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Weekly Travel News Roundup

It seems to have been a slow week in travel news….

Uber and SPG partner up so now you can earn starpoints rom your uber ride! You can link your SPG and uber account to earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on an uber ride and if you are staying at an SPG property while using Uber the earnings increase anywhere from 2 to 4 points depending on your Status. You won’t be racking up major points this way, but it is a nice incentive!

Starwood has also released their hotel category changes for 2015. You can check the list here to see if any of your preferred properties have moved up or down.

Starwood-Uber

splashlogo2xHilton has launched their First promotion of 2015 called Double Your HHonors. Sign up for the promotion and earn double points or double airline miles when you stay at participating hotels from March 1 through May 31, 2015.

Finally check out the video of this KLM 747 landing in St. Maarten!

My experience with Global Entry

A few weeks ago I finally got around to joining the Global Entry program, and I’m happy to report that the whole process was less 2015-02-22 15.57.09troublesome that I imagined. For those of you who may not be familiar with the program I’ll give you a brief overview.  Global Entry is a program administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows you to be expedited through customs when entering to the U.S.  There is also the added benefit that you get TSA pre-check status on domestic flights. In theory the program is for frequent international travelers, but there is no minimum number of trips required to qualify and the price difference between TSA Pre-check and this program is relatively small. The program is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens, German citizens, Panamanian citizens and Mexican nationals. Canadians have a sister program called NEXUS that provides similar benefits.

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Weekly Travel News Roundup

Starwood CEO Frits Van Paasschen resigns. It appears that there was some tension with the stockholders and the board over the lack of growth during the CEO’s tenure. His departure was rather abrupt which makes me think it wasn’t entirely his choosing. It’s probably safe to say that it will take a while for a new CEO to be selected, but I think this signals that we will see some aggressive expansion plans once that happens.

Hyatt All In Promotion is giving away Three nights in a Hyatt Ziva or Zilara property and 100,000 AAdvantage miles.  You can see the full press release here as well as the Official Rules. But I’ll give you the skinny so you don’t have to wade through all that. To enter you have to share the video below on Twitter before 6pm CT on 3/10/15. You must use the hashtags #‎HZEntry & ‪#‎HyattAllIn in your post.  You can only enter once per person/twitter account.

 

Speaking of Hyatt, they are also running a 20% loyalty point rebate promotion for folks with their co-branded credit card. I wouldn’t go booking anything that you didn’t plan on doing anyway, but it does change the math a little bit if you are weighing your lodging options for an upcoming trip.  Here’s how it works:

1. Register for this promotion by March 31, 2015.
2. Book a stay with points and complete your stay before July 31, 2015. Keep in mind, free nights start at just 5,000 points at any Category 1 property.2
3. Get 20% of your points back. Your points will be deposited directly into your Hyatt Gold Passport account after your completed stay.
For example: If you redeem 5,000 points for a free stay, you can get 1,000 of those points back.

 

em_nexus6_largeEvolve Money is effectively killing a useful points earning tool. The company notified users this week that effective next week they would begin charging a 3% processing fee on transactions when using prepaid debit card. Using a mileage earning credit card to purchase pre-paid cards and in turn use the service to pay things like student and car loans was a great tool. The processing fee now makes that unpalatable unless you are hard pressed to meet a spending threshold for a sign-up bonus.

Delta CEO suggests link between Gulf Carriers and 9/11 attacks, then walks back his remarks…. (Hello sir, may I show you the door?) Qatar airlines and Emirates airlines both punched back in a proxy fight over het open skies agreement… This could get ugly!

Ithaca tourism bureau gives up and suggests you go to Key West instead! (HT Heels First Travel) The marketing gimmick was picked up
by the Associated Press earlier this week and the massive influx of page views crashed the server.

Hotels by Day

I recently stumbled across a new app that lets you book hotels rooms for a few hours during the day, the app is fittingly named Hotels by sign-310036_1280Day.  I know what you might be thinking, but the purpose of the app isn’t designed to handle your afternoon delight, but rather to help you rest between flights.  In essence you can check into a hotel for a few hours without spending the night and just get a shower and rest, or catch-up on work. There may be a certain segment of the traveling masses for which this will be a useful tool, but I have my doubts.

It has initially just been rolled out in a few cities, and I’m not sure if it will really catch on, but it is an interesting idea.  I imagine this is geared towards the business traveler that would normally spring for an airport lounge if they had extended layovers and wanted somewhere to rest or freshen up. With that in mind I imagine most business travelers in that demographic probably have free or reduced price access to an airline specific lounge or one of the Centurion lounges. I also noticed that the pricing for a day room isn’t much reduced from what you might pay for a regular overnight stay and the selection of hotels isn’t stellar either. I suppose that makes sense given they still need to service the room, and room nights are a highly perishable commodity since they can’t retroactively rent rooms. Still I thought it looked a bit steep given that you might need to leave the airport to get to the hotel which could tack on some additional travel cost and the risk of getting stuck in the city and missing a connection.  Throw in the pain of having to go through security again, and I just don’t think it’s worth the cost unless maybe there is a hotel connected to the terminal and I was in dire need of a shower!

You can book on the web at www.hotelsbyday.com or using the app available free for both IOS and Android.

Weekly Travel News Roundup

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This is the first of what will (hopefully) be a weekly roundup of travel related news stories that I thought were interesting or useful and that you might have missed over the last week. Enjoy, and feel free to share any stories that I missed and you think should have made the list!

Finally here is a Video (about 30 minutes) from Huff Post live interviewing a few of the worlds most traveled people… it’s kind of neat.

Places to go, people to see…

When we travel, we always encounter a multitude of people from taxi drivers and hotel staff to flight crews and strangers on a plane. Most of those folks are paid to assist us with one thing or another and our interactions are generally scripted and fleeting.  So in keeping with my Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgnew year’s travel objectives I started looking into new ways of meeting people when I’m traveling, you know other than trying to become the bartenders new best friend, or trying to randomly chat up all the hotel staff. While I was reading about places and tools to meet folks I ran across an article about Meetup.com which I hadn’t really thought about in years. I used the site in the past when I had just arrived in DC and was trying to meet folks and build my social circle, but that was a long time ago.  The site has tons of different interest groups (including some devoted to travel) all over the world so it seems ready made for meeting people if you have just a few days in some place.

Another website that offers interesting experiences with locals is Vayable.com. The tag line on the website says “Discover and book unique experiences offered by local insiders.” I would guess that these groups have a nice mix of locals and visitors so it would be easy to candle-light-dinner-101095_1280meet people in a structured setting. Many of the activities appear to have some cost associated with them, but I imagine they are much more interesting than group tours you might find through an agency and you can see user reviews on the site!  A sampling of the offerings on the site include a Food Crawl tour in Rome, A midnight Street Food crawl in New York, A Photography tour in Paris, Biking local back roads in Italy and Dublin like a local. However I think my favorite was an “Underground Restaurant Meal” in Barcelona. The organizers are a local foodie couple and the restaurant is their home! The deal is a lovely meal and three hours of conversation about local culture. For $65 bucks I think it would be worth checking out!

One more site that I found aiming to connect travelers was Mingletrips.com. This site aims to connect people on a more one on one basis than Vayable. The fact that this is a one-on-one makes me feel like it has the possibility of being very sketchy, of course I guess that’s true of anything. The site apparently leverages your Facebook account and then matches you up based on location and interests, and allows you to decide if you want to get together to meet. I don’t think this is quite up my alley, but it might be a good options for some folks.

If anyone has experience using these sites to meet people while traveling please share!

 

 

Spring Training with Starwood

Starwood has combined two of my favorite things, travel and baseball! Starwood is running specials on their properties in Florida and stadium-186725_1280Arizona (these are the states that host MLB spring training). The special rates and packages are good for stays booked and completed by April 5th.  I’ve included the highlights in the list below.  These bookings can be cancelled without penalty before arrival and make sure to use code LPPKG1 when booking. You can get the full list of hotels and details here.

Arizona

  • Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (Chandler) – $25 daily resort credit, free breakfast entree and drink daily at Ko’Sin, rates from $299
  • The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa – $100 daily resort credit
  • Aloft Tempe – free airport shuttle, free wifi. Rates from $159
  • Aloft Phoenix Airport – free airport shuttle, free wifi. Rates from $179.
  • The Westin Phoenix Downtown – free self parking, free wifi, kids eat free at hotel restaurant (with paying adult) Rates from $209.
  • Sheraton Crescent Hotel – $25 food & beverage credit at Indigo Bistro, rates from $159.
  • Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain – free wifi, free bottled water, free airport shuttle. Rates from $149.
  • Four Points by Sheraton Tempe – free daily breakfast, free wifi, Rates from $219
  • Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe -Baseball Fan welcome gift, choice of two Adult beverages or breakfast for two, free transportation to and from Tempe Diablo Stadium. Rates from $169
  • Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel – free self parking, free wifi, kids eat free with paying adult. Rates from $179
  • The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician – free breakfast, Rates from $1,011
  • The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa – $100 resort credit, Rates from $509/.
  • W Scottsdale – free wifi, 2 SIP tickets per stay, W hat and bag, Rates from $439
  • The Phoenician – free breakfast Rates from $475
  • Aloft Tempe – free wifi, free airport shuttle, Rates from $159
  • The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa – $50 gas card, Rates from $189

Florida

  • The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village – daily $40 food and beverage credit, Rates from $329
  • Sheraton Sand Key Resort – $75 resort credit per stay, Rates from $255
  • Four Points by Sheraton Fort Myers Airport – free breakfast for two, Rates from $274
  • Aloft Orlando Downtown – daily breakfast for two, two drinks per room daily, Rates from $179
  • The Westin Orlando Universal Boulevard – two free refillable souvenir cups, Rate from $129
  • Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort Villas, I-Drive/Orlando – 500 bonus Starpoints per stay, Rates from $233
  • Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort – daily $25 resort credit Rates from $160
  • Westin Tampa Bay – free self parking, free internet.Rates from $179
  • Sheraton Tampa East Hotel – free breakfast for two, free internet, Rates from $159
  • Westin Tampa Harbour Island – free self parking, daily $10 food & beverage credit, Rates from $99
  • Le Méridien Tampa – free Grab & Go specialty pastry and coffee, Rates from $159
  • Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel – buffet breakfast for two in River’s Edge, $15 food & beverage credit in River’s Edge, Rates from $169
  • Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore – free breakfast, Rates from $174
  • Aloft Tampa Downtown – daily breakfast for two, two drinks per room daily, Rate from $169

 

Free Flight from Delta

Delta just announced that they have inked a deal to serve Starbucks coffee on all their flights. To mark this occasion they are running a contest to give away a free flight so coffee drinker or not you might want to throw your hat (or cup as it were) in the ring.  You can enter, and get all the details here, and I have the basic rundown below…

  • The contest started a few days ago and you have to enter by tonight at 11:59 PM ET
  • The winner gets a certificate good for an economy flight to anywhere Delta flies system wide.
  • Ticket has to be used within one year of award date and is non-transferable.
  • Open to US residents 18 and older.
  • To enter all you have to do is write down where you’d like to go on a Starbucks cup and share a photo, including the hashtag #DeltaCupContest. Share your photo by posting it on Instagram or Twitter. You must follow @Delta You can enter up to four more times (One entry per day per social media platform per day)

Should you pay extra to double your points on flights and hotel stays?

A friend recently asked me if it was worth paying extra to double your miles on a flight, the answer to that question is a definite maybe! It dollars-426023_1280all depends on what your average return on investment is for those miles. There are a number of ways to value miles and points some are monetary and other are more personal in nature. I’m not a hardcore miles and points enthusiast, but I happily follow those who are and try to learn where the low hanging fruit is to pad my travel budgets. With that being said I’ll share a few insights on loyalty points, their valuation and my thoughts on their value.

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Hilton says if you aren’t happy with your room, it’s your own fault!

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It appears that Hilton has just upped the game with their new smartphone app. Recently Starwood released a new NFC room key function on their smartphone app, and now Hilton has answered by beefing up their pre-arrival functionality among other things.  One of the most notable new functions is the ability to choose your own specific room, so if you don’t like the view…. It’s your own fault!  Here is a list of the updated capabilities according to the FAQ.

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