-free Caribbean Dream Vacation

Walking to the Caribbean isn’t really an option. It’s really far from wherever you are and would also require you to walk on water. Not gonna happen. Driving may also be problematic because of that whole ocean thing.  You could take a boat but they’re slow and bumpy… unless you cruise, which is a great option but one that we’ve touched on in other posts.  In this case, you’re going to have to fly… and if you’re like me (and I hope you are), you’d much rather fly for very little money.

Each airline loyalty program has different award levels for different destinations. You can find all of them on our Using Airline Miles page, but I’ll just give you a shortcut and say this – one of the best value options is to use American Airlines (which has merged with US Airways) Mile SAAver off-peak award level to fly to the carribbean for 12,500 miles each way. That means you’d need 50k to take 2 people round-trip.

Now, don’t let “off-peak” scare you. I’m not going to send you to the Carribbean in the middle of a hurricane, but nor would I send you when it’s plagued by thousands of spring-breakers, families on vacation, or European nudists (unless you’re into that kind of thing). I’m going to urge you to travel in the “shoulder season.” That way you’ll possibly have a beach to yourself and It may require some flexibility and you may have to travel on a Tuesday instead of on a Sunday.

Looking at the calendar now, I start to find great availability about the time it starts to get cold around here. Hmm… how convenient? I think it would be better to go closer to November, but just for the sake of showing you, here’s an option for 25k miles and only $16 per person (that pesky little $16 is why we have to say “almost”-free).

St thomas


I don’t know how you can look at that and say that it’s anything but simple… now you just have to figure out how to get your hands on 50k AAdvantage points.

I know that you’ve trained your eyes to overlook advertisements – to ignore them and not click unless they have pictures of half-naked girls or shredded abs and offer to share one weird secret with you.  Yet, for just a moment, I want you to click this link and look at the offer with an open mind. Just give it a try. Once won’t hurt.

Before you get worried that I’m trying to sell you something, I have to tell you. We used to get paid commission on people who used our links to apply, but those days are over.  At this point, our blog is a hobby – a time-expensive hobby, but one that we love.

Anyways, you see that in order to meet the terms of the offer you have to spend $3000 in the first 3 months you have the card. Let me confront your worries. Just put every expense you have for the next three months on the card – your gas, groceries, utilities, entertainment, etc. Do you have $1000/mo in those charges? I’m sure you do. Pay the charges off immediately through your online login and don’t pay a penny in interest. Bam. 50k points.

You also see that the annual fee is waived the first year. Worried you’ll have to pay it indefinitely afterwards? Cancel it. We do it all the time.  If you need help, read Sheldon’s “Canceling a card is like breaking up with a girlfriend” post.

But if you’re thinking “but doesn’t it hurt my credit?” we have a page for that. You can check it out, but the short of is that it can – a little tiny bit – but that it can also have a positive effect on your credit and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Some of you are thinking, “Brad, we’re on board, bro, we don’t need more convincing about using our good credit to obtain frequent flyer miles and travel for free, we just need to know where and how we can stay for free.”

Where and How You Can Stay for Free

View from the cottage above Magen's Bay

View from the cottage above Magen’s Bay

I’m beginning to have a bit of a love affair with  On our recent trip to Ireland, our favorite places we stayed were the cute little cottages dripping with character and culture.  We had the added benefits of having space all to our own, the comforts of a home, and some brilliant hosts.

When I searched airbnb for places in St Thomas, the very first one to pop up was this sweet cottage with sweeping views of Magen’s bay – a beautiful place where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling and laying in the sun.

If the views weren’t enough, the place is frequented by parrots, has an outdoor shower, and a gorgeous deck with all kinds of jungle canopy. The topper? It’s only $85/night! 6 nights here would be $571 including a small fee. Now, if only there were a way to get reimbursed for booking here.

Well I’ll be damned if there’s not a perfect way to do just that.  Check out the Capital One Venture Card and its “purchase eraser” feature. The spending requirement is the same as the other card and it gives you 40k points which are enough to erase $400 in purchases. Spending the $3k on the card will give you another 6000 points, so you’ll be up to $460 in reimbursement and you’ll be $110 into 6 nights in the cottage… not too shabby.

On top of that, if you’ll email me at, I’ll send you a $25 credit to airbnb!

There you have it… spend some money on food, entertainment, and shopping and you’re into your Caribbean dream vacation for less than it might cost you to stay home.

Do you want me to plan a trip for you, too? Where do you want to go? Comment below and we’ll put together an itinerary for you.

Posted in American Airlines, Capital One, Caribbean, Cheap Honeymoons, Citi, Island Vacations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guess How Much My 10 Day European Adventure Cost…

This post is dedicated to all of the accountants out there.  I also dedicate it those who meticulously track their out-of-pocket expenses.  I was one of these dorks who manually kept track of all expenses for years with a basic spreadsheet before I discovered This website has really helped me when trying to manage 20+ credit cards, which would be a daunting task without its help.

European Adventure

Learn How to Save Money on your Next Trip

It’s been about a month ago that my wife and I returned from an amazing European adventure.  We spent 10 days away from work, kids, cell phone service, and most importantly my Mountain Dew (wink, wink).  Our trip was full of adventure, history, fights with my wife, and delicious food.  You’ll see me post more about the trip later to get the specifics, but first I figured you would like a detailed accounting of our trip along with its estimated costs.

10 Day European Vacation Cost Breakdown

  • Clothing: $101.07
10 Keukenhof (108)

I bought this sweater at H&M

On almost all trips we end up buying clothes.  This time we were both freezing as we had expected warmer weather.

This turned into a few trips to H&M to buy sweaters, scarves, hats, and a few other items.  My wife picked out a pair of really tight pants from Zara, which I struggled with initially, but after window watching for 20 minutes I realized that it would help me to fit in better.

  • Entertainment: $506.75

This is a broad category that included museums, Eiffel Tower, Medieval Castles, flower gardens, and more cool stuff.

  • Food: $608.17

We tried eating from grocery stores (I love spending time in grocery stores in foreign countries) as often as possible to keep these costs down.  Shopping like a local gives you healthier choices as you eat a more local fare this way.  On various occasions our lunch was comprised of meat, cheese, fruit, french bread (WOW), chocolate, and water.  It can take a serious hack from your budget when traveling if you can eat like this.

On a couple of occasions we spent over $50 on meals, and once we dang near spent $75 on a three-course meal in Paris.  It lasted two hours, and was a great way to relax and reminisce our last night in Paris.  We talked about life, kids, goals, and so much more.  It is nice to sit down to a meal every once in a while when you’re not forced to leave because the server kicks you out of your seat.

  • Hotels: $324.95
European Trip

Park Hyatt Vendome-This place would have cost $700 per night

Our most expensive hotel was $100.  That means we spent $224 on the other 9 nights of the trip.  We stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels I’ve ever seen and paid less than most people pay at Motel 6.

Most hotels didn’t include a continental breakfast, but we usually would grab a pan au chocolat on the run to our first stop of the day and grab a Nutella crepe before noon.  Did I mention we ate stuff with chocolate?

  • Souvenirs: $140.84

You’ve got to spend a few dollars in this category.  We aren’t huge souvenir people, but it is nice to have something special to sit on the shelf.  I prefer pictures and memories the most, but will occasionally spring for something sweet that sits on my shelf.

  • Travel Expenses: $803.15

Here includes train tickets, car rental, airfare, metro, parking fees, and tolls.

Grand Total: $2,484.93

But wait, it gets even better from here.  We’ve talked about the power of the Barclaycard Arrival in the past in a number of posts.  Check a couple of them out here:

I picked up this card about a year ago and had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to spend these points to basically erase some of the travel expenses.  The card comes with a bonus that will erase up to $400 in expenses.  Somehow over the year I was able to accrue enough points to offset an additional $210.19, which saved me a total of $610.19.

$2,484 (Total Expenses)

($610.19) Barclaycard Arrival Credits

$1,874.74 Net Cost for the European Adventure


You’ve got to love the Eiffel Tower

How Much Did I Really Save?

Honestly, it is hard to tell, but realistically I probably would have shelled out the following in addition to my measly $1800.

  • Arrival $610
  • Airfare $2000
  • Hotel    $1200
  • Total     $3810

Saving dang near 2/3 of the cost on a vacation is awesome!!  I’m here to tell you that you can enjoy the vacation WAY more when you know you’re not going broke.

The BEST part about this is you can replicate almost exactly what I did.  Oh, so you don’t dream of Parisian Nutella Crepes? Fine.  You can use these same principles to take you to the top of Machu Picchu. Oh, you hate mountain climbing?  No worries, spend a week on a warm beach somewhere with a Pina colada.

Wait for an upcoming post that details how I was able to swing deals like this, and how you can do the same.


Posted in Barclaycard, Family Travel, Fun Travel Stories, Mastercard | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Travel Back in Time 800 Years

You’re thinking that I’m crazy.  You may not believe me, but this story is legit.  No my name isn’t Marty McFly, and no I don’t have a DeLorean.  However, my name is Sheldon and I’ve got lots of Frequent Flyer Miles, and they are just as good as the trusty DeLorean that McFly used to time travel back 800 years.

A Genie?

If I found a lamp that produced a charismatic genie like Robin Williams that would allow for three wishes, I would definitely include the ability to travel back in time.  It would be amazing to sit as a fly on the wall during the Declaration of Independence on a sweltering hot summer day in Philadelphia to watch the Founders pound out that bold document.  I would also love to see the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza, and so much more.

Would you love to travel back in time?

How to Time Travel Back 800 Years to the 13th century

In order to do this you won’t be loading up in  a 2-seater car that was made back in the 80’s.  But you will still need to pack your bags and get your airline ticket that will fly you to Paris.

Ideally you wouldn’t be paying for this airline ticket, and even more ideally you should be in first class.  If neither of these work for you, but you still want to travel back in time, spend the money on this ticket. Grab a car rental at the airport, turn on the GPS, and begin your journey toward Guedelon!

time travel map

A map to travel back in time.

Guedelon Time Travel

Here is your DeLorean: Guedelon.  Guedelon is an experiment.  It is a one of a kind like experience where skilled artisans are building a castle from the ground up with the tools and techniques from the 13th century.  Don’t believe me?  Fine.  Check it out for yourself.  They started the construction in 1996.  Yeah, like 19 years ago.  Some of you reading this post weren’t even born at that time.

Time Travel

Guedelon as of April 1st 2015

Use Time Travel to Meet a Real Blacksmith

Not amazed yet?  Ok. Give me a few more minutes to show you how cool this place really is. Check out the blacksmith and his billow.  He freaking made the billow with the leather from an animal, the wood came from the wood maker, the rope came from the rope maker, and his lever came from a tree.  They’re really using the tools and techniques from freaking 800 years ago.  Wow!

Watching him work in his shop was awesome.  He is working on the tools that his co-workers need to accomplish their duties.  Many of the other artisans have their own shops where they work daily.  They accept volunteers that are willing to work for free.  So if your desire is to work on a castle, now is your chance!

Some of these workers have been there since the beginning of the project in 1996.  They’ve basically dedicated their working career toward this monumental project that will stand the test of time.

Travel Back in Time and See a Portion of the Finished Product

The portion that is finished will blow your mind.

The Time Travel Crane

Had they have chosen to use modern machinery, this thing would have been built within a  year.  Their methods might not be the fastest, but they’re definitely intriguing.

This “crane” was one of the most amazing things I saw at the castle. This human/hamster wheel is attached to a pulley, which is then attached to a heavy stone.  As the human runs in the wheel it slowly lifts the stone and allows the masons to place the stone safely.

time travel crane

This “crane” was one of the most amazing things I saw at the castle. This human/hamster wheel is used to lift heavy limestone pieces that are used for the windows. The hamster wheel is attached to a pulley that is then hooked to the heavy item they’re trying to lift.

Time Travel is Real

Thanks to a few American Airline miles I was able to do real time travel.  Seeing people work in trades that have nearly vanished these days due to modern machinery has given me a greater appreciation for ancient wonders of the world.

Now as I explore ancient ruins in Tikal, Giza, or Angkor Wat I’ll have a better understanding of the methods they used to build those incredible edifices.  The clock is ticking for you if you want to travel back in time though.  Guedelon is estimating that it will be completed by 2025, which only gives you 10 more years before the DeLorean is decommissioned.  Plan your trip today and experience something that will change your life forever.

Posted in Fun Travel Stories, How to Wanderlust, Living History, Travel Itineraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best of Kuala Lumpur

Nestled near the West Coast of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is a bustling city full of vibrant colors, wonderful food and mesmerizing architecture. Any one of these would be enough to warrant a visit, however, when you put them all together, they make for a magical experience.

Take a Walk

If you want to see what this amazing place really has to offer, then you need to go by foot. Kuala Lumpur is well-known for its traffic jams, so you won’t get to see much more than the vehicle in front of you.

Walking around, you get to hear and smell all the wonderful things going on in this busy city. This is a place where the modern meets the traditional in a way that works perfectly. Although this is the capital of Malaysia, it will at times feel like the village it once was.

The Street Food

One of the things you will notice about Kuala Lumpur is the abundance of food. Shaded by the majestic banyan trees, you will find streets lined with stalls selling all types of freshly cooked meals.

You will be carried along by the aroma of cooking and freshly made coffee along with a sea of color stretching out before you.

You could probably easily spend a day here, just sampling each dish and getting a taste of the traditional cuisine.

The Past meets Present

Since the capital was founded by Chinese and Malay prospectors, Kuala Lumpur has seen many changes. These are reflected in the different buildings you will see on your travels through the city.

From an aerial view, you can see the ancient monuments and the grand colonial buildings which were built by the British. Now, since independence in the 1950’s, you see a new age filled with iconic skyscrapers such as the Petronas Towers, reaching high into the air.


No matter what you are looking for, there is sure to be something you will love about the shopping in Kuala Lumpur. It really has the whole spectrum of shops that will keep you busy for hours.

Firstly, there are the places like the Mid Valley Shopping Mall, fully air conditioned and home to the designer labels and big named brands. Then you have places such as Publika, where you can find independent designers and local labels.

If you are looking for something more personal, you can try the Central Market. Here you will find handicrafts, souvenirs and antique dealers.

There is so much to do in Kuala Lumpur that you could easily spend hours just walking around and experiencing everything it has to offer.

However, this city isn’t just about eating and shopping; there is also a vibrant nightlife with clubs and bars hosting live music and local entertainment.

And after all that, you can relax in one of the cities lush parks, soaking up the sun and planning the next part of your stay. There is a lot more for you to see, so make sure to leave enough time to visit everything before you head home.

Posted in Asia | Leave a comment

50k Miles on Southwest: Get While the Getting is Good

“The only constant is change.” It can certainly be said of credit card travel rewards.  Over the past four years we’ve seen mergers like Continental and United, AirTran and Southwest, and US Airways and American. We’ve seen discontinuations and devaluations, but we’ve also seen big promotions and exciting new offerings.

One good rule of thumb is that you always get while the getting is good – it’s exactly why we went on a binge, telling everyone to take advantage of the US Airways card before it disappeared.  When offers are on the verge of discontinuation, it just makes sense to make it a priority to act on those before acting on others.

That’s exactly why right now we’ve got to tell you to pick up the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card while it’s still offering 50k Rapid Rewards points and before it’s no longer a Chase card.

How is it changing?

This story indicates that Southwest is considering replacing Chase as their partner in offering a travel rewards credit card.  While it’s a little early to say that it’s absolutely happening, even the fact that it’s being considered is reason to act sooner rather than later.

While I’m no expert, I believe that Southwest’s partnership with a travel rewards program is too lucrative to be discontinued or changed to a significant degree.  The best thing is that wherever it lands, there’ll be more opportunities to earn more points to travel even more almost-freely on SWA.

The Southwest Companion Pass

We’ve written before about the Southwest Companion Pass – a great perk which I’ve been enjoying for a year and a half now. It allows me to bring a companion along for free on any flight I book – whether I pay with points or cash.  It’s a huge benefit and probably the major reason why many people decide to allocate a majority of their spending to the Southwest cards.

In early March, I brought my son to Washington DC to spend some one-on-one time and tour the nation’s capitol.  I booked our flights for 23k points – into Dulles and out of Norfolk. We stayed 5 nights in free hotels and did a variation of the Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia tour that I blogged about a few months ago.

Here’s a sampling of our activities:

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Why Southwest is the Best Airline for Domestic Award Booking

Of all the domestic flight programs, I see Southwest as easily the best – so long as they service your hometown airport.  One key reason is that you can always ensure that you get maximum point-effciency by booking and re-booking flights when they are offered at a lower rate.

Whenever I book a SW flight with points, I check back in periodically to see if I can get the same flight or a better flight for a lower rate.  Because Southwest bookings are always change-fee-free, I can constantly be looking for the best value.  More than once I’ve shaved 3000+ points off a flight, and when you have more than one ticket booked, you’re talking about some serious point-saving.

The Offer as it Stands

Apply for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card1 and get ready to get away. You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 3 months your account is open. This bonus offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months.

$99 annual fee will be applied to your first billing statement.

Other Posts About Southwest

Over the years we have written much about the SW Rapid Rewards program.  Most of it is still applicable today.  As with any topic you’re interested in researching on our blog, you can find all the posts on a specific topic through the categories dropdown in the right sidebar.

For ease, though, here are some of our best posts about the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

How I just booked tickets for 4 to Orlando for $30
A Trip Every Month for Two Years with the Southwest Companion Pass
5 Ways to Maximize your Business Travel Rewards
LDS Church History Tour: Free Flights and Free Hotels
Southwest 50,000 Rapid Rewards Points: Your Ticket to a Multi-Destination Tour
Posted in Southwest | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.  

Posted in Caribbean, Guest Post, Mexico | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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.

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