Some travel tips you must know and some you probably already know.

Some of these things are a little redundant with travel packing list post.

Install the travel apps. I use TripIt, Hopper, and a bunch of different airline apps. I’ve been told that Synchronize, Currency, and Speak&Translate are also quite useful. I also have Uber and Lyft. Different places will have other taxi apps e.g. Grab Taxi is Singapore’s best taxi app. Just check and install them before you go. I can tell you that Uber works in France and Australia.

Download streaming content into your phone or tablet. Many places in the world now, including planes have wifi, but you’ll be surprised how many places don’t have them. I recommend if you’re using Netflix or whatever you’re using, download whatever your entertainment is just in case so you’re not too bored on a plane or airport or somewhere else.

Download offline maps. Google maps allows you to download offline maps of wherever you’re going onto your phone. Just in case you don’t have good service where you go, I recommend downloading the maps.

Find a good phone carrier. I think T-Mobile is probably the best carrier for travel considering the unlimited (slow) data in almost any country you go to. I also never need to change my number when visiting other countries. One trick my wife and I use is that we tether our phones to each other so that we can make regular phone calls for free while moving.

Carry a travel adapter. This is redundant with my travel packing list. Most plugs on airplanes are universal and European adapters tend to stay in much better than U.S prongs.

Drink lots of liquids on the airplane. It’s very easy to get dehydrated on planes. It’s tempting to drink alcohol when it’s free, but I don’t drink alcohol often on planes and wouldn’t suggest it. Staying hydrated might help get over jet lag as well.

Be careful with the local water. Talking about you staying hydrated, find out if the local water is drinkable. Even if the local water is drinkable, it may not taste good or it might be safe enough for locals, but not you. You might consider buying bottled water. You might also consider boiling the local water if you have a kettle in your hotel room. Sometimes, I drink boiled water when I run out of bottled water and the room’s mini bar is out.

Take down your hotel address. I love Google maps. Put your hotel address in your locations or favorites. Also take down the room number and put it in notes or something.

Beware of Free Public WIFI. You’re not sure who’s snooping on wifi. You might want to avoid using it or just using it for unimportant things like directions and stuff. You don’t know how safe it is. Consider using a VPN for surfing. It’ll slow you down, but might be more secure. I have lifetime subscriptions with VPNSecure.me and KeepSolid.

Subscribe to a VPN service. That’s one way to be able to view some of the content you’re used to watching at home, be it YouTube TV or something else.

Alert Your Bank and Credit Card Company of Your Travel Plans. This can help you avoid some embarrassment in some places. You don’t want to be on hold with your bank while far away.

Withdraw money from ATMs – Do not exchange currency at counters. Exchange currency counters, especially at airports are a total ripoff! I use ATMs at airports all the time though. First Republic bank reimburses all of my ATM fees and seems to give me the best rates.

Get a credit card without exchange / foreign transaction fees. Those exchange/foreign transaction fees could be quite expensive! There are plenty of credit cards out there now without the fees and that also give you some great travel rewards. Consider those. There might be an annual fee, but some annual fees are worth it. Some banks will waive or credit annual fees if you just spend some more money.

Spend money in their currency if your credit card does not have exchange fees. If they ask what currency you want to pay in, always pay in their currency if you have one of those no-fee credit cards. The rates are always better.

Use the hotel safe if possible. Prior to doing so though, check if the administrative code has been changed on the safe. You can find some videos on how to do that on YouTube, like in the one below.

Use the “Do Not Disturb” door hanger if there’s a physical one. Some now have a button for you to press so it may not make a difference. The reason I do is because first off, I don’t want to be disturbed when I’m in the room. Secondly, it’s easier for someone to think the room is there’s if all doors look alike. If yours has the door hanger, they’ll know the room isn’t there’s unless they used it also. The downside of this is that you will need to remove it if you want the room cleaned. Some hotels will give you more points if you don’t have the room cleaned. I don’t want people seeing my things so I often will leave the door hanger on the door and skip the cleaning service regardless of whether or not I get the additional points.

Have a backup! Keep some cash, identification (or copy of it), and a credit card with your luggage. Of course, keep some with you also.

Keep medication/contacts/toiletries on you! If you take any regular medication, always keep some in your carry-on, backpack, purse, or whatever you carry with you in case your luggage is lost. A set of extra contact lenses would help as well. A comb, toothpaste and toothbrush can come in handy in airport/airplane bathrooms. Some airlines are nice enough to provide you these things. Others may only do it in first class. I also like to have earplugs that I sometimes put under my headset.

Bring Clothes, just in case – Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with lost luggage, but it never hurts to be prepared. I usually keep a shirt, pair of socks, and underwear in a ziplock bag in my backpack just in case.

Use your downtime. You can check into your hotel room well in advance nowadays with most hotels. I usually have Uber open immediately after landing. If you’re traveling for business, you can do your expense reports while waiting for a flight or in an Uber back to the hotel. It beats having to look for all of your receipts. I usually snap a photo immediately after getting it and just throw it away.

Carry a water filter bottle. I often bring my Brita bottle. If you’re not drinking bottled water, you can boil water and drink it as is. I like to use the Brita bottle because I always feel it makes my water taste a little better. Also with a straw, I drink way more water for some reason.

Keep some hand sanitizer with you! Considering that there are germs everywhere and that there’s a nasty Coronavirus around, carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and spray it or rub some regularly. I dry out my hands every once in a while, but I fear getting sick on a trip more than anything!

Steal hotel laundry bags – for division of clean and dirty clothes, they come pretty handy. If I didn’t use some clothes, I just leave them in the bottom of the suitcase and then just use the bag on top of it and throw the dirty clothes on top of that. That way, when you get home, you could just throw the dirty clothes right into the washer and put the clean clothes away.

Steal the hotel shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc, but only if it’s good quality and you’re going to multiple cities. You never know if the hotel in the next city will have comparable ones unless you’re staying at the same hotels all the time.

What are your tips? Please share in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

My travel packing checklist

I wrote this list mainly for myself, but thought maybe others could benefit from this. No matter how much experience you have traveling, I think you’ll always run into something you forget. Hopefully this list can help you minimize those things and allow you to enjoy your trip more rather than you needing to get out and get something because of an emergency.

Medicine – obvious #1 on my list. It’s not always easy to get medications, especially in foreign countries. Bring the ones you need – anything that you’re prescribed. For me, luckily, I don’t take any prescription medicines except for Montelukast (Singulair) if I have an allergy. I guess you can’t predict allergies. For that reason, I carry Loratadine (Claritin) as well. At my last doctor’s visit, he asked me to try Zyrtec instead of the combination of the two, so I will do that next time. Aside from the allergy medications, I would recommend some of the common ones. These include Tylenol or Ibuprofen, NyQuil, etc. If you need pills for motion sickness, sleep aid, caffeine, etc., you probably want to bring some of those as well. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to buy medications abroad. Some over the counter medications in the US are not sold over the counter in other countries. I was shocked to hear that Ibuprofen was considered a strong medication in another country. I also carry stomach medication just in case I eat something bad. I use the Japanese one pictured below. If you have asthma, even if you haven’t had an attack in a long time, be sure to keep an inhaler and if you use a nasal rinse, you might want to bring a bottle and some salt packets. I usually just mix mine with cold bottled water, but most hotels have water kettles to boil water.

Glasses/contacts – I recommend having an extra set of each just in case. What can you do if you can’t see?

Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, maybe a small bottle of mouthwash. Unless you’re staying in Asia, your hotel will not likely have these available for you. They may have some available for sale, but I like to carry my own.

Charging cables – you don’t want to be desperate without a cable. Do whatever you can to avoid paying the tourist price for a crappy cable. In Las Vegas, they were trying to sell generic iPhone cables for $40! Bring your own cable. I like Anker cables, but will carry super cheap cables I get off Amazon as spares as I lose cables pretty often. I also have couple of cables that charge both, my watch and phone.

Nail clipper – I cut my nails almost every week and I’ve bought countless nail clippers abroad. I think it’s good to keep one with you just in case.

Shaving Razors – I’ve also bought many of these abroad. If you’re staying in Asia, most hotels will probably provide you some disposable ones. I would recommend that you have at least one set with you.

Noise-cancelling Headphones – Bose QC35II – I don’t travel without them. I turn them on while I’m on a plane even if I’m not listening to anything just to cancel out the noise. Like a friend said, “They’re expensive, but they’re worth it.”

Humidifier – I keep a little mini humidifier with me when I travel because hotels don’t usually have them. This one works great for me.

Travel power adapter – I keep one of these even if I’m traveling domestically. I recommend you get one of those that has usb charging. I use mine for a night light and usb charging. Additionally, most plugs on airplanes are universal and they tend to stay in much better than standard U.S prongs. The one I use is this one.

Shoes/Slippers – If I’m traveling for work, I always keep a pair of sneakers in the luggage or the dress shoes in the luggage if I’m not heading for business the same day. Always have a set of sneakers or slippers just to be comfortable. I might also bring a pair of flip flops if I plan on swimming.

Extra underwear/socks – I always bring a couple of extra just in case there’s a flight delay or you get dirty for some reason, etc.

Workout clothes/Bathing suit – if you know that where you’re going will have a gym/pool, you should bring a set even if you don’t think you’ll have time to use the facilities. Many times, I’ve gone and been up at 5 am wondering what I should do. The gym is a great way to help you get over jet-lag.

WiFi hotspot – I have one of these so that I can share WiFi among my multiple devices – laptop/iPhone/iPad, but it’s becoming less and less necessary. United airplanes allow you to switch devices as you wish.

First aid kit – if you’re going to be outdoors and not staying at a nice hotel, bringing a first-aid kid with you. Your first aid kit should have things like alcohol, Neosporin, itch cream, bandages, etc.

Portable battery – I don’t usually need/use it, but I carry a portable battery with me most of the time just in case. If you get one, get one that can charge with multiple interfaces – micro-USB and iPhone if you can find it. I use this one. It’s a bit heavy, but it has a high capacity and it charges very quickly.

Laundry detergent – I’m pretty cheap, so I almost never use the hotel laundry service. If I’m staying for more than a week or so, I would look for a laundromat and do the laundry myself if laundry machines are not available in the hotel. If they are, all the better. For this reason, I usually keep a couple of detergent pods in my suitcase as well.

Hope this helps! Please tell me about some of the things you pack in the comments. 🙂

Trip to China … what I learned, what to expect, what to do.

China was a wonderful trip and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I wasn’t introduced to much that was unexpected – at least not at the level at which people who I’ve talked to have overly exaggerated about. It could have been due to the protection of the tour guides or what people have told me to watch out for, but seems to me that Beijing and Shanghai are just regular cities, differing very little from San Francisco. Well, they’re unique in their own ways, but the “culture shock” that people have talked about, isn’t really didn’t hit me. Well, this is the list of the expected:

  1. Don’t drink tap water
  2. Toilets could be just a hole in the ground with a lid. (Squatting toilets)
  3. Some toilets don’t have toilet paper – bring your own.
  4. Traffic is pretty crazy – rules are different.
    That’s about it. I think the rest is pretty much the same.

So what was unexpected? If you go on a tour, it’s likely that the service you get anywhere you go, is much better than that in the United States. Of course you pay for what you get, but I assure you that service in China is among the best in the world – maybe not the way they speak, but the way they act for sure. There were times where I felt disrespected, but those are only because I had based them on American values. Pushing and shoving, spitting on the sidewalk (I do it too by the way), and much of the way people say things in China can be offensive to Americans. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and that it’s just the way you see things. You choose your point of view and will be offended only when you choose to. It’s just a different culture. I bought an apple pear for 2.5 Yuan. For the 2.5 Yuan, the lady peeled it for me. In the States, I don’t ever see this happening. 2.5 Yuan is currently about $0.30 USD. You can’t buy an apple pear for $0.30 and it’s not likely that you can buy one peeled for you and ready to eat, for $3.00. When buying a belt in a store in Guangzhou, I talked to the salesperson for twenty minutes before deciding on the belt I wanted and even after that, I had him agree to adjust the belt size for me. Total cost for the belt was 29 Yuan. In American dollars, it’s less than $4.00. Another thing is that I haven’t heard very many “thanks” after purchases. I think it’s just another example of the Chinese “show me, don’t tell me” culture.

What did I learn? Well, I was told a lot (kind of like lecture in class). What did I learn due to my own curiosity? I learned that little kids instead of using diapers, have pants with holes in them – the just change pants. I learned that some people here are not nearly as fortunate as we are in the States. Well, I already knew that, but had a massage today and talking to the lovely young lady that gave it to me, I learned that she had just a high school education (maybe just junior high) and that she had no chance to go to college because she had two other sisters that she had to take care of in one way or another that wasn’t clear to me. Sounded very sad and I was thinking about what I could do to help her and give her some opportunity. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask questions that might be too personal and was afraid to take responsibility for any promises I could make. I just left her a bigger than recommended tip. Her job is very hard although she doesn’t have to do it much. It’s usage of a lot of energy and is very damaging on her fingers.

Some advice for those that will be visiting China:

  1. Try squatting on a western style toilet seat (just put your feet up on the seat and try using the toilet that way and get the experience).
  2. Bring your own water, buy bottled water, or boil before drinking – never drink tap water.
  3. Bring your vitamins. Bring your medicine. Bring stomach medicine. Bring mouthwash.
  4. Always have extra toilet paper or tissues.
  5. Check the foreign exchange rate before exchanging currencies. Do not exchange it with people from the street (don’t want counterfeit money) – be sure to do it in a hotel or a bank or just withdraw money from an ATM.
  6. Don’t give money to beggars. The people in the country that work hard deserve more for working. Also, if you give to beggars, you might see a swarm of them come after you after you give to one.
  7. You don’t have to tip in most cases – if you follow a tour, it’s likely that the tip was already included in your meal. You may want to ask your guide before tipping. I like tipping though. In the States, you’d pay a lot more in tips. I think that people in China deserve a lot more also. By their standards, I over tip them by a lot.
  8. Always bargain when purchasing any goods on the street. Also, there are many little stands that sell the same stuff. It might be good to do comparison-shopping. Here’s my template for bargaining:
    a. Buyer: How much?
    b. Seller: Some number
    c. Buyer: (No matter how reasonable) That much!?
    d. Seller: Yes.
    e. Buyer: I want cheaper.
    f. Seller: How much are you willing to pay?
    g. Buyer: How much lower can you go?
    h. And from here, you decide on how you can play. You may want to ask for quantity discounts, etc. As a rule of thumb, I would shoot for 1/4 to 3/4 the amount originally stated. Use your common sense of course. If you’d shopped around and someone offers something to you for less than you’d paid before, it’s not likely you’d get a discount. Also, if it’s a really cheap item like a bottle of water for 3 Yuan, it’s not likely you’ll get a discount either.
  9. Buy stuff away from the tourist areas and places where the locals shop also. You’ll get a better deal that way.
  10. Don’t buy too much if you will be flying in China domestically. There’s a fee for going over a certain weight limit when carrying cargo. Buy most of what you want at your last stop in China.
  11. Bring your 240-110 volt converter if you have one. If not, make sure that the one you borrow from the hotel is a real converter – it should be heavy. You don’t want to blow out any of your devices.
  12. Bring extra batteries and a camera with a flash. 400mm film or a digital camera was recommended to me. Bring a camcorder if you have one.
  13. Don’t bring too much clothing. One or two sets of warm clothing should suffice. (So that you have a smaller load to carry). You could buy more warm clothing on the street should you need it. It’s much cheaper to buy in China than anywhere in the States.
  14. Try to learn as much Mandarin as you can. That’s China’s national language.
  15. Work out and get in shape. Walking the Great Wall and up the mountains in Guilin is quite exhausting.
  16. Buy foot massages whenever you can. You probably won’t get them anywhere else in the world for a similar price. It’s well worth it. (Also remember to tip)

I think that the best way to learn is this. Teach your children their history and let them take a tour of the place of where it happened. Of course, you’ll have to have a good tour guide that knows the history. We were immensely blessed with having accomplished tour guides that were courteous and easy to understand.

We had a wonderful tour guide by the name of Lisa Lee. We had initially met on bad terms however. At the time we arrived at the airport, there was no one there to pick us up! There were 18 of us in the group and it turned out that we had waited 3 hours before anyone had arrived to greet us! What the heck did we do for the 3 hours? Not surprisingly, the first stage was obviously shock. Interestingly (and luckily), we’d all found each other (the rest of the group of tourists). Then again, we would’ve all found each other anyways because until the next plane arrived, we were practically the only ones in the airport! Some of us wondered if we’d been had – if this tour was really just a scam. I don’t think any of us had ever bothered to check with any of the hotels to see if reservations had ever really been made. The next thing we did was try contacting them. Funny thing was, their phone number was changed and that they were no longer at that number. To keep the story short, we probably didn’t know until an hour and a half later whether or not someone was really coming (or not!). A lot of things were going through our minds as we waited. Whether we should take a taxi to the hotel and whether or not the touring company would pay for the ride, what we were going to do if they didn’t show up – there’s a lot that goes through just one person’s mind when puzzled; just imagine 18 minds. Meeting Lisa was an immediate relief. Her enthusiasm and friendliness easily overcame all barriers that I may have put up and she had instantly left me a good impression. The following days had only strengthened this notion, as I was extremely impressed with her knowledge of Beijing. She explained a lot of the tour sites and the events that occurred there. With over 5000 years of Chinese history and over 3000 years of written Chinese history, you can imagine there’s quite a lot to talk about. I think that my lack of vocabulary really limits the amount of good things I can say about her. She really took care of us as to talking about how China differs from more developed countries. She also brought us to the more developed areas. For instance, she told us which restrooms to use – showing us where the cleaner ones were. She protected us from the locals – not to say that the locals are bad, but she made us aware of what could happen. She told us to watch our purses and wallets at least twice before entering WongFuJing. She told us to avoid any political talk before entering the Forbidden City. Furthermore, her mastery of the English language was also impressive. I did not expect anyone to speak English at her level.

In the 2 days, we’ve visited the monumental sites of Beijing and have the pictures to prove it. First was the Temple of Heaven. This is the main site for Beijing tourism – being there, you could really imagine and admire and appreciate the work. Buildings erected at times where there were no bulldozers even cars for that matter. The main building in the temple of heaven is a pagoda with 3 roofs and was built without nails or cement. Our tour guide explained how it was built – having the many different pillars and the way it was supported. Unfortunately, like many of the different magnificent treasures of China, the lights were not on in the building. Not that it’s a big deal, but my guess is they didn’t want tourists to mess the place up. Wonder what would happen if the tourists decided to step over the line. If they just decided to walk on in. They were blocked off by nothing but one thick wire. Anybody can easily go over or under. For that matter, I would think the same as on a plane – one that I will be on in a couple of hours – what would happen. It’s quite a sick thought.

Tiananmen Square. After a long walk and a tour around the outside of the Forbidden City, the first sight of the inside was breathtaking to say the least. Seeing it on television or in print is one thing, but being there, I can tell you, it’s different. The size and complexity of it requires a map to navigate (unless it’s familiar territory – luckily for us, we had a guide) .The king must’ve had a really great life – the servants, the view, the perks! You can really admire the piece of art. If you look, you won’t think there are windows in the buildings. As a matter of fact, there are no transparent glass or plastic windows. So how do the buildings get oxygen? You can see the windows in the little designed cuts in the walls. Also, if you have the good fortune of touring on a rainy day, you could see water coming out of the dragons’ mouths. It wasn’t a sight that I’d witnessed first hand, but it’s quite a concept. The reason for design is in event of a fire. Since the dragons’ mouths could hit practically every part of the landmark, if there ever is a fire, firefighting would be a relatively easy task. It’s no wonder that they could make such a landmark with so much wood. By the way, this was all built just less than a century before Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492! I think the documented date is 1430.

The Great Wall – the pride of China. While taking pictures on the bus, another tourist said to me, “Why? You have plenty of places to take pictures – look at how long the wall is!”

The rest of Beijing was pretty simple compared to the first two sites. We had remarkable lunch at what used to be Yuan May Yuan – it was at a very pretty place with awesome service. The Summer Palace. A Tea House. A massage. Dinner. Watched an Acrobat show. Ming Tombs. Peking Roast Duck. WongFuJing

The three key areas for me in this trip was Beijing for man-made sights, Guilin for natural sights, and Guangzhou for food. The rest was icing on the cake. It’s really difficult to be impressed by anything after seeing the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Not to say that I wouldn’t have loved to live along the lake in Suchou or have tea in the gardens, but I think that just walking through the Forbidden City is a magical experience in itself. If you think about it, it’d be extremely difficult to build the Great Wall even today with all the great technology we have, let alone centuries ago.

3 Steps to shop for the best deals and get the maximum amount of points online!

While shopping this holiday season, don’t leave travel points or rebates on the table! A lot of people, myself included, often will just go straight to Amazon or eBay for certain things without even thinking about shopping around for the best deal or what rewards they can get for a purchase. I must admit that I’ve bought things countless times off of those sites either going directly or using a link off of a deal site.

Shopping online is almost always better than shopping at a brick and mortar. It’s almost always cheaper at least. One thing about shopping online though is that you can’t touch the product, smell it, etc. That said, you can always use the store as a showroom – go to a store and do that and then order online.

Decide what you want to buy: If you’re just looking for a deal and not looking for something specific, some of my favorite deal sites are: slickdeals.net, bensbargains.com, and spoofee.com. When you’re looking for something specific, you should search the forums on slickdeals.net to see what others say as well. For some tips on saving money from Amazon, check out thebabbleout.com.

At the point where you’ve decided on what you’re going to buy, do NOT just add to cart and buy. That won’t give you all the discounts or points you want.

Use Gift cards: First off, do you have any gift cards? If not, would it be worthwhile to buy one and get some points off of it? The best way to acquire gift cards is by seeing if there’s one you can get at a significant discount. A couple of ways to do this is via eBay or Gift Card Granny. Another one of my favorite ways to acquire gift cards is at 5% off. When the Chase Freedom card has 5x points on stores that sell gift cards, that’s when I go out and buy them. I bought a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards at Safeway the last quarter they had 5x points on grocery stores. That’s about 5% off right there. Another way I like to acquire gift cards is through Mileage Plus X. With it, you can get one or more United Airline miles for every dollar you spend on a gift card. I have learned whenever going to a chain store to check the app to see if I can buy a gift card for use.

Use shopping portals: When you’ve decided for certain what you’re buying and which store you’re buying from, if you’re buying online, you want to see if the store can be access via a  shopping portal for additional rewards. The site I like to use is evreward.com. It’s generally up to date, but sometimes, other shopping portals can run special promotions so that you might not want to miss. Also factor in bonuses. Sometimes, the shopping portals can run bonuses so you might want to buy from the same one, like if you spend X amount of $ using the portal, they can give you Y amount of points. The various shopping portals can give you points from a plethora of different loyalty programs, including cash back. Here are some of my favorites: Ebates.com for cash back, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping for AA miles – they’re generally more than United miles. There are other shopping portals, but those are my favorites. It just depends on which airlines you like to fly, hotels you like to stay at, or if you would just prefer cash.

Buy with the credit card that gives you rewards. Lastly, use the credit card that gives you the rewards you want. This could be the Target card that gives you 5% off, your favorite airline card or your favorite cash back card. Just remember that when you spend cash, you lose cash.

So, here are some examples:

Last year, on Black Friday, I foolishly went into Target and bought an iPad. It was a great deal. I think it was $400 for a 64 or 128gb. I tried my Target card, but forgot the pin. I didn’t want to get back into line again, so I just bought it with my regular card that probably gave me 1% back. That’s only about $4. Had I been able to use the Target card, I would’ve gotten about $20. That’s a significant difference, but had I bought online, where I didn’t need to even leave the house, I could’ve used the AA portal, at the time that was giving 3 points per dollar, and gotten my 5% + about 1200 AA points. 1200 AA miles is a mid distance flight! There aren’t too many discounts for Target gift cards, so I’m going to leave that to another example.

I was in need of a laser printer and for some reason, after perusing deal sites, I decided on a Dell. There weren’t a ton of deals at the time, but then I decided to use gift card granny, that sent me to buy a gift card from Raise.com. The printer cost about $100, 108 with tax. I paid $96 for the gift card, giving me $4 off. The credit card I used to buy the card gave me 2% cash back, so I took another $2 back on top of that. I again used the AA portal to give me 3 AA miles per dollar and got just over 300 points.

There’s a local banya that I like to visit for hot tubbing and sauna. The typical entrance fee is about $50 for a 1/2 day. The place also sells a Groupon for about the same price for a full day. I never go for more than a 1/2 day anyway. Why would I buy a Groupon when there’s an expiration date and it’s no cheaper than going direct? Again, gift cards and shopping portal. I don’t remember what % off I got from Gift card granny. I might have bought it from Safeway @ 5% off. Then I took 3 AA miles/dollar @ the AA shopping portal. I’ve had up to 10 miles/dollar for Groupon via the United portal.

My last example is an interesting one. Capital One gives you a credit card number instantly after you’re approved when signing up for a new card. For this reason, I was able to use it immediately and knock out about $500 of spend before I even received my credit card in the mail. I keep a list of all of the automatic payments I made and when I get a new credit card number, I change them all immediately. I did this immediately after I applied and was approved for the Capital One Spark card. I then put the number into Mileage Plus X and went to the mall. There, we ate at Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery, bought gifts and Hollister and Bed Bath and Beyond. For all of those things, I bought gift cards with the Mileage Plus X card. Spent all this money without even getting the credit card yet.

Happy Spending! Hope this read saves you some money! 🙂

Please share any of your tips down below. 🙂

Maximize your Marriott points!

Sign up for the new credit card and get 80,000 points. (I’ll get 20,000 if you use my link.) 🙂 https://t.co/clpVkadt3B It’s well worth it. It does cost an annual fee of $85, but the 80k points will get you 2-3 nights. I think the one night per year covers the $85 annual fee. 🙂

I started using Marriott early on only because I had stayed at Courtyards multiple times for work. I’ve started to take a liking to Marriott and their bonus system. With the Marriott card, you can get 5 points per dollar spent at Marriotts, which is awesome! You get free rooms pretty quickly that way and also get lounge access pretty quickly as well.

If you’re not a member and happen to just be staying at a Marriott, I would say to sign up! The points do expire (I think after 18 months), but you can keep them pretty easily just by continuing to accrue. There are a few ways to accrue them without staying at Marriotts. One of the ways is to sign up for the credit card. Better yet, use my link above! 🙂 Another way is to shop to keep them! https://marriott.rewards.com There, just click through the site and buy anything and they’ll credit you Marriott points. That way, you’re accruing as you spend money. Something I wish I had done during the holiday season. I could’ve had at least one additional point for every dollar I spent! I’ll write another posting on maximizing your shopping points sometime soon.

One last point is to try to stay loyal to one particular brand i.e. if you’re flying United, only fly United. If you’re flying American, only fly American – it’s much easier to accrue points that way and be able to use them. If you’re staying at Marriotts and collecting Marriott points, you won’t get anything by staying at a Hilton. You will get some credit for staying at an SPG though! I’ve already linked my 2 accounts, but haven’t transferred any points yet.

Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other/better ideas!