Miles and Points, Travel Bug

1. Don’t forget to clear your schedule for tomorrow, so you can take advantage of Small Business Saturday promotion. In case you’ve missed it, here is my guest post on how this deal turned into fiasco last year. Don’t be like me!

2.Via Million Miles Secrets blog, get $100 off hotel booking of $100 on Cyber Monday.

3. Up to 30,000 AAdvantage miles for opening a Citi checking account. There are fees involved, but it’s still a good deal, as long as everything goes as planned. Reportedly, there is no hard pull (credit inquiry).

4. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been doing too many updates on mileage promos for various shopping malls. My advice to you: Check your specific store on

Don’t be swayed by the “carrots” too much. Remember, if you get 1,000 miles for spending $500, that’s $10-$20 discount, depending on what you value miles at.  Instead, shop where you planned to shop, and check for discount gift cards for that particular store. Or better yet, take a shopping sabbatical.

5. A reminder on Club Carlson promotion that gives 10,000 points per night on certain properties, as long as you stay by December 31st. There are 3 participating hotels in Orlando area.

6. If you got  a targeted offer of 55,000 miles for Chase United Mileage Plus Visa, tomorrow is the last day to apply. Check this link to see if it comes up for you (does not pay me).

7. First quarter of 2015 will have “grocery store” as rotating bonus  category, where you get 5% cash back with your Chase Freedom on up to $1,500 in purchases. That’s only three $500 Visa gift cards,  or just buy groceries like normal people do. The bonus on Chase Freedom is temporarily increased to 22,500 points. It pays me commission or I can send you a  referral.

8. An incredible new tool from Wandering Aramean, called Hotel Hustle It lists various award options from different hotel programs and sorts them by CPP value (cents per point). It’s still in development, but you should absolutely take a look.

On my mind

The other day I was organizing my old stuff and found a photo of my grandfather when he was about my age. I’ve met him exactly one time in my whole life. He abandoned my mom  and her brother when they were toddlers and never reached out to them, not even once. What’s truly heartbreaking  is that my grandmother never stopped loving him.

So, when my mom turned 30, she decided to go visit him in Russia. I was only 9 at the time, but she took me  with her on this  journey. That’s when I caught the travel bug. I distinctly remember the long yet exciting train ride, beautiful architecture of St. Petersburg, gypsies at the station who were getting weird stares from Russians.

I remember my mom even telling me not to get too close to them because they are rumored to steal kids. Gypsies, just like the Jews, got the short end of the stick in the 20th century Europe. I was little and didn’t understand everything, but aside from the difference in their looks and clothes, they seemed just like us. And I was right.

My grandfather was at the train station waiting for us. He was nervous, yet excited, and held a photo in his hands. It was so he could spot us in the crowd. After all, last time he saw my mom, she was  only 2 years old. We had so much fun together, almost as if we  were your typical happy family. Almost.

My grandfather has passed away many years ago. He has never reached out to me after that trip, nor tried to come visit us in Belarus. Years later, my mom found out that she has two half sisters (from two different mothers), and I have a bunch of cousins I probably will never meet.

While looking at his old photo, I was struck by just how much I look like my grandfather. I’ve heard he was quite a  sharp guy, full of charisma, life of the party and all that jazz. I guess there had to be a reason why so many women fell for him. I will never know what caused him to do what he did to my mom, and I’m not sure that I want to.

No matter what, we will always have this one perfect trip. The trip that started it all…

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