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The Best Credit Cards for Travel

Blog posts come to me all the time.  Most of the time it is because I've had a funny travel experience that I wish no one else had experience.  Today, I want to provide you with a few simple travel tips to help you with you save money when traveling.  

You may ask, how can you save money when traveling if you're talking about credit cards?  The answer is simple. When you use the right credit card you save money on possible interest and foreign transaction fees.  Follow these simple steps to get the most when using credit cards during your travels:

1.  Know Your End Game.  Think about what you are trying to accomplish.  You want to travel and enjoy your trip and not have to worry about your personal bank account being compromised.  That's the real reason we should use credit cards, to give us a secured account to use, so that our personal bank account is not compromised. Therefore, you should leverage this new account to the best of your abilities.  What are you planning to do later in the year?  Are you planning to go on a Disney Cruise or a relaxing stay in Hawaii?  If you think about your future plans you can get a credit card that will provide you with points/miles/credit towards a future trip.  I have friends that always cruise with Royal Caribbean.  They use their Royal Caribbean credit card for almost all their purchases and as a result they receive hundreds of dollars off their cruises.

I recommend that you sign up for the hotel and airline travel programs even if you don't travel often. We have gold status with Hilton, Marriott and Starwood.  Before I made status with any hotel I signed up and made sure the front desk knew I was a loyal member when I checked in.  That may help me get an upgrade.  

If you are interested in becoming a Hilton Honors member here's my referral link.  

2.  Pick a card that is going to offer no foreign transaction fees.

If you are traveling overseas you need to have credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees.  I usually tell people to leave their debit cards at home to avoid risk of losing them or getting them skimmed and have at least two credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees.  Bill and I travel often so we use our American Express Platinum cards.  Unfortunately, American Express is not always accepted due to their higher transaction fees, so I also travel with a Capital One card and my USAA World Visa Card. Those cards will charge you the price of the item in US dollars.  Usually, it will be slightly higher than if you use a currency converter app.

Here's a link to sign up for an American Express Platinum Card. I recommend the card if you travel a lot.  They have lounge access, concierge services, hotel status and more.  

3.  Pick a card with high rewards - but make sure it is paid on time.

I must admit, I've fallen into the trap of getting a credit card and using it for all my purchases and then at the end of the month the credit card bill was more than my paycheck (I'm thankful for my mom and dad for helping me pay off that college credit card).  When you get a rewards card often it will come with annual fees and higher interest.  Therefore, it's in your best interest to pay it off quickly.

Use these tips and you are your way to having a safe, secure, and enjoyable vacation.

Aloft Hotel a Great Downtown Stay

Aloft Hotel a Great Downtown Stay

Many times when people visit Orlando they only consider hotels in the attractions area or in the convention center area but, there are some nice hotel options in the downtown area to think about. The Aloft Hotel in downtown Orlando is a nice place to stay at and has an modern look and feel. It is also within walking distance to restaurants, bars, a movie theater, the Amway Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. It is also a great location for business travelers being in the heart of downtown Orlando. It also has art from a local gallery on it walls that creates a great atmosphere. When stating there you should request a room with a view of the Dr. Phillips Center (Great view).

The room accommodations are very modern and spacious with views of the Dr. Phillips Center and downtown.

Another unique thing about the hotel is that it has an actual art gallery on the lower level.

The hotel also has an outdoor pool and patio.

Aloft hotel is a great place to stay at if you are visiting Orlando. Give it a try!

 

Aloft Hotel

500 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

(407) 380-3500

Rosen Center: A Great Hotel Stay Near the Convention Center

Rosen Center: A Great Hotel Stay Near the Convention Center

We had the opportunity to stay at the Rosen Center Hotel in Orlando connected to the Orange County Convention  Center and it was an enjoyable time. First off, the proximity to the convention center is great, you can walk to all areas of the Convention Center easily and if you are going to the West Concourse then you never even have to go outside.

The hotel is impressive upon your drive up and entry into the lobby. The lobby is spacious and at the same time very easy to navigate.

The common areas of the hotel are also very easy to navigate and offer a number of amenities such as a lobby bar and a number of restaurants and eating areas.

The hotel also offers a spa and a really nice outdoor pool.

The hotel also has great meeting rooms in all sizes and plenty of conference registration areas.

The hotel had great accommodations and an outstanding location. If you are looking for a place to stay in the convention center area then you should definitely consider the Rosen Center.

Rosen Center Hotel

9840 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819 (407) 996-9840

http://www.rosencentre.com/

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

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If you are a frequent hotel guest then last week's announcement from Starwood hotels should make you pretty happy. Starwood hotels announced that at 10 of their hotels Starwood Preferred Guests would be able to enter their hotel rooms without a room key. The new system SPG Wireless, works thru a smart phone app that will also allow you to skip the entire check in process at the front desk and complete everything with your phone. The system is now available at Aloft, Element and W hotels in 10 cities worldwide in markets like Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles and Doha and hopefully Orlando. Starwood has plans to expand the system to more of its hotel family in early 2015. Check out this video to see how it works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6yb2TprJkc

 

Getting Great Hotel Rooms

Getting Great Hotel Rooms

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This summer Bill and I took a wonderful vacation to Paris.  It was très magnifique! One of the highlights of our trip was the Eiffel Tower view.  It was great to wake up and see the Eiffel Tower from our room and so romantic to come back to our hotel room after a day of sightseeing and see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night.  

 The view from our hotel room in Paris.  it was a great hotel room!

The view from our hotel room in Paris. it was a great hotel room!

How did we get such a fabulous room?  No, I didn’t have an employee hook up or platinum status with the hotel chain.  Here are a few tips that you can use to get you a great hotel room without costing you extra money.

  1. Do your homework. Look at the options for hotel rooms before you get to the hotel.  Upgraded rooms may be bigger or have certain features (like views of the Epcot fireworks, bath robes, slippers, special bath tubs or showers).  The hotel website will usually will show you other options.  If you like a certain type of room book it to ensure you receive it.  Remember, hotels always have more double rooms (or two beds) than kings, if you are planning to attend a meeting and the hotel will be sold out, book your room early and request the room type you want early.
  2. Be pleasant when you get to the counter.   Ask how the reservation agent is doing.  Once you give your information, share my favorite line, “I will be glad to take any complimentary upgrades that you may have.”  Usually, because I am pleasant the reservationist finds a nice room for me – and it is complementary.
  3. Get a credit card with rewards and perks. Because I travel so much I like the benefits of the American Express Platinum credit card.  This card has a lot of benefits, including complimentary upgrades at hotels, enrollment as a gold member for Hilton Honors and Starwood Rewards.  This gives me free Wifi and early check in and late checkout.  I have a friend with the American Express Platinum card and he contacts the card concierge to make sure his room is upgraded prior to his arrival.  There are other credit cards to check out for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Barclaycard Arrival Plus.
  4. Sign up for the hotel’s frequent stay program. The hotel will make accommodations for their faithful customers.  If I am planning to stay at a hotel and I am not a member of the hotel chain’s frequent stay program I will sign up.  When I check in to the hotel I always ask the reservation agent (before they assign my room), “do you have my reward number attached to my reservation.”  This alerts them that I am at least interested in staying at the hotel chain again, so they will do their best to make my experience great.  When you sign up for the hotel program include your preferences.
  5. Ask for what you want. If you want a type of room, be bold enough ask for it.  It doesn’t hurt to say, “do you have a suite available. Or can I have a room on the concierge floor?”  All he or she can say is yes or no.  Remember, you are the customer and the hotel wants you to have a pleasant stay (and return).

Use these tips to get a great hotel room!  We want to hear from you.  Tell us your hotel tips.

 Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

 Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort: A Great Luxury Stay Near Disney!

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort: A Great Luxury Stay Near Disney!

When visiting Orlando the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort is a great luxury hotel in a great location, in the Bonnet Creek area - close to Walt Disney World. The hotel has has a luxurious accommodations and amenities with the beautiful surroundings of the Bonnet Creek area. The hotel has a 10 acre lake behind it and has wooded areas surrounding the perimeter of the property.

The lobby is a beautiful place with great decor and a wonderful view of the adjacent lake behind the hotel. Upon entering you may notice a large compass design inlaid into the floor. The compass is part of the hotels theme. The hotel has a Ponce de Leon theme,  since he is credited with first discovering Florida in 1521. The compass is a navigational symbol that had to be used on his journey to arrive here. When moving throughout the hotel you will notice the theme recurring over and over again.

When staying at the Wyndham you will notice the nicely decorated and appointed guest rooms. The room amenities include 40" flat screen TV's, wireless internet, bathrobes, 24 hour room service and a refrigerator in each room. If you are looking for an extremely luxorious stay then the Presidential Suite should suit you well.

 

Guests at the hotel can also enjoy the relaxing Blue Harmony Spa, exercise at their well equipped fitness center, or play 18 holes of Championship Golf at the Waldorf-Astoria Golf Club. If your a more daring visitor you can stop by the concierge and book an Airboat ride, hot air ballooning, kayaking or even bass fishing.

The hotel is also home to one of the most decorated dining experiences in Orlando Deep Blu Seafood Grill. The restaurant specializes in fresh Atlantic seafood along with outstanding sushi choices as well. The decor and atmosphere is excellent for an intimate dinner for two. If you are looking for a more laid back meal then you can always eat lake side at the Back Bay Pool Bar and Grill, where you can enjoy some great twists on grilled classic dishes. If you like Italian fare you can also dine at  Tsoro Cove. The restaurant serves all the classic Italian dishes with love.

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort also offers free shuttles to the parks and to the outlet malls. The Wyndham Grand Resort offers all the luxury amenities you could want with a great location, definitely a great place to stay if your visiting Orlando!

New Hotel on the Horizon: Sapphire Falls at Universal

New Hotel on the Horizon: Sapphire Falls at Universal

Universal has started construction on it's fifth hotel which will open up in summer 2016, Sapphire Falls. The new hotel will add another 1,000 hotel rooms to the Universal properties. The hotel will have a Caribbean theme with a colorful lagoon and waterfall. The hotel will be operated by Loews and will be a resort property with with leisure amenities such as a large resort pool, children's play area, beach area, full service restaurant, outdoor fire pit and over 130,000 square feet of meeting space. Sapphire Falls will be connected to the parks by shuttle and water taxi along with a pedestrian bridge to Universal City Walk area. Like the other four hotels on Universal property guests will be able to access the parks earlier than other park visitors. The hotel will begin taking reservations in Spring 2015. Stay tuned for updates and information as construction progresses!

First Look: B Resort and Spa

First Look: B Resort and Spa

The Downtown Disney Area has welcomed a new hotel: The B Resort and Spa. The resort has only been open a couple of weeks and still has some final touches to complete so this post is just a first look but we like what we see so far and hope you do also! Stay tuned in the next month or so and we will post in depth about the property. Right now I will share a few observations and notes about the property.

  • I really like the art work and contemporary furniture throughout the property, it has a really modern atmosphere.
  • The resort also has a saltwater pool that looks like a lot of fun!
  • I specifically want to highlight the main restaurant AmericanQ! It looks like a wonderful place with some really unique touches, like the Flatbed Buffet and the restaurant is themed around barbecue throughout the Americas!

Hilton Releases Amazing New Digital Check-in and Room Customization

Hilton Releases Amazing New Digital Check-in and Room Customization

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My wife and are are Hilton Honors Gold members and it was our delight to hear this exciting news! Like many other things nowadays you will be able to control hotel stays through your phone. Hilton has now made it available for Hilton Honors members prior to arrival for a booked stay choose their room from floor plans of available hotel room inventory. So now you can pick the exact room that you wish to stay in similar to how you can select your seat on a flight. On top of this you will also be able to book special requests for you room through the website or app. I have to give Hilton credit for being the first to do this and I am sure others will follow! Coming next year Hilton will also begin rolling out the ability for you to unlock your room with your phone! Man they are working hard to stay ahead of the competition! For more information check out their website for the announcement here is link to their site http://www.hiltonworldwide.com/

 Hilton Honors App

Hilton Honors App

Hyatt Regency Orlando

Hyatt Regency Orlando

When visiting Orlando a great luxury hotel to stay at is the Hyatt Regency. The Hyatt Regency Orlando is in a prime location to access both the attractions and convention center. The hotel has a luxurious mix of amenities and business features that make it an attractive place to stay for business persons and families alike. The hotel has a walkway connecting it to the Orlando Convention Center. Rooms at the Hyatt are equipped with upscale features such as each room having a television in the bathroom mirror and night lights under the night stands. The hotel also has some wonderful restaurants that cater to fine dining tastes such as Napa and Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse. If you aren’t in the mood for fine dining then you can always stop in at the famous B-Line restaurant with 24 hour service. The hotel is very family friendly and has an outstanding outdoor pool with a lazy river. Enjoy the best of both worlds a luxury hotel suited for business but, well-appointed for family vacation stays.  

Hyatt Regency Orlando

9801 International Drive

Orlando, Florida, USA, 32819

Tel: +1 407 284 1234

http://orlando.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

 

New Hotels on the Horizon

New Hotels on the Horizon

shopping lady
shopping lady

In case you did not already know, Orlando is a great place to have an enjoyable vacation.  In Orlando we have amazing shopping, exquisite dining and amusement galore.   Bill and I have enjoyed many of Orlando’s hotels.  One worth mentioning is the Four Seasons, which opens in August.  The Four Seasons brand of hotels is known for outstanding service, wonderful experiences and delectable dining.  The Four Seasons knows that the visitor population in Orlando continues to grow.  According to Visit Orlando, in 2013, over 59,000,000 people visited Orlando.  That is an all-time record for US destinations.   With such an influx of people visiting the Orlando area annually, more hotels, restaurants and attractions are eminent.

That is why it wasn’t much of a surprise to learn that iSquare Mall & Hotel Development LLC, is petitioning Orlando city officials to build an upscale multi-story shopping center on the corner of International Drive and Kirkman Road.  The new 31 level upscale shopping center and hotel will feature an ice skating rink, food court, rotating restaurant, over 160,000 square feet of retail, 48,000 square feet of meeting space and 1,200 hotel rooms spread out over two towers, and nine floors of parking.

Sound exciting?  Absolutely, but don’t expect a new mall any time soon.  The plans are supposed to go before the Orlando Planning Board in June for master plan approval.  We will keep you posted.