7 posts of 2013 You Shouldn’t Miss!

I started a tradition last year where I basically plug my contributions to the community. This year my number of United posts almost out-numbered my non-United posts in terms of contributions. So this post is about non-United contributions.

These are original ideas and research I’ve done and written about, new this past year. However, I created a few list posts that focused on or listed other content, so I tried not to double post and just use the lists.

Thanks to those who have supported and read this blog this year.

1) Save Avios with Stopovers

One of my best series was on how you could use stopovers to save British Airways Avios (their frequent flyer miles). The concept is sorta simple. By changing your route to a less direct option you save miles.

It doesn’t seem to make sense but it’s how their award chart works. See British Airways doesn’t charge for awards by the regions you fly but the distances.

If you look at the award chart, you’ll see that it would cost 30,000 Avios to fly 5,750 in air miles. But it would cost 12,500 Avios to fly 2,999 miles. Do it twice and it’s a fair amount cheaper than the direct flight.

One simple example is that it would cost 50,000 Avios to fly from LA to Sydney. But a flight via Hawaii would cost 37,500 Avios.

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 1.05.57 PM  Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 1.05.36 PM

In other words, you’d save 12,500 Avios each direction by stopping in Hawaii. A rough life we live.

Read the last post in the series Using Stopovers to Save Avios Conclusions.

2) The Greatest List of Best Rate Guarantees

If you’re paying full price for a hotel ever, you’ve got a lot of learning ahead.

The goal here was to list every good Best Rate Guarantee policy. Which is when you find a lower rate on another site and then they adjust your reservation.

I’ve written about how I’ve gotten completely free nights this way with IHG, Choice, and Hilton. Also, the Best Western BRG is back and gives a $100 gift card… which you can then use for another BRG.

But there are also hotels that give 50% off a stay – i.e. Movenpick, Citiadines and Rydges. Simply find a better rate, but book on their website and fill out their form and bam, a night at half price. Half the price of the better deal.

This is for sure a page to bookmark: Hotel Best Rate Guarantee List

3) Completeish List of Airline Stopover Rules

Another resource list I have is about stopovers. People know a few of the stopover rules but here you’l find a list of 16 airline stopover basics. Some of the airlines allow 4 or 5 stopovers. Lufthansa allows 2 stopovers and 2 open-jaws. These are things that could seriously increase the value of a ticket.

Personally my favorite has been United, but there is serious value in some of the lesser known ones.

I can’t stress this enough, but ANA has got to be one of the best options out there. It’s essentially 4 stops on a ticket but it has one of the best award charts out there. ANA tends to have the cheapest award tickets for most routes to Europe, South America, etc…

So if you really want to read some more, check out the posts listed there for ANA Stopover Rules, Lufthansa, AA, etc…

Read: List of Airline Stopover Rules

4) How to Book Club Carlson’s Free Bonus Award Nights Back to Back!

If you’re familiar with Club Carlson’s credit card, you know it comes with a free award night per stay. So if you book 4 nights, you get a 4th free and pay for 3. But if you book 2 nights, you only pay for one.

So my idea was to try to get a four night stay that was two “buy one get one” style stays back to back.

But their system isn’t stupid. If you try to do this it won’t give the second free night, so there are ways around this. Two things we’ve done is:

  • Having two accounts (like with two people)
  • Switch hotels

I’ll be talking about more ways for this later, but in the meantime you can get an idea by reading the post (and comments).

Read: How to Book Club Carlson Bonus Award Night 

5) Hidden Gem Airline Redemptions

This is another (boring) list. This basically goes over all the reasonable options for airline transers from Amex MR Points or SPG that you don’t normally hear about. And surprisingly there are some great redemptions no one knows about. Air Berlin, Alitalia, and 0f course ANA.

6) Secrets of Overwater Bungalows

This post started when I wanted to know about points options for overwater bungalows and saw nothing with complete info, no list of hotel options, nothing…

The other thing is, traditionally I thought the advice given has been terrible for upgrades. “Pay with points and ask to pay with cash”. No, no cash!

So for example, with the IC Bora Bora, instead of paying $250 a night, I say pay $200 for Ambassador status which gives you a guaranteed upgrade.

Critics have noted that sometimes Ambassador benefits aren’t given on award stays. But 1) readers have noted this advice working, and 2) simply email ahead! Say “hey, I’m an Ambassador member so I know I get an upgrade on my reservation (#xxxx), but could I request a bungalow with a view of ____.”

That’s how I would do it, but even with no email, readers have reported getting overwater bungalows. So emailing to say “can I pay $250 a night for an upgrade” is a joke when you could be paying $200 for the stay.

big-4  Deluxe Overwater Villa, terrace view

Email ahead as well if you’re a Hilton Gold staying at a Hilton property, if you’re a Hyatt Diamond at a Hyatt property, etc, and just ask!

Anyways, read: The Secret to Free Overwater Bungalows

7) The Master Guide to Airline Alliances, Fuel Surcharges and Frequent Flyer Miles

This is a beginner post that has golden information on which airlines have fuel surcharges and which airlines pass them on. Oh heck, I’ll just copy that info in here and save you a click. But if you are a beginner, read the entire post!

Star Alliance:

  • Who has them: Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss, TAP, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines (on international flights, except within North and South America and the Caribbean).
  • Who doesn’t have them: Air New Zealand, Avianca, TACA, TAM, US Airways and United (within the Americas).
  • Who passes them on: Air Canada and Lufthansa
  • Who doesn’t pass them on: United and Avianca TACA and US Airways


  • Who has them: American Airlines (on international flights, except within North and South America and the Caribbean), British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian
  • Who doesn’t have them: Air Berlin, American Airlines (within the Americas), Iberia, LAN
  • Who passes them on: Air Berlin, British Airways
  • Who doesn’t pass them on: American Airlines, LAN (right?)
    Note that American Airlines does pass on British Airways fuel surcharges only.


  • Who has them: Aeroflot, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China, Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines
  • Who doesn’t have them: AeroMexico, Saudia
  • Who passes them on: Alitalia, Delta, KLM, Korean Air
  • Who doesn’t pass them on: ?


In a few days I’ll also post my best United posts. That’s where I’ve made the biggest contributions to the community. But I’m curious of what non United people have enjoyed on this site.

Are there any posts that should be on this list? Did you enjoy the series on using British Airways stopover tricks? Are these lists of rules and things actually helpful to read? Stopover content in general?

Why are you here now and what will keep you here? 😀 That’s what I really want to know, I guess.

And once again, I want to thank every single person who has been reading Travel Is Free this year, and especially those who have given feedback. That British Airways series wasn’t a series until a number of you kind folk said, “give more examples, turn this into more posts”, and it was a hit. Thanks to you.

In turn, I hope to deliver unique and original content not scraped off of forums and others. Hopefully the above 7 posts are examples of that or contain examples of that.

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  1. It seems that you have a lot of great information this year. I am going to have to go back and check out the posts :)

    • Great, thanks for reading Chanel.

  2. Amazing collection of great articles! Just a little correction: Iberia does have YQs, and AA does pass them on Iberia. Peanuts compared to BA, that’s for sure.

    • Thanks, good point Andy. I guess I tend to lump them together but obviously shouldn’t when their fees are so different.
      Still, I redeemed on AirBerlin. :-p

    • That’s my natural choice too, yes. Still I have redeemed on Iberia and it wasn’t too bad. Featured this article in my blog. Mainly as a reference point for myself and my readers.:).

  3. I might be in a minority but I really enjoy your series that shows how you get by with so little money.

    • K, yea. Maybe I’ll try moving it from every quarter to every other month, or maybe then every month. IDK. Wait… Maybe I’m due one anyways…

  4. Drew, thanks for the recap of the 7 best posts. Must have been hard picking out 7 with so many epic ones to choose from.

    You do an amazing job adding real value to this hobby. Keep up the great work, and here’s to even better stuff in 2014!

    • Thanks Trav!
      lol, it’s hard to pick my 7 least poorly written posts… so I went with lists! 😀
      Nah, but really, thanks.

  5. Great year, thanks Drew!

    • To a better ’14!
      Thanks for reading and commenting Andy. I appreciate it.

  6. Drew just want to say thanks. I’m a newbie to enhanced travel and feel quite overwhelmed by all everything but you are great at explaining it all!

    • Thanks Sunnyk, It’s good to hear. Sometimes I fear that I’m too far in the forest to see the trees. But I think my writing has gotten a little better and the comments really help. Because I can see what direction I should go, instead of guessing what people are thinking.
      So, thank you.

  7. I love your posts about hotel stays and how you manage to do this long term. You have some great tips. Thanks for a wonderful blog. I can’t wait to read where you are heading next.

    • Thanks Denise! Glad to hear it. Right now we’re with family in Amish Country, Ohio… but have many adventures soon. Thanks for following!


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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
Go to About Me to learn more.