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2017 Points Roundup

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Looking back on 2017, the travels we got to take were truly the bright spots in a pretty depressing year. It also makes me grateful for the health and prosperity that allows us to travel. I started this blog in 2013 largely because I wanted to share the knowledge I'd gained about traveling for less (well, and also as a hedge against my own senility – I seriously forget the details of how we did some of these trips and this gives me a place to look that up!)
The most common question I get from people is "yes yes, but how are you making all of those miles?" Here's a breakdown of where my points came from this year: Total: ≈ 408,000 pointsGiven that I was above 5/24 for most of the year, I only got one credit card signup bonus, 40,000 for an SPG Amex (including my referral bonuses)Spending on my Chase Sapphire was 87,000 (90% of my spending was in their bonus categories of Dining and Travel) Work and personal Amex Spending was 182,000 (39,000 of which was Amex Of…

Tattoos in Japanese Baths

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"Is it true that I can't go to the hot springs with a tattoo?"

I hear this question quite a bit from friends making their first visit to Japan. The short answer: yes, it's official policy many places to bar tattooed people from entering public bathing facilities. But there are lots of ways around this. (Baths are called "onsen" or "sento" in Japanese).
Background The official reason given for the ban is that Japanese mafia (Yakuza) have tattoos and bath owners don't want that crowd scaring off their normal clientele. I'm sure that is/was true some places, but more often than not it's a convenient cover story for xenophobia. Many baths have signage that's only in Japanese, yet oddly the "No Tattoos" sign is always in English, y'know, because so many Yakuza can't speak Japanese 🤔. I've even had an attendant try to kick me out because "no tattoo! no tattoo!" so I dropped my towel, did a little pirouet…

2017 Flying

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I used JetItUp.com to look at my flying for the year (it interfaces with TripIt) and got some fun stats:
26 Flights (11 of them international) on 7 airlines on 13 aircraft types to 6 countries I've been trying to rebuild our points balances since we booked the big Japan trip, and to that end will probably churn another Chase card now that I'm below their 5/24 cutoff again. I also milked a bunch of holiday promotions and Amex offers so we're now at around 350,000 points split fairly evenly between Amex and Chase. With the constant point devaluations, though, we'll need 300,000-ish in a single account to repeat something like our Taipei trip this year. (Well, unless we find some unicorn-level availability on ANA and pull the Virgin Atlantic trick to access both our Amex and Chase points for a single redemption).

We don't have any big trips planned at this point. We're doing our annual Mexico trip, and we're thinking we'll look for a cheap summer Business C…

Gay bars in Shikoku, Japan

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Gay bars in Japan Gay visitors to Japan often have trouble finding and visiting gay bars. Many of them are unlisted, very tiny, and are more like little private club houses for friends than public watering holes. I was very fortunate to be welcomed into Tokyo's scene by a popular, longtime resident and despite the warm welcomes and introductions to these intimate spaces, you're basically being invited to sit at the counter in Cheers and you've never met Norm and the gang before. His photo series about Shinjuku's gay bars is over on Vice if you'd like to check it out.
If your Japanese is good and you're an extrovert, you're all set. If not, well, most people at a bar after a long day at work likely don't want an awkward throwback to their high school English class, so you're going to need to use a combination of that Duolingo Japanese you did on the plane, charades, karaoke, iPhone picture show-and-tell, and maybe a little flirting to get you thro…

7000+ Chase points from the Chase Pay Walmart.com promo

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Chase is trying to promote Chase Pay for in-person and online transactions so they're offering a couple of great deals through December 14th when you shop at Walmart.com or a Best Buy brick-and-mortar store. Details are here.

Since both my husband and I have Chase cards, we double-dipped on those (i.e., we each spent around the $350 maximum), PLUS we visited Walmart.com via the Alaska Airlines shopping portal and got yet another point per dollar for a total of 11 points per dollar. 

After our recent trip to Japan and Taipei, our accounts are feeling a little empty so it's time to fill 'em back up again. There have been a few good Amex offers these past few weeks so we've snagged another 10,000 there via Martha Stewart Wine and Google Express offers.



Trip Report: Business Class on EVA Airlines Gudetama Sanrio plane Taipei – Tokyo Narita

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Pros
Cuteness Kawaiiiiii-overload!Din Tai Fung catering!Did you read what I just wrote? I said they have Din Tai F&#@ing Fung onboard!Super friendly staffGreat lounges with hot food and pour-it-yourself liquor Cons
Honestly, none.  How I did it I bought an open-jaw ticket (Taipei - Tokyo Narita, Fukuoka - Taipei) on EVA's website with my Amex card for USD$865 per person, so this half effectively cost $433. It would have been nice to somehow integrate this with our NYC–Taipei reward flight, but it was impossible for me to construct that routing on United.com (where all of my points for this flight were). To be fair, the itinerary we wanted was a bit strange (12 hour layover in Taipei inbound to have lunch with a friend, 3 day layover on the way back to hang out in Taipei), plus I absolutely positively had to be on a Sanrio character plane so I coughed up the cash. I credited the flight to my United account, where this leg earned 1009 miles (≈$20) in addition to the 1300…

Trip Report: Business Class on EVA Airlines Bad Badtz Maru Sanrio plane Fukuoka – Taipei

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Pros
Cuteness Kawaiiiiii-overload!Din Tai Fung onboardDid you read what I just wrote? I said "Din Tai F&#@ing Fung onboard!"Super friendly staffGreat lounges with hot food and pour-it-yourself liquor Cons
Honestly, none.  How I did it I bought an open-jaw ticket (Taipei - Tokyo Narita, Fukuoka - Taipei) on EVA's website with my Amex card for USD$865 per person, so this half effectively cost $433. It would have been nice to somehow integrate this with our NYC–Taipei reward flight, but it was impossible for me to construct that routing on United.com (where all of my points for this flight were). To be fair, the itinerary we wanted was a bit strange (12 hour layover in Taipei inbound to have lunch with a friend, 3 day layover on the way back to hang out in Taipei), plus I absolutely positively had to be on a Sanrio character plane so I coughed up the cash. I credited the flight to my United account, where this leg earned 1695 miles (≈$33) in addition to the 1300 Amex mil…