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Sunny Palm Springs

June 11, 2017

Mat and I took advantage of our three day weekend and flew to Palm Springs, CA for a quick and relaxing trip. Our three-day weekend can be described in three terms: naps, hats and pool floaties. Palm Springs was a great place to get the summer started because the weather was already HOT, which I loved. We stayed at The Avalon and earned 29k Southwest points for doing so.  I thought the hotel/bungalow accommodations were adorable. With these extra points, we earned the Southwest Companion Pass for 2018! Woo hoo!

After working a full day on Friday (we have to use our time off wisely!) we flew in late so we didn’t really get the vacation started until Saturday morning. However, The Avalon had a wonderful surprise waiting for us in our room-a HUGE plate of the most delicious and fresh fruit we have ever had. Mat went crazy on the fruit Friday night and I finished off some of it when I woke up on Saturday.

We slept in on Saturday and had breakfast at the Chi Chi restaurant, which has tables right beside the main pool at the center of the hotel. I had an amazing assortment of buttermilk pancakes, banana foster’s, barrel-aged maple syrup and candied walnuts. The best part was that it was still steaming hot when they brought it out. It was so good. If you follow us on SnapChat you probably saw me freaking out about it. Mat wasn’t as excited about his breakfast burrito, but it came with more of that amazing fruit and gorgeous poolside views, so it’s kind of hard to complain.

After breakfast we walked into town and did some shopping. This is when we made the most important purchases of the trip: our hats. I have become slightly obsessed with mine and it may have contributed to the fact that I didn’t brush my hair the entire trip. Mat looks extremely dapper in his, and of course they helped protect our skin from the blazing sun.

We made a quick stop at Las Casuelas Terraza for some giant margaritas before heading back to enjoy some pool time at the hotel. The Avalon has three different pools, which is nice that they cater to the different interests of their guests. One of the pools was kid friendly (we checked it out but promptly kept walking), and the main pool, located by the Chi Chi, seemed to be mostly couples. All the lounge chairs at this pool were already taken, so we kept going to the third pool. I called this third pool the ‘party pool’, which usually isn’t really our jam but we totally loved it! For the Memorial holiday, The Avalon hosted a variety of activities at the ‘party pool’ including: live DJ, a taco bar, booze-y snow cones, frozes (frozen rose wine), ping pong and bocci ball! We spent the majority of our time at this pool for obvious reason. 🙂 We then preceded to take a four nap after the sun had zapped our energy. Hey, it’s vacation-we can nap however long we want!

The best food of the weekend was at the hard to get into brunch joint, Cheeky’s. The Avalon provided cruiser bikes to hotel guests free of charge so we checked them out one morning and decided to bike the one mile to Cheeky’s. We arrived just 30 minutes after the restaurant opened and ended up waiting an hour and a half for a table! It was insane! During that hour and a half of waiting, dozens and dozens of people showed up to put their name on the waiting list. The restaurant is only open until 2 pm, so I have no idea if it was even possible to get through the list of people before they closed. The food definitely did not disappoint, so it was worth the wait.

Our last night we decided to drive the one hour and check out Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are so interesting, kind of a mix between a cactus and a palm tree. So cool! But to be honest, after you’ve seen 100, they all start to look alike. The park also has these amazing, huge, boulder structures. The park looked especially alien-like after the sun set and there were shadows everywhere.

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Travel

Sayulita Love

May 16, 2017

Mat and I recently had the opportunity to visit the sweet surfing city, Sayulita, Mexico for a friend’s wedding. The verdict is out and…we are in love with it. So much so that we may or may not have looked at property while we were there. 😉 This was such a wonderful trip because we were able to travel with our good friends Tony and Heidy! Travel is always enhanced when you can spend it with friends and family.

We found a great villa to rent on Airbnb (Casa Kukana) that came with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and our own private pool. We did some research before we went and found that most travelers rent golf carts (how great/cute is that?!) to get around the town. If you are traveling to Sayulita, I would definitely recommend getting one mostly because it’s so fun. Plus, it helps you get around fast and is easy to find a parking spot.

It is important to note, however, that depending on where you are staying or wanting to visit, a golf cart may not get you there. There are two neighborhoods in the town that a regular ol’ golf cart can’t access: Gringo Hill and Nanazal. The town is built up in the hills, and these two areas are too steep to access with a regular four-seater golf cart. If you are staying in these areas you will need to rent a larger golf cart or a Polaris.

Sayulita is about a 45 min drive north of the Puerta Vallarta airport, so we arranged (through our Airbnb rental) a private taxi to pick us up. What was great about this arrangement is that not only was it a luxurious SUV, but the driver had ice-filled coolers in the back full of water and beer for us! Perfect for after the semi-long flying time to get there.

Scheduling a private ride from the airport worked out great because the price we paid included a stop at the Mega, which is basically the Wal-Mart of Mexico. Since we had a full kitchen in our rental, we stocked up on food and drinks for the week. Mat and I spent less than $100 on food and alcohol for the week, and if you know how often Mat eats, you will understand how much money this saved us! We also picked up some other items at the Mega including SPF, tanning lotion and a sports bra for me. Long story about the sports bra…but it’s nice to know that items like this are available if needed!

The villa we rented also provided all the filtered drinking water we needed, which is a must in Sayulita so you don’t get sick drinking the unfiltered water there. We even used the filtered water to brush our teeth just to be cautious. I loved our villa so much that it was difficult to ever want to leave it! We had the most amazing views of the beach and the town from our pool.

The town itself is what totally won me over. It is basically everything I want to be able to do every day including: laying on the beach, never brushing my hair, not wearing a bra or shoes, macrame, live music, yoga, delicious food (including pizza and dessert!), cold drinks and amazing shops. All of this is available in this adorable city! We found that Sayulita is a vacation destination for both Americans and locals, which is so cool!

Heidy compared the little town of Sayulita to one of her favorite travel destinations, Costa Rica. Mat and I haven’t been to Costa Rica (yet), but we thought it reminded us a little bit of Curacao. The adorable surf and yoga town is a bit more jungle-y than other places we have visited in Mexico, which makes me feel like I’m in a tree-house up in the hills. I loved it.

One of our favorite parts of the trip happened because we took a wrong turn on the way back to the villa one night and randomly came across a street we nicknamed Carnival Alley. The reason for the nickname was because on this street there was the greatest carnival-like game ever. I don’t think it has a name but we called it Beer Toss. There was a large makeshift wall with rows of glass beer bottles held up by nails, and in front was a table filled with rocks. Yes, glass beer bottles. And yes, rocks. So simple yet brilliant. You pay 30 pesos (equivalent to about $1.60) for three rocks to throw and try to break a glass beer bottle. For every bottle you break, you get a beer. No joke. So, you could potentially win three beers for for about a buck and a half. And it’s oddly satisfying to break a glass bottle with a rock. We had SO much fun in Carnival Alley.  You can see the bottle breaking action near the end of our video below this post.

All in all, the wedding was beautiful (congrats to the new Mr. and Mrs. T!) and the laid back, surfing town won us over. I’m hoping to see you next year, Sayulita!

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita Love

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

 

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Travel

Best New York City Experience…so far.

April 8, 2017

New York City is like a giant storage unit that the world keeps stuffing awesome shit into.  It’s filled to the top and all the way to the back with food, sports, architecture, shopping, art, and entertainment.  Anytime you slide up the storage unit door, a pile of awesome spills out on your feet and you’re like “do we have too much awesome in here? Nah, I think there’s still some room in the back.”  We were lucky enough to make our 3rd trip to this amazing city recently and agree that it was our best New York City experience…so far.

First of all, I’d like to thank Matthew McConaughy and Kate Hudson for making this trip possible.  Seriously.  If it weren’t for the 2003 rom-com “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, we never would have taken this trip.  Thanks to the scene below, going to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden had landed itself on Lacey’s bucket list.  We take bucket list declarations very seriously in our household, so I knew we needed to make this happen asap.  We scored amazing seats (11th row) as the Knicks caught a beatin’ from the 1st place Celtics.  Lacey was dressed up in her custom Knicks jersey and seemed to be constantly in awe of her surroundings.  In addition to the game, there were a ton of celebrities on hand that were often hanging out directly next to where we were sitting.  The Knicks even honored the team from 1999 during the game which included every player Kate Hudson and Matty Mc-C cheered for during the movie.  What are the odds?!! To top it off, Lacey caught a Knicks shirt from the t-shirt gun people.  It couldn’t have gone any better.  Bucket list item checked off in style.

We only had 1 other pre-planned event for this trip; a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers.  This ended up being way more fun than I think either of us thought it would be.  While being led to the Late Night Studio within the Rockefeller Center, we walked by the main Saturday Night Live stage which was really cool to see in person.  As our tickets were free and didn’t have assigned seats, we were thrilled when the NBC ushers placed us in the 3rd row from the studio floor.  The guests that night were Chelsea Handler and Jake Johnson (Nick from New Girl).  We like those two a bunch so it made for an even more exciting experience.  They didn’t allow anyone to take pics in the studio so I grabbed a couple of screenshots from the episode to show where we sat. Shown at the bottom.

The rest of the trip was accidentally action packed, but in a great way.  We ate tons of delicious food at places like PJ Clarke’s, Toscana 49, dessert at Serendipity, and Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn.  We visited Central Park for some morning hot chocolate, we stopped by the “Fearless Girl” statue near Wall St., and quickly passed through Time Square on our way to catch a metro.  Lacey visited “blo“, a blow dry bar near our hotel in midtown.  Her hair is always awesome but I think she appreciated having someone else wash, dry, and style it for the day.

Last but not least, we visited the jewelry boutique where I purchased Lacey’s engagement ring 3 years ago.  Neither of us had ever been there before since I ordered her ring online.  The boutique was hidden in a nondescript office building in midtown on the 9th floor.  You had to pass through 2 security doors before waiting to be buzzed in through the main door.  It felt good knowing that it wasn’t an easily accessible, run-of-the-mill jewelry shop with “80% OFF SALE” signs everywhere.  The shop was filled with beautiful antique jewelry and had an amazing view of Manhattan.  We had Lacey’s ring cleaned and maintenanced while we were there.  I don’t think she has stopped looking at her ring since.

One thing that stood out to Lacey and I the most during this trip was finally being able to experience New York City the way we always wanted to.  Since our flights were free (thanks to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass) we felt comfortable dropping a few extra bucks on tickets, dinner, wine, coffees, and desserts.  The more we thought about and appreciated that simple fact, the more we realized that it really did change our entire experience.  If we had to swap out our intimate dining experiences for fast food or if we had balcony seats at the game instead of our floor seats, it would have been a completely different experience for us.  Still fun, but just very different.  We couldn’t be more thankful for the credit card award options that let us get to places like this for free!

This was our best New York City experience…so far.  We’re hoping to catch a live taping of Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live on our next visit!

Let us know if you have any questions!

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge panoramic

Madison Square Garden Selfie

Madison Square Park

Madison Square Garden

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Madison Square Garden Lacey

Fearless Girl Wall St

Fearless Girl Wall St

Time Square New York City

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge

Statue Of Liberty

Brooklyn Bridge walk

Brooklyn Bridge

2nd time visiting the Brooklyn Bridge

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Flat Iron Building

Central Park Lacey

Freedom Cone Brooklyn

St. Patrick's Cathedral New York City

Time Square New York City

NBC studios New York City

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

NBC studios New York City

 

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Travel

Los Angeles for President’s Day Weekend

February 26, 2017

Lacey and I didn’t originally plan on taking a trip in between Aruba (late Jan.) and Maui (next Saturday!), but the weather in Boise continues to be absolutely miserable.  The buzz from the Aruba trip wore off quicker than we’d hoped as the wind, rain, snow, and inversions of Southern Idaho kept coming.  Lacey and I are both really affected by ugly/dark/cold weather (who isnt?!).  I’m not sure if it’s to the level of seasonal depression disorder, but it sucks nonetheless.  After a few days in a row of being bummed out, we decided we had to seek out some sunshine.

With plenty of Southwest points paired with the Companion Pass and our recently earned 2 “anniversary” nights with Hyatt, I started doing some searching for a Presidents Day Weekend getaway.  From Boise, Southern California is usually our best bet for a quick trip to sunshine this time of year.  I had a little trouble out of the gates finding award night availability with Hyatt.  I searched places like San Diego, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.  No luck.  It seemed this was just too short of notice to book a room with awards.  Then I remembered Lacey telling me about how much fun her and her mom had wedding dress shopping at Manhattan Beach.  I quickly searched for, and found, availability at the Hyatt House near Manhattan Beach.  After a quick chat with Lacey, we booked the trip.

The conversation went something like this:

  • Mat – “How do you feel about going to Manhattan Beach for President’s Day? We can get there for free, use 2 free nights at a Hyatt, and then book a 3rd night with a points+cash combination.  The entire trip would cost $83.”
  • Lacey – “Oh my gosh, yes! Book it!”

So I did, and we enjoyed a quick and casual, no plans, just hanging out, Netflix by 7pm, awesome weekend in the Los Angeles/Manhattan Beach area.

The weather was a little chilly during the trip, but the sunshine did come out each day after some morning clouds.  We ventured to Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, while hiking to the Griffith Observatory.  We made our way to Venice Beach and crushed some In and Out Burgers on the way back to the hotel.  We even caught a movie during a couple hours of cloudy drizzly weather one morning.

Another awesome experience courtesy of rewards points.  We saved $900+ on this trip by using the Southwest Airlines companion pass and the Hyatt rewards programs.  Let us know if you have any questions on how you can do the same!

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Zoltar

Muscle Beach Venice Beach

Los Angeles for President's Day Weekend

Griffith Observatory

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Rewards Points Travel

Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free

January 29, 2017

Idaho is going through one of the coldest/snowiest winters in the past 30 years.  Snow, ice, freezing rain, slush, inversions, misery.  We had to escape it if only for a short while.  Luckily, we already had a getaway booked for January not knowing just how badly we would end up needing it.  This is kind of a funny story how it all came about actually.  Back in September, we booked this trip out of spite for the sole purpose of getting back at the Hyatt hotel brand.  Somewhat of a blessing in disguise, here is how we ended up visiting Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free.

Last summer, Lacey and I visited Huntington Beach, CA.  You may remember our post about it here.  We ended up staying at a little Air BnB during that trip by default as Hyatt would not let us use the 4 free nights we earned from this card.  The Hyatt reps were so awful and unhelpful while I was trying to book nights at one of their $200 per night properties down there.  I felt like they were doing everything in their power to prevent me from redeeming the awards we earned.  Long story short, Hyatt pissed me off super bad and I wanted to get back at ’em for how they treated us.

Angrily, I googled “most expensive Hyatt hotel”.  At the top of the results was their resort in Aruba.  What a coincidence, Southwest Airlines flies to Aruba meaning Lacey and I could get there for free because we earned the Companion Pass.  This was our chance to stick it to Hyatt as these rooms were $600 per night.  Suck it Hyatt.  Side note, these rooms in Aruba were a challenge to book as well.  Their website would tell me there was no availability when I search for 2 or 4 consecutive nights at this resort.  Oddly, when I searched 1 night at a time it was available.  So, I ended up having to make 4 separate reservations in order to get 4 nights in a row.  Keep this in mind when you’re looking for availability on Hyatt’s website.  I’m not kidding, they do their best to prevent you from using your rewards.

While booking our flights to Aruba, I found that we could break up the trip by making stops on the island of Curacao and in South Beach Miami.  We had never been to either place and both looked amazing.  We booked a suite for a night at the amazing Hilton resort in Curacao with honors points and booked 2 nights at the Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach in Miami with Wyndham reward points.  I have to mention how awesome the staff at the Shelborne resort were to us.  I emailed them prior to the trip to confirm our reservation and briefly mentioned that it was an anniversary trip.  When we checked in, they said “it looks like you are celebrating a special event with us so you have been upgraded to an ocean view penthouse suite.”  I had totally forgot that I emailed ’em about it and was a little caught off guard at first.  Then I turned to Lacey and said “happy anniversary, ha”.  If that weren’t enough, they sent us a bottle of champagne later that night.  That was pretty amazing of them and we are so grateful.

Our week-long trip was just what we needed to break up this awful winter here in Idaho.  Each place we visited was amazing for their individual reasons.  Aruba’s beautiful white sand beaches, flamingos, and iguanas made us feel like we were in a different reality.  Curacao’s tropical surroundings and heavily Dutch influenced architecture had us wishing we had more time to spend there.  The hustle and bustle of South Beach blended with the beauty and calm atmosphere at the beach had us asking each other if we were ready to move there.

One last thing to point out.  We ended up paying $25 a night to upgrade our room at the Hyatt in Aruba to an ocean front suite.  So for $100 + taxes we stayed in a room that was priced at $789 per night.  We ended up getting a value of about $3100 from our 4 reward nights.  Maybe Hyatt will rethink their customer service approach when someone is trying to book a $200 per night room next time 🙂

Total Amount of Free Flights/Hotels for this trip alone = $6,799 prior to taxes

  • Southwest Flights – $2900 (we used Southwest points and the Companion Pass to book these flights)
  • Hyatt in Aruba – $3100 (Lacey and I both signed up for this card to earn 2 free nights each)
  • Hilton in Curacao – $309 (used a combination of these cards over time to earn Hilton Honors points)
  • Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach – $490 (we used Wyndham reward points from this card to book this)

Photos in Aruba –

Renaissance Island (where the Flamingos and Iguanas are)

Baby Bridge (natural arch)

Bon Bini Festival

California Lighthouse

Eagle Beach

Rainbow Aruba

first view upon opening our window shades at the Hyatt in Aruba. Not a bad start

Grand Hyatt Aruba

I heart Aruba Sign

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Iguana Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

Coconut Drink Aruba

Aruba Panorama

Baby Bridge Aruba

“Baby Bridge”

Aruba Rock Garden

rock garden near the natural bridge

Aruba Natural Bridge

Bon Bini Aruba

at the “Bon Bini” festival

 

Photos in Curacao:

Downtown Willemstad

Hilton Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Dushi Curacao

Curacao Sign

Curacao Hilton

Hilton Curacao

view from our Hilton Suite in Curacao

 

Photos in South Beach:

Shelborne Boutique Hotel

South Beach

Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach, Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

Lacey got her 1st Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami

view from our upgrade at the Shelborne in South Beach

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Travel

A Day in Denver

August 24, 2016

Lacey and I had never been to Denver before.  Being that Southwest has nonstop flights from Boise, we decided to give it a look.  If nothing else, we could put a new pin on our travel map.  With the help of some beautiful weather, public bicycles, nachos, and 21oz. margaritas, we enjoyed our day in Denver.

Thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, Lacey and I hopped on a free flight to Denver last Saturday morning.  We landed, caught the hotel shuttle, dropped off our bags, and took a $5 Uber to downtown Denver.  We were enjoying brunch and mimosas at the Viewhouse on Market St. by 11:30am.  The Viewhouse is one of the coolest sports bars I’ve ever been to.  It’s like Disneyland for drunken sports fans.  They have a huge outdoor area on the 1st level that is full of backyard games like corn hole.  The top floor patio, where Lacey and I hung out, has amazing views of downtown Denver and of Coors Field.  Their brunch is delicious and is accompanied by solid happy hour specials that include bottomless mimosas and a build your own Bloody Mary bar.  Our day in Denver was off to a strong start!

After brunch, we walked across the street and found a public bicycle station where we rented 2 bikes.  We couldn’t think of a better way to quickly find out what all was going on in the downtown area.  While cruisin’ around, we ran into a Farmers Market right outside Union Train Station and then discovered the 16th St. Mall.  Lacey had heard good things about the 16th St. Mall from a friend, so we hopped off our bikes and decided to check it out a bit more.  Full of shops, restaurants, and people, this 1+ mile strip of outdoor mall was something I had never seen before in any other city.

As on most of our trips, I was on the prowl for a delicious margarita.  I wish I could remember the name of the place we found on 16th St, but I definitely found a winner.  The menu offered a 21 ounce, margarita.  Yikes!  It took quite a while to finish that bad boy off, but we enjoyed some great people watching from the patio of the restaurant while I worked on it.

Still on 16th St., we visited a cool little sports apparel shop. I’ve been wanting a new Chicago Cubs hat for a while now.  I don’t know if it was the margarita or just the excitement of visiting a new city, but I figured this would be a good day to make that purchase.  Surprisingly enough, I found the exact Cubs hat I had been looking at online the day before in Boise.  An all black fitted New Era hat with a white “C” on the front…likely the best Chicago Cubs hat ever.

Still riding the high from my purchase (and margarita) we headed back toward Coors Field to grab a bite at Lodos Bar and Grill.  This rooftop patio restaurant looked out to 2 other rooftop bars as well as Coors Field.  The surroundings reminded me of a beer commercial or something.  I always figured they staged those commercials to make ’em look like that, but as it turns out, that’s real life in downtown Denver.  Well done Denver, well done.

Following Lodos we headed over to Coors Field as we had tickets to the Cubs/Rockies game.  Right around that time, Lacey started feeling ill and we decided to call it a day rather then head into the game.  I think the altitude played a role in her illness as I wasn’t feeling so hot either.  Make sure to drink tons of water when you visit Denver!  You need to keep as much oxygen in your blood as possible being that you’re not going to get as much from the air as you normally would.

Aside from getting sick, we still had a good experience in Denver.  We got to see this beautiful city via bicylces and rooftop patios, we had some delicious food and drinks, and I scored a new hat! We will surely visit the mile high city again someday.

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

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Rewards Points Travel

3 Free Hotel Nights for Your Next Trip

August 6, 2016

Many of our recent “how to get free travel” posts have been focused on earning free flights.   The reason being is that we’re currently in love with our newly acquired Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.  We booked over $4k in free flights in 3 months!  Anyways, that’s a previous story.  While free flights are a huge piece to the free travel puzzle, let’s make it complete by adding some free hotel stays.  I am going to give you really quick tip that will result in you booking 3 free hotel nights while choosing from over 7,200 locations and properties.

Before I tell you the sweet, sweet magic that will get you around $1,000 in free hotel stays I want to remind you that we do not get any sort of compensation for what I’m about to recommend.  The coolest part about our travel tips are that you can trust they’re genuine.  We aren’t trying to push a sale on you or anything like what some of the other point guy(s) 😉 often do.  All of our free travel posts are simply a reflection of what my lovely wife and I are doing to try and see the world.

That being said, Lacey and I recently booked a trip to Orlando, Aruba, Curacao, and Miami for January 2017.  Our flights were taken care of by our Southwest Companion Pass, but we still needed some free hotel stays  to make this trip doable.  We already had 4 free nights with Hyatt Hotels to use in Aruba, which is awesome, but we still didn’t want to pay out of pocket for all of the remaining nights of our trip.  After a few hours of researching I discovered…drum roll…the Wyndham rewards Visa card.

Before stumbling on Wyndham’s site via Google, I had literally never heard of their rewards program.  I usually only see updates on the same 4 hotel rewards programs over and over;  Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG.  At first glance, Wyndham’s bonus offer of 45k points didn’t seem very impressive.  In my experience, 45k points with any of the previously mentioned hotel chains would likely get you 1-2 nights at a shit hotel in a sketchy part of town.  This is not the case with Wyndham.  Every single one of Wyndham’s properties is a flat rate of 15k points per night.  Yes, this includes their most expensive properties.  No matter where you’re wanting to go, you’ll be able to book 3 nights with your 45k points.  Depending on where you book, you could save over $1,000 in free rooms with this reward.

This is how it works:

  1. Sign up for the card (here) – there is a $69 annual fee that will post on your 1st statement
  2. Use the card once and earn 30k points (posted to your account after 1 billing cycle)
  3. Spend $1,000 with this card in 90 days and earn another 15k points
  4. When your points post to your account, go shop for your hotel room at Wyndham.com3 Free Hotel Nights with Wyndham

Easy enough right?  Thanks Wyndham! 😉

Do yourself a favor and look at this list of the top Wyndham properties before booking your stay.  That’s where Lacey and I found this $330 per night resort we’ll be staying at on South Beach in Miami for free.  Spoiler alert, we’re going to put the extra money saved towards margaritas on the beach.  Sounds like a good investment to me!

Let us know if you have any questions!  Now go book a beautiful and expensive stay at a Wyndham property for free!

Huntington Beach Sunset

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Rewards Points Travel

Free Flights with Southwest Airlines

July 21, 2016

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is the best credit card reward we have earned so far.  We booked $4,110.67 in free flights during the first 10 weeks of having the pass.  Yep, for real.  As of last Thursday, we are booked for 10 round trip flights on Southwest Airlines.  You can do the exact same thing we did.  Below you’ll find 3 simple steps to get a ton of free flights with Southwest Airlines.

If you missed our previous post on the Southwest Companion Pass, I’ll give you some quick deets right now.  To earn the pass you need to earn 110k Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year.  Once you do, you’ll receive the Companion Pass.  The pass lasts the rest of the year in which you earn it AND the entire next year.  Now the fun begins.  You can start booking your free flights with the 110k points you earned.  When you do, you can add your companion to each one of your booked tickets for free.  It’s pretty awesome.

Here’s how you can earn the 110k points to get your Companion Pass.  While there are a few different ways you can stack these points with Southwest’s partner programs, I feel like the following route is the easiest.

  1. Sign up for the Southwest Plus card, spend $2,000 before 90 days and earn the 50k bonus points. 50k offer for the Southwest Plus Card
  2. Sign up for the Southwest Premier card, again spend $2,000 before 90 days and earn another 50k bonus points. (suggestion: wait 30 days in between sign ups)Southwes Airlined 50k Premier Card
  3. With the points earned from spending $4k and the 100k bonus points, you’ll have 104k Rapid Rewards Points.  Your final 6k points can come from some strategic spending through the Southwest Shopping portal.  The portal will link you directly back to the online store you were going to shop at anyways, but you’ll earn 3 to 10 times the points per dollar spent when you link to it through Southwest’s portal.

The lovely people at Southwest Airlines are smart and realized that people are trying to time their sign ups to earn the Companion Pass in January.  That being said, they don’t usually offer the above mentioned cards at a 50k bonus point level around that time.  These cards are available now however and if you’re interested in getting a companion pass, make it easier on yourself and sign up while they’re easy to get.  Lacey and I didn’t need anywhere near 2 years to fully utilize this reward.  We only needed 10 weeks. …and honestly that was just time spent deciding where to go.  The actual booking of the flights took an hour.  Southwest now flies to the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica, and everywhere in the United States.  Deciding on where to go is maybe the toughest part of earning the Companion Pass.

With flights taken care of for the next year or so, there is suddenly way less pressure to keep signing up for multiple credit cards for free flights.  All you’ll need to focus on now are free hotels. 🙂

Let us know if you have any questions.  We can’t wait to tell you about our upcoming trips that were made possible with the Companion Pass!

Free Flights with Southwest Airlines

Pack your bags! You’re about to get a ton of free travel!

 

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Travel

Our Weekend in Chicago

July 14, 2016

Chicago is quickly climbing up the ranks on our most favorite cities in the world list. The last 2 times we have visited, it seemed like the city, people, and weather have been teaming up to sweep us off our feet. Our most recent visit was no different. Again, with beautiful weather and friendly people, here’s how Lacey and I spent an early summer weekend in Chicago.

First off, I’m a big believer in managing expectations. If you’re expecting too much out of city, event, vacation, or anything else, odds are you’ll end up disappointed if it doesn’t live up to the hype. On the flip side, if you go into something with an open mind you have a greater chance of being pleasantly surprised. This was exactly the case with us and Chicago.  We had no expectations.  We just wanted to hang out and eat some pizza.

We stopped in Chicago this May on our way home from our 15 day Euro-Trip. The weather was absolutely beautiful at 65 degrees and sunny. We visited a few touristy locations such as the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) as well as “The Bean” (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. Once again, we felt safe on public transportation and found everyone we were surrounded by on the streets and in restaurants to be welcoming and friendly.

We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Palmer House hotel during our weekend in Chicago. We had some Hilton Honors rewards to burn so we decided to use them in style. A funny thing I’ve noticed when we stay at fancy hotels for free is that the employees of the hotel react to us being there the same way Clark Griswold reacts when Cousin Eddy shows up for Christmas. All that aside, we enjoyed our stay and got back at the hotel a bit by “accidentally” sneaking into an executive lounge continental breakfast. Thanks for the free waffles Palmer House!

After breakfast, we walked over to Millennium Park to check out “the Bean“. While this has become a must see for travelers and instagrammers, we had actually never been there before. As with most pieces of art we’ve been lucky enough to visit recently, Cloud Gate (the bean) was much cooler in person than we expected it to be. We ended up hanging around it for about an hour. I snapped some funny pics of Lace rockin’ cheerleader moves in front of it that you can see below.

We left Millennium Park and hopped on a metro over to the Willis Tower where we had pre-purchased “Fast Pass” tickets to go up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. While pre-purchasing these tickets cost us about $20 more, it saved us at least 2 hrs of standing in lines. Totally worth it. The views of Chicago and Lake Michigan from the SkyDeck Lounge are crazy beautiful. While up there, we stepped out onto the “Skydeck Ledge” which is basically a glass cube that extends out from the building and over the city. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience.  As an added bonus, the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is this year, so there is a roped off area where you can stand next to Sloane Peterson and Cameron Frye mannequins and put your head on the glass in the exact spot Matthew Broderick (Ferris) did.  Getting to do this was super cool for me as I grew up with that movie.

After our nervous stomachs calmed down from being in the Skydeck, we decided it was pizza time. Eating at Gino’s East has become a “must-do” each time we visit this city. Their super deep dish, sauce on top of the cheese, traditional Chicago style pizza is amazing. Gino’s has been around for 50 years and has multiple locations but we always go back to the original restaurant on Superior Ave. This graffiti tagged, celebrity memorabilia filled pizza joint makes for a fun and authentic experience while waiting the standard 1 hour of required baking time for the deep dish crust. If you haven’t been, you need to stop by on your next visit to Chicago. If you’re with a group of 2-3 people, believe us, a medium pizza will be plenty.

Our weekend in Chicago was once again awesome. The only thing missing was a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately they were out of town 🙁 Next time Cubbies!

We’re becoming so fond of this city that we’ve already booked our next trip!

See you in January Chicago!

 

Let us know if you have any questions!

Click here to see our video edit from this trip.

Click here to see how we used rewards points to book this trip for free!

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend In Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

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Lifestyle

Get Free Stuff for Paying Your Bills

April 21, 2016

I’ll admit it.  At this point, I feel super entitled to free stuff.  I’ve put in a lot of time learning how to capitalize on credit card rewards points and now I can’t wrap my head around why I would ever pay for something, ANYTHING, and not get something in return for free.  Lacey and I pay with credit cards for literally every bill and expense we have.  Yes, this will now include mortgage payments. I’m going to tell you exactly how we do it because you should be getting free stuff for paying your bills too!

Before jumping right in and signing up for random credit cards to start paying your bills with; think about what your end goals are.  What do you want to get in return?  Look back on a previous post or two of ours that should help you decide on what card to sign up for to get a certain reward in return.

Once you select and receive the credit card that is going to get you the awesome reward you’re going for, you’ll want to create an online account with the bank that sponsors your new credit card.  For example, if you signed up for the Chase Sapphire card, you’ll create an online account at chase.com .  While logged in to your account, find where you can set up auto-pay.  It’s usually under a tab titled something like “manage payments”.  I would highly recommend you set auto-pay to pay off your entire balance each month.  This is an important step to make sure you don’t miss a payment and completely jack up your credit score (35% of your credit score is your payment history).

Now, take your new card and link it to every reoccurring monthly bill you have. Login to all of your online bill pay accounts for things like cable, internet, electricity, gas, water/sewer/trash, Netflix, iTunes, and anything else you can think of.  If you’ve never setup AutoPay for things like these don’t worry, it’s really easy.  Similar to how you setup your online account with the bank that provided your credit card, you’ll create an online account and set up auto-pay for each service you subscribe to.  Set your credit card as the payment source for every monthly bill you have. By doing this along with putting all of your day to day expenses on your card (groceries, gas, meals,etc), you’ll be shocked at how easily you’ll hit your spending requirements.

At this point, you may have figured out that your mortgage company and the bank you make your car payments to won’t allow you to pay with a credit card.  This totally sucks because these are likely your 2 biggest monthly bills and now you’re missing out on tons of reward points!  While most banks won’t accept credit card payments, they will accept checks.  There is an awesome service called Plastiq that will let you set up your credit card as a payment source while they will, in turn, send a check to whoever you need to pay. Boom goes the dynamite cuz you’re back in business!  While the Plastiq service does charge a 1-2.5% fee per transaction, if you sign up through our referral link you’ll get $200 of fee free payments.  Pretty cool of them to do that.

Is it worth the % fee that Plastiq charges for making your payments? Well, that’s up to you.  To put it in to perspective, let’s say your monthly mortgage payment is $2,000.  You’ll get charged about $40 to make the payment through Plastiq.  Let’s say in this example that you’re using the Southwest Premier card to make your payment.  For the $40 you spent to put $2000 on this card, you’ll reach the spending requirement and will get an estimated $650 worth of free flights within a matter of weeks after receiving the card.  You’ll be headed to Cabo, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Aruba, or any of the other awesome new locations Southwest now flies to.  So if you’re in a rush to hit the spending requirements on a credit card to get the bonus, it may be worth a few bucks to do it through Plastiq.

I hope this gets you started on a path that earns you awesome free stuff for every dollar you spend.  The next time you get an unexpected $1,000 bill…turn that around and get a free vacation out of it!  Good luck!  Let us know if you have any questions.

Free Stuff for Paying Bills

Turn your next unexpected bill into an unexpected vacation!

 

 

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