Tag Archives: frequent-flier miles

IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

Pacific sunset

Sunset from San Clemente, taken from the Amtrak Surfliner | ©IBIT G. Gross

TELLING YOU WHERE TO GO
Travel writers love making lists. We all do it. And so does the New York Times.

They’ve published a list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012.”

At the top of their list is a place near the top of mine, Panama. Vibrant, a growing economy, small enough to explore, and a mix of indigenous, Latin and African cultures.

It’s an extremely eclectic list. It must be if it includes Myanmar and Oakland, CA in its top ten. And that’s just part of what I love about it.

SPEAKING OF LISTS
Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has his own list of places to go if you want a better understanding of the rapidly changing world we face. Top of his list, India and China.

He especially recommends breaking away from the big cities like Beijing and Mumbai and getting out into the countryside in both those countries. Good advice, but tough to do when you have only a handful of days “in-country.”

Your best bet is to do some research, decide what interests you the most, and focus on that.

COFFEE, TEA OR BEATDOWN?
London’s daily Telegraph is reporting that one of China’s four main airlines, China Eastern, has just trained 20 of its flight attendants in kung fu. The company considers the pilot project so successful that they will now train up all 2,600 of their attendants.

The idea, apparently, is to enable them to act as the first line of defense against an on-board terrorist attack, and give the air marshals (who are on every Chinese flight) extra seconds to intervene.

You can read the entire Daily Telegraph story here.

Don’t be surprised if the other three major Chinese air carriers — Air China, China Southern and Hainan Airlines — adopt similar measures.

DUELING TRAVEL SHOWS
For years, Los Angeles traditionally has hosted a major travel show each winter bringing together tour companies and travel experts with would-be travelers. This year, there will be two.

The Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, which had been held for the last couple of years at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is moving back to Long Beach, where it had been held in years past. That one’s scheduled for this weekend.

Then there’s the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, which will be held at the LA Convention Center Jan. 28-29.

Confused yet?

The Times, after several years of co-sponsoring the other travel show, decided to break off and do its own thing.

Each will have its share of high-powered presenters with the likes of Andrew Zimmern, Samantha Brown, and Rick Steves. But my two favorites are always the man I call the Godfather of Travel, Arthur Frommer, and his daughter, Pauline, herself an accomplished travel writer.

This is the kind of overload I like!

A DIFFERENT LOOK
Believe it or not, one of my favorite travel activities is to watch television. You can learn a lot.

One of the things you learn is that there’s a lot of great stuff being aired around the world that will never make its way to the States. Another is that network news elsewhere in the world is not the joke it has become here.

While in Paris, I was able to compare CNN, the BBC, France 24 and Al Jazeera during their coverage of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Al Jazeera blew them all away — thorough, professional, level-headed, fresh.

What made me think of this today is word that a six-part mini-series is in the works about the life of Nelson Mandela, an international production to be shot in South Africa. It’s to be called “Mandiba.”

You can pick up more details about the series from The Guardian story here.



And now, here’s this week’s Digest:

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AIR
from We Blog the World
Here’s a thought: Instead of donating money to charity, why not donate some of your frequent flier miles? Yes, you can do that.

from Eurotriptips
Some tips for avoiding add-on fees on low-cost European airlines.

from Budget Travel​
Another day, another fee. Airlines are adding a $6 fee to cover a “carbon fee” imposed by the European Union. Still, considering what US airlines charge to check a suitcase, it’s hard for me to get too upset.

LAND
from the New York Times
Another list from the Times, this one of useful Web sites for saving money on flights, lodging and a whole lot else. Many of them are the “usual suspects,” but you’ll find a few new names, as well.

from USA Today
Before we write off airport security as a total joke, TSA screeners say they’re finding an average of four guns a day at US airports. Say WHAT?

from Pushing the Limits
His name is Andy Campbell. He’s paralyzed. And he’s out to travel 30,000 miles around the world…in a wheelchair. What was your excuse again?

SEA
from Smarter Travel
The ST crew gives you their outlook for cruise travel in 2012. The good: new ships, refurbished ships, a big year for river cruising. The bad: smaller cabins and more add-on fees.

from USA Today
The comeback continues. Cruise ship sailings are breaking marks set prior to Hurricane Katrina.

from Travel Weekly
After three years’ absence, Royal Caribbean resumes cruising the Panama Canal.

from USA Today
Have you heard of or seen a “5-D” movie? The next new Carnival cruise ship will boast a 5-D movie theater.

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AFRICA

from the East African Business Week (Uganda)
Hundreds of elephants and other wild animals are stampeding out of Uganda’s largest wildlife reserve and into inhabited areas, trashing farmers’ crops and generally raising hell. The suspected culprit: oil exploration inside the park.

from the Citizen (Tanzania)
Tanzanian tourism officials crow after their country cracks the top ten of the NY Times’ list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012,” and look to build on that momentum.

from the Herald (Zimbabwe)
Tourism minister rails against “shylocks” whom he says charge exorbitant prices at the country’s tourist resorts, inhibiting tourism growth in the country. ​

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AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
from USA Today
If you live within easy travel distance of a US national park, the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday weekend would be a good time for a visit. Admissions are free.

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ASIA/PACIFIC
from the Los Angeles Times
Turning ice into art in the Chinese city of Harbin. SLIDESHOW

from the Quirky Traveller
Hanoi is emerging from the shadow of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) as a tourist destination.

from the Telegraph (London UK)
A massive snowfall in Austria strands thousands of skiers. ​

from CNN
North Korea. Rogue state…cult of personality…tourist destination? Really?

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EUROPE
from msnbc
Cheapest European cities to hit in 2012.

from Budget Travel
How to fly around Europe for ridiculously small amounts of money. One key advantage, low-fare airlines. Another, smaller airports. The tradeoff, a longer cab, bus or train ride to your destination.

from the Guardian (London UK)
Brussels may not get as much respect as Paris when it comes to cuisine, but these folks know how to throw a food festival. For one thing, theirs lasts most of the year. Turn a tram into a resto? A dining room suspended from a crane? Top that, Monsieur Michelin!

Edited by P.A. Rice

Give Yourself Some Credit

It may be time to rethink those credit cards that give you miles with your purchases.

Who among us doesn’t have at least one of these in our wallet — a credit card that gives you one or more frequent-flier miles for each dollar you spend using the card.

Since the frequent-flier concept took off in the early 1980s, just about every airline, cruise line, major hotel and resort that has gotten in on the act, adding attractive new features and gimmicks along the way.

Some folks are so eager to build up miles that they buy groceries with them, pay bills with them. When you sign up for one, a lot of credit card companies will start you off with anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 miles before you’ve spent a cent. What a great thing for the traveler, right?

Nowadays, maybe not so much.

A lot of these cards tie you to a single airline, a single hotel, and so on, which imposes arbitrary limits on when and how you use those miles you built up. Not a lot of flexibility there for you, the traveler.

And that’s not all.

With the recession gnawing at their ankles, the airlines are requiring more of your precious miles on each segment of your flight. They expire your miles after a certain date — anything to make you burn up your miles sooner or make it harder to accrue enough for one of those free trips.

Which really aren’t free, anyway.

That’s right, you pay fees to use your miles. Sure, they’re but a fraction of what you’d have to pay for the entire trip without the miles — but a fee is a fee. And let’s face it, they sell you these credit cards on the idea that you can earn yourself a free trip, not a “fee” trip, right?

But hold up! You’ve still got a card to play.

There’s another type of credit card out there, one that pays you back a percentage of your purchases in cash. And when it comes to getting free travel, this just might be the better way to go.

Let’s say that you and your cousin get credit cards on New Year’s Day. Your cousin gets a miles card, while you opt for a cash rebate card that pays 5 percent on your annual purchases. Over the next 12 months, you both make $25,000 worth of purchases on your plastic.

At year’s end, your cousin has 25,000 miles. You have $1,250.

For his 25,000 miles, American Airlines will let “cuz” fly from Los Angeles to New York. One way.

With your rebated cash, you could make that same flight on that same airline. Round-trip. Or maybe forget about New York and go somewhere else.

Say…Paris.

Like anything else involving your money, you need to shop for the best card. Look for one that gives you exactly the kind of payback you’re looking for at the best rate, at the least cost to you in interest or fees.

Websites like Bankrate and CreditCards.com will let you compare different cards, their rebates, fees and interest rates, to let you find the best deal. If you come across similar sites, or better ones, by all means use them — then share them here!

Whatever card you get, always remember: Nothing is free, so don’t go crazy with it — especially not in this economy! Besides, banks and credit card companies save their best cards for customers who have higher credit ratings.

One other caution when it comes to rebate cards. If you maintain a balance month to month, you’ll pay interest on that, and at rates higher than what you’ll be getting back at year’s end — which kind of defeats the purpose for having a rebate card in the first place. Better to pay it off each month.

All the same, if you play your card right, you can have the world on a wing.

And if you’re feeling generous, you could even spring for “cuz’s” return ticket to LA!