Monday, January 31, 2011

Priceline Rocks

On to our Singapore hotel!  We didn't realize that Priceline was an international site but when we did, we put our deal hats on and started trying for hotels.  :) 

After about 2 hours of various price entering and hotel search changing, we finally got a hotel!  Singapore is not a cheap city, by any means, so in order to enjoy our time once we're there, we really wanted to save a bit on a hotel.  The average hotel room nightly rate in Singapore is $250 so we were going to shoot for less than $150. 

The hotel we got is awesome!  Another great find and while we were a little disappointed that it was a Holiday Inn, (we're not huge fans of chain hotels when traveling) we did love the price-tag and location.  It wasn't until we looked at pictures of this hotel did we realize just how lucky we got!

This is what they mean by "Atrium"

Modern, clean rooms

  We were so excited when we saw the pictures for this hotel because it looks just like the Grand Hyatt hotel in Shanghai in the Jin Mao tower!  We loved walking around that hotel to take pictures and it will be really cool to stay in a hotel that looks almost identical on the inside.

Jin Mao Tower
Interior of Jin Mao.  Same design!

  The best part??  We got this 4 star, average nightly rate of $260 hotel, for $120 a night!!!  For Singapore, that's pretty dang cheap.  :)  Any good Priceline deals lately that you guys have come across? 

How we did it:  Priceline, approximately 2 hours of trying for various hotels
Saved over $180 by booking through Priceline!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kuala Lumpur Starwood Hotel

Our hotel for Kuala Lumpur was our first hotel booked using Starwood points.  Super easy to do and we LOVE that you can use points plus cash!  It allows you to reduce the price of the room to a really low nightly rate without sacrificing all of your Starwood points in the process. 

It's a beautiful hotel close to everything we want to see, especially the Petronas Tower!  It's what KL is known for and we can't wait to visit.  :)

Although we really enjoy staying at local hotels and avoid chains whenever possible, the deal here was simply too good to pass up.  So we're staying at a Sheraton.  I'm so happy Curtis found hotels that allowed us to use Starwood points because it's definitely worth it!  This hotel sells for around $130 USD a night!  We're paying $65 TOTAL.  This hotel alone is worth getting a Starwood card.  (I swear I don't work for Starwood or American, I just love a good deal)

Here's how we broke it down:  You can book a full night using 4,000 Starwood points and not pay anything out of pocket.   The total for 2 nights at the hotel would be $262 out of pocket.  Since we're paying using some points and some cash, you figure out if it's better to do that than cover the entire cost of the room.  So we subtract $60 from $262, which is $202, and that's your "cost" of 3200 Starwood points.  By choosing to pay for the entire room with points only, you're not maximizing your point potential because 4,000 points is almost worth 2 nights of paying for the hotel outright.  Make sense?

Curtis had to talk me through that one a few times. :)

Here are some pics of the hotel!

Room- hoping to get a view of the Tower!
Hotel Lobby

The pool

Oh so pretty and fancy!  And I'm still in awe by the out of pocket cost, or rather, lack thereof.

 Thank you Starwood!

How we did it:
Starwood points: 1600 a night, 3200 total
$30 a night, $60 total
Nightly average cost of hotel: $130
We saved $200 by using points! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

5 days for $1k

I started thinking that it would be fun to try and put together trips that were about 5 days and try to stay under $1k.  Since vacationing can be so expensive sometimes and yet, we all want to get away every now and then, I want to use what Curtis and I have learned (or what Curtis learned and taught me, haha) about traveling to prove that anyone can do it.  :)  So I challenge you, if anyone is reading this, give me a city/country that interests you and I'll show you how you can do it in 5 days for under $1,000.  :)  Leave your desired location in the comments and I'll dedicate a post to it. 

Hong Kong Hotel

  We booked the hotel for the first stop on our trip!  Located in the heart of Hong Kong, after searching for hours on end for a decent hotel that didn't cost an arm and a leg, we found The Cosmopolitan.  (yes, the hotel is named after one of my favorite cocktails.  Fate!)  It's a stunning hotel with modern rooms, over-sized space for us Americans and a great view. 

   It's very close to some of the main sites in Hong Kong and the reviews have all been wonderful!  Since comparable hotels were going for MUCH higher, we didn't know what to expect for pricing.  We were thrilled to find, on their website, that this is only $77 USD a night!  A steal for downtown Hong Kong.  So after researching many other travel sites for possible deals or discounts for multiple nights, we found that the cheapest way to book this hotel was through the hotel itself.  A strange concept for us!  Sites like Priceline, Expedia and others were all quoting this hotel from $80 up to $200 a night.  So we booked it and can't wait.  Yah for deals!

  Other hotels we looked at that didn't make the cut:
And this place:
Hotel Bonaparte:  yes, this is the entire room. 

 How we did it:  tried and true research

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

4 out of 6 ain't bad...

  This past week has been productive!  We booked 4 out of 6 of our hotels for our June trip.  And in true Gulick fashion, we did it on the super cheap. :)

  Here's how it got started.  Sign up for a Starwood Amex and get 25,000 bonus points for doing so.  In addition, we receive a point per dollar spent.  Best thing about all of it?  These points can be exchanged into AA miles at a 25% bonus for doing so!  After we cashed in the first round of points, it was obvious this was the card to pay for everyday things since the mileage earning potential was high.  Well, we're about halfway there.  Or were, I guess I should say, haha!

  When looking for hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney (2 relatively expensive cities to sleep), Curtis thought he'd look into using our points (about 15k between the two of us) to pay for the rooms there.  Some were over 20,000 points a night BUT these hotels are rather smart.  :)  They have what's called a points plus cash option.  You can use some of your points to knock down the price of a room, score!  Again, a much better option overall.  Some of the rooms only required 1200 points a night plus $30.  $30!!! As a result, we booked 2 hotels this way.  All in all making 7 nights of hotels under $300!

  Since Singapore had higher point values for their nights (yes, Curtis did the math and figured out point per dollar value) we decided to explore other options.  Enter Priceline.  Ahh, that wonderful, beautiful website that allows you name a price on a hotel and almost always yields great results.  I never knew that Priceline was international but after one search, we decided we'd go this route for our hotel in Singapore.  4 star hotel for $115 in the heart of the city?  Sold! :)

  And last but not least, Hong Kong.  This is the only city we didn't try to wrangle in a deal.  We found this hotel by tried and true research.  And I mean lots of it!  We saw this hotel listed anywhere from $80-200 on various websites but the cheapest we found was actually through their official site.  Score!  $77 a night for a beautiful hotel in Hong Kong, right in the middle of all the action.

So there you have it.  Half of our trip is booked for around $900 for hotels.  I'd say we're doing pretty well so far!  I'll do a full breakdown of each hotel in future posts along with the exact point/cost breakdown.  :)

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Monday, January 24, 2011


Curtis and I are extremely lucky.  His company offers him a 1 month sabbatical every 5 years he's with the company. (and no, they're not hiring at the moment)  Considering how demanding his job is, this is a wonderful breath of fresh air every few years to keep the employees happy and avoid getting burnt out.

So, what would you do with a full month off?

Of course, we're traveling every day of it!  After explaining how rare of an opportunity this is to my bosses, and knowing I can work from just about anywhere, I'll be working from around the globe come the month of June.  The time change will make it challenging in terms of getting answers to emails quickly but when a month long trekk is dangling in front you, you take it.  Always.

Originally we talked about going to Europe and visiting Paris, Champagne, Monaco, Croatia, parts of Italy, etc. but after our Fijian experience, we decided to go west.  Asia Pacific.  With Europe being so easy to get to (about 8-10 hours of flying time) we wanted to maximize our time in an area we can't pop over to for a week. 

We begin in Hong Kong, fly Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, train to Singapore, fly to Bali, Indonesia, fly to Cairns, Australia and finish in Sydney, Australia.  Quite a trip!

How do two 20-somethings book a trip of this caliber?  We use miles of course! (And Starwood points; stay tuned for that post) We started looking into itineraries and during one of the 35 hours Curtis spent on the phone with American, he learned a valuable piece of info that changed everything.  When booking an open jaw flight (meaning you arrive in one destination and depart from another), in business class, all stops between your arrival destination and departure destination are included.  That meant that if we booked a flight, in business class, we could fly to Hong Kong, depart from Sydney and all stops in between were included, all in business class.  They are not included when you book a coach ticket.

Let's think about this shall we?  Our options are:  a) book a coach ticket to HK for 100k miles, for an open jaw, and leave Sydney.  Anything in between that would be anywhere between 10-20k miles PER STOP.  b) fly business class on two of the top airlines in the World (through One World alliance with American) to as many destinations as we can handle for 150k each.

I know, no brainer.  Not only am I beyond excited for this trip, but the idea of flying business class excites me most right now, haha!  We flew to China once before, Beijing and Shanghai, in coach and it wasn't until I started clicking around on the website did I realize how "the other half lives."  Coach was great, the staff makes it wonderful and all booze is free.  (that might has swayed how I felt about the 2" of leg space)  But for this particular trip, it didn't make sense. 

So come June, we will be flying to Hong Kong and in July, flying home.  Here's a little taste of the seats!  Cathay Pacific and Qantas Airlines.  :)  I can't believe we'll be flying like this for FREE!!!

Cathay Pacific

Qantas Airlines

How we did it:
150,000 American Airlines miles each, 300,000 total (used AA One World Alliance for the airlines)
Cathay Pacific Business Class ticket for one: $6,086 from LAX to Hong Kong
Qantas Business Class ticket for one: $7,045 Sydney to LAX
Saved over $26,262 using miles!!!!!  And that's just on tickets to and from the States!
Might be our greatest feat yet... :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Our first travel post will be about none other than our fabulous Honeymoon!  We spent a week in Fiji and loved every single second of it. After scouring the hotel's website for what felt like months, I had high expectations of what we would experience.  Fiji did not disappoint. 

 Our plane to Taveuni.  The entire plane. 

Location:  Taveuni Island, Fiji.  Taveuni is located an hour northeast of mainland Nadi in the Fiji Islands and is known as the Garden Island of Fiji.  It's very lush, with waterfalls abundant and plant life growing beautifully for miles on end.  There are few "resorts" on this island and the hotels here focus more on local culture as opposed to pool size.

The Meridian Line!  Stood in yesterday and today! :)

Bouma Falls

Hotel:  Paradise Taveuni Resort   We cannot say enough great things about this resort!  The staff was so attentive and friendly and seem to genuinely enjoy their work here.  The bures were clean, updated and the outdoor shower was stunning.  There isn't television or Wi-Fi in the bures (or the entire place for that matter) which allows you to truly unplug.  You'll go to bed at 9pm and wake around 7am feeling like you just had the best night's sleep of your life.  Because you just did.


            Staff:  They all knew your name before you arrived, they all wanted to chat and get to know you better and all genuinely seemed to enjoy what they do!  Our favorite staffer was probably Mikaeli though.  He was so willing to share his story and the stories of the island and we were like kids waiting to hear a bedtime story for all of it.  He would insist on being our guide for certain excursions and even sat with us at the airport until we literally boarded the plane.  He's a good man, with a gentle heart and a life that we would think is sub-par by American standards yet he is the happiest man I think I've ever met.  We miss him so much!

Spa:  WOW!  That's all I can say!  We enjoyed a 3.5 hour couple's massage treatment (massage, sugar scrub and a facial), pedicures and another couple's massage during our stay.  Cannot say enough great things about this spa!  It's perched on a small ledge overlooking the ocean and the sounds reminded me of one of those spa CDs you can buy at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Only this time, we listened to the real thing! 

Diving:  I got my advanced certification while in Taveuni and I couldn't be happier that I chose to complete it there.  The diving is literally the best in the world with many divers putting Fiji above the Great Barrier Reef in terms of beauty.  We saw more coral than I think we'll ever see in our lives, school of thousands of fish, manta rays, sharks, pilot whales, massive titan trigger fish and so much more!  It's impossible to sift through the photos from our diving excursions and pick just a few so feel free to visit to see some of the pictures we captured underwater!  We're uploading more daily so check back often to see my husband's incredible photography talent! :)

Out of 10 stars, we give Paradise Taveuni 12.  :)  We cannot wait to return!  If you're considering a trip to Fiji (which we highly recommend) let us know and we're happy to help!


How We Did It:  75,000 American Airline Miles each; flew from DFW to LAX to NAD.  
American from DFW to LAX and Air Pacific to and From Nadi.  Coach all the way.  
Tickets would have cost: $2400 for two, LAX - NAD - LAX
$800 for two, DFW - LAX / LAX - DFW
Saved over $3000 using miles! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our Next Adventure

  As you may have noticed, we're changing up the blog a bit!  Moving forward, we're going to document our travels for our family and friends.  We'll list out hotels, post pictures and share tips and tricks we've learned from around the globe.  We're looking forward to our next adventure, already booked!  A month long trip to the Asia-Pacific.  Stay tuned!