Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Credit Cards

Here's a little of my credit card background: Chase is my bank of choice; my dad uses it and had me open up my first savings account in fifth grade at Chase. I haven't experienced much grief with them (except for their stupid non-Chase ATM fees) so I'm rather loyal. In fact, I have five Chase credit cards (cue: gasp). The first credit card I opened was because I was starting college and I needed a credit card. But it offered no rewards so I applied for a bunch of rewards cards. I really only use one of my cards (because I want to collect as many rewards points in one place so I can get the best redemption deals) but it's fun to have backup. Plus, I'm a hoarder and I'm weirdly OCD about my debt:credit ratio. In total, I have a $44,000 line of credit on all of my cards combined and my typically monthly credit card spending averages $1,000, which I always pay in full because I think DEBT (acquired from irresponsible spending) IS UNATTRACTIVE; (student loan debt can be somewhat attractive.)

Anyway, I use my Chase Freedom card for pretty much everything (because it offers great rewards, though they've downsized the incentives) but a few months ago, I wrote a post about the Capital One Venture credit card (*flashback*), which I applied for because of one major feature: no foreign transaction fees, which I needed because I was going overseas. Well, enter Chase Sappire.

Why?
  1. No annual fee. This is pretty much the first criteria that has to be met when I choose a credit card.
  2. 24/7 customer service. No more waiting for an office to open, which is especially helpful when you're in a different time zone. You can pick up the phone and call whenever. Plus, you can bank online with Chase and all the same typical coverage for identity theft and unauthorized purchases is offered with this card.
  3. Receive $250 in rewards after you spend $3,000 in 3 months. All credit cards want you to spend money, but this is pretty good incentive. If you need a credit card for travel, it's not a bad idea to apply for this card and book all of your flights, hotel, etc. right away and earn those rewards.
  4. For every $1 spent, receive 1, 2, or 10 points. Dining and travel (e.g. airfare and hotels booked through Ultimate Rewards) will earn you 2 points per $1 spent. If you spend money at the Ultimate Rewards mall you'll earn 10 points for every $1 spent. And 1 point per $1 for everything else. In addition, these points will never expire so you can keep saving up for something really good. And the cherry on top is that you can redeem your points for airline tickets, car rentals, gift certificates, cruises, pretty much everything or you can get cash back.
  5. There are no blackout dates or travel restrictions when you're using your points to book flights.
  6. Insurance!
    • If you rent a car using this card and you get in an accident or damage the car, you are covered (up to the cash value of the vehicle).
    • If you're traveling and in an emergency (legal or medical), help will be provided for you (through the card).
    • If your trip is delayed for more than 12 hours, your expenses (e.g. meals and lodging) will be covered and if your trip is cancelled, you will be reimbursed.
    • If your luggage is delayed for more than 18 hours, you will be reimbursed for emergency purchases. And if your luggage is lost or stolen, you'll receive full reimbursement.
  7. No foreign transaction fees. Yes, this is what drew me into the card and yes, I have already applied for one and am waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
My Capital One Venture card has been collecting dust lately because it doesn't offer great rewards so I have no incentive to use it unless I'm abroad. But with the rewards incentives that Chase is offering with this card, I may even drop my Chase Freedom for their Sapphire card.

Monday, August 29, 2011

luggage

I'm constantly on the lookout for smart travel bags. I never check bags (if I can help it) so I need a convenient bag (relatively portable) that can be packed efficiently. Currently, I use a small-ish beige bag from Barneys for pretty much everything; it's similar to the one pictured at the right except not as square (I can't find my exact bag online). It's small enough that it fits under airplane seats, which is nice on full flights where the overhead compartments fill up with non-regulation, over sized bags (hmph, overweight Americans with overweight luggage).

I also have an olive green Calvin Klein travel tote, like the one pictured left, that's relatively convenient as well. It doesn't always fit under the airplane seats (depends on the plane) but it's decently sized for a 3 to 4 day trip in the winter or a week+ long trip in the summer. It also has a nice little padded section for laptops.

And the third bag I turn to often, is a duffel from Victoria's Secret. It has the exact dimensions that are allowed for carry on bags. It's a no muss, no fuss bag because it doesn't have any interior pockets or padding but it fits a lot of stuff. I took this with me on my week and a half long holiday to Europe last year in November. It fit plenty of warm weather clothing comfortably.

However, all of these bags tend to get heavy and burdensome because I have to carry them over my shoulder, and with my luck, my departure gate is always the furthest one away.

I do own a 22" rolling upright, but I never use it. It's the "tilt" kind, a.k.a. the kind that tips over when it's not packed 'just so' and that flips around when you're rolling through the airport in a hurry, which is probably one of the more embarrassing things that can happen in public (along with umbrellas turning inside out - my opinion, of course). I've been keeping my eye out for a tasteful and functional spinner. I like the 4 wheels that spin 360 degrees because you can push your luggage along (instead of tilting and pulling) and it doesn't really have much chance to tip over. I'm not a fan of the hard case kind because it reminds me of turtles (an animal that I find creepy, especially after this video) and I worry that it'll crack so I've been looking at soft case spinners.

I'm already pink with anticipation for the Missoni for Target collaboration (debuts September 13) and I really can't wait to see the luggage collection in person. I'm not too excited about the tote but the rolling luggage looks beautiful, functional, and from the photos, it seems to be a spinner. I'm going to do my best to get one, though, there's so much buzz about this collection, I'm already worried. I'm hoping that the bag is roomy and that the fabric is sturdy. Fingers crossed!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hawaii!


Aloha! This trip is still 4 months away (128 days from now, exactly - which gives me time to work on my beach body) but I'm v. excited. I'm headed to Maui and I couldn't be happier! I love going to new places, and though I've been obsessed with Europe for the past few decades, after my sunny escape to San Juan, a fondness for tropical getaways has been growing.

Apart from my loyalty to my birth state of New York and the sunny-celebrity-glittery allure of California, I'd have to say that Hawaii is my favorite state even though I've never been (... yet). Or maybe I should say I think it's the coolest state. An archipelago surrounded by pristine blue waters and freckled with palm trees and volcanoes plus laid-back island living seems pretty perfect to me (though, I'm sure I'd grow to miss snow and autumn and snooty people).

The cost: $1430 per person for flights, lodging, and rental car for 7 days, 6 nights. Even with my "budgetary limitations" (i.e. my Asian frugality - or to put it bluntly, cheapness) I view this as a pretty decent deal. If you break it down, it's about $0.15/mi (since it's 5000 miles from Newark to Maui, so 10,000 miles total). Not bad, right? Though this is more than I spent on transportation and lodging on my European holiday last year, I'm splurging on a few luxuries for this mini break. The entire crew will be staying at a condo resort so we'll have our own kitchens (where we can cook freshly caught fish), access to a lovely pool, and walking-distance-access to multiple beaches. Plus, having a rental car will make things so much easier (though, I'll probably have to highlight the pros and cons once the trip is over).

We're set to depart on January 1 (way to welcome in the new year!) and to return a week later.
There will be lots of time sitting on an airplane, but it'll be worth it! Especially because I'm sure I'll be itching to escape the winter frigidity. There's a layover in San Francisco on the way there, which is 3+ hours so maybe we'll be able to explore the city a bit? Probably not, but one can dream. On our way back, we have a layover in Santa Ana, but that's only 30 minutes so I bet we'll be rushing to get from one gate to the other. Though, it would be nice to experience the well-known Santa Ana winds (The Holiday anyone?) One tiny upside is that I recently received an iPad2 so I can be productive during airport down time and perhaps it'll encourage me to blog a bit more efficiently and punctually.

Anyway, I'm so enthusiastic about this trip that I've already started putting together a list of what I want to do, where I want to eat, and tips and tricks for island living. I'm most excited for the super fresh seafood, the beaches, and whale watching. And I've started planning outfits using Polyvore. I'm not 100% sure of what Polyvore is supposed to be used for, but personally, I collect items that I actually own (or ones that look similar enough) and then use it to plan what clothes to pack on my holidays or outfits for specific occasions. And the nice thing is, with the end of summer approaching and fall/winter fashion already hitting stores, I can stock up on fun on-sale beachwear now! Who doesn't love an excuse to shop?? Click after the jump to see my first Hawaii Polyvore set.

ALOHA!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

LA

I've been to Los Angeles a few times now (a couple of those times being when I was a toddler) so it's not the most special trip in my mind. However, I think LA weather is pretty ideal, I love palm trees, and the possibility of celebrity sightings gives me a lady boner so it I guess it is a special trip in its own way.

It's boring for me to write about what we did so I'm going to summarize the trip in photos (the lovely, nice-quality photos courtesy of my cousin).

Valerie Confections @ the
Hollywood Farmer's Market

Fresh Corn Grill
UCLA Botanical Gardens













UCLA Botanical Gardens
Runyon Canyon












Runyon Canyon
Bibigo
Fresh Summer Salad








In-N-Out

Griffith Observatory
In-N-Out


DISNEY
Griffith Observatory
Curry House


Corndogs at Disney
Disney


Little Mermaid Ride

Dole Whip Floats (SO GOOD)
Castle at Disney
Rice & Beans @
the Grove Farmer's Market

Grom Gelateria

Porto's Bakery
Caprese Salad @ La Bottega

Malibu
Malibu
Red Snapper @ the Reel Inn
Honey Pig <3

san juan day 5

clam and mussel stew
Oii, I really let this blog go. Okay, this is the last post on San Juan so I should just get it done! On our last day we got lunch and went to the beach for a few hours before hopping in a cab and heading back to the airport. The beach was the usual so I'll highlight our last meal in San Juan. We went to Bar Gitano, a tapas place which was en route to the beach. We sat outside (which we ended up regretting because of the scorching sun and flies) and perused the menu. We settled on sharing the clam and mussel stew. It was really good! There were lots of hidden surprises, like chorizo, chick peas, pork belly, and even some blood sausage. We were given a skewer stabbing a few pieces of bread to soak up the juices (I wish we'd gotten more bread though).

So after our meal, we headed to the beach to get our last glimpse of blue water and clear skies before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the airport.

And that's it. Five months after the trip, I've finished blogging about it.

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