- This was the first Christmas / New Year’s in about a decade where my household didn’t have a baby in diapers. We had no trips planned either. I’ve spent an entire week at home and I’m feeling very relaxed right now, plus I’m finally caught up on yard work.
- My big trips of the past year were to Nicaragua (see here as well) and to Washington DC. The former was a two-week long trip, and my advice about doing international trips with four young kids: don’t. I’m only exaggerating a little bit–it’s a tremendous undertaking. Going through MIA doesn’t help either, though the Centurion Lounge there was clutch on the way down. And about that airport: my then-two-year-old daughter decided to roll around on the floor in the airport there quite a bit (Yes, we tried numerous times to stop her. Kids will be kids.) and coincidentally came down with a nasty case of head lice shortly thereafter. Oh, and did you know that head lice are now resistant to a lot of treatments? My daughter’s certainly were. We threw about four different treatments at her before we were able to eradicate the damn things.
- If you want to see a summary by a real traveler, go read Trevor’s 2016 recap. Aside from DC and Nicaragua, we mostly did trips of a night or two including a couple to Asheville, where I was able to get eight cents per point for my Hyatt points.
- In 2015 we hopped on a 150,000-point targeted Amex Platinum bonus. Fortunately this was before Bluebird died (the minimum spend was $20K) and it did not get caught up in the Amex MS dragnet, though we did have a Financial Review which fortunately went smoothly. We ultimately transferred those points to Iberia (thank you, 30% transfer bonus!) and then to British Airways, and this past year we redeemed most of those miles to fly ten of my wife’s relatives from Managua to our home in Charlotte.
- About those MGA-CLT Avios bookings: five of those are for my wife’s brother and his family. That’s no problem with Avios since they’re flexible and can travel just about any time and can commit months ahead of time. The other five are for my wife’s sister and her family, and they’re much less flexible. Last time we booked tickets for them, we did the Avios wait-and-pray approach and it worked: we bought the MGA-CLT tickets on relatively short notice when some seats became available and hoped availability would open up for the return leg… which it did a few days before they left for the MGA-CLT leg. Win! This time around, we had no luck for the return leg so I had to burn some AA miles. Another argument for hoarding? Though Joe makes a good point: if you’re hoarding, it may be because your point valuation is out of whack. I think that’s why I hoard IHG points.
- All of which reminds me of a point I’d like to make for those of you disinclined to travel because of kids or any other reason: even if you don’t travel the world, you can still bring the world to you with points and miles.
- The big trip for 2017 will be a trip to Yellowstone for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Related story: tickets to Jackson Hole are expensive! Same thing for Cody. Salt Lake City is a lot cheaper but it’s also a five hour drive. We’ll also be doing another family trip to Nicaragua in January 2018, but it will be “funded” with vacation days from 2017, so that’s going to restrict my 2017 travel. “Work is the curse of the drinking class”… and the travel class too.
- My blogging fell off this year partly because there isn’t as much to blog about and partly for personal reasons. We had some nasty viruses hit the household this year, plus we finished up an addition to our house. Dia’s documenting her home improvement adventures right now if you’re interested. My advice, given the demographics of the construction industry: have a spouse or a close friend who is a native Spanish speaker and can ask around and negotiate for you. We just saved a bunch on some stamped concrete thanks to my wife.
- I obtained Luxe status from my Banana Republic card thanks to a 5X promotion. Thus far, Luxe status has had zero impact on my life. Neither did my stupid Chase Sapphire Reserve cat video getting linked to by the New York Times. Speaking of which, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also caused a few commenters to accuse me of blasphemy.
- Have a great year everybody!
GUEST POST: It’s the Thousand Mile Secrets super awesome super expensive Amazon holiday shopping guide!
Editor’s note: Today’s special guest blogger is my good friend Cyrus, who runs the Thousand Mile Secrets blog. Cyrus is eager to share his wealth of knowledge with his friends and family… and with you! Please note that this post contains numerous affiliate links which, when clicked, will enrich the author substantially.
Hi everybody! For those of you who don’t remember me from my last post, I run the Thousand Mile Secrets blog where I’m a big-time blogger… though not as big as my cousin Daraius! Today I’m going to share with you some cool Amazon items for those special people in your life. It’s time to take generosity to the next level! Here are some gifts you’ll want to add to your list:
Michael Jackson Signed Fender Telecaster Guitar: Brian Kelly, a close personal friend of mine who by the way runs The Points Guy, gave me one of these last year and I love it! It’s got Michael Jackson’s signature on it! Talk about a “Thriller”! It costs an even $50,000 which is no problem for those of you with the Platinum Card® from American Express.
Classic Grey Sevruga Caviar: I always eat a whole bunch of this stuff whenever I stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. It’s the Lay’s potato chips of caviar–you can’t eat just one! It’s slightly expensive at a little over six thousand dollars per can, BUT it comes with free shipping from Amazon Prime! Try Amazon Prime today! And be sure to wash down your caviar with a 12-pack of really expensive blackcurrant juice.
A box of 500 $50 American Gold Eagle coins: Everybody else is investing in gold–don’t be left behind! The price on this box has been slashed from $916,819.16 to $733,455.32. That means that you’ll save over $183K with just this one single purchase! Wow!
The Athenian Decadrachm (Numismatic Notes and Monographs): I travel to the Maldives (pronounced just the way it looks: “mall-dives”) almost every week. Whether I’m sunning on the beach or enjoying my overwater bungalow I like to curl up with a nice book–the classier, the better! Check out the description on this one:
This book represents a huge advance on the previous study of the material, Chester Starr’s Athenian coinage, 480-449 B.C. (Oxford, 1970). Fischer Bossert has collected more than three times as many specimens as were known to Starr, and has provided a full account of the known forgeries drawn from the photo-files of major dealers, scholars and Museums. This is an indispensable work for all interested in the coinage and history 5th-century Athens. In addition, its judicious discussion of the history of the forgery of these remarkable coins will make this volume a handbook for all serious collectors of ancient Greek coinage.
WOW!!!! At $10,000 this book is somewhat expensive… but the knowledge you’ll gain is priceless!
Nike Air Yeezy sneakers: Trust me on this one: you should never skimp when it comes to footwear! This special pair of shoes costs over seven thousand dollars but all I can say is: Totally. Worth. It. Especially if you’re a man with size 11.5 (US) feet.
Tuscan Dairy Whole Vitamin D Milk: I like to wear a three dog moon shirt while I drink this stuff.
That’s all I have! Thanks for reading! What are YOU buying this year?
When making your 2017 travel plans, don’t forget about the eclipse!
As you make your 2017 travel plans, don’t forget about a rare event happening next year: a total eclipse of the sun visible across a wide section of the United States. It’s going to be on August 21, 2017 in late morning / early afternoon, and that’s a Monday, so if you’re a nerd like me and are excited about this, you’ll want to allot a vacation day for it. And yes, you should be excited about this: it’s the first total eclipse visible in the contiguous states since 1979!
Here’s a map of the path of the eclipse, courtesy of GreatAmericanEclipse.org:
The only eclipse I can remember being in the vicinity of occurred when I was in fourth grade. As I recall it got really dark outside and I really wanted to go outside and experience it except that day was a school day and my school apparently wasn’t into the whole getting-kids-excited-about-science thing. I am still bitter about missing out on that eclipse and that’s why I’m posting about it now.
But fortunately for me I’m about an hour and a half’s drive away from the path of the total eclipse. Since I’m already going to take the day off and since I have plenty of hotel points available I’m planning on making an overnight trip of it to make it into a fun event for my kids. Let’s hope the weather cooperates. Only nine more months to wait!
Atlanta couple faces federal charges after earning a lot of Staples rewards
Every now and then a points & miles blogger puts out a post on deal-chasing ethics, which is a good thing. Case in point:
BOSTON — A couple from Georgia is facing charges in connection with a scheme to defraud Framingham, Massachusetts-based Staples, Inc. of more than $1.4 million.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz says 46-year-old John Douglas is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. His wife, 41-year-old Analyn Douglass, is charged with conspiracy to ship stolen goods in interstate commerce. It’s unclear whether they have lawyers.
Investigators say Douglas and a co-conspirator created more than 1,100 Staples rewards accounts, often using fictitious information. Douglas used a computer script to query a Staples website and seek unclaimed customer loyalty rewards for purchases he didn’t make.
Investigators say they used the rewards to buy merchandise at Staples retail locations throughout United States and that Analyn Douglass sold much of the merchandise on eBay.
Looking at this now, I wonder if it’s this guy. The full story is at the link and it’s long enough that I don’t want to repost the whole thing, but check this out:
In my free time over the next several weeks, I did what I could to decipher the intricacies of the ink rewards program, from an internal systems level. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the online reward program sign-up form required absolutely no verification of account information, including email addresses. This was key.
One Craigslist post and a $200 money order later, I was in possession of a custom Ruby script capable of creating dozens of fake customer reward accounts each minute, outputting the account login information to a spreadsheet (required for printing the rewards cards and store credit codes).
The next week, I was on the phone with a semi-truck driver telling me to meet him at the loading dock behind a Walmart. For $1,000 including freight shipping, I had became the owner of 10,000 used ink cartridges. Eighteen soggy, ink-stained boxes weighing over 50lbs each, taking multiple trips to load into a borrowed full-size SUV.
I couldn’t give an exact amount how much I made overall, but I was able to pay off my student loans and live very comfortably for a couple years afterwards. Everyone close to me still thinks I’m insane for pulling it all off as long as I did without any real repercussions. I’ve done even worse since, but that’s another story I’ll never tell. I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve never gotten into any legal trouble.
What do you think: same guy, or have a lot of people done this? And is he guilty or innocent?
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