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Archive for April 2015

Pub Tour London: A great night activity in London

Tower Bridge, London, UK
Tower Bridge, London, UK

So I was on a business trip in London and my colleagues had told me good luck when I had mentioned I'm going out on a pub tour. Why, I asked, and to which they said that almost everyone who goes out on a pub tour of the city gets on their hands and knees at some point in the night or the morning after - but it is a lot of fun.

Off I went, searching on the internet for a company to book until I found Pub Tour London. They had two tours: one for central, and one for shoreditch and I booked the central tour. It was 12 quid (GBP) if booked online on a weeknight - not too bad for someone to guide me to some of the best bars around town. Meeting place was at the Piccadilly Institute from 8 -9PM, which was a great time for me to grab dinner and get there right after work. I went alone, so it was quite daunting for me to go to a pub but whatever, this tour helps me meet new people anyway. Found the people who are the tour organizers of Pub Tour London who then connected me to new people that are also within my group. Not so bad.

Pub Tour London Group Photo

After an hour in one pub, off we went to another, and another, and another. There was free shots, but I think what made me quite tipsy was the fact that I kept mixing drinks. Just so you know, if you are planning to visit London, some of these drinks can cost quite a bit of money. Try budgeting around 7 GBP for a pint of beer, more if you are planning to buy some of the mixed drinks (which can range form 9GBP up).  It wasn't all about the pubs, as the night went on, I found myself in some clubs too, which charge exorbitant entry fees. Turns out that this tour I booked from Pub Tour London is in charge of paying for these cover charges. Excellent. So, a bit tipsy and trying my best to dance and talk to some of my new friends, I finally ended the night in the wee hours of the morning, with a few more Facebook contacts and trying my best to remember how the night had unfolded. Let me just say my Friday was really unproductive, as I went on a Thursday night. (Note: Thursday nights at work are more like our drinking night to give way to the people who have families and want to leave early on a Friday to go home to their respective towns). I would definitely recommend Pub Tour London to anyone who may want to go and have fun in a new town and meet new friends along the way! They upload group photos on their gallery - so try to grab it from their website when you can.

The 2015 Travel Calendar [Luxury Travel on a Backpacker's Budget]

So, since I've gotten into the points and miles game recently, I figured I'd also post my plans on how to travel for cheap in 2015.

Why so early? Because to travel for almost free, you need to book secure your award tickets as soon as you can. And it also means jumping on various promos to get as many points as you need. Oh, and this isn't a backpacker trip... we're traveling using hotels, cars, and doing all that we want to do: paying $30 for dinner? that's fine, we can offset it somewhere. Paying $50 for a tour? Yes, also fine - we can reimburse it. No holds barred, no budget constraints (much) - just trying to do whatever we want in the hopes of reimbursing as many of it using points.

So, our travel plans for 2015 are as follows and bits and bobs of what we want to do, we don't have specific itineraries yet. I'll update this page as soon as I have booked more flights/hotels and our overall out of pocket cost before the end of 2015. Note - most of these tricks only apply to the US, but you should know that YOU CAN TRAVEL IN STYLE WITHOUT PAYING MUCH - all it needs is a bit of planning and knowing what's out there! :)

Tampa (January 17-19)
  • Busch Gardens - paid $45 in cash for entrance during the AMEX Daily Getaways (too bad we didn't have an AMEX card when we bought it, would have been much cheaper - paying $45 for 1 ticket is 50% cheaper than the normal price (around $100)
  • Lunch - $17 (buffet) out of pocket
  • Parking fee - $17 out of pocket
Orlando, FL (January 31 - February 1)
  • Disney - one last time (we're season passholders and it's going to end soon) 
  • Hilton Grand Vacations SeaWorld - got an Orbitz deal during Black Friday. $27 out of pocket. 
  • SeaWorld - paid $49 in cash for entrance during the AMEX Daily Getaways (too bad we didn't have an AMEX card when we bought it, retail price for Seaworld is around $100)
  • Gas (from JAX to Orlando) - out of pocket (approx $30) 

Cancun, Mexico (February 21-25,2015)

  • Hotel: Boyfriend got a targeted offer to stay at the Westin Lagunamar Resort.  Paid $319 in cash for 5 days, 4 nights and we get 5,000 SPG points after our stay! Retail price per night for the room? $400+
  • Flights: Miami to Cancun using British Airways Avios (9,000 per person x 2 = 18,000 BA Avios RT) (Transfer from AMEX Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards cards)
  • Ruby: 9,000 British Airways points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $78 in taxes (paid in cash)
  • P: 9,000 British Airways points transferred from AMEX Membership Rewards + $66 in taxes (reimbursed using Barclaycard World Arrival+)  - retail price varies
  • Sightseeing Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Isla Grande fees - Barclaycard Arrival (Will update once list is done)
    • Others: 
      • Airport Shuttle - $55 for two people (cash)
      • Chichen Itza Tour - $56 each, to be reimbursed using Arrival+ miles. 
  • For a full breakdown of this trip, click here (Final cost for Mexico/Miami: less than $450)
Related Articles to Cancun: 

Miami, Florida (February 25-26, 2015)
  • Hotel:  Hyatt House Miami Airport - only 8,000 points (transferred via Chase Ultimate Rewards). $0 out of pocket. Retail price for the room? $250+. Only need to stay in Miami for 1 day to do some visa errands for me. I have a Philippine passport and would need a Schengen visa to get to Europe). The boyfriend will have to work from the hotel while I do my visa errand - and yes, we still have our full time 9-5 jobs, in case you were wondering. 
  • For a full breakdown of this trip, click here (Final cost for Mexico/Miami: less than $450)
Manila, Philippines (March 17-25, 2015)
  • Flights Total: 
    • JFK to Manila for only $247.50 (cash out): Got an Etihad mistake fare last Christmas.
      •  Used $32.50 worth of Arrival+ points to get the original price of $285 down to $247.50
    • JAX- JFK - Jetblue $79. Didn't use Arrival+ but opted to use the JetBlue credit card so we can earn twice as many points on that flight.
    • JFK-JAX - US Airways (with a stopover in Philadelphia) - $120. It is cheaper and since we have the US Airways card, we get free checked luggage each too. Booked using Arrval+ so expecting to reimburse it as well. 
    • Manila to Tagbilaran Flight - TigerAir/Cebu Pacific - $70 for two people (to reimburse using Arrival+)
    • Tagbilaran to Manila Flight - AirAsia - $50 for two people (to reimburse using Arrival+) 
      • $25 reimbursed using Arrival+. Total Cash out for this leg: $25
  • Tours & Accommodation Total: $280
    • Paid out in cash - $280 for two people. Thing is, the company doesn't allow us to pay in credit cards so there you go, everything in cash
  • Travel breakdown to follow soon. 
Atlanta, Georgia (April 3-5, 2015)

  • Total Spend: $323.75 (Atlanta Travel Expense Breakdown)
  • Hotel: Best Western Plus ($150+ including taxes & fees) for 2 nights, paid out of pocket using Orbitz. (Because they had a sale, normal price is around $100 per night)
  • Attractions
    • Atlanta Citypass - CNN Center, the Georgia Aquarium, and World of Coca-Cola. Also saw Zoo Atlanta. All for $79 per person. To be reimbursed by Arrival+ 
    • Atlanta Skyline - bought using a groupon $18.40 in cash for two people + free chocolate.
  • Transportation & food are covered separately in the expense breakdown, as well as things to do. 
Europe (April 17th - 28th, 2015) Germany, Austria & Slovakia

Why these countries? Because my boyfriend is originally from Slovakia and he wants me to see his country :) Vienna is the closest biggest airport to fly out of Bratislava, and Germany because I'll need a Schengen visa to get in the region. Germany is the closest embassy to where I live without flying to DC so we'll have to stay longest in Germany for the trip. Not too bad though, considering that the south of Germany is full of castles, which I love! 
  • Total Spend: 
  • Flights Total :
    •   40,000 Mile SAAver Offpeak American Airline Miles. (80,000 miles for 2 people) JAX-MUC (April 17th), VIE-JAX (April 28th). (The airline taxes & fees $288 for 2 people are going were covered by our Arrival+ card) - total cost out of pocket? $0. Total miles? 80k AA
  • Hotels Total: 
    • Munich Total: $
      • Out of pocket cost per night, $80. We are staying at a small hotel near the old city of Munich where everything is walking distance - hurrah! How's that for location? Saved $100 by booking using the VISACHECKOUT deal on Orbitz.com
    • Vienna Total: $65.11
      • Best Western Wien, Vienna (to reimburse using Arrival+)
    • Salzburg Total: $60.11 
      • Hotel Goldenes Theatre (to reimburse using Arrival+)
  • Sightseeing: to be determined. 
  • Travel Itinerary to follow
Las Vegas, Nevada (May 20-26, 2015)
  • Flights Total:  $230
    • US Airways Companion Pass. Paid approx $460 out of pocket for two people round trip from JAX to LAS. (Normally that $400 ticket is just for one person!)
  • Hotels Total: $
    • Las Vegas: $150 cash for 3 nights (including the resort fees, averaging $50 a night including a weekend stay) for Stratosphere May 20-23 during Orbitz Cyber Monday - out of pocket. 
    • Las Vegas - Excalibur: $30 for the night (Used a visa checkout deal, so we only paid for the resort fees and $10 for the room)
    • Boulder Dam Hotel - $103.95/night - paid in cash
    • Grand Canyon Hotel - $83.45/night - paid in cash: wonderful hotel!
  • Transportation Total
  • Sightseeing/Entertainment Total: 
    • Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley, a few shows in Las Vegas, and do other things. To be determined - we got a lot of great deals using the VISACHECKOUT offer from Vegas.com. Will post in a different article. 
  • Itinerary to Follow
 Augusta, GA & Aiken, SC (July 4-5, 2015)
  •  An unexpected trip, driven mostly by pointbreaks
  • Hotel - 5000 IHG points (Pointbreaks) at Candlewood Suites in Augusta, GA
  • Gas - $50 for a tank of gas and a half for our trip. 
Orlando, FL: Wet n Wild (August 22, 2015) 
  • Paid by our own cash. $135 for 2 FL residents including an all day buffet. Not so bad. 

Turks & Caicos (Sept 19-22, 2015)
  • Flights Total: $21
    • 18,000 British Airways Points from JAX to MIA (for P & R, roundtrip). Taxes: $192
    • Taxes reimbursed using BarclayCard Arrival+ ($150, worth 15,000 Arrival+ pts)
    • Final Flight cost: $42 for two people
  • Hotels:  $290.50
    • Inn at Grace Bay. $581 for three nights, includes kitchenette.
 Niceville, Florida (Sept 26-27, 2015)
  • Hotel: 5,000 IHG points (Pointbreaks) - Paying $0.
  • Travel breakdown to follow soon.
Melbourne/Cocoa Beach, FL (October 10,-11, 2015)
  • Hotel: 5,000 IHG points (Pointbreaks)
New York (October 23-27, 2015)
  • Flights Total: $12
    • 20,000 JetBlue points + nearly $12 in taxes and fees. In theory we could have gotten the $12 for free using a different cash back card, but getting more points is more worth it. 
  • Hotel Total: $0
    • We'll be staying at our friend's apartment in Manhattan
  • Transportation Total: $ 
  • Sightseeing Total: $

As featured on:  Million Mile Secrets, Two Monkeys Travel, Chris Guillebeau

Update - we have posted our 2016 plans on our website! Go check it out :) We've already blogged about our 2016 Orlando Trip and I'm currently working on the other trips we've already taken! 

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