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.
$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?
S0 last week we took our getaway to Newport Beach (to earn our 100,000 Club Carlson points).
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.
[INSERT VISUAL OF WEIRD HIPPIES DOING PERFORMANCE ART HERE]
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.
[HIS NEW THING IS GROWING A CUTE LITTLE MUSTACHE AND SLEEPING]