Month: April 2016

How I Used Travel Hacks to Save Over $1,000

“How do you afford to travel so much?!”: a question I am asked more often than I’m asked what I’m doing with my life (that’s for another conversation :)). Instead of a potentially sassy sarcastic comment, I thought I’d respond with some tips for how to save money when planning to travel, whether you’re planning a weekend vacation or a big international trip. There are tons of travel hacks out there, but here are just a few I’ve used recently:

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1. Take advantage of travel credit cards:
Credit cards can offer amazing benefits, especially when it comes to traveling. Many credit card companies offer promotions if you open up a new account, which have unbeatable perks. After plenty of research on the best travel credit cards, I recently opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get 50,000 bonus points to use for my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. These bonus points were worth $600 and paid for my flight to Thailand in full, with still plenty to spare! (Finding cheap flights is an entirely different topic :)) Disclaimer: there are spending minimums to get these bonus points, and if you’re worried about not spending enough within the allotted time, there are also ways of hacking that (I’m happy to share if you ask me). If you’re interested in applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card or want to know more about it, let me know and I can send you a referral email! There are plenty of other travel credit cards out there, so just make sure to do your research before deciding and be smart about paying off your balance to avoid accruing interest.

2. Book through Chase Ultimate Rewards:
If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you have access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is a convenient way to book flights, hotels, cars, and activities at a 20% discount. You can also redeem your Chase points directly through Ultimate Rewards, making your points go even further! For example, if a hotel is $100/night on another website, you can book that same room through Ultimate Rewards for $80 or 8,000 points/night either with your card or with points. This is how I booked my flight to Thailand and how I will book hotels and hostels while I’m in SE Asia- super easy and saves you even more money! Many people who already have Chase accounts don’t know about this feature or how it works, so I wanted to be sure to include it.

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3. Don’t pay foreign transaction fees or ATM fees:
Many travel credit cards do not charge you foreign transaction fees, but paying countless ATM fees while traveling abroad is inevitable… or is it? I wish I knew this hack before traveling through Europe the past two summers! This one is a little more complicated, but stick with me. Charles Schwab Bank not only allows you to use any ATM in the world for free, but they also reimburse you for fees charged at any ATM. The way you can take advantage of this awesome program is by applying for a high-yield investor account through Schwab, which comes automatically with a checking account. There are no service fees, minimums, or restrictions on the checking account (you do not have to actually use the investor account if you don’t want to). Once you set up the account, you can order a debit card, and voila! You can use that card at any ATM in the WORLD and get reimbursed for every ATM fee. I’ve already tested it and can’t wait to use it in Asia! Bonus: the checking account also serves as a great virtual “piggy bank” to put away money for future travels.

Here is a link with some FAQs about this type of account.

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4. Subscribe to email newsletters:
This may sound like an email clog, but it is totally worth it! You can even set up an email specifically for these types of newsletters to make sure your important messages don’t get lost. There are a ton out there, but I recommend subscribing to newsletters for major airlines, websites like TravelPirates, Expedia, SkyScanner, SecretFlying, and The Points Guy. I recently got a GREAT deal on my flight to Austin on a JetBlue flash sale (saved me over $150 from original fare), which I found out about through their email newsletter. I also recently saw an error fare for roundtrip flights from LAX/SFO to New Zealand on Qantas for $220! No joke! These flash sales/error fares don’t last long, so it’s important to be the first to know about them.

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5. Be loyal to a few major airlines:
If you travel often, always try to fly on the same few airlines. Through traveling for work for the past two years, I was able to land lots of free flights through Southwest Airlines because of the points I earned. In my opinion, Southwest has the best rewards program without needing a credit card, so I try to stick with them. If you’re really loyal to one airline, think about getting their credit card to earn even more bonus miles/points. I personally do not have one because I can transfer points on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card directly to Southwest points at a 1:1 ratio, but I have heard positive reviews for several airline credit cards. I also fly frequently with American Airlines, and am planning on using those points to book my flight home from Asia. Step one: set up a frequent flyer account with all major airlines and write down your FF number to use when booking flights!

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6. Use your spare time to earn free frequent flyer miles:
This one is newer for me, but I have recently started using E-rewards.com to fill out marketing/research surveys to earn extra Southwest points. Here’s how it works:

  • Set up an account
  • Receive emails when new surveys are available
  • Fill out surveys to earn money in your E-rewards account
  • Redeem E-rewards money for Southwest points

Surveys vary widely by topic, but can include questions about your eating/drinking habits, opinions about restaurants or cars, etc. Some are short, some are longer, some pay a dollar, some pay more- it all depends. What I like about it is it gives me something to do if I ever have a free couple of minutes, and I can choose when and how often I fill out surveys. If you want to set up an account to earn Southwest points, you can use this
link.

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7. Apply for TSA Pre-Check:
This one doesn’t save you money while traveling, but it certainly saves you time! I highly recommend applying for TSA Pre-Check for domestic travel and Global Entry for frequent international travel. Pre-Check allows you to cut the security line and walk right through without removing your shoes, laptop, or liquids. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me from missing a flight!

Click on this link for more information about TSA Pre-Check.

Click on this link for more information about Global Entry.

Though it requires an in-person interview and a fee of $80, TSA Pre-Check is well worth the investment (shout out to my previous job for paying for mine!) and membership lasts five years.

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Now you just have to pick a spot- the globe is yours! I know there are plenty of other travel hacks out there, and these were just a few. If you think of any I missed, feel free to comment or message me and let me know :). Happy travels!

 

1,000 Miles? More Like 72,000

The day has finally come… I have officially completed my two years serving as a Leadership Consultant for Alpha Gamma Delta. I turned in my computer, my hotspot and even my beloved credit card yesterday, and somehow it still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually done. It’s difficult to find a job where you are truly in your “element” the majority of the time, and when you’re not, it’s a learning experience you will always look back on fondly. This experience has been one of the best of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

22 chapters, 30 airports, 43 reports, 71 email folders, thousands of emails, and over 72,000 miles flown, all to serve the organization that has made such a large impact on me. I would definitely say I’ve been living the dream. I traveled everywhere from Hawaii to New Jersey, Washington and Georgia, and even Vancouver, Canada. I visited the largest public university in the country (ASU), the two oldest (Rutgers and UGA), and even one of the smallest, with only 900 students (Georgetown College). I helped start brand new chapters (App State, Coe College Cal Poly SLO, and Rutgers), and worked with chapters established as early as 1917, built strong relationships with women at SDSU, USC and UCLA while working with them long-term, and even sat in on a class at USC. I tasted incredible food, went on countless campus tours, and went sightseeing in places I never imagined I’d visit. From zip lining in the Appalachian Mountains to hiking Diamond Head on Oahu, I’ve had some incredible opportunities thanks to Alpha Gam.

Through this journey, I have learned more about my leadership style and unique talents, gained confidence in areas I never thought I’d excel in, learned from mistakes, helped chapters make incredible progress, and gained professional experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Not to mention meeting thousands of women across North America! I could not be any more grateful for this opportunity Alpha Gam has given me; it says something about the power of this organization if I am still as passionate about it now as I was in college. I remember talking with a few members of our team this week in Indianapolis about the chapter I had just visited, and realized that I am just as invested in my work now as I was the day I hit the road two years ago. Pretty powerful!

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Though my journey as an LC has come to an end, I look forward to continuing to volunteer for Alpha Gam (once I settle down somewhere :)). Until then, I will be living it up enjoying what I’m sure will be the most fun summer of my life! Here’s what’s coming up for me:

April 25-27: visiting grandparents in San Jose

April 29: Friends from England are coming to stay with me! Can’t wait to show them around Orange County since they’ve never been to the U.S. 🙂

April 30-May 3: Vegas with Daniella for her 25th birthday!

May 4-7: Austin, Tx (checking it out to see if I want to move there!)

May 8-14: Maui with Lauren on a trip she won through her work for being an incredible sales rep!

May 14-21: San Francisco for Bridget and Alexis’ graduations! Bridget is the valedictorian and commencement speaker for USF and will be graduating with her Master’s in Public Affairs. Alexis will be graduating from UC Hastings Law School before heading to San Diego- such amazing accomplishments! Yay for smart friends :).

May 21: Thailand!! I will be spending the first two weeks with Lauren in Thailand, then traveling solo to explore all over Southeast Asia! No return ticket booked, so I have no idea when I’ll be back… !

Clearly, it’s going to be a crazy few months for me! I am so thankful to have such supportive family and friends who are always encouraging and let me crash on their couches/beds. I try to appreciate all the things I have going for me as they happen, because too often we take our lives for granted, and I know how lucky I am in so many ways. Some people might call me crazy for living this kind of lifestyle, and some even say to me “I wish I could do that!”, but my response is always that YOU CAN! I am a true believer in living the life you’d imagine for yourself and making changes that lead to your happiness. If you want to do something or go somewhere, find a way to make it happen- anything is possible! Thanks for reading and wish me luck that my tight schedule works out for the next month! And no, I do not plan on getting kidnapped in Asia :).

Have a wonderful day!

Vegas-Phx-SLO-LA Update

The other side of Vegas: delicious food, upscale gated communities, less crowds, and a beautiful campus! As many times as I’ve been to Las Vegas, I hadn’t been to UNLV until my recent visit to our Delta Omicron Chapter. After a long travel day from Oahu, I arrived to campus at approximately 2:00 a.m., and after traveling full time for two years, mishaps like this almost no longer faze me. I had a fun and productive week with our chapter at UNLV, discussing new ideas, providing training and education, and meeting with officers and advisors.

Delta Omicron does a fun PR event every spring, called “Bring in the Spring”, when the chapter gives out free baked goods on campus to promote positivity. Throughout the week, they had sisterhood events to bake desserts and make posters together, which was half of the fun! Here are some pictures of the amazing wooden letters they decorated for the event, as well as their booth on campus:

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Note to self: don’t attempt to casually walk down the strip on St. Patrick’s Day. You WILL become engulfed in a sea of green and very drunk people. It was entertaining to pass through to say the least, although I stuck out like a sore thumb wearing business attire!

After my visit at UNLV, I flew to Phoenix for the weekend to facilitate a recruitment training event for our Delta Xi Chapter at ASU. This chapter holds a special place in my heart because I have worked with them longer than any other chapter- my full two years! Though I have only visited five times, I keep in touch with many of the members and advisors, so I feel like I know them very well :). Recruitment Training School was a success and I loved getting to visit ASU one last time.

After a short check-in visit at USC, I got to go home for Easter weekend! It was great to see my family and I absolutely LOVED seeing my sister’s new house in Newport Beach. She lives about 20 steps from the sand right on the peninsula and can see the beach from one window and the bay from another window in the house. She loves her roommates and I am so happy for her :). Erica has wanted to move to the beach since as long as I can remember, and she is now living her dream! Throughout the weekend, I squeezed in some beach time with my/Erica’s friend, Katie, went wine tasting in Laguna Beach, took my mom to dinner for her birthday, went to church with my dad, stepmom and grandma, and had a fun Easter dinner with my mom, John, Erica, and her roommates. It’s crazy to think that the next time I’m home I will no longer be a Leadership Consultant! Here are some pictures from my weekend in Irvine:

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I really lucked out with my schedule this semester and got to go back to San Luis Obispo for a few days! A few consultants and I recruited for our new chapter at Cal Poly for the week, which was fun as always. My favorite event we had was our bonfire with our founding members and potential new members at a hotel in Pismo Beach. We watched an amazing sunset, made s’mores, and drank hot chocolate together. A funny story from the week was when we got our car stuck in the sand at Pismo Beach while attempting to scope out a bonfire spot. I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard! We actually had to PUSH the giant SUV in 20 mph winds and very cold temperatures, which I will never forget. Being able to drive on the sand is only nice if you know how… lesson learned! Here are some pictures from my week in SLO:

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Now for the sad part: I had my last visits at USC and UCLA these past two weeks. I have worked with our Delta Alpha Chapter at USC for the past year and a half and our Delta Epsilon Chapter at UCLA for the past year, spending a TON of time at both campuses. I have gotten to know each of the members on a deeper level and feel like I am somewhat a part of their chapters now. I had a great transition visit at USC with Sam, the consultant who will be supporting both chapters next year, and am wrapping up my last visit at UCLA tomorrow. I have learned so much from both of these chapters and have built strong relationships that I know will last long past my time as an LC. I have laughed with them, cried with them, made it through recruitment with them, and supported them through some of the biggest growth periods these chapters have seen. I’m not sure if any members from DA or DE read my blog, but if you’re reading this, I will miss you!

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The USC Cinema School is amazing! I got to see the USC campus one last time when I gave Sam a tour during our visit.

COR event with mocktails and cheesecake at UCLA!

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Santa Monica has the best food- I present you Pono Burger’s fig burger with bacon, baked brie, arugula, hazelnuts, and balsamic:

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While in LA, I actually got to see my Alpha Gam “little” and good friend from college, Carly, and her roommate, which was awesome! They just moved to Hollywood, so I loved checking out the area with them while I was in town.

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I’m off to my last visit EVER tomorrow at Washington State, then I will head to Indianapolis on Monday for our spring debrief with the other Leadership Consultants. In 11 short days, I will officially be UNEMPLOYED! Then onto the next adventure…. 🙂