It’s the beginning of a new year. A time to reset and restart. If you didn’t notice, we’ve done some refreshing of the website. How do you like our new logo? I sure am glad we have talented friends to help us with things like that :-).
On the other hand, a new year is also an opportunity to set some goals. While you can set goals for your health (who’s going to the gym tomorrow? Go and get it!) or for your education (that thesis? easy peasy lemon squeezy!) you can also set some goals for your travels. I wrote down several things I want to accomplish this year (and got a head start on one of them already)
1. Get back on the credit card bandwagon
I pulled way back on our credit card applications to get under the restrictions Chase bank has for new cards (less than 5 cards in the last 24 months). I finally got approved for the Sapphire Reserve card and use it a lot. However, that meant I didn’t apply for many other cards that were out there and left a bunch of miles and points unclaimed. I need to start rebuilding my balances and I’m going to be on the lookout for some great sign up bonuses this year.
I just jumped on the 60,000 mile bonus on the JetBlue Plus card from Barclays. The offer was supposed to be over on December 31st but the offer is still live as of this writing.
This is double the normal 30,000 miles offered for the card. I was able to book two round trip tickets from Orlando to Austin for 34,800 JetBlue TrueBlue points last year so that sign up bonus is almost enough for us to make our two flights to Schlitterbahn water park this year. The $99 annual fee isn’t waived but getting four round trip flights for that amount isn’t that bad for one card sign up bonus.
2. Learn about United MileagePlus X
The MileagePlus X app has been out for over three years. The concept is pretty simple. Download the app. Check to see if nearby locations are participating with the program. If they are, you can buy a gift card for the value of your purchase from the app (and earn 0.5 to 3-4 miles per dollar) and use it immediately at the store.
I have the app but have only used it once, at Home Depot.
As a MileagePlus Explorer cardmember, we get a 25% bonus on all miles earned through the app. I’ve read about people earning thousands or tens of thousands of points a year by using this app but I’m usually just too lazy to look. I’m not a huge fan of United but their miles are great to use on partner airlines like Aer Lingus, Thai Airways and Lufthansa.
3. Look for inexpensive cruises to Cuba
We traveled to Cuba in 2016 when the travel restrictions were a bit more relaxed than they are now. We loved it there and found the Cuban people to be wonderful and we had some fascinating, enlightening and enthralling conversations with them while we were there. If anything is going to change the situation in Cuba, it’s the people, and just getting to talk with them felt like we were moving that process forward. Ever since, we’ve especially wanted to go back to Havana. It’s a magical city, even if it has major problems.
Currently, the easiest way to get to Cuba is to take a cruise ship from Florida. You only get to spend 1-2 (supervised) days there but it’s easier and less expensive than the other options to go to Cuba right now. I’m going to keep an eye out to see if they offer any discounts to Florida residents throughout the year. It’s only a 250 mile boat trip from Miami and they offer a bunch of 3-4 night cruises. Who knows, this might just work out for our plan of staying close to home this year.
4. Figure our how we are going to get to Japan in 2020
I know this one is a bit far in the future, but I have to start planning for it now. As I mentioned before, Sharon has a bunch of “Unicorn” Bucket List trips. Currently, one of those trips is to go and see the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
I’m totally with this plan but getting flights from the US to Japan in business class is hard enough without the Olympics going on at the same time. That being said, how does one even get tickets to the Olympics in Tokyo? There is going to be a whole bunch of things I have to learn before I can make this trip happen, so I have to start now. Maybe we can even fit in a visit to the garbage incinerator next to Universal Studios Japan.
5. Find something to so with my Citi ThankYou points
I love the Citi Prestige card. The fourth night free benefit can be one of the most valuable perks that any credit card has to offer. I’ve kept the card just because I get more than my money spent on the annual fee back every year. This year, Citi offered a $50 credit for every month we spend $1,500 on the card for 7 billing cycles (that means up to $350 back). Needless to say, I’m starting to rack up the Citi ThankYou points since I earn 3 points for air travel and hotels and 2 points for dining and entertainment purchases.
I’ve been happy to use my points to book through the Thank You travel portal for 1.25 cents of value per point. However, I know that these points can be worth much more if used to book through one of Citi’s travel partners. I’m going to look more into these options in 2018 to see if my points are worth any more. For example, I could transfer points to Flying Blue/KLM to book saver level flights on Delta.
That’s just a few of the things I want to accomplish in 2018 and I’m only one day into the year. I’m sure that more things will come up as the year rushes by. That’s what keeps the miles and points hunt exciting. For every trick that gets shut down, there’s another one that shows up. You just need to keep up with the changes and you’ll be able to get the most out of your travel expenditures.
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