Daddy Duty

Sleep, Eat, Diaper Change. Repeat.

Christmas Farm Inn could be so much more

I happened to be browsing the latest Groupon Getaways and was intrigued by a listing for the Christmas Farm Inn located in Jackson, New Hampshire. In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of Christmas.  I break out all of the lights, multiples trees, tinsel, garland, the works. So, when I came across the listing, I began to salivate at a year round Christmas experience.  Carols, gingerbread, Santa, and snow would probably have gotten me to sit on a plane 5 hours to check it out.

 

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However, in reviewing the hotel’s website, they only go as far as naming the rooms in an Xmas theme. Really?  If you’re going to be called the Christmas Farm Inn, then do it right and give guests the full experience.  That’d be something worth travelling for.  After reviewing their pictures, I have no reason to visit now. What a disappointment.

In addition to this deal, I was also interested in the:

  • $3,127 11 day tour and safari with airfare to South Africa
  • $1,999 6 day tour with Airfare, Hotels, and activities to Tahiti
  • $1,369 13 Day China Tour including meals and accommodations, but no airfare

Although those are decent prices on their own, one of the main reasons I shop the Groupon travel packages is that you can get 15% cash back from Discover if you use a Discover card and purchase by first going through the ShopDiscover shopping portal. If you don’t know how to do this, ask I’ll be glad to help.  This “rebate” is the only reason I carry a Discover card.  With JJ, we’re still passing on a lot of travel, but looking at the pictures and deals allows me to dream about where we may go next!

In case  you missed this Time article, one of the keys to happy travel is to keep them short and sweet.

P.S. I tend to write these posts in the middle of the night whenever JJ gives me a free moment. I mention this because I’ve noticed a few typos and other errors in my past few posts and wanted to apologize.  Funny enough, I’m actually quite picky with my English. Nonetheless, I will try to muster some extra strength to keep my eyes open to see what I’m typing.

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One Expensive Valentine’s Day (almost)

I almost charged $100,000 today at Nordstrom.com. I haven’t won the lottery and this is far from my typical spending, however, had the deal worked as I had planned, I would have ponied up without a heartbeat. Since it didn’t work out, I’m writing this post to give you a peek into some of the crazy thinking that goes on inside my head and to prepare you to take advantage of the next deal that comes around. I apologize in advance as this will get pretty long, but I promise the information and thought process is worth its weight in Gold, with a capital G!  _________________________________________________________________________________

NOTE: As this is one of my longer posts, I think it’d be fair to provide a brief synopsis of this post so you don’t waste your time if you’re not interested. This is a post about my latest hobby: airline miles. If you’ve talked to me recently, I’m sure I’ve talked your ear off about this deal or that deal. I know some of you are interested in it and some are not.  I’m not here to convince you either way, but I am expressing my view on them and how and what I do with them.   I’m passionate about them and I know I go on and on in person, so let me apologize officially.  I apologize in advance for all of my miles talk in the past, present and future. If I’m talking your ear off in person and you’re not interested, please stop me. I’m a big boy and won’t get my feelings hurt. It’s just I truly love airline miles.Smile   _________________________________________________________________________________

This all came about because Nordstrom was trying to drum up business with its online shopping partner British Airways (BA) for Valentine’s Day.  To do this, they were offering triple BA miles on the normal offer of 12 BA miles per dollar spent at Nordstrom.com, so 36 miles per dollar spent between 26 January and 14 February 2012. On a VERY conservative valuation of $.01/point, you were basically receiving a minimum of a 36% rebate on all of your purchases.

There are few times when a big retailer with quality merchandise offers at least 36% off of everything, including handbags and cosmetics that NEVER go on sale. As the deal stood, it would have been worthwhile to buy whatever you needed and maybe a few items you wanted if you liked to travel.  Wedding/birthday/anniversary/shower gifts etc were all going through my head as well as necessities and a few splurges.

To give you an idea of how to do this deal, you need to know a couple of numbers to make an example. A. 4,500 BA miles will get you a one way on a short-haul flight (think LAS-LAX or DFW-IAH) and B. you are receiving 36 miles per dollar spent.  Therefore, for every $125 you spend, you get a 1 way short haul ticket. For example, you could’ve bought 3 pairs of Tom’s at $44/paid and received enough miles for this one way ticket. Without the promotion, you would just pay $132 + tax for the 3 pairs of shoes and all you would have are shoes. However, this way, you get the same shoes and a free ticket.

One item my wife and I were considering was the Bugaboo Bee stroller for $699.00. Obviously, it’s a lot for a stroller, but it NEVER goes on sale and with the 25,164 ($699*36miles/$) miles thrown in, enough for a round-trip from Los Angeles to Hawaii, the numbers were starting to make sense.

Many in the miles community bought a couple of hundred dollars of necessities and the more well-heeled may have spent thousands and were happy with this miles rebate at face value. Others saw this opportunity and purchased items speculatively to sell the items on Ebay/Craigslist at a discount to keep the miles.

However, in thinking about this promotion, I wanted to MAXIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY! Here’s how:

Step 1. Buy $100,000 worth of stuff, anything, from Nordstrom.com (jewelry and handbags appealed to me as they were expensive, small and lightweight.)

Step 2. Return the items for merchandise credit/gift card. NOTE: I’m not returning them for credit back to my credit card as the miles would have been taken back.

Step 3. I would then sell the gift cards to ABC GiftCards, CardPool, or  Plastic Jungle for 87% of face value. (P.S. If you ever need to buy/sell a gift card, check Gift Card Granny to see the best rates on multiple sites)

Step 4. Pay back my credit card using the proceeds I have received from selling the gift cards and begin planning my travels.

For going through the trouble, here’s the math and what I’d receive:

Math

Basically $14,053 for 3,600,000 British Airways miles and 108,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (I would’ve used my AMEX Platinum as it doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit. They’re very useful in situations like this!  Get yours here!

So, what’s 3,600,000 BA miles good for?

17 First class tickets on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, retail $340,000

OR

36 Business class tickets JFK to Buenos Aires on American airlines, retail $180,000

OR

144 Economy tickets on American from Los Angeles to Honolulu, retail $72,000

OR

Any combination of the above or pretty much anywhere in the world thanks to British Airways OneWorld partner airlines. The gist is, 3.6 million miles can allow you and your family to travel almost anywhere in the world in the utmost comfort for a smidgeon of the retail cost.

In the end, the promotion was pulled early, although it was supposed to go on through Valentine’s Day. It’s likely that the 36 BA miles per $ was simply too rich resulting in an overwhelmed and over-budgeted marketing department. I got a small order of necessities through in time, however I didn’t get a chance to hit the home run on this one and ensure years of first class travel for my family.

Key Takeaways:

  • Promotions come and go. Even though this one ended, there will be something similar in the future with another store or product. In the past I’ve bought ridiculous amounts of pudding, cheese, shipping labels, etc that offered miles more value than the product’s internal value.
  • By being creative, anyone can travel at prices they can afford. Most people instinctively book tickets online or with a travel agent hoping to get the lowest price available. Miles and points are the key to the absolute lowest (and sometimes free) tickets.
  • You have to be prepared to pull the trigger and go All In for maximum results
  • Think Big.
  • Be financially responsible and only spend what you can afford. $14,000 is as much $ to me as it is to anyone, but it’s a value play. If you have more or less to spend, stick to your budget whatever it is. As you learn the finer nuances of the miles “game,” you’ll learn how you can sell the 3,600,000 miles and could have actually made money doing this in case you didn’t want to travel. Again, being conservative, by going through the “hassle” of the numbers above, I could’ve easily brokered the miles for a $30,000+ profit (3,600,000 miles*1.3 cents/mile= $46,800 – $14,053 cost of miles= $32,747 profit for a couple of hours of “work”)

Although I didn’t do a big points haul on this particular deal, it’s worth noting that I actively seek out these types of opportunities and am happy to share them and help you with them as they arise. I will try to verify them to some degree first so as not to send you into uncharted territory. In case you didn’t know, I love to travel.  Luxury travel is even better. By taking advantages of deals like this, my family and I are able to travel anywhere at anytime for fractions of retail. It’s been nothing but good for us and I hope it helps you too! I truly look forward to showing JJ the world and seeing his eyes light up and smile as he continues to experience everything the world has to offer! For the record, JJ has already been to China, Korea, and Mexico while in the womb!

That said, let me know if you are interested in posts like this.  I’ll take a look at the traffic and make a guess, but in the future, I think I’ll be adding some family travel posts (Packing with a baby, inflight tips, baby mileage accounts/deals) Any questions, ask away…

POTENTIAL QUESTIONS:

How would you have paid the $100,000 credit card bill?

I’m not sure what amount I really would have done with this promotion. I’m using $100,000 as a nice round example for illustrative purposes. That said, in this example, I’d only be out $14,053 for cycling the money this way because I would’ve paid the credit card company

What are the miles really worth?

It really depends on what they are used for. If I were offered the opportunity to buy BA miles outright, I’d be willing to pay somewhere around 1.3 cents/mile. However, I’d do that on the assumption that I would obviously redeem for more than this. Taking Los Angeles to Hong Kong round-trip for examples in First Class, the ticket retails for $20,000 or you could use 210,000 miles. If you used miles, they’d be worth over 9.5 cents a piece.  On a cheaper flight, say Los Angeles to Las Vegas or Houston to Dallas round-trip, tickets are regularly around $200 or you could use 9,000 BA miles, effectively valuing the miles  at just over 2.2 cents a piece. The value is very relative, but in both examples much more than the 1.3 cents I proposed buying them at.

Isn’t it hard to book award tickets (availability, taxes, etc)?

It’s obviously easier to buy tickets.  However, with a little planning and patience, I can always get where I need to go.  There are tricks of the trade and even software (Expert Flyer/KVS Tool) that help search availability.  It’s a bit of a learning curve to really learn how to book award tickets, so in case you don’t want to learn, there are award ticket booking Wizards/Gods, who only book tickets with miles for a living.  As a miles guy, I enjoy that this myth exists in society as it means less competition for the seats and points deals. I’m sharing my tricks with you because I like you! Smile

Is this scamming Nordstrom?

Remember, Nordstrom received $100,000 from me. Even though I converted the money into a gift card/merchandise credit at the store and will sell it, Nordstrom still received my initial $100,000. The only thing Nordstrom loses is where to book the sale in its accounting when the sale is actually made by my gift card buyer. They will have a liability on their books to honor the gift card until it’s been used, but they have received the money for it up front. In theory, they’re even able to make money on the float.

My family’s on a budget and we can’t spend $100,000 on miles.  What’s the point of this post?

One of my favorite bloggers, MommyPoints, explains how to do this promotion in some detail here when you’re on a budget or looking for travel with a family slant.  The gist is to simply buy the necessities.  Even $100 in this promotion was worthwhile.

If you’re a Wal-Mart shopper that will shop nowhere other than Wal-Mart, then almost none of the promotions I talk about will work for you.  As MommyPoints pens, “you can find items cheaper at Wal-Mart or Target, but if you were going to buy things in this price range anyway, now is a good time to do it. If you only want to buy items at Target prices, then just skip this deal. I love Target, but I like buying some higher quality items to mix in as well. It’s all personal preference.”

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