Summer Hull: I'm echoing in my headphones am I echoing in y'all's? One day, I'm going to get a microphone thing in here.
Ed Pizza: I don't know what the current title is for you at DPG. Do you want to make one up?
Julian Kheel: It's like we only do it once every six months, so yeah. Hey, you're going to want to get you bill points. Get your bill points and you got Japan paying $5 for gas. You're doing it wrong.
Speaker 4: Climb aboard. This is the Miles To Go podcast, your source for the latest in travel news, reviews, and strategies you can't afford to miss. Now here's your host, travel expert and road warrior, Ed Pizza.
Ed Pizza: Hey guys. Welcome back to the Miles To Go podcast. We thought it was going to be the fantastic four this week and it may just be, but based on incredibly complex schedules, Richard, I think had a flight delay, might have a parking issue. We're not really sure there was something about a taxi for a 20 minute ride from the airport to wherever he parked his car. It all sounds really horrible, but in the interim.
Julian Kheel: Whatever he did, I'm sure it saved him 58 cents. I just want to point that out.
Summer Hull: And we will hear about it.
Julian Kheel: And we'll get a blow by blow on how to do it. So, yeah.
Ed Pizza: And what went wrong and why he's mad at them too.
Julian Kheel: Exactly.
Ed Pizza: My 11 year old son now knows that he's really, really cheap too. That's even better.
Summer Hull: Oh, are we officially labeling it cheap now? Cause that's changed.
Ed Pizza: Oh frugal.
Julian Kheel: While he's not here, let's label it as cheap, but when he shows up let's call it frugal.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, when he is not here we can call it whatever the heck we want.
Julian Kheel: Nice.
Ed Pizza: Richard has the link. We believe he's somewhere between Atlanta and Newnan, Georgia, and may actually tap in at some point with us, but because Julian has a hard stop and Summer has a rainforest in her house, we just figured we'd take the one slot that we could because I actually landed an hour and a half ago. Managed to unpack my suitcase, and then I have the second pack of clothing that will go back in the suitcase to take my five o'clock flight back out of town.
Summer Hull: Yeah, I don't want your life. I'd rather deal with my new construction problems than that.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, we'll talk about my week in travel in just a little bit, 9,922 miles, if everything happens the way it's supposed to, all in the domestic us. Yay. We were talking about, it's funny. We talked about doing an episode together. We've been trying to set up schedules for forever and the entire time we're trying to set up our schedules, we never actually talked about what the topic would be. We were just so intent on getting everybody here. The one question that keeps coming up from folks in various forms and fashions is how do we do what we do? Whether it's Disney or the travel destinations or stuff like that. We decided we were going to take a swing at that today, and I don't know which one of you two wants to go first with teeing up for questions. Is it Julian or Summer that wants to take the book?
Julian Kheel: I don't know that you even introduced us. I think you just rolled on into this and you're like, "Ah, everyone will know who these people are."
Ed Pizza: Everybody knows who these people are.
Julian Kheel: Wow.
Summer Hull: Wow, Julian we've made it. We've made it Julian, they know us.
Julian Kheel: Finally, I am somebody finally.
Ed Pizza: Well, that's debatable, but I figured I would introduce you when it was your turn to speak. In that case, I think we'll tee up Julian here.
Julian Kheel: Nice.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, I know.
Julian Kheel: I forced my way into the conversation. Nice.
Ed Pizza: Well yeah, I guess it could be interpreted that way. So for folks who are longtime listeners of the show, you'll remember Julian Kheel, who has joined us a number of times on the show. He is back from CNN Underscored. Julian, I know you and I have the one trip book together this year and I don't actually remember where we're going from and two. Is it New York to Frankfurt?
Julian Kheel: That's correct. And back.
Ed Pizza: Well, no, I don't have a back yet. That's part of the problem.
Julian Kheel: Oh, you don't. Okay. Well some of us are coming home, others are not.
Summer Hull: Ladies and gentlemen, this is how we do it. We do it by having no idea where we're going or when, or with who.
Julian Kheel: Or how to get back. Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, so I think start there with how you decided to book that and why, and then I'll plug in on why the heck, why I decided to join you?
Julian Kheel: Yeah. You and I are flying on Singapore's new first class suites, which were recently started coming on a regular daily scheduled flight to New York's JFK. The flight is New York to Frankfurt, to Singapore, but you can fly just the New York, Frankfurt part, which is what you and I are doing. And the first class suites are really one of the best products in the sky. You get a separate bed, a chair, you can even put two of them together, form a double bed, but Ed, I just want to let you know, we're probably not going to do. I'm not saying we can't, but I don't have that on the plan. I wanted to just try it. I've never tried it. Like I said, it's a great opportunity now that I don't have to go overseas to go find it. I don't need to go all the way to Singapore. Europe is fine. I'll pop around in Europe for a few days. This is in August. I think it's going to be terrific. I'm really looking forward to it.
Ed Pizza: Walk me through how you redeemed for it. You used, oh God, did you use chase ultimate rewards?
Julian Kheel: Actually, so the beautiful part, Singapore first class suites you need to book through Singapore's Crisp Flyer Program. They don't open it up to partners, but you can transfer to Singapore from almost any currency from Chase, from American Express, from Capital One. So I actually, and when I booked it, I booked it right when they opened up the award space, which is only 86,000 miles each direction to Frankfurt. If you can get it at that low saver level space. It's hard to find right now. Right now you can get it for the higher advantage, which I believe is 140,000 each way. It could still be worth it of that. The beauty is that you can literally transfer points in from multiple programs, so if you were putting 140,000 points into Singapore, you might say, "All right, I'll take 40 from chase. I'll take 50 from Cap One and I'll take 50 from American Express." Therefore, you're not dropping one of your balances way down. You're mixing and matching, all the points show up and you book it. That's what I did. I mixed and matched.
Ed Pizza: That's a great segue to, this is probably a great description for you in terms of how you travel. You're amassing, most of your points from credit card spending because you don't travel for work on a regular basis like I do, right?
Julian Kheel: That's right. Yeah, most of my comes from credit card signups and credit card spending. In my old days, I used to do some manufactured spend, but I just don't have time for it anymore.
Ed Pizza: Well, it's also become a lot more complicated.
Julian Kheel: Yeah. Which is probably also why I don't have time for it.
It's not as easy as just walking over to Target or whatever, or Walmart.
Summer Hull: Oh, the Bluebird days were fabulous.
Julian Kheel: They were. The Bluebird and the Redbird. Oh my gosh. Those were the days. Yep.
Ed Pizza: They were fabulously painful though, because I just didn't have the organizational skills. I I love Excel spreadsheets, but I could never keep track of all the cards and where they supposed to be going and all that stuff.
Julian Kheel: I know I lost at least $1000 in gift cards somewhere along the way. I'm quite certain that I probably didn't do too well on that.
Summer Hull: So really we all lost is what you're saying?
Julian Kheel: Correct. That's exactly right. But now it's really just putting everything I can on credit cards and making sure if I can pay for it with a card without being charged a fee, I do. Then yeah, grabbing new cards when there's a lucrative bonus. Sometimes I use those cards on an ongoing basis and sometimes they go in the sock drawer.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, we're going to talk a little bit about the Ziploc baggies in just a bit. No, not those kind of Ziploc baggies, the other Ziploc baggies. Summer, who has been on the show a number of times, I don't know what the current title is for you at TPG. Do you want to make one up?
Summer Hull: Sure. Yeah, these days what I'm doing is I am working on us telling really fun stories on lots of different platforms, video, social sites, lots of cool stuff coming this summer. Having a great time doing that over at the points guy, also still writing some stories over there. I made my first viral TikTok, which makes me almost cool in the eyes of my 12 year old. I'll keep dabbling in that.
Julian Kheel: Did you? Wow.
Summer Hull: I did.
Julian Kheel: I'm psyched. How many views did that get?
Summer Hull: One day it may cross a million.
Julian Kheel: Wow.
Summer Hull: Right now it's flirting under 800,000 right now and it's stalled, but one day maybe it'll get there.
Julian Kheel: That's amazing though. That is amazing.
Ed Pizza: Wow.
Julian Kheel: 800,000 views, wow. I think the most I've ever gotten is 10,000.
Summer Hull: I've got legit street cred in my family on this. It was on the Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser, so if you want to see if it's worth it, you could help me be one view closer to a million, if you would go watch it on the points guys, TikTok.
Julian Kheel: Wow. If I was cool enough to be on TikTok, then I would totally do that.
Summer Hull: I'll hold out hope for your click, Julian.
Julian Kheel: Thank you. It's like Ed holding out hope that I listen to his podcast.
Summer Hull: I know.
Ed Pizza: I don't know which one's going to happen first, but I think right now, since Richard isn't on the broadcast, I believe that Summer is the only one with a TikTok account on this podcast.
Summer Hull: My TikTok accounts embarrassing, but the points guys team makes my stuff better.
Ed Pizza: So there was a time where you flew paid travel more. I think you obviously during the pandemic, you haven't been doing a ton of paid travel, but is it safe to say that most of your travel is covered by points that you're earning from cards?
Summer Hull: Yeah.
Julian Kheel: Oh, sorry, which one of us are you asking? Yeah.
Summer Hull: Who you talking to?
Ed Pizza: Julian, your name's not Summer.
Julian Kheel: Did he say Summer? I missed that part. Sorry. I'll be quiet. That's that's my role here.
Ed Pizza: You're just so good at this podcasting thing.
Summer Hull: We're so good at this.
Julian Kheel: It's like we only do it once every six months.
Ed Pizza: Right.
Summer Hull: It's no different in real life. We sound exactly the same.
Ed Pizza: You sound exactly the same? I'm exactly this organized too.
Summer Hull: Yeah.
Julian Kheel: Hey Summer. I think Ed's talking to you. I think...
Summer Hull: Oh me?
Julian Kheel: Yeah, I think it's you.
Summer Hull: Okay, me. All right. I do have some paid travel, especially through work. I am a One K with United, which you only earn through paid travel. We do a lot of hotel reviews and stuff too at TPG. I do have a fair amount of paid travel, which is fabulous because I earn points on that. I also spend a ton on credit cards. This has been a very expensive year in the whole household as we built a whole new house and there's no shortage of Kansas to swipe credit cards virtually. I have a mix of both I would say.
Ed Pizza: I think you're the polar opposite of Richard, and Julian and I are probably somewhere in between. Tell folks...
Summer Hull: Are you saying I'm not cheap?
Ed Pizza: No. Well, yes, you're definitely not cheap, but also cheap.
Julian Kheel: No you are.
Ed Pizza: You are the uber planner, cause at least before the pandemic, I would get these random notes from you at times and be like, "Hey what are you doing Halloween two years from now?"
Summer Hull: Yeah, well you got that text this week.
Ed Pizza: And I had to qualify like, "Did you mean this year or next year??
Summer Hull: No. Yeah, I'm actively right now planning October 2023. If I don't, with a family there's a lot of things that can go wrong and cause it not to happen. Specifically right now, we're trying to see if we can get the gang back together at Disney's Sport Wilderness for another camping adventure in October 2023. It's amazing there, and you drive around on golf carts and you see all the decorations, but it sells out. I tried six months ago to do it for this year and that was already way too late.
Ed Pizza: It was already sold out six months ago?
Summer Hull: Yeah, oh yeah.
Ed Pizza: Oh I didn't realize that I missed that part.
Summer Hull: You could go on some random Tuesday, but you couldn't go for a weekend.
Julian Kheel: I think it's a great idea, especially since Ed hates camping.
Summer Hull: I know.
Julian Kheel: I think it's a really excellent idea, we should do it.
Summer Hull: The other thing I just planned was and booked actually was Spring Break 2023, when some well priced United Business Class Awards to New Zealand became available. That was the time to click the button. I was already flirting with some ideas for spring break next year, but that became the clear obvious choice. You could always back out, but you can't always get on that train or plane as the case may be. So we locked that in. Then also last week I locked in Alaska Cruise for Summer 2023, because those prices typically only go up. So we plunked our deposit down and started counting down.
Julian Kheel: I think Summer really nails it there, that you want to book, and I did the same thing with this Singapore first class, when it becomes available to book it.
Summer Hull: Yeah.
Julian Kheel: In most cases nowadays you can get out of it later if you have to. Book it while you can, when the price is low, even if it's for a year from now. I booked this August Singapore thing, I think last October or something like that. Yeah, grab them while you can while they're low and then you can always change your mind later.
Summer Hull: Yeah. With Disney we're going to owe for the first night, which at the camp grounds is probably a hundred bucks, but we can lock the whole thing in and we can always back out. It's going to sell out, so go ahead and grab what you want and figure the rest out later.
Ed Pizza: I was surprised that you told me that they were already opening the booking window up for that, what like next month or the month after June, July?
Summer Hull: Yeah, early June. I think June 8th.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Summer Hull: Don't quote me, but ish, June 8th ish. And it goes through mid-October 2023, is what I've been told.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and I think it's safe to say that while that's the best strategy, lots of folks don't book that far out. Richard is famous for booking a couple weeks out on most things. I'm somewhere in between. For me the complicating factor is I do travel for a living, and so it's a little hard to know what my plans are going to be. To Summer's point, we both have families, so Spring Break's a normal time I would travel. But there are lots of things that have really complicated that, and a lot of it has less to do with my business travel, but more, super excited our daughter has gotten really good at track and their track meets all over the country as it turns out.
We end up at a lot of weird places last minute. So booking things that are not able to be canceled easily has become much more complicated for us. We've had to sort of pick and choose a little bit what we do for trips. We're doing Iceland in June, and I booked those tickets quite some time ago. I sort of got lucky that I didn't have to move the dates because I don't know if I would've been able to with the Delta Vacations Package. I think you guys both hit on a good point that with cancellation fees essentially disappearing during the pandemic, it really has been a pretty big game changer. We all in some way shape or form had some sort of elite status that usually reduced or eliminated those change fees. Now everybody can really adopt the same strategy that Julian and Summer are. To that point, Julian, you mentioned booking in October other than the fact that Singapore can be tough to cancel you're not looking at any sort of fees if you have to cancel that trip.
Julian Kheel: Right. When you say Singapore can be toughs to cancel, their customer service has gotten out of whack during the pandemic. I'm sure they'll fix it down the line here, but you can cancel, you just got to sometimes be a little patient getting on the phone with them. But right, there's no real significant fees or anything. I think it does, I think a lot of people, including myself, are used to thinking you can't change things without being charged and you really have to reset your mindset and think about it in a different way of, "I should speculatively book these things because I most likely have the ability to get out of it if I have to."
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and what I think based on what I've seen out there and Summer correct me if you feel like this is not what you're seeing, but given where the price of airfare has gone, I haven't necessarily seen quite the same run up in hotels. So for folks who might not have an endless pile of points and miles, it feels like where you jumped on those really cheap flights to New Zealand, that if folks have to pick and choose right now, locking down the airfare may be the better bucket to focus on if you can find a deal.
Summer Hull: Yeah. So it's not as even, I would say with hotels. If you want to go to Miami, you're going to be paying a ton now for your hotel room, a lot more than you would've before the pandemic. But if you want to go to middle of the country, maybe not so much. Your airfare may be pricey to both of those destinations, so it just depends. When you were talking about your daughter's track schedule and life just getting busier as the kid gets older, I think that's how we are starting to double down on these bigger trips too. When it comes to how we do what we do, for us it's evolving.
Our oldest starts junior high next school year and I don't know that she's going to be a track star, but I don't know what it's going to look like. I do know that it's probably going to be busier and so that's why we've gone bigger with the trips that I want to put all our eggs in those baskets. Like Spring Break, New Zealand and Alaska Cruise being a couple weeks after school ends next year. I think our era of taking more smaller trips is probably not ending, it's just becoming thinner. So how we do what we do is evolving a little bit to be fewer trips probably, just bigger when they do happen.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and to that point, our daughter celebrated a birthday recently and we told her that she could plan something fun for her birthday. We told both kids coming out of the pandemic, they could do something fun. We had talked about New York City. I booked the hotels for New York City yesterday, because we just finally got the track schedule confirmed for the end of the season with championships and stuff like that. So I'm scrambling now to get train tickets, which are obscenely expensive. More obscenely expensive than normally obscenely expensive. As you said, as the kids get older, you sort of have to work around that stuff. Julian, other than the Singapore trip, do you have anything else booked right now or stuff that you have an eye on that you're trying to target?
Julian Kheel: I do. I have a wedding that I've been invited to in Italy on the Amalfi coast next month in June. Speaking of what we were talking about earlier, I have my flight booked to the Amalfi coast, I do not have my flight booked back home from the Amalfi coast. So I might be moving to the Amalfi coast.
Summer Hull: One does not need a flight home back from there.
Julian Kheel: I'll just squat in this Airbnb and we'll settle it out of court later.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Julian Kheel: So yeah, that might be the plan. I will say I've been looking, it is tricky right now to find flights, especially back from Europe. One possibility that I may have to do, especially finding a one way back from Europe. There are some points options, but if you're paying cash and trying to get back from Europe, it's expensive. You might be better off, this was a suggestion I made to someone on Twitter earlier this week. Book a round trip starting in Europe.
Ed Pizza: Yes.
Julian Kheel: And go back to Europe than later in the year, early next year and leave it loose. You can probably, again, adjust that return leg for no charge down the line. Especially with an airline like Air France. I did a change to a leg on Air France online for no charge just recently without any problems. So I may end up doing that, is actually booking another round trip starting in Europe, going back to New York and then back to Europe, either late in 2022 or sometime in 2023.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. I know how you guys are in listening to all the travel podcasts out there. Fellow travel podcaster that we know and love Seth Miller, I remember had a streak of almost three years where, because of all of his travels for work, he had an originating flight from Europe and he kept just booking originating flights from Europe with six month gaps in them and traveled that way for forever.
Julian Kheel: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: That was the strategy for quite some time and it can be a great way to save money on paid travel.
Julian Kheel: Absolutely, yeah. A lot of people don't think about the idea that you don't have to start in the US if you do a points booking. In my case, actually my trip to the Amalfi coast is the back end of a round trip that started in Europe back in March, I believe it was so. I'm already in the middle of that strategy, but another way to do it is to do a points booking for one way from the US to Europe or wherever you're going and then start that reverse round trip starting in Europe for the return.
Summer Hull: Yeah. Y'all got me thinking about, we're talking about how we're doing this right now. Another way that it has changed for us recently is because airfare prices, especially in the US can be so insane right now. It's actually maybe better off going to Europe if you're still planning your summer vacation in some cases, but we were stuck with some set dates and destinations within the US this summer around summer camp in the Northeast and graduations in the Northeast and things like that. One of the things we're having to lean on more now than we did before are those companion certificates, which you may not be able to get out of the crazy high airfare and as most award redemptions in the US are now tied to dynamic pricing, at least loosely tied to the high cash price. Those companion fares may be what makes it sting a bit less if you're having to bring more than one person.
That's a strategy we've been leaning into some and then hotel rooms. Hyatt, at least, still has a pretty solid award chart that has peak and off peak prices, but they're still set. We also have a couple trips to New York, like you mentioned Ed and hotel points have been our saving grace. We may be taking it a bit on the airfare side, but we're still able to lock in at a pretty fixed redemption rate, those hotels when they are creeping high in some cases. That's our strategy right now, reduce the airfare pain, lock in the hotel.
Julian Kheel: Yeah. Love Hyatt not only because of their award chart, like you mentioned, but also the ability to book suites with points. If you have a family and have the adults in one room and the kids on the fold out in the other room that's a good way to get everybody into one room and for not too much more of a points premium.
Summer Hull: Exactly. Yeah, or your globalist little upgrade certificate, if you're lucky enough to have one of those. So yes, Hyatt is my saving grace right now in terms of controlling cash hotel costs by using points and getting the breakfast and the suite upgrade and all locked in and stuff that come on the globalist side of things.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. One other thing that can be on folks' radar, if you're trying to stretch those points further, especially as it pertains to Hyatt. I was on the line with the Hyatt concierge desk this past weekend, trying to book this trip for New York City, and the concierge that I was speaking with reminded me that Hyatt still maintains a family plan at many of their properties where you can get 50% off the paid rate for your second room if you're paying. So you can combine that with points, if you don't have enough points to stretch out and have the space that you need in a place like New York. That was an option for us that I just forgotten.
Summer Hull: Yeah, and unfortunately, for someone who's like, "Oh my God, this is my new strategy." You typically can't book that online.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Summer Hull: So you're going to have to call and what properties have it is not available very clearly online either. I know at TPG, our editor who does a lot of the family travel content right now, she just did a test of this and Hilton makes it the easiest because they have the ability to book connecting rooms online.
Ed Pizza: Oh my gosh, it's so good.
Summer Hull: I know, but Hyatt you still had to call. In the end, when she went through that process, she did get 50% off the second room, which could also help out, especially this summer.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. I have to say the Hilton connecting rooms booking engine on their website has just been life-changing. It's so much though that when we had to book a couple of stays outside of the US and the properties didn't participate in the connecting room program, I realized how much I missed that for family vacations. It's so easy to book those online on their website. Doubling back on the companion ticket. I'm curious because I remember there was a time when companion tickets were very lucrative. They've gotten less so, but are you still holding a card that gives you access to companion tickets?
Summer Hull: Yeah, I've got a couple. I have the Alaska, which comes with probably the easiest to use companion ticket, I would say. It costs 99 bucks plus 20 or 30 in taxes and fees typically when you cash it in. Then as long as you're flying in economy, it's pretty easy to use. We do have a Hawaii trip penciled in loosely for the fall. It's not booked yet, but that would very possibly be how we knock out the price of a second ticket. That's what we've usually used those for in the past. Since I live in Houston, there's not a lot of Alaska routes, but we can use it to get through the West coast to Hawaii.
The other one that I have is via the Delta platinum card. That one is a little harder to use because it is tied to fair classes being available on Delta, which are not always available if you're trying to travel at peak times, but if you have some flexibility or you're booking pretty in advance and not on one of the busiest days of the year, I have had success with that too. We've used it to book tickets to New York since LaGuardia, Houston is a Delta route that we do use sometimes. I have both of those and I use them and they're just a little different in how they both work.
Ed Pizza: I had forgotten that Delta had that benefit on that card. I actually ran into the companion card benefit sort of in a backwards way. I'm still not sure if I'm going to go for it. When American changed their program at the beginning of the year, credit card spend became a part of the elite path in a much more real way. They offered a promotion on the Barclay aviator card. I forget which color I have of that thing. Whichever the top tier one is, is that the silver?
Summer Hull: Sure. I don't know.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, top tier silver.
Yeah, you have to spend, hopefully I'll remember this correctly. I think you have to spend $20,000 now to qualify for the companion ticket on that airline And I had to put $15,000 in spend on the card at the beginning of the year to earn a loyalty point bonus to get my American Airlines executive platinum. I'm sort of looking at all right, if I put $5,000 more on that card between now and the end of the year, I get a companion certificate. I remember those being somewhat easy to use on America. There's this, hey if I can direct some spending over there, I can score a free trip. I've just got to, well not a free trip. I think it's 99 bucks, but I can score a fairly cheap ticket at a time when prices are really high. I've just got to think where I can use American, but that's another way for us to potentially save money on a short trip later this year, because airfare is out of control.
Summer Hull: It is absolutely out of control, especially on these domestic routes. There's still deals internationally, but we're paying over $700 per round trip to go from Houston to Philly this summer for summer camp, which is why I'm not going. Josh will pick her up, but I'm not going to go see their show because another 700 and something dollars for my round trip or the equivalent in points, because those are really high right now as well for that route. I love you and all, but I'll watch the live stream.
Julian Kheel: Hey kid, you're not worth 700. I'll watch the live stream.
Summer Hull: I mean we're already buying two tickets. I'm paying for summer camp. There's got to be a line.
Julian Kheel: Sending your dad, tell me he'll enjoy it.
Summer Hull: Yep. Basically, that's where we're at.
Julian Kheel: I will say, I think I completely agree with you on the airfare in this summer. I have seen, it looks like in the fall and the winter it is a little bit lower, a little more reasonable. Obviously kids go back to school.
Summer Hull: Oh yeah, back when families can't travel, it gets better.
Julian Kheel: When families can't travel, exactly.
Summer Hull: News at 11.
Julian Kheel: If you don't have a family and you have a trip that you're thinking about taking, maybe think about doing it in the fall.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and I think for families, there are a couple of tweener weekends, depending on what your school schedule's like. Columbus day is usually a longer weekend in our neck of the woods. Our favorite time to go to Disney used to be election day because we could vote absentee and then they would close the Monday before election day, so we'd get a four day weekend and now they've extended that where they have a teacher Workday on Wednesday. So we now have a five day chunk of time that we can blow out without missing any school. I mean I paid, for the flight that I'm leaving my house in an hour and a half for, I paid $780 one way to sit in coach going to Vegas and I don't even have an economy plus seat. It's unbelievable what the prices are right now, and that's going to really put pressure I think, on the normal folks to book summer travel if they haven't yet.
Summer Hull: Yeah, and there are still deals. Don't let us scare anyone off. If you are dealing with weekends and you're dealing with fixed routes and fixed dates, you're going to be having a harder hill to climb than if you still have some flexibility on when and where you go. There are deals, it's just not going to fall exactly on the weekend you're hoping probably.
Ed Pizza: I think right now too, what I've seen to Julian and Summer's comments about international travel versus domestic travel. I guess maybe it's just the complications of getting across borders and stuff like that, but I've seen, our tickets to Iceland were really affordable. I still see affordable fares to a lot of cities in Canada. That's a potential idea for folks. I've also seen really affordable arrow plan award flights, and now that they're a chase ultimate awards partner you've got multiple ways to potentially go the arrow plan route. So the right play, if you have a book summer right now might be to go North or to go South and skip the Grand Canyon or Seattle or New York.
Summer Hull: Yeah, you're going to still deal as of right now with those us reentry tests. Which of course people are getting stuck positive out of the country and having to wait that out, so factor that in. Another thing that we're seeing at TPG is a lot of good deals on cruises this summer, especially Alaska. If you've ever wanted to go on an Alaska cruise and you're willing to deal with the US reentry testing and the testing to get on the cruise and you're vaccinated and all of those things, if you hit all those vin diagrams, you can get some good deals to cruise this summer for Alaska, which would be really exciting for those who can hop on a boat.
Ed Pizza: A little bit back on something we talked about earlier, you Julian, we were talking about credit cards and I remember you and I actually recording in the TPG offices well before the pandemic, I'm going to guess probably 2018, 2017, where you brought a zip lock baggy full of cards.
Julian Kheel: I still have my zip lock baggy full of cards.
Ed Pizza: I bet you do. The question is, based on where we stand right now and the fact that you might have canceled some during the pandemic if people didn't waive fees. How many active cards do you think you have?
Julian Kheel: Yeah, it's probably still around the same 25 or so, and you're right I did cancel some cards during the pandemic, but new ones have been added since then. Whenever I see a really good signup bonus, if I'm eligible for it I like to grab it. What I will say I have been doing lately strategy wise, because I've got a lot of points now, and as you know American express has been incredibly generous with points. Chase Sapphire preferred as an 80,000, as of us recording this podcast. There's been a lot of great offers out there. Since I have so many points, I've been now getting a little more selective about annual fees, even if I'm getting targeted for 150,000 point Amex offer.
If it's a card with a $700 annual fee while that's actually a really good return on that money, I don't need more Amex points, so I won't do that. Instead I'm looking for cards where the first year's annual fee is waived or it's just $95 even if it isn't waived. That's really what I'm doing and trying to accumulate. If I'm going to accumulate more rewards, since I'm already point heavy, I want to do it at pretty much zero cost if at all possible. That's been a change in strategy from maybe a year or two ago where I was just looking to accumulate points.
Summer Hull: Tell me you don't have kids without telling me you don't have kids, or something like that.
Julian Kheel: Something like that. Somehow it works like that. Yeah.
Summer Hull: Somehow, strike that reverse it. But yeah, I don't have that problem because right now it's costing more points to go most places, especially when you're not dealing with picture word chart. I think that strategy is fab for those that are points rich. Unfortunately if you've been booking for a family lately. You probably aren't very points rich, unless you're Ed and you have this renewable unlimited resource.
Ed Pizza: Solar panels for points and miles.
Summer Hull: Yeah.
Julian Kheel: It's true.
Summer Hull: I'm ready to install those any day. I love that strategy for Julian and those like him who have a lot of points and aren't burning them at the same rate they're coming in. For me, we paused a bit just because we were moving and getting our mortgage and all of that. As soon as somebody else wants to offer me some lovely six figure carrot full of points, I'm going to bite because we are hauling through them like nobody's business these days.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and I'll wonder if the current state of the economy changes the signup bonus matrix over the next year or two. For me and folks who are listening to the show quite a bit have heard me say a number of times that I've been focusing quite a bit on the Capital One Venture X and a big part of that is as you noted Summer, I still have a lot of regular points. So the thing that I really lack is being able to cover things like Amtrak tickets to New York for daughter's birthday, that sort of stuff. So venture X has really filled in a gap for me in being able to absorb that, or maybe some random Disney souvenirs that I probably shouldn't have bought over the past weekend.
That's been sort of the shift for me for the past year has been earning points that are where I'm racing purchases. I'll say it's definitely liberating to some degree, but I think the thing that I'm getting away from, and I need to be careful of is, because I have a lot of other points, this desire to spend on the venture X and then burn those means I'm not burning off my Chase Ultimate rewards or American Express membership rewards points as quickly in those balances. I need to get those out and burned up and used for something.
Summer Hull: But of course those are the most stable because you have so many transfer options. So in the world of inflation and devaluing currencies, I think Amex members, Amex and Chase are probably low on the risk list since you just have so many options on how you spend those.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and Julian mentioned something about annual fees earlier that I just want to comment on from a high level. I can remember back in the day when a $95 annual fee was a big deal because there were a number of cards that had no annual fee and now a $95 annual fee feels cheap.
Julian Kheel: Yeah. that's a Richard annual fee. It's so cheap. I'll tell you
Summer Hull: I mean, how much does it cost to go get burgers and fries now for four people? It's almost that amount.
Ed Pizza: Yes.
Julian Kheel: Yeah, it really is. I agree. Look, there are still plenty of no annual fee options out there that do earn rewards. They don't tend to come with large signup poses, but you can easily pick up 20,000 points or 200 bucks if it's cash back. There's definitely options out there for no annual fee cards. That all being said, if you're looking for a premium card, I don't think there's a better value out there than the venture X right now. It's 395 bucks, $300 travel credit. That's really easy to use because you could use it on anything that you book through Capital One travel and that's flights and everything that you would normally be able to book on any anywhere. Then 10,000 anniversary points starting each year at the second anniversary that are at one set of piece even, worth a hundred bucks.
So right there basically the card is effectively free each year, and you're getting unlimited, well not unlimited, but complimentary priority pass that you can use at priority passes, restaurants and lounges and bringing guests. Plus those Capital One lounges, they've got the one in Dallas already opened. They're opening them in Denver here coming up. That first one in Dallas is really quite beautiful. I would suggest anybody looking for a premium card, that's probably the play for you right now. If you're looking for a reasonably priced premium card.
Summer Hull: So Capital One, fire Jennifer Garner. You don't need to pay her. Julian just did your commercial card.
Julian Kheel: There you go. I mean what's in your wallet? Seriously. What's in your wallet?
Summer Hull: I need that card in my wallet. It's probably the next one on my list. That lounge is fab y'all as other lounges have been over run.
Julian Kheel: Yeah.
Summer Hull: This one is still top notch, and as they open some others hopefully this year, I hope they're this good. It's really, really good.
Julian Kheel: I went into the Capital One lounge in Dallas and like Summer says it's gorgeous, and then the same trip I went into the American Express Centurion lounge in Dallas. It was like a bus station. People everywhere.
Summer Hull: Oh God, Amex is not going to hire you Julian.
Julian Kheel: AMX is not going to be, yeah, I'm not getting that commercial. It really, it's just the amount of demand on those Centurion lounges at this point. I completely agree. Capital One really has done something special with that lounge in Dallas. I'm assuming we'll see that Denver and the others will be identically well done. We'll see how long it lasts and how it goes.
Summer Hull: Yeah. Ride the train while it's nice, right now it's really nice.
Julian Kheel: It really, really is.
Ed Pizza: I think this the tough part about folks who have the Amex platinum card. The annual fee has gone up. It's harder to use the lounges. I actually just talked to the guy who cohost my other podcast, Results Junkies, and he has two Amex platinums. He has a business version and a personal version and he likes the lounges, but they don't travel very often to airports that have them. They're spending well over a thousand dollars annual fees for those two cards on a yearly basis, they're not using one of the primary benefits, the lounges. That's a tough card for me to continue to recommend to folks, unless you have a very, very specific type of travel. Especially because of how much value I think you can get out of the American Express gold card for an annual fee that's less than half.
Julian Kheel: Yeah, I love the gold card. Gold card is basically my go-to card. To be fair, I do eat at restaurants a lot and obviously my groceries go on it, but that gold card is absolutely top of wallet for me when it comes to food.
Summer Hull: Same and we like food, so there's a lot of swiping of the gold. I'll take four X points every day.
Julian Kheel: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Well it seems like the fantastic four is not going to be a fantastic four today. We just got a text from Richard that he is stuck, so it is going to be the fantastic three and a half since we will remember him fondly.
Summer Hull: I guess that means we have to try again.
Julian Kheel: Yeah. I can pretend to be Richard for a second here. Let me try, "Hey, you're going to want to get your bill points, get your bill points and Japan paying $5 for gas. You're doing it wrong."
Summer Hull: That was really good. Like in the stadium hawking bill points, get your bill points. That's good.
Ed Pizza: We got 30 minutes through an episode without a mention of bill. Now I'm going to get a whole bunch of complaints from people to get it. That's all we talk about. Well just to wrap up the misery of how I do earn so many points this week. From Friday to Friday, I will go, well I've done part of this, the Dulles to Orlando and back with my son for a quick Disney trip for a Guardians of the Galaxy preview. I have Dulles to Las Vegas this evening. Then my daughter, I have to go to sorry. I have to go to Salt Lake City for an event for some employees, and then my daughter made it to the regionals for track. I'm back to Dulles and then back to Vegas again. Then a quick stop in Denver back home for 9,922 miles by the time I get back home to the family again. It's going to be a crazy week.
Julian Kheel: That's a good way to have back problems. Wow.
Summer Hull: That's the hard way for everything.
Julian Kheel: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Every single one of my tickets is more expensive for a coach seat than any first class seat I ever bought prior to the pandemic.
Summer Hull: Yeah. That's checks, that math checks. To circle back to how we do it, sometimes we're having to just get hit with these prices, but for vacations that we're planning in advance. Honestly, we are trying to not do that. I would rather spend 60,000 United miles and fly in business class to New Zealand, which is what we hopped on for next March, than to spend 60,000 miles round trip in economy to Philadelphia, which we are also doing.
Ed Pizza: Well and I think we've talked about this a number of times on this show, and I don't know who came up with this, but this was back in the flyer talk days. We've always talked about chase the fare, not the destination was the comment that came up so frequently. To Summer's point, like Iceland popped up for us this year because we were just coming out of the pandemic and I wanted to, our daughters always wanted to go there and we're running out of time for trips that we can do with her before she goes off to college.
I have subscribed to and continued to subscribe to the belief that if you can find the right price to go somewhere on points and miles and squeeze in a trip. In fact, the reason why Richard can't record with us is partially because he's going to Baja Mar this week. He found a great deal with super cheap airline tickets on Delta using Virgin Atlantic points and a super cheap rate at the grand high Baja Mar. So that's the trip that his family planned. It's also why much to Summer's chagrin, I have not made it to Hawaii yet because I've never been able to cross that Rubicon at the right time.
Summer Hull: One day. I'll say what we're doing our next trip is not to Baja Mar because I don't want to deal with testing more than I have to, but we're going to go as far South as we can, without it really and go to Key Largo. In this case, it made sense. It was way cheaper to buy some points to stay at a Hilton than it was to pay the cash rates. There's so many ways to still win at travel and to pay a lot less than everybody else is paying, just right now takes a slightly larger playbook, unless you're a points gazillionaire like Ed Pizza.
Ed Pizza: I don't know if it's gazillions, but speaking of gazillionaires, Julian I don't know if I'm going to make it to the August trip. I might need your help canceling that.
Julian Kheel: Just get ready to spend some time on the phone. That's all. I hope you like hold music. Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Or go to the airport.
Julian Kheel: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Thanks a ton for spending time with us, tell folks where they can find you when you're not talking about trips that I'm never going to fly with you.
Julian Kheel: Yeah. Check us out at cnnunderscoredoncnn.com. We've got a whole bunch of stories talking about credit cards, points, and miles travel, as well as other personal finance topics like your checking, your savings accounts, paying your taxes with a card, when to do it, when not to do it. Remember even if it's not tax season, if you're working freelance, you're paying those quarterlies, there's ways to do it and earn points and do it correctly and be smart about it. Check us out there. Then you can also find me on Twitter @JulianKheel.
Ed Pizza: Confirm or deny that you may or may not have signed up for a credit card to pay your taxes this year.
Julian Kheel: I'll deny that I signed up for four credit cards to pay my taxes. I had a large tax bill.
Summer Hull: It was just three.
Julian Kheel: Due to some properties I sold, and yeah. I signed up for credit cards where I knew I would be able to make that minimum spend because of the tax bill. Even though I had to pay a fee for paying my taxes in that case, because I was getting such a large number of rewards for the signup bonus, it made a lot of sense. I was paying very little for those points. Again, I should probably not be paying for points at this point, but I couldn't resist.
Ed Pizza: Thankfully, because of Julian, I actually checked my Amex account. He was the one that turned me on to the fact that if you have an Amex gold card right now, you might have a referral offer. That's a higher offer for someone who's signing up for the card. The person that took my referral offer got 90,000 points, instead of 60,000 points. I'm getting nine points per dollar on my dining for the next three months on top of whatever the amount of signup bonus points were. Nine points per dollar on dining is just completely off the charts for the amount of time that the three of us spent in restaurants. I know Julian and I are piling up the points as we speak. Summer, it's been a while since we've had you on the show and I hope that we have you back here and I am threatening to use the picture of you with the, are those bunny ears or dragon ears headphones.
Summer Hull: It looks like a unicorn.
Ed Pizza: Unicorn. Oh, I didn't see the horn. Yeah, so threatening to have you back on, but we need to have you back on soon than later. Tell folks where they can find you when you're not here with us.
Summer Hull: Well first, yes, now that we have moved, we live in our new house. I'm not moving again until never. I should have a more available schedule hopefully when we're not traveling, but when I'm not traveling, moving or working, you can find me at Mommy Points, M-O-M-M-Y points, both on Twitter and Instagram and also embarrassingly TikTok. It's still pretty thin there. Just watch the one we made with the points guys.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, exactly. I don't know how it could be embarrassing when you have 800,000 likes on a video. Yes, I know it's not on your channel, but it's still new.
Summer Hull: It's definitely not on my channel, but you're still welcome there to laugh at me.
Ed Pizza: Last but not leave, Mr. Kerr tell us where you could find us.
Julian Kheel: Oh yeah, you could.
Summer Hull: Kerr points.
Julian Kheel: You could find me out on my perfectly manicured lawn that the other rival dads are all jealous of drinking nectar to the God, Coors Light. Also check me out at Richard Kerr on Twitter and Instagram. Get your bill points.
Summer Hull: Get your bill points.
Julian Kheel: Get the bill card, it's going to be great.
Ed Pizza: He is so going to hate us for this. That's what he gets for not getting on.
Summer Hull: It's his fault, he didn't show up to the party with drawing on his...
Julian Kheel: That's what you get when you don't show up. That's what happens.
Ed Pizza: Well, we had a really great reader comment come in that mentioned Richard. I'm going to hold that to salt the wound when he finally decides to come back out and record, but I really appreciate you guys for all your time.
Julian Kheel: If he doesn't give a good answer, let me do it. I'll answer as him. Maybe we should both be on and answer it as Richard.
Ed Pizza: I love it, and I love both of you guys very much. Lots of stuff still to come. Now I can't threaten to try and track down Summer and Julian for a show. I'm hopefully going to have them back on again, before we get out of the summer season, though travel schedules do get kind of crazy. By the time this episode posts, I'll be halfway through this crazy week of almost 10,000 miles flying back and forth across the country. We'll have a little more discussion about what's coming up for summer travel, all that and a lot more until we upload again, we've got miles to go.
Speaker 5: The miles to go podcast is produced in association with Crooked Path Productions.
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