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New Offer: Earn 80,000 Marriott Points (Enough for 8 Hotel Nights!)

9565462783_bd249dae0a_z Link: 80,000 Marriott Points (!)

Last week I mentioned how to earn free hotel stays year after year. But here’s something new—a big bonus to earn at least 80,000 Marriott Points.

Until a few days ago, the bonus was 50,000 points, so this is basically a 60% bonus for doing nothing different. Of course, Marriott isn’t just being generous here. They want to compete with other offers! But since the requirements to earn the points haven’t changed, there’s not really any downside for you.

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Watch This Haneda Airport Timelapse Video for a Glimpse of Tokyo Travel

Several years ago I came to Haneda airport in central Tokyo for the first time. As I wrote then, it's an interesting place that feels very different from the larger Narita airport where most international travelers arrive.

A few weeks ago I came back, and spent an hour watching the runway traffic from the observatory, which is conveniently open before security to all travelers and visitors.

Then I found this video, which provides a great perspective of flights arriving and departing at all hours of day. So pretty.

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How to Earn Free Hotel Stay Certificates Every Year

22806487722_3699991be8_z Hotel stays should be part of your strategy even if you don’t usually stay in hotels. Just as you should earn airline miles in a few different programs (usually one in each of the three alliances), so too should you earn hotel points from a few different sources.

If you’re not immersed in this world, you may not realize that some hotel cards offer both an initial signup bonus and an annual renewal bonus that usually comes in the form of more free points or nights. This post includes a few of the best current offers.

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Why the Best Way to Earn Miles & Points Still Hasn’t Changed

3489951440_7edeebd79e_z Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 Points Bonus)

I’m always on the lookout for new travel hacking opportunities. Even though I don’t need to earn as many miles & points as I used to, it’s still fun.

This year I’ll be flying in The Apartment at 30,000 feet. I’ll be going back to my favorite country, Australia. And I’ll be heading out on a 30-city book tour. (You can come, too.)

… and I’m sure there will be many other adventures along the way. For all of these experiences and more, I’ll be using the same credit card.

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Adventures in Envelope Stuffing Update: There’s Still Time to Earn 9 Free Hotel Nights

17202588426_41210e313f_z Last fall I mentioned a special travel hacking adventure available to pretty much everyone capable of handwriting their name and address over and over on an index card:

If your hand hasn't fallen off yet, there’s still time to do this. The deadline is February 15 and it will probably take some time to get organized, so if you’re up for it, don’t leave it until the last minute.

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My New Travel Hacking Goal: Book an Apartment at 30,000 Feet

16256196535_84d50ed2e1_z It’s a brand new year, and that means it’s time for change—both in life (because why not?) and in travel.

Every year I earn more than one million miles and points, which I then use for free travel all over the world. For a long time, travel hacking was my primary tool for going everywhere.

These days, I don’t jet off to Kinshasa or Katmandu very often, but I’m still in the game. Even without paying attention all the time or doing crazy things like making a hair-loss appointment to earn miles, I’m still able to get more than enough miles and points to have experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.

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Vampire Living in Jakarta

It’s a new day in Jakarta, Indonesia. The sun rises at 2pm—or rather, that’s when I manage to get out of bed. No, it wasn’t a crazy night drinking green tea at the local mosque. It’s just that I arrived at 4:30am this morning, after a 15-hour flight from New York to Hong Kong, followed by five more hours of flying further south.

Thankfully my hotel raised no concerns with the super-early check-in, and I was in bed an hour later. As I closed my eyes the sun was beginning to rise. Earlier today, at least according to the calendar, I watched it set as I landed in Hong Kong after that long transpacific flight. Each time I remembered thinking: is that the sunrise or sunset? Each time required a few seconds of thought before I had the answer.

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2015 Annual Review: 240,000 Miles of Travel (But to Only 11 Countries!)

And… the Annual Review continues! Today’s post is a travel roundup: everywhere I went in 2015, along with a few lessons and comments.

Previous Posts

Here’s where I went in 2015 (preview: zzzz).

Hong Kong (x3), South Korea, South Africa, Qatar (x3), France, UK, Australia (YESSSS x2), United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Germany, Canada, and ... it looks like that’s it
You guys, now that I’m retired from going to every country, I think I’m going to stop writing a travel roundup every December. This list is boring. No big tour, no new countries, and mostly I went to the same places over and over.

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Adventures in Envelope Stuffing: Weekend Update

Yesterday afternoon, I headed to Office Depot for an important mission: I had to buy 100 envelopes, stamps, and index cards. I then spent the next several hours diligently writing the same information over and over and each of the cards, before stuffing them in the envelope and affixing a stamp.

It was actually a lot more fun than it sounds.

As detailed last week, if you’re up for your own envelope stuffing adventure, you can receive at least 47,000 IHG hotel points for your time and trouble. These points can then be used for up to 9 free hotel stays anywhere in the world.

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How to Spend $46 and Receive Up to 9 Free Hotel Nights

envelopes1 Want to do something fun that will help you travel for free? Just want to make fun of me and a couple of friends who are out to earn points? Here’s a chance to do either or both of those things.

On December 4, I'll meet up with some travel hacking friends to stuff 94 handwritten index cards into envelopes in hopes of receiving at least 47,000 hotel points that we'll use for free stays. If you’re as crazy as we are, you can do this, too.

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If You’re Getting This Month’s Bonus Offer, Don’t Forget Your 5,000 Extra Points

1842795224_7f8576904a_z Link: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points

Last week I mentioned the new-and-improved bonus offer for the travel rewards card I use every day, no matter where I am in the world. For a limited time, you can earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points instead of the usual 40,000.

Extra points are always great! Depending on how you use them, 10,000 points can be halfway to a plane ticket, or even two hotel nights.

But I almost forgot something: you can actually earn an additional 5,000 points just by adding an authorized user to your account. You can do this anytime in the first three months of having the card, and the points should automatically post up.

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One Free Ticket, 18 Hours on Amtrak, and Many Interesting Passengers

Amtrak1 Greetings from the Coast Starlight! I’ve been riding Amtrak 18 hours through Oregon and California, while traveling to San Francisco and eventually (by plane) to San Diego.

A few years ago I took a long train journey from Chicago to Portland, riding the Empire Builder just in time for the launch of the Empire Building Kit.

Aside from some short journeys, though, I haven’t been on “real” Amtrak for quite a while.

So why now? Well, to be honest I don’t think I was aware of how good the points redemption opportunities have been. Amtrak divides the country into zones and charges the same number of points for travel within any particular zone. In other words, there are some great values to be had when booking with points.

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Limited Time: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (Usually 40,000) toward Free Travel

Travel Link: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points

My longtime favorite card for earning miles and points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, has just raised its signup bonus offer. For a limited time you can earn 50,000 points (usually 40,000, which is also good) upon getting the card and completing a minimum spend.

As I’ve explained before, different cards are good for different reasons. Some cards are great for big bonuses, but after that it’s best to put them in the drawer and reserve your spending for other cards. Other cards are good for category spending, where you can earn 5x points at office supply stores or other particular merchants.

But if you can only get one card and not worry about keeping up with a bunch of stuff, this is the best overall recommendation—and now you can earn extra points just for getting it.

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How to Rack Up Frequent Flyer Miles Using Shopping Portals

231707836_8ee1c6cb3d_z This is a free excerpt from Upgrade Unlocked: The Unconventional Guide to Luxury Travel on a Budget by Stephanie Zito.

The easiest and most lucrative way to maximize point earning on the things you already buy is to use a magic service online called a shopping portal. Shopping portals are simple websites run by your favorite airlines and hotels, and contain links to nearly every online store you can imagine (and probably already shop at).

When you use a portal as a gateway to access your regular online store, you earn points in a mileage program for whatever you buy. It's easy!

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Would You Pay $60 to Sit in a Hot Tub? First Look at the First Class Al Safwa Lounge in Doha, Qatar

IMG_0001 Yesterday I had the opportunity to be one of the very first passengers in an exclusive airport lounge that finally opened after a year’s worth of delays. This was the Al Safwa lounge in Doha, Qatar, operated by Qatar Airways.

I didn’t go on a press junket or anything ridiculous—I just happened to be staying in Doha for a few days this week. When I heard that the lounge was actually opening (it’s been rumored for months, but with many false alarms), I changed my outbound travel plans a bit and was able to spend four hours hanging out before hopping over to Dubai.

Despite not being a real travel blogger, I thought I’d share a few impressions from the perspective of someone who flies more than 200,000 miles a year, typically 70% international, and who’s been to just about every premium airline lounge in the world.

In other words, this wasn’t my first time in a nice lounge, and I’m not easily impressed. Do keep that in mind, as well as the fact that I was there on literally the first day it was open. I’m sure some things will change and (hopefully) improve over time.

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