Category Archives: Deals

Going Green by Forgoing Clean … and Earning 500 Easy Starwood Starpoints

Playing the points “game” often means being opportunistic … and a bit obsessive … about picking up points whenever and wherever you can get them (check out my earlier post on using the “right cards” to maximize you Pointing opportunities on your daily spending). I often lecture my Partner F on this topic. Therefore, it really warmed my heart when he came back from a recent business trip and told me how he picked up 500 Easy Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints are a “currency” you can use not only for hotel stays but also for travel on a variety of different airlines (check out my earlier post Starwood, Starpoints, Starstuck on the great value of this loyalty program).  In addition, banking your points in a transferable currency like Starpoints can help manage the risk of such (inevitable) events as a major frequent flyer program devaluation (e.g., like the recent United Airlines bloodbath).

However, opportunities for earning Starpoints are generally limited to traditional hotel stays and by spending on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card (which doesn’t offer the great category bonuses your receive on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card). As a result, Starwood’s Make a Green Choice program is a very welcome Pointing opportunity.

The Make a Green Choice program is available through select Sheraton and Westin hotels.

Sheraton Westin Starwood Make A Green Choice Program

For each night of your stay that you decline housekeeping services, you receive your choice of either 500 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints or a $5 voucher that can be used at participating hotel food and beverage outlets. Specific Terms & Conditions are as follows:

Sheraton Westin Starwood Make A Green Choice Program Terms and Conditions

Given that Starpoints can be valued at 2.2 cents / point (one of my favorite bloggers Ben at One Mile at A Time provides a great overview of Hotel Point Valuations), “taking the points” yields a much greater value. For the extra points, I wouldn’t mind making the bed and rinsing out my own champagne glasses …

Hotel Marincanto Positano Welcome Prosecco After

How about you? Would you be willing to take a pass on some hotel services in order to earn extra points?


Pointing the Way to Learning a Foreign Language in 2013 – 12 Miles per Dollar for Purchasing a Rosetta Stone Course

The year is drawing to a close and I’m starting to contemplate what my New Year Resolutions will be. Of course, as they do every year, such standard goals as “Lose Weight,” “Get More Exercise” and “Learn a Foreign Language” make it on to my list. As I work towards becoming a “better me” in 2013, I’ve decided to tackle what I consider to be the least painful of my Resolutions.

Given that F and I will be going to the Amalfi Coast this Summer, I’ve decided to study Italian. Fortunately, I discovered that United’s MileagePlus Shopping Portal is offering the following special deal.

Rosetta Stone Deal MileagePlus ShoppingIn addition, Rosetta Stone is offering some great discounts off the purchase price of their language courses.

Rosetta Stone Italian

As I indicated in an earlier post, Online Shopping Portals are a great way to earn bonus miles for purchases that you were planning on making anyway.

I’ve taken a Rosetta Stone course before and enjoy the company’s approach to learning languages. I’m eager to learn Italian and hope to fully partake of the culture and engage with the locals.

More importantly, our trip will coincide with the country’s annual Summer Sales period.  By the time I hit Italian shores, I want to be able to confidently stride into a store and, with my head held high, confidently inquire whether the pair of trousers I’m interested in comes in a Men’s “Husky” size.

Sigh. Then again, I should probably focus on the “Lose Weight” and “Get More Exercise” portions of my New Year Resolutions list as well …

New York In A Minute – Chicago – New York for $138

The Flight Deal reported today a great airfare on American Airlines of $138 (all taxes included) between Chicago and New York through February 28.   Tickets must be purchased at least 21 days in advance and departures must be on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday.

As I’m plotting out our New Year travel plans I was hoping to once again try and make the best use of a three day weekend and have my eye on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday for a quick getaway to the Big Apple.  As it turns out, United, my preferred carrier, has matched the American Airlines fare. The following possibilities exist:

These potential itineraries would let F and I enjoy a quick break in New York, fly back on Tuesday morning, then hop on the EL and make it Downtown in time (or at least not horribly late) for a full day of work. Hmmm, something to think about …

Frasier and Niles in Portland? Chicago – Portland for $178 Roundtrip on United

My Partner F and I have sometimes been described as the Frasier and Niles Crane of Chicago.  We enjoy fine restaurants, have a penchant for Mid-Century Modern furniture and have been known to take in an occasional performance of The Mikado at The Lyric.  However, as much as we enjoy having recreated our own version of that Seattle based sitcom here in the Midwest, we have come to realize that it’s time to freshen up our repertoire.

It seems that the epicenter of cool has shifted south from Seattle.  At least that’s what we’ve heard. We’ve become huge fans of the IFC series Portlandia. As a result, we are now considering fashioning ourselves after the various bohemian, artsy, foodie, techie, crunchy, lefty characters that populate this hilarious sketch comedy show.

Of course, in order to get properly into character F and I will need to take our act on the road to do some field research.  For the past several months we’ve been thinking of taking a trip out west to visit The City of Roses.  However, fares from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest have remained stubbornly high.

Therefore, I was thrilled when The Flight Deal reported today that Alaska Airlines we offering a fare of $178 roundtrip between Chicago and Portland.  Upon doing further research I discovered that United had matched the fare.  Here’s what availability looks like in January / February:

We’re thinking of taking a long weekend in order to make the best use of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 21) or Presidents’ Day (February 18) Holidays.  Here are a couple of potential itineraries:

These are some really great fares that have me tempted. Perhaps a trip to Portland might just be what I need to satisfy my latest travel urges.  In addition, could it be Kismet which is pushing us towards Portland?  Both of the cities I’ve been talking about in this blog entry have a common theme – they’re known for their great coffee.  Spooky, huh?

Oh wait a minute, neither F nor I drink coffee.  Oh well, maybe we’ll take in a microbrewery instead.

Turkey Day in Turkey?

For some people, part of the Thanksgiving ritual is to wake up early, strap on the running shoes and take a quick “Turkey Trot” to help counter the effects of an anticipated day of consuming copious amounts of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.  For others, a leisurely walk around the block following the meal will do the trick.  However, for a travel and points obsessed person like me, the following idea popped into my head this morning … “Wouldn’t it be cool to fly to Turkey on Turkey Day? Why don’t I do a Mileage Run?”

Hmmm.  Let’s see, I could sit down to Thanksgiving lunch, go back for seconds and still have time for a tryptophan induced nap.  I then grab a carry on bag and head out O’hare and catch the following flight:

Wow, only $660 that’s a pretty incredible price. Very tempting!  Of course, I’m not quite sure if I’d be able to get buy in from my Partner F on this latest hair brained scheme of mine.  I’m sure I would get one of those “What are you nuts?” looks from him.

Perhaps a more plausible scenario would be to take a trip early next year.  For example, this is what pricing of flights from Chicago to Istanbul looks like in February:

Based on these rates, a flight to Turkey would cost LESS than the amount I am paying to visit my family in San Diego this Christmas.  In addition it is HALF the price of what we are paying to go on our upcoming trip to London.  I have my eye on the following itinerary:

Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance so we would be able to be able to collect 10,948 United MileagePlus points on this trip. In addition, the inbound and outbound flights are both non-stops which would save us a lot of time.  Furthermore, February 18 is Presidents’ Day which would make this a very viable “long weekend” option.

“Hey F, what do you think about spending Valentine’s Day in Turkey?”

(Insert, aforementioned “What are you nuts?” look here)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!