Most Loyalty Rewards Programs Are Really Only for Road Warriors

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

Hyatt resort near Fort Myers

A recent travel trade article on airline and hotel reward loyalty rewards programs pointed out a clear trend: for most of us, these programs are getting worse. While the road warriors at the top elite levels are getting showered with perks – those who stay 75 nights a year out of 365 with Marriott for instance – the rest of us are getting less and less for our flights or hotels stays.

As U.S. airlines moved from a distance-based to revenue-based model, the only loyal members with something to gain were those who bought expensive business class tickets. Those at the top of the elite pyramid. Everyone else started finding that their 6,000-mile flight was earning them 1,000 “miles” now because it was based on ticket price. At that rate it can take 25 flights to earn even the lowest domestic ticket.

That model has already spread to one major hotel chain. Hyatt gave its loyalty program a new name, World of Hyatt, and promptly made it more difficult for all but the most frequent biz traveler guests. The new system awards 5 points per dollar instead of a set amount per stay, though you’ll need to spend at least 10 nights at Hyatt properties in a year to get to the lowest of three elite levels. The head of the program, who is now gone, made it clear in interviews announcing the change that the program was aimed at one tier of guests: the most loyal ones, those spending the most money each year.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

As we’ve seen in the airline industry, this kind of program quickly leads to a two-tiered system. The highest elite level members get most of the freebies, get the best rooms, and earn the most points for every stay. The rest of us get stuck with what’s left, whether it’s a cramped middle seat or the smallest room with no view.

Like a well-trained magician performing a sleight of hand, the bad changes for consumers are usually buried within news of big “improvements” the loyalty rewards program will bring. With the hotel programs, they’re usually touting your ability to combine points and dollars (a dubious win at best) or buy merchandise with your hard-earned points.

The dirty little secret of the latter is that your points value plummets if you do a merchandise buy instead of cashing in points on a hotel. Here’s what Skift noted in their article:

While these new tools are a boon for airlines and hotel mileage programs, their value to consumers is still somewhat mixed. When United launched its pay-with-miles Wi-Fi service, Maphappy took a look at the value of the purchase in cash or in miles. Its conclusion? ‘The premium on paying in mileage was about 117 percent higher than the cash price,’ Maphappy found.

If you purchase a pair of headphones or get a Best Buy gift card, it can be even worse. Often these transactions can degrade the point value to a small fraction of what it was in hotel or airline value. Here’s what you’ll have to pay for a $30 item via IHG’s program:

$180 of rewards for $30 item

Where You Can Earn More and Not Lose Value

With Bonwi Rewards points, you have a lot of advantages over these programs from the airlines and hotels:

1) You can use your rewards on any hotel, not just one company. When you cash them in for a hotel, you can get 20%, 25%, or 30% return on your spend. With the average direct loyalty program you’re lucky to rise above 10%. (In other words, you have to spend $10,000 to get $1,000 in value–even if you do everything right.)

2) You don’t have to be loyal to one company. You can choose any hotel in any location at any price and earn Bonwi Rewards, even picking which one has the highest payoff to maximize your return. When it’s time to cash them in, you have just as many choices.

Bonwi points payoff
3 nights at either earns you a plane ticket or a night’s hotel stay.

3) Points earned on hotel stays can be redeemed for flights. Forget about blackout dates, restrictions, or the lack of seats at lower tiers. With your Bonwi points you can book on any airline at any time, based on a simple 1-cent per dollar redemption figure. If you have 30,000 points, you have $300 for a flight, and no, you won’t have to still pay for the taxes if they’re included in the fare, as you would with the U.S. airlines.

4) You aren’t penalized for choosing a rental car or gift cards. That 1-cent per mile redemption figure that’s so easy to understand applies to rental cars and gift card purchases too. You won’t see your rewards value decrease just because you made one spending choice rather than another. Your Bonwi points have a clear intrinsic value.

So book your next hotel stay with Bonwi and see how easy it is to be on Easy Street, instead of feeling like your loyalty is only getting you kicked to the curb.

Article by Tim Leffel, editor of the Cheapest Destinations Blog and author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

Top 10 Most Luxurious Hotels In The World

When comparing high-end hotels around the globe, there’s luxury and then there’s luxury. This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday explores the absolute pinnacle of hotel decadence. The top 10 hotels on our list offer impeccable service and accommodations that are second to none.

Burj Al Arab
Dubai, UAE

The Burj Al Arab has repeatedly been voted the world’s most luxurious hotel. It offers the finest and most comprehensive service, which includes an optional chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, helicopter trips from its iconic helipad, private beach access, terraces with pools and cabanas, as well as some of the world’s best dining venues.

 

Hotel President Wilson
Geneva, Switzerland

Hotel President Wilson is situated on the shore of Lemon Lake just steps from the most beautiful parks and the boutiques in the renowned Rue du Rhône. It offers wonderful panoramic views over Lake Geneva, the Alps, and Mont Blanc, as well as Michelin-starred cuisine from the famous Chef Michel Roth. The hotel is well-renowned as an international conference venue with 12 meeting rooms including an expansive ballroom that can accommodate up to 800 guests.

Waldorf Astoria
Orlando, Florida

Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers contemporary luxury nestled inside a 482-acre nature preserve. This hotel features stylish sophistication with countless amenities and personalized service. Guests will find no shortage of recreational activities for relaxation and entertainment. Enjoy an award-winning lazy river and world-class dining with 12 restaurants and lounges, including the famed Bull & Bear.

Palms Casino Resort
Las Vegas, Nevada

Situated on nearly 30 acres, the Palms Casino Resort is a boutique property with three distinct towers. Each offers unparalleled views of the fabulous Las Vegas Strip and the surrounding mountains. Recognized for its exceptional accommodations, high-energy night and day clubs, and world-renowned restaurants, the Palms is one of Las Vegas’ most sought-after resorts. It’s also the only hotel in the world with a suite that includes its own basketball court.

Rosewood CordeValle
San Martin, California

Surrounded by the picturesque countryside of San Martin, Rosewood CordeValle is the ideal sanctuary for recreation and relaxation. The property features a 260-acre, 18-hole championship golf course designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Jr, in addition to a full-service spa, a fitness center, tennis courts, hiking trails, and swimming pools.

Resort at Pedregal
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

From spacious guestrooms to four-bedroom Los Cabos suites, every room has an ocean view and a private terrace, providing unbelievable scenic views of an undisturbed landscape. Rooms feature refined design details that include curated reading material, premium amenities, plush bedding, a relaxing rainfall shower, and a private plunge pool.

Zarafa Camp
Selinda Reserve, Botswana

Zarafa Camp is renowned for its remarkable concentration of wildlife, predators in particular, and luxuriously-appointed tented accommodations. The boutique camp has only four campaign-style canvas suites offering travelers a unique experience of Africa. If you’re looking for indulgence, great game viewing, knowledgeable guides and service, this is the place.

Triple Creek Ranch
Darby, Montana

Triple Creek Ranch offers an all-inclusive vacation experience of rustic elegance, gourmet cuisine with an excellent wine list, and welcoming five-star service amidst a forested mountain retreat. Adult travelers enjoy a truly romantic setting with incomparable scenery, a wide variety of native wildlife, an almost endless menu of all-inclusive outdoor activities, and the option of adding on some of the finest off-ranch Western adventures in the United States.

Twin Farms
Barnard, Vermont

Nestled in a valley in northern Vermont’s Green Mountains, on 300 acres of rolling farmland, dense forest, gardens and ponds, Twin Farms is all-inclusive in the most exclusive sense. Guests enjoy gourmet cuisine, personalized menus, along with an endless supply of top-shelf liquor and fine wines (from a 26,000-bottle cellar). Available activities include hiking, biking, fly-fishing, canoeing, tennis, croquet, and come winter, ice skating, snow-shoeing, sledding and skiing on the resort’s private six-trail slope with all equipment provided.

Temple House
Chengdu, China

The Temple House Hotel is a stunning, luxury hotel in the heart of the vibrant city of Chengdu. The property is a distinctively different type of luxury hotel, where old-world grandeur and cutting-edge contemporary design seamlessly come together. Rooms are sleek and stylish with thoughtful design and generous amenities. The cafe, teahouse, two restaurants (Chinese and Western cuisine) and impressive heated swimming pool all carry the strong aesthetic of The Temple House.

Hear from our experts on all elements of travel as they share their personal experience and knowledge, which spans everything from fascinating must-see locations, to practical and informative suggestions. Let Bonwi.com help ensure that your next getaway is the best one yet.

New Orlean’s Jazz Fest Is a Great Reason to Visit The Big Easy

Jazz musicians in New Orleans. Ann Banks photo.
Musicians on stage during the 2017 Jazz and Heritage Fest in New Orleans. Susan  J. Weiand photo.
Musicians on stage during the 2017 Jazz and Heritage Fest in New Orleans. Susan J. Weiand photo.

Time to start planning for Jazz and Heritage Fest which is just around the corner, so why not head down to the jazzy city of New Orleans, Louisiana?

This year’s fest includes Aerosmith, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, Beck and many many more. The spring is the perfect time to get a more relaxing experience of the city, after the wild celebrations of Mardi Gras in February are complete.

Start your trip off with a stroll around Jackson Square, a picturesque park in the French Quarter. Take in the local artists and performers, while you overlook the Mississippi River. Jackson square is full of history, from the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Cathedral in North America, to the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments, which are home to oldest apartment buildings in the United States.

Once you’re done seeing the sites, check out the shops, museums, and restaurants that line the square. Stay close to the square by booking the Andrew Jackson Hotel on bonwi.com, for an average of $169 per night, and get 2,782 points in return to spend toward your flight home.

With GuideAdvisor you can learn about your next destination from a passionate and knowledgable guide.
Explore the colorful streets of New Orleans.

It’s not a trip to New Orleans if you don’t visit Bourbon Street. The famous street is the ideal place for a fun night out, filled with burlesque clubs, cool bars, and great food. Aside from the nightlife, Bourbon Street, like Jackson Square, is filled with history. Head into Galatoire’s Restaurant, which was founded by Jean Galatoire in 1905, for lunch to enjoy a fusion of French Creole dishes.

Walk down the street to have your ears filled with foot-tapping tunes, what the city is famous for. In the almost 200-year-old Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, enjoy the old-school side of music, where you can dance to live traditional jazz music every day of the week.

End your night by plopping down on your bed at the elegant, 4-star Royal Sonesta Hotel. The site of the hotel dates back to 1721 when the city of New Orleans was first designed by Adrien de Pauger. Opening in 1969, the hotel’s architecture embodies New Orleans, having an exterior to replicate the feel of 1830s New Orleans’ houses.

Booking a $179 room now with Bonwi gets you 1,313 points to spend at your leisure.

Why Convertible Reward Points Are Better Than Airline Miles

airlines don't deserve loyalty

airlines don't deserve loyalty

In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. airlines don’t care much about you as a customer. Even the people who fly so much that they are at the top elite level status don’t always get upgraded, so even they are grumbling about the lousy service, the cramped seats, and the bare-bones amenities on the big 3 legacy airlines.

Plus the airlines are hitting you with every fee that they can legally get away with. You can no longer assume even international flights will get you a free checked bag unless you are on a superior foreign airline or on Southwest. They intentionally make it hard for you to figure this out too in the booking process, then hide the rules, ones almost guaranteed to result in a “gotcha fee.” On American Airlines, for example, a flight to Panama includes a bag, but one to Costa Rica does not.  For El Salvador it depends on the time of year. For Mexico and Colombia it depends on what city you’re landing in. No joke.

Having the airline’s credit card won’t get you out of the fees either. If you pull it out on an international flight with a bag fee, the airline agent will shake their head and say, “No, that’s only for domestic flight bag fees.” Why does the destination matter? Because you don’t matter, that’s why.

Airline Loyalty Doesn’t Pay

The only way to strike back at this system is to forget loyalty and either go for the best fare (Allegiant and Southwest will actually treat you better than American these days anyway) or to fly for free whenever possible.

It used to be rewarding to fly with a single airline and rack up frequent flyer miles. But now you don’t earn many miles from actually flying. Here’s what I earned on a recent flight all the way to Central America and back via Houston—for flying thousands of actual miles.

hotel miles versus airline miles

Notice that Houston to Tampa is 635 miles in one direction, but a paltry 235 “miles” the other direction. Driving 235 miles from Tampa would not even get me to Atlanta, but now the “miles” are based on airline revenue and fare class, not distance, a change that has drastically weakened how much you can earn for your loyalty. So now most airline miles come through credit card spending, not flying, because it’s a simpler penny per mile or more for spending, not a complicated formula that’s great for the airlines but terrible for the customer.

This is why you’re far better off collecting points and miles that can be used across multiple programs. Some credit cards allow you to do this, such as the Amex Membership Rewards program and the Chase Sapphire/Venture program. For the former you transfer the points in chunks whenever you want, topping off your airline miles account to get to a specific mileage level or transferring large enough amounts to get your whole ticket. For the Chase program, you simply use the points’ value to book any ticket, without going through the airlines.

Bonwi points work the same way as the Chase ones during redemption. If you have 30,000 Bonwi Rewards points, you purchase a $299 ticket and have a buck to spare. No blackout dates, no restrictions. You also don’t get dinged for taxes and fees like you would redeeming airline miles since that’s part of the ticket price. (I recently paid $77 for my “free” ticket to Belize on Delta and American Air once wanted nearly $300 in taxes and fees for an even less free ticket that stopped for a layover in London. Instead I flew Singapore Air through another airport instead with United miles and paid $49 in fees.)

Bonwi rewards points Chicago

Here’s the advantage though: it’s not simply a point per dollar or maybe two points you could get from Chase. You could conceivably spend $200 per night on a hotel but get more than 10,000 Bonwi Rewards points for a two-night stay. It’s not uncommon to see a payback of 15 to 30%.

If you really want to play this game right, pay for that hotel stay with a premium Chase card on top. Then you’re double-dipping without giving loyalty to an airline that doesn’t earn it. You won’t earn a paltry amount of airline miles that are hard to cash in, but a hefty amount of reward miles that have real value for redemption. Just one vacation can pay for another weekend away.

Vote with your wallet—instead of nostalgic airline loyalty—and reap bigger rewards for more travel with Bonwi Rewards!

Contributor Tim Leffel is author of one of the leading books on living abroad and is also author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. See his regular rants on the Cheapest Destinations Blog

Can We Really Keep Up With All These Hotel Brands?

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

30+ hotel brands to keep track of with Marriott

Quick – if you have 30,000 Starwood or Marriott points, at which of their brands can you probably stay one night for free?

If you have 50,000 points with IHG, what does that really mean for which hotels you can stay in as a reward?

What do you get if you have points with Wyndham, Choice, Carlson, or Hilton?

Well, that picture at the top of this post will give you a clue about how hard this is to answer. As hotel chains have merged, spun off, been acquired, and split up, it’s hard to keep up with who’s who. It’s hard to know one big hotel company is owned by the Chinese, while another is owned by the French. One big conglomerate is Spanish and the Four Seasons is majority-owned by Arabs. Do you know which of the ever-expanding brands you can get into with your loyalty points?

The Head-Spinning Hotel Brands Game

The problem isn’t that you aren’t aware of who’s who. The problem is that only the most dedicated lodging geek could possibly keep up. Ritz-Carlton wasn’t always part of Marriott. Kimpton wasn’t always part of Intercontinental Hotel Group. Fairmont wasn’t always part of Accor – home to Sofitel and Mercure. Motel 6 was part of that chain, then it wasn’t.

Then just when you think you have a brand pegged, it shifts again. Orient-Express Hotels become Belmond. Andaz is launched as a hipper Hyatt. The roadside motel chain Best Western starts launching nice beach resorts right on the sand. Radisson hotels are usually dated and second-tier in the USA, but it Asia if you put “Blu” on the end it might be the nicest property in town. In Stockholm I stayed at a Clarion and it looked like this:

Clarion Amaranten in Central Stockholm restaurant

The problem comes in when you’re limited to a specific set of brands by your hotel loyalty program. Looking at that Marriott list at the top, do you have any idea what you’ll end up with if you cash in points for Delta, Tribute, Protea, AC, or Moxy? If you have Hilton Honors points saved up, do you feel comfortable trading them for a stay with Canopy, Tapestry, or Tru?

Sure, it’s nice to be able to trade Wyndham Rewards points in for a free stay, but there may not be a Wyndham Grand where you’re headed. Your only choice may be Super8, Days Inn, or Howard Johnson’s.

Points for Any Hotel, Anytime, Anywhere

If you book your stay with Bonwi, you won’t have to worry about any of this. Your points build up with any hotel brands, so there’s no need to compromise and pick an inferior choice. You can choose the hotel that earns the most reward points or just choose the hotel – from any brand – that is closest to your meetings or convention. You will usually earn more points than you would have with the corporate program, but your choices of what to do with them aren’t limited. You can book an independent hotel not part of any chain and still earn points that are worth real money.

You can earn points from a Hilton stay that you then apply to a Holiday Inn Express. Points from a stay at an Econolodge can top off your point balance to get you into a Four Seasons. You can rack up points with a Banyan Tree resort in Asia and take your family to any all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean you’d like.  No restrictions, no redemption tiers, no reward chart to memorize. Just earn points, cash them in, get free stays.

See how it all works here.

Portland, Oregon: A City of Bikers, Transit Lovers and Artists

Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.
Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.
Portlandia, the female symbol of the city of Portland, atop a downtown building.

Portland, Oregon, is a city that gets quite a bit of good buzz.  Perhaps that’s because of where I live, in Massachusetts, which is very similar to Oregon in how people vote, view the world, and what they expect from their fellow citizens. 

We visited Portland two weeks ago, and we found the city to be just as progressive and similar to the TV show, “Portlandia”, as we expected.  We even got a chance to see the original Portlandia statue, an 85-foot high statue of a woman sticking out of a government building downtown.

Portland has a lot of reasons to be proud, among them that the percentage of residents who either use public transportation, bikes or walking edges up to nearly 50%.  With services like bike paths serving just about every part of the city and residential recycling for food waste, it’s an eco-paradise!

The city’s Japanese Garden has trails to enjoy and serenity near the falling waters and replicas of Kyoto’s famous rock garden formation. In February, The first Art in the Garden exhibition beginning the Garden’s Year of Kyoto, will be of the fine Japanese bamboo art from the Kansai/Kyoto region, presented with changing displays of ikebana.

The city made a great decision in the 1980s when they decided that a four-lane highway that cut the Willamette River off from the city should be torn down.  So today, where there was once a giant blockade of cars, is now a beautiful green space, and here is where festivals, concerts and other events take place for most of the year.

Portland's Japanese Garden is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy peacefulness.
Portland’s Japanese Garden is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy peacefulness.

Our visit to Portland also included a stay in a very cool city hotel called The Sentinel.  This hotel, located in the heart of downtown, costs about $300 per night, and if you stayed there, you’d earn about 1082 points for a two-night stay. You’d love the comfy stylish rooms, and the wonderfully homey lobby with big chairs.

If you have to go to Portland for business, take advantage of what Bonwi offers by using the points you can accrue for a future stay in a different hotel.

There are many Portland hotels you can book for around 5000 Bonwi points per night, if you want to save money and go for something more basic.  And even with these low price, hotels you will still come home with more points to use in the future.  Bonwi= win-win!

The Hotel Zones of Tampa Bay, Florida

Tampa Bay beach resort

Tampa Bay beach resort

Tampa Bay’s airport is often filled with families and couples on a getaway trip to sun and fun in Florida. The area also gets a lot of overflow traffic from Orlando, with people heading to the beach after the overstimulation of theme parks and loud chain restaurants. Tampa Bay is a big, spread-out metro area though, so where should you stay?

The metro area includes a lot of different towns and neighborhoods, from some of the USA’s best white-sand beaches to urban locations filled with museums, cultural events, and conventions. Here’s a rundown on the options for when you’re feeling overwhelmed by 200+ lodging choices.

Clearwater Beach

Often voted one of America’s best beaches, this three-mile stretch of sand is pedestrian-friendly and kept in pristine condition. The water is warm and calm most of the year and the powdery white sand feels great between the toes. There are a lot of restaurants and bars to choose from here, with a family-friendly atmosphere.

Clearwater Beach hotel Opal Sands

Top Choices: Opal Sands (pictured above), Hyatt Clearwater Beach, Wyndham Grand Clearwater, Sandpearl Resort

St. Petersburg Beach Sirata Beach Resort hammock on St. Pete Beach, Florida in the Tampa Bay area

More spaced-out than Clearwater Beach, the white sands of St. Pete Beach never feel very crowded, even on holiday weekends. You could walk for an hour before having to turn around on this beach and smart zoning practices have meant that hotels are set well back from the tide lines when a hurricane blows through.

Top Choices: Don CeSar, Kimpton Hotel Zamora, Guy Harvey Outpost, Sirata Beach Resort (pictured here), Postcard Inn

Downtown St. Petersburg

With a wide, white-sand beach just a few miles away, why would you stay in downtown St. Pete? Ten years ago that would have been a hard question to answer, but now this is one of the most attractive urban areas in Florida, with lively nightlife and great cultural attractions. The Dali Museum is worth a visit by itself, but you also have a Chihuly Glass Works museum, a highly regarded fine arts museum, and multiple performance halls and music clubs.

Vinoy Hotel St. Petersburg, Florida

Top Choices: Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg (pictured above), The Birchwood, Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront

Find your perfect Tampa Bay hotel here. 

Sand Key, Treasure Island, Indian Shores, and Redington Beaches

In between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach are a slew of similar-looking stretches of sand making up the barrier island chain separated by bridges from the mainland. It’s hard to tell when you’ve left one and entered another unless you’re paying close attention to the street signs. So if you’re just looking for a beach with a nice sunset, you’ll do fine on any of them.

Top Choices: Sheraton Sand Key, Marriott Suites Sand Key, Treasure Island Resort, Sunset Vistas, Thunderbird Beach Resort

Tampa Downtown

The actual city of Tampa is on the bay, not the Gulf, so it was the first area to be settled as a port city. It really thrived as “Cigar City” in the early 1900s as Cuban cigar rollers shared the Ybor City port area with immigrants from Spain, Italy, and other parts of the world. There are a few hotels in Ybor City, but most of the best ones are concentrated downtown, near the convention center. The top boutique hotel is in South Tampa though: Epicurean.

Top choices: Le Meridien Tampa (pictured below), Marriott Waterside, Westin Harbour Island

Le Meridien Hotel Tampa downtown

Tampa Airport and Causeway

If your business is near the airport and local office complexes rather than downtown.  There are clusters of hotels by the airport, a few near Kennedy and Westshore, and on the causeway that leads out to the beach areas. There are also a few budget and mid-range options (plus an Embassy Suites) near the Busch Gardens amusement park.

Top choices: Tampa Airport Marriott, Westshore Grand, Renaissance Tampa Plaza, Westin Tampa Bay, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

Find the best deals on Tampa Bay Hotels and earn valuable points back for every stay—at any hotel—with Bonwi.com. 

Rewards Points Battle: PointsHound vs. Bonwi

earning loyalty points Las Vegas
earning loyalty points Las Vegas
Who has the higher points payoff in Las Vegas?

Who is going to get you to a free flight faster: PointsHound or Bonwi?

We say the best way to rack up rewards points fast is to use Bonwi for hotel bookings, but how much more do you really earn in practice? We’ve put services to the test before, showing you how much faster you could earn rewards compared to both an online travel agency like Hotels.com and a direct booking program with a hotel chain like IHG Group.

Now let’s look at another site focused on rewards: PointsHound.

How the PointsHound Program Works

For this program, you choose your city and dates for a hotel booking, then earn points based on which hotel you choose. Points are applied to one of 19 airline frequent flier programs, such as American, United, or Finnair. On most there is no maximum, but you have to play by the specific program’s rules, so the site says, “For example, United MileagePlus imposes a maximum of 100,000 Miles annual limit that can earned through PointsHound.” Since it says you can earn “up to 10,000 points per night,” we assume you’ll never see earnings higher than that either for individual nights.

All programs are not equal either. So you could possibly earn 6,000 miles on JetBlue for a booking, but maybe only 2,000 if you picked Eithad instead. The only way you’ll know is to start the process over. You eventually get rewarded for loyalty here: you earn a bump up in points after your 5th and 20th stays, though it doesn’t say by how much. The program covers more than 300,000 properties worldwide.

How the Bonwi Program Differs

With Bonwi you don’t have to choose an airline program ahead of time since your points can be applied to any flight on any airline, with no blackout dates, no restrictions. It’s a simple 1-cent redemption value.

If you want to use your points for something else, no problem. You can cash them in for hotel rooms (at a better than 1-cent value) or use them for rental cars or gift cards to top-brand retailers—without the devaluation you see with airline points used elsewhere.

There’s no cap on how many points you can earn per night (sometimes it can top 20,000 at luxury properties) and no cap on how many points you can earn per year.

Comparison of Points Earned

So how do the differences play out in the real world? We pulled up sample dates a month from now to see how many points we would earn in different programs. We randomly chose United as our airfare carrier on PointsHound since it’s part of the Star Alliance, with the best partners overall. We chose popular business travel cities that road warriors spend a lot of time in.

First up, we headed to Las Vegas, home to the largest hotels in the world and some of the biggest convention spaces. As luck would have it, the two top points earners in both programs were the same, so let’s start there. Here’s what you would get on PointsHound:

PointsHound earnings Las Vegas

Not a bad payoff. Thanks to a promotion, you would get 6,700 or 7,150 United miles total by booking one of these hotels at $180 to $199 per night before the dreaded “resort fee.”

Bonwi points earned Las Vegas

If you booked either of these properties with Bonwi, however, you’d earn several thousand more miles—without paying more. 11,090 at the Aria or 12,215 at Cosmopolitan.

What about if you go further down the list? Bonwi comes out ahead almost every time. You get 7,783 at The Palazzo compared to 5,850, or 8,047 at Rio instead of 4,850, or 3,488 at the Hard Rock instead of 2,400.

Vegas is a strange animal in many ways though, of course, so let’s head to Chicago and see how it looks there.

Here are the top two “Big Earn” listings for PointsHound, giving you 3,800 or 3,750 United miles for a two-night stay.

Pointshound earnings Chicago

Now here are the top-earning listings for Bonwi. The difference is certainly not minor. You have to scroll to their second page of listings (#16 on) to get less than 10,000 points. You have to get to listing #65 in points order on Bonwi to finally get to a hotel offering what the #1 listing does on PointsHound.

Bonwi rewards points Chicago

Using Your Points

With PointsHound, the idea is that you are adding to your frequent flier balance at the program you use most, or you’re “topping off” an account to get to a desired level. You’re not expecting to use those miles right away. Good thing, because you wouldn’t have enough. You’ll need 12,500 miles even for the lowest tier one-way domestic ticket—if you can find availability.

If you booked the top two earner hotels in these examples, your four nights at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and the Waldorf-Astoria in Chicago got you 10,950 United miles for your $1,080 rooms rate (before taxes and added fees). That’s a pretty good payoff if you really needed those miles, but it’s not enough to do anything with yet.

On Bonwi, that same expenditure would have earned you 29,587 points. Not only do you have enough for a one-way domestic flight, you have enough for a round-trip one in many cases: any flight that’s $295 or less! Here’s what else you could get with those points:

– A Saturday night at the Marriott, Hyatt, or Sheraton in Anaheim, CA (take the kids to Disneyland)
– A $250 gift card to the Apple Store, Best Buy, or Amazon
– A rental car for five days

Not only does Bonwi come out way ahead on earnings, it also gives you more options on what to do with those earned points. Do a search for your next hotel here.

 

A Trip to Chilly Chicago Can Pay for Sunny Miami Beach

Florida beach from Orlando
When you’re planning your 2018 travels, think a little harder about what spending money on a hotel room and a rental car means.  Yes, you need those things for your upcoming business trip, but, if you do it right, you can use the points you get for your own vacation.

Here is a good example:  You’ve got a trip to Chicago coming up, in late January.  That’s hardly a vacation, but—pick your hotel right, book it on Bonwi, and bank the points for a warmer destination later in the year.

You pick the Conrad Hotel, for a modest rate of $225 per night. Book it!  Then look at how many Bonwi points you get….26,707 of them!   Bank the points and then search for something fun around vacation time, say, Miami Beach.

With my 27K points, I’ll qualify for a free night at the Clinton Hotel or the Boulan hotel in Miami’s South Beach.  Sweet!

With rental cars, it gets even better.  I can rent a car for the three days of my South Beach jaunt and use up only 4800 of my points….covering the entire expense!

So, what would you rather do?  Book hotels the old fashioned way, or earn points that you can actually redeem in so many different places and not only for hotel rooms but rental cars too!

In these days when we often combine business and pleasure, when our cell phones are ringing on the weekends and at night, it makes a lot of sense to use the money we HAVE to spend for business travel to make our vacations even better. That’s Bonwi!

San Diego: What’s New In California’s Southernmost City?

Fallen Star

San Diego is well-known for its beaches, great weather, and not-so-great football team, the lowly Chargers.  But, the So-cal city offers much more than an appealing climate. From a famous haunted house to a massive park, San Diego has quite a few attractions that don’t have to do with beaches.

Overlooking the University of California, San Diego is Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” sculpture. The unusual work of art sits atop the seventh floor of UC San Diego’s Jacobs Hall in the shape of a home. There is even a rooftop garden that accompanies the Seoul National University graduate’s incredible sculpture!

The Whaley House in San Diego features the Whaley House Museum, the Verna House, the Whaley House Museum Shop, two false front store buildings, and the Derby-Pendleton House. The Whaley House Complex is famous for its historical architecture, as well as its haunted folklore. You can tour the complex and learn a thing or two about California history and folklore!

Balboa Park in San Diego, acres and acres to enjoy.
Balboa Park in San Diego: acres and acres to enjoy.

Massive Balboa Park in San Diego boasts about 1,200 acres of gardens, walking paths, museums, theaters, and the popular San Diego Zoo. You could spend an entire day at Balboa Park considering the fact that the venue covers multiple forms of entertainment and activities. And various shopping opportunities at the park will leave you with some great souvenirs!

When you’re in San Diego, also check out some of these cool restaurants:

On Washington Street in San Diego is Lucha Libres Tacos. The wrestling-themed taco stop features Mexican wrestling paraphernalia, great tacos, and Mexican wrestling films on the TV; a truly unique eatery!

Speaking of unique restaurants, have you heard of Pop Pie Co. in San Diego? The neighborhood hangout offers a variety of savory and sweet pies in a casual setting. Pop Pie Co. also serves coffee and various craft beers!

When you’re planning your trip to San Diego, consider staying in one of these San Diego hotels:

After a $12 million renovation, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego is ready to give guests a luxurious stay. Each room comes with flat screen TVs, laptop-compatible safes, work stations with wireless internet, plush robes, and more. And the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club, and a heated saltwater pool within a private garden will keep you active!

The Pendry San Diego, located on J Street in close proximity to Petco Park, the San Diego Convention Center, bars, beaches, and tons more. The hotel itself has six restaurants and bars offering cuisine from talented chefs and unique concepts, and rooms come with Bluetooth-enabled speakers, fully-stocked mini bar, complimentary wifi, and more!

Use Bonwi points on your next trip to San Diego and come home with points to use later for airfare or another hotel.

Top Winter Villages

Do you become active and engaged during winter months, or do you prefer to hibernate? Do you like to shop, be outdoors, or cuddle by a fire? The small-town lifestyle of American villages offer a way to relax and do whatever you like at a slower pace. After all, what is better than a getaway that leaves all the hustle and bustle behind? We’ve handpicked a few winter wonderlands that have something for everyone, so lean back as we take you through them.

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Vail offers world-class skiing in a town that encompasses all the charm of a European alpine village. This city lives up to its reputation as a top entertainment and shopping destination. The slopes at Vail offer a wide range of terrain from kid-friendly to expert. Skiers with children love Vail because kids can attend a thorough ski school as they indulge on the resort’s diverse terrain. At day’s end, sip hot cocoa while walking the village’s cobblestone streets, perusing its wide selection of restaurants.

Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires’ winter is what inspired the picturesque romantic white Christmas scenes we see around the holidays. New England is full of dreamy small towns with classic red barns, open roads, great food, and friendly people. Look anywhere for scenery that appears right out of a painting. Make sure to stop by the Blantyre Hotel to see the 110-foot decorated Christmas tree. You can rent rooms with a traditional fireplace and four-poster beds. Step outside into the sparkling snow and enjoy a sleigh ride.

Cannon Beach is located on the beautiful coast of northern Oregon. It’s a city that remains calm and quaint in spite of its relatively close proximity to its neighboring city of Portland. You can find arguably the best coffee in the United States around any corner. Cooler weather during winter months make prices favorable to visitors. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway with a view, Cannon Beach should be at the top of your list. A stay at the Blue Gull Inn will have you situated right near the famous Haystack Rock.

This desert oasis takes on a new feel in the winter. There’s something magical about seeing Arizona’s fiery-red mountain tops dusted in sparkly snow. Winter is the best season to save on hotels and avoid crowds. Driving through the canyons, catching a hot-air balloon ride, or gazing at the unobstructed night sky are just a few of the many relaxing things to do here. Are you looking to get away for some peace and quiet? Sedona, Arizona is waiting for you.

Located at the foot of California’s Sierra Mountains, this popular ski village hosts visitors from around the world for some of the best winter sports west of the Rockies. Mammoth Mountain overlooks Lake Tahoe with a view of the surrounding Sierra peaks. Last year Mammoth Mountain had the longest ski season in California’s history, 270 days, getting 51 feet of snowfall at the basecamp. The skiing is great for all skill levels. There are three amazing lodges we recommend: Main Lodge, Canyon Lodge, and Eagle Lodge. Each are luxurious and cater to your every desire. Be sure to grab an après-ski beer at one of the village’s handful of micro-breweries.

Visit Bonwi.com to start planning your winter retreat. You’ll be packing your mittens and sharing hot chocolate by the fireside soon enough!

A San Francisco Getaway: How Do the Points Compare?

The most important number besides the cost of the room are the Bonwi points rewards!

I’m getting ready to head out to the west coast in April, and so, the first place I visited was Bonwi.com to compare how many points that might get me versus other booking sites like Hotels.com.

The thing about Bonwi is that the hotel search is pretty much the same as you’d find on any booking site, but that little number is the key–the rewards.

The most important number besides the cost of the room are the Bonwi points rewards!
The most important number beside the cost of the room is the Bonwi points rewards!

After I stopped being amazed at the first hotel, where my four-night jaunt would set me back a cool $436,932 for a stay at the swanky Francisco Bay Inn, I got down to business. You can see that even if I chose a modest hotel, like the Marriott San Francisco Fishermen’s Wharf, at $316 a night, I’d be bringing home a bonanza of Bonwi points–32866, which I can use for a rental car or for a hotel during a future stay. Bonwi points don’t expire so they will be usable whenever I need them later.

If I bumped the price up to $351 a night, I’d be getting a whopping 42,110 points!! That’s a lot of hotels and car rentals, for sure.

How many points would I get if I booked on Hotels.com?  Well, for the Hotel Bijou, which at $219 is the exact same price as on Bonwi, I’d be happy that I would be able to add the four nights to the site’s pledge of a free night for every ten paid nights.   So I’d earn $219, the value of the free hotel night.

But getting the 15,590 points in my Bonwi account gives me much more.  So not only did I get the best rate, YES, I got points to use in the future. It’s all win-win~

Bonwi Points Now Include Amazon Gift Cards for Hotel Stays

Amazon Gift Cards!?    Bloomingdale’s Gift Cards?!  Now THAT’s getting rewarded, Bonwi style. No other booking site can match the points and the ease of use you’ll find when you find and book a hotel anywhere around the world using Bonwi.

A room price that’s competitive with all of the other big booking sites.  Check.

The ability to earn far more points that you’ll ever even think of earning on Hotels.com (Buy ten nights, get one free–that takes a long time!)  Check

Look at the large number of points you get from a simple three-night stay in Fort Lauderdale from Bonwi!
Look at the large number of points you get from a simple three-night stay in Fort Lauderdale from Bonwi!

You can book the hotel and take the 13,000 points and turn it into a $130 gift card to go shopping during your trip to Fort Lauderdale! When you want to search Bonwi by points, you click a box and you get a new listing. Just a few stays in a hotel in one city could pay for your next hotel in another city!

Whether you want to use your points for hotel rooms, convert your points to useful things like Amazon or Bloomingdale gift cards, the choice is yours.

If you compare the point value of using Bonwi, it will quickly become clear that no other booking site has even tried to come close to this value.

So the next time YOU are booking travel….but business or pleasure. Get what you deserve, flexible points that never expire that will give you a whole lot more for your money.

Reward Points Battle: IHG Rewards Club vs. Bonwi

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?

From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.

How the IHG Rewards Program Works

In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.

To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)

With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets

Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?

Bonwi points back San Francisco

If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.

A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.

Bonwi vs. IHG points in San DIego

Cashing in Your Loyalty Points

Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?

If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.

From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.

For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.

IHG Rewards points in Orlando

For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412

If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.

So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.

Reward Points Battle: Hotels.com vs. Bonwi

Las Vegas hotel rewards

hotels.com rewards compared to Bonwi

If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.

We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.

How the Programs Work

With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?

Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Las Vegas hotel rewards

If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.

In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.

If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.

At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas  and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.

Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.

New Orleans hotel rewards

Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked  the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.

With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:

  • 3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
  • One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
  • Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
  • A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.

Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.

The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.

In Honolulu, Hawaii, Don’t Miss a Trip to Hanauma Bay State Park

Snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay State Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.

If you find yourself traveling to Honolulu Hawaii, there are usually a couple reasons why. Including, (but of course not limited to) the sun, pristine beaches, and pure relaxation the tropical Island has to offer. But if you ask any local, they’ll say that a trip to Honolulu is incomplete without a visit to Hanauma Bay State Park, a marine life conservation area, and underwater park.

Formed inside a volcanic cone, the bay is home to a thriving marine ecosystem. All visitors are required to watch an introduction video about the bay’s marine life, conservation, preservation, and safety rules before entering the park. This is primarily because of the years of abuse and neglect the bay has faced due to millions of people unknowingly destroying the plants and animals that prosper there.

 With over 3,000 visitors a day, there is no doubt that the bay is a premier destination because of its warm water snorkeling and the way it encaptures the island with its picturesque views. To enter the park, there is a general admission fee of $7.50, however, this doesn’t include the parking fee, locker fee, and several other add ons.

The state park does offer a few tours that visitors can choose from, the most basic one being the “Extended Tour”, which costs $25. Not a bad price! The tour includes round-trip transportation from Waikiki Hotels to Hanauma Bay, a narrated mini tour on the ride to the bay, masks, fins, and a snorkel, and 4.5 hours on the beach. This basic tour is perfect for visitors looking for a cheap day trip to the bay, equipped with snorkeling and easy transportation.
However, if you are looking for a more advanced tour that visits several different locations, then it’s best to opt for the “North Shore & Hanauma Bay Tour”, which includes two tours in one day. The tour not only stops at several different beaches including Pipeline Beach and Waimea Bay, but it also allows you free access to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
 Don’t miss the chance to jump off enormous “Jump Rocks” which are large hunks of lava that act as perfect places to either jump off of or catch a glorious view of the aqua landscape. A quick stop at Turtle Town for lunch is also included in the package, and the shrimp plate is highly recommended by previous visitors.
End the day with a visit to the famous Dole Pineapple Plantation where you’ll get the chance to try the delightful “Dole Whip” pineapple ice cream and walk around the beautiful pineapple gardens. The “North Shore & Hanauma Bay Tour” premium package costs $149 for adults and $135 for children. It’s pricey, but the jam-packed day full of adventure is totally worth every penny.
Hanauma Bay State Park is just one opportunity out of hundreds that Honolulu offers. But just keep in the back of your mind, Hanauma Bay Beach was voted the best beach in the entire United States in 2016, so it might just be worth a visit!
If a stay in a Honolulu Hotel is in your future, find the best deal on all of Oahu’s hotels at Bonwi.com, and use your points to save for a future trip as well!

Nashville’s Culinary Secrets Revealed

A chef/guide from Walk Eat Nashville shares some of the city's culinary secrets with visitors.
A chef/guide from Walk Eat Nashville shares some of the city’s culinary secrets with visitors.

If the sweet smell of chicken and waffles isn’t enough to make you pack up your things and head down south, then surely a visit to the music capital of the USA is. If you’re visiting Nashville and aren’t planning on eating your way through the city, then you are doing yourself a major injustice.

Nashville is not only known for its popular tunes and the Parthenon, but also for its comfort food. It’s the perfect destination for any foodie. 

The best way to truly experience the culinary excellence of the city is through Walk Eat Nashville. Several different walking food tours offer a rich taste of the city, people, and food that makes Nashville so remarkable. The ticket price includes all food tastings, behind the scenes interactions with chefs and experts, and a personal tour guide.

The first tour, called East Nashville Food Tour, takes you on a scenic tour two miles across the river from downtown. The 1.5-mile walk includes tastings at 5-6 different chef owned restaurants and eateries.

With the destinations always rotating, you don’t have to feel guilty if you take the tour again… and maybe again. The 3-hour tour will also allow you to stroll past Victorian homes and bungalows, and you’ll even learn about the music studio where Johnny Cash and Neil Young made records.

Just a few of the comfort foods you can learn to cook and enjoy in Nashville.
Just a few of the comfort foods you can learn to cook and enjoy in Nashville.

The second tour is called the Midtown/Vanderbilt Food Tour. The hustle bustle area of Midtown is situated between downtown and Vanderbilt University. Once a business district, this constantly changing neighborhood has both a small-town and big-town feel.

Get a taste of old fashioned favorites, while also getting the chance to discover the newest flavors of the city. Enjoy a gourmet cupcake from Gigi’s Cupcakes or a steak from Union Common. Every stop or so, you’ll get to take in Nashville’s “Rock Block” and discover the history of Vanderbilt University.

The last delicious tour is the SoBro/Downtown Nashville Food Tour. Take a stroll along one of the city’s most happening areas. Culinary hotspots are typical throughout the area and live music can be heard from every street corner. In between bites, you’ll get the chance to walk on Nashville’s Music Mile and learn about the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Each individual tour is three hours long and costs $58 plus tax. To learn more about Nashville’s food tours, visit http://www.walkeatnashville.com.
Heading to Nashville for business, pleasure or just some comfort food?
Find the best deals on hotels in Nashville on Bonwi and use your points for another trip after that!

The 5 Best Florida Beaches Easily Reached From Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

People fly from all over the world to go to Orlando, home of Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios amusement parks, and much more. This is a land-locked city though, so if you want a Florida beach vacation you need to drive east to meet the Atlantic Ocean or west to reach beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both coasts are easy to reach in a rental car, however. Most of the way you will be on large highways and the roads are well-marked. The closest beach to Orlando is only one hour away from the gates of Walt Disney World, while the farthest one on this list is just two hours away.

Cocoa Beach, Florida – 1 hour

beach near Orlando
(photo courtesy Visit Space Coast Tourism)

Near the Cape Canaveral area where the United States launched most of its manned rockets into space, this is the closest beach to Orlando. Like all but one here, it’s on a narrow barrier island jutting out into the sea. Expect soft golden sand but big waves sometimes: this is one of the best surfing spots in Florida.

There are four public beach access areas with parking (for a fee), so it’s easy to come here on a day trip and return to your hotel in Orlando that night. For the kids there is also a public skate park and several playgrounds. The Kennedy Space Center has a visitors center open to the public.

Daytona Beach – 1 hour 15 minutes

Daytona Beach Florida

Best known as home of the Daytona 500 Speedway where NASCAR auto races take place, this is a beach where cars rule. You can drive right onto the hard-packed sand and park your car on the very wide beach. This makes any stretch of the beach easily accessible in your vehicle, in an area that stretches more than 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach through Ormond Beach.

Prices are reasonable at Daytona Beach for lodging, meals, drinks, and activities, so this is a good spot for a couple or family on a budget. The area has a surprisingly robust art scene, plus the region is frequently cited as one of the best beach values in the USA.

Clearwater Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

Clearwater Beach Florida

Often voted as the prettiest beach in Florida, this is a compact white-sand beach area that is only 2.5 miles long. Much of it is connected by paved walkways and bike lanes and there are plenty of restaurants and beach bars with a view of the green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The water stays much warmer here than on the Atlantic coast, with temperatures only dipping down below 20°C for one month in February. The water is very calm here, making it a good choice for young children. Search on Bonwi for the best Clearwater Beach resort deals.

St. Petersburg Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

St. Pete Beach Florida

The Tampa Bay area’s other main beach is St. Petersburg, a long stretch of sand dotted with a variety of hotels and condo complexes. There several similar barrier island beaches immediately to the north such as Treasure Island and Madeira. As with Clearwater the sea temperatures are pleasant most of the year and there are seldom waves large enough to knock down even the smallest child.

This is a beach area where you pick a spot and park or you explore by car-there’s no boardwalk or path along the sea. It’s worth heading to downtown St. Pete for restaurants and nightlife, catching a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or exploring the Sunken Gardens area filled with tropical plants. The Salvador Dali Museum faces the Bay. Several well-regarded breweries are located here too, including Green Bench and 3 Daughters.

Anna Maria Island – 2 hours

Anna Maria Island Florida

For a taste of Florida the way it used to be before the state got so developed, head to Anna Maria Island where no building can be more than three stories high. There are no huge sprawling resorts here and the main things to do are eat seafood and lounge on the beach.

Just seven miles long and a few blocks wide, this is an easy island to navigate and there’s a free trolley to get around on once you’ve found your parking spot. There is a playground on the most popular public beach access spot and there are shaded picnic tables.

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll earn the most points back to use for a future vacation by booking your hotel and rental car with Bonwi.com.

All photos by Tim Leffel except Coco Beach.

5 Florida beaches that are 2 hours or less from Orlando

Daytona Beach Racing: Getting Behind the Wheel

The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
The huge NASCAR track in Daytona Florida. You can ride in one of these cars!
There is only one place you can go to truly experience the thrill of American racing, and that place is Daytona International Speedway. Without a doubt, there is more to The Great American Race than just the fast cars…the history, the celebrities, and the pageantry are all factored into what makes Daytona 500 a fan favorite.
For an avid racing fan, the best time to visit the speedway is in 2018, when the Daytona 500 celebrates its 60th anniversary. For six decades, Daytona has been entertaining the public with historic performances and heroic figures, and of course, sharing the love of the race with the young and old.
Don’t miss the opportunity to pay a visit the track when the Monster Energy Nascar Cup season starts. Drivers will battle and showcase their speed and determination as they race down the 2.5-mile tri-oval and its 31-degree banking.
It’s one thing to watch the race, but to actually experience what it’s like to ride in a race car is a whole other adrenaline rush. The NASCAR Racing Experience allows you to ride shotgun in a real NASCAR race car. Hold on tight as a professional racing driver takes you around one of the nation’s top ranking speedways. You’ll be in good hands during the three-lap ride, and it will be over faster than you know it!
The Nascar Ride Along experience can be purchased online at the Daytona International Speedway Ticket Office. The price for juniors 6-14 is $79.99 and adults is $135. Make sure to check out the dates available, they fill up fast!
If sitting shotgun is not good enough for you, and you actually want to DRIVE the NASCAR, then sign up for the Practice Experience, you’ll get the real taste of racing. After completing a training and instruction session with the Crew Chief, you have 5 minutes to race your heart out, carefully that is.
There is no lead car to follow, but luckily there is a 2-way in car radio with a personal instructor on the other end. Don’t worry, you will receive bragging rights with your very own Graduation Certificate. The Practice Experience is priced at $299.99 and tickets can be purchased online.
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
There is no thrill like riding inside a NASCAR racing car at Daytona!
But wait, there’s MORE, believe it or not. The Rookie and The King’s experience allows you to race for eight and 16 minutes around the track. It’s double and triple the price…but totally worth it if you’re a diehard racing fan.
By far the best racing experience you can purchase at the speedway is the World Champion experience, priced at $2,500. It’s 3 hours worth of the NASCAR experience and you get to drive in six different racing session. Recommended for racing enthusiasts and those with a need for speed.
If you’re like me, then the idea of visiting Daytona will be lingering in your head after reading this. The Daytona International Speedway online website has an easily accessible calendar that shows when the track is open and what tours are available on certain days.
Whether you’re interested in sitting back and watching or buckling up and driving, Daytona International Speedway delivers unforgettable moments for all.
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5 of the Best Excursions from Anchorage, Alaska

Glacier viewing boat trip Alaska

Spencer Glacier icebergs Alaska

Few cities anywhere in the world have such spectacular scenery within a few hours’ drive or train ride as Anchorage, Alaska. Some visitors make the journey here a road trip to start it all, driving up the Alaska Highway—open all year—from the USA or western Canada. There are plenty of flights here though and the state hosts Alaska Airlines, so it’s easy to just rent a car upon arrival.

There’s seldom a lot of traffic in Anchorage and roads leaving the city are well-marked. All of the excursions here are off of two routes. One heads south down the Kenai Peninsula, the other heads north toward Denali National Park.

See the Glaciers from the Water

Glacier viewing boat trip Alaska

Receding glaciers from the last Ice Age carved up the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska with gorges and fjords. The best way to see the awesome force of the ice is to go on a day cruise that explores the waterways and passes glaciers that are sometimes still dropping into the sea. The calmest option is to go on a Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise from the port of Whittier.

The scenery is more dramatic on a Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise that weaves in and out of various fjords from the port of Seward, but you do have to cross some open water that can get rough at times. In both cases you’re likely to see some wildlife, such as bald eagles, sea lions, otters, and even whales. The cute white beluga whales like to play in the waters you’ll pass on the Seward Highway—a national scenic byway—on the way to either port in a car.

Get Close to Alaska’s Animals

Moose in Alaska conservation park

Close to Whittier and accessible by car in an hour from the city is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This non-profit center cares for rescued animals that cannot return to the wild, plus a herd of bison that are raised here first than released. You will see huge grizzly bears and brown bears, perhaps a rescued black bear cub. There’s a resident porcupine that lost a leg, a herd of moose, wolves, and some elk with giant antlers. Naturalists give guided tours and some of the animals you can touch.

You can connect this with a trip to Spencer Lake (seen in the very top photo) for hiking near a glacier, paddling around icebergs, and rafting down the Placer river with Chugach Adventures.

Heading North From Anchorage to Denali

Denali National Park Alaska

Denali Mountain—also known as Mt. McKinley—is the highest peak in North America at 6,190 meters. You’ll have to get an early start to visit it on a day trip as it’s approximately a five-hour drive from Anchorage to Denali National Park. It would be better to spend the night in the area to be able to explore the wilderness on hiking trails or by biking on the road going through the park. (The park has more than 2.4 million hectares of protected land.) You can also get there via Alaska Railroad and It’s also possible to purchase seats on a sightseeing plane to view the snowy peaks from the air.

Sled Dogs and Fishing in Wasilla

Alaska’s main sporting event is the annual Iditarod Dogsled Race, which takes place each March. The course covers 1,000 miles (1609 kms) from Anchorage. You can visit the headquarters visitor center in Wasila any time of year though and learn more about this unique event. Some sled dogs stay at the headquarters and in the summer they lead visitors on dog cart rides instead of through the snow.

fishing trip in Alaska

Less than two hours by car from Anchorage, Wasilla is also a favorite fishing area for visitors. There are several spots where you can go on guided fishing trips to hook your own king salmon or go fly fishing for trout.

Ski Alaska in Girdwood

ski Alaska close to Anchorage

If arriving outside of the peak summer season, it’s quick 42 miles (68 kms) to Alaska’s premier ski area, Alyeska Resort. This self-contained area is anchored by a fine hotel that connects to the aerial tram traveling to the top of the mountain and there are 76 total ski runs. You can use the area as a heli-skiing base to explore fresh powder in the backcountry, or for the less adventurous the town of Girdwood also has ice skating and snow shoeing areas.

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Article by Tim Leffel, who also wrote Gawking at Glaciers in Wild Alaska as editor of Perceptive Travel. All photos by Leffel except fishing photo courtesy of Valley River Charters and Denali photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons. Trail map from Alyeska Resort.