Virgin Atlantic – International Flights

Richard Bronson’s attempt to bring the old glamour of airlines into the 21st century. From glamour shots of model quality stewardesses to playboy romanticism, with colorful lights and stylish bars in-between, the airline has been pretty successful at creating its image so far.

With its partner airline Virgin America, Bronson is really taking the old air routes by storm, in many cases even providing competitive pricing to many discount airlines.

Virgin Atlantic is focused mainly on providing routes from England. Most of its routes go through 3 airports in England and one in Scotland, providing adequate coverage for most of the United Kingdom.

    UK Hubs:

  • London Heathrow Airport – London, England
  • London Gatwick Airport – London, England
  • Manchester Airport – Manchester, England
  • Glasgow Airport – Glasgow, Scottland

From those 4 airports they service locations in the North America, Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Australia.

    North America – Non-Stop flights to/from the UK to:

  • Boston, Mass, USA
  • Chicago, IL, USA
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Orlando, FL, USA
  • Miami, FL, USA
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • San Francisco, CA, USA
  • JFK New York, NY, USA
  • Newark, NJ, USA
  • Vancouver, Canada
    Caribbean

  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Havana, Cuba
  • Antigua
  • Barbados
  • St. Lucia
  • Grenada
  • Antigua
  • Tobago
    Africa

  • Accra
  • Johannesburg
  • Cape Town
  • Lagos

    Asia

  • Delhi
  • Mumbai
  • Hong Kong
  • Shanghai
  • Tokyo

    Middle East

  • Dubai
    • Australia

    • Sydney: Via Hong Kong

Bank of America – Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Bank of America is rounding out its travel rewards cards pretty nicely with some very specialized cards.

They are currently the largest bank in the United States by deposits, which means that chances are you already bank with them. This provides the absolutely simplest single login solutions I have had the pleasure of experiencing. Citibank has been pretty good, but they don’t make viewing all of your accounts as simple as Bank of America does. The only other one in the running is Chase, which I don’t currently bank with.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card is decent, but you can get a lot better out there for generic travel cards. The bonuses aren’t great, a flat 10%, but the redemption rate appears to be very fair. I won’t focus on it for now because it isn’t too great, and I want to focus more on the specialized cards that they are offering.

Cruises: Unique among most major banks, Bank of America has two Cruise rewards credit cards. Cruise rewards credit cards are relatively new, and rare for the moment. If you really love cruises and need to save everything you can for them this could be an effective way to do so.

  • Royal Caribbean Visa: Provides you with the only way to earn points for Royal Caribbean for the moment. Signup bonus is decent at 10,000 points after the first qualifying purchase. You earn 1 Royal Point per dollar, double points on most Royal Caribbean purchases, and up to 250,000 points per year. It also has nice feature called Purchase Replacement that replaces stolen or damaged goods within 90 days of purchase.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line MasterCard: Also the only one of its kind for Norwegian, but its strange since it doesn’t provide points directly for the cruise lines loyalty program. Instead you get Bank of America’s WorldPoints. The Bonus is also 10,000 points, with 1 point per dollar, and double points on Norwegian purchases. It also includes the 10,000 point bonus on first qualifying purchases, and the Purchase Replacement feature. Still the fact that it uses WorldPoints drops the value of this specifically for cruises, but becomes more valuable if you want to redeem your cruise rewards for other things.
  • Conclusion: If you like to go on cruises a lot, both are good deals. The Royal Caribbean card will be a much more specific and rewarding card for cruises. The other card is great if you want to be more flexible on redemption, but because it’s outside of the main loyalty program, redemptions for cruises may be harder to find.

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature Card: The signup bonus is very disappointing at 2,500 after first qualifying bonus. The bonus for purchases are tiered nicely with 1 per dollar for everything, 2 points per dollar for gas, groceries and drug stores, and 3 points on all AAA and travel purchases. The redemption appears fair. Overall this card is very disappointing since it doesn’t even come with free AAA membership.

Airlines: While not the top rewards programs out there these cards are competitive for Airline cards. The only special part of this is that they fit some very niche markets for airline travelers, instead of being very global or flexible.

  • Alaska Airlines Visa: 25,000 bonus miles without even a purchase. Combine this with 1 mile on all purchases, 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines Purchases, and specials on partner hotels and restaurants that o up to 5 miles per dollar, this card doesn’t play on being a much more modest travel rewards card than most of the American Express lines. To pile on top of that it mimics on of the nicest features from the top of the line American Express Platinum card. It provides you with a free coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines flights.
  • Virgin Atlantic American Express: One of the newer international airlines, Virgin’s trendsetting style, and good rates have made it a reasonable airline for those primarily dealing with travel in the Atlantic.The signup bonus is ok at 20,000 after first purchase, but this card has an annual 15,000 bonus on every anniversary. Additional card members get you another bonus of 5,000 points. The earning rates wont be too bad with 1.5 miles per dollar on every purchase and 3 miles per dollar on Virgin Atlantic purchases. Additional bonuses include 1 tier point for every $2,500 in purchases, and additional tier points for flying Virgin Atlantic and airline partners. Redemption rates get better with a second reward ticket for half miles when reedeeming Flying Club miles for a Virgin Atlantic Economy reward ticket (Min expenditure of $25,000/year to qualify for this last one).
  • Asiana Airlines American Express: A very different set of rewards for this one. Mileage earnings at 1 per dollar on everything, 2 per mile on gas and grocery stores, 3 points per dollar spent on Asiana Airlines. No signup buonus, but a 10,000 annual bonus in certificate form. Also you get $100 rebate on Asiana Airlines tickets, and 2 Asiana Airlines lounge invitations.
  • Spirit Airlines Master Card: One of the fastest growing economy airlines, this card can really boost your savings even more. 15,000 signup bonus after first qualifying purchase. Earn 2 miles for every dollar, 5,000 anniversary Free Spirit miles when you spend $10,000 annually. The only down side is the annual fee at $59 (waived first year). Still it has preferred boarding, Price Protection, and Purchase Guard (a warranty that doubles US warranties).
  • Conclusion: Most of you will be more interested in Spirit and Virgin Atlantic. They are both very value oriented options for people under the Bank of America flag.

American Airlines – Net SAAver Deals

Net SAAver is an ideal solution for anyone looking to set up last minute trips. Its designed to provide the same functionality as HotWire, and other last minute, last room availability. This means that the company itself is getting somewhat desperate to sell the seats. Many hotel companies and airlines are starting to run promotions like these, but very few are as completely comprehensive and easy to use as this one.

NetSAAver is generally being branded for their weekend promotions for the next 2 weeks. They are handled relatively similarly from what I can tell to the majority of American Airlines other promotional fares. You can earn miles off of them, but there are some limitations on the number of base miles that are Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s), but if you don’t travel on a regular basis to earn Elite Status anyways every year there may be little incentive for you to care. Here is a breakdown of the benefits and how to follow them.

All NetSAAver rates can be viewed online by going to http://www.aa.com/netsaaver/viewNetSAAverFareSales.do and looking at the bottom left of the page.

  • NetSAAver This Weekend: Tend to be the best fares possible. Its hard to find the exact route you want, but the fares are incredibly low.
  • NetSAAver Next Weekend: Tend to be pretty close to the “This Weekend”. Depending on the season this list may be more extensive but the two seem to include most of the same routes most of the time, with a price that is about 15% higher.
  • NetSAAver – International Fares for Next Weekend: Many of the same cities in the NetSAAver Domestic lists tend to show up here, and can make for a great system for connections and making it to international connections.

Make sure you verify that you have a return ticket within your budget before booking!

Now as for following these deals if you need to, there are a few important methods and tools you’ll need to use to make this work:

  • Email: Most people’s preferred method of contact now. It is easily accessible across multiple devices. In order to use this you should have an AAdvantage number, and use it to manage your e-mail subscriptions through your account.
  • RSS Feed (RSS Reader Required): This one is ideal if your into the RSS world. These RSS feeds can provide real time information onto internet connected devices, and appropriate webpages. Many portal websites (Yahoo!, Google, and more) provide RSS readers within their platform that can be added as a widget to your homepage. In order to use the RSS Feeds go to their aggregated feed page here, and select the ones you are interested in. As a traveler you may not be interested in all of them.

London Pass Vs Paris Pass

Making the most of your travels is hard. Your in a new city, new currency’s can be a hassle, and in many cases the language is pretty foreign. This is an English blog so one of the passes in this comparison doesn’t have the last of those but you get the idea. There normally aren’t too many ways to economize on site-seeing, or to simplify it. The oldest and stablest method of economizing travel isn’t available to the majority (Student Pricing), and normally isn’t completely convenient. This is because many of the worlds biggest attractions try to pull in the worlds youth to grab another generation of loyal fans. This is sometimes even state sponsored, especially for groups that interest the government. Still world class destinations are in the process of developing pseudo-packages for people to get better value out of their trips for similar reasons.

London Pass – Its not the ideal system for economizing your trip it requires advanced purchase, and doesn’t include many of the most publicized and in demand attractions in London. Still its ability to skip lines can be a huge value addition, allowing you to run around town much faster.

Cons:

  • Expensive: £46/day or approximately £16/day if you buy it for 6 days
  • Missing Major Attractions Including:
    • London Eye
    • Madam Tussauds
  • Competes With Free Attractions Including:
    • British Museum
    • National Gallery
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Science Museum
    • Natural History Museum
    • Tate Modern
    • Victoria and Albert Museum
    • National Maritime Museum
    • Imperial War Museum
    • British Library

Pros:

  • Fast Track Line Skipping: Probably the largest benefit since it can save your hours each day. This feature is available at:
    • Tower of London
    • St. Paul’s Cathedral
    • Kensington Palace
    • Windsor Castle
    • Hampton Court Palace
    • London Bridge Experience
    • London Zoo
  • It can include travel via:
    • London Underground
    • Buses
    • Trams
    • Docklands Light Rail
    • Over-ground Trains and National Rail Services within zones 1 – 6
  • Variety of Star Attractions Including:
    • Tower Bridge Exhibition
    • Westminster Abbey
    • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Tour (One of my favorites)
    • Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience
    • London Transport Museum
    • Thames River Boat Cruise
    • Jason’s Original Canal Boat Trip
    • The Queen’s Gallery
    • The Courtauld Gallery
  • Additional Discounts and Promotions at select locations.

5% Promotional Coupon Code for 2012: londpas05 Valid on all passes.

Paris Pass – Its a similar situation (suprise!). Its run by the same company, and has similar features.

Cons: Essentially the same list as above.

Pros:

  • Fast Track Line Skipping: Probably the largest benefit since it can save your hours each day. This is most useful at the Musée d’Orsay
  • Variety of Star Attractions Including:
    • Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
    • Louvre Museum
    • The Orsay Museum
    • Centre Pompidou – National Modern Art
    • Arc De Triomphe
    • Montparnasse Tower
    • Panthéon
    • Ô Château Wine Tasting
    • Opera De Paris – Palais Garnier
    • Notre Dame Cathedral
    • Palace of Versailles
    • La Conciergerie
    • The Paris Story
    • Grevin Wax Museum
    • Museum of French Liberation

5% Promotional Coupon Code for 2012: parpas05 Valid on all passes.

Conclusion: The Pre-paid benefits of these items isn’t normally worth the costs. The company thats a third party takes a hefty slice of the profits and makes it hard to find a true value in the tickets. For example tickets at most of the major items on the list are well below the daily cost IF you buy the Passes for only one day. Consider these options if you and your family feel the need to see almost all of these cities and buy the multi-day passes since the cost savings are tremendous (almost 60%!) compared to buying them full priced. This discount brings the overall price well into line with what you would have to spend to see all of the tourist sites they offer. The time savings when your going around to so many sites may also be a great value for your first trip as a family, since it will allow you to see a lot more. Please don’t forget to use the promotional codes listed above, as they will help even more on your budget and enjoy!

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Also Check out this tip to skip lines at the Musée du Louvre on our forums by clicking here.

Paris Forum
London Forum

Luggage Specials

I love a good set of luggage. I currently have an expensive set from the people over at that has been treating me very well. The 3 piece set I have makes my luggage more flexible (they have compartments that work well in tandem, and different pieces work well independently for different reasons), easier to identify, and generally make me look much more awesome (ie professional). This set cost well over $1,000.

Still luggage gets damaged regularly and I’m constantly looking out for new potentials. Especially since I’m starting to see some of the wheels get damaged I’ve been considering another cheaper set for some of my personal travels that take me into less luggage friendly situations. One of the most recent cases was a train trip through a part of France where we were trying to skimp on travel charges. Some of the roads in some of the smaller french villages did a serious number on my luggage, but it all survived looking good still.

So for now I’m looking around for another set. In my search I’ve decided a few things.

  • I need another set
  • I wouldn’t mind using the new “Spinner” type luggage
  • The entire set should cost me somewhere below $400

In my search I’ve come across one particular website that seems like a great option The Luggage Guy Only its highest category breaks my budget and those are the “top of the line” for brands like Diane Von Furstenberg, Anne Klein, Timberland. The Timberland ones are the only ones that interest me in that set for this purpose because of their more rugged looking exteriors if I have to go that expensive.

To sweeten the pot a little, and the thing thats making me really think about purchasing now is the stacking promotions that are running through the website. The website advertises being 65-75% off every day, but of course this is off of MSRP (top line rate that is rarely seen in the market). It has a regular 30% off code (WKENG) that you can get by just clicking here or the link above. In addition to those savings theres a few special promotions running right now that bring many of the most expensive items well into my price range.

Valentine Day’s Special running now for an extra 31% off. Use Promo Code LUVLG at check out to get it.

Either way I’ll let you guys know what I pick up when I do. Since I’m not traveling much until next year I may wait until the next set of sales.

Updated Links 10/16

Welcome

Welcome to my travel blog. Me and my friends will be posting tips, tricks, and experiences here as often as we can. For now all I can tell you is I’m really excited to tell you about my recent trip with Orange County Mayor (Theresa Jacobs) to Bogota, Colombia and my upcoming trip to San Francisco. Please take a look at the forums (link on the right) for some of my very specific tips, and leave some of your own!

-Yuval Douer