Tag Archives: tips

In the Heights of Cusco

From day one, my friend Kyle and I joked about being able to “blend in” during our time in Peru.  Our second day in Peru demonstrated how awesome we were at “blending in”.  When we got to the Lima Airport to go to Cusco, Kyle couldn’t figure out which trash can to throw his wrapper in.  He made a circle around three differently marked trash cans with a confused look on his face.  Like a good friend, I watched him struggle as he attempted to read and understand the Spanish writing on each trash can.  Finally, a local Peruvian had mercy and pointed where he should throw away his wrapper.

Then we went to our gate and got in line to board the plane.  When we handed the lady our ticket she said, “you two are on the next flight, not this one.” It was so ridiculous.  I have traveled for over 16 years and I speak Spanish, but couldn’t board the right plane.   We were off to a great start of not standing out.  Kyle couldn’t throw away his trash and we couldn’t board the correct flight.

When we made it to Cusco, we were a little nervous about altitude sickness.  A lot of people, both on blogs and in Peru, warned us about the impacts of altitude sickness.  At the Cusco Airport our fear increased when we saw a poster of a family at Machu Picchu with one of the family members throwing up out of the frame because of the altitude.  Directly after the poster we saw places where you could buy oxygen.  I almost ran over to the oxygen station to buy an entire oxygen tank so I wouldn’t be like the guy on the poster.  Fortunately, I realized that I was fine.  The rest of the trip we blammed everything negative on the altitude.  I feel that everyone overplayed the impact of the altitude.  Aside from feeling out of breath and watching 80 year-old Peruvian women running by me as I labored to climb a set of stairs, I didn’t notice much of a difference.  I wouldn’t worry too much about the altitude, but if you do get sick make sure to drink lots of fluids and try the coca tea.  Tourists and Peruvians swear by it.  Or you could buy an oxygen tank and carry it around with you.

Once we arrived in Cusco we found a place to stay, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the Pariwana.  We then walked around Cusco until we found the Plaza de Armas.  For anyone visiting Peru, if you ever get lost go to the Plaza de Armas.  This is the main square in every city and town.  I really enjoyed the plaza because of the old style buildings and two churches.  There were a lot of places to eat and enjoy the view of the plaza.  One place we enjoyed was Paddy Flaherty’s.  It was a small pub to the right of the Cathedral.  We enjoyed it because it had an excellent view of the plaza and they showed soccer.

We may not have blended in, but we had arrived in the heights of Cusco.


Best Frequent Flyer Program

My good friend Kyle asked me a very difficult question (like all good friends do).  And no, it was not why am I not married?  So everyone, stop asking (just look at me and you’ll know why)!  He asked me, “which airline has the best frequent flyer program?”  Great question!  Since most airlines offer 1 mile per mile traveled when you buy an economy ticket, it becomes necessary to look at other variables.  These variables include the place of departure, destinations, upgrades, possibility of using miles for hotels or shopping, and which airline offers the most reward points.

Don’t worry I’m not going to write a complex formula to demonstrate how much work it was for me to get the answer, although I am a scientist (a scientist of politics).  I found that there were two frequent flyer programs that stood head and shoulders above the rest; Continental and American Airlines.

Continental has more partners, which means you will be able to fly to more countries and more airports.  It’s also easier to find flights using miles on Continental compared to almost all other U.S. carriers.  If you have to fly on a specific date this will be very important.

*No matter what airline you use it is very important to book as early as possible when using miles*

American Airlines charge less miles to fly to Latin American and Western Europe (40k compared to 50k on Continental).  The problem is that you have to fly on certain dates to get the 40k.  If you fly outside of those dates then the number of miles drastically goes up for both international and domestic flights (120k and 50k respectively).  I found that American Airlines credit cards offer more initial reward miles (there’s one with 75k, see previous Travel Tip).  Obviously this makes it initially easier to fly for free.

Kyle, I will specifically answer your question.  If you’re flying domestically Continental would be the best option for you because it has a lot more flights and seats available for redeeming miles.  You’ll use the same number of miles on both airlines to fly domestically out of Utah. If you’re flying internationally it depends.  American may require fewer miles, but your plans will have to be flexible.  Delta does have a main hub in Utah, but they have a lot less partners and the overall consensus is that it’s harder to fly Delta using miles.

The miles I quoted are for non-peak dates.  If you fly during summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or spring break the number of miles will increase.  Also, I only compared U.S. carriers because I feel that most of my audience will be using U.S. carriers.  If not, let me know and I can research international carriers as well.  Finally, it pays to comment and ask questions on my blog because I will research your question and answer it to the best of my ability. Let me know what you think of this post!

What’s been your experience with rewards programs?

Bucket List

For a long time I have wanted to organize my life goals into a list (aka bucket list).  I thought just before the new year would be the perfect time for me to officially publish my list.  These goals are in no specific order.  Some of these goals I have had for a long time, some of them I just made.  I included goals that I have completed (they’re in red) because I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all my life’s goals.  You’ll notice that most of my goals deal with traveling (hopefully by now you can tell it is one of my passions).  What are some things on your bucket list?  Is there anything you’d like to see me do?

1.       Go on a safari and see a cheetah (Kruger Park 2010)

2.       Visit South Africa (Summer 2010)

3.       See the pyramids/Sphinx (Summer 2010)

4.       Stand on the Great Wall of China (1996)

5.       Scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef (2000)

6.       Go sky-diving (New Zealand 2007)

7.       Bungy Jump (New Zealand 2007)

8.       Rock Climb (Montana 1994 and Utah 2008)

9.       Visit a country with no plans (New Zealand 2007)

10.        Scuba dive with sharks (Palau 1996)

11.        Stand on the Eiffel Tower (Summer 2009)

12.        Travel alone (New Zealand 2007)

13.        Hitchhike (Guatemala 2003)

14.        Dive a shipwreck (Chuuk 1997)

15.        Score a game winner (Virginia 2002)

16.        Win a tournament (Singapore 2001, Virginia 2002)

17.        Be at a World Cup game (South Africa 2010)

18.        Breakdance in a national competition

19.        Go to the Coliseum (Italy 2009)

20.        Learn to water ski

21.        Watch my favorite soccer player (Lionel Messi) live (South Africa 2010)

22.        Watch my favorite soccer team live (Barcelona)

23.        Deep sea fish (South Africa 2010)

24.        Ice climb (New Zealand 2007)

25.        Learn to surf (Myrtle Beach 2008)

26.        Graduate from college (BYU 2010)

27.        White water raft (Snake River 2009)

28.        Learn a new language (Spanish 2005)

29.        Mountain Bike (Malaysia 2001)

30.        Win big in Vegas

31.        Learn to ski moguls

32.        Go on a church service mission (Guatemala 2003-05)

33.        Get on a game show

34.        Travel to all seven continents (Been to North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia)

35.        Visit the Amazon

36.        Island hop to deserted islands by kayaking (Bahamas 2013)

37.        Live off the land for five days

38.        Get married (Married the love of my life 10/2014)

39.        Have children

40.        Create a blog (2010)

41.        Invest in the stock market

42.        Create an original and outstanding recipe

43.        Sell a piece of home-made pottery

44.        Go to Antarctica

45.        Become an Eagle Scout (2002)

46.        Travel through Mongolia (horse-back?)

47.        See the Taj Mahal

48.        Have a career (I’m an Instructional Designer)

49.        Change someone’s life (Guatemala 2004)

50.        Visit 100 countries

51.        Climb to the base camp of Everest (further if possible)

52.        See Machu Picchu (Peru 2011)

53.        Publish a photo or article in a travel magazine

54.        Take scenic pictures in Switzerland and Austria

55.        Witness the Northern Lights

56.        Visit Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)

57.        Visit Hagia Sophia (Turkey)

58.        Ride in a hot air balloon

59.        Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

60.        Visit Petra (Jordan)

61.        Break a Guinness World Record

62.        Attend Holi in India

63.        Audition for a reality TV show (Amazing Race or Survivor)

64.        Go Heli-skiing

65.        Run for an elected office

66.        Go into space

67.        Try-out for a professional soccer team

68.        Have my future read (Miss Berry told me I was going to be live long and be rich and happy!)

69.        Win the lottery (any amount of money)

70.        Travel to all 50 states

71.        Drink Fiji water in Fiji

72.        Write a song

73.        Meet someone famous (Vanilla Ice- Not sure if this counts haha)

74.        Run a marathon

75.        Save someone’s life

76.        Visit the Parthenon

77.        Sumo wrestle in Japan

78.        Touch Lionel Messi

79.        Own a VW Bus

80.        Learn to head spin without tapping

81.        Give a famous person my autograph

82.        Wear a kilt in Scotland

83.        Have 15 minutes of fame

84.        Shoot par (72) on a golf course

85.        Become a Millionaire

86.        Read Plato’s Republic

87.        Stay in the most expensive room of a hotel for free

88.        Assist an old person across the road

89.        Be my own boss

90.        Buy or sell something at an auction (Bought a car from an auction 2015)

91.        Ride an animal that shouldn’t be ridden (Ostrich, Alligator, etc.)

92.        Take part in a wrestling match (WWE)

93.        Enter a competition that I have no right participating in (American Idol, Eating contest, darts, etc.)

94.        Visit Jerusalem’s old city

95.        Help someone in every country I visit

96.        Randomly go to the airport and take the first departing flight

97.        Be in a parade (BYU Homecoming parade 2008)

98.        Have a 401K

99.        Sell everything I don’t need (2008-All my possessions fitted into two plastic containers and two bags)

100.    Create a successful blog (100+subscribers, You can help me with this!)

101.    Create a bucket list (Just completed)

102.    Fly an airplane (Thanks to my sister I did this 2012)

103.    Drive a tank

104.    Discover an amazing non-tourist destination and recommend it to everyone I know.

105.    Visit Iguazu Falls

106.    Be a mime for a day

107.    Play chess against a random person in the park (I played chess against random Peruvians and got dominated 2001)

108.    Hand-hop 10 times

109.    Stick an air-chair drop

110.    Hang-glide

111.    Start a fire with sticks

112.    Be a mascot (Cosmo 2009)

113.    Travel to Greenland

This Just In

After hours of reading, I have amazing news.  The offer is legit!  You can apply for a Citi Visa or AMEX, and upon approval, you will receive 75,000 miles when you make $4,000 worth of purchases within 6 months.  The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year.  This offer is good until February 28, 2010.  The miles are enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe.  I’m not sure where else, but this is the best deal I have found so far.

I am very cautious when it comes to things like this because I don’t want any of my information to get stolen.  Anyone considering this should read the flytalk forum and confirm this information and the link I posted above with other sources (I got the link from post #2).  If you are unsure, then I would recommend not doing it.  Tomorrow I am going to sign up and I will edit this post and let everyone know how it goes.  Below I have provided some essential tips.

  1. Apply for both the Visa and AMEX. This could give you a potential of 150,000 miles.  You may not get approved for both cards, but according to everything I read there will be only one credit pull and it can’t hurt to try and get an extra 75,000 miles.
  2. Keep your card(s) for at least 6 months so they don’t take the miles away from you.  It is best if you hold on to them for 9 months or more.  I am planning on canceling my card, hopefully cards, after 10 months.
  3. If you don’t get instant approval you can call 1-866-606-2961 and ask about your status.
  4. These cards have high interest rates (APR) so do not get behind on payments.
  5. Read all of the fine print before signing up for the card.

If you have any questions, let me know. Please add anything about this offer or other offers.  I applied for both credit cards yesterday.  I called in today to verify that they received my online applications and they said that they did.  The approval process can take up to 7 business days, so I am waiting with my fingers crossed.  The link I posted is the correct link so good luck with getting the cards!  Let me know how it goes.

Quick Tip

There is an American Express credit card from Delta that offers 45,000 miles! The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.  The down side is that you have to spend $3,000 in three months to get the miles.  If you already spend that much, than this is an awesome deal!

There is only ONE day left for this deal so check it out at delta!

I found an awesome website that is all about frequent flyer deals and cheap flights.  It’s at FlyerTalk.

As a side note, I just found out that you can apply for the personal and business credit card, which would get you 90,000 miles!  Check it out.  You have to spend $3,000 in three months for each card.

Fly for Free

Earlier I did a tip on how to find cheap or free lodging.  I thought it would be a good idea to show how you can fly for free.  Using these two tips together, traveling becomes affordable for anyone.

I am going to put a big DISCLAIMER here: All of these credit cards have high APRs, so if you are not good at budgeting, DON’T do this.  Don’t get behind on your payments with these cards.  That is the most important thing. I would recommend getting these cards, spending the required amount, then cutting them up and canceling your account once you have received the points.  Make sure to read all of the credit card details.  Most of these cards have an annual fee after the first year.  In these descriptions I only put the most basic information.  Some cards offer more points for purchases so look at the card details.  To get more information you can Google the specific card or check out creditcards.com, it has links to the different cards and gives more details.

These are the best cards I have found so far…

Chase’s Visa Venture Reward Card – It offers 10,000 miles and x2 miles on any purchase.  The annual fee of $59 is waived for the first year.  The only down side besides the ones mentioned above is that you have to spend $1,000 in the first three months.

Citi Gold AAdvantage World Master Card– It offers 30,000 miles once you spend $750 within the first four months.  $50 annual fee is waived for first year.

OnePass Pluss MasterCard by Chase– It offers 25,000 miles on Continental after first purchase and 5,000 miles when you add an additional card user.  There’s a $50 statement credit after first purchase.  The annual fee of $85 is waived for the first year.

Gold Delta Sky Miles Card– It offers 20,000 miles plus 5,000 if you add two additional card members.  $95 annual fee waived for first year.

Chase Sapphire Card– It offers 25,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in three months.  The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Capital One Aspire Master Card– It offers 5,000 miles after your first purchase plus 1,000 miles every year.  There is no annual fee.

Most of these offers are good for one round-trip ticket within the United States.  If you combine two or three of them you’ll have enough for a round-trip international ticket.  I will continue to look for deals and post them as I find them.  If you have any suggestions on how to get frequent flyer miles or know of any other good deals let us all know.

Adventurer’s Paradise

Having just wrote about bungy jumping, I thought this weeks travel tip should be directed towards thrill seekers.  If you are looking for a place designed for adventure, then New Zealand is your destination.  It has everything from sky diving to ice climbing to surfing.  I spent a month enjoying all New Zealand has to offer, and it still was not enough.

My suggestions of things to do come from my experience in New Zealand, if anyone else has other suggestions or differs in opinion please leave a comment.  I won’t put everything I did, but just some New Zealand must-dos.

I went bungy jumping on Auckland Bridge through AJ Hackett.  The reason I chose there was because it was fairly cheap and offered a great view of Auckland.  I would also recommend going to the top of Sky Tower.

Rotorua has some great cultural shows and the Luge.  I would highly recommend the advance course on the luge.  My friends and I raced on that course and at the end there is a place where you can get some crazy speed and air.

My favorite place was on the south island called Abel Tasman (I will be blogging about it in the future).  The kayaking was amazing and the ocean is an unreal blue.  There is a feeling of being lost in nature while in the park.  I got to enjoy the scenery even more when I went skydiving right next to the ocean.

I went hiking on Franz Josef glacier and ice climbing on Fox Glacier.  In my opinion, you only need to do one of the glaciers, but whichever glacier you choose, go ice climbing!  It is a lot of fun and ice climbing gave me an entirely different perspective of the glacier. At the end of ice climbing, I got to go down a crevasse and climb out of it.  It was crazy to be surrounded by kool-aid blue ice with no one else around.

The last thing I am going to recommend is Milford and Doubtful Sound.  I only took a boat ride around each, but I heard the hiking there is amazing.  Unfortunately, I was there during the winter so I couldn’t do any hiking.  I would choose to do one or the other even though the are very different from each other.  My personal preference would be Milford Sound, but it’s up to you.

One last suggestion, don’t do any activities in Queenstown.  I found that everything adventurous there was a lot more expensive than the rest of New Zealand.  It is up to you, but if you are trying to save money there are a lot of places that offer the same activities for less.  Don’t forget that New Zealand is south of the hemisphere so their seasons are the opposite of the northern hemispheres.

Let me know what you think of my Travel Tips.  If you have any suggestions, questions, or want a specific travel tip leave a comment.

Stay for Free

For those of you that are poor, like me, or are budget travelers, this tip is for you.  Besides the cost of a flight, accommodations are usually the most expensive part of traveling.  I have three tips that will save you a lot of money, which can be donated to fund your next trip.

The first tip is visit Couch Surfer.  This website lets you find individuals, wherever you are traveling, who will let you stay on their couch for free!  What a deal!  It sounds riskier than it really is.  Take a look at the website to get info on how it works.  It’s a great way to meet locals and get a true feeling of the country.  My friends and I have done it, and all of us have had great experiences.

My second tip is visit Hostel World.  You don’t have to book a hostel through the website, but it will give you a great starting point.  They usually have very good deals and hostels are the way to go if you are broke or on a budget.

If you’re like me then don’t worry about planning where to stay.  Meet as many locals as you can to increase your chances of finding people that will allow you to stay with them.  Many times I met people that had a relative or friend living in a city that I was going to visit, and they told their friend or relative to let me stay with them.

My recommendation would be to go for the triple threat!  Use a combination of all three.  Sometimes it is fun to have no place to stay and other times it is nice to have a place so you don’t have to walk around looking for a place to stay.  Whatever you accommodation decision is, remember, my tips will save you money and I am not above taking donations for my future travels.