Category Archives: Credit Cards

2018 in Review (and the Reason I’ve Been AWOL)

2018 has been a life-changing year. Yeah, every year is technically life changing. But on the spectrum of change, pregnancy and the birth of our son, little A, is kind of up there.

So that’s my excuse for being an absentee blogger. I think it’s a pretty good one. Pregnancy was as terrible as I imagined, and so much worse. Not that I wasn’t thankful and blessed. I tried to remind myself every time I heaved my innards into the toilet how lucky we were, but the day-by-day process was torture… for nine months. There isn’t any reason to sugarcoat it. I was nauseous, exhausted, starving, nauseous, achy, oh, and nauseous. I’m pretty sure my husband looked at me every day and said to himself, “I”m so glad I’m a guy.”

Traveling was hard to say the least. Our June trip to Greece, Israel, and Poland was both amazing and difficult. Besides for feeling physically sick, I struggled to get used to this new, limited version of myself. Old me wanted to climb up to the Acropolis and take a million pictures of everything. Pregnant me wanted to stay in our air conditioned hotel and sleep for hours. Pregnant me often won out.

Here’s a small taste of what I managed to see and what I’ll eventually blog about.

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View of the Acropolis in the distance. Athens, Greece

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Ethereal light on a Greek island. Aegina, Greece

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Sun setting on the Mediterranean Sea. Tel Aviv, Israel

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The gate to Birkenau – one of the biggest Nazi concentration camps. Outside Krakow, Poland

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Old town square. Krakow, Poland

I achieved one of my travel goals of getting the Southwest companion pass last year, but I was too tired to use it. By the time we got back from our June trip and I was well into my second trimester, I promised myself I wouldn’t go anywhere unless I absolutely had to.

But all that changed on November 27th – 24 minutes into his due date – A was born. It’s been five weeks and we’ve officially decided to keep him. Just kidding. We love this little guy to bits, but he does make it a lot harder to do the things we used to do. Now that the nausea is gone, the travel bug has returned with a vengeance… at least until we have our first diaper blowout on an airplane.

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My goals for 2019 are more limited in scope: Get back in shape (I have been seriously wedded to the couch for 10 months), use my Southwest companion pass to see some awesome places in the U.S. and show A our awesome country, plan a big family trip for next November/December, and sleep for more than three hours at a time.

Extra emphasis on the last one.

2018 in numbers:

0: New state visited. I have still visited 39 out of 50 states. (I hope to change that this year!)

2: New countries visited – Greece and Poland.

4: New credit cards (but three for M as well)

4: Countries visited, including the U.S.

12: States visited, including Washington D.C.

27: Flights.

26,000: Number of miles flown, 30,000 less than last year.

222,500: Number of miles redeemed. This includes two tickets from D.C. to Athens in business class, a roundtrip economy ticket for M to Rome, two tickets from New York to D.C., and  one ticket from Chicago to Knoxville.

215,000: Number of points redeemed at hotels, including two free nights due to credit cards. This includes five nights at the Hilton Athens, two nights at Hyatt Regency Amsterdam for M, and one night at the Marriott in Columbus, OH for M.

Too many to count: Car trips to West Virginia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York.

 

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Review: Priority Pass in Dulles Airport

The Priority Pass lounge card gives you membership in a network of 900-plus lounges all across the country. It now comes free with several credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Prestige card.

In the past, I have primarily used Priority Pass in Europe, where the lounges are more plentiful, but I was excited to try out Priority Pass in Dulles since we flew economy to Iceland.

Here’s the catch: Due to the influx of new members, many priority club lounges have placed limits on when you can enter. For example, the KLM lounge in Dulles’s Terminal 1 (closest to Iceland Air) is only open to Priority Pass members from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. The British Airways lounge is only open to Priority Pass members from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We arrived at the airport  at 5:00 p.m. during peak travel time. So we headed off to the Turkish Airlines lounge – the newest Priority Pass lounge.

It was great! While on the small side, there is a fantastic spread of food and drinks, comfortable seating, outlets, showers, and even a nap area. While Priority Pass is not a perk I use everyday, it is the perfect perk to alleviate the pain of flying economy on an international trip.

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IMG_9627As Priority Pass becomes increasingly popular, it may become increasingly useless for members, but for now, we were able to make it work.

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Vietnam #7: Welcome to Central Vietnam

Vietnam #1: It’s a Long Ass Flight to Vietnam
Vietnam #2: The Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam #3: A Lesson in History and Propaganda
Vietnam #4: The Streets of HCMC
Vietnam #5: Is the Mekong Delta Worth It?
Vietnam #6: My First Overseas Doctor Visit

We chose the coastal city of Danang as our base for exploring central Vietnam. I used my Chase points and my free annual night to book three nights at the Hyatt Regency Danang Resort.

I don’t think I’ve seen Lisa happier in my life. She loved waking up to the sound of the waves and strolling along the beach every morning. Seriously, ecstatic does not begin to describe it. As an added bonus, we were only a 25 minute ride from the ancient city of Hoi An, and we enjoyed a complimentary shuttle thanks to my Hyatt gold status.

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Lisa relaxing on our patio. She quickly deemed this couch “my chair.”

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Dipping my toes in the water and – what else? – taking pictures

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Lisa. In. Heaven.

The resort is beautifully decorated with light and airy touches. There are multiple pools on the premises, a fitness center (we even squeezed in a yoga class), a spa, restaurants, a water slide, and a climbing wall.

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And now the views. Be prepared to have your breath taken away.

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**2015-11-30 07.32.48-cropped As a final touch, we came back to our hotel room Monday night and found this extra waiting for us in honor of Lisa’s birthday. Happy birthday Lisa! What a great way to celebrate the birth of you!

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The Hyatt is about a 15 minute ride to central Danang. Despite overwhelming exhaustion, we grabbed a cab into town Sunday night to watch the big local attraction: Danang’s fire-breathing, water-spurting Dragon Bridge.

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Construction on the bridge started in 2009, and it opened to traffic in 2013. It quickly became something of an artistic and engineering marvel – a 2,185 feet long beauty with thousands of LED lights that come to life at night. Every weekend night at nine p.m., the dragon actually breathes fire and spurts water for half an hour in ten-minute increments. The weekly event is a hit with tourists, but even locals gather with their tiny plastic chairs and street food to enjoy the spectacle.

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RESEARCH ON CHASE POINTS

There’s been a lot of discussion on the blogs about the legality of transferring Chase points to another person’s account (see here, here and here). There are horror stories of Chase shutting down people’s accounts who have transferred points to a friend or relative. This concerned me because I have been planning on transferring The Boyfriend’s Chase points to my account. He has a Chase Freedom card and can take advantage of the Chase Freedom bonuses, but does not have a Sapphire Preferred card, and thus, no ability to transfer his points to airline and hotel programs.

Instead of risking it, I called Chase to find out what my options are. Since we are neither married nor domestic partners (living in the same apartment according to Chase), Chase informed me that transferring The Boyfriend’s points to my account technically violates Chase rules. I then asked if making him an authorized user on my account would remedy the problem. The representative put me on hold for less than a minute, and then informed me that this would, in fact, work. All I had to do was give Chase The Boyfriend’s name, confirm my address and we were done.

A card will come in a couple of days and I’ll probably stick it in a sock drawer with the rest of the credit cards I don’t use. Finally, this does not preclude The Boyfriend from applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred himself and getting the 40,000 bonus miles (I’m working on him).

So that’s my Chase experience, and I’ve very pleased with it. This tactic might not work for most folks, but it allows me to transfer points without running into any of the horror stories populating the web.

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