Three Bookstores Worth Visiting

If there’s one thing I love more than Amtrak, it’s books. Paperbacks, hardcovers, new, used, fiction, nonfiction–LITERALLY ALL OF THEM. Bring me the books. So, naturally, whenever I go somewhere, I try to seek out a bookstore to peruse for a few minutes (or hours). In my mind, no vacation is complete without a trip to one.

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How I feel entering a bookstore

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Why it Pays to Book in Advance

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only 18 days away! I’m looking forward to relaxing at home with my family for a couple of weeks–it’s always nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of NYC. On Monday, I thought about upgrading my Amtrak ticket from Acela Business to Acela First, as I’ve always wanted to try Amtrak’s First Class service.

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Trip Framework: Bienvenue à Montréal!

Bonjour! In this next installment of the Trip Framework series, we’re off to the beautiful city of Montréal! This trip outlines a 5-day/4-night trip with flights from New York City. These write-ups should act as guidelines, and are not a promise that you can find these exact trips; however, I hope they are close enough to show that you can really do “expensive” trips for much less than you think!

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The Big Easy by Train – Making it Happen

So, you want to take a quick trip to the Big Easy–how do you make that happen? Below, you’ll find the cards you need, and how much the trip will set you back.

Card Annual Fee Spending Requirement Bonus Points Notes
Bank of America Amtrak Guest Rewards World

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$79 $1,000 in 90 days 20,000 points After your 5% redemption, you will have 1,253 points for another redemption.
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select

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$0 for the first year, $99 after that $1,000 in 90 days 30,000 points This bonus increases to 50,000 miles a few times a year, so it may make sense to wait for that and earn even more AA miles.

If you go this route, using two sign-up bonuses and paying for the hotel, you’ll end up pay $481.20 for a trip that, in total, costs $1,428.30, a savings of $947.10, or 66%!

If you add in the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card to the mix:

Card Annual Fee Spending Requirement Bonus Points Notes
Chase Marriott Premier Rewards

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$85 $3,000 in 90 days 80,000 points Get an additional 7,500 points for adding an Authorized User

Going this route, your only out-of-pocket expenses would be the taxes on your award flight, a whopping $11.20! That’s a savings of 99%, basically a free trip!

Happy travels!

The Big Easy by Train

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-4-55-23-pmI think it’s safe to say I’m enamored with the idea of long-distance train travel. There is something so…fascinating about the idea of it. Nick thinks I’m crazy, but you know what they say about opposites and attraction. 😉

An idea I’ve had recently was to take the train from New York City to New Orleans, stay for a few days, and then fly back. I think it would be an interesting way to see part of the country, specifically the southeast, and would let me try out long-distance train travel. This framework will be similar (but shorter!) to the one I posted earlier this year (New York to Seattle via Chicago). These write-ups should act as guidelines, and are not a promise that you can find these exact trips; however, I hope they are close enough to show that you can really do “expensive” trips for much less than you think.

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Birthday Surprise!

One of the great things (at least to me!) about earning points is that they give you the ability to book trips “on a whim.” Which is exactly what I did for Nick’s birthday! I wanted to surprise him with a little weekend getaway, and finally settled on Baltimore.

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Baltimore skyline–image property of throwinrocks!

We’ll be heading down after work on October 21st, and we’ll spend all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday before we head back to NYC. No plans yet, so if you have a Baltimore recommendation, let me know!

So how did I do this? I did spend more money than points (bummer!), but that’s because we needed to use Amtrak points for another trip we have coming up later this month. Oh well, you win some, you lose some–this trip is still very much worth it :)! Here’s how it breaks down:

Item Points Used Cash Spent
2x Amtrak coachclass tickets, NYP-BAL 0 $98.00
2 nights at the Indigo Hotel – Baltimore Downtown (an IHG property) 30,000 IHG points $198.00
2x Amtrak coachclass tickets, BAL-NYP 0 $142.20

Total points used and cash spent:  30,000 points and $438.20.

We will earn the following points for this trip:

  • Sam:
    • Amtrak:  240 480 points from travel + 720 points from Amtrak credit card
    • IHG:  198 990 points from credit card (EDIT 9/18/2016:  Cash+Points stays DO earn 5x points–and I have the credit card statement to prove it!)
  • Nick:
    • Amtrak:  240 480 points

Happy birthday, Nick!

EDIT 9/18/2016:  We’ll actually earn 480 Amtrak points each from travel, thanks to the Amtrak Double Days promotion! 

We’re off to See the Wizard (No, Not That One!)

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Image courtesy of Travel & Leisure

Sometimes you just need to take a vacation. And sometimes, you know you’ll need to take a vacation sooner rather than later. So what did Nick and I decide to do? Go to Harry Potter World, of course! And this wouldn’t be A Point Earned if we didn’t use points (and earn some!) to get there. Here’s our plan:  fly LGA-MCO (Orlando) on 11/18 and return MCO-LGA on 11/20. Yes, it’s a short vacation, but our LGA-MCO flight is early in the morning and allows us to spend the rest of Friday at the beach–only an hour from the airport. Saturday will be spent at Universal, and we plan to see both parts of Harry Potter World. Sunday will be a hotel/pool day, and we’ll fly back in the afternoon.

Points/Money Breakdown:

Item Points Used Value Cash Spent
2x DL tickets (11/18-11/20)

LGA-MCO-LGA

60,000 $732.40 $22.40
2 nights – DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Lake Buena Vista 0* Redeemed Hilton Select certificate (free three day/two-night stay) $362.50 $112.50
Enterprise Rental Car – Economy (Kia Rio or similar) 0 $80.01 $80.01
2 one-day passes to both Universal Studios Parks 0 $310.00 $310.00

In sum, we used 60,000 points and $524.91, which saved us $960.00 had we only paid with cash–over 60% in savings!

This trip could have been even cheaper had we not:

  • Decided to upgrade our hotel room ($112.50)
  • Paid cash ($80.01) rather than points (6,401) for the rental car

Had we not done either of these things, our trip costs would have been 66,401 points and $332.40.

We’re looking forward to our quick getaway–what was your favorite part of Harry Potter World?