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Filtering by Tag: Jetblue

Travel Like A Boss

Just last week I told someone that it's always best to arrive to the airport early. In fact I arrive 2 hours early anyways so I never have a problem! The only way I'm missing a flight is if the flight is canceled.

Well, the universe heard me bragging and decided to test my skills. Let's just say I handled it like a Boss!!! As I was running like a madwoman to catch my return flight from Detroit after a weekend training seminar I was counting my lucky stars for my skills.

Here are a few of my tips for traveling like a Boss!

Step 1: Travel Lightly- This was a weekend trip! 3 days in which I knew I wouldn't hit the beach or pool nor walk miles visiting the city, so I kept it light. I grabbed my Ciao bag and packed it with the essentials, i.e. 2-3 outfits which were mix and match, PJs, my laptop, pens and toiletries. 

I avoided paying Jetblue's $25 baggage fee as this carryon fits nice and neat either under my seat or in the overhead bin. I chose the overhead bins so I could give myself some extra legroom, short people need legroom too people!

This carryon helped me cut down on time that I didn't have on my return to check a bag in. 

My SHERO Ciao Bag!! It was $20 bucks at Costco or BJ's ( I can't remember)

My SHERO Ciao Bag!! It was $20 bucks at Costco or BJ's ( I can't remember)

Step 2: Get Rewarded- It was my first time going to Detroit. The destination wasn't on my bucket list but I knew I didn't want to pay a premium price for my hotel as this was more of a business trip and less of a splurge trip. It didn't help that there was a convention in town causing a near sold out situation at the closest hotels. If the hotel wasn't sold out it was selling at a premium.

Thankfully I'm a rewards point hoarder and tend to not use my Hilton Honor reward points; I usually collect them because they roll up to my JetBlue True Blue points. I used the cash and points option and booked a room coming in at $77 a night plus tax and still earn points for future stays. 

Did I mention that my flight to Detroit was $5? Thanks to the JetBlue True Blue rewards points I got there for just the tax. 

Step 3: Be Consistent- This step pertains to you constant business travelers! If you travel to the same town often stay at the same hotel. Why you ask? 

Well consider this; if you're traveling all the time don't you want some of your planning automated? Automation makes things easier for you! When I checked into my hotel Hilton already knew I liked to be on a high floor and near the elevator.  Additionally, since I want my rewards points I knew that I only had three hotel brands from which to choose from, cutting down my research time. 

Besides, automation; the more you stay at the hotel the more likely the staff will know your likes and dislikes.

Imagine having to wake up early for a meeting and wanting a good night's sleep but you're next to the room with a crying baby. Had you visited the same hotel over and over again they would know your routine and not place you near that room. This of course only applies to those who are nice to the hotel staff. If you're a curmudgeon the odds are not in your favor. 

Step 4-Get The Apps!

  • Jetblue- My total life safer was the JetBlue App. I downloaded it as I was in the car to the airport, checked in and opted for the mobile pass. In the past I had read that you need to get a mobile pass an hour before take off. Well, I had 15 minutes before that cut off time. Thankfully I got it and screenshotted the boarding pass just in case it was hard to pull it up in the security line. To my surprise, it was easy to pull it up on the app and did not need to screenshot it at all.

  • Award Wallet- Yes I use this nifty app to keep track of my points. I had used others in the past they were ok but this one works best until you tell me otherwise. I am able to see all my rewards for hotels, car rentals, restaurants and more. They even offer occasional articles on the best loyalty programs. This makes it easy to see all my reward points in one area and make a decision on what I will use.

Step 5-Get TSA Precheck or Global EntryThis is probably my biggest downfall. 

Don't be like me waiting in a long security line, wondering if you're going to make it to the gate on time, watching the TSA precheck line moving full speed ahead.  I'm now a believer! Pay the fee and get one of these options for all the times you are running late for your flight. 

Thankfully my line moved and I was able to make that 6am flight and catch the morning sun

Heading East to Boston

Heading East to Boston

There are of course caveats to all of the tips above.

Hotel Networks:  Get rewards for a couple of hotel networks. You want networks that are large, have several different brands and provide you with the best bang for your buck.

I have SPG (before it became Marriott), Marriott and Hilton. I probably use my SPG more, Hilton second and have never used my Marriott. On the ultra-luxury boutique front, I use GHA Discovery. Each program works differently and if they roll up to your airline and usual car rental location great!

Airline Networks:  I travel mostly on the East Coast and Colombia so Jet Blue is my preferred network, followed by United Mileage Plus and American Airlines last.

I chose Jet Blue because you have a good chance of being able to redeem your points especially on Wednesdays when they have sales on flights. Honestly, what's the point of a program that doesn't allow you to reward yourself frequently?  Secondly, they have partnerships with other airlines that you can't find on other networks, such as Emirates. I once flew Emirates to Ethiopia, came back to the states and flew out to Boston on Jetblue using those same points in the same day.

United is great because of its extensive network with Star Alliance, so while I don't fly United much I usually earn reward miles because I fly with a network partnerp. 

Credit Cards: Most reward networks offer credit cards to earn points. I say if you know that you will only travel to that hotel or on that airline it's best to grab it and stick to it!

Shoes:  Last but not least I need to thank my flexible flats for doing their job! You can't run across an entire airport garage, airport terminal and security in heels ladies. You can but that floor is slippery, it will be a pain and you have to lug some luggage around. My flats were flexible and had the rubber soles and made it easy to jet across the airport. 

And if all else fails grab a drink and hopefully there's another flight for you to catch!

Do you have some boss travel tips of your own? Share your tips in the comments section!

Until then Happy Travels!!

 

 

Departures: Getting to Cuba

In our new series Departures, were talking about exciting destinations and how to get there. First up in the series is Cuba!!

For over a year I've been fielding calls and questions on trips to Cuba.

If you haven't heard but getting to Cuba is the newest trend in travel for U. S travelers. Everyone wants to get there before things "change", "before it becomes overrun with tourists" or too "touristy" . All this makes getting to Cuba big business.

There are eager travelers ready to explore a destination that was relatively off limits for them in the past. While getting to Cuba is certainly now more accessible to Americans these days, getting there is not without its challenges. 

First comes the rules for traveling there. 

Once you attempt to purchase a ticket on JetBlue  (using them as an example because they happen to be my favorite airline) they will ask you to select the category under which you are allowed to travel to Cuba.  

Categories:
1) I am a Cuban National and resident of Cuba
2) Educational activities, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
3) Professional research and professional meetings
4) Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions
5) Religious activities
6) Humanitarian projects
7) Journalistic activities
8) Family visits
9) Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
10) Support for the Cuban people
11) Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
12) Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
13) Official business of the US government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
14) Specific license

(For more information: http://www.jetblue.com/flights/cuba/?intcmp=H1_CubaOutForSale_07282016#legal)

If you dig a little further and go to the U.S. Treasury's page you'll find the following question:

Is travel to Cuba for tourist activities permitted?
No. Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited. 

( For more information: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf)

Hey if you want to get to Cuba it's best to follow the rules.

This may all seem daunting but it's not! There are many ways to experience Cuba and meet the requirements of the U.S. Treasury. Currently the best way to do this is to go on a certified tour. Certified tours have already been through the vetting process of having their programs qualify usually under the people to people exemption. 

This means that your trip to Cuba will usually have an educational or cultural exchange aspect to it. 

Some tour options include jumping on a Fathom cruise.

Fathom is Carnival's newest cruise line sailing from Miami to either Cuba or Dominican Republic. These cruises allow you to take part in service projects, connect with the locals on a deeper level than you might on a regular 7 day cruise to the Caribbean. 

Additionally the cruise moves along to various ports within the country so you're not docked in one area for the entire trip. Your group tours are also small and intimate as opposed to the big bus tours that you would normally take on a cruise. Overall it's an intimate experience, even the ship they use, the  Adonia is a smaller ship making it much more of an intimate experience than your mega ships.  I wouldn't be surprised if you left making some lasting connections with the people on and off the ship.  

Another great way to experience Cuba is through Smithsonian Journeys. Smithsonian Journeys has in-depth tours on many countries. Additionally your hosts are usually experts on that particular country. You can also see their biography online so you can see their background before booking the trip. 

G Adventures is another great tour operator! They usually focus on small intimate groups and is best for the adventurous traveler. Try their Cycle Cuba or their Classic Cuba tour.

Things to Remember:

  • In the past many of the tour operators took care of processing the U.S. Treasury documents for you. Today some still do and some do not so it's always a good idea to ask. 
  • Cash is king here! You're US debit or credit card is not going to work in Cuba, so bring cash instead 
  • Don't forget to get the health insurance. Again some operators will do it for you or it's added onto their pricing others do not so check on it. If you purchase your flight separately ask if they also include it. 
  • Read the fine print! Operators will tell you whether or not this tour is suitable for US citizens.
  • Keep good records of your Cuba related  transactions for 5 years

Who Should Go:

This isn't your typical beach vacation with friends and family.  This is truly an educational experience. Do not expect all inclusive packages with unlimited beverages and all you can eat buffets or just buying a  $99 flight and winging it when you get there.  Costs and tours can vary so take a look around and see what fits your schedule and budget. 

Happy Travels!

     

    Additional Resources:

    US Embassy in Havana: https://havana.usembassy.gov/travelling_cuba.html
    OFAC FAQ: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf.