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July 2016 - ATX Fun - Austin-San Antonio Fun, Travel & Educational Opportunities

How to Keep Airline Miles & Hotel Points from Expiring

Many, or most, airlines and hotel chains advertise that their miles / points ‘never expire,’ but that is only half-true. They may not expire, but they can permanently disappear from your account if you are not careful. This blog post tells what you can do.

How to Keep Points from Expiring

In general, you need some sort of activity in your account to protect your miles and points. In a few cases, such as All Nippon Airways, your miles do expire and there is nothing you can do to prevent it…use them or lose them.

Chart Shows Which Points Can Transfer into Airline Miles

This handy chart from Million Mile Secrets shows which points (Membership Rewards, Starwood, Thank You, Ultimate Rewards) can transfer into which airline frequent flyer mileage plans (American, Delta, etc. etc.)

Which Points Transfer to Which Airlines? Handy Chart for Converting!

Many consider Starwood Starpoints to be the most valuable “currency” because they can be transferred into the most different airline frequent-flyer programs. Plus, for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you receive an additional 5000 frequent-flyer miles.

Another Hotel Scam to Know About…the 3 A.M. Phone Call

Scammers are always trying to figure out a way to separate travelers from their money, including this technique which involves a middle-of-the-night call to your hotel room.

A new scam to be aware of when staying at hotels

The bad guys phone when you are sound asleep, say they work at the front desk of your hotel and that your credit card payment at check-in didn’t go through…will you please give them the numbers again.

It’s middle of the night, your brain is still half-asleep, so you comply. As soon as they have your number they begin charging things to your card.

YCredit Cards Attract Scammers
Credit Cards Attract Scammers

Of course, you can call the credit-card company and reverse all these charges, but you may not know you’ve been scammed until you receive the bill back at home.

How to Cancel a Priceline Hotel Reservation and Get Your Money Back

Priceline is famous for its Name Your Own Price (NYOP) program, which can often provide significant savings on hotel rooms. But, one of the cardinal rules is that NYOP reservations are NON-CANCELLABLE. However, this blog post reveals a trick that works.

How I cancelled a Priceline ‘Name Your Own Price’ hotel reservation for free

The comments to this blog post are very instructive.

The idea is to call the hotel first and get them to agree to a cancellation. Then call Priceline, tell them the hotel has agreed to cancellation and give the name of the hotel person. A Priceline representative will call the hotel to verify, then refund your money.

Hilton Hotel
Hilton Danube Waterfront, Vienna

How to Pass Muster for Travel to Cuba

For Americans, there are legal requirements that they must meet to travel to Cuba. This post clarifies what they are, how to meet them, and what records must be kept.

American, JetBlue, Spirit and other airlines are cleared to begin scheduled service to the island, some as early as September. JetBlue will have fares as low as $99 (or 3500 points).

JetBlue Will Be First U.S. Airline Back to Cuba

Fly the Inaugural Flight to Cuba for Just 3,500 Points!

Austin to Denver $58 Round-Trip on Frontier, Many Dates

Frontier Airlines flies the Austin / Denver route non-stop, and is selling one-way tickets for as low as $29 for August and September travel.

The above link should take you to Calendar View, which will show you many available dates for this low low fare.

If you want to avoid the fees that Frontier charges, you can fly on Southwest for just $117 r/t or United for $133 r/t.

Nonstop Flights: Austin to/from Denver $117 r/t – United / Southwest

Global Entry & Similar Programs in Other Nations

Global Entry is a trusted-traveler program of the United States government. If you have a “Known Traveler” number from Global Entry, you can bypass the long passport lines that travelers face when returning from international travel. The U.S. is not the only nation with this type of program, and this blog post describes the comparable programs that other countries have.

Get Into These Countries Faster With Their Trusted Traveler Programs

As you read the blog post, you will realize that the U.S. Global Entry program is much less expensive ($20/year) than most others.

You need to schedule and attend an in-person interview to get Global Entry. Most major U.S. airports have enrollment centers, and a new temporary one is opening soon in London.

I have had Global Entry for several years, and I highly recommend it. GE not only lets you re-enter the U.S. quickly, but it also gives PreCheck which gets you through domestic airport security without the nuisance conditions (shoes off, laptops out, liquids out) that other flyers face.

A Review of Thomas Cook Airlines

I’ve featured great deals from Thomas Cook Airlines here a few times. This blog post gives the inside scoop on this little-known airline.

Thomas Cook: An Airline You’ve (probably) Never Heard of Before

Thomas Cook is a real airline, which previously flew mostly charters but is now branching out to scheduled service. It is associated with Condor Airlines, a low-cost carrier operating a few routes in the United States.

Thomas Cook flies a trans-Atlantic route from New York to Manchester, England.

How to Take Great Photos of People While Traveling

Many of us like to take photographs while traveling, either with our phones or with a separate camera. Many of the best travel photos include one or more local people in the frame, but it can be intimidating to ask someone you don’t know (and may not even know their language) to pose. This blog post has 7 useful tips for including local persons in your vacation photos.

Tips for Taking Candid Portraits of People

One of the tips that I always use is, do not make eye contact with a person that you will or just did photograph. I always pretend to look at something else after taking a candid photo, and I don’t recall ever being “caught.”

Well, except for that time in Shanghai…but the guys I photographed were engaged in a criminal activity and they were polite in “inviting” me to erase the photo (and making sure I had). Except for that time, it’s always worked for me.