Category Archives: Meet Up

Just a Few Spots Remain for Saturday Night Dinner in Honolulu

Just a few spots remain for the dinner this Saturday, May 31 at 7 PM in Honolulu.

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Announcing a MileValue Dinner May 31 on Oahu

I’m very excited to announce the second MileValue dinner on Oahu on Saturday, May 31 at 7 PM at a Thai place town-side.

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An unfortunately dark picture at the last dinner. I’ll use flash this time!

Some of the airline programs offer Hawaii-based flyers a drastically different value proposition than they offer mainland flyers, so it will be fun to talk to people from a Hawaii perspective that you don’t normally see on any blogs including this one.

Like past MileValue dinners, this one will be:

  • Free, other than the cost of your meal.
  • Split checks, so we can all show off our credit cards. ;)
  • Entrees under $20.
  • Limited to 30 people.
  • Open to people of all miles-knowledge levels.
  • Informational. There will be no prepared remarks, but I will be happy to answer all the questions that you may have about earning and redeeming miles or my recent travels.
  • Possibly full of secret info people won’t post online (and no, I won’t email it to people who can’t attend).
  • Social, a great chance to meet other people in this hobby from Oahu (or on vacation) and talk travel.

If you want to join the fun, there is only one way to RSVP:

Email me at scott@milevalue.com.

I am limiting this event to 30 folks on a first come, first served basis, so that I have a chance to meet everyone. (And I’ll do a better job of this than I did last time!)

Once you email me, I’ll get back to in a few days with the restaurant details.

I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar and new faces at the dinner. Remember there is only one way to RSVP for the dinner on Oahu at 7 PM on May 31: by emailing me.

If you won’t be on Oahu, hopefully I’ll see you somewhere else along me travels. I’m very likely to hold a Los Angeles dinner on September 20, 2014. (Don’t RSVP now. An official announcement will be made in September if this happens.)

Where should I host MileValue dinners in the future?

MileValue Meet Up in New York City Tomorrow Monday for Happy Hour

There will be a MileValue meet up tomorrow (2/17/14) at The Australian at 20 W 38th St in Manhattan from 5 PM to 8 PM.

I’ve wanted to hold a meet up in New York City for quite a long time. Unfortunately I will only be there from Monday through Thursday, so I can’t hold a customary MileValue dinner. And I really apologize for not having my other plans set soon enough to give more than 24 hours notice.

But I hope everyone will be able to join me for Happy Hour at the Australian. I’ll make sure I am there from 5 PM to 8 PM, and others can come come and go as their schedule permits. I called and confirmed that The Australian’s Happy Hour will be from 4 PM – 7 PM as usual even though tomorrow is a holiday. The Happy Hour menu features steeply discounted food and drink.

Like past MileValue meet ups, this one will be:

  • Free, other than the cost of your food and drink.
  • Split checks, so we can all show off our credit cards. ;)
  • Open to people of all miles-knowledge levels.
  • Informational. There will be no prepared remarks, but I will be happy to answer all the questions that you may have about earning and redeeming miles or my recent travels.
  • Possibly full of secret info people won’t post online (and no, I won’t email it to people who can’t attend).
  • Social, a great chance to meet other people in this hobby from the New York area and talk travel.

If you want to join the fun, there is no need to RSVP. You can let us know in the comments though.

Where should I host MileValue dinners in the future?

PS: I have about a very, very few of these beauties left in Small and Large only if anyone wants one. First come, first served in person.

Announcing a MileValue Dinner in Honolulu on Saturday, January 25

I’m very excited to announce the first MileValue dinner since October on Saturday, January 25 at 7 PM on Oahu, either in Waikiki or Honolulu.

As a special treat, I’ve confirmed the attendance of Rene from Delta Points. Rene is the go-to expert on all things Delta from status, to the myriad credit card offerings, to redemptions, to aircraft, to getting bumped, to… you get the idea.

Delta and SkyTeam are major players from HNL.

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Delta is well represented at HNL. There are lots of SkyTeam flights from HNL including Korean’s flights to Seoul and Tokyo plus Alaska’s flights to many west coast cities.

Like past MileValue dinners, this one will be:

  • Free, other than the cost of your meal.
  • Split checks, so we can all show off our credit cards. ;)
  • Entrees under $20.
  • Limited to 30 people.
  • Open to people of all miles-knowledge levels.
  • Informational. There will be no prepared remarks, but I will be happy to answer all the questions that you may have about earning and redeeming miles or my recent travels.
  • Possibly full of secret info people won’t post online (and no, I won’t email it to people who can’t attend).
  • Social, a great chance to meet other people in this hobby from Oahu (or on vacation) and talk travel.

If you want to join the fun, there is only one way to RSVP:

Email me at scott@milevalue.com.

I am limiting this event to 30 folks on a first come, first served basis, so that I have a chance to meet everyone. Once you email me, I’ll get back to in a few days with the restaurant details, which I haven’t selected. (If you know a restaurant that fits the above criteria, let me know.)

I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar and new faces at the dinner. Remember there is only one way to RSVP for the dinner on Oahu at 7 PM on January 25: by emailing me.

If you won’t be on Oahu, hopefully I’ll see you somewhere else along me travels. And certainly be on the lookout for the announcement of a New York City dinner next month.

Where should I host MileValue dinners in the future?

My Take on the Chicago Seminars

The Chicago Seminars wrapped up today after a weekend filled with information, networking, and free candy.

MileValue sponsored the event, so we had a table where I was giving out free t-shirts and information on our Award Booking Service.

I think everyone looks better in a MileValue t-shirt.

And here’s some of the best award bookers I know in front of the MileValue table.

At the table, I had printed some of my favorite photos from my nine months on the road this year, and there was even a contest where I awarded a $50 gift card to loyal reader Victor for correctly guessing the country of the three unlabeled photos. Care to venture a guess?

Some of your and my favorite bloggers were there including Frequent Miler, The Points Guy, Mommy Points, Delta Points, First2Board, Lucky, and many more.

I enjoyed talking to them, long time readers, and folks who hadn’t yet heard of MileValue. I was able to meet a lot of people over the meals, breaks, and after-hour drinks.

Unfortunately because I was manning a table outside the seminar rooms, I didn’t have a chance to hear very much of the actual presentations, though I heard good reports from folks who went to the presentations.

The event ran very smoothly thanks to Rick Ingersoll, Howie from the Frugal Travel Guy, and dozens of other volunteers.

I can’t wait for next year. If you haven’t gone to the Chicago Seminars, you are missing out.

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Also there was this hero and role model! (Yes, those are all credit cards. No, not all of his cards are pictured because he also had a few necklaces full of them.)

My Plan for the Chicago Seminars

I arrived yesterday to Elk Grove, Illinois to get ready (and get over jet lag) for the Chicago Seminars tomorrow. My box of t-shirts to give away was waiting for me.

What’s my schedule for the Chicago Seminars? What’s the hotel shuttle information? How can you get a free t-shirt or win a $50 gift card?

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Announcing a MileValue Dinner in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 19

Update: The response has been overwhelming. The slots are all gone. In fact, I have the sad task of having to email some folks now and say they weren’t in the first 30.

I’m very excited to announce the first MileValue dinner since February on Saturday, October 19 at 8 PM in Los Angeles. (Cut me some slack–I haven’t been in the US since February.)

Like past MileValue dinners, this one will be:

  • Free, other than the cost of your meal.
  • Split checks, so we can all show off our credit cards.
  • Entrees around $14.
  • Limited to 30 people.
  • In the 90006 zip code at a delicious Mexican restaurant.
  • Open to people of all miles-knowledge levels.
  • Informational. There will be no prepared remarks, but I’ll answer all the questions that you may have about earning and redeeming miles or my recent travels.
  • Possibly full of secret info people won’t post online (and no, I won’t email it to people who can’t attend).
  • Social, a great chance to meet other people in this hobby in the Southern California area and talk travel.

Unlike past MileValue dinners, I’ve lined up some other awesome bloggers for the dinner:

If you want to join the fun, there is only one way to RSVP:

Email me.

Selfishly, I am limiting this event to 30 folks on a first come, first serve basis, so that I have a chance to meet everyone. Once you email me, I’ll get back to in a few days with the restaurant details.

I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar and new faces at the dinner. Remember there is only one way to RSVP for the dinner in Los Angeles at 8 PM on October 19: by emailing me.

If you don’t live in Los Angeles, hopefully I’ll see you next weekend at the Chicago Seminars!

Where should I host MileValue dinners in the future?

MileValue Reader Meetup at FTU DC!

If you’re going to the Frequent Traveler University this weekend, let’s meet up! At the last FTU meetup in Los Angeles, we were able to meet a ton of new people and put some faces to familiar names. Hopefully, we can engage some of our readers at this meetup too!

Although Scott will not be there, Bill & I (Tahsir) will be!

We scouted out a location that is rated highly by the locals and is also walking distance from the Hilton!

Upon choosing a suitable location, we decided on a casual place to get desserts and drinks over a sit-down restaurant.

Time: Saturday April 27th @ 7:30 PM

Location: Danielle’s Desserts. 1770 U. International Drive. Mclean VA 22102

Link to Dessert Bar

Meeting Point: We will meet at the lobby of the Hilton at 7:15 and take the 10 minute walk to the dessert bar!

Let us know if you can make it in the comments below or email us so we can gauge how many people to expect!

-Bill & Tahsir

 

Announcing Upcoming MileValue Dinners in Los Angeles, Tampa, and Baltimore

I’ve hosted two MileValue dinners in Los Angeles that were both a ton of fun and informative. I know I learned a lot at each one. Throw in some good, cheap food and a chance to meet other travelers or reconnect with people from the Chicago Seminars or an FTU and it’s a recipe for a great Saturday night.

If you haven’t been, MileValue dinners are very informal. We get a big table (or more than one at the last dinner with over 25 readers), and I try to move around and talk to everyone. The conversation buzzes with tips too sensitive to be released on blogs and forums and general travel talk.

I’m scheduling three more, with the details on two set.

Los Angeles: Saturday, January 26 at 7:00 PM

Not much advance notice, but I want to have one more in my former home town before I move to Argentina. The location will be the same as the other two in the 90006 zip code since the Oaxacan food has been such a hit at the first two. Email me, so I know how big of a reservation to make, and I’ll give you the exact location. Hopefully we can talk Amol from hackmytrip.com into coming again. If you live near LA and missed the first two, this is your last chance until at least October.

Tampa: Saturday, February 2

The time and location for this one are not set because I don’t know the city very well. Email me if you are interested in coming to this one, and I’ll email you back very soon with the location and time. If you have a suggestion for a cheap, delicious, centrally-located restaurant that won’t mind splitting a check many ways and won’t mind if our actual party size doesn’t match the reservation exactly, include that in your email.

Baltimore: Saturday, February 9 at 7 PM

Bill has picked a burger place in the 21230 zip code. Email me if you want to join us for a bite and points talk.

I can’t stress enough how much value there is in networking with other enthusiasts. You will earn more miles more easily, travel to more places for less money, and fly more comfortably with easier award searching if you don’t play the game alone.

If you email me about a dinner, don’t forget to tell me which one you’re coming to. I probably won’t reply until the week of the dinner.

Am I missing your city? Where should I have a MileValue dinner in 2013?

Bill’s Frequent Traveler University Report Card–First Timer Perspective

First, and most importantly, it was great to attend Frequent Traveler University hear all of the positive feedback about the blog. Scott has really created excitement over his creative oneway awards and expert routing knowlege. It’s a lot of fun to part of something special like this. I just hope to contribute a small fraction to MileValue now and in the future.

As I posted early Saturday morning, I didn’t really know what to expect in attending Frequent Traveler University. Scott was kind enough to invite me to Los Angeles, and I was excited to meet some of the folks I had regularly been communicating with to pick up a few new tricks. I certainly had some concrete goals I wanted to meet as well.

Let’s go to the report card and see how I fared in meeting all goals for the weekend:

Put faces to names. Solid B, though this grade should probably be a B-minus. Due to a work commitment, I was only able to hang out late Friday night and all of Saturday. Missing the Sunday sessions and conversations was frustrating, so hopefully I can attend all of Frequent Traveler University when it moves to Tysons Corner, Virginia next April. It was great to finally meet up with Scott and Tahsir in person. I was also able to briefly chat with Gary from View from the Wing and George from Travel Blogger Buzz. The next event should provide even better networking opportunities.

Learn from the masters. A-minus! Scott walked me through his impressive routing from South America to Europe via Africa. Tashir was able to give me some tips on booking a tricky award ticket for a family member to Trieste, Italy in April. I kept the pestering to a minimum, but their award travel advice was invaluable to me.

Pick up some tips on airline elite status. A-plus! The thought of losing Medallion status with Delta was terrifying, so I was determined to find a way to requalify. On the way to our great dinner at In-N-Out Burger on Saturday night, I picked the brain of the Frequent Miler. Along with his Saturday presentation on earning 5X points everywhere, he also offered some tips on amassing MQMs quickly in 2013. I can’t thank him enough for our chat. [Scott: I don't know the exact tips, but here is a FM post on Mileage Running from Home.]

Master the ins and outs of hotel programs. Respectable C-plus. My goal was to brush up on Hyatt’s program, so it was good that there was a special session hosted by Todd Tomlin, who works at Hyatt. He was a former manager in their Gold Passport frequent guest program, so I made sure not to miss his session. His speech was more marketing-oriented than anything, but he surprisingly delivered quite a few laughs. The fact that he took two (!) mileage runs to Shanghai, China over Thanksgiving week proves that he truly belongs with all of us mileage nuts.

He also showcased some of the soon to be opening Park Hyatts in China, India, and even New York City. Those slides drew some oohs and ahhs from the crowd.

Eat some In-N-Out Burger. A-Plus. The walk from the hotel was a bit rainy, but I had great company along the way. It was pretty amusing to see the horror on all the In-N-Out cashiers’ faces when we descended en masse on their registers. It was even better when the cashiers exclusively received Chase Sapphire cards as methods of payment. I ordered a Double-Double burger (Animal Style, of course) and my coveted root beer float. The food was incredible, but the plane-watching was even better. We missed out on the A380s which arrived earlier in the day, but the landings made a nice backdrop to the whole meal.

On a side note, it was remarkable to see the aviation enthusiasts easily identify each landing plane within seconds of spotting it. [Scott: I can spot three planes--747s, A380s, and 737s (if painted in Southwest livery), so he isn't referring to me.]

Swap Travel Stories. Scott is right on the mark. The best icebreaker with anyone at FTU is to ask, “Do you have any upcoming trips you’re excited about?” I just got back from a week in Kauai, and nearly every person I met had been there. It was pretty easy to carry out a lengthy conversation. I picked up some ideas and tips for my next big trip (debating on China or the Maldives) as well.

Again, I’m disappointed that I could only spend 36 hours in LA and had to miss all of the Sunday sessions, including Scott’s own about free oneways. Going for the entire weekend will be critical for the next FTU in April and the Chicago Seminars in October.

The burst pipe and lack of water on Saturday was actually pretty amusing. Someone remarked to me that they wouldn’t want to be in the hotel general manager’s position: staring at a hotel with no running water and 400 frequent travelers who know a thing or two about demanding politely requesting compensation.

Thanks again for the positive feedback that everyone shared about MileValue. It was great meeting every single one of you, and I look forward to doing more of that in April and October.

[Scott: Thanks, Bill, for the write up from the perspective of a first timer. I hope it helps anyone on the fence decide whether to attend a meet up like this for the first time. Once you do attend once, I think you'll be hooked.]

Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University Recap

This weekend I spoke at the Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University at the Sheraton Gateway LAX.

I drove the 25 minutes to the airport on Friday afternoon, getting in an hour before the cocktail party started. On Friday evening, no talks were scheduled–just a cocktail and cheese party with a brief open bar followed by a cash bar.

I spotted Gary Leff and introduced myself.

View From the Wing

As he put it, he is the only miles blogger whose boss is a more famous blogger, so we talked about the George Mason economics department and ethnic food for a few minutes.

During the cocktail party, I reunited with attendees of my Honolulu Seminar in July and my two dinners in Los Angeles. I met a reader who suggested a New Zealand meet up, saw some of my favorite bloggers, and talked tons of points. I even learned a few things from Tahsir about additional users on credit cards that I hope he’ll blog in the future.

By about ten o’clock the crowd was thinning, though I know people talked in the lobby and bar until past midnight. I went up to my room to wait for Bill‘s plane to land and start working on my presentation. When Bill arrived, past 1 AM his time, he was game to meet up with a dozen or more attendees who had gone to Culver City for a few drinks at Father’s Office, so we hit the town with Frequent Flyer University, Giddy for Points, and Just Another Points Traveler among others.

On Saturday, Bill went the morning presentations (hopefully he’ll post his take soon) while I spent the morning writing. I learned the big news of the day later than most when turning the handles in the bathroom produced nothing–the water on the block was out all day because of a burst pipe.

Saturday’s Water Supply

From my window, I watched all morning as a steady stream of hotel employees filled buckets in the pool to give the bathrooms some water.

I snuck down for lunch because the meals were my favorite part of the FTU. The meals are a time when everyone is swapping tips, travel stories, and ideas. My favorite question to ask people: “Do you have any upcoming trips you’re excited about?” That’s why we’re all in this, right?

Great LAX Views: Virgin Atlantic 747

I had to put the finishing touches on my presentation after lunch, but I got down to hear Randy Petersen talk about his predictions for mileage programs going forward. Since he spoke in code in some of his answers, I won’t repeat any of what he said, but it’s off-the-record talks like this that provide a lot of the value at a frequent-flyer conference.

Saturday’s program concluded at 5:15, and I had told everyone to meet at 6:30 in the lobby for In-N-Out. With time to kill, I walked to the nearest liquor store to grab a case of beer and to invite everyone up to my standard-sized room. We fit a dozen people in the room. Talk mostly centered on some of the premium cabin products that we had flown or had recently booked.

Most of the Impromptu Party in My “Presidential Suite”

Points to Point B had recently taken a shower on an Emirates A380, so he had the trump card.

View from my window: Globe or Tulip?

Thirty or so people gathered in the lobby to walk a mile to In-N-Out in the rain. The food got top marks from everyone, and afterwards we all made our way outside for plane spotting.

Planes were landing right over our heads. All the planes were either Southwest, regional jets, or Taiwanese airlines at that hour. Tahsir had the bright idea to snap a photo of the entire MileValue team together for the first time.

After dinner, it was time for bed, so I could wake up at the ungodly hour of 9:30 AM the next morning. People whose awards I’ve booked can definitely attest that if they receive an email in the morning, it was sent between midnight and 4 AM–I am a night owl.

One Mile at a Time

On Sunday, I spoke about adding free oneways to American, United, Delta, and US Airways awards under the title Three Vacations, Two Awards. I created a slide show based on my posts on the subject that I hoped would break down a complicated but valuable subject into something everyone could understand. (I will find a way to upload the presentation online for everyone to have.)

Seventy-five minutes flew by, and I couldn’t quite get through everything I wanted to cover. Luckily I have unlimited space on the blog to cover the topics, so expect to see more posts based on the talk.

Frequent Miler

After lunch, I finally got to see some talks. First I watched the Wandering Aramean go over some helpful tools in the mile world from his site, Expert Flyer, and Hipmunk. I haven’t investigated his tools or Hipmunk very much because they are more useful for people with status and mileage runners. But it was interesting to see what’s out there, and I may find myself using his tools in the future.

Next I hopped between Million Mile Secrets/Frequent Miler‘s talk on category bonuses and Steve Belkin’s talk on … everything. Daraius and Greg went back and forth on whether category bonuses “are worth it,” and I think they both basically agreed that they can be a nice boost, but they are not the main way to earn miles.

Daraius and Greg talk category bonuses

The conference wrapped up at 3:30, and a lot of folks rushed to fly out. Those of us who were driving hung around to have one last chance to talk with all the people we can normally only type to.

When most people had cleared out, Tahsir and I went to dinner with Daraius from Million Mile Secrets at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica.

Steve Belkin Describes His Exploits

The food was great and the company was better.

Tahsir and Daraius at Cha Cha Chicken

The dinner was a delicious end to the weekend, and Daraius is a really interesting person to talk to–whether you’re talking miles, marketing, or varieties of English.

Not Pictured: My Food. I Inhaled It Before Thinking to Snap a Photo

The whole weekend was a fantastic success. Everyone I spoke to learned a lot, met interesting people, got their $99 worth, and left energized to earn and burn more miles. One person who deserves a lot of credit for that is Tommy Danielsen, one of the organizers. He was so busy keeping everything running smoothly that this was the best picture I could get.

Probably the best picture of Tommy taken this weekend–he was in constant motion.

Recap

The LAX FTU was a great event. The talks, the people, and the venue combined for a fun weekend. If you have a chance to go to a future seminar, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The next FTU is coming up April 26 – 28 in the Northern Virginia (DCA/IAD) area.

My First Frequent Traveler University!

I have to say, the journey to Frequent Traveler University has been a long strange one. I first “discovered” this hobby about five years ago. A small finance blog (now long defunct) casually mentioned the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card as a great addition to anyone’s wallet, and the ball rolled from there. I then accidentally tripped over FlyerTalk and was initially overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise it contained.

After perusing FlyerTalk, I started following one travel blog (incidentally, the Frugal Travel Guy). One travel blog in Google Reader became three which eventually ballooned to ten. You get the idea. What was once a casual hobby and talking point became a full time passion.

When I really got serious and began banking miles through flying, promos like the US Airways Grand Slam, and credit card sign ups, I starting hearing about the Chicago Seminars. The blogs I followed posted about how great they were, but didn’t offer much as to what was discussed at the conference.  At the time, it seemed like an exclusive club where the “elites” of the point collecting world met up to swap old war stories and share new tricks & tips.

As time passed, I realized Chicago and other similar events (Mega-DOs and Frequent Traveler University) were much simpler. They were excellent places for both rookies and veterans alike to congregate. Everyone, even those who had been at this for decades, stood to learn something new and meet someone new.

I’m extremely excited for Frequent Traveler University in Los Angeles this weekend. I will be cramming quite a bit of learning and networking into 36 short hours. That’s fine; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thought it would be good to chronicle my expectations going into the weekend and see how they fared after wrapping up at Frequent Traveler University. Here are my main goals:

Put faces to names. I’ve communicated many times with Scott via email, Skype, and phone, but this is the first time we have met face to face.  It will be good to discuss the long term goals of the blog and new ideas we can implement in 2013.  I’m pretty excited.

It will also be good to meet Gary from View from the Wing and Ben from One Mile at a Time. We have swapped many emails over the past five years, but they were the two who got me going in this, so it will be nice to finally give a proper thank you. Their advice has been truly invaluable.

Learn from the masters. Scott is giving a talk on free oneways on Sunday morning. I unfortunately have to leave early, but I would be foolish not to take advantage of his and Tashir’s knowledge. I know these guys run the best award booking service on the internet. They know the most obscure routing rules on almost every carrier and can turn an ordinary vacation into a dream trip. Booking award tickets is something I need to get better at…..I plan on asking lots of questions!

Pick up some tips on airline elite status. I’m a Delta Gold Medallion, but starting in 2013, I will have no status at all. This proposition is pretty painful, so I’m looking to get status back quickly with very limited time to mileage run. Hopefully I can pick up some tips on quickly becoming a Medallion member once again.

Master the ins and outs of hotel programs. I will begin writing the valuations for hotel points in the near future, but want to really fine tune my knowledge of the ins and outs of each program before I delve in. Hyatt’s Gold Passport program is not an area I am as well versed in as the others, but there will be plenty of fiercely loyal Hyatt experts who can catch me up to speed.

Eat some In & Out Burger. As Scott mentioned earlier this week, we will be walking or cabbing to the nearest In & Out Burger for a casual meet up with fellow Frequent Travelers. Living on the East Coast can be difficult when you love their food as much as I do. The fact that the location offers a great vantage point for plane watching is just icing on the cake. I plan on ordering a Double Double “Animal Style” with a root beer float. God bless their secret menu!

Most importantly, though, I can’t wait to swap travel stories. Points and miles, remember, are simply means to an end. Flying first class and staying in luxury hotels is great, but it’s what you do outside of that that defines your vacation. As a huge fan of Spain and Argentina, I’m looking forward to hearing others impressions and gathering some tips for myself. I am also planning a big vacation to Asia (never been!) next year. Who’s going to steer me in the right direction?

After Frequent Traveler University wraps up, I plan on posting about how my expectations differed from the reality of the event. Hopefully that post will help you decide whether to come to a similar conference if you’re on the fence.

I’m sure it will be a great time and incredible learning experience. Be sure to check back here next week for my conclusions.

LAX FTU Meet Ups

I am speaking at the Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University (LAX FTU) this weekend. On Sunday from 10:30 – 11:45 AM, my talk will be Three Vacations, Two Awards: Adding a Free Oneway to Award Tickets.

Several people have emailed me asking if I’m planning any sort of meet up, so I had a great idea: dinner Saturday night at 7 PM at the legendary In-N-Out Burger, walking distance from the Sheraton Gateway LAX.

The program on Saturday wraps up at 6 PM, so come meet up with Tahsir, Bill, and me in the lobby at 6:30 PM to walk over to the In-N-Out, which is 0.9 miles away. This would also be the place to find people to split a $6 cab over if you prefer to ride.

If you haven’t ever eaten at In-N-Out, it’s an iconic fast food chain on the west coast that serves fresh burgers and fresh fries, cut in view, along with some of the best milkshakes out there. You might also want to bone up on its secret menu.

Comment on this post if you want to join Bill, Tahsir, and me for dinner.

The rest of my plans for the weekend?

Show up early on Friday–probably before 3 PM to beat the traffic–and hang around the hotel.

Go to the Friday night party.

Go to the hotel bar after the In-N-Out dinner on Saturday.

Hang around after the program ends on Sunday until I’m one of the last people there!

Look for a tall guy in a red shirt (pics from Chicago), and you’ll find me. Please come say hi. And if you can’t find me and want to, tweet @MileValue.

Bill and Tahsir should also be wearing the MileValue t-shirt at least some of the time, so hopefully they’re easy to spot too.

I’m looking forward to meeting everyone. Now to finish this presentation…

Forum Buzz: American Airlines Buy Miles Bonus, Southwest to Puerto Rico

American Airlines Escalating Bonus on Miles Purchases

According to this post on MilePoint, through November 15th American Airlines is offering up to 12,000 bonus miles when you purchase AAdvantage miles. The maximum number of miles you can purchase in a calendar year (and also through this promotion) is 40,000.

To purchase, follow this link and input your AAdvantage information.

As you can see from the terms and conditions page below, the highest bonus is earned when you purchase between 36,000-40,000 miles. You will receive 12,000 bonus miles.

The “sweet spot” of this promotion is purchasing exactly 36,000 miles. Buying this amount will net you a total of 48,000 AAdvantage miles for $1,099.25. You will be getting miles for 2.29 cents per mile. If you purchase the maximum 40,000 miles, you will still get 12,000 bonus miles but the cost per mile jumps to 2.34 cents.

Using the Mile Value Leaderboard, you can see that Scott values American miles at 1.77 cents. AAdvantage has solid online award availability (including partners British, Hawaiian, Qantas, airberlin, and Alaskan) and also allows free oneways on award travel. For more information, make sure to check out the full post, How Much is an AAdvantage Mile Worth? The Value of American Airlines Miles Part 2.

Obviously miles purchased through this promotion are more expensive than we value them. However, if you have a specific redemption in mind and this deal allows you to reach that milestone, then this promotion could make sense for some. I would not speculatively buy AAdvantage miles outright like I did for the recently concluded US Airways share miles promo. For more information on that, read Buy US Airways Miles for 1.1 Cents Through 100% Share Mile Bonus.

Southwest Announces Service to Puerto Rico, Hawaii Next?

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Southwest has announced service to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Southwest will have three daily flights from Orlando (MCO) and one from Tampa Bay (TPA.) The airline is also holding a special $99 oneway promotion from to celebrate this new service. Details on that deal can be found on Southwest’s official page here.

Though AirTran, which recently announced it would be merging with Southwest, already services San Juan from several cities, the Orlando and Tampa routes will be exclusively handled by Southwest.

This is an important step for Southwest for several reasons. First, FlyerTalkers have confirmed that the Companion Pass does indeed work with this route. Earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year gains you the coveted Companion Pass. With the pass, you can book any Southwest flight and have a designated friend or family member fly with you for nearly free. They must only pay the nominal September 11th security fees which are a maximum of $10.00 per roundtrip.

The Puerto Rico route greatly enhances the value of the Companion Pass and Rapid Rewards points as a whole.

Southwest’s expansion into Puerto Rico is also an important first step for eventual flights to Hawaii. I first discussed Southwest’s intentions to enter the Hawaiian market here and here. If Hawaii is next on Southwest’s route map, the value of the Companion Pass and Rapid Rewards points will grow even more.

Frequent Traveler University Tickets Now On Sale

As I mentioned in a post last week, Forum Buzz: Frequent Traveler University Dates Announced, the popular miles and points seminar Frequent Traveler University (or FTU) will be taking place April 26-28 in Tysons Corner, Virginia, a Washington DC suburb.

Registration for the event is now open and tickets can be purchased here.

This is an excellent event to meet up with fellow travelers and mile enthusiasts as well as hear presentations from your favorite bloggers. Scott will actually be speaking at the The FTU in Los Angeles from November 30-December 2 at the Sheraton LAX, which is now sold out. He will be covering free oneway awards on the major domestic carriers. For more information on his presentation, read MileValue to Speak at the Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University.

Recap

The American Airline bonus for purchasing miles is not worth it if you simply are trying to boost your AAdvantage account. The miles earned through this promotion are simply more than our valuation. Buying miles is less expensive than normal with the bonus, but not a suitable price for outright speculative purchases.

Southwest’s expansion into Puerto Rico is great news for Rapid Rewards members. These new routes are eligible for the Companion Pass, and this clears the way for more overwater destinations. Southwest could soon begin flights to Hawaii, creating an even better group of destinations for leisure travelers.

Frequent Traveler University tickets for the April 26-28, 2013 are now officially on sale. If you want to learn some great tricks and tips from experts and meet some like-minded travelers, this is the place to be.

Forum Buzz: New Hilton Option in Las Vegas & 2013 Frequent Flyer University Date Announced

Tropicana Las Vegas Rebranded as a DoubleTree hotel

According to this thread on FlyerTalk and this article in USA Today, the Tropicana Las Vegas is being rebranded as a DoubleTree hotel. This change finally allows Hilton HHonors members the ability to earn and redeem points while staying on the Las Vegas Strip. Previously, the only Hilton options were the Hilton Grand Vacation Suites and the Grand Vacation Suites at the Flamingo. Both of these properties are slightly off the Strip.

Hilton also has a hotel, the Elara, adjacent to the Miracle Mile and Planet Hollywood that allows guests to earn points but not to redeem them for award nights.

The Tropicana Hotel is scheduled to open as a Hilton property sometime in December and is not currently accepting reservations through Hilton’s website. I attempted to make a dummy booking to check paid and award rates but was not allowed.

Currently, neither Starwood nor Hyatt has on-Strip properties. Starwood lost Planet Hollywood in early 2010. Marriott allows redemptions at the Cosmopolitan resort for 35,000 points a night.

I mention rival  chains because the DoubleTree will be a rare Vegas Strip hotel where elite status will be recognized. HHonors members should receive bonus points, complimentary internet, free breakfast, and space available upgrades depending on their status level. Gold members should receive the benefits below.

Diamond members will receive even more benefits, including breakfast and points, though it remains to be seen if this hotel will have a dedicated Executive floor.

According to the official hotel website, the DoubleTree will be assigned as a category 5 hotel, so it will take 35,000 HHonors points to redeem for one night.

The Hilton award chart is notoriously top heavy, meaning most hotels fall in the more expensive categories (4-7). There are very few properties in the lower tiers compared to the higher categories.

With rates at the Tropicana most likely falling in $70-$150 range, it will probably be best to book rooms with cash. Redeeming points even at $150 yields only 0.41 cents per point in value. I arrived at this number by dividing $150 by 36,500 (35,000 it costs for an award night plus the 1,500 base points that I forewent by not booking with cash).

Hilton has some great luxury properties,  including the Hilton Bora Bora Nui resort and Conrad Koh Samui in Thailand for 50,000 points a night. Standard rooms at these properties can be over $700. Though I would never pay that much for a room, I would value rooms at these hotels at around $275/night. Using this valuation, I would be redeeming points at  0.55 cents.

When you also take into account how many great hotel deals there are in Las Vegas–mid-Strip, mid-week at Imperial Palace is usually $40–along with the aspirational properties in Hilton’s portfolio, it will probably  be better to save your points for another vacation.

As loyal readers know, I am not usually big on hotel rewards programs and can usually get a better deal using Priceline. For more details on how I go about that, check out my post on the subject, Saving Hundreds on Hotels with Priceline.

Dates Announced for 2013 Frequent Traveler University

According to this thread on MilePoint, dates for the 2013 Frequent Traveler University have been set. The event will take place at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner from April 26-28.

Frequent Traveler University (or FTU) is a great place to meet other bloggers and mingle with like-minded points and miles enthusiasts. There will be several talks and breakout sessions hosted by prominent bloggers on topics ranging from hotel elite status to mileage running tips.

I had a blast at the Chicago Seminars earlier this month and am very excited to be speaking at the Los Angeles FTU (November 30-December 2) about Three Vacations, Two Awards–free oneways on awards.

Though the Los Angeles event is sold out, you should definitely mark your calendars for the 2013 FTU in Virginia. As mentioned by Gary Leff, organizer and View from the Wing blogger, these events are great f0r picking up tips and tricks that aren’t publicized on the message boards or blogs. They also provide networking opportunities with fellow travelers and bloggers.

Recap

The Las Vegas Strip is seriously lacking properties from the major hotel chains. With Hilton’s addition of the Tropicana, travelers can now earn and redeem Hilton HHonors points while visiting Las Vegas. The ability to receive recognition as a Hilton elite member via room upgrades, late check out, and free internet only sweetens the deal.

Dates are set for the 2013 Frequent Traveler University from April 26-28 in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Though sign-up details haven’t been announced, be sure to mark your calendars now and check back here for more information. Tickets are expected to sell quickly. This is one points-and-miles meet up that you don’t want to miss!