Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year my fellow travel addicts!

2015 was a great year of travel for me and I have so many great adventures to look back on! I got to try many new airline products and added several new destinations to my travel journal. New countries this year for me included Hong Kong, Macau, (if you want to be technical, special regions of China) Taiwan, Monaco, Japan, and Indonesia. Some of this journey was solo for work, some of it with friends and family.

Airline firsts for me in 2016 included Air France, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Virgin America. I racked up 134,825 miles in 2015!

jet it up 2015 blopez
I covered a lot of airspace in 2015!

I am still planning to be AAdvantage and OneWorld loyal in 2016. While we saw lots of disappointing changes to American’s AAdvantage program in the last few months, I’m still content with American especially with their continued fleet renewal and pure convenience being based in Dallas.

2016 is already looking exciting with a few new destinations already on the agenda with Maui, Hawaii; Park City, Utah; and Budapest, Hungary to start! I’m also looking forward to my first British Airways flight and my first time back in Utah in over 10 years! If 2016 is half as fun as 2015, I have a lot to look forward to. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on Avion Addiction in 2016. I look forward to sharing my story as well as the ways you too can travel well for less!

You can always keep up with on Twitter (@benjaminj84/@avionaddiction) as well as Instagram (@benjaminj84/@avionaddiction).

One Day Adventures: Philadelphia & Eastern State Penitentiary

Like many of you fellow travel geeks, I enjoy traveling as much as I can squeeze into my wild schedule. Some of my friends call me crazy but I enjoy little one day trips. They aren’t quite mileage runs because I do actually have plans when I arrive rather than just hopping around airports. I’m starting a new post series called “One Day Adventures” documenting these little one-day getaways. My latest One Day Adventure was a Saturday visit to Philadelphia.

Getting around Philadelphia is pretty easy; it’s a very walkable city. For my One Day Adventure, the Independence Pass is the best option at $12. It includes unlimited rides on the SEPTA rail, subway, trolley, and bus system. This includes the regional rail to/from the airport and the PHLASH tourist attraction bus.  The weather was quite cool but pleasant as the day warmed up. Living in Dallas, I’m used to the weather being quite warm already by April.

Eastern State Penitentiary was the primary destination during our short visit. We had lunch at Marathon in Rittenhouse Square and then hopped on the Phlash bus. I’d seen all the cool photos online and you might remember the seeing the dilapidated prison in the film 12 Monkeys. The eerinees of Eastern State is not exaggerated. It’s a fascinating look at prison technology for days past. I was intriguqed to learn that the prison operated from 1829 all the way to 1971. At $14 per adult, it’s a visit well spent. You can easily spend hours here wandering the eerie hallways, listening to the audio tour and chatting with the floating guide staff.

 

 

 

As required by all tourists in Philadelphia, we had to stop by the LOVE parking across from City Hall near Suburban Station. As the weather had warmed up, it was quite a popular place to be.

   Philadelphia City Hall is a a massive building at the heart of the city center. It’s a magnificent beauty! This was my first time in Philly and I was incredibly impressed with the architectural beauty of the city.

Before we knew it, our short day was over. We hopped on the SEPTA rail back the airport and hung around the terminals at PHL for a bit of planespotting. I love early evening departures as there are so many international departures. Planespotting in Terminal A is great this time of day.

I constantly tell people I hate the term “staycation”. Staying home is boring. I can do that when I come home from a long day at work! All in all, we earned a decent chunk of AAdvantage miles and got to spend a whole day in a new city. Our roundtrip tickets on US Airways were only $100 from DFW to PHL. All in, we spent about $275 for the whole trip. Not bad in my book at all!

Do these type of adventures sound fun to you? Or just crazy? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or on Twitter @BenjaminJ84 and @AvionAddiction.

Last Chance! 2,000 Mile Bonus with Dividend Miles Dining

dividend miles dining 2000 bonus

 

With the impending consolidation of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles, this is your last chance to snag up all the Dividend Miles that you can. Dividend Miles is still running a promotion of 2,000 bonus miles when you sign up and dine within 30 days and spend $30 at least 4 times. Just for dining once, it appears you can earn 1,000 miles. You can sign up here.

These miles will convert to AAdvantage Miles very soon!

Here’s the fine print:

To earn rewards through this bonus, you must first register for the bonus. Within 30 days of creating a dining profile, you must dine at any participating restaurants, bars, or clubs and spend at least $30 (including tax and tip) on each check. Within 30 days of any visit, you must also complete a post–dine survey of the restaurant, bar, or club. Please note that all checks must be paid for with a credit or debit card registered with Dividend Miles Dining at the time of the visit.
You may earn this bonus for a maximum amount of 2,000 bonus miles, as such: 1,000 bonus miles on the first participating restaurant visit, 500 bonus miles on the second participating restaurant visit, and 500 bonus miles on the third participating restaurant visit, within the qualifying period. Limit one bonus-qualifying visit per restaurant per day.

 

Exotic Travel on a Budget, Fact vs. Fiction: Tahiti vs. Riviera Maya

Earlier today, I saw an article claiming that it was somehow possible to travel to Bora Bora on a “budget” with all kinds of tips and tricks for achieving this dream vacation without breaking the bank. While the article claimed that technically this was possible, the reality is that Bora Bora is a very expensive and quite exotic destination. As a savvy traveler who knows how to find lots of incredible deals to avoid paying “retail”, I know that there are just some destinations that require quite a splurge in spending. Bora Bora is one of those destinations. Retail price will easily set you back $10K for a couple simply flying economy!

Two round-trip tickets to Tahiti in Business Class on Air Tahiti Nui? One could use 250,000 AA miles to fly on Air Tahiti Nui. The average traveler doesn’t have 250,000 airline miles just sitting around to snag two Business Class tickets for a couple to jet over to Tahiti.  Many of us in the miles hobby know this is achievable with the right credit cards and earning tools but not everyone has the desire or patience. I certainly don’t write on this blog to sell fantasies of signing up for a credit card or two and all of a sudden you’re jetsetting around the globe in first class daily!

 

Tulum: Featuring Gorgeous Beaches, Flanked by Mayan Ruins

Actual Deal: Riviera Maya, Mexico- Playa Del Carmen & Tulum

While Mexico may not be as “exotic” as Tahiti, here’s a sample vacation that can make you feel like royalty while you lay in the white sands of the Caribbean.

Off-Peak Dates: September 7 – November 14

Easy to access from just about anywhere in the U.S., the Rivieria Maya has become and extremely popular yet still peaceful and enjoyable. Cancun is quite commercialized for me and the smaller towns of Playa Del Carmen and Tulum are much more peaceful, offering something for everyone. The Riviera Maya is great for solo travelers, couples, or families of any age. For the scenario below, I’ve used the sample dates of Oct 20-27, 2015. Sample AAdvantage fees are Denver to Cancun round-trip.

2 Round-trip Economy Tickets from U.S. to Cancun: 50,000 AAdvantage miles + $164 award taxes & fees

7 Nights for 2 Adults at Dreams Tulum Resort, All-Inclusive: $324/night = $2271 total inc. taxes 

Round-trip private transfer in Chevy Suburban from Cancun airport to resort: $250

Dreams Resorts is one of the most highly regarded all-inclusive hotel brands. Source: Orbitz.com
Dreams Resorts is one of the most highly regarded all-inclusive hotel brands.
Source: Orbitz.com

Since Dreams Tulum is an all-inclusive resort, you don’t need to budget for your daily food and drink expenses. Your entertainment on the resort is also included although excursions off the resort and spa services are typically an additional cost. Currently, there is a promotion for a $400 resort credit with your booking to use for items like spa services, upgraded meals, or excursions.

Grand total for two, we’re looking at 50,000 AAdvantage miles and $2,685 out of pocket for a very nice week-long getaway in Mexico at a prime resort. Not a bad deal!

Some of you are rolling your eyes at me as you think about all the Starwood points or HHonors points you would have redeemed for a resort stay. But the reality is, John  Doe who’s just getting into the points and miles game, doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of points in multiple airlines and hotel currencies. Most folks have a small balance in various accounts but tend to accrue miles with one airline or one transferable points currency like Amex Membership Rewards.

Why do I consider this a good deal?

  • You’re saving 20,000 AAdvantage miles on two tickets by flying off-peak vs peak.
  • Rooms during the peak season are easily $100 more per night, if not more.
  • It’s all-inclusive! Don’t knock it until you try it. The vast majority of folks who try high-end, all-inclusive resorts, love them.

Do you agree that this is a deal? Share your thoughts in the comments below!