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How I Do Fancy Travel

June 5, 2019

Part 1 of 3 part series. Part 2 | Part 3

Mr. and I are not ridiculously wealthy. We’re both freelance writers, you know? It’s not like we’re rolling in the dough.

However, when we travel, we now make it a priority to travel comfortably, as…well, just because the opportunity is there, so why not!

With that said, we wouldn’t be able to do 1st class or luxury suites on our own. Here’s how we fenangle these fancy schmancy upgrades

Loyalty Memberships

We’re in, god, like 10 different loyalty/mileage memberships, though I really only focus on three (so I can knock out miles and get better status upgrades): Marriott Bonvoy, United MileagePlus, Delta SkyMiles. Most people aren’t a fan of Delta’s crappy SkyMiles value (you’ll see them referred to a lot as “Sky Pesos”), but they’re one of the few airlines that fly out of our airport with direct connections to where we usually go. Marriott, to be honest, has lost a lot of good feelings with us due to the downgrades they’ve given to Gold Elite and lower members (once the SPG merger was complete), but like Delta, they’re usually the chain with the most options when we want to travel.

Also, one thing to mention, I usually book directly with the airline or hotel chain, rather than using something like Expedia. By booking directly, I get to take advantage of any status I have and accrue more loyalty points. This usually isn’t the case when you book through a third party and I’ve never really noticed a significant difference in price.

Advice: Sign up for every potential travel club you can, as many of them are transfer partners for one another (example: we used Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club to book travel on ANA to Tokyo), but try to focus on only one or two that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Planning

We rarely travel on the fly (ha!), so when we know we have a trip coming up, I take time to plan out how to maximize our resources to our advantage. Sometimes, though, I end up feeling like this:

My advice: Spend time looking at possible deals, travel partners, and off-peak seasons. Our wedding anniversary is in February, so when we go somewhere to celebrate, we often find good deals. Some of my favorite places to go are awardhacker and reddit’s awardtravel sub.

Part 2, the credit cards >>

Travel

Palm Springs, CA

May 11, 2019

This was my first trek to Palm Springs, CA and it was a fantastic trip for so many reasons. I had my first public speaking gig after having just been fired from my soul-sucking job. It was the perfect time for me to get out of NY and clear my head, and I ended up with so many amazing opportunities. But you’re here for details, right? Let’s go!

 

Flights

I chased in points from my Chase United card to head from NY to Chicago, then Chicago to Palm Springs. First class in United is always enjoyable, and this time was no exception. The meal (lunch) was phenomenal:

The trip back, though, was absolutely incredible. For the trip home, I flew American Airlines from Palm Springs > Phoenix, then Phoenix > Charlotte, and finally Charlotte back to NY.

The first leg started off a little rough, as our wee tiny plane had some issues with an overhead bin that wouldn’t close. It took about 45 minutes for it to be fixed, making me way nervous as I only had a 1-hour layover before my next flight. I landed with 10 minutes to spare before boarding began, whew!

Side note: the woman next to me on the flight was completely aghast that I would DARE to live in NY. She was from Austin and when she found out where I was from said “ugh, who would want to live THERE?” um…me? Luckily, it was a short flight.

The experience that I was so lucky to not miss, though, was the 1st class cabin on American’s AA330 plane. It was my first time in cubicle-style seats and I am officially spoiled.

This was one of the rare times I was actually able to fall asleep on a plane, thanks to my seats recline abilities. It was way decadent, and a total welcomed surprise.

Hotel

I stayed at the Palm Springs Riveria, a Marriott property that was one of the locations of the conference I was attending. Thankfully, because of my Platinum American Express, I was upgraded from my normal room to a junior suite, complete with patio (which was really fantastic, as I was able to sit there and have some quiet, outdoor space to go over my presentation.

 

My presentation went off somewhat smoothly, but the whole conference was a bit of a clusterfluff. It was the first time they hosted it at multiple locations, so it wasn’t without its growing pains. Overall, it was a positive experience, though, and I’m glad I went.

One tip:

If you end up in Palm Springs, head to Rick’s, the cafe across from the Riveria and order the cinnamon roll. Then go take a nap, because it’s epic.

Sight-Seeing

Honestly, I didn’t do much this time, though I could’ve if I had scheduled the time to do so. Thursdays I believe their museum is free, and the botanical garden looked to be Instagramable.

However, I did make a friend:

Mr. Roadrunner

time for a sand bath!

Travel

Cancun 2019

April 24, 2019

And so we have begun our new tradition of lavish vacations for our wedding anniversary. We’ve been saving up credit card points to fund these trips, and while the points could probably go further if we cut back on the luxuries, we just don’t have the time to travel more often, so we go big.

 

I booked our trip to Cancun in October 2018 when I got a notification that Vacations by Marriott was having a deal. I had heard good things about the perks of using VbM on Reddit, but if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve booked directly with hotels and airlines.

 

The big pull with Marriott was our elite status thanks to our American Express Platinum card, but the bonuses we enjoyed (free breakfast and club lounge access) were removed once the SPG/Marriott merger completed. My fault for not paying attention, I guess, but that was a rude awakening since I chose Marriott over the numerous all-inclusive resorts. All in all, we ended up spending what we would’ve spent had we gone all-inclusive, so I recommend shelling out the extra dough up front.

 

That’s not to say that our hotel was horrible. We stayed at the Aloft Cancun which was on the edge of the clubs and restaurants part. It was in a good location for checking out sights, and the rooftop pool was lovely. They also surprised us with long stem red roses, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a note congratulating us on our anniversary.

 

But nothing compared to the view of the water. And not even the view from our hotel room, really, but just the color of the water. I had never been to the Gulf side of Mexico before (we went to Tijuana when I was very little, and all I remember is trying to scramble up my grandfather while little boys tried to sell me things), and now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I’ve been on the Gulf side of any place, but the water was just something else. I’d wake up every morning, roll up the blinds, and just stare at the water.

 

For our touristy stuff, we went on the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship (recommend), the Chichen Itza tour (also recommend), and the Mercado 28 (do not recommend because you will end up poor). The highlight of the trip, though, and I know the level of cheese is high here, was being able to spend time together away from everything. The weather was amazing, our Spanish came back to us the longer we stayed, and everything just felt blissful.

 

I’m slowly trying to talk Steve into getting a place in one of the expat towns down there, but I know it’s a hard sell right now. For now, we’ll plan to further explore Mexico in our upcoming trips. Next stop is either Mexico City or Puerto Vallarta. Thoughts?

Travel

Cincinnati

November 2, 2018

Every other year we head to the family for the holidays. Thanksgiving is spent in Cincinnati, OH with the Mr.s’ side, while Christmas is spent in Florida with my family. It’s been a system that’s worked well for us so far: we do our good children jobs and get to spend the years in between at home in our pjs (our “just us” Thanksgivings are both top of both our lists for favorite holidays), but I will admit that it’s nice to spend time away once in a while.

Prior to meeting Steve, I had never been to Cincinnati. Being from Pittsburgh, the furthest I ever got into Ohio was Columbus and Cleveland, somehow always getting caught in a torrential downpour on the drive home which led me to believe that there was some force that let very few escape the state easily. Cincy (Cinti?) however, has always had a little bit of charm to me that Columbus and Cleveland didn’t. Maybe it’s just the association of it being my husband’s hometown, but I’ve felt like it’s got some hidden gem qualities.

I should probably list my favorite parts of the town here, except I can’t remember their names. There’s a park near Skyline Chili we like to walk through, and of course, the Findley Market is a requirement. Downtown is starting to revive itself into a safer area like Pittsburgh did (or is still working on?). The areas my in-laws live in are changing at a rapid clip, especially thanks to gentrification, so it will be interesting to see what their neighborhoods are like in 5 years.

Our trips are short and sweet, but I think that they end up giving Steve a little refresh. He’ll get LaRLaRosa’szza and Skyline Chili and I’ll get his Mom’s famous cooking. Then we’ll come back to our house in our little town and hunker down for the impending snow-in and prepare for the next year when it’s just us, our pjs, and our pets.

Travel

Charleston

August 24, 2018

Steve and I headed down to Charleston, SC for the 2018 Haven Conference, which is geared towards home decor bloggers like myself. I went there to brush up (okay, totally learn from scratch) some DIY skills (learning how to cut tile, for one) and Steve came to experience Charleston and just happen upon some DIY classes with me (he wasn’t into the blogging stuff since he does that for a living already on a freelance basis).

On Day 2 of the conference, Steve decided it just wasn’t for him (and the influx of cute blonde-haired female bloggers was too much), so he spent the day wandering the city, then picking me up and taking me to dinner for some authentic Southern BBQ and a bloated walk through some touristy areas.

We ate:

Swig and Swine: amazing food, hardcore moonshine flights, uncomfortably pushy server.

Jestine’s: baller cornbread, giant portions, the feeling that this is where white people came to feel like they were getting an authentic experience.

We saw:

Historic Charleston City Market: Unfortunately, we got here towards close so we didn’t have time to wander. A shitty review, I know.

Travel

Atlanta

August 11, 2017

Despite the ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent in their airport, I’ve never actually been to the city of Atlanta. So this year when I had the opportunity to attend Haven, which is a home decor blogger conference (I know, right? Nerd life) and is in Atlanta, I decided I’d take this opportunity for all its worth and take extra time to explore the city.

I spent a day and a half walking around, exploring, going to see the sights (or sites? Whatever). First stop was my one true passion: plants! I ended up at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and got to geek out alone in such a beautiful space. Full disclosure: it was ridiculously humid that day, so while the gardens were beautiful, I was definitely not. Shout out to the poor server at the restaurant in the botanical gardens who had to keep bringing me water so I didn’t die.

Day 2 was spent as half work, half play. I started early in their world-famous aquarium, and it was truly beautiful. I did all of the things you do there: watch the whale sharks get fed, head to the Dolphin Experience and get emotional at the majesty of it all (yeah I know, I couldn’t believe I was getting emotional about dolphins, either.) and just wandering around, taking it all in. The evening was spent at the Marriott where Haven was hosted and involved schmoozing with my people (home decor bloggers like me) and sipping on cocktails.

The remaining days were spent at the conference, making excellent connections and playing with tools. Also, yes, acquiring a ginormous amount of swag that I still haven’t put away (and it’s like 2 weeks since I’ve been home).

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