December 31, 2017

Booked: IBERIA Business Class Airbus A330 From Chicago to Madrid to Lisbon. Trips to Frankfurt and Iceland

,2018 is around the corner. We are heading to Oregon Coast tomorrow for a few days and celebrate New Year's Eve in Portland, Oregon. I want to wish you a Happy 2018 with safe travels ahead.

Yesterday was an exciting points redemption for me. IBERIA, a Madrid based airline, is having a promotional offer 25% off award booking using their frequent mileage program Avios from Boston or Chicago to Madrid for 25,500 Avios round-trip (12,750 Avios one-way) in Economy class, and 51,000 Avios round-trip (25,500 Avios one-way) in Business class. 

A Trip to Portugal
Chase recently added IBERIA as a transfer partner from Chase Points to IBERIA Avios at 1:1 ratio. So that works out perfectly for our plan and a trip to Europe! Lisbon, Portugal has always been on my list to visit and so is Iceland's Northern Lights. The downside is the lights only happen in the winter time, so this trip to Europe will be in February when it's cold in Iceland! But I realize that this trip is not only just about those two European countries, but also the journey of getting there. When I saw IBERIA's promotion yesterday, I was super excited to research about IBERIA's Business class cabin from the U.S. to Madrid. I decided to book Chicago to Madrid route as it takes longer than Boston to Madrid route. That will give us longer time to enjoy the IBERIA Airbus A330 Business Class. The seat type looks pretty nice and we are very much looking forward to trying it out as we never flew IBERIA's premium cabin before. This seat is sold for almost $7,000 per adult.

Photo Credit: IBERIA
For my segment from Madrid to Lisbon, I only picked economy class as the flight time is only a little bit over 1 hour and economy class requires lesser Avios. It is nice that IBERIA allows mixed cabins on award ticket. The total Avios needed for one-way ticket from Chicago - Madrid (Business) - Lisbon (Economy) is 28,900 Avios + ~$120 USD in tax. Therefore, I transferred 58,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to IBERIA Avios in order to book two award tickets plus ~$241 USD for tax. The transfer is instantaneous and it needs to be in 1,000 increment.

IBERIA Allows Mixed Cabins On Award Ticket's Redemption

Chicago and American Airlines Flagship Lounge
I am also long overdue with Chicago. This will be a good opportunity to go back to Chicago. IBERIA is also part of the One World alliance and therefore One World's Business Class passengers are invited to access American Airlines' Flagship Lounge. This lounge is a new lounge that just opens in 2017 and is supposed to be a lot nicer than the existing American Airlines Admiral Clubs. So we are really looking forward to experience the lounge as well.


Iceland, but first Germany
Granted, WOW Air flies from U.S. to Reykjavik Iceland for cheap starting at $99. But it really does not excite me as far as the journey of the flight goes. They also have many restrictions for seat selection, carry-on, etc. for that basic cheap price. Our plan now is to be in Lisbon first, so while looking into how to get to Iceland from Lisbon, flights are not cheap and with long layovers. So I decided to book us multiple itinerary by breaking down each segment from Lisbon - Frankfurt, spend a day there, then fly from Frankfurt to Reykjavik next day. This works out great as we both have never been to Frankfurt and the price of the air tickets is much cheaper to fly to Frankfurt first compared to other European cities. Thankfully, the hotel in Frankfurt by the city center is also very affordable. We'll get into Frankfurt in the morning so that will give us ample time to check out the city and our flight to Iceland won't leave until 1pm in the afternoon next day.

What's left to do is how to get back to the United States after the trip!

How to get IBERIA Avios?
The IBERIA promotion runs until Jan 31, 2018. Here are three ways to get IBERIA's Avios:
  1. Transfer from British Airways Avios. The process is a little bit of a hassle as you first have to sign up for IBERIA Avios account which is free and the account has to be at least 90 days old. Then you have to accrue IBERIA Avios before you are able to make a transfer. 
    • How to get British Airways Avios? Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. 
    1. Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to IBERIA.
    2. Transfer from SPG Starpoints to IBERIA. 

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    December 24, 2017

    My Club Carlson Credit Card Retention Offer

    Disclaimer: I don't earn any commission from the links nor I am affiliate with any credit card issuers below. Just love great deals for traveling. 

    It is advisable that before you consider cancelling any credit card, you should try to talk to retention department to see if they have any offers for your account to continue keeping you as a credit card customer. Several people that are doing miles and points have benefited from retention calls by racking more miles and points in their account, and sometimes they have the annual fee on their credit card waived for another year. Each year, when I see the annual fee of one of my credit cards is posted, I usually reach out to the card issuer to inquire about any possible retention offers that are available to me. For example earlier this year, here's My American Express Business Platinum Retention Offers

    I saw the annual fee of $60 was posted on my Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card. Truthfully, Club Carlson credit card is not my favorite card; however, I do value the annual 40,000 bonus points, Gold elite status, and one free night at any U.S. Club Carlson properties when I put $10,000 on the card each year and before the annual fee is posted. List of Club Carlson Hotels to Redeem Your Free Night Certificate. I also like their properties in Europe. With that being said, I still like to keep this card and although I did not plan to close this card, I inquired U.S. Bank anyway for the retention offers to help with the annual fee.

    Use Your One Free Night Certificate From Club Carlson Credit Card at Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown
    My experience went like this. I called up the phone number on the back of my Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card. I told the agent that I am considering canceling the card but wanted to know if there are any retention offers. The agent wasn't willing to help much and instead she just said there's nothing she could offer me. I kind of expected that as U.S. Bank is not known for giving up retention offers like American Express, Chase, and Citi banks. Regardless, I hung up the phone and decided to try one more time by sending a secured message online. I then received a response from them that read:

    Thank you for contacting U.S. Bank® via our Website about your Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa® account ending in xxxx. 

    While we are unable to credit the Annual Fee, as being a valid cardmember, we have credited 7,500 bonus points.   

    Please contact us again if we can be of further assistance. 

    Sincerely, 

    [Agent's name]
    Cardmember Service Advisor 

    7,500 Bonus Club Carlson points are not much. I value Club Carlson points only 4 cents a piece. So mathematically, the 7,500 bonus points are worth $30 to me. Although this is just a decent retention offer, it is really better than nothing at all. I am glad I send the secured message after the unsuccessful call for the retention offer.
      

    Learn more about the benefits of Club Carlson Business Rewards Credit Card


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    Sprint Visa Rewards Credit Card Review

    Disclaimer: I don't earn any commission from the following credit card's offer nor I am affiliate with any credit card issuers below. Just love great deals for traveling. 

    Sprint recently offered free Limited Commercials Hulu subscription to new and existing customers with Sprint Unlimited plan. To add Hulu service to your Sprint account, you can follow the instruction here. Sprint now also rolls out its Sprint Credit Card that was started two years ago to more Sprint stores nationwide. At the time of this writing, you can only apply for the the Sprint Credit Card at a Sprint store.


    Sprint Credit Card Basics
    Sprint Visa Credit Card is issued by the Home Credit, a financial institution based in Amsterdam. The basics of this credit card are:
    • No sign up bonus.
    • No annual fee. 
    • 0% Introductory APR on all Sprint purchases for the first year. After that, the APR is 19.74-35.74%
    • Earn 2x points per $1 spent on Sprint purchases such as accessories, auto-payment, down payment, taxes, fees, etc. 
    • Earn 1x point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Points don't expire as long your Sprint account is in good standing and opened. 
    • Each point is worth 1 cent a piece. Must redeem a minimum of $20 for any Sprint expenses. 

    My Two Cents
    It's great to see that Sprint is doing its part to offer customers with services and a rewards credit card that earns points to redeem for Sprint expenses. Clearly if you are paying your Sprint bill with a method that does not earn you any rewards, you are really leaving your money on the table. 

    I personally use my Chase Business Ink Credit Card to pay for my Sprint bill and it earns me 5x Chase rewards points per $1 spent on cell phone expenses. The Ink card, however, is a premium Chase's credit card and therefore getting one approved can be tough for some as it requires higher credit score and Chase won't approve you if you have 5 or more credit card accounts opened with Chase or any other banks in the past 24 months. The Sprint Credit Card, however, is issued by the Home Credit. By looking at the card's APR, it can range from 19% to 35% rate. This tells me that they are not looking for outstanding credit score individuals but possibly approve those that have fair credit or even bad credit if his/her credit report has no any red flags. Regardless, that is a terrible interest rate, but if you pay the card's balance off each month, there will be no interest. Moreover, for those that need a no annual fee credit card for re-establishing credit, this Sprint credit card could work for you as well. 

    You may consider getting the Sprint Credit Card only if you are a responsible credit card consumer that pays off the balance on the card each month. You can set up auto-pay to withdraw from your bank's checking account to pay off your Sprint Credit Card's balance each month to avoid late payment and get charged for hefty interest. You then can set up auto-pay to pay for your monthly Sprint bills with this Sprint Credit Card and that will earn you 2x points per $1 spent each month. Do keep in mind also that, currently you cannot apply for this credit card online, you will need to to go to a Sprint store. 

    More Sprint Articles:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint
    Frequently Asked Questions About Hulu With Sprint Unlimited
    Step-by-Step Guide With Sprint International Roaming and Wi-Fi Calling

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    December 20, 2017

    Step-by-Step Guide With Sprint International Roaming and Wi-Fi Calling

    More Sprint Articles:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint
    Frequently Asked Questions About Hulu With Sprint Unlimited

    Step-by-Step Guide With Sprint International Roaming and Wi-Fi Calling
    Traveling Internationally can be expensive. If you are not careful, you may come back home with outrageous amounts of International roaming charges. Thankfully, Sprint has Sprint Global Roaming that allows Sprint customers to roam with text and data in more than 175 destinations in the world. All Sprint plans come with this service but there are a few things that you need to consider before traveling abroad. Before we go into the step-by-step guide, here are three key features about the Sprint Global Roaming:
    1. Unlimited SMS texting
    2. Data up to 2G speeds
    3. Calls for only 20 cents/minute.
    I don't recommend you making phone calls at that calling rate unless you absolutely need to do that. As part of the guide, I'll show you below how to make phone calls from overseas for free.

    Technically speaking, as long as your device is LTE/GSM capable smartphone, the Sprint Global Roaming service is automatically included with your Sprint Plan free of charge. You shouldn't have to do anything. However, personally I always like to cross my T's and dot my I's. Therefore, I'll show you some simple step-by-step guide to walk you through the process of making sure you device is ready to go overseas with you and allowing you to stay connected with love ones back in the States.

    Step 1: Ensure your device is an LTE/GSM capable smartphone. Sprint Global Roaming is only available on those smartphones.

    Step 2: Check to see if the country you are visiting is on the featured destination supported by Sprint below:

    Afghanistan

    Aland Islands

    Albania

    Alderney

    Andorra

    Anguilla

    Antigua and Barbuda

    Argentina

    Armenia

    Aruba

    Australia

    Austria

    Azerbaijan

    Azores

    Bahamas

    Bahrain

    Bangladesh

    Barbados

    Belarus

    Belgium

    Belize

    Bermuda

    Bolivia

    Bonaire

    Brazil

    British Virgin Islands

    Brunei
    Bulgaria
    Cambodia

    Canada

    Canary Islands

    Cayman Islands

    Chad
    Chile

    China

    Colombia

    Congo, Dem. Rep. of

    Costa Rica

    Croatia

    Curacao

    Cyprus

    Czech Republic

    Democratic Republic of Congo
    Denmark

    Dominica

    Dominican Republic

    Easter Island

    Ecuador

    Egypt

    El Salvador

    England

    Estonia

    Faroe Islands

    Fiji

    Finland

    France

    French Guiana

    Georgia

    Germany

    Ghana

    Gibraltar

    Greece

    Greenland

    Grenada

    Guadeloupe

    Guam

    Guatemala

    Guernsey

    Guyana

    Haiti

    Honduras

    Hong Kong

    Hungary

    Iceland

    India

    Indonesia

    Ireland

    Isle of Man

    Israel

    Italy

    Jamaica

    Japan

    Jersey

    Jordan

    Kazakhstan

    Kenya

    Kuwait
    Kyrgyzstan

    Laos

    Latvia

    Lesotho

    Liechtenstein

    Lithuania

    Luxembourg

    Macau

    Macedonia

    Madagascar
    Madeira

    Malawi
    Malaysia

    Malta Republic

    Marie Galante

    Martinique

    Mayotte

    Mexico

    Montenegro

    Montserrat

    Mozambique

    Myanmar

    Nauru

    Netherlands

    New Zealand

    Nicaragua

    Nigeria

    Northern Ireland

    Northern Mariana Islands

    Norway

    Pakistan

    Palestinian Territories

    Panama

    Papua New Guinea

    Paraguay

    Peru

    Philippines

    Poland

    Portugal

    Qatar

    Reunion

    Romania

    Russia

    Rwanda

    Saba

    Saint Kitts and Nevis

    Saint Lucia

    Saint Martin

    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

    Saipan

    Samoa

    San Marino

    Sark

    Saudi Arabia

    Scotland

    Senegal

    Serbia

    Seychelles
    Singapore

    Sint Eustatius

    Sint Maarten

    Slovakia

    Slovenia

    South Africa

    South Korea

    Spain

    Sri Lanka

    St. Barthelemy

    Suriname

    Svalbard

    Sweden

    Switzerland

    Taiwan

    Tajikistan

    Tanzania

    Thailand

    Tonga

    Trinidad and Tobago

    Turkey

    Turks and Caicos Islands

    Uganda
    Ukraine

    United Arab Emirates

    United Kingdom

    Uruguay

    Vanuatu

    Vatican City

    Venezuela

    Vietnam

    Wales

     Zambia


    Step 3: Once the destination is confirmed. Before leaving the States to go to your destination, on your smartphone for example iPhone, go to Settings - Cellular - Cellular Data Options - Roaming - Make sure both Voice Roaming and Data Roaming on. Turn off the International CDMA.

    For Samsung Galaxy phones and little disclaimer that I do not own the Galaxy phone, therefore I cannot verify the following instruction is accurate or not, let me know if it's not: Settings - Connection - Mobile Network - Network Mode (automatic) - Roaming - Domestic and International, under International make sure everything is ON.
    • You may question why bother with the Voice Roaming as the rate is 20 cents/minute. If you turn Voice Roaming off, you won't be able to send and receive free unlimited text messages.  

    Step 4: Still on iPhone. Go back to Settings - Cellular. You should see an option calls Wi-Fi Calling. Turn on that feature. A couple things to remember, you MUST turn this Wi-Fi Calling option on while you are physically in the U.S. as you cannot do that when you are abroad. Secondly, your phone needs to be connected to Wi-Fi in order to enable that feature. See screenshot below to verify Sprint Wi-Fi is enabled.

    For Samsung Galaxy phones and little disclaimer that I do not own the Galaxy phone, therefore I cannot verify the following instruction is accurate or not, do let me know if it's not: Settings - More - Wi-Fi Calling

    • This Sprint Wi-Fi Calling feature is extremely helpful when you are outside the U.S. You can make and receive phone calls just like you were in United States as long as you are connected to Wi-Fi abroad. To put this in an example, people in the States can just dial your 10 digit numbers and you are able to answer the phone over Wi-Fi abroad. The same thing for you that you can just dial 10 digit numbers of a U.S. person to make a phone call over Wi-Fi abroad. 
    • You can also check your voicemail by dialing your 10 digit numbers, putting in your voicemail password and listening to your voicemail like you normally do in the U.S.

    Step 5:
    Whether you are traveling via plane or cruise ship, make sure your phone is set to Airplane Mode. On the cruise ship, this is to avoid any charges when your phone roams in an International region that Sprint does not cover. Once you reach the destination, you can simply turn off the Airplane Mode setting and you are set to roam Internationally with free unlimited text messages and 2G speed cellular data. Thanks to Sprint Wi-Fi, you can make and receive phone calls as you were in the States as long as your phone is connected to Wi-Fi.

    • If you prefer higher speed data, you can pay $5/day or $25/week. Follow the instruction in the text message you receive from Sprint when you are abroad. 

    Traveling to Mexico & Canada? Your Sprint Unlimited Freedom Plan also includes free high-speed data, calls and texts while in Canada and Mexico. Free international long distance from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico and vice versa.

    Traveling to Japan? For $5/month, you can take advantage of data roaming featuring high-speed data, texting and voice calls in Japan. Call number below to request this service added to your Sprint account.

    For more information on Sprint International Roaming, you can reach Sprint International department at 1-888-226-7212. My experience with them has always been positive.

    More Sprint Articles:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint
    Frequently Asked Questions About Hulu With Sprint Unlimited

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    December 19, 2017

    How To Remove Authorized User Chase Credit Cards From Your Credit Report?

    The benefits of adding an authorized user to a credit card can vary from one card to another. The obvious choice for me to do that is when the card issuer offers me a decent bonus miles or points to add an authorized user. For example, I took advantage of Chase's offer for 7,500 bonus Marriott Points for adding an authorized user to my Marriott's credit card this year. Other than that, I'll have to do research to see whether adding an authorized user to a card is worth it or not. Is It Worth It to Add Authorized User to Chase Sapphire Reserve?


    The one downside of being an authorized user on a credit card has to do with Chase. Chase has a notorious 5/24 rule when it comes to approve/deny a credit card application. This rule basically means that if you have 5 or more credit card accounts opened with Chase or any other banks in the past 24 months, Chase will deny your application. If you have been added as an authorized user on a credit card, that card will also appear on your credit report. Thus, Chase will see that and count it as an opened credit card towards their rule of no more than 4 cards in the past 24 months. 

    Thankfully, Chase also make it really easy for consumers to request credit card information be removed from his/her credit report. In other words, the primary card member can call Chase card service any time to remove the authorized user. Once that's completed, the card member can also request that credit card information be removed from the authorized user's credit report by simply sending a secured message to Chase online. Chase then will provide instruction accordingly after they verify that the person is not listed as a user and is not liable for the balance or payments on that specific credit card's account.

    Here's the instruction from Chase:

    To remove the account from his credit report, please print
    this email and have [the individual name] complete and sign the
    form provided below. You may mail this to Cardmember
    Service, PO Box 15298 Wilmington, DE 19850-5298 or fax the
    information to 1-888-593-8302.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    - - -

    I am not a user on the account, and I hereby authorize the
    bank to delete this account from my credit report:

    Full Account Number: ________ - ________ - ________
    - ________

    Name To Be Removed: _____________________________________

    Social Security Number: _______ - ______ -__________

    Address:

    _______________________________________________

    _______________________________________________

    _______________________________________________


    Signature: _____________________________________________

    _______________________________________________

    That's it! That's all you have to do. Once the removal process is completed, the credit card information will disappear from the user's credit report as an open credit card.

    Check out more articles on How To With Miles & Points


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    December 18, 2017

    My Horrifying Experience While Leaving Cape Town International Airport

    Part of why I enjoy traveling so much is not just being able to see new things in the world but also learn to appreciate the cultural encounter in each destination. Africa to me is not a continent that I think is safe to visit, but I stand corrected after my trip to South Africa. South Africa is very beautiful and it is completely safe to visit. People are just trying to live on a daily basis just like any other parts of the world and as visitors we should all use common sense and exercise precautions when travel to anywhere. Regardless, the unknown and uncertainty are what made me super nervous when I had to go through what happened to me while leaving Cape Town International Airport to come back to the States.

    V&A Waterfront & Table Mountain View
    The sole purpose of sharing my personal experience here is hoping that some reader out there may or may not encounter this and be prepared for it should it happen to you as well for your visit to South Africa.

    The Story
    I was traveling alone. I caught Uber from the V&A Waterfront to the Cape Town International Airport in the morning. Upon arrival at the airport, I got off the car and walked straight into the airport. I looked up the information board to see which counter is for my airline flight so that I could go check in and get my boarding pass. On the way there, this African gentleman came towards me, flashed his ID card known as Police but without any uniform. He told me to go into a room for checking proper documents and my luggage. I was a little bit nervous and clearly I had no time to read what his ID card says. Then two more gentlemen came towards me, again without any police uniforms, flashed their ID cards as one guy was talking to me about the same thing that I had to follow them to that room. On the way to the room, there was another African woman who asked how I was doing. I said fine and apparently she was also part of the team. Imagine 2 African men, 1 Caucasian man, and 1 African woman escorted me to that room, how was I supposed to feel? My mind went through a couple scenarios: They could be real policemen and conduct random checks at the airport OR they could be scamming me by working together to raid my luggage and God knew what they were going to take or ask from me. I was really nervous at the time. Thankfully the room is out in public and right in the airport by the entrance, so I said to myself that at least the room is out in the open so should anything happen, someone would see what happened.

    Inside The Room
    While inside the room, one gentleman was courteous enough as he asked for my Passport. He handed it over to the woman and she was flipping through the passport as I was opening my luggage for that guy to look through. My head turned back and forth to see what was going on. The Caucasian man was a little odd that he spoke nothing to me, but rather he whispered with another African man. The man came and put his hand on my heart. He said to me "The heart does not lie!" Then he said "You look nervous. Why? There's no need to be nervous about!" Meanwhile, the man that was checking my luggage said to me "Just relax. We just want to make sure you have proper document and your luggage is checked out. Why are you nervous?" I replied "I am just not used to this type of check in the States." I smiled and continued answer his questions about what's what in my luggage. The Caucasian man kept looking at me like he could read face or something. The whole thing about him was completely strange to say the least. The other man pointed to a woman outside the room and told me to look at her. I just smiled in return but I think he wanted to calm me down. By then I kept telling myself to just calm down and answered any questions that they had so that I could get the hell out of that room. Finally, the woman asked me what's my flight number. I responded accordingly and then they let me go.

    The Relief
    Whew! What a relief there. At the time, my counter has not opened yet so I went to the upstairs to find a seat to sit down. I realized that it was really busy in that room because there were 4 people working together to "check" my stuff. I would not know if they were to take out anything without my knowledge. I remembered I had credit cards in my luggage and then I started to search for them. At first I did not find them and that added to my panic attack moment. I thought I got screwed there. At last, I finally found my credit cards and I breathed a sigh of a complete relief. Later, I observed that they were still there and came to a conclusion that they are legitimate security agents at the airport.

    What I could not wrap my head around this whole experience is the fact that, are 4 people really necessary to do this security check? Why not wear any uniform instead of just flashing their small ID cards? The chit chat was awkward trying to get the truth from me by touching my heart and pointing a woman's behind to loosen me up from nervousness, really? And what's the deal with that white guy there that spoke nothing the whole time but yet stared at me like he could read my face? It was completely weird.

    Conclusion
    All in all, this experience indicates that each country's regulations for security check varies from one to another. Although I wish that experience did not happen to me as I was very happy that I was leaving Cape Town safe and sound at the airport, then that last minute check thing really kind of ruined that excitement. But after all, in my own opinion I think it was legit and it wasn't a scam as I did not lose anything. This is part of visiting another country and being prepared to encounter different ways of doing things in that country that we are not used to at home. Overall, South Africa is just like any other country and if you exercise precautions it's pretty safe just like any other places.

    As far as Cape Town goes, the V&A Waterfront is relatively safe. There are security guards all over the waterfront's area. I stayed at the Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge by Marriott (full review here) and found its location is excellent for sightseeing and very safe while visiting Cape Town.

    Check out more articles on South Africa

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    December 16, 2017

    Hotel Review: Great Use of Marriott Points for Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge

    A while back, I wrote about my excitement on "I Scored 5 Nights At A Marriott Property for $85 In Cape Town South Africa - Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge." I now returned from my South Africa trip and want to post reviews for my stays at that property.

    Beautiful Room at Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge by Marriott
    ​Price & Marriott Points
    The regular non-refundable rate of this hotel is $255 USD per night before tax for the dates that I wanted. I stayed at this property completely on Marriott Rewards Points as Protea Hotel is part of the Marriott chain. It was such a great redemption though considering the location of this property is by the safe V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. I redeemed 40,0000 Marriott Points for entire 5 nights with no breakfast. Those points were accrued through the sign up bonus 80,000 Marriott Points of Marriott Credit Card which only costs me an annual fee of $85 and I still have additional 40,000 Marriott Points in my account. This property is a category 2 Marriott's hotel and requires only 10,000 points per night, but as a Marriott member you can redeem stays for 5 nights and the 5th night is free. For more information on this redemption, you can check out my article on I Scored 5 Nights At A Marriott Property for $85 In Cape Town South Africa - Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge

    Great Use of Marriott Points for Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge Close To V&A Waterfront
    Check-In
    I read reviews on TripAdvisor and people talked about how slow the check-in process at this property can be. I think it really depends on when you are checking in. In my case, it wasn’t too bad and there were three staff available at the reception desk. The girl was very friendly and provided me helpful information that I asked for. She also mentioned that Africa is trying to save the drought and therefore if guests would like a bottled water, please request by stopping by or calling up the reception desk and they will provide the bottled water as a complimentary, any time and unlimited. Once check-in is completed, a guy came and took my bag and guided me to my elevator to my room on the second floor. He also tried to show me a little bit about amenities in the room and what number to dial to reach the reception desk. I tipped him as it was nice to have someone took care of the bag for me after a long day.

    Location
    The location of this property is very good. Although this property shares the area with a Graduate school, it is very convenient to walk around 5 minutes or so to the V&A Waterfront where all the shops and restaurants are. If you are concerned about safety, there are security guards that ensure the safety of visitors throughout the waterfront area. The best and safest way to exit the hotel to waterfront is to go downstairs and walk through the university hallway to leave the building and onto the road where the Two Oceans Aquarium is at. You will see there are many tourists there as besides the Aquarium, the Hop On & Off bus is also right there by the Aquarium, making it super convenient for those that are looking to sight see Cape Town via this transportation option.

    Safe V&A Waterfront Is Just 5 Minutes Walk From Protea Breakwater Lodge
    Exit Hotel Through University's Exit to Two Oceans Aquarium And Hop On & Off Bus
    Room & Amenities
    As a Marriott Gold Member, I got upgraded from a Standard Guest Room to a Deluxe Guest Room with 1 King Bed on the second floor. That is their highest floor. My Deluxe room has the view of the Waterfront on one side and on the other side I had the view of the famous Cape Town's Table Mountain. I love waking up in the morning to the sight of that huge mountain covered in fog on the top and going to bed at night after enjoying the light scenes at the Waterfront. It is worth mentioning when you make your reservation, be sure to add a note about what type of room and view that you prefer.

    View From The Room: One Side Has Table Mountain View 
    View From The Room: One Side Has Waterfront View (Night Time)
    As a solo traveler, the 1 king bed is big and very comfortable, but pillows are a little bit too low for me. The room's decoration is very nice with good choice of colors. Bathroom and toilets are separated which I really like that concept. One thing that I did not like was I really had a hard time getting the shower water to get warm. Eventually it got warm but it wasn’t easy every single time. What I did not like also is the nightstands do not have plugin or outlets for charging my mobile phone. The only plugin I could find was on the table. Remember South Africa uses different power outlet, therefore if you don’t have an adapter to charge your electronics, you can ask the reception for one and it's free of charge. Wi-Fi is good and fast enough for me to work. The password is changed on a regular basis so if Wi-Fi stops working for you all the sudden, you would just have to obtain a new password from the reception desk. There’s also a safe in the room to store any important documents if needed. No bathrobe or slippers.

    Comfortable Deluxe Room With 1 King Bed
    Good Choice of Colors For Deluxe Room
    Desk, Chair and Complimentary Bottled Water Per Request
    Bathroom With Cool Sink
    Bathtub in Bathroom Separated From Shower Room
    Shower Room
    Furthermore, I also found the sound proof is not good enough but it is not too horrible either. My room faces the crossing road to the Aquarium. At night, I could hear cars from the outside but that did not bother me much as at night time, there were not many cars on the road and drivers did not use any car horns. If you are a light sleeper though, consider getting a room that is away from what I mentioned.
    Safe to Store Important Documents
    Swimming Pool
    There is no swimming pool at this Marriott's property. If you want to swim, you will have to go to their sister hotel, another Protea Hotel that has a swimming pool. But they are not close to each other and therefore it's not within walking distance. They do, however, have a gym if desired.

    Restaurant
    The hotel has a restaurant in the third building called Stonebreakers Restaurant. During my stays, I ate out all the time except my last night. They have buffet style and a la carte. The price is not too bad but South Africa is generally really cheap. The hotel also has guest rooms in the third building and if you stay in that building you are not only close to the restaurant but also you are very close to the university's exit way to the Aquarium. So if this is what you prefer, make sure to request your room in the third building or the building that the Stonebreakers Restaurant is in. However, that building is not close to the reception. If you need anything though, you can always call up the reception.

    Either Eat at Hotel's Stonebreakers Restaurant or Eat at the Waterfront With The View
    Some Tips For You
    • Bottled water is complimentary but you need to ask for it and it will be provided, any time and unlimited during your stays. 
    • Adapter for South Africa's power outlet is available at reception free of charge. On check-out date, make sure you return that adapter to avoid any unnecessary charges. 
    • Airport shuttle costs 380 South African Rand (~$29 USD). You are better off with using Uber instead. They are super convenient in Cape Town and cut the cost in half. In fact, the staff at the Protea hotel recommended me the Uber option. 
    • Exit hotel through the University hallway for safety as it exits to tourist sections such as the Two Oceans Aquarium, Hop On & Off Bus, and the V&A Waterfront.
    • At night if you hear noises from the outside, be sure to check the windows to ensure they are properly closed. I noticed one of my window was open and the hotel possibly does that to keep room cool because the electricity is powered by the room key's card.
    • Ask for two room key's cards if you can so that one card can be used to open the room's door and another one can be used to keep air condition running when you are out and back to a nice cool and comfortable room.
    Protea Hotel Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge Looks Like A Castle


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    December 15, 2017

    Getting From Aruba Airport to Hotels and Resorts

    Aruba makes it very convenient for visitors to travel from Aruba (Queen Beatrix International Airport) to hotels and resorts on the island. The most effective way to get from the airport is via taxi. Public bus is available but it is slow and may require bus change to reach destination. Uber and Lyft are also not available on the island. Therefore, taxi is really the most efficient way to get from the Aruba airport to your destination without all the hassles.

    In this post, I'll provide a step-by-step guide to get on a taxi at Aruba airport upon your arrival in Aruba. It is really simple, safe, and there's no need to overthink about being overcharged by taxi drivers, asking to use meter or not, etc. That's because taxi in Aruba are operated under fixed price based on the distance, so everyone gets charged the same amount of fare.

    THE STEP BY STEP GETTING ON TAXI AT ARUBA AIRPORT

    Tip: This is irrelevant, but I figure for first time visitors, they may want to know this. Before going through immigration, you may see that there are plastic hand bags were handing out to you and others. The bag is completely free and there are coupons inside the bag. In Aruba, when you go grocery shopping, plastic bags are not provided. The bag you receive at the airport will be good use for grocery shopping, if not, it will be good use for carrying beach towels, sunscreen, etc. to the beach.

    Step 1: After clearing immigration, picking up your bags if any, and finally going through Aruba's customs if required, just follow the yellow Arrival Hall sign until you get to the arrival hall.

    Step 2: Simply exit the airport.

    Step 3: Turn to your left, you should see a taxi stand that has a yellow Taxi Dispatcher sign on it (see image below).

    Taxi Dispatcher Stand At Aruba Airport
    Step 4: There's no need to go to the taxi stand, but instead you can just go through the metal zig-zag as seen in the image above. Someone there will help you with loading your bags into available taxi's trunk. Please note that, that person is not your taxi driver. You will also need to let the dispatch person know where you are going and he or she will hand you a piece of paper that contains the taxi fare in U.S. Dollars and has the region of where your hotel/resort is located at with a check mark (see Taxi Fare & Surcharges information below).

    Step 5: Just get on the taxi and let the taxi driver know again where you are going. That's it and enjoy your ride! Tipping is not required but appreciated if you enjoy the service received.

    TAXI FARE & SURCHARGES
    As I mentioned above, taxi fare is fixed based on the distance/region in Aruba. Prices are in U.S. Dollars and cash only. There's a helpful chart (link below) that indicates taxi fare based on where you are going to and from. In summary, here's the fare for traveling from the Airport to each region:
    • High Rise Hotels $25
      • High Rise Hotels (Phoenix to Marriott Hotel)
    • Eagle Area Hotels $22
      • Eagle Area Hotels (Oceania to Amsterdam Manor)
    • Low Rise Hotels $22
      • Low Rise Hotels (Dutch Village to La Quinta)
    • Aruba Beach Villas $30
    • Down Town Hotels $18
    • Talk of the Town $15
    • Malmok or Tierra del Sol $30
    • Sasaki Apartments $22
    • Quality Apartments $22
    • Sunshine Apartments $25
    • Harbor/Cruise Ship Terminal $21

    For example,
    from Aruba airport to Holiday Inn Resort costs $25 that's because Holiday Inn is in High Rise Hotels region.

    Keep in mind the following surcharges:
    • Maximum of 5 passengers per taxi is allowed. 
    • Traveling from/to Airport, one piece of luggage per passenger is allowed and free of charge. An extra charge of $2 for any additional piece of luggage. Carry-on luggage is free. 
    • Sunday and Holidays will incur additional $3 per ride. 

    Link For Aruba Taxi Fares Chart
    http://www.aruba.com/sigma/Aruba_Taxi_Fares.pdf


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    December 14, 2017

    Frequently Asked Questions About Hulu With Sprint Unlimited

    More Sprint Articles:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint
    Step-by-Step Guide With Sprint International Roaming and Wi-Fi Calling

    Frequently Asked Questions About Hulu With Sprint Unlimited
    Here's the compilation of common questions and answers on Hulu service with Sprint.

    If you are looking for information to add Hulu service to Sprint, here is the Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint

    Is Hulu with Sprint free? 
    Yes, that's correct. Hulu will bill Sprint and Sprint will pay that subscription fee on behalf of you.

    Which Hulu plan is included with Sprint Unlimited Plan?
    Hulu Limited Commercials Plan.

    How much does Hulu Limited Commercials Plan cost without Sprint Unlimited Plan?
    $7.99/month.

    Is Hulu Limited Commercials Plan only available to Sprint Unlimited Plan?
    Yes.

    Which Sprint plan services are excluded?
    • Sprint Pre-paid brands -- Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile or Sprint Forward customers are excluded at this time.
    • Phone lines on Seasonal Standby or BYOD-Unlimited are excluded
    • Basic phones, Tablets, MBB, Sprint Phone Connect, Magic Box, Airave or Apple Watch, Samsung Gear are excluded
    • Sprint corporate and business accounts are excluded

    How many lines can I add Hulu service with Sprint?
    According to Sprint "1 Hulu Limited Commercials plan per eligible Sprint account." That means if you have multiple lines/numbers on your account, you can only add Hulu to one line/number per account.

    When does this offer end?
    It is unknown at this time. Sprint just said that this is a Limited Time Offer. I'd recommend that if you are eligible for this offer, go ahead and add Hulu to Sprint while you can. Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint

    I'm currently Hulu Limited Commercials Plan subscriber and I am billed directly through Hulu. Am I eligible?
    Yes. When you attempt to sign up for Hulu with Sprint, just make sure to use the same email address that you have been using to sign into Hulu. Hulu then will instruct you to login instead of sign up for a new account.

    I'm currently Hulu Limited Commercials Plan subscriber and I am billed through iTunes. Am I eligible?
    Yes. However, you must cancel subscription through iTunes first then continue using the service until the end date of the subscription. That is when you will be able to activate the Hulu with Sprint. Because this is a limited time offer, I recommend that you add Hulu service to Sprint for now, then activate Hulu with Sprint later once your Hulu's subscription through iTunes is over. Here's the Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint

    I added Hulu to my account while waiting for my Hulu's subscription through iTunes to end. Today, my Hulu's subscription through iTunes is terminated and my Hulu stops working due to the termination. How do I activate Hulu with Sprint to continue watching Hulu?
    On your mobile phone, make sure it's not connected to Wi-Fi. Then simply go to https://www.hulu.com/sprint to sign up. All you need to do on that page is to input your existing account's email address and Hulu will instruct you to login instead of sign up for a new account.

    I'm currently Hulu ad-free plan subscriber. Am I eligible?
    This offer is only available for Hulu Limited Commercials Plan With Sprint. If you enjoy the Hulu ad-free and intend to keep the plan, you don't have to do anything as the Hulu ad-free plan is NOT included with Sprint.

    How do I add Hulu to my Sprint Unlimited Plan?
    Here's the step-by-step instruction to add Hulu Service to Sprint:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint

    I'm unable to add Hulu service to Sprint at all. Who can help me?
    You may reach out to Sprint Customer Care at 1-888-211-4727 or simply dial *2 from your Sprint phone. Alternatively, you can also visit the Sprint Community to post the issue and someone from Sprint will help you accordingly: Sprint Community Link

    I went through adding Hulu service to Sprint; however, I never received the text message to sign up for Hulu with Sprint. 
    From my experience, the text message from Sprint to activate Hulu with Sprint is immediately after Hulu is added to my Sprint account. If you still have not received that text message, make sure first you have a qualified Sprint Unlimited Plan. Then make sure your Sprint account has not had any line that already had Hulu added. Once those are verified and you still have problem, you may reach out to Sprint Customer Care at 1-888-211-4727 or simply dial *2 from your Sprint phone. Alternatively, you can also visit the Sprint Community to post the issue and someone from Sprint will help you accordingly: Sprint Community Link

    While trying to sign up for Hulu with Sprint on Wi-Fi. I received an error message that says "Creating a Hulu account through Sprint can only be done on a mobile phone not connected to Wi-Fi. Please visit Hulu.com/Sprint on your mobile phone." Does that mean I can only watch Hulu on devices that are not connected to Wi-Fi?
    No. Once the sign up is completed, you can enjoy watching Hulu however you want to.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to leave the question in the comment section.

    More Sprint Articles:
    Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint
    Step-by-Step Guide With Sprint International Roaming and Wi-Fi Calling

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    November 28, 2017

    Flight Review: South African Airways SA204 Business Class A340 New York JFK to Johannesburg

    South African Airways: SA204 Airbus 340
    Flight Route: JFK - Johannesburg
    Flight Time: 10:40 A.M - 8:20 A.M (14+ hours)
    Seat: 6D


    South African Airways Business Class Seat Turns Into Flat Bed
    Booking
    I had three options to get from USA to South Africa using airline miles. My first option was Cathay Pacific airline. I could use 70k Alaska Airlines miles to fly from United States to Hong Kong then to Johannesburg in Cathay Pacific's First Class. But the distance is too far having to stop in Asia continent first. Cathay Pacific First Class’s hard product was tempting though. My second option was United but United requires a lot of miles to fly Business class from JFK to Johannesburg with South African Airways. Then I realized that United, South African Airways and Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles program are all members of Star Alliance. This means that if United could see South African Airways’s award flights, so could Aeroplan. While checking with Aeroplan, sure enough the exact same flight to South Africa was available. Aeroplan requires 75k miles to book Star Alliance's partnered flight + about $20.90 in tax. $21 for a 14+ hours flights, yes please! Thankfully Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards Program, so I could transfer Amex points to Aeroplan at 1:1 ratio.

    Boarding
    I found the boarding process is little bit strange. They allowed both Economy Class that sits at row above 60 and Business Class boarded at the same time. It was a little bit of a mess. The Business Class cabin is up front and is separated from the Economy Class so the only passengers you will see in the Business Class cabin are Business Class passengers.

    Service
    I also found service of crews on South African Airways a little bit disappointing. The service was just okay. Before our flight took off, they offered sparkling wine or orange juice. Flight attendants did not smile very often nor did they introduce themselves to Business Class passengers like other airlines that I have flown with in the past. Perhaps they were just focusing on professionalism and less chit-chat. The overall service is just okay, but when our flight touched down in Johannesburg, the head of the flight attendants came out and shook each passenger's hand and thanked us for flying with South African Airways.

    Seats
    The seats are 2-2-2 configuration. I specifically picked one of the seats in the middle that each side has aisle access, so no one climbs on top of the other during flight time. Each seat has a shape like a pod with plenty of leg room. However, it’s very lack of privacy. Bags can be stored in the spacious overhead bin.

    South African Airways Business Class Seats

    A Lot of Leg Room
    The seat has seat control in between seats that turns the seat into a cradle or flat bed. Pillow and pad are provided. You will have to prepare the bed on your own. Overall, I love the idea of having the seat pad to make the bed because that provides more comfort for a good sleep or just lay down to watch TV. Privacy wise, I’m not a fan.

    Seat Controls for Cradle or Flat Bed
    Drinks & Food
    I did not try any wines. I only ordered the Smirnoff Vodka and mixed it with coke. After the flight took off for a little bit, the flight attendant came and handed the warm towels. Then they gave out the menu for the flight that on the back there’s a selection of drinks.

    As far as food menu goes, they served both lunch and breakfast. Lunch includes appetizer, main course and dessert. While the flight attendants served drinks, they also gave this little snacks that have cucumber with chicken and small vegetables, mushroom with couscous, and one good size shrimp. Sorry it’s hard to explain what it is, but take a look at the picture.

    Interesting Snacks and Smirnoff Vodka + Coke
    For appetizer I ordered the Smoke Salmon Rosette. I ordered Sous-Vide Beef Rib for lunch and I skipped the cheese plate as I was full already, but instead I chose to have one cheesecake as dessert. They also provide 3 kinds of bread and I chose the garlic bread. As a side note, I remember other airlines serve bread during entire meal time, but my experience with South African Airways was different. They served bread only once during the appetizer time. So if you like bread, be sure to get more while you can. For breakfast, I picked Yogurt, Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata with a glass of Orange Juice.

    Appetizer

    Main Course

    Dessert
    Breakfast
    If I have to rank the South African Airways's food for Business Class, I'd give it 3 out of 5 with 5 being the best. Here are the menu:



    Amenities
    In each seat, a small pouch is provided. Inside the pouch there are socks, eye mask, lotion, comb, toothbrush along with too paste and floss. Headphone is not Bose and is not noise cancelling type.


    TV monitor is really tiny and accessible only from the seat. The resolution is also pretty low so I did not watch any movies or shows because the image quality was really poor. There’s no USB plugin for charging mobile devices and no WiFi on-board.

    Lousy TV Monitor
    Bathroom for Business Class passengers is mediocre, but they have disposable hand towels which are probably not cheap.


    Overall Impression
    Although the South African Airways's 2-2-2 seats configuration with less privacy did not impress me much, the idea of having a seat pad to use as a cushion for sleeping or laying down when the seat turns into a flat bed is something that I liked. Flight crews appear to be a little bit out of reach but it is definitely not a major thing. Food and beverages are alright compared to competitors. Pretty basic amenities items but the TV monitor though is just too small with really bad resolution. All in all, It is still very nice to be able to travel 14+ hours from New York to South Africa in Business Class.

    South African Airways Business Class Cabin

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