Austria, Germany, China 2013: Part 8 – Beijing, Tian’anmen Square, The Forbidden City

This is part 8 of a series on my trip to Austria, Germany and China.

I received 40,000 of the 100,000 miles I used for this award ticket by getting the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®!  This is a great card and one I still carry.  These miles will eventually become American miles which are some of the most valuable.  Click here to apply now for one of your own!

As I arrived in Beijing, I was impressed by the wide open and contemporary airport.

IMG_7978

I took the airport train to the main terminal.IMG_7979 And then saw this on the way!  I always buy local SIM cards for my unlocked iPhone to save on roaming costs. Luckily there was an attendant right beside the machine that helped me choose the right card, cut it to size to fit my phone and get everything going.  150 Yuan ($24) and I was in business with 200MB of data!IMG_7980

The airport already gave off the high tech reputation that Beijing had with video and LEDs everywhere!

I had booked 5 free nights at the Crowne Plaza Zhongguancun using 5000 points a night via the Pointsbreak special I talked about in this article.  Since I am a Gold Ambassador with IHG, they upgraded me to a nice corner room and gave me a fruit basket.

I spent the first few days just going out exploring.  I saw some really neat things and some really strange things!

They even had cool video advertising in the subway tunnels!

I always thought that people with masks for the pollution were overreacting, but after my China pollution app told me it was seriously polluted AND my throat started hurting on the second day, I decided it was better to be healthy than fashionable. I read this article on pollution masks to help me decide which one to get.  I found some 3M ones at the 7-11 for about $2 for three. Pro tip: Those blue or white surgical ones don’t block the microscopic particles that are present in the China pollution.

I had to try Peking Duck in Peking (Beijing was formerly known as Peking if you didn’t know!)IMG_8001I checked out Tian’anmen Square.  It was quite impressive and much bigger than I expected. At their request, I posed for some photos with some other Chinese tourists (which would become a recurring theme for this whole trip!)IMG_8058

I even caught the changing of the guard ceremony while I was there.

I went to the street market at Wangfujing and saw all sorts of weird foods and tried some of them!IMG_8042 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo2xVkbyOIY

I made it to the historical part of the city south of Tian’anmen square.

I went to The Forbidden City and saw a 600 year old Bixi!IMG_8100

I explored the gardens around The Forbidden City to the West and North as well.

I also got to try a bunch of different kinds of street food which I love.  As Anthony Bourdain recommends when you are getting street food, always go to the one with the biggest line!  The people have spoken! Pretty much everything there is less than $1.

Whew!  That is a lot of stuff I saw!  There actually is a little more Beijing on the tail end of the trip, but that is what I saw in my first 5 days.  In the next installment I go see the Great Wall of China! As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on Google+FacebookTwitter and Instagram! Today is the first posting of videos from our new Youtube channel as well so add us to your favorites on there if you like what you see!

IHG Rewards Point Breaks list for March 24 – May 31 is out!

Reminder: Don’t forget to enter our contest ending April 6 for free plane and festival tickets to the Movement Festival in Detroit!

I have written about the IHG Point Break hotels in the past and what great deals they can be.  You can get hotels that usually require up to 50,000 IHG points for only 5,000 points! Depending on the hotel, this can be the best value in hotel points redemptions around.  In fact, I am going to be getting free rooms for most of my upcoming trip to Germany and  China from this list. If you remember, I got 132,000 IHG points during the Big Win last quarter, and am on my way towards another 78,000 this quarter! If you want an easy way to bump up your points, why not apply for the IHG Mastercard that gives you 80,000 points after you spend $1K in the first 3 months. This would give you enough points for 16 free Point Break nights at the hotels below!

IHG has announced the list of the hotels and that they will be bookable for just 5000 points a night starting tomorrow, Monday March 24, 2014.  Here are the hotels that I am looking at booking during my trip to China.

Holiday Inn ZhuhaiZhuhai Holiday Inn ZhengzhouZhengZhouCrowne Plaza ZhengzhouCrowneplazazhengzhouCrowne Plaza Beijing Zhongguancun crowneplazabeijing InterContinental Hangzhouintercontinental Hangzhou  Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhousuzhou

There are some other Intercontinental Hotels on the list as well that would be great values such as:

InterContinental Marine Drive-MumbaiICMumbaiIntercontinental MedellinIntercontintal MedellinInterContinental Real Tegucigalpa in HondurasICHondurasAny of these amazing hotels for only 5000 IHG points a night!  The more desirable hotels go very quickly so I wanted to get this article out tonight so you have time to book in the morning when they go live between 9 AM and 12 PM EST.

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Book Fast! IHG Rewards Pointbreaks list now available through March 31, 2014.

As many of you know, I am a big fan of the Intercontinental Hotel Group Rewards program (IHG).  This program includes properties from Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Candlewood Suites.  I scored over 132,000 points with them last quarter during the Big Win promotion and plan on getting at least 74,000 more this quarter with another Big Win promotion. You can also get 80,000 IHG points after spending just $1 by signing up for the IHG Rewards Visa card. You can also transfer some of the 40,000 point bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred to IHG as well.

By far the best use of your IHG points is their Pointbreaks program.  Every few months IHG has a rotating list of properties that can be booked for just 5,000 points per night.  This includes properties from all members of the IHG family, even the top of the line Intercontinental brand.  The Pointbreaks list just went live for the period of January 27, 2014-March 31, 2014 and there are a few nice properties if you want to plan a spring break getaway somewhere fun.

Property Spotlight

The Intercontinental Phnom Penh looks like an interesting choice and has a usual rate of $171 a night, giving the points a value of 3.4 cents per point.Intercontinental Phnom Penh I didn’t get to see Phnom Penh when I was in Cambodia, but lounging by this pool would certainly be a good way to relax during sightseeing trips.

The Intercontinental Beijing is also on the list and has a spectacular lobby and has a normal rate of $141 a night giving a value of 2.8 center per point.Intercontinental BejingThis would be a great spot for relaxing after the hustle and bustle of the city life.

The Intercontinental Mendoza in Argentina is also on the list if wineries are more your speed. The normal rate of $187 a night gives you a value of 3.7 cents per point.Intercontinental MendozaI know a few of you could put those casks to good use!

There is also a very interesting Holiday Inn on the list that Survivor fans might like with the Holiday Inn Vanuatu. The normal rate of $218 a night yields a massive value of 4.3 cents per point which is awesome!Holiday InnThese over the water bungalows are probably not the ones given for the 5000 point rooms, but you can usually request an upgrade for an additional fee.

Booking the Promotional Rate

IHG makes booking this promotional rate quite easy. Just go to the page of the property you are interested in and go to the Room and Rates page.  Enter your dates you want to go (make sure to enter dates before March 31 to see the promotional rates) and make sure that Reward Nights is checked in the Rate Preference options.IHG BookingHit Apply and the cash rates as well as the points rates will show.  If the Pointbreaks rate is available, it will show like this:IHG Reward NightChoose Book this Room and after you log in it will take you to a summary page where you can see the total cost.IHG SummaryBut wait!  Here is a pro tip:  The Pointbreaks rates frequently sell out for the more desirable properties and you won’t be able to change your booking once it sells out and keep the pointbreaks rate.  So you should make multiple one night bookings for each night of your stay and then if your dates or needs change, you can remove one or more nights without invalidating the entire reservation and losing this awesome deal. Also since there is no penalty for canceling a points break reservation (they just put the points back into your rewards account), it is better to go ahead and book now if you are interested in a property and then cancel the reservation if you don’t need it.

You can access the full points breaks list here.

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

How I earned 132552 Points worth 26 free nights with the IHG Big Win

I have written in the past about the Big Win Promotion that IHG had last quarter.  I went big on this promotion and won big!  They are repeating this promotion again this quarter, although my offer wasn’t quite as lucrative. I ended up with a total of 132,552 IHG Points with 5 stays.BigWinI had one stay at a Crowne Plaza, one at a Holiday Inn, and three at inexpensive Candlewood Suites properties with a total cost of $448.  I also received 6% cash back by using the Upromise.com shopping portal.  Read this article for the ins and outs of shopping portals and why I use them. I even had some stays where I checked in from a different state!

I can redeem these points for 26 free nights worth of stays at PointBreak hotels that are 5,000 points per night.  Would you pay $448 (-6% cashback) for 26 free hotel nights?  I know I would!  During the last year, the following were offered on PointBreak hotels so they are certainly some nice properties available such as the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti or the Intercontinental Athenaeum Athens.

Intercontinental Tahiti

Intercontinental AthensAnd the great news as I mentioned before is that they have offered this promotion again in the first four months of 2014.  My offer is for another 74,000 points and I plan on taking advantage of it! Access your offer here and see how many free nights you can get!

If you want to get points without any hotel stays, check out how you can get 80,000 points with the Chase IHG Visa Card after spending just $1, or you can get 40,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred that can be transferred to IHG to use for 8 free nights!

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on Facebook or Twitter!

How and why I just checked into a hotel in Texas from Tennessee

CandlewoodThe end of the year always brings some interesting stories (like my SPG Platinum quest last year) and this year is no exception.  I was just able to check in and get a room number for a hotel room in Texas…. while I was sitting in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Why

I have posted about the Big Win promotion that Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) is running in the 4Q2013 where I was offered up to 98,000 IHG Rewards Club points by meeting certain goals.  IHGBigWinI had completed everything in my customized promotion except for one hotel stay.  This meant with one more hotel stay, I would get 6,700 bonus points for my Stay More and Earn More promotion and then 49,000 for the Big Win.  Knowing that one more hotel stay would give me 55,700 points possibly made it worth doing a “Mattress Run.”

What is a Mattress Run?

A Mattress Run is where you check into into a hotel strictly for promotion or point reasons. Often this means driving to a hotel in the town you live in and checking into a hotel you have no intention of staying in.  As long as the value of the points or promotion is higher than the price you are paying for the mattress run, it could make sense to do.  A great example of this was the Radisson Stay One, Get 50,000 points promotion last year.  I was able to stay at a hotel in Orlando that was $53, and then redeem those 50,000 points  when I went to London for Wimbledon and receive value of 328 Pounds (worth $536).  Great value!

The How?

Usually you have to physically be at a hotel to check in and do a mattress run.  I had read reports on Flyertalk that people were having luck at IHG hotels doing “remote check ins” by phone after you make an online reservation.  Knowing this, I started at UPromise.com so I could get 6% cashback on the hotel amount (I always use shopping portals to get cash or miles back).  I then searched for hotels in Texas because I know that Texas has some of the lowest rates in the nation.  I was able to find a night at Candlewood Suites on a AAA rate for $47.99 per night.  I called the hotel and explained what I wanted to do:  Make a reservation online, then I would call them with the confirmation number, they would check me in over the phone, give me my room number and bill the room to the credit card I reserved it with online.  I explained that I wasn’t going to be staying in the room, but needed the hotel stay for a promotion I was trying to qualify for.  The first place said they couldn’t do that, but the second place I called confirmed what I wanted and said they could do it! I made the reservation, called them back and everything went off without a hitch.

The Reward

If I had booked the cheapest room locally, it would have been $72.  By expanding my search to Texas I was able to save $25 which was great and I didn’t have to drive anywhere.  The 55,000 points I received can be used for 11 nights at a Pointbreaks hotel like this Crowne Plaza in Mexico or many others.  Not bad!04-crowne-plaza-acapulcoIf you have missed out on the Big Win promotion of last quarter, don’t fret because it is back again in 1Q2014!

As always, feel free to comment with any questions and follow me on Facebook or Twitter!

IHG Announces Win Big promotion for 1Q2014. My offer was for 74,000 Points!

Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) had a great offer called the Big Win this past quarter that gave me an extra 98,000 points on top of other ongoing bonuses.  This is even more points than the 80,000 you can get for signing up for their credit card that is part of our Easy Quarter Million!  They are bringing a similar promotion back in 2014 for January 1-April 30.  This promotion is a new type of personalized offers that are becoming more popular in the points and miles world where each member can get a slightly different offer depending on their historical stay profile.

ihg-big-win-spring-2014

My offer this time included the following for a total of 74,000 points:

  1. Stay a total of 6 nights and earn 8,800 points
  2. Stay at 2 different IHG brands and earn 9,600 points
  3. Book 1 stays through the Best Flexible Rate with Breakfast and earn 2,000 points.
  4. Book 3 separate stays through an IHG® hotel website or mobile device to get our Best Price Guarantee and earn 2,200 points
  5. Stay 2 Saturday nights and earn 4,800 points
  6. Stay at 2 Holiday Inn® hotels and earn 4,800 points
  7. Stay at 2 Holiday Inn Express® hotels and earn 4,800 points.
  8. Complete 7 of your offers and earn 37,000 points

This in my opinion is still a solid offer and if I redeem these 74,000 points for Pointbreaks hotels which only cost 5,000 points a night, then it could be worth 15 nights of free rooms. I have read about other people who have offers for 150K+ points for only 4 stays so it is worth checking your offer to see how good it is.

Click here to log in, sign up, and see what your offer is!

Intercontinental Hotel Group announces awesome The Big Win promotion for 4Q2013. Minimum of 50,000 points and no credit required!

IHGBigWinIntercontinental Hotel Group (which includes the Intercontinental Hotels, Crown Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Even and Hualuxe brands) has announced an awesome new promotion for the 4th quarter of 2013.  The offers vary depending on your stay pattern, but the minimum even for new sign ups include a bonus of 50,000 IHG Points (formerly called Priority Club points). Here is an example offer for a new account that signs up for the promotion.

  • Try one and done: Stay at any IHG hotel and receive 1,000 Points
  • Stay more and earn: Stay a total of 4 nights and receive 4,000 Points
  • Explore more brands: Stay at 3 different IHG brands and receive 10,000 Points
  • Book with us: Book 2 separate stays through an IHG hotel website or mobile device to get our best price guarantee and receive 2,000 Points
  • Win in a weekend: Stay 2 Saturday nights and receive 8,000 Points
  • Get an additional  25000 Points if all promotions are completed until December 31, 2013.

50,000 points is enough for an IHG hotel room at any of their hotels in the world, but the smarter way to use them is for the Pointsbreak rotating list of 5,000 point a night hotels.  If you use them this way, you could get 10 nights free from this promotion which is awesome!

I had a few IHG hotel stays during my Europe trip this summer and status matched to Platinum status from my Starwood status.  My offer was even better than the one above!

  • Try one and done: Stay at any IHG hotel and receive 1,000 Points
  • Stay more and earn: Stay a total of 5 nights and receive 6,700 Points
  • Explore more brands: Stay at 3 different IHG brands and receive 22,000 Points
  • Book with us: Book 2 separate stays through an IHG hotel website or mobile device to get our best price guarantee and receive 2,400 Points
  • Win in a weekend: Stay 2 Saturday nights and receive 4,800 Points
  • Survey the Win: Complete a simple survey and receive 100 Points
  • Live the City Life: Stay at 2 of the following locations below and receive 12,000 Points (My locations included hotels in L.A. , Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada)
  • Get an additional  49,000 Points if all promotions are completed until December 31, 2013.

This means for my promo I can get a total of 98,000 bonus points on top of the normal points I would accrue!  Yeah!  This will be enough for 20 nights in Pointbreaks hotels which is how I am planning on spending them. Last month they offered the Intercontinental Medellin which would be a great way to take 20 free nights!

Intercontintal Medellin
Intercontintal Medellin

Log into your account on this page today and see what your offer is! You can also sign up for their free IHG Rewards program from that page if you don’t already have an account.  If this sounds like too much work, you can always just get 80,000 IHG points by getting The Priority Club Visa and spending just $1 on it!