Advice

Doritos Super Bowl Ad — Protecting An Empty Middle Seat

doritos

We all know the Super Bowl is really about the commercials — the football game is just there to give us a chance to go to the bathroom.

My favorite of the night was the Doritos commercial. It featured a guy on a plane trying to protect the empty middle next to him after the remaining passengers had been told to “take any open seat.” Been there, done that. And trust me, I cringe when I hear those words.

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Last Call: United Global Entry Fee Payment Code

United Global Entry Benefit

Global Entry is an expedited immigration program that can make traveling internationally a relative breeze. It allows you to bypass the lines at immigration by using a kiosk rather than speaking to a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent.

The application process for Global Entry requires you to complete a lengthy application and then schedule an in-person interview at one of the various CBP offices, most of which are at airports. It also requires a $100 application fee.

For the past several years, United has had a Global Entry benefit whereby Mileage Plus members with Global Services, 1K, or Platinum status have been eligible for a payment code that covers 100% of the fee. It’s a very easy and seamless process — quite a rarity for United these days.

Sadly, United has announced that the Global Entry fee reimbursement will not be a benefit of the 2015 Mileage Plus program. So if you’re eligible and haven’t done so already, I would request a payment code ASAP.

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How To Consistently Sit Next To An Empty Seat On A Plane

The last two empty seats on the seatmap were between members of my family.

My wife and I used to do a lot of premium cabin trips but now that we are a family of four, we mostly fly economy. We just don’t see the point of spending more miles (or worse, money) to fly up-front. When you’ve got two preschoolers in tow, you’re not going to “savor the experience” or “enjoy zie ambiance” (as Mr. Schlappig would say) no matter where you sit. Most of the time, it’s not about the food, the sleep, or the service, it’s about trying to survive.

That said, the one thing that does make a huge difference for us is space. Last month when offering tips on how to get hotel suite upgrades for free, I wrote:

“The single most important factor in terms of traveling with young children is… space. Be it on the plane, in the hotel, or in the car, more space is better!”

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How I Earned Miles In 2014

January-2015-travel

Probably the question I’m asked more than any other is “how do you afford to travel so much?” That’s a reasonable question, and I tend to think I’m fairly transparent as to how I pay for each individual trip.

Anyway, early last year I wrote a post entitled “How Many Miles Did I Earn In 2013?” and by popular demand I figured I’d write a similar post for 2014, hopefully to give you guys some insight into what my earn/burn rates look like.

First some basics, since the below seems to cause quite a bit of confusion for some…

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4 Predictions For The Rite Aid Free Hyatt Night Promo

riteaidpromo

Last week I wrote about the Happy You Year promotion that Rite Aid is currently running in a post titled Two Free Hyatt Nights for $250 Spend at Rite Aid. Essentially the deal is that you spend $250 on participating items at Rite Aid and you receive either a 2-night stay at select Hyatt hotels or a 7-night stay at a Wyndham resort. On the surface, this sounds like a really good deal.

However, the more I read about it, the more this promotion started to sound like the JC Penny / Dockers promotion from 2007. The fulfillment company for that promotion was TLC Marketing. It generally did not go well for consumers, ultimately ending in a lawsuit. (Though certainly some of us did do well.)

Anyway, I pointed out that the redemption process in the current promo was similarly onerous. The economics were similarly unsustainable. The mailing address was in the same city as TLC Marketing. I basically put down a lot of dots on a paper, but then said we didn’t know who the fulfillment company was yet, so we really couldn’t connect those dots.

When something smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, and looks like a duck (even when that Duck is dressed like an Oakland Raider), it almost always is, in fact, a duck.

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Tips For Joining The Mile High Club?

Singapore-Suites-Class

I receive a ton of emails. Some of them are great questions, some of them are questions that could easily be figured out with two seconds of Googling, and then there are those kinds of questions. This past week a reader sent me the following question:

“Here’s a pretty real question (and a killer blog post if you have an answer), anyway for us to join the mile high club without losing respect of all crew members? Haha I’m imagining your face palm right now but… If anyone has a thought it’d be you. I know some of the seats allow two people to open their area into one sort of semi suite or if they have showers I thought that could be an option, albeit a little tough but ” we’ll make it fit” hahaha, couldn’t help myself there.”

I’m not sure whether to be flattered or offended at the prospect of someone thinking I’d be the person to have thoughts on it. The good news is that I certainly do have thoughts on it. The bad news is that I have thoughts on it because I’m a germaphobe, and the thought of someone screwing in the seats I’m sitting in is enough to make me barf.

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Airline Club Lounge Tipping Etiquette

Virgin-Clubhouse-JFK-28

Tipping always seems to be a sore topic on this blog. And that’s understandable, because the more you travel, the more damn confusing it all is. Sometimes I visit four countries in a week, and trying to figure out the local tipping etiquette proves really challenging. Even from Googling you’ll often get a lot of…

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5 Tips To Getting Hotel Suite Upgrades For Free

Executive Suite at the Radisson Brunei

The single most important factor in terms of traveling with young children is… space. Be it on the plane, in the hotel, or in the car, more space is better!

While Ben apparently forgets to even use the suite upgrades he is granted each year, I often go out of my way to finagle suites which I’m not even entitled to! That’s not to say that we absolutely have to have a suite. We can– and do– frequently stay in a single hotel room for a night or two, but we know that our kids (3.5 year old son, 2.5 year old daughter) will eventually be in each others’ faces (or ours!) if we do this for an extended period of time — say for a month like on our current Southeast Asian Adventure!

On our recent month-long Southeast Asian Adventure, we stayed at six western chain hotels where we had some level of status. We booked a single standard room at each of these six properties, and in no case were we entitled to a suite. Yet 5 of the 6 stays were upgraded to suite. (We also stayed at several independent hotels on this trip. Those results are not included here.)

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Myth: Airlines Always Open Award Seats When The Schedule Opens

KrisFlyer-Waitlist

This year I’d like to spend a bit more time on the blog covering the basics of earning and redeeming miles. I realize that might not be the most exciting thing for long time readers, but even after blogging for nearly seven years my readership more than doubles every year, and I realize that leaves some people lost.

Reader Charlotte asked the following question on the Ask Lucky page of the blog, which I wanted to address:

“At what time (EST) does SQ release their award space to their own members each day on their website? Every day that I check, the latest saver space on the calendar is already waitlisted and snatched up before I get there.”

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My 2015 Airline & Hotel Elite Status Strategy

Starwood-Elite-Status

A new year is always a bit of a double edged sword for me. While it’s a time of excitement and unrealistic optimism for most, I’m just kind of depressed by most of my elite counters being reset to zero.

Elite qualifying miles/segments/nights/stays are somewhere between badges of honor and battle wounds in this hobby. It’s kind of like when your passport expires and you get a new one. You’re excited at the prospect of where it will take you, but also kind of sad by all those stamps being “wiped out.” The back of my passport doesn’t have more stickers than a kindergarten classroom for no reason, after all (okay, in fairness most of them have fallen off, and I have more on my other passport, but I digress)!

With that out of the way, looking at 2015, what are my elite status aspirations?

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Hiring A Babysitter At A Hotel

Bayview room - Bedtime setup

My wife and I tried something new on this trip – we hired a babysitter for a night! I know, that probably doesn’t seem very revolutionary, but for us it was. Although we have a part-time nanny at home who helps out a few days during the week, we pretty much exclusively take care of our own munchkins on the road.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was the best man in a dear friend’s wedding in Penang this past weekend. The wedding was in the evening, and was scheduled to be followed by a multi-course meal. We wanted the kids, Squirt and Squeaker, to attend the wedding – they were both participating as flower children – but figured that by the time the party was finished, it would be way past their bedtime. And we all know that would not have ended well for us or anybody else!

So we hired a babysitter.

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Seven Tips For Stress-Free Holiday Travel

DCA-Christmas

This is the busiest travel week of the year in the United States, and the weather forecast isn’t looking particularly helpful. For that matter, many airlines reported that yesterday was their busiest travel day ever.

Given that so many people are going to be traveling, especially folks who might not travel as often, I thought it’d be helpful to share my top tips for those traveling this week.

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