About Travis

Travis has been playing in the world of miles and points for over a decade. At one time or another he has held status on just about every major domestic airline and hotel program. He has visited all 50 US states and over 50 countries. Nowadays he travels almost exclusively with his wife and three young children.

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Earn Shiploads Of United Miles Renting Cars From Hertz

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I don’t rent cars all that often, but when I do, I like do earn shiploads of miles. Like enough miles that the car rental ends up being practically free.

As crazy as it sounds, this is actually possible thanks to a partnership between United and Hertz and a promotion that they’ve been running for a while now. It’s actually so good — at least for high status United flyers — that I don’t know why it doesn’t get talked about more.

This offer has been slated to end several times in the past, but always seems to get a reprieve for a few more months. This time it was extended until May 31, 2017.

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Hyatt’s New Globalist Breakfast Rules Won’t End Well

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I’ve been digging into the World of Hyatt program lately as it’s about to launch on March 1. As you might have figured out by now, I’m not a fan. Mostly I think the qualification requirements are insane for a hotel chain that has around 700 properties worldwide.

That said, assuming you can get to 60 nights per year, there are some things to like about the new program. The unlimited complimentary suite upgrades are a really nice perk, at least in theory. I travel a lot with my family and the three most important features for us — be it on the plane, at the hotel, or in the rental car — are space, space, and more space. So if this works as advertised, it’ll be great.

But it’s not all fun and games even for top-tier Globalists as devaluations and gotchas lurk around every corner. Some of these changes, like the diluted breakfast benefit, just don’t make a lot of sense to me.

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World Of Hyatt May Encourage You To Stay Somewhere Else

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Hyatt is scrapping their Gold Passport program in favor of World of Hyatt starting on March 1. The new program has a few changes that you might like, but it’s also chock full of hidden gotchas and devaluations. I’ve been busy practically since the day it was announced and haven’t really had a chance to think about it much until recently.

In fact, it was the “Welcome to Globalist” email that sort of motivated me to write about it. And, given the response in the comments, I’m not the only one who finds this program insanely confusing. I mean, when many of the top miles and points bloggers don’t even know something so simple as the requalification requirements… well, you get the idea.

Anyway, there’s another hidden gotcha in the new program, this time concerning the policies surrounding the free night awards and Diamond Suite Upgrades. Here’s how you might find yourself in the situation where Hyatt’s loyalty program actually encourages you to stay with someone else. Crazy, eh?

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Earn Miles (Or Make Money) For Rent & Mortgage Payments

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Plastiq is a good way to pay bills with a credit card that you otherwise couldn’t. This lets you earn miles and points while paying your rent, mortgage, insurance, electric bill, property taxes, or a variety of other bills for which the provider doesn’t accept credit cards.

I’ve been using the Plastiq service on and off for the past year or so and have had a really good experience overall. There are fees involved, of course, so you need to make a conscious decision as to whether to use Plastiq based on your own personal value of the miles and points you’ll be earning.

That said, Plastiq has an offer out now that could make the decision to pay your rent or mortgage a little easier depending on your situation.

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Hyatt’s New Globalist Status Requires Even More Nights Than We Thought

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We’re only days away from the launch of the new World of Hyatt loyalty program. As we learned last fall, World of Hyatt will replace Hyatt Gold Passport starting on March 1. I’m in the midst of putting together my thoughts on the new program — spoiler alert, I’m not impressed.

There are a few things to theoretically like in the new program, particularly if you hold top tier status. Globalists, as Hyatt has decided to call them, will get unlimited complimentary upgrades to suites in addition to the four confirmed suite upgrades of the past. Perhaps I was prescient when I wrote “4 Free Upgrades Are Better Than Unlimited Suites, Really” a year ago…

Anyway, that’s about the extent of the good news. There are at least some positives to look forward to for those who can maintain top-tier status, but getting there is going to be a challenge. In fact, it’s arguably harder than most of us thought it was going to be.

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Is This The Best Hotel Room TV Setup Ever?

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I don’t usually get too excited about hotel room TVs. In fact, it’s pretty rare for my family to ever turn them on. Maybe if we’re in a foreign country, we’ll watch a cartoon so the kids can have a cultural experience, but that’s about it.

I suppose some will say that the hotel room TV is going to go the way of the desk because millennials just don’t use them. Call me old school, but I still prefer to watch TV on a big screen. And I also like to listen to it. Like really listen with real speakers, not uncomfortable earbuds or tinny laptop speakers.

The problem is that flat screen TVs are notorious for having awful sound. There just isn’t space to fit a proper speaker. So you end up with undersized cones that are typically pointed to the side, or worse, out the back. I remember being at a Hyatt Place where my wife — who was trying to sleep in the bedroom area — could hear the TV better than I could even though I was sitting right in front of it.

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Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago

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We arrived on our United “Polaris” flight from London and had a four hour layover in Chicago before our connecting flight. This gave us plenty of time to check out the brand new Polaris Lounge which we were rather excited about. Unfortunately, it was a few days before they began serving restaurant-style order-off-the-menu meals so those won’t be part of this review. A day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

We cleared security and headed over to Terminal C through the psychedelic tunnel.

As you come up the escalator, the United customer service counter is straight ahead. And the Polaris Lounge is just to the left of it.

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Review: United Club London Heathrow

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This was the first time that we had passed through London since the new Queen’s Terminal opened and we were curious to see it. I don’t remember that much of my last visit to London Heathrow other than the Star Alliance airlines were sharing a common, mostly nondescript lounge that seemed to have few if any windows.

With the opening of Terminal 2, there are now so many choices for Star Alliance flyers at London Heathrow that it’s almost overwhelming. Ben has recently reviewed all of them — Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, and United. That meant there was no need for me to take one for the team and we could just head to the best. Which is considered to be the United Club. That’s not a misprint.

Not only was the United Club rated the best but it was also undeniably the most convenient as it turned out to be right next to our gate. We headed over, though got sidetracked for a long time at the kids play structure as you approach the pier. It’s an impressive space filled with kids, and is even staffed by a Heathrow employee. Judging by the no photography signs posted in the vicinity, the Brits are camera shy, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Review: SAS Plus Oslo To London Heathrow On A 737

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We left the lounge and quickly headed over to the gate for our 7:50 AM flight down to London Heathrow. Boarding was already underway, which isn’t too uncommon for us.

Since this was a business class itinerary, we were booked in SAS Plus. I had known that SAS eliminated their business class cabin on intra-European flights, but I’d forgotten they replaced it with something else. I guess you could say my expectations were sufficiently managed such that anything more than economy was going to sound pretty good.

It turns out that SAS Plus has a few features that separate it from SAS Go, which is regular economy.

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Club Carlson’s Latest Stealth Devaluation

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Club Carlson used to be one of my favorite hotel loyalty programs. On the earning side, they used to run some killer promotions that were totally mattress runnable. The best of those awarded 50,000 Carlson points for one a night stay at a Radisson hotel, basically enough points for a night anywhere in the world.

On the burning side, you could get a free award night on every redemption, so long as you had the Club Carlson credit card. This amounted to BOGO award nights and effectively doubled the value of your points.

Those days are long gone, however. And Club Carlson recently devalued their loyalty program even further by taking away a somewhat obscure but valuable benefit for Carlson Gold and Concierge members.

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Review: SAS Lounge Oslo Airport

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We had decided to spend our final night in Norway at the airport so we wouldn’t have to get up quite so early for our 7:50 AM flight to London Heathrow. The terminal is only a short distance from the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport, most of which is covered to protect you from the weather. The walk probably took no more than five minutes and was made easier by the luggage cart we had cached the night before.

On the way, we passed through a set of double revolving doors which gave me flashbacks to Super Mario Brothers. In fact, I stood there for a minute trying to time up my steps so I wouldn’t get squished in the middle.

Having made it to the next level, I mean, into the terminal, we quickly found the Star Gold counter for SAS. There was a bit of a line, but the agent was very efficient and we waited no more than a couple of minutes. She then had the five of us checked in and on our way. Even as SAS Plus passengers, we weren’t directed to Fast Track Security or advised about the location of the SAS lounge despite that being one of the few perks of SAS Plus. That was no big deal, just a little surprising.

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Review: Radisson Blu Oslo Airport

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Given our early departure the following morning, we decided to spend the last night of our trip at a hotel at the Oslo Airport.

Having stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport on the first night of our trip, we decided to try the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport this time. In my experience, both of these hotels are comparable in price with the Radisson Blu maybe just a few dollars more.

We rode the NSB train from Oslo Central Station to the airport and then walked over to the hotel. The Radisson Blu is the closest hotel to the airport, but you still need to exit the terminal to get there. It’s an easy walk that takes only a few minutes.

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The Best Valentine’s Day Surprise I’ve Ever Pulled Off

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First, let me say that I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day or other Hallmark holidays, but there are a few times in your life when it can be worthwhile to go with the flow. And for me, that was ten years ago when I managed to pull off the biggest Valentine’s Day surprise of my life for my then girlfriend, now wife, by flying in unannounced halfway across the country to meet her for dinner.

Looking back, I kind of laugh at the crazy things that I did like that as a young man in love. But it was fun. And given that that girl became my wife, it apparently worked.

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10 Things To Do With Kids In Oslo

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Like the rest of Scandinavia, Oslo is an incredibly kid-friendly place which made it pretty easy for us to get out and explore with our three kids aged 5, 4, and 1.

This is a culture of bundling the kids up and taking them out, regardless of the cold weather. The compact nature of the central area makes for good walking, and features like two-track ramps help make even steps accessible to strollers.

We’re an outdoorsy family so we packed our cold-weather gear so that we could get out and explore during the Norwegian winter.

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