Postcards to Ourselves

When I woke up this morning I shuffled over to my computer and as part of my morning ritual logged into my Facebook account. After 7-8 hours offline (aka “sleep”) reconnecting to the world via my various social media accounts has taken precedence over such basics as brushing my teeth or brewing a cup of coffee (though in my case it would be popping open a can of Diet Coke).  Bleary-eyed, I glanced to my right and noticed a few new additions to the wall next to our computer.


My Partner F had taped up several of the postcards we had mailed ourselves from our recent trip to Europe.  I was about to wake him up for a lecture on the possibly permanent damage he had done to the paint finish when I stopped myself.  The postcards sparked a wave of memories ….

… Of how Vacanze Romane (Roman Holiday) was the movie playing on the flight over


… Of buying the set of vintage Italian postcards at the San Lorenzo market in Florence right after we had each purchased our leather “man purses” (which have yet to see the light of day on the streets of Chicago) …

… Of how we rerouted our return home from Italy via London so we could attend the David Bowie show at the V&A … and how we spent a good 45 minutes sitting at the center of the exhibit immersing ourselves in the artist’s music as we watched concert footage of him through the years on giant video screens …

… And buying the following card:


Just so we could mail it home with a Doctor Who stamp.


Our trip has been well documented with photos from our iPhones.  We updated family and friends in real time on our travels via Facebook.  We’ve left quite a few digital footprints over the course of our journey.  However, those little postcards we mailed home to ourselves sparked more memories than all of those electronic media combined.  The postcards represent a very tangible link to the great times we had on vacation.  The very act of putting pen to paper created a physical link back to those moments we were recording.

Writing postcards is definitely Old School.  However, those cards from each of our trips are our most treasured vacation souvenirs.  They all communicate the same warm message and elicit the same nostalgic feeling… “Wish we were there.”

Feeding the Points Kitty

Wikipedia has this to say about a Kitty:

1) May refer to Cat (animal), a small carnivorous mammal of the subspecies Felis silvestris catus
2) In poker terminology, a pool of money built by collecting small amounts from certain pots, often used to buy refreshments, cards, and so on
3) In Pointing terminology, refers to the place where travel fanatics like me stash their hard earned miles and points

Yes, I have a Kitty (refer to Definition #3 above).  As a matter of fact, I have several Kitties where I store the miles and points I’ve accumulated.  Oh, and to help fund the dream vacation I mentioned in my last postI even tapped into the Kitty maintained by my Partner F. You see, in the world of Pointing it pays to diversify AND join forces to achieve your travel goals.

For F and I, United is our preferred airline.  The carrier’s MileagePlus program is one of the industry’s most versatile frequent flyer programs.  Here’s what is currently in our MileagePlus Kitties:

Me:      100,323 Miles
F:           95,103 Miles

How did we get here? Well, part of those balances came by travel the old-fashioned way – BITS (“Butt-in-the-Seat”).  However, the vast majority of those miles were earned through the use of miles and points earning credit cards.  Check out my earlier post on What’s In My Wallet – My Workhorse Cards for how your everyday spending can rack up your points totals pretty quickly.

In that post, you’ll see that MileagePlus isn’t the only program that we’re using.  Another foundation of our Pointing strategies is the Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards program. Here’s what is currently in our Ultimate Rewards Kitties:

Me:      22,051 Points
F:         71,143 Points

Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly useful in that they can be transferred to a wide array of airline and hotel programs. There are a lot of options for how you can structure an award.  In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Ewww … probably not the best analogy to use in feline-themed blog post.

So, how would this all work if you wanted to structure an award?  Well, let’s say that F and I wanted to spend Valentine’s Day in Paris.  Two Business class tickets require 200,000 MileagePlus miles total.  In fact, here’s what’s available (check out how much these tickets REALLY cost!).

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Since we need to top off F’s account he could transfer 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points on a 1:1 basis into his MileagePlus account.  This would give us enough miles to book those two Business Class tickets.

Of course, we’ll need a place to stay.  So, with the remaining miles we could book 4 nights at the Park Hyatt Paris for 88,000 points by transferring what we need from our Ultimate Rewards accounts into our Hyatt Gold Passport hotel programs.

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As this example shows, you can mix and match airline and hotel programs by using a combination of both MileagePlus miles and Ultimate Rewards points.  In addition, since United is a member of the Star Alliance airline network, you’re not restricted to just one airline.

In general, premium cabin awards get you the most bang for the point buck. However, although, F and I have enough points for 2 Business Class awards, I think we’ll be holding out for First Class. You see, for “only” 17,500 more points per person we can go from …

This (United Business Class)


To This (United First Class)


Or if you play your cards right … Maybe THIS (Lufthansa First Class)


A redemption on Lufthansa First Class is the “Great White Whale Award” for many in the miles and points world.  It’s out there …. But you have to jump through a few hoops (or be lost at sea for several years) to achieve it (sorry for going overboard with the Moby Dick references).  I’ll recount how I was able to do this in a future post so stay tuned!

However, there’s a new award redemption which I predict will be the next “must have” for miles and points collectors. Eva Air (of Taiwan) has recently joined the Star Alliance.  As a result you should be able to redeem for awards for this ….

Hello Kitty Eva Air

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I MUST fly this plane one day.  Of course, I do need to warn you.  Five minutes listening to the Hello Kitty music on the website is equivalent to riding Disney’s It’s A Small World ride for 10 hours. You will NOT be able to get this tune out of your head. You’ll also have an incredible urge to eat cotton candy and sushi formed into “cute” shapes. Mmmm … pass the goldfish shaped wasabi … I think it’s time for lunch!

I’m Spent – What I Did On My Pointing Vacation

Dear Blog Reader forgive me for I have not posted.  It has been eight months since my last entry and in that time I’ve …

  • Experienced Cirque de Soleil overload in Vegas
  • Checked out Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers and Marilyn’s white dress in London
  • Conducted a tri-state tour of the deep fried foods of New England
  • Geeked out at the Comic-Con of the frequent traveller and points collecting world in suburban Virginia
  • Amassed a huge collection of mini paper umbrellas in Hawaii

However, most importantly, after a year of planning, obsessing and collecting I’ve cashed in my points. A LOT OF POINTS.

We’ve just come back from a two week trip to Italy where we celebrated an (ahem) “Milestone Birthday” for my Partner F.  Although my miles and points didn’t cover the whole tab, they did pay for some great experiences that I could never imagine paying for on my own.  As I sit at home waiting for the first wave of credit card bills to roll in from our trip, I can at least take some comfort in the fact that we did get a lot of cool stuff for a fraction of the actual cost.  Here’s what my Pointing got us …

 United Airlines First Class


Redeemed 135,000 MileagePlus Miles
2 First Class Tickets from Chicago to Naples, Italy
Estimated Value: $19,200

Hilton Sorrento Palace (Italy)


Redeemed 100,000 Hilton HHonors Points
2 nights – King Guestroom / Sea View
Estimated Value: $920

Lufthansa  Intra-European Flight


Redeemed 25,000 MileagePlus Miles
2 Economy Class Tickets from Florence, Italy to London England
Estimated Value: $3,200

 Andaz Liverpool Street London


Redeemed 54,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points
3 nights – King Room
Estimated Value: $1,260             

 Lufthansa First Class


Redeemed 135,000 MileagePlus Miles
2 First Class Tickets from London to Chicago
Estimated Value: $21,000

Now that we’re home again, I have to admit that I’m going through a bit of Pointing withdrawal.  After a year of planning and points accumulation I’m now in search of my next big award.  As the “reservation window” for Summer 2014 award travel is starting to open I’ve already started playing around with scenarios for possible award redemptions.  In addition, I’ve been trolling the internet and sifting through my junk mail in search of another great credit card signup bonus.  I’m also still daydreaming of all the great experiences I was able to achieve through Pointing. Sigh, there’s nothing like being driven up to a 747 in a Mercedes.


How many points do I have left? How do I plan on earning more? What do I plan to do with all of those miles and points?  And what about that Mercedes??? Stay tuned, I have few ideas (and vacation pictures) I’d like to share with you …