The Tour de France live!

I saw the end of the Tour de France live today and it was spectacular.

The race didn’t start until nearly 5:00 PM local time today so I had plenty of time to catch up on sleep (which I did by sleeping until 10 am) and relax before heading out to watch the Tour.

Pokemon Go started an event today and released the first Legendary Pokemon (Articuno and Lugia) as raid battle targets, so I tried my hand at the first one I saw, and I failed. And I failed again, and again, but it was still fun and it wasn’t even noon yet!

But time started to pass quickly as I started packing and changing outfits for the day. And eventually it became half passed 3. So I asked my dad if he wanted to head out to grab some lunch on our way to the Champs-Élysées where the Tour would do 8 laps before concluding for the year.

Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Paris Opera – Grands Blvd, is directly outside of a metro station. Literally, outside the door are the stairs leading into the metro station.

We hopped on Line 8 which took us to Line 1 which should have dropped us off at the Champs-Élysées, but that stop was skipped because of the Tour so we got off at the next stop.

This worked out in our favor because we were situated next to a bridge the riders crossed over right before heading to the Champs-Élysées, which was right after they came over a bridge just far enough away we could see them in the distance before they whizzed passed us.

Many people walked from the first vantage point to the Champs-Élysées; my dad and I walked to the Franklin D Roosevelt circle not far from our original spot which allowed us to see the riders ride towards and away from the Arc de Triomphe (which we will be visiting and entering in 23 hours).

Given the 8 laps the riders made along the same road, this meant spectators at the Champs-Élysées could see the riders zoom by 16 times if they arrived at the Avenue early enough. My dad and I, however, were not there so we missed a couple laps and a few of the potential video/photo ops.

But 10 times was plenty for the riders passing by us, and I got plenty of video footage on my cameras, and my dad shot numerous (a few hundred) photos.

Alas, the race ended around 7:15 PM and we had to head out with the rest of the thousands of spectators.

As for the experience, it was great.

Seeing the best of the best (at least those still in the ride after crashes and what not) live, in person, at the most famous bike race in modern history was exceptional. I would gladly visit next year, and even make it an annual tradition.

The only thing which would make watching the Tour live any better would have been getting a signature or meet & greet with the riders. I’ll just have to wait and see how things go in the next few years to see if my dream comes true.

Getting to Europe via Flexible Rewards and Airline Miles

My recent post announcing I’m going to Europe mentioned I will be flying business class on Brussels Airlines. I booked that flight with Membership Rewards (MR) points I earned from sign-up bonuses. However, that flight is from the East Coast and I live on the West Coast of the USA.

Getting to New York could have been done multiple ways:  a long road trip; flying an early morning, direct flight from SMF to BWI then taking a bus or Amtrak to New York; swimming through the Panama Cannel; and many others. I wanted to keep things simple, and comfortable, so I chose to fly Delta from Sacramento (SMF) to New York (JFK) with a stop in Minneapolis (MSP). This splits the cross-country flight into two 3-hour flights in economy, something more bearable for someone with long legs.

However, I could have picked a flight with American Airlines using the points from the sign-up bonuses from the Aviator Red and AAdvantage Platinum cards. We would have flown into a different airport, but still in the same area a day early so it would have worked out.

Or we could have used United miles from either the United MileagePlus Explorer card or Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United’s program from the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP). Another option could have been transferring my MR points to Alitalia and flown from SFO to Amsterdam for 80,000 points roundtrip.

What I’m getting at is there are so many options. And there are probably more than 1 that will be a great choice for any one trip.

The biggest reason I chose to fly Brussels Airlines from the East Coast is because I didn’t want to be on a flight for half a day if I flew out of California. I also wanted to try out a few different “products.” “Products” meaning the type of airplane, seating arrangement, seats, and in-flight service offered by an airline.

Flying Delta from Sacramento to Minneapolis to New York (SMF-MSP-JFK) allows me to be more comfortable flying cross-country and trans-Atlantic, while experiencing lounges (which can reduce my cost of food) in MSP, JFK, and Brussels (BRU).

My reasons for not flying American Airlines to get to New York include not being able to visit a lounge in my layover (or not having a layover), and saving my AA miles for another big trip, either with both of my parents or a solo trip in a business or first class cabin to Asia.

The biggest take-away anyone should get from this is that regardless of what points (or how much cash) you have, there are countless options, including some you may never have heard of yet.

I always check Google Flights for cash prices, and I track prices for a flight to be notified if a flight increases or decreases in price. It also gives me the flexibility to search several Departure airports and multiple arrival airports to find the cheapest flight for a trip.

I’m Going to Europe!

Thanks to Membership Reward (MR) transfer partners, I will be flying business class on Brussels Airlines (SN). The original plan was to transfer my MR points to Etihad and book 2 round-trip tickets for ~73,000 points, but that didn’t work out. So I transferred my points to Aeroplan and booked the same tickets, just for more points.

Flying Brussels requires flying out of either New York (JFK) or Washington, DC (IAD). This trip will originate in New York, meaning my second visit to New York. Peter Lik has galleries around the country, and I discovered him when I found his gallery in Hawaii last June, and I’ll be stopping by the gallery in New York.

Europe is a large continent so I will be a little more specific. My main purpose for this trip is to be in Paris, France for the final stage of the Tour de France this year. Other countries I’m visiting are England, German, and obviously Belgium.

While I have strong, and close, roots in Northern Europe, this trip is primarily for tourist and sight-seeing fun. As well as watching the Tour de France live in-person.

What to do When Annual Fees Post

Many credit cards with annual fees waive the annual fee the first twelve months. Twelve months have passed since I got my first credit cards with an annual fees (AFs) so my twelve months of waived annual fees have ended. This means I have to decide what to do with these cards.

My three options are:

  1. Cancel the card and not pay the annual fee;
  2. Keep the card and pay the annual fee; or
  3. Keep the card, but product change the card to a no-AF version

Keeping a budget for the entire year has meant I budgeted enough money each month to be able to pay any annual fees (AF) once it came time to pay up. However, a year of use has helped me learn more about my spending habits, and how much I value each of the cards I have acquired.

So what am I doing with these cards?

The biggest reason I’m okay with signing up for credit cards is knowing I am building credit history, so I prioritize options 2 and 3 from above.

Now, I could cancel all of my cards and the accounts would continue to increase my Age of Credit History for 10 years until they fall off my credit report (10 years from now), but I’d rather keep them forever and have 30+ year old accounts. Plus, keeping as many accounts open helps me build a relationship with banks.

Product Changing

I wrote about flying to Hawaii using points from the United MileagePlus Explorer card and flying to the east coast to visit family using American Airlines miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card last year. And I decided to product change these two cards instead of canceling or paying the AFs.

By product changing (PCing) these cards within 30 days of the AF posting, the $95 annual fees were refunded to my accounts. If the cards did not have fee-free versions, I would have canceled the cards and still been refunded the annual fees.

Canceling

Another card mentioned in the post about flying to Hawaii was the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. I am still unsure of what to do with this card because it offers good category bonuses, but I’m not sure if I would benefit from earning Membership Reward points since I don’t spend enough to accumulate enough for a full trip. Fortunately, I have a couple more months to decide whether I will cancel the card or pay the AF.

A third card I used during my Hawaii trip was the Barclaycard ArrivalPlus. This card allowed me to redeem points to zero out the cost of the GoCity Card I bought to hit all the tourist attractions. These points are very flexible, but the ArrivalPlus requires a minimum of 10,000 points ($100) to redeem against a travel expense. I could have changed the card to the no-AF version, but I had too much trouble with the card so I ended up canceling it.

Keeping and Paying the Annual Fee

At the other end of the spectrum, I am planning to keep the Hyatt and IHG credit cards from Chase and pay the annual fees because I get a free 1-night stay from each card every anniversary. The Hyatt certificate restricts use to category 1-4 hotels. However, the IHG annual certificate has no restrictions on hotel categories, so I could spend the night in Times Square for the $49 annual fee on the card.

Action Cameras and YouTube Videos

I am joining the world of action camera videography. With a couple GoPro cameras in hand, I will be cataloging my traveling, races and training on YouTube.

There will be separate channels for travel and races and another for full length recordings of me training.

On the travel and races channel, I have uploaded a time lapse of my recent trip on Amtrak to San Jose. And I have begun uploading my run workouts as I prepare for the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego race weekend.

I already have several videos planned for this summer with the first coming from my weekend of racing in San Diego. The majority of my planned videos will be from my trip to Europe in July. These will include time lapses of the flights going to and coming back from Europe, and train rides throughout Europe.

A couple more videos I will be creating will be a follow up to my blog about my TomTom Spark and a brand new blog post about my newest phone, the OnePlus 3T.

 

IHG PointBreaks Official Hotel List For April-July

IHG has published their list of PointBreaks hotels after publishing a preview list on Friday.

These hotels are only 5,000 points/night but they’re also generally not the most popular hotels. One hotel I’m looking at is the Holiday Inn Express Karlsruhe City Park which is normally 20,000 points/night or about $120/night in July.

Chase offers an IHG credit card which has an offer of 60,000 points which amounts to 12 nights of PointBreak stays. If you don’t want the IHG credit card, you could transfer Ultimate Rewards points to IHG if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve.

I’d recommend getting the IHG credit card because you get that big sign-up bonus (sometimes the bonus can be found for up 80,000 points) and every card anniversary you’ll get a free 1-night stay at any hotel.

OnePlus 3T colette Edition – Only 250 to be sold

OnePlus announced on Twitter yesterday they will be releasing a limited edition of their 3T smartphone, the colette edition. Only 250 of these smartphones will be sold, and they are being sold only from the colette store in Paris on March 21 starting at 11am.

So, anyone want to go to Paris for me? Oh, you don’t, that’s okay.

A few hours ago, OnePlus announced a drawing which gives the winner a free trip to Paris so they can get this phone. Maybe I’ll be able to go for myself!

This OnePlus 3T colette edition will be a 128 GB version of their 3T phone in a matte black color with the “colette” name on the back. It’s expected to sell for 479 EUR, or roughly $513.