Monday, December 26, 2011

Luxury Hotels for New Year

One of the Resorts that I love to visit in winter is the Ballantyne Hotel because it has a wonderful in-door swimming pool and they always heat it adequately. They have a wonderful Spa, golf course and you can sit in front of the fireplace to have tea or cocktails. It’s the best place to enjoy the season. Ballantyne Hotel We’re celebrating 2012 in style with a festive overnight package at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. The New Year’s Eve Dinner Package includes an elegant room, dinner in Gallery Restaurant, complimentary valet parking and a 2pm late check-out. Pricing starts at $299 for double occupancy. Reserve  here or by calling 1.800.325.3589. New Year’s Eve at Gallery Restaurant & Bar.Ring in the New Year with a live-spinning DJ, appetizers and drink specials in the Great Hall beginning at 9pm. Enjoy a champagne toast at midnight.  This event is complimentary to hotel and dining guests. There will be a $25 public cover charge for others. The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, a member of Starwood’s The Luxury Collection, is a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond award-winning hotel with a 18-hole championship golf course and fitness facility.

I felt like Goldilocks because I tried the one resistance pool first but it was too cold and then I jumped into the hot tub but it was too hot, next was the big pool … Just right! Perfect! They have 3 pools and a hot whirlpool, including 2 endless pools for resistance swimming, enabling you to swim in place in your own pool.

Make it my New years resolution to stay in Luxury whenever possible . Life it too short to rough it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Visit an Airline lounge without flying stress

I’ve been complaining that Texas got the short end of the stick with the Continental - United merger, but I have to say a big thank you to United for a wonderful treat at the mall. It was like going to the Presidents club without flying. I was able to have a break from Christmas shopping with a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the United Airlines VIP Lounge at The Houston Galleria and also at the Mall at Short Hills, NJ. It’s a haven, exclusively for Continental and United Chase Card members; the lounge is a retreat for weary holiday shoppers. Open daily till- Dec. 24,  the VIP Lounge offers complimentary snacks and beverages, Wi-Fi, gift wrapping and more united_continental_logo_det

These days you have to have an airline card to avoid paying baggage fees and to get other benefits like priority boarding. As a Presidential Plus cardmember, you get United Club airline lounge membership automatically (formerly Presidents Club). It’s a hefty $395 annual fee but you get a $95 statement credit after the first use of the card. , and they have a new Blue Carpet benefit of reward seat upgrades for Elite members.

American Express also has a lounge in the Galleria Mall. They are allowing any AMEX card holders entry and pampered us with Godiva chocolates, Starbucks coffee, valet parking validation Wi-fi access and cell phone charging Stations.

I have the SPG Amex Card allowing me to earn up to 5 StarPoints per dollar at participating SPG® hotels and resorts and 1 Starpoint everywhere else. Some other benefits of this card is that I get credit for 5 nights and 2 stays toward SPG elite status each year. That means that I have fewer stays to make to qualify for elite Status. The Hyatt Credit card does not offer elite status help but it lets you begin with up to two free Award Nights at Hyatt properties worldwide with the Hyatt Credit

Merry Christmas! / Feliz Navidad! / Joyeux Noel! / Frohe Weihnachten! / vrolijk kerstfees    to all

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crazy words on a flight prior to an IPO launch

I flew on a 3 hour United flight to Chicago. The time went by so slowly because there is no entertainment. Previously, the food in first class was so good that I considered it entertainment. Boredom set in without any distraction, not even a movie! , so I was forced to watch that infantile program 30 Rock.   Continental Airlines has been installing Direct TV on their planes for the past 2 years but I have bad luck to not land many of those flights… .
Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that the AA flight crew  are calling for the feeble, 30Rock show to be removed from their planes after Alec Baldwin’s abusively insulting flight Attendants. img_aadvantage240They claimed that Alec’s drunken rampage was so loud that the Captain could hear it through the cockpit door.  I believe that Alec was intentionally giving publicity to Zynga. Movie stars had the privilege of getting in on  IPO ‘s  in the 1990’s. The IPO market is not so hot anymore but I suspect that Baldwin was drumming up publicity for the IPO launch for the company behind the Subpar “WordsWithFriends” Game he refused to shut down for takeoff.  Despite his fiasco, he probably lost money due to his greed, because Zynga was down below their $10 IPO price on first day of trading.  Maybe they  should not have encouraged the jerk to boost their public trading debut. Another company with declining profits is discovering that he was not the best person to put in the Capital One Venture  card commercials. Some of us were appalled at an enraged Alec unleashing a volcanic tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter.
Zynga games are fun to play but not a fun place to work and are 53 on the list of happiest places to work  according to Glassdoor, because they rescinded stock options and give over critical job evaluations  and their friend berating a flight attendant on SNL is not helping them.
American Airlines has been in the news a lot for being the last of the legacy airlines to file for bankruptcy,  for the crazy Baldwin and now AA is the first airline to give their pilots iPads to replace the 45 pound brief cases they lug around, containing Charts and Manuals 

united_continental_logo_detSome say that if Pilots can use electronic devices, why can’t passengers? Is is simply because they want us to pay attention to the safety announcements that everyone makes a point of ignoring?  What do you think?
I’ve just received an email  from United Airlines asking me to do a survey but I don’t think I will waste my time doing it because I don’t plan to fly with them much. It started with Dear Jen, As a OnePass® member who has recently flown on a Continental flight with DirectTV® service ….

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

‘Tis the season for getting Hotel points

I stayed at The Lanesborough, a St. Regis Hotel in the UK and was disappointed to discover that they don’t participate in the SPG Triple Up promotion to earn bonus points. In a previous post I advised, to redeem for SPG Free Night Awards or Cash & Points Awards to further your ELITE progress before the year ends. Only a few more days to go … I’m registered for the SPG Triple UpstarwoodHotels2 promotion, so for stays through December 18, 2011, I earn triple Starpoints on stays including a Thursday or Sunday night and double Starpoints on all other stays worldwide, across all 9 brands, including Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, W and rewards
I earned an additional +258 double points on a bill I paid of $130, in addition to the regular 258 points plus SPG ELITE 50% BONUS points of 129, and the Elite Platinum 500 welcome amenity points, giving me a total of 1145 points. The best part was that this was a free stay! The $130 that I paid was at the Spa!  The free stay cost ten thousand points, but I’m well on my way to getting another free stay with the 1145, and I also earned Starwood points on my American Express charges at the hotel.
The downside is that the list of Non- participating hotels is long, so do check on this link - before booking. Hotels on the list are from cities as diverse as Aloft Jacksonville Airport, Chapel Hill and Plano TX, Element Houston Vintage Park, The Nines, Portland, The St. Regis Aspen Resort and The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.
MegaMiles bonus is a good miles earning promotion from MARRIOTT REWARDS. M Rewards’ MegaBonus promotion runs till Jan 15th 2012. They offer MegaBonus twice a year and this year, stays at luxury hotel partner, The Ritz-Carlton, also count toward MegaMiles awards.One mile per $1 is  the base you earn on the room rate with most airlines, when you stay at the budget brands like Courtyard and Fairfield Hotels. Renaissance, JW Marriott hotels and other luxury Hotels, earn 2 miles per $1 at participating airlines.
Also, don’t forget to register to earn 1,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per stay at any Hyatt brand hotel worldwide till January 15, 2012. (Regular Hyatt  miles earned with airline partners, for members who prefer miles to Hyatt Gold Passport points per dollar are 500). Triple AAdvantage miles can be earned on ten stays producing 15,000 miles for you. Hyatt Gold Passport members have to remember to request airline miles when you check-in at a Hyatt Hotel front desk. Most guests prefer to earn Hotel points because you get more points than miles when you consider that food and other extras charged to your room, also earns points. Your bang for buck value is $20 for every 1,000 points.  Hyatt-Logo
If you stay at the new Hyatt 48 LEX NYC, you can save with their special Grand Opening rates of $399 a night. It’s the newest luxury boutique hotel in the heart of bustling Manhattan where you can earn Triple AAdvantage Miles at any Hyatt Hotel. The Occupy Wall Street group have discovered that you can stay in NYC for free but for those  of us, that like to bath, $399 is a good rate for NYC.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

RyanAir offers Berlusconi a one way ticket

Ex- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,  is the latest prey of publicity hog Ryanair. The Irish airline featured the controversial politician on their Italian website, with an offer for him to fly out on a cheap one way flight. The text of the ad is: ”Dear Berlusconi, here is another way to escape  with Ryanair," This is an offer for one way flights starting at €9.99.
Ryanair's plans to get rid of seats and introduce pay toilets attracted a lot of publicity, but as I predicted, it was not approved due to safety concerns.
They do have cheap flights to Spain from London’s  Stansted Airport. If you’re looking to visit Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante, Malaga, Canaries.  Want to visit Picasso's birthplace? fly to Malaga to explore its ancient history and miles of sandy beaches. Enjoy old town nights eating tapas and drinking sweet Malaga wine. Flights from London to Malaga are selling for only £22.99 one way.. Ryanair’s low cost flights to Malaga Airport land 14km from central Malaga on the Costa del Sol in the southern Spanish province of Andalucia. Take the 30-minute bus ride to the town Málaga Cathedral or stay at the Holiday Inn Express Málaga Airport for £ 46.43 (  € 54 )    …. .   but you won’t see me on any of those flights. On a previous post,  I explained that Ryanair is the reason that I don’t fly discount airlines

We watch the TV show Pan Am and are amazed at how the Stewardesses were mistreated in the 60’s due to their gender. It would not be legal now days ….  and yet RyanAir gets away with sexual exploitation. Ryanair’s cabin crew have stripped off for the airline’s fifth annual calendar. Proceeds from “The Girls of Ryanair” calendar, which features scantily-clad female flight attendants, will go to a charity. The calendar costs £8.50 and can be purchased on board Ryanair flights.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Historic Places for a Spooktacular visit

Texas is perceived as a State with modern buildings but surprisingly, there are many haunted places that draw travelers for Halloween. The Menger Hotel, San Antonio is one of the best known and old hotels in the state of Texas. It’s located adjacent to the Alamo. The hotel opened in 1859, just 23 years after the bloody battle at the Alamo and the famous cry of the Alamo has been heard, - “Don’t forget the Alamo” The brave settlers were brutally killed by the attacking Mexican forces. The Alamo is an impressive building still standing in the center of the city. You can earn Stash Points to redeem them for free nights.
When you step into the Victorian lobby of the Menger Hotel, you feel as if you have been transported to a time of frontier history and expect Davy Crockett to walk by.
The beach Hotel Galvez & Spa, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, invites guests to embark on enthralling ghost hunts during the month of October. The hotel has had Royalty,Presidents and famous guests like Howard Hughes, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I love to visit this hotel in both summer and winter because the pool is heated and long walks along the beach are invigorating, though I cant help thinking about the 8,000 people that died at the waterfront following the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. This “haunted” Texas hotel apparently has a lady spirit roaming the large luxury hallways of the 5th floor of the hotel. You can request the haunted room, it’s room 505, where she committed suicide. Even though I don’t believe in ghosts, I made sure that I was not allocated that room! You can never be too safe.
Another hotel from that era is The Luxury Collection hotel in San luxery collectionDiego is the The U.S. Grant. President Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s son named this hotel after his adventurous father. I love the hotel but I don’t like that this hotel does not conform to the brand in that it does not have many bath tubs and they don’t participate in the new Elite SPG Triple Up promotion, to earn triple Starpoints on stays including a Thursday or Sunday night till December 18, 2011.
Got Kids? You can have a Ghoulish Time When You Stay at Fairfield Inn and Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village, and attend Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. The Lake Buena Vista hotel is a good place to stay because they have a shuttle so you don’t have to rent a car or park far from Disney’s Magic Kingdom. There are many events for kids big and small from 7 p.m. through midnight, including:
  • Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade at 8:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Happy HalloWishes Fireworks Spectacular at 9:30 p.m.
  • Trick-or-treating throughout Magic Kingdom at numerous treat locations is safer that going to strangers homes.
  • Characters dressed up in costumes for Halloween
  • Access to Magic Kingdom® attractions and events
The Fairfield is situated by top attractions, this Lake Buena Vista, Orlando hotel is near Disney World® Resort, Universal Studios, SeaWorld® and Orlando Premium Outlets offering designer shopping. Start your day with a complimentary continental breakfast, then purchase your attraction tickets in the lobby or call 1-407-939-1289 to order tickets. I have also enjoyed staying at the Courtyard hotel, next door to the Fairfield in the Marriott Village but Courtyard's don’t have the free breakfast and are slightly more expensive than the Fairfield.
marriott rewardsORLANDO, Fla. has many great hotels, My favorite luxury hotel is the JW Marriott because it has a wonderful Spa. Visit SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular and enjoy special events for little ones, including: Guests also can create Halloween and sea-themed arts and crafts at any of the fun workshops and spooky stations.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Free stays count toward elite qualification at Sheratons

In this economy, it is not easy to qualify for elite status at hotels considering that Marriott Hotels require 75 nights a year to remain Platinum Elite, whereas Starwood require 50 nights to attain Platinum. Many travelers wanting elite status, have to choose one loyalty program. I’m choosing to remain loyal to Starwood because they have been good to me with upgrades to suites. This new initiative by SPG will make it easy to qualify for Elite status.
Starwood (HOT) announces Q3 earnings on the 27th of October and I think that they will beat expectations despite the bad economy because loyalty is the name of the hotel game.
As a Platinum Elite member, you get room upgrades upon check-in at Marriott Brands but suites are excluded. MR-Logo_WTagUpgrades are not available at Marriott Vacation Club, and upgrades from studio to one- or two-bedrooms are not guaranteed at Residence Inn® and TownePlace Suites®.
You get Hyatt elite Diamond status after 25 eligible stays or 50 nights. It does get you a free suite upgrade at the time of reservation four times annually on paid room nights.
Amazing news! Starwood brands are taking the lead again! Award stays now count toward elite status. All of your SPG Award stays and eligible nights will earn credit toward elite status qualification.
when you redeem Starpoints  for Free Night Awards and Cash & Points Awards, those stays will help you earn Gold or Platinum elite status each year. Plus, stays using Free Night Awards earned during promotions count as well.
Any other type of SPG Award or Voucher stays, such as Air Canada's Aeroplan awards, etc., will not count toward elite status. If I redeem Starpoints for five free nights, the Fifth Night Free benefit also counts towards my elite status qualification That’s a deal upon a deal ! The only time that you don’t get elite nights are when you give your points to someone else. If you decide to gift an SPG Award stay or night to someone else , the receiver will be given the stay credit toward elite status qualification.
ihg brands
The highest Elite level at ichHotels Holiday Inn’s Priority Club is reached if you stay 50 or more nights or earn 60,000 points per calendar year: This gets you complimentary room upgrades (subject to availability) at all the Intercontinental brands. IHG was voted ‘Best Elite-Level Program’ at the 20th Annual Freddie Awards.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alas, United points expire for frequent fliers

We knew it was coming but we have been dreading it!

Continental Airlines frequent flier miles will expire after 18 months in accounts without activity, though members will be able to avoid this without flying or using the miles. I don’t want to take the risk of engaging in an activity that may prevent miles from expiring. Everyone will be using their miles so awards will be difficult to obtain.united_continental_logo_det

Continental Airlines frequent fliers have been feeling like United has been treating them like 2nd class passengers now that Continental's merger with United Airlines has gone through.

Recently, many frequent fliers from Continentals main hub have noticed the deterioration of service and elite benefits. United has been heaping on the fees, cutting meal service and ticket prices have gone up now that they have less completion. The United fee for upgrading to a better seat increased, and chances of a free upgrade have diminished.

They are calling the Global Entry (line skipping) Program a new perk, but passengers can apply for Clear or Global Entry, even if they are not a United Frequent flyer member. -Though elite members of the MileagePlus program can apply for the benefit without paying the $100 application fee. Clear speeds you through airport security for a fee of $179 unlimited usage per year, and you can add a household member for just $50.

The new combined, frequent flier program will have 4 tiers:- Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum.

A benefit that OnePass elites have strived for, has been added to the new MileagePlus. It gives elite status benefits to spouses or partners of passengers who accumulate a million frequent-flier miles.

Your Lifetime Flight Mile balance counts towards your Million Miler status: Earn at least one million lifetime flight miles and your Elite status will never fall below our Silver Elite level. Trouble is that silver does not really get you and your spouse many perks, sure you get baggage but my credit card covers free bags. I was happy to attain this but there is no chance of an upgrade with Silver! The best is if you earn four million miles, you will always be Presidential Platinum Elite but that is not going to happen now that flying has become more unpleasant.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Adult play ground on the Strip is a must-see resort destination

There’s something surreal about sitting on the terrace with gondolas going by and a fake sky above with clouds painted on the bright blue ceiling. I feel like I’m on a stage and expect to see Mary Poppins go by. It’s an experience that puts a smile on everyone in this amazing place. We posed for photos with the life sized blue Man statues at the Venetian Hotel and went to see the live Blue Man Group act out their theatrical performance of music, comedy and multimedia. We danced and ate Sushi at the Tao nightclub after enjoying a sunset view from the rooftop pool.Venetian-big

Through December 31, 2011, Priority Club® Rewards members can earn 500 points for every night stayed, up to 20,000 points. Plus, stay at two IHG brands to double, three brands to triple, and four or more brands to quadruple your points, up to 80,000 points.*
Use the new Holiday Inn Express iPhone app to book or via any IHG channels (brand websites or call centers) by October 31 to become eligible for the 25,000 bonus points. Guests who book in any other way, including directly with The Venetian or The Palazzo, will be ineligible. This is because you may be able to get a lower rate if you don’t book this “Bonus Points Package”. I know that business travelers often book the Holiday inn rates that give you extra points if their company is footing the bill but Las Vegas is a place visited by vacationers preferring the lowest rate, I did stay at the Venetian while on a conference all inclusive rate and return to relax because the Palazzo hotel has such a great spa.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good deal and the IHG websites usually do bring up the best rates.The best advice is to check all the rates on the day that you make your reservation and book the Best Flexible Rate so that you can change the reservation if a lower rate comes up. Expedia often has low Flash sale rates and often you can even earn hotel program points if you like to stay loyal to a brand. Room rates range from $115 in value season to $199 on peak weekends depending on date selected. Minimum two-night stay required. There is also a Nightly resort fee of $20.
you'll earn 25,000 bonus Priority Club if you register and stay four or more nights at The Venetian or The PalazzoLas Vegas by October 31, 2011 to use for stays before December 15, 2011. They are  InterContinental Alliance ResortsTM,  The points are in addition to base points you already earn. That’s enough points for at least one free night during a future stay at many IHG hotels, including Holiday Inn® and Holiday Inn Express® hotels worldwide.

The  Venetian is the world’s largest five-diamond, four-star resort and all the accommodations are suites so you don’t have to rely on getting a Platinum elite Priority Club upgrade. All Ambassador benefits apply at The Venetian and The Palazzo Resorts with the exception of the complimentary daily newspaper which is included in the resort fee, as is the internet fee.
The Palatial Palazzo in Las Vegas has the most luxurious Place to be pampered and lounge in the spa hot tub at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. It’s an addictive experience!  There is a rock-climbing wall but I just enjoyed putting my feet up, while sipping tea in the tranquil lounge.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Radisson elites get special rate invitations

I think that the best thing about Radisson Hotels are their Sleep Number beds with air chambers that allow you to adjust the firmness of the mattress to your exact level of comfort with the touch of a button.

For two days only, Radisson’s Club CarlsonSM members and Facebook fans have exclusive access to save up to 35%. Book a stay by September 6, 2011 and radisonenjoy 35% off when you stay at least two or more consecutive nights during specific dates between September 16 and November 26, 2011 at select Radisson or Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM hotels.

I stayed at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge, PA. The Radisson Valley Forge Hotel in King of Prussia is connected to the Convention Center and is located directly across from Valley Forge National Park. Guests at this  hotel enjoy a variety of amenities, including Complimentary Parking, Complimentary Shuttle Service to King of Prussia Mall and three on-site Restaurants. It’s 19 miles from downtown Philadelphia
This offer is Available: September 16 - September 24, October 16 - October 29, November 13 - November 26; Book Rate code: S2G35OFF Average Nightly Rate starting from $141.75 USD

Earn at least 1,000 bonus Gold Points® for each stay when you book online. To become a member, visit

For an Exec room with a large work space and double points you pay about double that rate. I don’t want points that badly and I don’t need to pay for the exec room to get -Complimentary High Speed Internet access because it is usually free for elites.

Elite level starts with Gold then you move up to Silver and the highest tier is Concierge Status – you need -75 nights/30 stays per year to qualify to get Complimentary room upgrades, free continental breakfasts and 75% point bonus on every eligible stay.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Updates to the Hyatt Gold Passport Program

Hyatt Gold Passport sent an email stating that they have “enhanced Elite benefits”. There will be increases plus decreases in award prices at about 40 hotels.

Hyatt Hotel

You now earn five points for every eligible U.S. dollar spent and can redeem points for free nights with no blackout dates. The latest changes to Hyatt's Gold Passport program, include more elite benefits. They even hint at more upgrades. I will keep you posted if this pans out. I know that Hyatt’s like to offer you an upgrade for a fee at the time of booking and some prefer to have this sure upgrade versus waiting for good luck at check in.

Hyatt will no longer accommodate 2:00 p.m. late check out as part of Gold membership (Gold is the lowest tier) so I suppose Gold members have to leave at about noon, like youth hostels require.

Gold Passport Diamond elites will receive the following additional benefits:

  • Late check-out has been extended to 4 pm to offer the same elite check out time that Starwood does. Diamond members may check out as late as 4 p.m. The previous time of 2 p.m. was not really a late check out. (We understand that if they are overbooked they will not be able to accommodate but it does buy them goodwill at times of normal occupancy).
  • Nightly room turn down with towel refresh for Diamond members' rooms but this is standard in the category 4 to 6 hotels (You need 22,000 points for a free night at their highest category 6 hotel)
  • A new welcome amenity offered to Diamond members is a free beverage at Hyatt Place and a $5.00 credit at the Guest Market at Summerfield Suites, or continue to receive 500 bonus points at either brand. Gold Passport Platinum elite level is attained after five stays or 15 nights a year; and Diamond Elite is earned after 25 stays or 50 nights.

Diamond Elite status gets you the best room available upon arrival, but it is excluding suites whereas Marriott and Starwood do offer suite upgrades to their highest elites. I really do not have any interest in a room upgrade that is a few inches larger. It’s just not worth saying thank you for! …Just saying ….. It’s not that I was not I was not well brought up to be polite;- it’s that I appreciate tangible benefits and I unless I am buying the condo, I don’t want to waste my time listening to the receptionist gushing about how lucky I am to have a few extra inches.

Though Diamond does get you a free suite upgrade at the time of reservation four times annually on paid room nights. This is best used if you have a long stay. It has a maximum of 7 nights; but excludes Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Paris, Sydney, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Summerfield Suites and Hyatt Residence Club Resorts

Hyatt is offering a new Credit card. If you’re approved you get two award nights at any Hyatt, anywhere in the world, after making your first purchase with the card

The best Diamond Elite benefit is access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres or daily complimentary full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge

The grapevine has it that Award Price Changes will take place starting in September, award nights at about 20 Hyatt hotels will require fewer points and some hotels will require more points.

So book your free rooms now in case your hotel will be one of the re-categorized Hotels. For Example a Category 1 hotel to a Category 2 hotel, will be an increase in award-night charge from 5,000 points to 8,000 points. Like the Hyatt Place Greensboro changing from a Category 3 hotel to a Category 2, resulting in an award-night price decrease from 12,000 to 8,000 points. In the case of a decrease, you could cancel and rebook.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Earn Points for Hotel stays via Social Media

I had not previously joined Foursquare because I’m not so keen on my colleagues knowing exactly where I am at all times, but I was enticed by the prospect of earning extra points at Sheraton Hotels.       -   ◑‿◐ - I found a way to turn off the Twitter blast and I did not hook up with many people on Foursquare so not everyone will know when I am out of town. Many people are afraid of thief’s breaking in to their homes if they blast out on social media that they are not at home but this can be avoided.

If you link your SPG and foursquare accounts you can earn  250 bonus Starpoints through July 31, . Plus, win Free Resort Night Awards, and more. I tried it and it’s easy to earn bonus hotel points for mobile check-ins when you connect your SPG® account with foursquare or Facebook.

starwoodHotels2I did not want to write about this till I had actually received the points and now I can attest that it does work seamlessly. I have received 250 points for one stay and am waiting for another stay to post the  regular stay points have posted but the 4sq have not yet. Not all SPG hotels are offering this special deal so be sure to check if your hotel is.

In addition to 4sq points, members at the Preferred Guest level earn two Starpoints for every eligible $ spent at over 1000 participating hotels or resorts booked through Starwood Web sites, hotels, call centers and their travel agent or corporate booking tool. Not off the discount travel sites like Travelzoo. Gold Preferred Guest® and Platinum elite Preferred Guest® members earn three Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent under the same booking criteria. Even without a stay, all members may earn Starpoints for eligible spend on food and beverage at participating hotels or resorts.

You earn the 250 bonus Starpoints when you check in via 4sq with a confirmed reservation at one of more than 1,000 Starwood hotels and resorts.Get started by signing in to your SPG account and download the cell phone app that uses the foursquareTM application that put the icon on my iPhone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TSA, Don’t mess with Texas

The Texas house of Representatives has taken the initiative before any other State to protect travelers from being groped by the TSA. Below is a picture of a cute baby being harassed demonstrating just how ludicrous it has become.

TSA images were saved and were recognizable. This could have dire consequences.

tsa baby grope

I dislike flying more and more so it is a good thing that we can drive. Discover card is giving a 5% discount on Gas, hotels, movies and theme parks in July.

An elderly woman was asked to remove her adult diaper during a TSA search. Jean Weber filed a complaint with federal authorities over how her 95 year old mother in a wheelchair, was treated at Northwest Florida Regional Airport. When Jean started to cry the Homeland Security Rep said that crying was “suspicious behavior” and triggers an alarm. She was detained and extensively searched while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.

Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search as reported on

Fox26News said that a TSA spokeswoman said that “the agent acted according to procedure”.

Pity that TSA does not display any common sense and thankfully! … Governor Rick Perry does. He is the first to stand up for our rights. His bill to criminalize invasive TSA pat downs despite government threats to shut down the State's airports if the bill passes. The proposed law, sponsored by GOP state Rep. David Simpson and state Sen. Dan Patrick, would make it a felony for security officials to pat down a person's private areas without probable cause.

dont-mess-with-texas1I am not surprised to hear that TSA alarms are triggered by wheelchairs because I experienced this when I was temperately in one myself at NYC airport. Another time I was chosen for a search because I was the only Anglo, harmless looking person in the line at Heathrow. I believe that the security person thought that I was the only person that they were not afraid to search. So TSA feels safer doing the opposite of what their job requires. See my criticism of the TSA pat downs.

EL AL Airline advertise that they are the “most secure airline in the sky to fly to 48 destinations worldwide”.  They are the most targeted airline by more enemies than any other country, yet they don’t target the elderly and toddlers. El Al does not perform invasive searches because they have sniffing dogs and question suspicious travelers. If we give up liberty at the airport …. Where next? Will we be groped at baseball games, shopping malls, cinemas and schools?

A quote by founding father Jefferson is pertinent: “he who is willing to give up his liberty for security, deserves neither”, it is a violation of civil rights if there is no probable cause for search.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Nothing can stop me from flying Lufthansa

The best airport lounge in the world that I have visited is the Lufthansa First class Lounge in Frankfurt. LufthansaI could easily spend a week there in the Spa and eating the exquisite food. HEAVEN mmm…

Lufthansa has great fares to Europe and beyond this summer. Only $348 each way : - USA to Madrid via Germany. You can fly Business Class for as low as $999* (One-way based on round-trip purchase).

Sure I’m afraid of the illness in Germany but these days, illnesses spread globally FAST. E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can make you very sick. I had diarrhea and vomiting at the Marriott hotel in Guam from expired mayonnaise. All I had to eat that day was a fries with mayonnaise and I don’t think that the potatoes chips could have caused it.

The most important thing to beware of when traveling is to not become ill. I lived in Mexico for many years but I never contracted Montezuma's revenge (the colloquial term for traveler's diarrhea contracted by tourists) I always drank bottled water in restaurants and I distilled water at home.


  • Make sure that the waiter opens your drink bottles in front of you so you can hear the pop and know that it has not been filled with tap water.
  • NO ice (It’s just frozen parasites)
  • Don’t eat salad only cooked food.
  • No fruit that you have not opened.(kitchen staff may not have washed hands)

Germany has now admitted that the E.coli outbreak was caused by bean sprouts, after pointing a finger at Spanish cucumber. CDC Investigators have determined that locally grown vegetable sprouts are the cause of the European E. coli Shiga toxin outbreak that has killed 31 people, causing kidney failure.Airbus A380The CDC is monitoring a large outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 (STEC O104:H4) infections ongoing in Germany. The responsible strain shares virulence characteristics with enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC). As of June 6, 2011, case counts confirmed by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute* include 642 patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a type of kidney failure that is associated with E.coli or STEC infections.

An interesting Corporation has developed a way to capture the molecular diagnostics. CEO Jonathon Rothberg said that, “Life Technologies has a new machine that decoded the deadly strain. He said that the strain in Germany was a superbug with 14 different genes that gave it resistance to drugs. Life has developed a custom test (assay) to accurately detect the E. coli bacterium that has affected more than 2,100 worldwide. Shipments of the TaqMan® E. coli 0104 Detection Kit to test foods is a "A qPCR-based assay test is the most accurate method to detect harmful food borne pathogens. A positive result indicates the presence of that particular strain's DNA in the food sample.

I’m going to redeem Elite miles for an upgraded flight award from the Miles & More  Star Alliance airline program.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

AClub Elite status at Sofitel Hotels is not only for A-list guests

Movie stars and VIP’s get free upgrades to the best room at a hotel. If you also want a suite, you should stay loyal to one hotel progam.
I have been upgraded to the Presidential suite at the Marriott Zurich, Marriott Seattle, Sheraton Austin and a few others. Intercontinental hotels and Sofitel hotels seldom upgrade Platinum Elite members to suites but they did upgrade IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn to a $3,000 suite. He won’t be able to afford a room like that again after posting $1 Million bail. According to CNBC, he will get at least $250K a year for life from the IMF now that he has resigned. How do feel about that?... Please hit my comment button at the bottom.

It was a REAL LIFE ACTION CHASE, the kind you normally see on the screen. Strauss-Kahn, who is charged with the sexual attack of a maid at New York's Sofitel hotel has brought about a lot of press. Some are calling for the next IMF Chief to come from a developing Nation, but the USA pays most into the fund and want it abolished or have an American MD. 62-year-old DSK went from luxury at the Sofitel to Rikers Island jail, in a unit that normally houses inmates with contagious diseases because the police think that the Maid has HIV. The French, Jewish IMF MD was arrested while seated in his first-class Air France seat, before the flight took off.

The Sofitel New York is a 30-story midtown Manhattan hotel in limestone, decorated in Paris and New York motifs, located between 5th Ave and 6th Ave advertises rooms priced from $375 to $876 . DSK’s room goes for $3,000 a night but he only paid about $500. I like the Sofitel London St James U.K.. They are a French Chain so most of the Sofitel hotels that I have stayed at are in France and I only stay at a Sofitel if there is no Sheraton, Marriott or Hyatt in the area.

If you like Sofitel hotels you should join their AClub program to collect points for free stays.Your AClub membership upgrades automatically to Silver, Gold or Platinum status as soon as you reach the required number of nights or AClub points. Platinum is the highest Elite status and you attain Plat with a minimum of 60 nights or 25 000 points.

Plat benefits:
  • 100% bonus points
  • Get an exclusive welcome in Sofitel hotels, with a greeting drink and special gift.
  • Guaranteed room availability with 3 days notice
  • Room upgrade at check-in (but availability is not often)
  • Late check-out until 4:00 pm
  • Dedicated Customer Service

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Get closer to Elite Plat upgrades with $39 fares

American Airlines is offering very low travel deals with fares quoted from $39* each way on domestic flights now through Thursday. fly Dallas DFW to Oklahoma city (OKC) for $39.
The deals are to many cities with fares quoted Each way, based on round-trip purchase. Some fares are a little more. For example El Paso To Dallas ( Ft. Worth) is $94*
Fly international from New York Kennedy airport To Manchester, U.K. for only $304* ask Ameriacn Airlines about the restrictions. Book by May 12, 2011, for travel through October 5, 2011, and save.
I also like to check the American Airlines last minute discount airfare offers for each weekend. An example for this weekend is a flight from Waco to DFW for $36
American has also extended their offer to buy miles at a 20% Discount has been extended. AAdvantage members can buy 1,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles for $27.50. Purchase the miles that you may need to reach your flight award and save 20% when you purchase 20,000 miles or more beginning May 1, 2011, through May 31, 2011.
I feel so lucky when I get a free upgrade but it’s not luck it’s the airline taking care of their best passengers. To qualify for AAdvantage elite status membership, you start off with Gold level then go higher to Platinum and attain the highest tier called "AAdvantage Executive Platinum®" the trick is to go straight into Executive Platinum if you are the top tier with another airline AA will match it. To qualify for AAdvantage Executive Platinum status, you have to fly 100 elite-qualifying segments on AA or OneWorld airlines or earn 100,000 qualifying miles or points during the calendar year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Avoid paying baggage fees

The new law that airlines have to refund your baggage fees if they lose your bags are logical… Dah! ...They can’t add insult to injury anymore.
It’s best to just NOT pay the fees in the first place. Get an Airline credit card to avoid paying for your first checked bag if you are not an Elite member.
This year the 2 airlines are integrating the Continental OnePass and United® Mileage Plus® programs but the credit card programs remain separate for the time being. It's like getting married but not trusting your spouse with your finances?
Your first checked bag is free every time you fly on Continental-operated flights when you purchase your tickets with your Continental Airlines Chase Credit Card (a savings of up to $50 per round trip). That's a good reason to use this Card. Earn miles every month + 100 bonus miles.
Use your Continental Airlines Credit or Debit Card to pay your monthly recurring phone and utility bills and earn miles — automatically — every month. Plus, earn 100 bonus miles when you register for this offer by April 30, 2011. Register with Promotion Code: TB3M28
At "Miles for Merchandise", you can use your OnePass miles and your Continental Airlines Credit Card to save up to 50% on everything from electronics and housewares to watches and fitness equipment on the Online catalog. The TravelBank card also gets you extra miles.
Elite members receive priority boarding privileges, priority baggage handling and many other special travel opportunities -- including complimentary upgrades for travel within the U.S. you also get Star Alliance Elite benefits
Or you could just fly SouthWest Airlines, where "bags fly free"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Radisson Hotels new benefits

When I was at the Radisson Blu Hotel in South Africa, I had a busy schedule and appreciated the complimentary Grab & Run breakfast. it's available at all Radisson hotels. As you leave the hotel, grab a cup of coffee, tea or bottled water along with fresh fruit and energy bars, all available in the lobby from 5 a.m. until the restaurant opens. Wish I had, an extra arm to grab an extra apple though.

Raddison Hotels have Advance Purchase Rates - up to 25% off their standard rate at participating hotels.
To enjoy this offer, you must book a stay at least 14 days in advance. Gold Elite is the highest tier at Radisson, to get upgrades. they have changed their name to Club Carlson for this global hotel rewards program.
SPECIAL OFFER for Club CarlsonSM members:
Want a FREE Appetizer or Dessert from Friday's? Join T.G.I.Friday's Give Me More Stripes® V.I.P. Membership program by May 30, 2011. Start earning perks!

  • Earn 1 Stripe for every $1 spent on food & redeem for your choice of 5 different rewards
  • Special offers & coupons
  • Dessert for your birthday
  • Exclusive tastings & more

Radisson has a new collection of benefits including:

Faster free nights starting at 9,000 points at more than 1,000 Carlson hotels worldwide
Redeem points for airline miles, Prepaid Cards, and more
Free Internet for Club Carlson members at Radisson hotels worldwide and Carlson hotels in North America
Join Club Carlson now and start earning free nights.
The Radisson Austin hotel has the best T.G.I. Friday's, is has a beautiful deck where you can sip magaritas while watching the boats go by on the lake.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stay at Hilton and get triple Virgin Flying Club miles

There is nothing quite like the invigorating energy in NYC in the spring! I treat myself to Luxury at the St. Regis or the The Waldorf. The Waldorf Astoria is the embodiment of luxury and splendor with art-deco touches that make me imagine what it looked like when the guests patronized the grand hotel in the 1920s. You can use HHhonors points to stay at this magnificent establishment or pay Sale rates for Suites from $319 (request Plan Code SPCST in order to book). It is in walking distance of Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and shopping on Fifth Avenue. If you book a stay at any one of over 3,800 participating hotels from the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands between April 1 and June 30, 2011, you can get triple Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. All you need to do is register before your stay. If you become a Hilton HHonors member, you’ll be able to add to your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles or many other airline frequent flyer programs. All the HHonors points you earn with Hilton Worldwide can be transferred into your Virgin or other Airline account but the most cost effective use of the points is to use it for stays.
You only have 1 day left to get up to a 100% bonus when you buy USAirways Dividend miles. Though I must point out that miles purchased or earned do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred elite status. With the Dividend Miles program, Preferred members get everything smart travelers love. They are a Star Alliance member and Chairman's Preferred elite level is the highest to aim for to get upgrades. You need a steep 100'000 Preferred-qualifying miles for Chairman's level.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Points earning Boutique hotels

If you have not been able to accumulate enough nights to make elite with your preferred hotel chain, you may want to try a different kind of loyalty program. Many hotel loyalty programs give you a second year at the same elite level even if you don’t quite make the number of nights to qualify but it is also worth trying this new program.
It is a U.S. based hotel loyalty program , called Stash Hotel Rewards, started in May last year and has about 90 affiliated hotels mainly in cities like Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC, Seattle and Washington. The hotels include spas and resorts and are all properties with ratings of three stars and above. Membership is complimentary as it is with most loyalty programs.
I’m not so keen on Boutique hotels because I like to know what to expect for a Category or Star level.
But brands are not sticking to their core offerings anymore. Previously one could count on getting standard services like ; A/C, room-service, a bath-tub, swimming pool and a health club at a 4 star and up hotel. However, now days, brands are not true to their brands so you have to waste time to research each hotel before booking. I used to like staying at Marriott hotels because I knew the layout of the room and could feel at home because every room was the same. The bathroom with a tub is always to the side of the passageway, there was a full length mirror, coffee machine, hairdryer and mini bar fridge.
Boutique hotels are so fashionable that this year you can earn & redeem Marriott Rewards points at new hotel brands around the globe, like EDITIONSM, Autograph® and, The Ritz-Carlton®.
Edition hotels are luxury boutique hotels with attitude and style. Each distinctive property in places like Waikiki, Istanbul and Mexico City. Istanbul has a debut offer for € 265 per night for a room.
The Stash program allows travelers to earn points at a variety of hotels without limiting you to one chain. You earn , five points for every dollar spent at participating hotels:

Stash have a deal till July 2011 if you stay at Affinia Hotels in New York and Chicago: Members who are first time guests of Affinia properties receive 2,000 bonus points and another promotion is to earn 2k points at Lenox Hotel At On The Ave in NYC you get an upgrade to the next best available room category till the end of April, Valid when booking any room type.
Larkspur Hotels are 23 hotels within 3 distinct brands that you can earn stash point at and get a free night at any of their 9 hotels if you pay for 2 nights.
We drove along the California coast and had a pleasurable stop at Larkspurs Casa Munras, in Monterey, CA. I love the hacienda décor and fireplace-adorned rooms

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Continental Airlines United Mileathon is back

If you want to get rid of your CO miles, now that they will start to expire, you have till March 1st to bid to use your miles for a Crested Butte ski package at the OnePass Online Auction.
Remember to register for the new Continental Mileathon by the end of Feb. 2011. You'll earn credits every time you complete qualifying activities at till April 30, 2011.* Activities include booking flights, hotel stays, car rentals and more at Plus, at the end of the promotion, the top credit-earner in each OnePass category will also receive a Grand Reward — a dream vacation for two Start accruing miles at the beginning of Feb because credit accrual begins at the date you register (it is not retroactive). They also have an offer to earn double miles flying between some Mexican Cities till May 31, 2011
If you join Presidents Club lounges to relax at the 24 airport Clubrooms, -plus hundreds of affiliated lounges worldwide, You will earn 20 Mileathon credits.
I have been a Presidents Club member for many years and I like the Complimentary high-speed wireless internet access but don’t need it anymore. I do wish that they have Computers to use like they have at many of the Delta Sky Club Crown lounges. I also like the American Admirals Club at the executive center at DFW Airport terminal c near gate 19. It has an executive centre with 21-individual work desks and computers offering internet service. I suggested it to a stranded friend traveling for Super Bowl XLV, to seek it out. Some of the United Red Carpet Lounge do have computers, so that is an advantage of the CO UA merger.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Southwest Airlines has a 3 day sale

Go to and type in your city to find out if you can find a good fare but here is a sample - From Austin:

  • To Albuquerque for as low as $129 one-way
  • To Amarillo for as low as $94 one-way
  • To Birmingham for as low as $147 one-way
  • To Burbank for as low as $164 one-way
  • To Chicago for as low as $141 one-way

Available only on or 14-day advance purchase required. Purchase by January 27, 2011, and travel through May 21, 2011. Blackout Dates do apply: February 17, February 21, and February 26and travel is valid every day except Fridays & Sundays

Now that Continental has moved to Chicago, I found that it is always cheaper to fly Southwest to Chicago from Houston ($240 round trip) Bags fly free on LUV. The service is the same now that CO does not serve food anymore. Elite upgrades are more difficult to get due to CO selling extra leg-room.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fake ice at the Westin is better than the real stuff

After suffering through the snow in Europe, I managed to escape to a warm countryside retreat.

I adore the grand manner of doing things in Texas. The Westin has a fake-ice rink where you can skate without getting a red, frozen nose, because there is no real ice involved. I was able to tan at the landscaped pool, next to the ice rink, with a serene view of the rolling hills. They really do coddle you at the Westin La Cantera Resort, San Antonio. Colorful Mexican blankets are draped over the patio chairs and if you still think that the 75 degree (25C) weather is cool, they have outdoor heaters and a fire pit to enjoy a peaceful cocktail at sunset. This is a splendid way to end the day after a pampering visit to the Castle Rock Health Club & Spa or 36 holes of golf. Children have fun at the Westin Kids Club or at Six Flags Park, located just down the road from the resort by complimentary shuttle bus.
There is no internet access at the Club Lounge, but I was able to use my iPad at the Starbucks and in the Grand Lobby. In-room high speed internet access is free for SPG Platinum members, though not at the business center.
You can still book a room this weekend, including two 45-minute skate sessions with skate rentals, for stays through January 8, 2011 at rates from $219. Mention rate plan FROST when making your reservation. This Rink is temporary but you can find several real, permanent ice rinks at shopping malls throughout Texas.