Monthly Archives

February 2016

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What Are Airport Lounges (And How Can I Access Them)?

Hi Travel Junkies,

Remember that time your plane was delayed, your gate was overflowing with annoying travelers, and you sat on the ground contemplating how many Auntie Anne’s pretzels it would take to be happy again?  

Yeah, I’ve been there. (The answer is 4. It takes 4 soft pretzels to feel whole again)

The worst part is, you probably walked by a few of those mysterious airport lounges and wondered what it would be like to be a part of the “in-crowd” (and if they hand out free soft pretzels inside).  

Well, today is your day.

Today, I’m going to give you the rundown of how airport lounges work.

  • What are they?  
  • Why are they awesome?  
  • How can you gain access?  
  • And do they actually have soft pretzels inside?

Let’s start with the basics.

 

What Are Airport Lounges?

Put simply, airline lounges are very comfortable places to spend time in an airport.

Most of them feel a little bit like libraries. They’re usually quiet, filed with tons of comfortable seats and desks, and have free Wi-Fi.

Admirals Club - London Heathrow

Admirals Club – London Heathrow

Oh, and one more thing.

Almost all of them have a bar. Which typically has complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails.

Iberia Lounge - Madrid

Iberia Lounge – Madrid

More on that in a bit.

Let’s take a look a few of the other fantastic amenities offered by airport lounges.

Continue Reading

5 Thoughts, Blog

5 Thoughts: Barcelona

I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona for a few days on a trip to the Iberian Peninsula in January 2016.

(Here’s how I was able to do it for next to nothing using points/miles)

BarcelonaIG

Here are 5 thoughts I had after my trip:

 

1) Barcelona is Not the “Spain” That You Pictured

Yes, Barcelona is a City within the Kingdom of Spain.

But spend more than 10 minutes there and you’ll realize that Barcelona is far different from the rest of the country, and from what most people imagine “Spain” to look and feel like.

Barcelona2

Barcelona isn’t the flamenco dancing, bull fighting, colorful/vibrant culture that you’ll find in other parts of the country (although you can find touristy versions of these everywhere). Continue Reading

Blog

How I Did It: A Long Weekend in Central Europe for Next to Nothing

Hi Travel Junkies,

I’m headed to Europe again, this time on a first-class flight to Prague and Vienna for the long weekend.

I’ll also be flying home in first class, as well as staying in some pretty amazing hotels while over here.

And I did it all for next to nothing, thanks to the wonderful world of points/miles.

Here’s how I did it.

Columbus to Prague – First Class for 62,500 American Airlines Miles and $196.00

Columbus to Prague

Typically, when I travel to Europe during the winter months I take advantage of American Airlines off-peak economy rate of 20,000 miles each way. But first class availability was just too good to pass up in this case.

(Note: American has made a few changes to their off-peak awards starting on March 22, 2016. Check out their new award chart for more details)

This price of this first class seat is also about to jump to 85,000 AA miles each way, making this a no-brainer for me.

And finally, we are also only going to be in Europe for ~4 days on this trip. So getting a good night’s sleep on the way there is crucial.

I originally booked business class flights for my wife and I but the timing and route was just plain awful. They were just 50,000 AA miles and ~$100 each.

The business class flights also would have been on one of American Airlines’ older 777 planes, which looks like this:

Old AA 777 Business Class Continue Reading

Blog

How to Use Shopping Portals to Boost Your Mileage Earnings

Shopping Portals

When something is too good to be true, it scares me.

(Ironic coming from a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time convincing people that traveling can be done for next to nothing)

So when I first heard about shopping portals I remember thinking, “there’s no way clicking through a portal could be that beneficial, can it really be that easy?”

The answer is: YES.

At the foundation of award travel is maximizing points/miles on every dollar you spend, and using shopping portals is one of the simplest ways to earn additional points/miles for money you are already spending.

Today, I’m going to show you that shopping portals are not too good to be true.

I’m going to walk through what they are, how they work, and where you can find them. By the end of today’s post shopping portals will be like that rich uncle who slides money in your wallet when you’re not looking (wait, I want an uncle like that).

 

What are shopping portals and how do they work?

Okay, let’s start from the top. What exactly is a shopping portal?

A shopping portal is a third-party website that offers you an incentive for shopping at various retailers through their portal.

When you shop through their portal they receive a small commission on any purchase you make and give you points or miles as a reward.

Think of it like your friend buying you a beer in exchange for using their Uber code. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Like I mentioned earlier, I am pretty skeptical of these sorts of arrangements without knowing why it benefits each person involved. So let’s take a look at what everyone has to gain here.

  • You receive points/miles for shopping through the portal
  • The retailer gets additional business when you buy something
  • The airline gets revenue from selling points/miles to the portal
  • The portal receives a cut from the retailer from what you purchased

Boom. Everyone’s happy.

 

How to use a shopping portal

Sounds great, so how do you use these glorious shopping portals?

I’m glad you asked.

All you need to do to take advantage of shopping portals is to start any online shopping search at the airline shopping portal of your choice.

(Google “X Airline Shopping Portal” to find them)

You’ll need to create an account on your first visit so the portal knows where to credit the points. This should take no longer than 60 seconds.

Then simply find the retailer that you would like to shop with, click the link to redirect to their site, and complete the purchase as you normally would. The portal will track your purchase and award you points/miles based on the amount you spend.

Easy, right? Let’s review.

  1. Go to the shopping portal of your choice
  2. Create an account on the portal and link it with your airline loyalty account
  3. Use the portal to find the retailer and product you want and complete your purchase through the portal link that pops up

Okay, now let’s take a look at a few major airline shopping portals:

 

Southwest Airlines: Rapid Rewards Shopping

Southwest RR Shopping

Southwest has a straightforward and easy-to-use shopping portal. From the homepage, simply login (or enroll if this is your first time) and enter your Rapid Rewards information to get started.

How it works: Continue Reading