Travel News, A Podcast

*** SHOW NOTES ***


Being recorded in the beautiful Hampton Inn & Suites Fairfield, NJ.

Last week was a Northwest Florida and a Southeast Georgia road trip.

My hotel was the Hampton Inn & Suites Tallahassee I-10-Thomasville RdThis is my normal stop when in town, and being me, I forgot I was in the heart of FSU country. In the lobby there’s an FSU spear and plaque, so what do I do? I arrive wearing my Miami Hurricanes shirt. In the words of Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign”.

Lunch was in Thomasville, GA at Henderson’s. Pork chops, (the green is due to an old iPhone) two sides, roll and a drink for less than $15.00. The chops, yes plural, were fried to perfection. No need for a knife and fork, just pick it up and then chow down. The coleslaw was fresh, so fresh you could taste the pickles. The baked beans, also good, I was just too full to enjoy them.

From there it was Statesboro, GA home of Georgia Southern University and the screaming eagles. Ended up staying at the Hampton Inn with 20 or 30 Swedish Harley Davidson enthusiasts, you can paint your own picture. Dinner was at Locos Grill. College town sports bars are great and Locos is one of those great places. Normally I go with their wings and they’re always delicious. Oh yeah don’t forget the fries….. their craft beer selection is varied including some double IPAs that they’ll pour as 16 ounces.

Time for a bit of travel news, not crazy travel news, that’s next week.
Around this time each year hotels, airlines and credit card companies begin letting us know what program changes they’ll be implementing for the next calendar year.
American Express Green Card

Last year I downgraded apparently one of my American Express Cards to the American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card. This card gives me up to 12 points per dollar when staying at Hilton properties. Throw in a free yearly Category 5 stay the $100.00 yearly fee makes sense. What I forgot was that I still had an American Express Green card and this past week I got this e-mail.

The American Express® Green Card now has new benefits that fit seamlessly into your life. From weekend getaways to week-long retreats, we invite you to explore these enhanced benefits and experience more on your terms.

Your new Card will have an Annual Membership Fee of $150, which will become effective at your next renewal date on or after January 1, 2020.

  • CLEAR $100 CLEAR credit.CLEAR uses your eyes and fingerprints to verify your identity, helping you get through security faster at select US airports and stadiums. Use your Card to purchase a membership and receive up to $100 in statement credits per the calendar year.
    • $179.00 per year and add additional family members for only $50.00 per year. With the American Express promo, you’re at $79.00 for the first year. If you have a friend that already has CLEAR ask them for a referral code, and that will get you two additional months for free. The only airport that I frequent where CLEAR makes sense is Atlanta. From what I can tell the only thing that CLEAR does is put you to the front of the TSA  PreCheck line. Before you sign up CLEAR isn’t in every single airport so verify that they’re where you fly.
  • LoungeBuddy $100 LoungeBuddy credit. Travel can be tough, but grabbing a place to relax couldn’t be easier. Earn up to $100 in statement credits annually when you purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy.* Learn more.
    • Not a bad free perk. With the average LoungeBuddy single visit running about $40.00this will get you 2,5 gree visits. They seem to have partnerships of some sort with most every airport so you won’t have a problem using this. That being said I have a Priority Pass membership, which is a competitor to LoungeBuddy and year to date with 50 plus flights I’ve yet to step inside a Priority Pass lounge.
  • Travel and Transit 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel, including transit. Now you get 3X points on worldwide travel, including flights, hotels, transit, taxis, tours, and rideshares.
    • Three points per dollar, not a bad deal. There are a few limitations when it comes to establishments inside an establishment. This casino with a restaurant inside, but you’ll still get the point per dollar match.
  • Restaurants 3X Membership Rewards points at restaurants. Whether it’s your go-to or something new, get 3X points at restaurants around the world.
    • Again not a bad deal, but also there are restrictions.

If you’ve never had an American  Express green card there’s a bit of motivation. 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Plus, get a $100 statement credit on Away luggage purchases within the first three months. For reference, 30,000 points will get you $300.00 in Home Depot gift cards. Here’s a tip don’t use American Express reward points to buy American Express gift cards. Those same 30,000 points will only net you a $150.00 gift card.

The Away luggage offer isn’t a bad deal. I recently bought their Bigger Carry-On and with no discount, it was $245.00, but well worth it. They’ve recently released their Expandable Bigger Carry-On, and if I had waited I would’ve upgraded to it.

Southwest is making it harder to earn the Companion Pass

We’ve had the Southwest companion pass since June 2018. Between points and the companion pass, we’ve easily saved $8000.00 in family travel. If you’re not familiar with the companion pass it’simple. Once you achieve it, your companion flies free when you do. Even if you book on points, your companion still flies free. This is one of the best travel deals out there. Here’s what makes it better, your companion flies free for the remainder of the year that you earn as well as all of the next years. In the past, it only took 110,000 points to earn the companion pass. For 2020 that number will increase to 125,000 points.

If you feel like taking on the Southwest Rapid Rewards card will reward you with 60,000 points in you spend $3000.00 in the first 3 months. From there it’s up to you to come up with the remaining 65,000 points. What we did was use the card just like a debit card. Every purchase at Chateau’ Relaxo went on that card, and then moments later we launched the Chase app and made a payment. We even went as far as using the card for college tuition and paying our tax return.

A full disclaimer….. I’m not a financial guy, at all. My financial planner says I’ll be working up to lunch hour on the day I die. All of these reward credit cards carry a very hefty interest rate, normally 20% and over. After all, they know that numbers and they know most people carry a balance, you get the picture. In January, between the American Express Green Card, American Express Hilton Ascend Card and the Chase Southwest Premier Card, I’ll be paying roughly $350.00 in annual fees. A solid $200.00 less than the American Express Platinum’s yearly $550.00 “Membership Fee”. The platinum card isn’t a bad deal with 5x points for most travel, the downside is that you have to book through their website.

The other benefits are:

  • You’ll receive $15 in Uber Cash for U.S. rides every month plus a bonus of $20 in December. That’s $200.00 each year.
  • You can receive one Global Entry ($100) statement credit every 4 years or one TSA Pre✓® ($85) statement credit every 4.5 years for an application fee charged to Platinum Card.
  • Get a $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points
  • $100.00 Saks Fifth Avenue Credit — $50 of this credit can be used January to June, and the other $50 can be used during the second half of the year.
  • Automatic Gold level with most hotel chains.
  • $200 Airline Incidental Fee Credit – This covers seat selection, baggage fees & lounge access.
  • Speaking of lounge access you’ll get some sort of lounge access anytime you travel.

Doing the rough math that yearly $550.00 membership fee can return close to $2000.00 if you take advantage of all the offerings. Here’s a marketing side-note, American Express is rolling the dice on the fact that you’ll take minimal advantage of all these benefits.

Holiday travel, it’s right around the corner so you better start planning.

Since Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, short of retail, most businesses are closed on Friday. By default that makes Wednesday, November 27 one of the busiest travel days around, since folks are trying to get with family. Follow that busy day up with the second and third busiest days of Saturday, November 3oth and Sunday, December 1st as folks are trying to get away from family.  For Thanksgiving, the best travel day has to be Monday, November 25th. Being three days ahead of the mad rush, not everyone is fortunate enough to have Monday – Wednesday off. Travel will be light that day. While I’ve never flown on Thanksgiving many say it’s great, since most don’t want to travel on turkey day.

The next big holiday is Christmas. This year it’s on a Wednesday, which makes it tough to parlay it into a three or four day weekend. Most folks plan for two chunks of time off each year, the summer and then around the Christmas holidays. Since Christmas is mid-week Saturday, December 21st and Sunday, December 22nd, will be busy as folks will be cashing in on those PTO days. The next busiest day will be Sunday, December 29th as folks need to get home in time for New Years’. As you would expect the best two days for travel are Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I’ve traveled on Christmas Eve before, and if you’re not hauling a bunch of presents it is a great day for travel.

When traveling during the holidays, especially around the busy times, make sure to arrive 3 hours before your flight. Hopefully, you have TSA PreCheck, if not plan on removing your shoes and belt. If you’re carrying on luggage remember the 3-1-1 rule (3.4 ounces or less; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic zip-top bag; 1 per passenger). Not every airport actually makes you remove the quart-sized bag but err on the safe side and plan for it.

If you have a AAA  card visit their website, believe it or not, they do offer some great discounts when it comes to travel. Do the same with your credit card, they also offer travel discounts.

If you plan to visit major destinations be prepared, everyone else is planning the same. I’d stay away from Disney and Universal, they’ll be packed.

If you find yourself in Georgia

  • The Atlanta Botanical Gardens
    • 30 acres botanical garden located adjacent to Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Incorporated in 1976, the garden’s mission is to “develop and maintain plant collections for the purposes of display, education, conservation, research, and enjoyment.
  • Centennial Olympic Park
    • A 22-acre public park located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia owned and operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. It was built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as part of the infrastructure improvements for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
  • Skyview Ferris Wheel
    • 20-story Ferris wheel in Centennial Park providing scenic views from climate-controlled gondolas
  • Georgia Aquarium
    • Georgia Aquarium is home to hundreds of species and thousands of animals across its seven major galleries, all of which reside in more than 10 million US gallons of fresh and saltwater.



  • GLOW Nashville: Nashville’s Brightest Christmas Experience
    • GLOW Nashville features one of the country’s tallest Christmas trees, millions of lights adorning larger-than-life sculptures, epic ice skating and tubing experiences, a life-size Santa’s Workshop and many more immersive activities designed to create memories for all ages.
  • Gaylord Opryland Resort’s A Country Christmas
    • More than 3 million holiday lights and acres of magnificent decorations, plus spectacular holiday activities and events that are sure to get you in the spirit of the season and create lasting family memories.
  • Nashville’s Nutcracker
    • If you find yourself in Nashville and have an extra $100.00, this performance is worth it.

Holiday travel isn’t that complicated. Find a destination, and then plan around it. If you’re planning a destination where there’s the possibility of snow, there will also be the possibility of flight delays. For me, it’s rare that I’ll fly back from a vacation the day before I go back to work. I’ll always give myself at least a day to unpack, recoup and focus, besides that extra gives me some wiggle room in case of a flight delay.

There you have it, safe travels and thanks for listening.

Find me on: