TPG answers questions on maximizing points and miles during the holidays on Talking Points

Nov 27, 2019

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Talking Points is back this week with a special episode to kick off the holiday season. We asked for listener questions related to holiday travels and maximizing points and miles, and we are here to deliver. Zach Griff, TPG’s travel analyst, joins Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, to help Talking Points listeners figure out the best use of Capital One miles, when and how to upgrade or downgrade a Chase Sapphire card, traveling to the Bahamas during the holidays, and more.

TPG also details an upcoming and epic adventure – to the Maldives, India and Israel. And Griff walks you through just how many points it took to book it, where he transferred points from, and the logistics behind this rather confusing route.

“Once Brian’s ready to leave the Maldives, we’re doing something a little bit illogical. Brian’s going to go from the Maldives to Dubai and then to India. And the reason he’s going to do that is because he wanted the most comfort for those short overnight flights…Because this is what’s considered backtracking, we had to purchase two separate itineraries for each of those sectors, and each one of those cost 52,500 Emirates points, again transferred from American Express membership rewards.” – Zach Griff, TPG travel analyst

With the biggest shopping day of the year coming up after Thanksgiving, Talking Points called upon TPG’s travel editor Melanie Lieberman and lifestyle editor Samantha Rosen, to remind us all how you can get the most out of your spend. Think shopping portals, connect your Lyft account to the loyalty programs that can earn points and miles, and using your Platinum Card® from American Express Saks Fifth Avenue credit. They also discuss their must-have travel accessories, like the one thing Rosen says she couldn’t have survived her mileage run without, and the 2020 hotspots you should add to your travel list.

“I always tell people make yourself at home on your flight. Obviously don’t unpack your entire suitcase and set up shop, but get a blanket, get a pillow. Make yourself comfortable, wear soft, easy clothes that you can fall asleep, especially on long haul flights. The last thing that you want to feel is totally out of your element, out of your routine.” – Samantha Rosen, TPG lifestyle editor.

You can play this episode above, or wherever you get your podcasts. And, make sure you are subscribed to the TPG newsletter so you never miss when an episode drops.

Featured Photo by Eva Katalin Kondoros / Getty Images

Full Transcript:

Brian Kelly:
Welcome back to Talking Points. I’m your host, Brian Kelly, and today we are reprising our hotline bling. That’s right, we are taking reader calls from our travel hotline, that 1-877-TPG-TRVL. Yes, if you’ve got a question, you can call (after you listen to this podcast) and ask it now. And with me to help is my main guy at TPG for all of my travel. He is essentially The Points Guy, Zach Griff, thanks for joining us.

Zach Griff:
Thanks, Brian, for having me.

Brian Kelly:
And after the break, we’ve got a special TPG PSA, that’s The Points Guy public service announcement from Melanie Lieberman and Samantha Rosen from our travel section. They are sharing their favorite points, tips, 2020 travel recs, their carry-on essentials, and their unexpected products that they can’t travel without. Color me interested. I kind of want to hear what they have to say. Plus, we’re going to wrap with how I book my holiday travels almost exclusively on points and miles. And if you don’t already, make sure you follow me on Instagram @briankelly, as well as @thepointsguy.

Brian Kelly:
Zach, thanks for joining us. I’m going to put you under the spotlight because … you know what, I’ve been doing Talking Points for over a year now, and I’m just so sick of carrying this whole podcast on my back, so it’s time for me to just make you do all the work. How does that sound?

Zach Griff:
Great. I’m ready for it.

Brian Kelly:
Real quick for the listeners, what is it like to help me travel? How would you describe the process of working with me and my insanity?

Zach Griff:
I would say that the biggest thing is changes.

Brian Kelly:
Ch-ch-ch-changes, but you know like –

Zach Griff:
But that’s what’s great about miles and points, you book something with points, the change fee is often much lower when booking with points than if you were to just pay for the ticket.

Brian Kelly:
So do you sometimes want to pull your hair out when I change? But usually there’s a good reason behind it, like-

Zach Griff:
Sometimes.

Brian Kelly:
Hey, a space opened up and with a better lie-flat seat. I’m going to leave in two hours. Book me now. All right. Let’s get to our first question from Molly in California. She’s wondering if you can use the $200 airline credit from Amex Platinum for a lounge membership.

Molly McCarthy:
Hey Brian, my name’s Molly McCarthy, and I live in Oak Park, California. My question is how to use the $200 airline credit that you get with your American Express Platinum card. I’m wondering if I can use it towards the purchase of a lounge membership at, say, Alaska, because we fly there a ton. So just wondering how best to use that up before the end of the year. Thanks a bunch. Love your podcast.

Brian Kelly:
Zach, before I let you answer, the interesting thing about the Amex Platinum $200 benefit is that it used to be a lot more flexible. Amex, even though it wasn’t written in rules, they would let you buy airline gift cards that would trigger the credit, which for someone like me was great, because I don’t spend any money on checked bags because I’m an elite member, but things have changed as they do in the industry. Zach, first off, can you answer? Can Molly use the $200 airline credit for lounge membership? And, if not, where do you recommend that she use them?

Zach Griff:
Yeah, for sure, Brian. So, Molly, you can 100% use your airline fee credit for airport lounge day passes and annual memberships. So, with the Amex airline credit, the first thing you’re going to need to do — before you purchase your lounge membership — is select which airline you want the credit applied to. After you select that (and you can do that once a year in January), or later in the year if you just signed up for a card, once you’ve selected that airline, then go ahead and purchase the lounge day pass or annual membership.

Zach Griff:
You can also use that Amex airline credit for a bunch of other fees like checked bag fees, some phone reservation fees, seat assignment fees. And we have a full guide at The Points Guy for you to check whether your fee will be covered by the Amex airline credit.

Brian Kelly:
And, Zach, how would you say that the Amex Platinum airline credit relates, you know, especially in comparison to the other premium card benefits that are out there, like Reserve and whatnot?

Zach Griff:
Yeah, I mean, Amex’s airline fee credit is much more restrictive than the one that Chase and Citi offer with their top-tier premium cards. On those cards, once you make an eligible travel charge, whether that’s an Uber or an airline fee, or in some cases even an airline ticket, you’ll be reimbursed for the first $300 for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or $250 for the Citi Prestige card.

Zach Griff:
Whereas with Amex, you first have to select which airline you want to apply that credit towards, and then you have to make an eligible charge for one of the subcategories that the airline credit applies to. Basically, my wishlist for 2020 is that Amex makes their travel credit just like Chase or Citi’s.

Brian Kelly:
Thanks for that great question, Molly. Even though things have changed with Amex Platinum, I still keep mine. And I have the Business Centurion, but yes, I pay a lot of money every year in credit card fees, but I make those cards work for me. Zach, do you have an Amex Platinum?

Zach Griff:
I do, yeah, personal version.

Brian Kelly:
Cool. All right. Next question up from Scott from New Jersey, and he’s trying to go stay in The Bahamas around Christmas. Let’s hear what his question is.

Scott:
Hi, my name is Scott, and I’m in New Jersey. I was trying to book a trip to The Bahamas at the new Baha Mar, and it showed me the trip was $9,200 or 1.3 million miles on Amex, which isn’t a good return. I was thinking of booking it with Amex, getting five times the points, and then using current points that are one for one, which would cost me 900,000 points for a sale for that to pay it off. I’m wondering if there’s a better alternative. So the flight was from the New York City area to Nassau. It was for nine nights at the Rosewood in Baha Mar, December 15th to Christmas Day. Thank you.

Brian Kelly:
That’s a great question. You know, I really wish there was an app that would tell you, you should pay for something versus use points, and also whether you should transfer points or use points to a travel agency. I sense a little foreshadowing here, because that’s exactly what the TPG app is going to do, which is launching in early 2020. Enough self-promotion, Zach, can you help our friend Scott out? Should he redeem points? Where should he stay in The Bahamas?

Zach Griff:
For sure. Baha Mar is supposedly an awesome destination in The Bahamas. We have full reviews of all the hotels in Baha Mar on The Points Guy. And my personal favorite for redeeming points, is the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. First, the Grand Hyatt has great reward availability. You have two choices for using Chase points at the Grand Hyatt in Baha Mar. The first is that you could transfer them directly to Hyatt. In the sense the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is a Category 5 hotel, free nights cost 20,000 points for a regular room, or 32,000 points for a suite.

Zach Griff:
The other alternative is if you have Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card, you can redeem your Chase points directly through the Chase travel portal at a rate of one and a half cents per point and book the hotel directly through Chase’s travel portal. The one thing to note is in that case, you’ll be on the hook for taxes and fees and your Chase points will need to be used to cover those, whereas if you were to send your points to Hyatt and redeem for a free night award, you won’t be on the hook for taxes and fees. Always double-check whether it makes sense to book directly through Chase or send your points to Hyatt.

Brian Kelly:
Zach, have you actually been to The Bahamas?

Zach Griff:
Yeah, I grew up in South Florida, so getting to The Bahamas was really easy for us, and we could easily do it on a weekend. I’ve stayed at the Atlantis, and I’ve also taken cruises that have stopped in The Bahamas. And now that the Ocean Club has been renovated as a Four Seasons, I’m really looking forward to trying out that new Four Seasons.

Brian Kelly:
You haven’t stayed at Baha Mar, but you’re a gambler like me, so is it on your to-do list for 2020?

Zach Griff:
100%.

Brian Kelly:
For those of you who don’t know, Zach Griff is a fantastic blackjack player and when we are together, it gets real, real quick. Zach, how would you describe my gambling style?

Zach Griff:
I’d say you go big or you go home.

Brian Kelly:
I would say that’s correct. All right, moving on. Our next question is from Lillian in NYC about redeeming her Venture Miles.

Lillian:
Hi. My question is, I have about 75,000 Capital One Venture points and I was wondering if it’s enough to redeem for round trip tickets to Rome possibly, in at least premium economy, sometime in January. Thank you.

Brian Kelly:
This question probably isn’t best answered by me anyway since it’s pretty rare that I redeem for economy transatlantic flights because I don’t fly economy to Europe. Actually, I will fly premium economy, though. My advice here would be, based on the flights and availability, I know Norwegian has premium to Rome. Just this year, I flew Norwegian, JFK to Amsterdam, and last minute. I mean, it was $700 last minute one-way for premium. But if you can book in advance, you might just want to use those 75,000 points to pay for $750 worth of that Norwegian premium ticket.

Brian Kelly:
So Capital One just last year added transfer partners. The ratios are a little bit tricky for those of us, because you earn two points and then they transfer at different ratios. Walk us through the ratios. And then is it really possible to go for 75,000 points at those ratios from the U.S. to Europe?

Zach Griff:
Yeah. Capital One points are really useful in a lot of different ways. As you mentioned, you can use them now to transfer to different airline partners, and the ratios are pretty complex. So most Capital One points will transfer to airline partners at a two to one-and-a-half ratio, except for a select few, which transfer at a reduced ratio of two to one. The airlines with reduced transfer ratios are Emirates, JetBlue and Singapore Airlines. But I wouldn’t recommend sending your points to those airlines anyway. If you’re looking to get to Europe in economy or premium economy class, two of the best Cap One transfer partners are Etihad and Air France. Etihad partners with American Airlines, and Etihad has a pretty lucrative award chart for travel on American Airlines. In off-peak dates, it’s only 20,000 miles one-way from North America to Europe or vice-versa. During peak dates, it’s 30,000 miles one-way, again, from Europe to America or vice versa.

Zach Griff:
With Air France’s Flying Blue program, the best use of those miles is for promo rewards. What Air France will do is take a look at all the seats that are unsold for upcoming flights, and once a month will release these promo awards that are valid for the entirety of a month. And what they’ll do is they’ll discount typical award costs to something much lower, like 25 or 50% off, and that’s when it makes most sense to transfer your Cap One points to Air France when you can redeem for a promo reward.

Brian Kelly:
Lillian only has 75,000 points, but for someone who has a lot more Capital One points, they want to fly business class to Europe. What would your recommendation be?

Zach Griff:
And remember when I said that Etihad was a really great transfer partner for economy-class redemptions on American Airlines? They’re also really good for business-class redemptions, in particular with Brussels Airlines. If you were to fly from Brussels to JFK, a route and flight that I just did a few months ago on Brussels Airlines’ reconfigured Airbus A330s, you’re looking at 44,000 miles for that one-way journey. Not much compared to the 30,000 in economy that you’d have to pay if you were to fly with American Airlines.

Brian Kelly:
Great question. Lillian. I have a bunch of Capital One miles and Zach’s sage advice is already having me think differently about how to use them. All right, let’s get on to Vaughn from Seattle, and we get this one a ton.

Vaughn:
Hey, this is Vaughn from Seattle. I have a multilayered question about planning a Chase Sapphire sign-up bonus strategy. I walked into the Chase ecosystem with a strong handful of Amex cards, which included among others, the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold. Since I was already paying a combined $800-plus in Amex annual fees, I opted for the lower annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred over the Reserve. I have since realized that despite its higher annual fee, the Reserve would actually bring me more value than the Preferred, even as I still carry my premium Amex cards. Since you can only have one Sapphire card at a time. As one approaches the end of the 48-month bonus restriction, is it a valid strategy to downgrade the Preferred to a Freedom before applying for the reserve in order to get the sign-up bonus?

Vaughn:
If so, here are for subsequent questions. One, how long do you have to wait after downgrading the Preferred before applying for the Reserve, or can it be done essentially on the same day? Two, what happens to your Ultimate Rewards points during that process? Three, in the rare instance that the application for the Reserve is denied, can the previously downgraded Preferred be upgraded back from the Freedom to the Preferred? And then lastly, and maybe more importantly, four, can I upgrade my Preferred to the Reserve now so I reap the boosted benefits, and then once I’ve passed the 48 months, downgrade the Reserve to a Freedom and then apply for the Reserve anew? Thanks for all that you guys do.

Brian Kelly:
Great question, Vaughn. You know, you really have to be careful about which Chase cards you apply for. And they don’t always let you downgrade right away to a certain product, so you got to follow the rules carefully. And here’s Zach to explain what you need to know to do that.

Zach Griff:
You’re right, Brian. This one is a pretty complex one. First things first, you can only get the sign-up bonus once per family of Chase cards, only once for every 48 months. Also, you can’t get a sign-up bonus if you still have a Sapphire card. So the first thing to do is take that Preferred that you’ve hopefully signed up for a while ago and downgrade that to another one of the Chase cards, and I’d recommend either the Freedom or the Freedom Unlimited.

Zach Griff:
Once you’ve downgraded the card, then you can sign up for the Reserve, assuming that you fit into those other qualifications that we just discussed. In my experience, the downgrade process hasn’t taken more than a day or two, but you should wait a few days to make sure that everything is set on Chase’s systems before applying for that new Sapphire card.

Zach Griff:
One last thing to note is that you can’t downgrade a Chase card if you’ve had it for less than a year, but that shouldn’t be one of your concerns, Vaughn, because you won’t get the sign-up bonus for the Sapphire Reserve card if you’ve gotten the sign-up bonus for the Sapphire Preferred card within the last 48 months.

Brian Kelly:
All right, our last question today is from Jacob in Tennessee, and he’s a small-business owner.

Jacob:
Hey, Brian and the TPG team. My name is Jacob, and I am from Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a small-business owner and I’m trying to figure out if I’m better off using my Chase Sapphire Reserve or my Chase Business Ink card for business meals. On the one hand, I get three times the points using the Reserve, but on the other hand I can write off half of the meal costs from the business. Curious of what you recommend. Thanks so much.

Brian Kelly:
By the way, we’ve got a brand new TPG small-business-focused Facebook group, so if you’re a member of the TPG Lounge on Facebook and you’re a small-business owner, you want to also join our TPG Small Business. And we also have TPG Family, and a couple more coming soon. We’re all about community, and community is going to be an even bigger focus as we go into 2020. But no more promoting, here’s Zach to answer the actual question.

Zach Griff:
That was a great question. We think you should still use your Chase Sapphire Reserve and write it off as a business expense. Expenses don’t have to be on a business card to be eligible to be written off, and to all of you small-business owners, make sure you join that TPG Lounge that Brian was talking about. It is led by our very own Richard Kerr, and he’s got awesome tips and tricks for small-business owners.

Brian Kelly:
And that wraps this episode of hotline questions. Thanks to everyone who called in. If your questions didn’t get answered this episode, fret not. We still have them and may use them in a future episode. But if you have a question, want to share a secret, or just let me hear your precious voice, just call us at 1-877-TPG-TRVL and leave us your questions. We’re going to have a bunch more of these reader questions coming up in 2020. Coming up after the break, our travel team shares their best points, tips and more. And I’ll give a quick rundown of my holiday travels ,spending about five nights in Jaipur with Kailish Sathyarthi, who is India’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Brian Kelly:
All right Talking Points listeners, we’re back and I’m handing the mic off to Samantha Rosen and Melanie Lieberman so we can hear their points, tips, 2020 travel recs, and carry-on essentials. Take it away, ladies.

Melanie Lieberman
Thank you, Brian.This is Melanie, and I’m here with Samantha from the travel team. We are excited to talk about our tips and tricks for earning points and miles this holiday season. Because, believe it or not, somehow the holidays are already here. We’re going to go through a few of our favorite tips and tricks, things you may not be aware of, or that you simply forgot about since last year. Samantha, you like to shop.

Samantha Rosen:
I do. Probably too much for my own good.

Melanie Lieberman
What are some of your tips and tricks for earning points and miles during the holidays?

Samantha Rosen:
So, I think the first thing that I always tell people is that you absolutely have to go through a shopping portal. All of the airlines have shopping portals where you can earn bonus miles on virtually any purchase. So let’s say you want to buy something from Bloomingdale’s, and instead of just going to bloomingdales.com, you go to Delta shopping portal, if that’s your preferred airline, or, you know, whatever your preferred airline is, and just shop through the portal. It directs you straight to the site and you can buy exactly what you need and you just earn more bonus miles on that purchase. They, you know, add up over time.

Melanie Lieberman
Definitely. One of my favorite things is during the holidays is to just go through all my credit cards and make sure I’ve added all of the offers that can actually really apply if you’re doing a lot of holiday grocery shopping and you can get bonus points at ShopRite, which is where I spend all of my money.

Samantha Rosen:
And Home Depot.

Melanie Lieberman
And Home Depot. You can actually earn bonus points at stores or on categories that you wouldn’t normally with your credit cards that you already have.

Samantha Rosen:
Those Amex offers, they’re like my best friend. I love checking those.

Melanie Lieberman
They are amazing. Sometimes they’re a little weird.

Samantha Rosen:
Like the Chuck E. Cheese one?

Melanie Lieberman
But in case you need a Christmas pizza, there you go.

Samantha Rosen:
You never know. Always need a Christmas pizza.

Melanie Lieberman
Definitely. And we spent a lot of time talking about the Saks Fifth Avenue credit.

Samantha Rosen:
That’s my favorite.

Melanie Lieberman
It is a great one.

Samantha Rosen:
I think that’s really my favorite perk of the Amex Platinum.

Melanie Lieberman
What have you purchased with your $50?

Samantha Rosen:
This is actually probably one of, like, my favorite hacks ever. It’s not really a hack as much of it’s just like, “Oh my God, I didn’t realize you can do that.” I love the Diptyque candles. Okay, so they retail for $65 and you get the $50 every six months, so $100 in total if you have the Amex Platinum. So $65 minus $50 is $15. You have to pay shipping and taxes, but also most of the time you can also get 10% off by signing up for Saks emails, which is what I did the other day. So I think I got a $65 candle for like $10. And best part is that with your Amex card, you got access to something called ShopRunner, which gives you your delivery in two days.

Melanie Lieberman
Love that expedited delivery for those last-minute holiday gifts.

Samantha Rosen:
Love a good expedited delivery. So I ordered my expensive bougie candle on Monday and it was delivered on Wednesday.

Melanie Lieberman
And one thing that you have taught me about is connecting your credit card to dining programs. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Samantha Rosen:
This is my other favorite thing to talk about. So, I’m a big fan of the restaurant app called Resy. It’s pretty big in New York and L.A. For those of you that are listening that aren’t in those cities, they’re in a few all over the country, but they’re building it up, but I love it, A, because you can put a notify on.

Samantha Rosen:
So let’s say you go to check to make a dinner reservation for a few days out and there’s nothing available, you can like press this little button that says, notify me if anything opens up. So airlines take note. But they actually had a promotion this summer where you can earn bonus Amex points just by linking your accounts, because Amex actually acquired the app a few months ago. All of these things add up over time.

Melanie Lieberman
Definitely. And I think, you know, just remembering that your credit cards have a lot of secret benefits and perks.

Samantha Rosen:
Secret powers.

Melanie Lieberman
Secret powers.

Samantha Rosen:
They really do.

Melanie Lieberman
That’s a great way to put it, and so it can really help you during the holiday shopping season.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah. Oh, and don’t forget the Chase Freedom too. They’re having 5x at department stores.

Melanie Lieberman
Which is so well-timed. So —

Samantha Rosen:
So go through the airline shopping portal, whip out your Chase Freedom, your wallet’s going to get a workout, but it’s OK. You’re going to earn points.

Samantha Rosen:
Amazing. And then, you know, a couple other things that you can do in addition to going through shopping portals or adding offers to your credit card, is that you can connect your accounts to Lyft.

Samantha Rosen:
Yes. [crosstalk]

Melanie Lieberman
Which I think is a really big tip, especially for people who live in the city and use a lot of ride-hailing apps. Have you done that, Sam?

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah, I think it’s also really underrated. Like I don’t think people realize that. So you can link your Lyft account to Delta and Hilton. So not only do you earn Delta miles, but you earn Hilton points.

Melanie Lieberman
Which is everything I want for the holiday season, personally.

Samantha Rosen:
I wish you guys could see our podcast producers’ faces right now because they’re both freaking out. They didn’t know. Love it.

Melanie Lieberman
All right, so are you traveling anywhere for the holidays?

Samantha Rosen:
I’m probably just going to go home. I live pretty close to the city so spend some time with family, but I am going to Aruba in January.

Melanie Lieberman
That sounds very nice.

Samantha Rosen:
And I’m going to go sit on the beach for a few days.

Melanie Lieberman
Do you have any favorite packing tips and tricks?

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah, so I don’t know if you guys know that are all listening, but I went on this crazy trip to Bangkok a few months ago where I flew seven flights in coach in four days. And when I tell you that I literally would not have made it through the trip without this foot sling that I ordered from Amazon. I think it was like $10 or $15 maybe. It was a game-changer. Because you’re sitting in those tiny economy seats, especially on those long flights. Like you want to stretch your legs out and give yourself a little, like, comfort. Do not get on your next flight without getting one of these foot slings. I swear to God, like, it will change your life.

Samantha Rosen:
I also always tell people make yourself at home on your flight. Like, obviously don’t, like, unpack your entire suitcase and, like, set up shop, but, like, get a blanket, get a pillow. Like make yourself comfortable, wear soft, easy clothes that you can fall asleep, especially on long-haul flights. Like the last thing that you want to feel is totally out of your element, out of your routine. So all of these little things kind of make you feel a bit more comfortable in your long journey. I’m taking all that with me, for sure.

Melanie Lieberman
Perfect.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah.

Melanie Lieberman
So I have to admit that I am not great at packing items, especially for the plane. I get all the essentials in there, but I’ve never been good about packing neck pillows or foot slings or any of these other crazy contraptions you kids are always talking about. So why don’t you tell us what you pack?

Samantha Rosen:
I’m very surprised by this.

Melanie Lieberman
I know. It’s sort of a dark secret because it’s not the thing you’re supposed to say, but here we are.

Samantha Rosen:
Here we are on a podcast. Wait, you don’t bring a neck pillow?

Melanie Lieberman
I don’t bring a neck pillow.

Samantha Rosen:
Interesting.

Melanie Lieberman
I usually just wait until my neck cramps up and —

Samantha Rosen:
I get that.

Melanie Lieberman
And I complain.

Samantha Rosen:
I think neck pillows are one of those things where it’s either really going to make or break your flight. And like you either have one that you hate or you love because there’s so many different varieties of them. I have one that’s memory foam and I love it. It’s really soft and it’s like plush. So it’s not one of those like weird ones that have all the … It’s like beans. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah.

Samantha Rosen:
I don’t know —

Melanie Lieberman
Like a beanie baby, but a neck pillow.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah, like I don’t know the other material that it is, but the other ones are, I don’t like that. And like big fan of the memory-foam one.

Melanie Lieberman
I think one thing that’s really important for travelers to remember is that travel, especially during the holiday season, can be a little unpredictable.

Samantha Rosen:
Totally.

Melanie Lieberman
So I always want to remind —

Samantha Rosen:
And stressful.

Melanie Lieberman
And very stressful. No matter how well prepared you are, you can just never anticipate some of the things that will happen. So I always, always encourage travelers to make sure they’re wearing clothes that are comfortable, lots of layers …

Samantha Rosen:
And bring a change of clothes.

Melanie Lieberman
And bring a change of clothes, a toothbrush.

Samantha Rosen:
Always bring a change of clothes.

Melanie Lieberman
A little bottle of mouthwash.

Samantha Rosen:
I totally messed that up last summer.

Melanie Lieberman
It can be the difference between being like, “Okay, you know what, I’ve got a layover or delay. I can survive this.”

Samantha Rosen:
Or they lost my bag for a day because that happened to yours truly and I had nothing to wear.

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah, that’s a tough situation to be in.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah, it was not ideal. And I didn’t pack anything extra.

Melanie Lieberman
So depending on how you book your trip, you might have a credit card that comes with trip protections.

Samantha Rosen:
This is true. Yeah, I did get some money back.

Melanie Lieberman
Yep. And that can be a game-changer as well, definitely. Softens the blow.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah.

Melanie Lieberman
So are you a check-a-bag kind of person or do you like to carry on?

Samantha Rosen:
So I really was a check-a-bag person and then I was like, “This is just ridiculous.” I was bringing too much stuff with me and it was like slowing down the trip. And so I forced myself to like just stick with the carry-on. And I did the trick where like you roll your clothes instead of like fold them neatly. You ever heard of this?

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah, yeah definitely.

Samantha Rosen:
Yeah.

Melanie Lieberman
Excellent hack.

Samantha Rosen:
Of course. So I did that and it worked perfectly. And I’m so glad I did that because my bags would have gotten lost. Like there is no question.

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah. So the more stops you have on the night itinerary, the more room there is for error —

Samantha Rosen:
Definitely.

Melanie Lieberman
… on the part of the airline.

Samantha Rosen:
And especially this time of year when the weather is crazy and there’s delays and cancellations, like make your life easier and just fit it on a carry-on.

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah.

Samantha Rosen:
Like unless you’re going away for like a month or something, like if you’re only going away for a week, just make it work. You’re probably going to be spending most of the time on the couch with your family anyway so …

Melanie Lieberman
Definitely. And I have completely transitioned to having a backpack as my personal item. I —

Samantha Rosen:
[crosstalk] Which backpack do you have, Mel?

Melanie Lieberman
Well since you asked, I have a Dagne Dover backpack. It is my second one because I want all the colors. I like collect backpacks the way kids used to collect Pokemon. So I love this bag. It is neoprene, it’s super-comfortable and it has lots of pockets and has a lot of stretch so you can really —

Samantha Rosen:
It’s a beautiful bag.

Melanie Lieberman
It is a fantastic backpack. Basically a pocket for every imaginable item. Things don’t just sit … fall to the bottom.

Samantha Rosen:
And things don’t just sit fall to the bottom of the suitcase, right?

Melanie Lieberman
And they have, in the newest version, a —

Samantha Rosen:
I just got that one.

Melanie Lieberman
It is a great bag. And so yes, it has a slot so that you can slide it over the handles of your carry-on.

Samantha Rosen:
I love that because my bag always falls off and then I’m like that person that’s stumbling at the end of the gate trying to get on the plane [crosstalk]

Melanie Lieberman
Oh, are you that person? Oh, Sam.

Samantha Rosen:
I know. It’s so bad.

Melanie Lieberman
I know you.

Samantha Rosen:
But now I have the bag.

Melanie Lieberman
And now that you have this backpack, everything will change.

Samantha Rosen:
Everything’s going to be better now.

Melanie Lieberman
I think that suitcases have come a long way, and being thoughtful about your carry-on and baggage choice can make a big difference.

Samantha Rosen:
Oh yeah, totally.

Melanie Lieberman
I insisted on carrying a duffel for years because I just —

Samantha Rosen:
Oh, no.

Melanie Lieberman
I know. It was bad. And then I was like, there’s a reason people put their suitcases on wheels and I have a calpak bag that I love.

Samantha Rosen:
See, you live and you learn. Yeah.

Melanie Lieberman
And —

Samantha Rosen:
That’s a good one.

Melanie Lieberman
It’s a great bag. But I think just having something that is easily recognizable on the baggage carousel, if you do get gate-checked or if you do have to check a bag, having something that really stands out, especially during the holidays when everybody’s crowded around.

Samantha Rosen:
And everyone has the same black bag.

Melanie Lieberman
Everyone has the same black bag and everybody just wants to get home to the pie. That’s really the key. The pie is why we’re here.

Samantha Rosen:
I want to get home to the pie here, hilarious, and the stuffing.

Melanie Lieberman
Yeah. The only thing I ever really pack reliably for an airplane are a few low-sugar protein bars. My biggest fear in life is getting stranded without food and going hungry. So I always have a ton of protein bars with me and a book.

Samantha Rosen:
And usually, airport food is like, not even just gross, but really unhealthy.

Melanie Lieberman
Lots of sodium.

Samantha Rosen:
So much sodium and just like carbs everywhere. Like who needs a chocolate chip at seven o’clock in the morning?

Melanie Lieberman
Everyone needs an Auntie Anne’s pretzel at all times of the day.

Samantha Rosen:
This is true. Melanie is the biggest Auntie Anne’s fan.

Melanie Lieberman
So before we turn it back to Brian, let’s give our listeners a few 2020 travel recs. Samantha, what’s on your mind for next year?

Samantha Rosen:
So you’re not going to be surprised by this at all because you know I’m obsessed with it, but Japan —

Melanie Lieberman
Samantha loves Japan, listeners.

Samantha Rosen:
I love it. I went there over the summer and like it was literally the most incredible trip I’ve ever been on. The people were just so warm, so friendly, the food was amazing. Obviously I’m more or less pretty into food. And by that I mean I’m very into food. And just like, it’s so beautiful and there’s so many different things to see and do and shopping, and it’s just such a fun place. And I think with the Olympics coming up next summer, it’s really going to be like an all-time place to see. So be proactive, book your trip sooner rather than later before the prices skyrocket. But, you know, you’re going to have an amazing time. And side note, keep your eyes peeled for a guide from yours truly about all the things to eat, see, do, where to stay, all the things. It’s coming soon.

Melanie Lieberman
Tokyo’s a really great destination for next year. I mean, you mentioned the Olympics. There are multiple business- and even first-class award seats available. Every major carrier flies there. It’s really a great opportunity for travelers to have a luxurious experience flying overseas. And there are great places to redeem your points like The Andaz and the Conrad in Tokyo.

Samantha Rosen:
The Conrad.

Melanie Lieberman
Excellent [crosstalk]

Samantha Rosen:
It’s amazing. So amazing. We’ve seen a lot of deal alerts there recently too. So you don’t even have to splurge on business- or first-class seats to get there, we’ve had deal alerts I think for like $500 or $600 round-trip. So you can make it work, take your foot sling with you and you’ll be good.

Melanie Lieberman
Absolutely. I am so excited for Argentina in 2020.

Samantha Rosen:
Did you book it?

Melanie Lieberman
I am working on it.

Samantha Rosen:
Good.

Melanie Lieberman
It’s a project, but I think Argentina is going to be one of the hottest destinations for 2020. It’s where you can go in 2020 to see the total solar eclipse. Chile had a really big year last year and I think this is going to be Argentina’s chance to shine. The exchange rate for Americans is really favorable and it’s just a completely beautiful destination, and I think that’s going to be a real hit with travelers next year.

Samantha Rosen:
It’s on my list too. You’ve inspired me, I think. I think I need to make that happen.

Melanie Lieberman
I think we should probably talk about flights after this, after this podcast.

Samantha Rosen:
And [inaudible 00:31:52].

Melanie Lieberman
So I think that just about wraps it up for us today, but be sure to follow us on social media. If you want more travel tips and tricks, you can find me @MelanieTaryn on Instagram and Twitter.

Samantha Rosen:
Seriously, follow Mel on Insta, She’s killing it.

Melanie Lieberman
Oh, Sam.

Samantha Rosen:
You have all the good travel tips.

Melanie Lieberman
What a compliment!

Samantha Rosen:
You really are.

Melanie Lieberman
I’m glowing.

Samantha Rosen:
She is. And you can follow me on Instagram, I’m samantha_rosen. And then on Twitter I’m samantharosen_. Someone has the Samantha Rosen Twitter account.

Melanie Lieberman
You need to talk to that person about that because that’s confusing.

Samantha Rosen:
They haven’t tweeted since like 2009 so we’re trying to get that back. If anyone can help me, now you know where to find me.

Melanie Lieberman
Now you know where to find Samantha and help her get her handle back.

Samantha Rosen:
Thanks, guys.

Melanie Lieberman
Thanks,guys.

Samantha Rosen:
Happy holidays.

Brian Kelly:
Thanks Sam and Melanie. This year, you know, I’ve traveled a good amount, and 2020 is going to be insane. As I mentioned earlier, we are going to be launching, or I should I say, relaunching the TPG app. We have been working around the clock to build insanely cool tools on how to track your points, use your points. I can’t even begin. That’s going to be a whole nother podcast episode. So 2020 is going to be nonstop. I’m ready to sprint to get this app to be the number one travel app. So I’m taking three weeks in December, right after the TPG Awards. I’m hopping on an Etihad A380. And I’m working with the Etihad team and I’m hopeful that we’re going to get some sort of upgrade to the Residence and I will be sharing that crazy experience along the way.

Brian Kelly:
So I’m spending five nights at the JW Marriott Maldives, really excited. It’ll be my fourth time back to the Maldives. So after the Maldives, I am finally getting back to India. This trip, I’m going to be doing something really, really special with a very special exile who lives in India. And I’ll leave it at that. I’ll be sharing on social media. And then spending about five nights in Jaipur with Kailash Satyarthi, who is India’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner. He’s an incredible guy. Him and his wife have saved over 90,000 children from child slavery and child labor. So I’m going to spend some time exploring Jaipur. Got to hit up Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then off to New Delhi. And then my good friend Bruce Starr is getting married on New Year’s Eve in Tel Aviv. So I’m going to go from Delhi to Tel Aviv. I don’t talk about the hotels I’m staying at before I leave them so follow along on social @briankelly for all of the details of this trip.

Brian Kelly:
And as Zach mentioned earlier, they’re always subject to change. So I’m going to be flying some cool airlines, Air India. And I may even give El Al a second chance on my flight home even though I’m booked through London, trying out a brand new business-class product, I’m already exhausted at my trip and probably won’t want to connect coming home after a long three weeks away. So Zach, just FYI, the wheels are already turning to change that award trip home after New Year’s to a nonstop. And Zach’s here so I’m going to have him go through the logistics of how we did all this.

Zach Griff:
We’re going to run through this really quickly, but rest assured, this was a pretty complex itinerary to get booked. Brian’s going to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi to the Maldives. So we’ve booked Etihad’s apartments for 207,500 Etihad points transferred from Amex. I know that you can book it through American Airlines, but Brian’s hoping to get upgraded to the Residence. So we wanted to book directly through Etihad.

Zach Griff:
Once in the Maldives, Brian’s going to spend five nights at the brand new JW Marriott Maldives. With Marriott redemptions, you always get the fifth night free. So Brian’s paying 85,000 Marriott points per night and he’ll get his last night free. And once Brian’s ready to leave the Maldives, we’re doing something a little bit illogical, Brian’s going to go from the Maldives to Dubai and then to India. And the reason he’s going to do that is because he wanted the most comfort for those short overnight flights. So Brian’s going to fly from the Maldives to Dubai and then from Dubai to India. Because this is what’s considered backtracking, we had to purchase two separate itineraries for each of those sectors, and each one of those cost 52,500 Emirates points, again transferred from American Express Membership Rewards.

Zach Griff:
Once Brian’s ready to leave India, he’s going to fly on Air India in business class on their pretty new nonstop flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv. And then right now Brian’s booked leaving Tel Aviv on Virgin Atlantic’s brand new A350, but TBD because as I said, he loves making changes.

Brian Kelly:
That’s it for this episode. Thanks again to the best podcast team in the biz. Caroline Schagrin, Margaret Kelley and my amazing assistant, Christie Matsui. Thanks to Samantha Rosen and Melanie Lieberman for dropping your awesome travel wisdom and tips. Huge thanks to Zach Griff for basically doing all the hard work of this episode. You inspire me, Zach. Keep up the hard work and maybe one day you’ll be flying in the Residence on behalf of TPG. I said maybe, I did not make a commitment. And thank you guys for calling in and safe travels to you all wherever you’re going, or even for those who are staying home with family. To me, spending time with my nieces and nephews is my favorite thing and that’s what I’m doing this Thanksgiving weekend, but I look forward to getting back out on the road. I’m Brian Kelly. Safe travels, everyone.

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