Category Archives: Uncategorized

New York/Baltimore Trip

Preparation

  • Booked everything ~1 month ahead of time
  • New York stay was 4 nights, 3 days
  • Everything was for 2 adults, 1 child (2 years old), 1 infant (under 2 years)

Departure

  • Left via LAX to EWR via United, did not receive priority boarding for the kids
    • Luckily I was in group 2 so we were able to board relatively early
  • Checked in the 2 car seats for free
  • United offers free snacks and beverages, and small meals for purchase

Arrival

  • Used Uber for the first time.  We had $45 in credits, and the drive from EWR ended up at $68
    • Was relatively painless even though we were cramped, and the driver was a nice guy
  • Checked in at hotel and requested free internet and breakfast (Benefits from Gold Status given by HHonors Reserve Card)
    • Received 16 breakfast vouchers (1 per person) and wifi password
  • Requested crib and hot water maker and received both free of charge

During Stay at Hotel

  • The breakfast vouchers were only for continental breakfasts, but since we had 4 and the kids were small the waiters allowed us to upgrade to full breakfast buffets each morning
    • This happened all 4 mornings with different waiters
    • My wife found this to be wonderful since it allowed the family to start each day well fed
  • Wifi was consistently decent speed throughout the stay but promptly cut off the morning of check out

Getting Around

  • We did a ton of walking.  Manhattan is well laid out.  Streets are east-west and avenues are north-south with both having sequential numbering
    • Streets seemed to be spaced apart about 20 per mile
    • Avenues seemed to be longer at about 5 per mile
  • The 2nd day we ventured into the subways
    • Elevators were rare and even if we found one, pretty disgusting (poor smell, rags left behind by whoever was there)
      • I ended up carrying our stroller up and down a ton of stairwells
    • We purchased a Metrocard (if I were to purchase one again, I’d put about $30 on it)
      • There is no turnstile large enough to accommodate a stroller.  We found out that one person should walk through and then open the emergency exit/service door for the one pushing the stroller and did this through many stations without issue.
    • Once we figured out how they worked, it was extremely convenient and our main mode of travel during our stay

Driving Trip to Baltimore

  • Rented a full size from Alamo, was upgraded to SUV when the Altima was damaged while being retrieved
    • Also received $50 off since gas would be more expensive
  • Highly recommend getting the toll pass from Car Rental company, this made the drive very painless as we just drove through all the EZ pass toll gates
  • There were plentiful rest stops along the way where we could eat/rest

Flying Home (Baltimore was pretty uneventful, just spent day with my parents)

  • Left via BWI to LAX via Southwest, did receive priority boarding for the kids (Any family with kids up to 4 years old)
    • This was critical since Southwest does not assign seats
  • Checked in the 2 car seats for free
  • Southwest offers free snacks and beverages, did not see any meals for purchase

Miscellaneous Notes

  • From our perspective, Times Square was noisy, crowded, and full of people trying to take advantage of tourists.  This was true of any of the tourist attractions but seemed particularly bad there.
  • We kept wishing we had dollar bills on hand to give as tips for various things

Things I Felt Went Well

  • The Hilton Gold Status was well worth it even though we didn’t get any room upgrades.  The breakfast and internet were great.
  • Barclays Arrival card was great, it should offset the cost of all transportation up to ~$430
  • Midtown was located an ideal distance from everything we wanted to visit
  • Google maps/Yelp allowed us to travel the city as if we were locals.  Never had fears of getting lost and always found great places to eat/visit.
  • The stroller (while a pain to take into the subways) allowed us to carry everything we ended up purchasing with ease.  Also was great mobile bed for the kids when they got tired.

Things I’d Like to Improve Next Time

  • We paid for the extra 2 days at the hotel partly to prove to my wife that point collecting is worth it 😛
    • We’re planning to churn some hotel cards/points to take care of this in the future
  • Finally received Star Alliance Gold this trip via Aegean Gold Status.  This should solve on check-in bag costs, priority boarding/check-in/bag retrieval, and we plan to try out airport lounges in the future.
    • Also means I’ll use points for most future flights
  • Ask for rental cars with a full tank, ended up giving gas back for free
  • Unsure how we’ll deal with Southwest priority boarding when the kids are beyond 4, A list status seems difficult to achieve

Total Cost for Transportation/Hotel: $1375 (~$430 should be offset by Barclays Arrival)

Airlines

  • For departure we used United
    • Total cost for flight was $301 and 50,000 Chase UR points
      • 25,000 + $2.50 each for 1 adult and child (infant was ride on lap and therefore free)
      • $246 for mine (I needed ~1000 miles to get Star Alliance Gold)
      • $25 x 2 for checked bags
  • For return we used Southwest
    • Total cost for flight was 46299 Southwest points
      • 15433 x 3 for 2 adults and child (infant was ride on lap and therefore free)

Hotel

  • Stayed at Midtown Hilton
    • Total cost was $762 via hotels.com
      • Used 2 free nights from Hilton Reserve Card
      • Then paid $381 x 2 nights

Subway/Taxi/Rental Car

  • $33 on Metrocard 
  • $23 on Uber
  • $186 on rental car via Alamo
    • Spent another $70 on gas (which we later found out we only needed half)

Getting Setup

Here’s a brief step by step with links.  Some of the links are referrals and I get some sort of credit, but these are all programs I actually use:

Lastpass
https://lastpass.com/f?2931176
– You will end up signing up for many sites (rewards, banking, etc) all asking for a new set of credentials.  Lastpass has been a fantastic tool for me to use different passwords on each site.

AwardWallet
– http://AwardWallet.com/?refCode=ouwhflsgqi
– Tracks reward points across multiple programs, this has been a great tool for me.

Credit Sesame
– http://csesa.me/?r=ZXnAEN0le
– Provides FAKO score that should give you an idea of what your Experian score is.

Credit Karma
– https://www.creditkarma.com
– Provides FAKO score that should give you an idea of what your Transunion score is.
– Also helped me understand what factors are actually important to maintain credit

Example of Credit Card Churn Strategy
– http://millionmilesecrets.com/2011/08/22/churn-analysis/

Great Beginner’s Guide for Reward Site Sign Ups
– http://thepointsguy.com/beginners-guide/
– Has many of the rewards sites in one location if you want to easily find them

Great Credit Card Deals

International Flight Plans

100,000 American Airlines ($450 annual fee, $10,000 spend in 3 months)
– http://millionmilesecrets.com/2014/01/28/100000-american-airlines-miles-200-statement-credit-with-the-citi-executive-card/
Application:
– https://creditcards.citicards.com/usc/Travel/AA/2013/q3/Exec/GA/default.htm?BT_TX=1&ProspectID=8289431BF5BC49478648B92A43DF07A8

3x Amex points for groceries

– http://boardingarea.com/mommypoints/2014/03/05/how-good-are-the-soon-to-launch-amex-everyday-cards/#sthash.feHcFwBp.dpbs