Thursday, December 29, 2011

RECAP (and obsession confession)

A reader/friend said I was starting to sound like an extreme couponer with all this travel hacking talk of late. Oh heck no. Finding stellar deals or strategizing to travel for free is one thing. Carrying an accordion binder of 30 cents off coupons in my purse is a whole different ball of crazy wax.

But....I do have a slightly extreme confession to make.

Don't hate. I didn't share this offer here because I didn't know if it was any good. Also because I don't want you guys to think I'm an extreme couponer.

American Express ran a "Gift Chain" promotion recently. You registered your AMEX cards, spent $25+ at any of several online stores, and each purchase won a "gift" ranging from a $5 statement credit to $50 American Express gift cards, to 50,000 AMEX points (transferrable to airlines and hotel programs).

I have never, ever participated in these kinds of things, assuming as per my mom's cynical life-training that they're all just "the man trying to screw you." But I've been a lot more points-conscious lately. So I enrolled my cards and promptly forgot all about it. Purely by coincidence I made two purchases that qualified, and within a couple minutes I got "you received a gift from the Gift Chain" emails. One was a $5 credit at Zappos (lame) and one was a $25 credit at Zappos (less lame).

I wasn't falling all over myself to get more of these "buy something, get something gifts" since they basically work to make you spend more money (man=screwing you). But, due to my diligently obsessive research, I found out there was a no-purchase way to enter (write your name, address, email on an index card and mail it in). I had a bad cold, so while I sat around in bed one night I filled out ten entries each for all six of our American Express cards and mailed them in. What? I don't do relaxing.

I was a little shocked as the results started pouring in via email.

Total gifts:

$530 in American Express gift cards

$122 in American Express statement credits

$128 in credits at Zappos

(plus some other stuff I won't really use, like small credits at Pottery Barn, etc)

A little bit better than 30 cents off a jar of Ragu, I think.

Also, did I just beat the man at his own game?

Next time, I promise to share. Unless you're not interested?

Has anyone else done their "stay"?

At first I was a little irritated with myself. Had I gotten carried away? Had I just paid real dollars to get in on some points action that I might not really need? Were we going to have to suffer a cheesy, run-down hotel stay just to get our points?

Nah. It was a perfect weekend.

The hotel was SO MUCH better than I expected. Sort of retro on the outside and "swanky corporate" on the inside. We were upgraded to the executive floor/executive room without asking, and the wi-fi, parking, and coffee was free. No "forced" incidental costs.

We slept (way) in and had peach cornmeal pancakes and Mexican eggs benedict here.



Then we caught an insanely good exhibit of experimental California art from the 60s and 70s at one of my favorite little museums, the OCMA.


We wandered around for a few hours, completely alone, until we were done with thinking (and being frightened by the 60s). Then we headed across the street to Fashion Island...probably the least offensive mall I've ever been to. It's pretty, has ocean views, and some interesting indie-type shops that I actually want to shop at.


We watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie in a theater that served alcohol and had massive leather recliner seats.

We hung out and talked over margaritas the size of my face.

And the next day we woke up early and drove out to meet our family at some desert hot springs.




  1. this blog was the last place I thought I'd find travel/points deals, but I admit I signed up for some successfully. how do you find out about the deals?

  2. The boys are so big! And your haircut is still super cute.

    We went on our Radisson trip (I kept calling it the the Ramada, much to my husband's annoyance) on Monday.

    I meant to take pix of all our baby crap in that room. It was a nice, executive space with a HUGE sleep number bed. We spent the early morning all cuddled in there together with our in-room coffee and a "What Not to Wear" marathon.

    It was nice. They comped us a free breakfast since I mentioned the offer.

    Then, we went to IKEA and had cinnamon rolls and bought a high chair. Yay!

    I have no idea how many points we earned, but not 100k since we didn't stay two nights and both register.

  3. Jane-I know, right? I'm discovering my practical/cheap side. Glad you were able to get in on some of the deals. I follow a few travel blogs. A lot of it is a waste of time, or takes too much effort for too little payoff. I decided I would post about the ones I think are worthwhile and do-able for the average person.

    Sarah-Woohoo! Sounds like your little trip was relaxing too! You should get 50,000 plus your 2000 bonus plus base points for your paid night.

  4. I also signed up for a 9000 point bonus (on the Rad site, see pp) and earned double points for our stay for only about $10 extra.

    I haven't done anything for the Hilton points yet, except received my card approval.

    The AmEx thing sounds like a lot of work - good thing you had enough energy on your sick day to get it done!

  5. We got back from our stay last night. We stayed in Rhode Island. The staff was wonderful but the hotel was not. We knew what to expect in terms of a Radisson but they had "an issue with the kitchen" so their restaurant and room service was unexpectedly closed (we got in late and hungry after work on Thursday), their bar was closed even though the website said it would be open, the elevator was broken so we had to take the stairs and we had to pay for the coffee.

    Even with those minor hiccups we had a wonderful time. The location was perfect for seeing both Providence and Newport and the ease of NOT having to research a hotel and wonder if you will be overpaying for what you get completely added to the stress free two-day getaway.

  6. Oh no...not cool! I mean, I'm glad you had a nice time despite those things, but send a message to the manager. Be nice, let them know you're new to the Club Carlson program and your first impression was not good. Outline the issues just as above. They should comp you a free night or give you a bunch of definitely pays to ask. One or two very minor things can be overlooked, but a broken elevator, closed kitchen, no in-room coffee, closed bar? NOPE!


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