Thursday, January 27, 2011

The FGT Staff’s Favorite Hotel Rewards Program

Intercontinental Continental Hotel Group’s Priority Club Rewards program is currently the preferred hotel rewards program of the FGT Staff. There are many excellent hotel rewards programs available to choose from, so the best program for us may fit with your travel needs. Over the last few years, Priority Club has sponsored numerous games, sweepstakes, and non-hotel stay opportunities to earn many points.
Standard reward nights start at 10,000 points. One member of the FGT Staff is also a football season ticket holder at the SEC University where his son attends. During the 2010 season, he was able to use Priority Club Rewards to cover five stays at the local Holiday Inn Express at a rate of 15,000 points per night. When the football weekend rate is usually $250 per night, with a two night minimum, Priority Club Rewards are an excellent way to save money.
If you are looking to play golf in a new location but not overly concerned with where that location may be, Priority Club offers a Points Break Program each quarter. Instead of shelling out 15,000 to 40,000 points to book a reward room you can book rooms for just 5,000 points – this is pretty darn good as you can often get good properties on this deal. The 4th quarter Points break list included properties in California, Florida and Texas.
We also actively participate in the programs offered by Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Wyndham, Choice and Hyatt. Take the time to review each program and decide which one will best align with your current travel patterns.
Most of the major hotel programs have resort locations with golf courses on site or within close proximity. When considering future golf travel plans, always evaluate which hotel program will be most beneficial.  
Our golf travels have allowed us to play at several resort locations with the cost at least partially offset utilizing hotel rewards. Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA has a Hilton Hotel on site. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama has several Marriott properties on location and many Intercontinental Hotel Group (Priority Club) properties nearby. The Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, the La Quinta Resort & Club in California and the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico are all part of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Collection.
We suggest you join all of the major hotel reward programs so that you can take advantage of the abundance of opportunities available to earn points, even when you are not regularly travelling.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Priority Club "Win it in a Minute" Trivia Contest

Priority Club launched a new promotion today – Win it in a Minute. Each weekday for the next 12 weeks offers Priority Club members the chance to answer 5 questions for points. This is a timed trivia contest providing 12 seconds to answer each question. The quicker you answer correctly, the more points you win for the correct answer.

See a full explanation of the contest at Loyalty Traveler.

There are both daily and weekly points awarded so take a few minutes each day to try your hand at trivia and possibly win a few extra Priority Club Reward Points.

Choosing a Primary Hotel Program

Choosing the right hotel reward program requires a little more thought than picking an airline partner.  While some of the basic principles apply to both airlines and hotels (such as “pick a major” and “register for promotions”), there is much more variability in the value of a single hotel point than there is an airline mile.
When choosing a hotel program, consider the following.
Pick a Major Regardless of whether you are choosing an airline, hotel or rental car program, this is a consistent and key component.  Choose a major hotel chain, with many properties under management, to ensure that you are going to get the best choice of options when you want to use the free nights you have earned.  The following are some of the largest hotel chains in the world: 

Preferred Destinations and Class of Hotels If you like higher end tropical resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean, you may want to consider Marriott (Ritz Carlton) or Starwood (Westin, Luxury Collection and St. Regis).  If you prefer to travel to major international cities you may consider Intercontinental.  Or if you love a particular hotel, like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, you may want to consider Hyatt.  The key is to think about where you want to go, what type of hotels you prefer and then investigate the hotel chains that will provide you with what you want.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Managing Your Points & Miles

Managing your miles and points can become a chore if you allow it to. Monitoring your individual account as well as the accounts of multiple family members can lead to aggravation and, if you are not diligent, expiration of miles.

There are an estimated 10 trillion unused frequent-flyer miles currently in circulation, worth some $165 billion. Industry experts estimate that 20% of these miles will never be redeemed. That is a significant number of unredeemed miles.

So how can you keep track of your multiple miles and points accounts? There are several websites available that will simpify the process for you. The prices range from free to $15 per year to whatever you want to pay.

The FGT Staff utilizes Award Wallet to track miles and points. This site isn't perfect, but it offers most of the key features you will need. You can enter accounts for multiple people. The main page neatly shows all your accounts, with miles for each. But Award Wallet will show expiration dates for only three accounts unless you upgrade to a paid membership. How much is a paid membership? Whatever you want to pay.

No matter which service you pick, prepare yourself for some data-entry work at the outset. You'll need your account numbers and passwords. If you haven't already set up online access to your frequent-flier accounts, you'll have to do that first. Still, this definitely falls into the spend-time-to-save-time category. Once you've got your information entered, you can kick back and let the service do the work.

Now, rather than worrying about how many frequent-flier miles and hotel points we have, we can start thinking about where we will be going on our next Frugal Golf Adventure.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How did we get started? Day 2

Day 2 - Farmlinks 
After the disappointing cardboard breakfast the day before and the upcoming golf marathon we had planned on day 2, we ate at one of Dink's favorite joints - the Waffle House.  To keep our energy up for another 28+ holes of golf a good breakfast was important.  Smothered, covered, chunked and dunked was deemed good enough.  Farmlinks Golf Course is off the beaten path.  How far?  Have you ever heard of Sylacauga Alabama?  OK you and Google Maps are the only two.  

So why play a course that is so far off the path you have to have ask for directions when the GPS cannot find it.  Just like any other course, it's there.  Admittedly the draw to Farmlink's is the deal.  For one price, $125, you get unlimited golf and a sit down lunch.  Break that down.  Sit down lunch would be about $15, snacks would be about $10, so if you just play two rounds that is only $50 each.  Even Putts can do that math.  ;)  You are looking for Sylacauga on Google maps right now aren't you?  

The story behind Farmlinks is they were a farm.  They took a chance on growing grass, legal grass, different types of grass.  Bermuda, tiff eagle, bent, diamond cut, blue, green, etc.  Their goal is testing herbicides, fertilizers, irrigation, etc.  They even get sponsors such as John Deere and Toro.  My understanding is most if not all of their equipment is donated.  Companies come in a test the products with their staff and the on site researchers to find out how to make the grass grow under all different types of conditions.  The Parcell family that owns the farm are not golf people.  But do not take that the wrong way.  The Parcell family are farmers.  Why is that important? Farmers are the definition of family.  You are on their land.  You are visitor at their place.  Put it all together it spells h-o-s-p-i-t-a-l-i-t-y.  First class southern hospitality.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

The FGT Staff’s Favorite Airline Frequent Flyer Program

American Airlines is perhaps unique among the airlines in offering lifetime elite status to its members based on the number of lifetime miles earned from any source. Please note that this is an undocumented benefit, and could be changed without notice. Unlike the yearly status qualification where only miles or segments actually flown qualify you, for lifetime status all miles count - including credit cards, EQM, bonus miles, exchange transfers in from other programs, etc. all count, and regardless of whether or not they have been used.
1 million miles - Lifetime AAdvantage Gold status

2 million miles - Lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status

Over the years, acquiring miles through credit card sign up bonuses and churning of credit cards has produced many miles for many travelers although there has recently been a restriction on the number of credit card sign up bonuses an individual can receive.
Availability of award travel at the lowest redemption level is plentiful compared to other domestic airlines in our experience.
So join the AAdvantage program today if you have not already. As soon as you join, head on over to visit the Frugal Travel Guy and apply for one or multiple Citi AAdvantage credit cards and take advantage of the current bonus miles promotions.  Scroll down the page to Rick’s Top Eight Travel Deals and check out #2.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

3 Surveys from Priority Club

This post on View from the Wing references a post on Flyertalk notes 3 quick Priority Club surveys which offer free points:

100 points:
Answers are : C,D,B
100 points:
Answers are: D,A,C
300 points:
Answers are: D, D, D, D, C
I had already taken the second and third surveys, it wouldn’t let me take them again. But it did let me take the first one. All three surveys worked for my wife. All three surveys said my son had already taken the quizzes. 
Give it a try for a potential easy 500 Priority Club points.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Choosing a Primary Frequent Flyer Program

Selecting your primary frequent flyer program is very straightforward – you want to pick the airline that will allow you to maximize the miles you earn, without having to change your travel and spending patterns.  The majority of airline miles you earn will come from one of two places; air travel and/or credit card usage.  Since most major airlines offer mileage credit cards, your first focus should be on the air travel component.
Find out what airline has the most flights from your local airport. This should be your Primary Frequent Flyer Program. Go to that airlines web site and join their frequent flyer program. Print out the temporary membership card, write down your password and put this in your TRAVEL folder. In a few weeks, you will receive a nice envelope from the airline with a permanent membership card and various other marketing materials.
Look around the web site for Free Miles for email signup, referrals, downloading a search bar or scheduling program. The airlines want to turn you into a loyal customer and will often reward you with miles for various activities.
Now repeat this process for every member of your family, including the baby.
Repeat STEP 1 for every airline that flies from your home airport.  Remember to sign up EVERY FAMILY MEMBER. You will see the benefits of this in later blog posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free Gas for Your Next Golf Trip

Free $10 BP Gas Card After 5 Fillups of 8 Gallons or more

Purchase 8 gallons or more of any grade of BP fuel and present your receipt to the on-site cashier to get a Loyalty Card. Scratch the card to reveal a unique code.

Enter the code on the website: THANK YOU DAYS

Once you have filled up* 5 times and entered 5 Loyalty Card codes, you will be mailed your $10 BP Reward Card.

We have four drivers in our household so buying gas on a regular basis in not an issue. During this promotion, we are only purchasing just over 8 gallon each visit so we can maximize the number of loyalty cards we receive. $10 of fuel will not get you very far, but a few $10 cards will at least get you a round trip to your next golf venue.

(To all my friends and family who work for Chevron, I apologize for promoting your competition, but free gas is free gas. I will return to supporting you when this promotion is completed.)

*A fill up consists of purchasing 8 gallons or more of any grade of BP fuel.

The fine print:
The program begins on 12/1/10 and ends on 3/1/11. All qualifying purchases must be completed between 12/1/10 and 3/1/11, or when Loyalty Card supplies are exhausted, whichever occurs first. See back of Loyalty Card to learn how to receive a $10 BP Reward Card. $10 BP REWARD CARDS EXPIRE ON 9/6/11. Offer not valid in New Jersey.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How did we get started? You got a minute for a story...

The plan was simple.  In three days play as much golf as possible, on the nicest courses possible, for the least amount of cash as possible.  How is that possible?  

We started with choosing the best public courses available to us.  Living in Alabama we picked the two courses on our Alabama wish list.  The first was Ross Bridge in Hoover, AL.  The Champions Tour played the Regions Charity Classic at Ross Bridge the past few years.  We had visited the tournament two years in a row walking around saying "I would really love to play this course."  Using a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Trailcard exclusively for Alabama residence, we could play the course for $79.  The second course on our wish list was Farmlinks in Sylacauga, AL.  We had heard through the sand trap Farmlinks was not only a quality golf course, but for one price of $125 you were encouraged to play all you wanted.

Our next obstacle was finding a place to stay on the cheap.  Family is always a possibility but can be a little intrusive.  Hey how about the reward hotel points we never use?  LIGHT BULB - ON.  Join the founders of FGT nicknamed "Dink" and "Putts" on that first trip.  Read about the adventures and how we used the reward systems to drive our passion for playing our golf wish list.

"Ideas are born by everyday experiences." - Putts

Day 0 - Travel day
Picked up Dink in Montgomery and made a bee line for the finest BBQ in the state of Alabama at Jim and Nicks in Hoover.  After dinner we checked into the "Castle" at Ross Bridge using Marriott Reward points for three free nights.  The accommodations at Ross Bridge are first class.  Arnold Palmer level first class.

Day 1 - Ross Bridge
After a quick breakfast of coffee and a cardboard nutrition bar, (hey the pros eat these things right) we entered the Pro-shop and presented our Am Ex Golf Gift reward cards.  We were treated like welcomed guests.  We were asked simple questions about if we had played Ross Bridge before.  This was our first trip.  Had we played other RTJ courses?  What was our normal tee box?  We normally play the orange (6-12 handicap) tee.  The pro explained the Ross Bridge course was more difficult than other courses on the RTJ trail.  He went on to explain how it played longer.  The pro was non-threatening with his information and questions.  He gave off a vibe that he genuinely wanted us to enjoy our round of golf.  

We left the Pro-shop feeling welcome at Ross Bridge.  We left knowing which direction we needed to go to get to our cart.  We left knowing a staff member would be meeting us at our cart to further assist.  We left knowing our options on which tee box to play based on advice from a professional...yes...we played from the white tee box.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to Get Started with Frugal Golf Travel

Maximizing your miles and points will require some organization and attention to detail. You can collect miles and points passively without putting forth much effort and eventually have enough miles for a flight and sufficient points for a few hotel nights. Or, you can be an aggressive collector and soon you will be on your way to many golf travel adventures.
Start with a folder and mark it “TRAVEL”. You will eventually end up with lots of account numbers, passwords,  membership cards, coupons and promotion codes, free tickets, companion tickets, drink coupons, lounge passes, upgrades and date reminders so get a good folder or accordion file.
Compile all the membership information you currently have on Airline and Hotel Programs. You may discover old accounts that have a few miles or points that have been gathering dust. You may also need to contact customer service at some programs to get access to that old account you have not reviewed online in many months and have forgotten your login information.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Brief History of Miles and Points

The first airline loyalty program was created in May 1981. American Airlines was the first carrier to kick off the party. The concept was hot, and United soon followed with their own “Mileage Plus” program.
In 1983, both Marriott and Holiday Inn began the first hotel loyalty programs, rewarding frequent guests with points that could be exchanged for free nights on future visits. Both programs have been modified over the years to better balance the program’s benefits to serve the companies’ most loyal members while ensuring that rewards remain valuable enough to motivate leisure travelers. These days, virtually every airline has a frequent flyer program and all the major hotel chains have frequent guest programs.
If you are not playing this game you are losing money and missing out on many travel opportunities.
Most travelers are fairly na├»ve about how mileage programs work, and the airlines use this to their advantage by attempting to limit awards to low-value trips. Savvy travelers can turn the tables on the airlines by a) earning many more miles than the average traveler, and b) redeeming those miles for high-value trips that would otherwise be very expensive. Because Frequent Flyer programs favor the airlines from the beginning, it’s only fair to do everything you can to earn as much mileage as you can, and also be able to easily redeem your mileage for great travel rewards. That’s where this site comes in, and it all starts with goal-setting.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What is Frugal Golf Travel?

The ultimate in Frugal Golf Travel is free travel and free golf. On several occasions, members of the FGT Staff have been the recipients of golf trips funded by a friend, professional colleague, or a company vendor. This is the exception however, and not the rule. Put forth your best effort to accept any such invitations if the opportunity presents itself. If you are unavailable, contact us and we will gladly take your place.
Frugal Golf Travel is harnessing the power of frequent hotel guest points, frequent flyer miles, and credit card reward programs to reduce the cost of travel to as close to free as possible. This is also known as “TRAVEL HACKING.” To the FGT Staff, Frugal Golf Travel is maximizing the collection of miles and points to reach our goal of “Golf in all 50 States” with minimal use of personal cash.
To borrow a line from the 1985 Dire Straits’ hit song “Money for Nothing”, we want “airline tickets for nothing and hotel rooms for free.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to Frugal Golf Travel

Happy New Year!
The Frugal Golf Staff has been traveling and playing golf for many years and we like to combine the two activities as often as possible. Our traveling has often been required by work, but we attempt to take the golf clubs along every chance we get. Over the years we have discovered many strategies and tricks to maximum our opportunities to play golf while traveling and minimize the cost of these passions.
We drive or fly economy and usually stay in 3 star or better hotels. We love to stay at resorts with first class golf facilities when possible, but are not against playing the local municipal course. We are not above playing a round of golf at venues that fall into the category of “pasture golf.”
The Frugal Golf Staff is on a quest to play golf in all 50 states over the next ten years. Our goal is to cover all travel costs with frequent flyer miles and frequent guest hotel points. Frugal Golf Travel is the only way to make this adventure affordable. We would like you to join the team and travel along with us on this adventure.
Travel bargains, deals, promotions, mistake fares and mileage and points earning opportunities occur on a daily basis. We will pass along as much information as possible in hopes that you will be able to take advantage of these deals as well.
Happy travels and try to keep it in the short grass!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where Do You Want to Play Golf?

Pick One Place. It can be anywhere in the world. It has to be a place you have never played golf before.
You may already have a place in mind; there are so many options out there. If you have no idea, try this list of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can PlayWOW! What a list.
We just picked our place; it is Number 2 on the list. Oh My! The cost for a round is between $495 and $530.
It is your turn to pick a place.  Just for a minute, ignore how much you think the trip will cost or how you will ever convince you spouse to let you pursue such a ridiculous adventure. Now make a decision, you can change your mind later. Once you have chosen your place let’s get to work on making this dream a reality. You didn’t think we were just playing a game, did you?
Set a Date. If we are going to make this dream a reality, we have to start making plans today or we will never make any progress toward reaching our goal. Let’s be generous and set a deadline of three years from today. Many of us may be able to move that deadline up to two years, one year or maybe even sooner. But to make it simple, let’s leave the target date at three years from today.
Show Me the Money. Go find an empty jar, a cigar box, an envelope, a traditional piggy bank. Take two dollars (yes $2.00) from your wallet or your change jar, the console in your truck, your desk drawer or your wife’s purse (if you dare) and place the $2.00 in the container of your choice. Repeat this process without fail every day (including weekends) for the next three years. You will have $2,190 in your container on your target date if you stick to this simple easy plan. I think we can figure out how to get $2,190 to cover the cost of the round of golf we chose in step 1 above. Want to move up the date of your adventure, or maybe take someone along with you, just find a way to put more than $2.00 a day in the container or find a way to reduce the cost to travel to your destination.
Stay tuned to Frugal Golf Travel and we will share with you various ways to reduce the cost of your travel to that One Place you have selected. We believe with just a little effort on your part, the date for your adventure will be sooner than you could have ever imagined.  Before you know it, you will be looking at the Top 100 List searching for your next location.