How I Fly For Free

If I could split up all my expenses into two categories it would be eating and traveling. Ok fine, we’ll throw shopping in there, too 😉 But looking at my Mint budget over the last 6 months (more on budgeting with Mint coming soon!), it’s easy to see that this where I spend the majority of my money, and I’m sure most people are in the same boat. If you think about it, eating and taking trips revolves around experiencing things with yourself or with other people — it’s how we make + keep relationships. So, it makes sense that I invest a lot of money in these two categories.

As a millennial + new(ish) member of the real world, I’m always on the lookout for how to get the best bang for my buck. Every credit card out there offers some type of reward, mostly by giving you back a percentage of your purchases in cash. I have a few of these cards myself (Citi Cash Rewards, Bank Of America) + while they’re dependable, good cards to have, I haven’t found a better rewards program than that of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. So much so that I feel that I have to share it with you.

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I just came back from an awesome, week-long trip to New York City + yesterday I booked a weekend away to Tucson, Arizona, both completely paid for by my Chase points. No, I did not spend a ton of extra money just to get points. Here’s how I racked up over 100,000 points in 6 months:

  • Chase rewards 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, and for food + travel related expenses you get 2 points per dollar. I just moved my food + travel expenses over to my Chase card + the points started racking up.
  • If you refer someone to the Chase Sapphire card you both get 50,000 additional points (sometimes more, depending on the current deal). Thanks to a referral, I had over 60,000 points within 3-4 months of opening my account.
  • Chase has partnered with tons of retailers to award more points per dollar. For example, you can earn 5 points per dollar at Sephora, just by paying with your Chase card.

Now that you have all these points, how + where can you use them?

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Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Dashboard

  • I’ve used mine primarily on travel simply by booking through their Ultimate Rewards home. You can book any flights + hotels right from their dashboard, or transfer your points to one of the airline or hotel programs they partner with.
  • Buy gift cards or products
  • Get cash back!
  • Book experiences like private dinners, sports games, shows, etc. (I’m considering flying back to NYC for the Christmas Spectacular show at Madison Square Garden)

 

 

Phew! That’s a lot of info to take in, but if you take anything away from this post let it be that you need the Chase Sapphire Preferred card in your life. Might as well let your daily lunches + dinners pay for your next vacation! Not to mention that the card is heavy + so sleek, you immediately feel like a millionaire when you whip that baby out. I hope you’ll join me in the Chase family + let’s book our next (free) trip together!

(NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. I just really love Chase that much.)

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Weekend Trip: Eating Our Way Through Boston

Recently, I visited one of my best friends in Boston for a weekend. It was during the peak summer heat, so we tried to stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as we could. Hence, the trip mostly revolved around restaurants + bars, which we didn’t mind at all. Everything was so good, I had to share!

Jugos

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This juice bar is a less than 5 minute walk from my friend’s place, so it was an obvious destination. On top of that, it’s delicious! I’m the last person to crave a bunch of fruits + vegetables that have been ground up into liquid form, but damn it was good! I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, but you can’t really go wrong here. We also each ordered a slice of avocado toast which was surprisingly huge and expectedly delicious!

Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant

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I had heard so much about this restaurant from friends who’ve dined at this location + the one in New York,  + was so excited to finally try it myself! We hit this up for brunch so I didn’t expect that much chocolate on the menu, but they still found a way to sneak it in everywhere! I got the hot chocolate (obvi) + eggs with a side of fruit + milk chocolate. The food itself wasn’t spectacular, but the experience + chocolate was so worth it!

The Thinking Cup

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My friend was telling me how this is a famous spot on Newbury Street (Boston’s popular street for shopping + restaurants), so we decided to stop by for some coffee. I also picked up a bahn-mi sandwich to eat on my way to the airport. The coffee was good, the sandwich not so much. I now regret not getting any of the desserts they had displayed, but the environment of the place was super relaxed + cool. I could imagine going there to do some work and people watch if it was less crowded.

Georgetown Cupcake

I know this isn’t a new place for many of you but how can you not go to one of the most famous cupcake bakeries in the world?! We each got a carrot cake cupcake, the vegan choice of the day — SO. GOOD. The cream cheese frosting never disappoints.

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Estragon Tapas

Apparently tapas bars are all the rage in Boston. As vegetarians, we usually have a hard time finding good food at tapas restaurants but Estragon had almost too many options! We ended up ordering a pitcher of sangria (duh) and so. many. tapas. The only thing stopping us from ordering more was that we literally couldn’t eat any more without getting sick. The leeks were surprisingly yummy, as were the brussel sprouts and potatoes. Oh, just get everything on the menu.

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Harpoon Brewery

You may not think this counts as food, but wait! Firstly, the brewery tours were all booked up by the time we got there (around 1pm) so if you’re interested in that, get there early! It was a little difficult finding a spot to sit, but we did eventually get a seat + ordered a few of their pre-curated beer flights. This brewery is also very famous for their stuffed pretzels, so we ordered one — and believe me, it was enough. These pretzels are huge + so filling. Definitely tasty, but be prepared for more than a snack!

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If this is just a sampling of what Boston has to offer, then I can’t wait for my next trip! Know of any other places I should check out when I’m there? Let me know!

Weekend Trip: SEA -> Stony Brook -> NYC

This weekend I traveled to the east coast for a friend’s wedding in Stony Brook. I took a red eye flight Thursday night, attended the wedding in Stony Brook on Friday, + spent the rest of the weekend in New York City.  I broke down some of the highlights + things I learned for next time. New York is a huge place so I know everyone’s experience is different, here’s a peek into mine!

1 The Journey Begins: SeaTac -> JFK

Highlights

  • Each seat on the plane had a TV with tons of free movies + TV shows. There went my plan to read on the flight! #ThanksDelta
  • There were almost no lines at the airport for a Thursday evening.

Meh Moments

  • Red eyes are never fun. 6 hour flight at night = 2-3 hours of uncomfortable sleep.

Tips

  • Fly Delta for long flights!
  • I prefer red eyes for long flights, specially ones where the time jumps ahead. I prefer spending daytime hours on the ground rather than in the air, the which makes it worth the hassle.

2 Are We There Yet: JFK -> Stony Brook

Highlights

  • JFK restaurants are fitted with iPads for each seat, so ordering + paying is super easy.
  • Once we were on the train, the ride was quick + painless.

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Two tickets to Stony Brook, please!

Meh Moments

  • It was really difficult to find out information about our train. The internet is your friend!
  • The 4 hour trip to get to our hotel after taking a 6 hour flight at night. Definitely not fun.

Tips

  • Look up the train schedule on the day of your trip. The trains can get delayed, cancelled, or rerouted depending on the circumstances.
  • Once at the Jamaica station, you need to buy both the AirTran pass + the pass for where you’re headed next.
  • The information booth is on the ground floor of the LIRR platform. There’s a real human there to answer your questions!
  • Be prepared for a   l o n g   journey. We ordered an Uber from the Stony Brook station to the hotel that took 25 minutes to get to us.

3 The Wedding: Stony Brook

…was beautiful + wonderful + SO much fun! This was my very first non-Indian wedding + I loved every second of it. I’ll be doing a post in the near future about my experience, so stay tuned!

4 In The Citaaay: New York City

Highlights

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Best. Drink. Ever.

  • We caught an earlier train so we got into the city pretty early
  • The Loopy Doopy bar in Condren Hilton in Manhattan — so much fun!
  • Staying in a penthouse in the middle of Manhattan! Plenty of space for all of us — there were 6 guys + 2 girls.
  • We had a great lunch at Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking district. There are tons of restaurants + shops throughout the market + everything is pretty reasonably priced. I had delicious vegan dumplings from Mokbar. 

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    Voted the Best Ramen in New York City!

Meh Moments

  • The travel time again was ridiculously long. It wasn’t a direct train ride, either.
  • Waiting 20 minutes for our AirBnb host to get us + give us the key.
  • The AirBnb itself wasn’t furnished except for beds + a couch, and the hostess was super sketchy. We never actually met her, she sent several assistants to deal with us.

Tips

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    The view from the bottom of One World Trade Center

    Get a ticket to One World Trade Center. It’s pricey but very worth it. You’ll get 360 degree views from the tallest building in the Western hemisphere — how cool is that?!

  • Loopy Doopy is the rooftop bar in Condren Hilton + is best known for their drinks: an alcohol popsicle in a glass of Prosecco.
  • Don’t go to the High Line during peak hours on the weekend. It’s extremely crowded + you can’t really enjoy the views or walk.
  • Check your AirBnb ratings + listen to them! If there’s even one bad rating, it’s likely that the host or location has some issues.

5 Going Home: JFK -> SeaTac

Highlights

  • The Delta Sky Club is awesome. Free drinks, buffet, WiFi, TVs, showers, and plenty of lounge space.
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Watching the EuroCup final in the Delta Sky Club

  • Direct flights back to the West Coast are key since you gain 3 hours. I love flying back in the evening – I still get time in the city that day + can get into bed at a reasonable hour.

Meh Moments

  • We went to the airport a few hours early so we could watch the EuroCup match + skip some traffic.
  • There was still soooo much traffic even though we left at 2pm for our 7pm flight!

Tips

  • If you have time at the airport + your airline has a club, GO. If you’re a gold member of the airline or have an American Express platinum card, you can usually get in for free. Otherwise, I would recommend buying the pass (it was $60 for non-members, $30 for members without gold status). The club pass will pay for itself with the drinks + food.
  • Give yourself at least 1 hour to travel to the airport, maybe even more depending on where in New York you’re leaving from.