Follow The Points Guy on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook


Want to see the latest Prime Day deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Black Friday Prime Day is finally here, and Amazon has a ton of amazing deals in store. But with thousands of products to choose from, and new deals starting as often as every five minutes, it’s easy to get lost and think that you’re actually in the Amazon. To help you on this hunt, we here at TPG are scouring Amazon all day to find the best deals that might be worth a look. And while the discounts are exciting in and of themselves, there are also ways to maximize your return on Amazon spending during this two-day sale, which you can read about at the end of the post.

Although the sale officially runs from today through tomorrow, some deals aren’t available for the full 48 hours and quantities are limited, so if you’re interested in an offer, you’ll need to act quick. As a reminder, these discounts are available exclusively to Amazon Prime members. If you’re not currently an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up today for a free trial to take advantage of the sale. In addition, Prime Student allows college students to receive a free six-month trial membership.

With more and more airlines ditching inflight-entertainment screens in favor of streaming entertainment, it’s becoming more important to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) when traveling. Although there are iPads on sale, purchasing one for everyone in your family could be costly. Fortunately, there are some more budget-friendly alternatives, such as Amazon’s Fire tablets and Kindles, which are reasonably priced. And with today’s discounts, you can score one for under $25 — or less if you were targeted by Amex for this offer. You also can earn extra points or cash back on select Amazon devices when clicking through a shopping portal like Rakuten (formerly Ebates).

Here are the deals:

1. 2-Pack All-New Fire 7 Tablets, 7″ Display, 16 GB – with Special Offers for $49.98 (was $99.98 — now 50% off)

2. 2-Pack All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablets, 16 GB, Kid-Proof Case for $99.98 (was $199.98 — now 50% off)

3. Fire HD 8 Tablet, 8″ HD Display, 16 GB for $49.99 (was $79.99 — now 38% off)

4. All-New Kindle for $59.99 (was $89.99 — now 33% off)

5. Apple iPad, Wi-Fi, 128GB for $299 (was $429 — now 30% off)

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e 128GB WiFi Tablet for $429.99 (was $479.99 — now 10% off)

7. 3-Month Kindle Unlimited Subscription for $0 (was $29.97 — now 100% off)

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget, you can maximize your rewards on Amazon purchases by using a credit card such as the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Citi® Double Cash Card or The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express. Check out this post for a deeper dive into the best cards for Amazon purchases — not only on Prime Day, but every day of the year. You can also stack different promotions, such as the 20% discount by using just one Amex Membership Reward point and a $10 promotional credit by spending $10+ at Whole Foods.

Follow The Points Guy for comprehensive coverage of Prime Day 2019 — click here for more great deals.

Featured image by Westend61 / Getty Images.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Theme parks might be what initially brings you to Central Florida, but if you neglect to venture east to the beaches and wildlife-rich Indian River Lagoon near Kennedy Space Center along the state’s Space Coast, you’ll be missing out on the real Florida.

Roughly 55 miles east of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida’s Space Coast, home to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, has 72 miles of coastline that stretches from Titusville in the north to just north of Sebastian Inlet in the south. The region offers easy access to areas of pristine natural beauty where you can learn to surf, paddle through bioluminescent waters at night and scout for manatees, dolphins and alligators by day.

I certainly get the appeal of Orlando and the theme parks for a family vacation. But as a Floridian, it does make me scratch my head a bit when people come to this wild state and an animatronic alligator and themed thrill rides are as far as they get. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good roller coaster (the Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando is my all-time favorite, even if my babies aren’t even close to being old enough to ride it themselves). But heading east from Orlando and making time to take the kids to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and surrounding natural attractions is a must.

When you’re ready to press pause on the theme parks and crowds for a day, here are a few places where you won’t have to wait in a line to see the real Florida along the family-friendly Space Coast.

Playalinda Beach ((Photo courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism) How to Get to the Space Coast

Named for Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral and the space explorations launched from there, the closest major airport to the Space Coast is Orlando Airport (MCO), about 45 miles west of Cape Canaveral. Much smaller, but serviced by Delta and American Airlines from Dallas and Atlanta respectively, Orlando-Melbourne Airport (MLB), right near downtown Melbourne on the Space Coast, is minutes from beaches and 45 minutes south of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral (and an hour from Disney).

Where to Stay on the Space Coast

There are tons of points-friendly hotels along the Space Coast, with the bulk of them in and around Cocoa Beach and Melbourne. There you can redeem and earn Marriott, Radisson Rewards, IHG Rewards Club and Hilton Honors points at various locations. Some good bets include:

Related: Best Hotel Credit Cards for Family Vacations

Courtyard Cocoa Beach (photo courtesy of hotel) Top Family Activities on Florida’s Space Coast

Here are the Space Coast activities your family will love.

1. Cruise on the Indian River Queen

Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river. Step aboard this triple-deck paddlewheel boat for a fun and informative cruise through the Indian River Lagoon, one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the world. The Sunday cruises on the Indian River Queen are only scheduled once a month, so you’ll have to time things right (with one Friday night dinner show cruise per month, too). The reward comes in excellent chances of spotting famed Florida denizens along the lines of manatees, dolphins, coastal birds and more. Tours last roughly two hours and cost $30 per person; $25 for kids ages 3–12.

Space Coast Jungle River Queen (Photo courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism) 2. Kayak Alongside Giraffe

The Space Coast’s fabulous Brevard Zoo is really well done, with exhibits built right into the surrounding Florida landscapes and a lovely open-air ambiance you can explore with the kids via elevated boardwalks. It’s also the only zoo in the country that offers guided tours around a live animal exhibit. Kids 5 and older will beam with joy when they get to paddle along behind the guide through Expedition Africa, where they’ll have the chance to spot giraffes, ostrich, zebra, rhinos and more from a safe position on the water. And, you can head out on self-guided paddling tours in the zoo’s Wild Florida exhibit, too, to see more familiar local animals. Tickets are $10 per person. Kids, ages 5–12, must paddle with a paying adult.

Kayaking adventures at the Brevard Zoo (Photo courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism) 3. Take a Surf Lesson and Ride Waves

Cocoa Beach is where world champion professional surf legend Kelly Slater grew up learning to shred. And your kids can cut their chops on the same pretty beaches and mellow waves with the Ron Jon Surf School, which offers group and private lessons as well as seasonal surf camps. Before you head out into the actual surf, instructors will show you the ropes of paddling, getting into position on the board and pushing up in preparation of catching a wave right there on the sand. There’s no guarantee they’ll catch a wave, but don’t be surprised if your kids catch a case of surf fever. Group lessons from $50 per person, per hour or private lessons from $65 per hour.

4. Scout for Gators on a Drive Through a Wildlife Refuge

The Black Point Wildlife Drive at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a seven-mile self-driving route that will have the whole family feeling like they’re on safari. The raised dike road here travels through marshes and pine flatwoods, and don’t be surprised if you see an alligator sunning itself near the road along the way. Other animals to look for include raptors, wading birds, river otters and elusive bobcats. Grab a brochure from the visitor center so you know what to look for and the best stops to make along the drive, which takes about 40 minutes to enjoy. The entrance fee to the refuge is $10 per vehicle.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge bird-watching (Photo courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism) 5. Go on a Paddling Tour Through Bioluminescent Waters

June through early October are the warmest months of the year along the Space Coast, and that’s the time to head out paddling on the Indian River Lagoon to see the beautiful phenomenon of bioluminescence. A Day Away Kayak Tours operates excursions that bring you out aboard clear kayaks within the waters of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Everyone in your entourage will be floored when the motion of your paddles through the water creates blueish-green Tinkerbell-like trails all around you. Kids 5 and older are welcome and rates are $60 per person for the 1.5-hour excursions into the lagoon. Don’t forget the eco-friendly bug spray.

6. Have a Blissful Beach Day at Cape Canaveral National Seashore

A Florida day at the beach gets distilled to its essence at Canaveral National Seashore, a protected barrier island lined with sweeping sandy beaches backed by dunes. The farther you walk from the approaches, the more you’ll have the beach all to yourself. When you get bored at the beach, you can stroll along wooded trails for a peek at how the real Florida, sans development, looked to the people who first settled here. Seasonal activities worth marking on your calendar include Turtle Watch programs scheduled from May 15 through the summer months, when you might see a nesting loggerhead. Night Sky Exploration events during the winter months offer a fascinating look at the night sky with the help (and telescopes) of area astronomers.

Related: Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Expenses

Bottom Line

Considering how easy it is to rent a car in Orlando and drive east to the Space Coast, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t tack a few days onto your theme park itinerary to get the family out and about in the real Florida. After all, there’s no cure like salt water, sea and sun for the fatigue of long lines and crowds.

Planning a trip to Florida? Here are some other stories that may help:

Featured image by C. Fredrickson Photography / Getty Images

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
TPG Rating
  • 6 Ground Experience
  • 17 Cabin & Seat
  • 11 Amenities & IFE
  • 19 Food & Beverage
  • 22 Service

Decent catering, friendly service, comfortable bedding, lie-flat seat on a domestic flight.


Dated 2-1-2 configuration, lots of overnight crew chatter in the galley, Wi-Fi didn't work.

Earlier this year, Hawaiian Airlines launched the longest domestic US nonstop flight, carrying passengers some 5,000 miles from Boston to Honolulu. United has long operated a similar — though slightly shorter — flight, with daily Boeing 767-400ER between its East Coast hub in Newark, New Jersey, and Honolulu. And following my journey on ANA’s Flying Honu, that’s exactly how I decided to get home.

In This Post

For the time being, you can theoretically book a lie-flat seat on United’s 767 nonstop between Honolulu (HNL) and Newark (EWR) for 40,000 miles, worth $520, based on TPG’s valuations. That’s a hell of a deal — if you can find it. Most likely, you’ll need to redeem at the Everyday level, which means burning far more miles — 95,000 is the cheapest I’ve been able to find, and rates may climb even higher beginning Nov. 15.

In this case, adding this flight actually made my ANA business trip cheaper — that one segment from Tokyo (NRT) to Honolulu alone would have cost $5,500 in business class, but beginning the trip in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia (KUL), and ending in St. Thomas (STT), US Virgin Islands, or San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), brought the cost down to $2,700, including a flat-bed seat home from Hawaii to Newark.

I also earned a total of 9,152 redeemable miles for this leg, worth $119 based on TPG’s valuations, in addition to 9,924 Premier Qualifying Miles and $832 Premier Qualifying Dollars.

On the credit-card front, we walked away with 13,705 Membership Rewards points by paying the roughly $2,700 fare with the Platinum Card® from American Express, earning 5 points per dollar, worth nearly $275, based on TPG’s valuations. I could have also paid with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which would have earned me 3x points on all travel and provided trip delay or cancellation coverage, which isn’t available with Amex’s premium card.

Ground Experience
TPG Rating
8h 47m

As a Premier 1K member, I had the option to take advantage of United’s free same-day change at check-in, potentially giving me more (or less) time to explore Hawaii. It’s hard to beat the appeal of a Hawaii-East Coast nonstop, though.

During the check-in process, it also appeared that my flight had been overbooked, with United presenting an option to bid for a travel voucher in order to give up my seat.

The suggested amount of up to a $800 travel voucher seemed a bit light for volunteering on such a long, lie-flat hop, so I attempted to enter $3,000 instead — $2,000 was the cap, though.

Since I had checked in through United’s site (and had a boarding pass in my app), I headed straight to the gigantic TSA PreCheck line, which spilled out to the check-in area.

After a 25-minute wait in the PreCheck line, I was through to the open-air terminal. It’s nice if there’s a bit of a breeze, but parts of the airport can get quite warm on an especially hot day.

Fortunately, some areas are air-conditioned, so you can head indoors if you’re not in the mood to sweat.

Lounge access is not included for United first-class flyers — even those on the airline’s longest domestic flight. I had no trouble accessing the brand-new ANA Lounge as a Star Alliance Gold member, though, and even got to bring in a guest. I then made my way to the gate a few minutes before boarding to see if I’d be called as a volunteer, but the flight ended up not being oversold after all.

Cabin and Seat
TPG Rating
Bed Length

United’s 767-400ERs offer a total of 39 lie-flat seats, arranged in a 2-1-2 configuration.

While the carrier has begun adding its new Polaris seats to the smaller 767-300ERs, the extended-length 400ERs still sport the previous-generation seats.

Personally, I find the older seats to be comfortable enough — they’re not especially private, and window seats don’t have direct-aisle access, but they’re a decent option for the primarily leisure Hawaii market.

Interestingly, there aren’t any lavatories at the front of this plane — there are just two available to first-class flyers, and they’re at the far back of the cabin, just before coach.

Naturally, that creates confusion for economy flyers, who end up staring at lavatories that they’re not supposed to use. Generally, they sneak up and use the premium lavs anyway, but the crew decided to block access with galley carts this time around.

Normally I’d choose one of the single center seats when traveling alone, but TPG‘s Zach Griff was flying back from Hawaii on the same flight, so we grabbed 8K and 8L in the very last row.

Row 8 can be a bit noisy and bright, being right next to the galley and lavatories, but it’s worth the tradeoff for extra privacy, in my opinion. TPG travel editor Melanie Lieberman recommends grabbing a seat closer to the front, instead, though.

Seats in Row 8 are right next to the crew rest, which hosts alternating pilots throughout the flight. While their arrival and departure can cause a bit of a disturbance, I’d pick staring at a thick curtain over making awkward eye contact with a stranger any day.

Storage is fairly limited, aside from the overhead bins. I tend to keep all of my loose items in the small open area to the side of the seat, which is also where you find the power outlet, headphone jack and USB charging port.

There’s also a small storage area underneath the ottoman — my overstuffed Tumi backpack didn’t quite fit, but I was allowed to keep it there during the flight.

The seats on my flight were definitely showing their age, but I appreciated the simplicity of the controls — no fancy touchscreens to deal with here!

The seat was very comfortable in bed mode — aside from the departure meal and breakfast, I had no trouble sleeping for most of the flight. The cabin didn’t have any dedicated air vents, though, which meant I was at the mercy of the crew when it came to temperature. Fortunately, it was just fine on this flight.

You just need to be mindful of the seatbelt airbag — I woke up a couple times after accidentally bumping into it during my sleep.

Amenities and IFE
TPG Rating
TV Shows
Live TV

Although this was marketed as a domestic first-class flight, United did offer a full-size Saks Fifth Avenue pillow and blanket, which made it far easier to sleep on this long, eastbound red-eye.

Amenities were limited to the Sunday Riley hand cream and face spray and Murchison-Hume garment freshener, available in the lavs.

United also provided headphones, but they sounded awful. Definitely bring your own along for the flight, instead.

The airline is currently heavily promoting its support of the new Spider-Man film, which meant special napkins, amenity kits (on long-haul international flights) and a themed safety video, which played on the seatback’s 15-inch screen.

United offered a large variety of films — I counted 209 — ranging from new releases to documentaries to classic hits.

The system was a bit dated compared to the newer Polaris product, but it still offered the essentials: on-demand entertainment and a moving map.

United supposedly offered Wi-Fi on this route, with reasonable pricing.

We couldn’t get it to work, though — not a big deal considering I was planning to sleep much of the flight, but it would have been a huge inconvenience on the long daytime leg to Hawaii, especially if I had planned to work all day.

Food and Beverage
TPG Rating
Dine on Demand

Shortly after boarding, a flight attendant came by with a tray of water and orange juice. Zach and I each asked for a mai tai, instead.

The service began about 40 minutes after takeoff, with another round of drinks — I ordered an Old Fashioned this time, which was served with a small bowl of nuts.

Dinner was served just over an hour after takeoff — decently fast, especially considering we were sitting in the last row. The options were chicken, beef or pasta. When I asked how they were prepared, the beef was described as “very soft,” while the chicken came “with a brown sauce.”

Not wanting to venture into “very soft beef” territory, I got the chicken, which I think was actually paired with a romesco sauce, along with green beans and grits. The chicken breast itself looked a bit scary, like something I might expect to be served on the International Space Station (or preparing myself), but it was actually moist and decently flavorful.

The feta-and-watermelon salad was fresh, too, and tasted great with the pomegranate vinaigrette.

Best of all, there were pretzel rolls!

Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Zach had preordered an Asian vegetarian meal, which ended up being a curry of sorts. It looked fine, but I preferred my chicken dish.

Dessert was served about 20 minutes after the main course. The ice cream and chocolate syrup came already divided into dishes to save some time in the galley, but the flight attendant topped it with whipped cream.

Breakfast was served 40 minutes before landing, giving us plenty of time to sleep.

The bread pudding and cinnamon roll were both delicious but decadent.

The fruit bowl was great as well — fresh and nicely presented.

TPG Rating
Extra Pillows
Turndown Service

The flight attendant serving our row was incredibly cheery and outgoing, which really made a difference, especially on a longer flight. The only complaint I have about the service is that the flight attendants seemed to spend all of their downtime chatting loudly in the galley behind us, which would have been quite disruptive if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have brought powerful noise-canceling headphones.

Overall Impression

A red-eye on United’s longest US haul probably doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a good time, but I just happen to love this particular flight. Sure, you won’t be getting international-quality meals or top-notch wines — and the 767-400 sure is showing its age — but if you’re hoping to catch a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed on the other side, this is one of your best options without leaving the US.

Our genuinely friendly flight attendant really helped seal the deal here. Nobody likes leaving Hawaii, but warm service can really help ease the pain of leaving paradise, if only until you pull up to the gate.

All photos by the author.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Want to see the latest Prime Day deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

The day we’ve all been waiting for is here: Amazon Prime Day. If you are a deal seeker, you absolutely do not want to miss out on this annual sale for your family. Amazon Prime Day runs both today and tomorrow with some deals being available for the full 48 hours. Other deals might be limited to just one day. You’ll also see many flash sale deals where items can sell out within a few minutes.

With thousands of deals available, we here at TPG are scouring Amazon all day to find the best for our readers. On top of the Prime Day discounts, you can further maximize your savings by stacking different promotions. Our personal favorites are the 20% discount by using just one Amex Membership Reward point and a $10 promotional credit by spending $10+ at Whole Foods.

As a reminder, these discounts are available exclusively to Amazon Prime members. If you’re not currently a member, you can sign up today for a free trial to take advantage of the sale. In addition, Prime Student allows college students to receive a free six-month trial membership.

Here’s how to get up to 5x points on Amazon purchases and some of our favorite Amazon Prime Day deals:

The Clutch Stroller by Delta Children for $119.99 (was $149.99 — now 20% off) Image courtesy of Amazon All-New Echo Dot Kids Edition for $44.99 (was $69.99 — now 36% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet for $79.99 (was $129.99 — now 38% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Up to 50% off Children’s Book, Plus $5 off a $15+ Purchase (Use promo code: PRIMEBOOK19) (Image courtesy of Amazon) 4. Osmo Genius Kit for iPad for $55.85 (was $99.99 —  now 44% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat for $99.99 (was $169.99 — now 41% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) PlayStation Classic for $19.99 (was $59.99 — now 67% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Lenovo Chromebook for $144.99 (was $289.99 — now 50% off) Image courtesy of Amazon Samsonite Aspire Expandable Softside Luggage Set for $119.99 (was $429.99 — now 72% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Scrabble Game for $8.39 (was $16.99 — now 51% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Graco Fastaction Fold Jogger Click Connect Baby Travel System for $239.99 (was $319.99 — now 25% off) (Image courtesy of Amazon) Best Credit Card for Your Amazon Purchases

On top of getting a great deal, you’ll also want to make sure to use the best credit card for your Amazon purchase.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

Amazon has its own cobranded credit card that regularly offers 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases. But, you’ll earn 6% cash back for purchases today and tomorrow during the Prime Days sale. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a no annual fee card that could possibly be the best option for those looking for straight cash back on their purchase.

Despite being a no annual fee card, it still offers purchase protection (if your item is damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase — up to $500 in value per item) as well as extended warranty protection. Unfortunately though, it does not come with price protection or return protection, which can potentially be beneficial on some large-ticket items.

The information for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you a fixed 1.5% cash back on all purchases, including those from Amazon. While this might not sound very high, if you pair it with another Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. The points earned are then valued at a solid 3%. Now, if this is your first year with the card, you’ll actually receive 3% cash back on your first $20,000 in purchases. Again, when pairing it with a more preferred Chase Ultimate Rewards card. With TPG‘s valuation, this can actually bump your points earned to a 6% return.

Similar to the Amazon Prime Rewards card, this one also doesn’t carry an annual fee. It also offers 120-day purchase protection and extended warranty protection that extends eligible manufacturers’ warranties by an additional year.

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card will essentially give you 2% back on your purchase: 1% back when you make the purchase and another 1% back when you pay your bill. While this isn’t as high as some of the other cards on this list, it comes with one unique benefit: Price Rewind. As long as you make your purchase with this card and register it with the Price Rewind tool, your purchase will be tracked for 60 days to see if a better price pops up elsewhere. With this benefit, Citi will automatically refund you the difference in price if a lower price is found (up to $200 per item and $1,000 per year). Unfortunately, this benefit is going away Sept. 22, 2019, but all purchases made beforehand are still eligible for the refund.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

This card (which isn’t accepting new applicants at this time) will earn you 2x miles on every dollar spent but when you go to redeem your points, you’ll earn a 5% rebate on your points redemption. This effectively means you are earning 2.11 miles on your Amazon purchase, which is on the higher end for a fixed value card, although clearly not as high as earning 5% cash back like some of the other cards mentioned.

Similar to the Citi Double Cash Card, this card also comes with price protection, but you’ll have a whopping 120 days from the original purchase date to see if the price has come down and submit a claim. This time frame is the most generous out of all of the credit cards that offer a similar benefit, which can allow you to make sure you are actually getting the best possible price available.

Bottom Line

Amazon Prime Day is bound to be one of the better shopping days of the year. Just keep an eye on items you are looking to purchase and there is a good chance you will be able to save some money over the 48-hour time period.

What deals have you found thus far?

Follow The Points Guy for comprehensive coverage of Prime Day 2019 — click here for more great deals.

Featured image by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Want to see the latest Prime Day deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Black Friday Prime Day is finally here, and Amazon has a ton of amazing deals in store. But with thousands of products to choose from, and new deals starting as often as every five minutes, it’s easy to get lost and think that you’re actually in the Amazon. To help you on this hunt, we here at TPG are scouring Amazon all day to find the best deals that might be worth a look. And while the discounts are exciting in and of themselves, there are also ways to maximize your return on Amazon spending during this two-day sale, which you can read about at the end of the post.

As a reminder, these discounts are available exclusively to Amazon Prime members from July 15 through July 16. Availability is limited so if you’re interested in an offer, you’ll need to act quick. If you’re not currently an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up today for a free trial to take advantage of the sale. In addition, Prime Student allows college students to receive a free six-month trial membership.

It’s easy to get 5x points (a 5%-10% based on TPG valuations) on gift card purchases year-round with cards like the Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Freedom. However, you may be able to save even more on your gift card purchases today and tomorrow. Amazon is currently 20% savings on gift cards to retailers like iTunes, Fandango and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. There’s even an offer to get a bonus when purchasing Amazon gift cards. We’ve included a sampling of what’s available below, but your best bet is to scroll through the entire list of discounted gift cards here.

1. Get a $5 Bonus When You Buy $25 in Amazon Gift Cards (must use code GCPRIME19 at checkout)

2. $50 iTunes Gift Card for $40 (was $50 — now 20% off)

3. $50 Cinemark Gift Card for $40 (was $50 — now 20% off)

4. $50 Fandango Gift Card for $40 (was $50 — now 20% off)

5. $25 The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Gift Card for $20 (was $25 — now 20% off)

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget, you can maximize your rewards on Amazon purchases by using a credit card such as the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Citi® Double Cash Card or The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express. Check out this post for a deeper dive into the best cards for Amazon purchases — not only on Prime Day, but every day of the year.

Follow The Points Guy for comprehensive coverage of Prime Day 2019 — click here for more great deals.

Featured image by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The flight and the hotel room have been booked for that next trip out of the country. You know that you’ll need to have some cash on hand, but which credit cards should you take?

It’s obvious that you should carry one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. At a range of 2.7% to 3%, those card swipes can really add up if you’re not careful. Spending $2,000 on a card with a 3% foreign transaction fee will cost you $60. That’s enough to cover a three-course prix fixe lunch at Paris’s Michelin-starred Benoit restaurant. Beyond that, which card to choose depends on what benefits are most important to you. Below are my picks of the best cards for international travel:

Top Rewards Credit Cards for International Travel of 2019 Research Criteria

I only focused on cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. I looked at factors including the value of the sign-up bonus (handy since some are large enough to cover airfare or hotel stays), travel perks and annual fees. Each points program has its own point valuation, which you can study here.

Things to Consider Before Applying: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

This is the card to have if you want travel insurance that covers every contingency. The card’s $450 annual fee includes trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement and emergency evacuation and transportation, auto rental collision damage waiver and 24/7 access to customer service specialists around the world. The sign-up bonus is 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 3x points on travel (after spending the card’s $300 annual travel credit) and dining. Plus the card gives you 50% more value for your points when you redeem them in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. See the full card review for more details.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Yes, this card comes with a $550 annual fee (see rates & fees). But considering all the perks it comes with, the card nearly pays for itself. Those perks include lounge access (Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and Escates), shopping protections, $200 each in Uber and airline fee credits, up to a $100 credit for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck enrollment fees, gold status with Hilton and Marriott, access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts and Global Dining Collection programs, help from the Platinum Card Concierge and more. You also earn 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked via the airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. The current welcome offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months at a value of $1,200, though some targeted customers may be able to score a 100,000-point offer via CardMatch. See the full card review for more details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with solid travel perks for its $95 annual fee. It’s popular because of its broad definition of travel, including passenger trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages and ride-share companies Uber and Lyft. When it’s time to eat, you earn 2 points per dollar on essentially all restaurants, whether it’s McDonalds or Napa Valley’s iconic French Laundry.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the in the first three months from account opening. That adds up to $750 when you redeem it for travel at the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Based on TPG’s most recent point valuations, Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents apiece. See the full card review for more details.

American Express® Gold Card (Photo by Isabelle Raphael)

American Express recently expanded its 4x points per dollar spent on dining on this card from the US to around the world, making it a much more attractive card for international travelers, even at its $250 annual fee. Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months. Based on TPG’s valuations, 4x Amex points on dining equals an 8% return on spending. You also earn 4x points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year). The card also offers 3x per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com, along with a $100 annual airline fee credit. See the full card review for more details.

Capital One Venture Rewards (Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

What makes this card so appealing is the chance to earn a sweet 10x per dollar spent on hundreds of thousands of hotels around the world when you use it to book at Hotels.com/Venture through January 2020. It’s one of the best bonuses for hotels among travel credit cards. Earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. You earn an unlimited 2x miles per dollar spent on the card for a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). See the full card review for more details.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card

If you want a travel credit card that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles and no annual fee, this is one to consider. The sign-up bonus is 25,000 points after spending  $1,000 on the card in the first three months, worth a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases You earn 1.5 points per dollar spent every time you swipe this card. However, if you belong to Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, you can earn more, depending on your reward tier. Receive a 25% points bonus for Gold, 50% for Platinum and 75% for Platinum Honors.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Hilton’s top credit card targets those who are loyal to the chain’s portfolio of 17 brands comprised of more than 5,700 properties in 113 countries and territories. The welcome offer, at 150,000 points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months of membership, is enough to book a three-night stay at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo in September. You earn 14X points per dollar spent on hotel purchases, plus 7X for flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants.

For an $450 annual fee, you also get automatic Diamond Hilton Honors status, a Priority Pass airport lounge membership, an annual $100 Hilton property and $250 airline fee credit and one free weekend night hotel stay each year you renew your card. See the full card review for more details.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Credit Card

This Marriott luxury card, with its $450 annual fee, is the best choice for the chain’s loyal customers, since you can earn and redeem the points you earn at more than 7,000 properties in 30 hotel brands located in 130 countries and territories. The current welcome offer — 75,000 points spending $3,000 on the card within the first three months — is enough to book three nights in a Category 4 property such as the Boca Chica, Acapulco Design Hotel.

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)

Earn 6X per dollar at participating Marriott hotels, 3X per dollar points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2X per dollar points on all other purchases. The card also comes with up to $300 in statement credits at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels every year you have the card, a free room night every year after your Card account anniversary at or under 50,000 points, free Bonvoy gold elite status, a credit for 15 nights toward the next level of Bonvoy Elite status each year, Priority Pass Select membership and an up to $100 credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee. See the full card review for more details.

Citi Prestige

Earning 5x points per dollar spent on air travel and dining — an 8.5% return — puts this card on the “consider” list for international travelers, though at $495 it isn’t cheap. You also earn 3x points per dollar spent on hotels and cruises. The most popular feature is the free 4th night on hotel stays when booked through thankyou.com, though that benefit is being restricted to twice per year starting in September. There’s also a $250 travel credit every calendar year on this card and a free Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. New cardmembers earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which is worth $500 at the Citi ThankYou Travel Center. See the full card review for more details.

Top Rewards Credit Cards for International Travel of 2019
Card Best for Annual Fee Current Bonus Bonus Requirement
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Travel protection/insurance $450 50,000 points Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
The Platinum Card from American Express Travel Perks $550(See Rates & Fees) 60,000 points Spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel Perks $95 60,000 points Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Hotel booking $95 (waived first year) 50,000 miles Spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card No Fee $0 25,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Hilton Stays $450

(See Rates & Fees)

150,000 points Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Credit Card Marriott Stays $450

(See Rates & Fees)

75,000 points Spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Citi Prestige Travel and Dining $450 50,000 points Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Featured image of Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow by Jean Arnas / The Points Guy UK.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

It’s the secret airline hiding in plain (or should I say, plane) sight.

Little is officially known about Janet, the call sign of a government-contracted air carrier that ferries employees to secret US military sites. Janet is known as “the most mysterious airline in the world,” and that’s all that outsiders can be told about it. Some of its planes can regularly be seen at the Las Vegas airport, from where it ferries people, likely working on secret projects, to military-controlled sites like Groom Lake, home of the infamous Area 51.

Although the missions and purpose of Janet’s flights are a closely-held government secret, the planes themselves largely depart from commercial airports. Janet maintains a big presence at McCarran International Airport, where TPG recently took a behind-the-scenes tour.

But before you think we are secret government agents: That was a behind-the-scenes tour of the airport, not of Janet. While being shown around LAS, our team got possibly as close as a normal civilian can to Janet’s understated 737s. If you didn’t know better, you’d think those were normal 737s — a little small, maybe: Janet flies the rare model 600, the shortest of all 737s around today. Their lack of airline titles might make you think they are private jets, not a rare sight at LAS, where high rollers like to arrive in style. But no. If you see an adorably pudgy, short 737 in all white with a red stripe down the fuselage, you’re looking at Janet.

You don’t need to be an AvGeek to see these mysterious Janet birds though. Just look out a right-side window on most landings at McCarran and there’s a good chance you’ll spot one. Here’s what you should look out for:

Janet operates a fleet made up primarily of former Air China 737s. Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG. Although the airline is highly secretive, plane spotters stationed in hotels on the Vegas strip can see its aircraft unobstructed. Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG. A Janet plane on the grounds of LAS. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG. Janet planes use civilian registrations and fly largely in commercial airspace and traffic patterns. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG. A Janet plane takes off, destination unknown. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.

Featured photo by by C. van Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Those of you in the Seattle area, or willing to part with some points and miles to get there — we’re excited to announce that on July 30 we’re hosting an aviation-themed reader event at The Museum of Flight in Seattle!

We at TPG take pride in our close relationship with our readers. Whether we’re engaging with you on Twitter, Instagram, in the comments section of our website, or in the TPG Lounge Facebook group — you inspire us to do what we do every day. And we are very excited to meet you at this event.

So, what can you expect from our reader event? From 7pm to 9pm, guests will enjoy a variety of fun games, aviation-related presentations, travel discussions, a Q&A with one of our points and miles experts and, of course, food and drinks and the chance to mingle with some of the aviation industry’s finest. We’ve even specially chosen the Museum of Flight so readers can immerse themselves in the history of aviation all night long.


Sound fun? Well, if you want to join us all you have to do is donate to our most recent Prizeo campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with that — then we’re also proud to introduce you to Rainbow Railroad. Rainbow Railroad is a nonprofit organization that helps LGBTQ+ people living under oppressive governments escape to a safe place. The organization, since its inception in 2006, has been able to help more than 600 people travel to safety. But in 2019, the organization has already received over 1300 requests for help — and it needs your support.

In order to redeem your ticket (with a plus one) to the event, you must donate at least $100 to the Rainbow Railroad, here. This will not only grant you access to the event, but also give you 1,000 entries towards winning the grand prize — the trip of a lifetime planned by TPG himself, Brian Kelly, using up to 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points!

So what are you waiting for? Donate to our Prizeo to redeem your ticket to our reader event here. We look forward to meeting you!

Featured image by Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

On a trip out of Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York, Adam Kotkin, former chief of staff at TPG, faced a predicament familiar to many other travelers with dietary restrictions. He was hungry, stuck in an airport and couldn’t find anything substantial to eat that fit into his meal regimen. As a staunch participant in the Teddi Mellencamp diet, which has strict rules against consuming meat or dairy its beginning weeks, Kotkin settled for a bowl of butternut squash soup he found in JFK’s Cibo Express in Terminal 5. It was under a sign for vegan options.

Vegan it was not. Kotkin found that the soup contained cream. “The product was labeled correctly, but a free-hanging sign was incorrect. We apologize, and we are working to make sure the mistake never happens again,” Eric Brinker, VP of Communications at OTG, which owns Cibo, told us in an email.

Fortunately, Kotkin read the nutrition label, so he skipped the soup  — mistakenly put under a sign labeled vegan — that would have blown his diet.

Image courtesy of Adam Kotkin

We asked the TPG Lounge if travelers with dietary restrictions have experienced similar problems. Sixty people responded with comments about airport and airline food options that don’t measure up. Their diets are driven by a range of things: celiac disease, food allergies, and more.

“I could write a book,” wrote Lounge member Jody Roberts, whose daughter has celiac and requires a gluten-free meal. Since 2005 the airlines have “screwed it up” and given her a different dietary meal or didn’t provide one at all. On one occasion, the airline gave the meal to another person who requested it at the last minute, she wrote. The final straw was when her daughter was given a small salad as a meal on an eight-hour flight. “She now brings her own food to the airport and on the plane as a backup,” she added.

Lounge member Erica Kumor, who has a tree-nut allergy, said that her experience is that airlines are not good at taking precautions for people with allergies. “I’ve had several close calls and have had to take Benadryl on a few occasions,” she wrote. “I recently flew with Air France and literally every course had nuts. One dish had pistachios on top, and that wasn’t even listed on the menu!”

There was also a handful of Lounge respondents who said they received the right meal, but what they got was less than satisfactory. Verena Erhart shared a photo of a vegan sandwich that looked, well — at least they tried?

Photo courtesy of Verena Erhart

Vegan and vegetarian travelers agreed that over-spiced meals, or basically any type of curry, have become a meme. “I have perused the vegetarian and vegan options on several airlines and decided not to order any,” said Lounge member Laurie Queens. “Most of them try too hard to make up for what they feel is a ‘boring’ (i.e., no cadaver parts) meal by overly spicing. It’s always curried this or chili that. I can’t tolerate heavy spice. They also seem to think hummus / chickpeas are required staples of a vegetarian meal (even in the salad), and I’m allergic,” she said.

Many group members offered a simple solution: Bring your own food rather than waste time looking for food at the airport or settling for something you don’t want.

The biggest issue for travelers with allergies or other dietary restrictions, celiac specifically, is that it isn’t enough that individual items are gluten-free. How they are cooked and prepared is also important, said user Stacy Price. “Cross-contamination is the devil. If you have allergies, the safest thing to do is pack your own food,” she said.

This isn’t always possible or appealing. Layovers, delays, TSA — there are a variety of factors that can hamper enjoyment of a home-cooked meal. It can also be boring, says a frequent traveler and longtime vegan , Kate O’Neill. In fact, she insists, just because you are vegan, it doesn’t mean that every meal you have while traveling has to be a sad one.

“I think it’s true that bringing [your own food] would obviously make things the simplest,” said O’Neill, who’s been a vegan for 21 years. “But it’s so boring, you want to be able to experience whatever is available, especially in other cultures and other areas. But, certainly, soup would be something I’d be extra-careful about,” she added.

O’Neill further explained that soup often contains butter, beef or chicken stock, or cream, which is not an option for vegans. As a frequent traveler, she relies on certain airport restaurants such as DeColores at Chicago Midway Airport and knows that certain situations require research, especially if you’re in a different country.

“I think it’s helpful to have a certain familiarity with the types of things that would typically be the trip-up,” explained O’Brien. “In Mexican food, for vegan diets, you want to know whether there’s chicken stock in the rice, or if there is lard in the beans. It isn’t always helpful to ask, let’s say, an employee at a Mexican restaurant in an airport, if something is ‘vegan,’ but it is helpful to ask, ‘Is there chicken stock in this rice?'”

More often than not, it’s about asking the right questions, based on the culture of the place you are visiting.

On a recent trip to India for her job as keynote speaker at conferences, O’Neill found there was an abundance of vegetarian options, but a bit of confusion about vegan ones. “They’re so reliant on ghee (clarified butter), so I would ask before eating, ‘Does this have ghee in it?’ It’s an easier question to be very clear about, because ‘vegan,’ as a term, isn’t used very much in India,” she explained.

O’Neill  admits that, even if you’re deeply informed about food ingredients and what ‘vegan’ could mean in a different part of the world (or at Cibo Express at JFK), there is no fool-proof way to avoid mistakes. However, with the help of social media and some outspoken celebrity voices in recent years, knowledge of dietary restrictions is becoming more widespread.

“It’s always tricky but it’s gotten a lot better in the past few years,” said O’Brien. “And for that, I always say, ‘Thank you, Beyoncé.'”

Featured image by krblokhin via Getty Images.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The Points & Miles Backpacker is a weekly column appearing every Monday. TPG Contributor Brian Biros, who has backpacked the globe for the past 15 years, discusses how to fund this adventurous, budgeted and increasingly popular form of travel with points and miles. He’ll also explore all things backpacking-related. Read his story here and his high-level approach here.

Remote regions of the world are continuously becoming more accessible through improved transportation and more connected through the internet and social media. One result of this is unprecedented popularity and crowds at the world’s most famous ancient ruin sites.

So while you’ll need a set entry time to enter Machu Picchu and may find yourself navigating big bus tour groups in Angkor Wat, there are still plenty of lesser known ruins to appreciate. Most of the iconic ruins were part of large civilizations which also contained nearby sites that get far less attention and far fewer tourists. Here are some alternate sites to either complement these bucket list spots of replace them all together.

Crowds were moderate at Machu Picchu during my last visit in 2008. Since then, popularity has exploded and many more rules and restrictions have been put in place. (Photo by Brian Biros / TPG) Alternate to Chichen Itza – Coba

It’s impossible to travel to Cancun and miss the tours offered to the Mayans’ most famous site. While Chichen Itza may be the most popular and most manicured, there are many Mayan sites spread across Central America. Depending on where you stay, others may be closer.

The ruins at Coba are much closer to both Playa del Carmen and Tulum and equidistant from Cancun. The site is larger than Chichen Itza, but admittedly less significant and impressive. However, the lack of tourists and unrestored portions of Coba feel much more rugged and adventurous. The most notable difference is you can still climb the main pyramid in Coba. In 2006, Chichen Itza banned climbing of its pyramid, which is actually smaller than Coba’s. There are always rumors that Coba will change this rule, but for now it’s still allowed.

The ruins at Tulum are also much more accessible and come with access to a fantastic beach, but the site is much smaller and can feel as crowded as Chichen Itza. If you’re willing to travel further, the Copan ruins in Honduras are far less crowded. I only saw a handful of tourists during my entire visit.

I was allowed to climb the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras, but I was also the only one around to do it. (Photo by Brian Biros / TPG) Alternate to Machu Picchu – Ollantaytambo

The picture of Machu Picchu set in the Peruvian Andes with Huayna Picchu towering over the city has become as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty. There is no more sought after ancient ruin site, and the ruins are feeling it. Trekking the Inca Trail and hiking Huayna Picchu are both booked up months in advance, and a new guided, timed entry policy has been implemented for Machu Picchu.

The town of Ollantaytambo is a 2.5 hour bus ride from Cusco and features its own impressive Incan ruins which are missed by most tourists in a hurry to reach Machu Picchu. A series of terraced fortifications line the mountainside up from town, and the steep climb to the top is rewarded with a well-preserved Incan temple and stunning views of the Sacred Valley. Visit the ruins in early morning or late afternoon to avoid the tour bus crowds.

For the broke backpackers whose cheap South American budget can’t handle the disruption of prices for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo also has some free Incan ruin sites. The Incan grainaries across the valley from the fortress are free of charge, although signs will warn you the sketchy hike up to them could cost you a lot more than money. If you attempt the climb, be extremely careful on these narrow paths and wear proper footwear.

Pinkuylluna, the ruins of Incan graineries in Ollantaytambo, are free to visit. (Photo by: Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Even a stroll through town is reminiscent of Incan times. Water rushes audibly through water ducts built by the Incans and still supplies the town with fresh mountain water.

Alternate to Acropolis – Meteora

The ancient citadel Acropolis looms over Athens from its rocky hill – a picturesque icon visible from much of the city and especially impressive when lit up at night. Many, including myself, believe the Acropolis is more impressive viewed from afar than within the actual site. However, when it comes to Greek, man-made structures dramatically positioned on cliffs, the Acropolis lags far behind Meteora.

The natural stone pinnacles of Meteora are unique enough to warrant a visit, but the main attraction is the six Eastern Orthodox monasteries that remain of the over 20 that once teetered atop Meteora’s pillars. In the Middle Ages, monks built these inaccessible monasteries as a refuge from raiders. For centuries, they could only be accessed by ladders and nets, controlled completely by the monks that inhabited them.

The monasteries of Meteora, Greece (Photo by Achilleas Chiras/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

These days, while they are still functioning monasteries, stairs have been carved and bridges built to make them accessible to the public, but the climb can still seem harrowing.

Each monastery can be entered for three euros, but like the Acropolis, the panoramic views of their setting are most impressive. Meteora can be visited as a long day trip from Athens (four hours each way), but give yourself a night nearby to fully appreciate the landscape from all of its angles.

Alternate to Angkor Wat – Banteay Chhmar

While Angkor Wat may have spent centuries buried in the jungle, the largest religious monument in the world is no longer a secret. The ruins were first popularized in the west by a 19th century French naturalist who described them as “grander than anything left us by Greece or Rome.” Yet war and conflict in the region kept popularity at bay through most of the 20th century. However, the recent relative stability of Cambodia’s government, the movie Tomb Raider (which was filmed here) and the connectedness of the internet have exposed this buried treasure to the world, which now seems to be filing through one tour bus at a time.

Just two hours away, a much different experience awaits at other Khmer ruins. The site of Banteay Chhmar faced heavy damage from looting and was only fully cleared of civil war landmines, restored and reopened in 2014. The complex resembles something you’d find in the Angkor region, minus the masses of tourists.

Banteay Chhmar may have been a prototype for Angkor Thom. (Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Another alternate option is the ruins of Hindu temple Preah Vihear, which predate Angkor Wat by 100 years. The temple sits proudly atop a cliff near the border with Thailand and has been the subject of territorial conflict until recently. That coupled with the ongoing process of clearing landmines meant it has only been considered safe to visit in the past few years.

Alternate to Borobudur – Candi Sewu

Considered the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Borodudur Temple in Indonesia is the country’s most visited attraction. The temple stands as a single, grand monument, but its compactness means it is also impossible to escape all of the other admirers.

A visit to Borobudur is usually coupled with a stop at the equally impressive Hindu temple of Prambanan. However, just a 15 minute walk from Prambanan is the somber remains of Indonesia’s second largest Buddhist temple Candi Sewu. Although it’s included with an entrance ticket to Prambanan, most tourists never venture to Sewu. Perhaps it is because the complex sits in various stages of restoration and signs of looting such as headless Buddha statues are impossible to ignore. And with the pristine Borobudur nearby, people may believe Sewu doesn’t necessitate a visit. But rather than sit like Borobudur as a pristine snapshot to a flourishing time in history, Sewu gives glimpses of an entire timeline. It’s possible to imagine Sewu in all of its glory, but the toll of natural elements such as jungle overgrowth and volcanic eruptions along with human looting is also impossible to ignore. The perspective is a fascinating alternative to Borobudur.

The ruins of Candi Sewu (Photo by John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images) Alternate to Stonehenge – Avebury

Stonehenge is a site of tremendous archaeological significance, but if archaeology isn’t significant to you, admiring a small collection of massive rocks from behind a rope with thousands of other visitors may seem underwhelming.

Avebury Henge provides visitors a much different experience. For one, Avebury is an actual henge (Stonehenge isn’t!), and you are allowed to walk freely among the stone circles without an entrance ticket. What makes Avebury uniquely interesting is the small town that exists within the largest of the stone circles. The rock formations themselves are admittedly less impressive than Stonehenge, but the coexistence of ancient human history with modern history is intriguing in its own right. The museum and manor, which require entrance tickets, can be skipped. But within the stone circle you can find the Red Lion pub – a perfect spot to debate Stonehenge versus Avebury over a pint.

The stone circles encompassing the village of Avebury are a fascinating contrast to what you’ll find 25 miles away at Stonehenge. (Photo by David Goddard/Getty Images)

World famous ruin sites got their reputation for a reason. I’m not suggesting you pass up these ancient marvels, but the experience can be dampened by a saturation of t-shirt vendors and luxury tour buses. These alternate sites may not be as massive or contain the cultural significance of their more popular counterparts. However, the feel of a visit to an alternate site could more closely resemble what the original explorers of more popular sites felt before mass tourism arrived.

If you’re looking to back that pack up and get some guidance, send your questions to backpacker@thepointsguy.com!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview