My LA Times Travel Show Appearance Recap

by on January 21, 2014 · 19 comments

in Appearances

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This past weekend, I was in Los Angeles for the LA Times Travel Show where I traded money-saving travel tips on a panel with Johnny Jet and the LA Times’s Web Buzz Columnist, Jen Leo.

Appearing on the panel with Johnny Jet and Jen Leo.

Appearing on the panel with Johnny Jet and Jen Leo.

We got off to a fun start as Jen asked us about our 2014 picks for bargain destinations. Johnny picked Southeast Asia due to the ability to travel far without spending too much money, and we both put in a word for Australia and New Zealand, but I also mentioned India because of my recent trip there after the Maldives and how easy and cheap it was to get around and see tons of great stuff.

Jen also brought up my mileage redemption to/from the Maldives flying EVA and Singapore on the outbound for just 60,000 United miles and $24 in business class, and then using a trick with Alaska miles to score an Emirates First Class redemption.

Next up, we discussed strategies on searching for cheap flights. Johnny mentioned a few of my favorites including The Flight Deal, Fare Compare and Airfare Watchdog and I brought up a couple of other useful tools including the ITA Matrix for searching cheap flights and ExpertFlyer for seat availability.

I also gave the low-down on what to expect with upcoming devaluations from United and Delta, as well as changes coming down the pike with the American and US Airways merger.

Next we discussed various accommodation options including two new sites, Rocketmiles and Pointshound, which regularly offer thousands of airline miles per booking in lieu of earning hotel points – which can be a good option when you’re not staying at your usual hotel chains. I also discussed the advantages of using housing services like VRBO and Airbnb for longer-term or larger accommodations and how you can still earn bonus points on these transactions by using cards like the Sapphire Preferred thanks to its travel category spending bonus.

After a few more quick topics, Jen opened to floor to reader questions, and of course, there were a ton about credit cards. The biggest one, as usual, was about my top travel credit card picks. Everyone wanted to know what the one or two cards they should carry are to maximize their travel benefits.

Dishing out travel credit card picks at the LA Times Travel Show.

Dishing out travel credit card picks at the LA Times Travel Show.

Of course, it really depends on what you’re hoping to use your points for, but the one card I always recommend to friends and family is the Chase Sapphire Preferred thanks to its 2X travel and dining categories, the ability to transfer to 10 great travel partners, and the flexibility to pay with points at a rate of 1.25 cents each for travel – meaning the 40,000-point sign-up bonus (when you spend $3,000 in 3 months) is worth $500 even without transferring to travel partners – and the card carries no foreign transaction fees and now comes with a Smart Chip. For those who already have a Sapphire Preferred and were interested in a business credit card, I suggested the Ink Plus, which also earns Ultimate Rewards points and comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months, along with other great perks like 5X earning on office supplies and telecommunications (up to $50,000 each calendar year), and 2X at hotels and gas stations, along with a host of other great benefits.

The other top card I mentioned was the Barclaycard Arrival. The sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles (when you spend $1,000 in 90 days)  is worth $440 towards travel thanks to the 10% mileage refund on travel redemptions, and you earn 2X miles per $1 on all purchases. Since there is no annual fee the first year ($89 after that), so it is literally like free money, which is great for covering costs like award ticket fees, train tickets, car rentals, and other expenses you can’t usually use travel points for like b&b’s, Airbnb, car rentals and more.

We fielded a couple more questions, and before we knew it, our time was up. I stayed after to meet readers who had dropped by and answer a few last questions then we headed off for lunch at LA with my Travel Show Giveaway winners, whom I had a great time meeting and comparing travel tips, favorite destinations and more.

All in all, it was another great experience, so thank you to all who came out, and I’m looking forward to appearing at the New York Times Travel Show March 1-2 later this year as well, so hopefully I’ll get to meet more of you there.

I’ll be appearing on Saturday at 5:00pm discussing “Maximizing Credit Cards for Free Travel,” and on Sunday at 3:00pm to talk about “Beating the System: Travel Pointers for a First Class Lifestyle on a Budget“.

You can purchase tickets here if you’re interested.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Dieuwer

    South East Asia is overrated as “bargain destination”. Maybe if you’re from Australia or LA, but getting there from the East Coast US is expensive (when not using miles).
    Also, I found intra-Asia flights hardly cheap. For instance, I paid about $80 to fly REP-DMK, about $100 DMK-HKT, and about $150 HKT-SIN.
    Domestic US fares are much cheaper on a mileage basis, e.g. BOS-SFO ($250) or BOS-JFK ($75)

  • vega25

    Thanks very much for the recap. I had a question: if I could have only one card with an annual fee, and really preferred getting airline miles directly rather than get into conversion of points etc. (which I admit may mean I’m losing some of the potential value), what would you say about my getting about the Chase Southwest Premier card? Forget the start-up bonuses. Just on a regular basis. Thanks!

  • smartcookie

    I disagree. Even if you pay $900-1100 for a flight, it’s still a very cheap destination considering you can easily get a nice modern hotel for $25-40/night and eat for $2-3/meal. Most basic tours are also $10-20/person. There are few destinations around the world where local wages are so low that these things are that cheap. And you can get Air Asia flights for $20-50 per leg if you plan well and hit their constant sales.

  • Dieuwer

    Not around Christmas and New Years’. And good luck flying from BOS to BKK for <$1000. Besides, who wants to sit in economy class for 24 hours??

  • Nick Knight

    You don’t sound like a traveller.

  • Dieuwer

    Don’t give me that shit, you don’t know anything about me.
    I’m stating the facts and what I have paid. Simple as that.

  • Ben Price

    I’m no TPG, but I’ll give you my .02 cents:

    1) There’s no reason to avoid cards whereby you can transfer points. For example, you can transfer SPG points to essentially every airline possible. Who wouldn’t want that? Furthermore, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is amazing! What are you worried about?

    2) Recommending a card depends on one thing and one thing only (in my opinion): your travel patterns. It doesn’t matter if Delta points are worth 50 cents a piece…if you can’t actually FLY them, it doesn’t matter!! Also matters: international vs. domestic. No point in getting a card that accrues miles for domestic travel if you really want to fly to Europe next summer.

    It seems you’re prancing around getting “too deep” into the hobby. Don’t cut yourself short…

    Oh, and, START UP BONUSES MATTER!!!!!!!!

  • Ben Price

    Relax dude. Typical blogosphere chatter.

  • Ben Price

    I don’t think it gets much cheaper than SE Asia. I agree w/ smart cookie…even if you’re paying 1200 bucks for a flight, you’re living like a king at a daily rate that’s cheaper than a meal at many NYC eateries.

    Hell, last I checked it was $1,900 to get to Bogota from Florida (on Delta using dates Dec. 18-22) as hell once you get there, but who would pay that! I used miles ;)

  • thepointsguy

    Probably Sapphire Preferred… solid transferable points, no foreign transaction fees and decent 2x earning on travel and dining (pretty much all I do). Starwood Preferred Guest Amex is solid but has foreign fees and no bonus earning aside from SPG stays.

  • Ben Price

    He mentioned he doesn’t want cards like CSP or SPG. Why? No idea!

  • Danny

    What is your reason to get airline miles directly rather than transfer? I can’t really think of a good one, the transfers are very easy and give you so much more flexibility.

  • vega25

    Thank you, @thepointsguy:disqus. So my understanding is that the Chase Southwest Premier card gives an annual bonus that pretty much offsets the annual fee. Whereas Chase Sapphire Preferred requires a considerable spending first to just offset the cost of the fee, approximately $5000. No?

    @disqus_QLAw9GLeOb:disqus, I thought it might be easiest to get miles directly. I can fly Southwest pretty much everywhere I need to (advantage of living close to Chicago Midway), and find them extremely competitive on prices overall, not to mention the savings on the checked-in bag.

  • Miro

    Do you buy refundable ticket? Do you get refund back to your CC?

  • thepointsguy

    Refundable tickets usually get refunded back to the CC if canceled

  • Miro

    No red flags with AS? I read couple of stories that people were too greedy and bought several such tickets together with Fly&Buy offer, only to be audited by AS…

  • smartcookie

    Around Christmas/NYE, flights everywhere are expensive. Though, last year, I flew NYC to Bangkok for Christmas break for only $1400. In regular high season for SE Asia, I’ve flown for $900 from LAX on EVA and $1000 on several airlines from NYC. If you only fly in Business Class and up, I don’t see how you can complain about SE Asia prices. You don’t get the type of value you get there for high-end travel amenities anywhere else, really (hotels, meals, tours, etc).

  • Art

    Was wondering, did you mention which App do you use to keep track of your credit card points earning potential?

  • Sam

    Anyone who thinks New Zealand is cheap didn’t stay for dinner or rent a car. The NZ dollar is up to $.83, a big jump from a few years ago. Great place to go but cheap it isn’t.

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