Category Archives: getting started

Alaska makes me feel loved as a customer

Status Matching can be fun, if you use it. I used our fabulous and very useful Southwest Companion Pass as a gateway into the world of Airline Elite status.  First stop, Alaska Airlines. I requested a status match from Alaska by sending an e-mail to elite.flyer@alaskaair.com and attaching a copy of my Southwest Companion Pass, a screen shot of my southwest account showing all my miles (which I accumulated from shopping through the Southwest Portal), a copy of my photo id and my Alaska Account number.

In less than a week, I received an e-mail welcoming me to Alaska MVP Gold 75 program! Alaska Gold MVP 75 Card Top

I have never held such a high honor and I immediately wanted to book a flight.  Since I am on the east coast, the options were slim; a trip to Los Angles was in my future.

Until last year, I had not flown on many airlines other than Southwest. Southwest covered my needs, mostly BWI-CMH to visit family.  This flight was the beginning of changing everything about the way I travel, or at least the way I would prefer to travel.

It began upon arrival at the Alaska counter, no line and happy employees greeted me warmly, checked my luggage and I received my first UPGRADE! Seat 4F! I was anxious to find out what happens in the front of the plane.  There is no front of the plane on Southwest so anything was going to be different for me.

I felt like an impostor as I boarded the plane with the other elite customers, I felt like I had pulled off a huge heist and they might catch on any moment.  The seats were more spacious than I was use to, we were offered beverages while the remainder of the passenger boarded.  Alaska Menu

Shortly after take –off  delightful flight attendants presented us with… menus. These are both the menus from our flight out (breakfast) and our return flight (dinner).

 

 

Alaska did not want us to get bored so they loaned us a tablet to watch movies. It was very entertaining and I am very impressed with this feature. So much that I went out and got a table to take on my other flights.  Alaska Tablet 1

After a good movie, I wondered where we were, so I stopped for a bit to take some photos.

 

 

 

bwi to lax on alaskaI think this maybe the Grand Canyon! I’m not absolutely sure since I have never seen it before. Maybe its just how California looks.

We spent five fun days in Los Angeles and headed home, more on that trip later. I hoped the flight home was going to be as fun and I was not disappointed as the gate agent informed us we were upgraded. We enjoyed dinner and a movie on our 5 hour date in the sky.

It may not be such a good thing to go from only flying Southwest to Alaska MVP Gold 75 treatment because following Alaska with American Advantage Platinum can make for a shock.

Dinner began with Salad with Shrimp. Alaska Dinner 1

My husband had the Chicken. Alaska dinner 3

I had the pasta and we relaxed with our tablets feeling like we had just won the lottery, twice.Alaska Dinner 2

Good Bye Los Angeles…..

Heading Home from Los Angeles
Heading Home from Los Angeles

You can research status matching for hotels and airlines at this great web site, Status Matcher. Also, follow my blog and twitter accounts because sometimes hotels and airlines decide to randomly match masses of people for almost no effort and when I find these out I will follow up on here.

What did you Know & When did you know it?

Photo by FreeDigitalPhoto.net, Stuart Miles.
Photo by FreeDigitalPhoto.net, Stuart Miles.

How did you find that (insert airfare, ms opportunity, credit card bonus)? This is one of the biggest questions I get. Even in line at the WM BB machine I ran into someone that had tons of questions. My best advice, research, search, read. The ever changing, fast paced world of chasing points and miles requires you to gain knowledge in REAL time. If you don’t get information quick enough, you miss out on opportunities and may (likely) take a few losses.  A major factor in the miles and points game, especially if you MS, is to have multiple ways to get information quickly. And finding the right blogs and twitter handles is very important. There are different levels of gaining this information. Let’s explore.

Freshman:

  • Google different terms and ideas like: Miles and Points, Manufactured Spend, Best credit card bonus, Travel rewards, Free Travel, Southwest companion pass, Best travel credit card, frequent  flyer rewards, mileage run, hotel deals. etc
  • Signing up for many many Frequent flyer blogs, websites, following Facebook and twitter travel sites.
  • Following all your favorites blogs and travel sites on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Reading, reading, reading. Read even the stuff that you don’t understand and is confusing. Eventually these things will make sense and you never know what tiny nugget of information you may find.
  • Learn the language. Abbreviations are abundant and take time to connect with the full concept.
  • Testing the things that are less costly if they go wrong, and they DO go wrong. (Last year I got stuck with a few $500 GC when the Bluebird system decided to only take deposits under $50 at the machine. Then the machine worked for a month, then not at all. For some this could have been terrible to not be able to liquidate or have access to the cash. Make sure you only get in as deep as you can afford to not have funds for a period of time.I was grateful I had not went to deep & greedy by having thousands of dollars tied up). Tread lightly with new products and ideas.
  • Move on to the next level of obtaining updates. Once you find that you aren’t receiving information quick enough to react you will want to move to the next level of obtaining updates.

Sophmore:

  • You’ll know when you’re ready for this level when you aren’t getting information fast enough. You’ve probably signed up for some great credit card bonus offers, Following several blogs, signed up for programs that you have never even used like maybe British Airways, You have or had a Serve, Bluebird or Target Redbird card, which all require quick responses to corporate decisions that will affect you situation. You are at least several months in and you don’t feel overwhelmed. Basically you’re progressing and the beginner level is beginning to bore you.
  • Facebook & twitter notices on your phone for the blogs and travel sites that have the information you tend to use most.  If you are an aggressive learner, and I find most people attracted to this hobby are. You will quickly find that most are typical type A’s, hungry for good information and the next great deal. You will not want to make all your Facebook & Twitter notices pop up on you smart phone because you will have so many you can’t get through them. You can easily scroll through the notices and they will be many duplicates if you are following the best.
  • Tailor your notifications to your personal situation. Choose your notifications by what you find you read the most. Which people tend to have the information you like to read and follow. I surprisingly find that I am attracted to corporate news about airlines and hotels and I follow certain bloggers because they give real information. Getting the right notifications is like reading a daily newspaper made just for you.
  • How to get Twitter notifications.
    • Sign in to twitter on your device and pull up someone that you would like to get notifications from when they post, (under your ‘following’ list.)
    • Under the persons photo on the right you will see a ‘FOLLOWING‘ Button and next to that a little WHEEL. When you hover over it, it should say ‘More User Actions’.  Click the wheel.
    • Choose the option ‘Turn on Mobile notifications’ . You can easily turn them back off if you find your choice is not providing you with usable information.
    • Enjoy you new savvy and quicker way to get all the news and deals.
  • Find a ‘News Feed’ or RSS that you are comfortable with. Personally I use Feedly. Once you have it you can search for blogs, companies, words and it will give you options to add these to your own personal news feed. You can add feedly to your computer and smart phone/ tablets. On Feedly you can create Folders for specific subjects like ‘Travel” and then put all the notifications for the ones you choose to following in that folder.
  • Why do you need to follow the same blog or news feed in different outlets? Do you really need to follow the same person on twitter, Facebook, feedly and e-mail? YES! Because sometimes the information may only be posted to one of these outlets, especially breaking news. If you MS or are looking for super low deals you absolutely must follow in multiple arenas.  For example did you miss:
    • Yesterday, news came fast and furious about the Target Red Card (also known as Redbird) limiting Credit Card loads beginning May 6th. Fortunately I had already planned my Target trip for yesterday morning. This is at least a 5K month MS opportunity that is really still new (about 6 months old) and has been a great deal for loading with no charge. Redbird users were rushing to the nearest Target to get their loads done before the clock struck midnight.
    • Today there are some reports that the credit card load (Third Party credit card) is not available it may still be possible to load with a PIN enabled VISA/ MC. Until different people try these and report back it will all be YMMV.
    • Error fares go quickly… often within minutes. You have really need to know as soon as possible.
    • Attend frequent flyer travel programs, conferences and meetups. Here you will have the chance learn much more about the language and some great information that will not be as easy to find online.

Junior:

  • Finding deals on your own, creating unique opportunities for MS.
  • Loyalty program balances are growing and you begun to cash in on some great travel deals.
  • Control of 25+ credit accounts between you and your spouse.
  • Continue to aggressively seek information to make informed decisions. You have taken some hits or losses from MS or a program devaluation and its not the end of the world.  You realize this happens often and you move on in search of the next great opportunity.
  • Maybe you even think about or decided to start a blog 🙂 (I started this blog to track my entry and progress through the levels of what I was learning. There are huge gaps because sometimes it is tough to decide what information to share. Also things get hectic and the blog is the first to be put on the back burner, I keep recommitting. There is just so much to share. My intent with this blog is to share with you my successes and failures. Sometimes it is very simplistic and that is because the idea is to introduce the beginner to new things they may not know about. As time passes, my growth and knowledge will be reflected in information here).

These next levels, Senior and Professor, are just basic descriptions because I can’t even begin to imagine identifying with the Masters.

Senior

  • You’ve attended multiple conferences, meetups. You may be asked to give a presentation on your specific knowledge.
  • You take lots of trips on miles and points. Domestic travel is too easy and travel often involves worldwide itineraries.
  • You have actually gotten in on an error fare because you had resources that alerted you to te info and you purchased tickets/ or put them on hold with no second guessing. (Thinking too hard about an error fare will cause you to loose the price. I have had error fares in my cart so many times and try to type in my credit card number and then the fare is no longer available.)
  • You communicate with other bloggers and gurus, probably via twitter. You meet others at functions and recognize them
  • Other bloggers, twitters etc . re-tweet your posts
  • You break news early and often
  • Other blogs HT you or link to you/ your site in a post
  • Followers will begin asking you questions

Professor

  • Highly regarded and trusted by the information you provide. Likely travel with others in this level or meet up with them. Share knowledge with others on a personal level.
  • Followers will send you deals they find and feel comfortable asking you for personal advice.
  • You have progressed from a blog to starting an entire travel forum.
  • You are a major influence and organizer of forums, conferences and meet ups.
  • You are quoted or interviewed by major publications, Newspapers and Magazines.
  • You communicate with corporate liaisons at  the major travel providers (Airline & Hotel) and easily get information before it drips down to the lower ranks.

The bottom line is the longer you continue your miles and points education the faster information will come. It can be frustrating in the beginning. Receiving information early is powerful. Hang in there and it will come.  Check back soon for a post with my lists of favorite blogs and board to follow.

What is the best way you get information?

See you at Target 🙂

Step 3- Hotels

Image courtesy of ahmet guler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ahmet guler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hotel Loyalty Programs

Every hotel, every time! Sign up for these loyalty programs below, even if you don’t stay at them because they often send out great deals that are targeted for members only. For Example: just this week I received a special from Intercontinental Hotel Group/ IHG for their Into the Nights Promo earn 50K points or 2 free nights, simply by downloading their app and staying 3 nights that would include 2 Saturdays and Holiday Inn.  This promo was different for different members. I am the lowest level member and only stayed 1 night at a property this year, yet I was offered this great deal.

Best Western

Choice Hotels

Drury

Hilton Honors

Hyatt Gold Passport

IHG Rewards (Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Holiday Inns)

Marriot

MLife (Vegas)

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

I will add more loyalty programs as I find them and eventually I will post information about specials. If you have a loyalty program or special that should be added here please let me know.

Remember its FREE to sign up for these…. use your new e-mail you created in STEP 1.

Happy travels!

Remember to Follow me on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook to receive the latest news.

Coming this week: Great Hotel Deals, Organizing, Buy gas for 1995 prices?, Which credit card to begin with, and a chance to WIN.