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Now’s a great time to nab cheap international flights. Here are some deals we’ve found around.

Roundtrip, Nonstop Flights to Hong Kong are Around $423 Right Now

The prices apply to flights between January and March 2018, but hurry, they won’t be around for long.  Try this sample search to find cheap prices from your destination.

 

Flights to Bali, Thailand, India and More for $250 This Fall

China Eastern Airlines recently dropped its prices to several destinations across Asia. So far the deals seem to be for September departures. And if you can schedule some travel time then, you should nab them quickly. And many of these flights have long stopovers in Shanghai, so you can see the city quickly with no Visa (Americans and Canadians stopping over in China for less than 72 hours don’t need one).

To find these flights, try a few Google searches. Here are a couple to get you started:

  • San Francisco to Bali, $260
  • San Francisco to Chiang Mai, $254
  • San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City, $252
  • San Francisco to Phuket, $254

 

$49 Flights on Southwest

In honor of Cheap Flight Day, Southwest Airlines is having a $49 end of summer fare sale from now until August 24th. The fares cover domestic and international flights for days between September 5th 2017 and March 1st 2018 with blackout dates and restrictions.

Domestic flights start at $49 each way. International flights can be found for $99 and up.

If you’re thinking of traveling during the holidays to avoid the crowds, this is a good flight deal to nab. Check Southwest’s website for destinations and prices.

 

 



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Introduction: One “Stan” At A Time

Review: Wingtips Lounge New York JFK Airport

Review: Uzbekistan Airways Business Class 787 New York To Tashkent

Review: Hyatt Regency Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Review: Uzbekistan Airways Lounge Tashkent Airport

Review: Uzbekistan Airways Business Class A320 Tashkent To Dushanbe

Review: Hyatt Regency Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Review: Dushanbe Airport Lounge

Review: Somon Air Business Class 737 Dushanbe To Dubai

Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Dubai To Riyadh

Review: Saudia Business Lounge Riyadh Airport

Review: Saudia First Suite 777 Riyadh To Los Angeles


Welcome to my next trip report, covering flights in Uzbekistan Airways business class, Somon Air business class, and Saudia first class, as well as stays at a couple of Hyatt hotels.

Planning the trip

My good friend Matthew (from Live and Let’s Fly) and I have a shared interest for visiting random countries and flying random airlines (at least from a US-centric perspective). Matthew and I took a really fun trip last year that involved travel on China Eastern, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia, Pakistan, etc., and we were looking to do something similar.

I visited Kazakhstan last year and had a really nice time. Matthew has been to more countries than I have, and two of the countries which he hasn’t yet visited are Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Given that we were both also interested in trying Uzbekistan Airways’ new 787 between New York and Tashkent, it looked like we had good inspiration for our next trip.

We actually also wanted to visit Turkmenistan, but unfortunately getting a visa as a tourist proved too difficult, so we’ll have to aim for that in the future, I guess.

Booking flights

We didn’t entirely have our trip figured out yet when we started booking the outbound. We knew for sure the outbound we wanted, and figured we’d go from there.

The flight we were most excited about was Uzbekistan Airways’ 787 between New York and Tashkent. They only started flying the 787 within the past year, and only as of last month is one of the two weekly New York to Tashkent flights nonstop (prior to that both weekly flights stopped in Riga, Latvia).

So we started by booking the following for ~$1,900 per person:

08/10 HY102 New York to Tashkent departing 3:00PM arriving 11:35AM (+1 day) [Business Class]

It was absolutely painful to spend that much on a one-way flight on an airline I wasn’t expecting to be great, but the airline also doesn’t really have many partners, so there were no real options for redeeming miles outside their own program.

We were looking forward to spending some time in Tashkent, and from there wanted to go to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. While we would have probably ideally spent 2-3 days in Tashkent, Uzbekistan Airways doesn’t operate daily flights in many markets. They fly 2x weekly from New York to Tashkent and then 2x weekly from Tashkent to Dushanbe, which meant we had to spend four nights in Tashkent. Even though the cities are only 200 miles apart, there’s surprisingly limited service between them.

From Tashkent to Dushanbe we booked the following flight for ~$330:

08/15 HY717 Tashkent to Dushanbe departing 7:35AM arriving 8:35AM [Business Class]

Economy would have cost ~$150, so we pondered whether the premium would be worth it for such a short flight. However, since the Uzbekistan Airways Lounge in Tashkent isn’t part of Priority Pass, we figured it would be worth it to experience the ground product and inflight product.

Our next segment was on Tajikistan’s private airline, Somon Air, from Dushanbe to Dubai. The flight cost ~$540, as once again, they don’t have many partners:

08/16 SZ105 Dushanbe to Dubai departing 5:35PM arriving 8:15PM [Business Class]

I was thrilled about the unique airlines we’d be flying, though was hating how we were having to pay cash for most of the tickets.

For the return from Dubai we pondered several different options. In the end we decided on Saudia first class from Dubai to Los Angeles. In June I flew Saudia first class from New York to Dubai via Riyadh, and since I booked the flight using Korean Air SkyPass miles, I had to book it as a roundtrip. I initially planned the return for December, but figured since I was in Dubai anyway I might as well move it up (this process was surprisingly easy).

The roundtrip ticket cost 160,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles plus taxes (there were no carrier imposed surcharges). Those segments were as follows:

08/18 SV555 Dubai to Riyadh departing 6:15PM arriving 7:15PM [First Class]

08/19 SV41 Riyadh to Los Angeles departing 1:40AM arriving 11:00AM [First Class]

In the end our routing looked as follows:

Booking hotels

For this trip we had:

  • 4 night in Tashkent
  • 1 nights in Dushanbe
  • 2 nights in Dubai

Usually I split my loyalty pretty equally between Hyatt and Starwood, though Matthew is a Hyatt loyalist, so that was our focus. Even though Hyatt doesn’t have a huge global footprint compared to their competitors, the good news is that they have quite a few hotels in the “Stans.”

We booked the Hyatt Regency Tashkent for four nights using Points + Cash. This is a Category 2 property, so Points + Cash cost 4,000 points plus $55, while the paid rate would have been $235.

We booked the Hyatt Regency Dushanbe for one night using Points + Cash as well. This is also a Category 2 property, so Points + Cash cost 4,000 points plus $46, while the paid rate would have between $150.

With Hyatt you earn stay credits for Points + Cash stays but not for outright points stays, which is why we decided to book that way.

Lastly for Dubai we decided to book the Park Hyatt Dubai, which I won’t be reviewing this time, given that I’ve reviewed both the standard rooms and the suites at this hotel. However, we got a heck of a deal, as the paid rate was ~$120. You’ve gotta love hotel rates in the UAE in summer…

Bottom line

While the primary focus of this blog is miles & points, it was fun to try some airlines that have almost no partnerships, but that I’ve long been intrigued by. Both of our Hyatt stays in the region exceeded my expectations, while the flights, well… stay tuned. It was also really cool visiting Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and I’ll try to share some thoughts on that as well.

Thanks to everyone for following along and making all of this possible!

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!


         

Comments

  • Can’t wait!! Also, are your rankings of the top First Class … by Jack
  • @ Pete — Typo, whoops. Fixed. by lucky
  • If Matthew is a Starwood loyalist, why did you book all Hyatt? by Pete
  • Looking forward to this Trip Report @Lucky! Probably more than … by CR

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The US State Department issued a travel warning on Tuesday for Americans visiting certain areas of Mexico. After an increase in violence and drug cartel activity, the US Government put out an official warning to those US citizens who are traveling to the Mexican states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo.

The popular Los Cabos is located in Baja California Sur and Quitana Roo includes tourist hotspots like Cancun, Cozumel, Rivieria Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The advisory cites multiple warnings about the level of violence in these areas stating, “Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight.”

Although the State Department did not publish the more serious “defer non-essential travel” warning that other states in Mexico have received, the notice did stipulate that tourist areas are safer than other parts of the affected states:

“The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted US citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.”

According to Bloomberg, Quintana Roo sees 10 million tourists a year and the state has already reported 169 murders in 2017 alone. The murder rate is on track to be the highest in the last 17 years and Baja California Sur has also seen a wave of killings this year. In the first three months of 2017, the state saw a 433% increase in murders over the same time period in 2016. There have been high-profile killings in the regions — five people were murdered in a nightclub near Playa del Carmen and three were killed on a beach near Cabo San Lucas.

The tourism department for Quintana Roo responded to the advisory saying that travelers are “safe and protected;” the Association of Riviera Maya Hotels said violent incidents involving tourists “are extremely rare.”

This new travel warning follows another State Department advisory issued in July which cautioned travelers to be wary when drinking alcohol, citing reports of people blacking out after only a few drinks.

Featured image by STR/AFP/Getty Images.



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Hey, college students: Summer is almost over, and before you’re busy cramming for exams, you should spend a few minutes studying up on your credit. You might be just getting started with your first card, but review these five tips and you’ll reap the benefits well after graduation day. 1. Five major factors affect your…





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Some college-bound students in Oregon won’t receive money for college the state promised them for this upcoming school year. In 2016, Oregon became one of the first states to offer to cover students’ community college tuition, setting a $40 million budget for the Oregon Promise Program. However, state funding missed that mark by about $8 million this year.

The funding shortfall and a high turnout of applicants has forced Oregon state legislators to change the program’s eligibility requirements and disqualify students from the highest-earning households.

What’s changing

The Oregon legislature has given authority to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to establish cost controls for the Oregon Promise Program. HECC made a new rule that caps grant eligibility at students whose families are able to contribute $18,000 or more toward the student’s post-secondary education, according to the expected family contribution (EFC) calculation students receive after submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

As a result, the state will only be able to award grants to about 80% of eligible new applicants for the fall 2017 semester. More than 15,000 students have applied for the grant for the upcoming 2017-18 school year, starting in September, HECC tells MagnifyMoney. So far, about 8,300 have been told they are eligible for Oregon Promise grants. However, notification of eligibility does not mean a student will receive an award — HECC won’t have an official number of recipients until students enroll in community colleges.

In its first year, the program awarded a total of $4.4 million to about 6,800 students, or 5.4% of fall 2016 community college students. Between November 2015 and March 2016, more than 19,000 people applied, and of that group, 10,459 met GPA, residency, and FAFSA requirements. Among them, 1,091 enrolled in public universities, therefore they didn’t receive a grant, and 6,745 enrolled in community college and received grants.

If you’re one of 6,745 students who enrolled in the program last year, you’re safe. Last year’s participants won’t be affected by the new income criteria and will continue to receive the grant, according to HECC.

The commission says the new limit could change again. Moving forward, the HECC will check the program’s funding annually and may adjust or eliminate the EFC limit, depending on how much funding is available.

What the Oregon Promise covers

The grant covers the gap between what a student receives in scholarships and grants, like the federal Pell grant, and what they need to cover tuition at Oregon community colleges. Legislators set a $1,000 annual award minimum, so even students who have tuition fully covered with federal grant money or scholarships still receive funds. Applicants must be a recent Oregon high school graduate or GED recipient, have high school cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, be an Oregon resident for at least a year before attending college, and not have attempted or completed more than 90 college credits.

Students left without the money they need for school may be forced to turn to other borrowing options like taking out a federal student loan or personal loan to attend school this year.

Other states with similar programs

Oregon isn’t the only state that offers free tuition to its community college students. The trend, started by the Obama Administration in 2015, gained even more popularity during the 2016 election season, prompting states like New York, Tennessee and Rhode Island and cities like San Francisco to test drive free college programs. Here’s a rundown of some of these programs:

New York

New York’s Excelsior Scholarship Program allows students to attend a State University of New York or City University of New York college tuition-free. Beginning in fall 2017, New York state residents from households earning $100,000 or less are eligible to receive up to $5,500 per school year for college.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, any state residents who have yet to earn their associate’s or bachelor’s degree can attend community or technical college for free. Starting in 2018, the Tennessee Promise Program will offer scholarships that cover the gap in of tuition and mandatory fees after what’s covered by a student’s Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award.

Rhode Island

Residents — regardless of income — can earn their associate degree for free at the Community College of Rhode Island beginning in fall 2017. The Rhode Island Promise program (seeing a trend here?) applies to 2017 high school graduates or those 19 years old or younger who received their GED in 2017.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s TOPS, or Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, is a collection of scholarships that pays tuition and some fees for Louisiana residents attending any of the state’s community colleges or public four-year colleges or universities, as long as the student graduated from high school with at least a 2.5 GPA.

San Francisco

San Francisco became the first U.S. city to offer a free college tuition program by introducing its Free City program in 2017. Beginning fall 2017, city residents who have lived in the state of California for a year or longer as of the first day of school are eligible to receive free tuition for the City College of San Francisco. Some lower-income residents are also eligible to receive stipends up to $250 per semester to help cover things like books and other college related expenses.

The post Not-So-Free College: Oregon Changes Requirements for Free Tuition appeared first on MagnifyMoney.



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When you signed your lease, you probably had every intention of staying in the rental for the full term. But sometimes life throws you a curveball and you’ve got to move before your lease is up. We answer the frequently asked question, “How to break a lease without paying fees?” to help you out in case you find yourself in that exact situation.

Signing a lease to rent a house or apartment means you need to abide by the lease terms. That includes paying the total rent for the entire period. For example, say you agreed to pay $1,500 per month on a 12-month lease. You’re really agreeing to pay $18,000 to live in the rental unit for a year. But instead of paying all that up front, you agree to pay this sum in 12 equal installments of $1,500 per month. If you need to move out early, here’s how to break a lease without paying fees.

  1. 1. Talk to your landlord.

    If you want to break your lease early—no matter the reason—tell your landlord immediately. They may be amenable to it. Why? If you’re in a hot market, your landlord may be able to quickly find a new tenant willing to pay a higher rent.

    Or maybe your lease ends during the winter, which isn’t a great time for a landlord to find a new tenant. If you offer to leave early—in the spring or summer, for example—he or she might let you out of your lease because it’s typically easier to find new renters during warmer months.

    Even if your landlord isn’t thrilled about you leaving early, telling them as soon as you know is still the best policy. “Give your landlord as much notice as possible prior to breaking your lease,” says Steven Seigel of The Luxury Team in Florida. “This gives the landlord time to find a new tenant to minimize any loss of income.”

  2. 2. Offer to find a replacement.

    Many landlords like to screen tenants by conducting background and credit checks, so you can’t expect to just stick anyone in your rental without your landlord’s approval. But it doesn’t hurt to let them know that you either have or would be willing to find another tenant to take over your lease. Your landlord can then conduct his or her normal screening procedure.

    Here’s a useful tip from Ryan Hardy, a Chicago real estate agent: “Know your real estate laws. In some cities like Chicago, landlords are required by city ordinance to let you sublet with no penalty.” The caveat is that this ordinance doesn’t apply to single-family homes or properties with fewer than seven units. And the landlord can deny subtenants who don’t meet normal tenant screening standards.

    Note that whether you find a replacement tenant or your landlord does, as soon as the new person moves in, you’re off the hook for rent. Landlords can’t double dip by collecting rent from you and the new tenant simultaneously.

  3. 3. Consider a compromise.

    When it comes to charging fees, the ball is in your landlord’s court. “If you’re contractually bound to paying fees, then your landlord ultimately has the final say,” says Diane Elizabeth, a serial renter. “The best thing you can do is ask directly for the resolution that you want and work amicably with your landlord toward a win-win solution.”

    But how would you do that? It helps if you’ve cultivated a good relationship with your landlord from the beginning, by always paying your rent on time, notifying them as soon as possible when there’s a problem with the unit, taking care of the property, and keeping open lines of communication.

    You can then sweeten the deal for your landlord by offering to help out. Let your landlord know that you want to work with them, Elizabeth suggests. “Besides offering to help find a replacement tenant, stage the rental and be flexible and available for showings.”

    Jeff Roark, property manager and author of How to Find & Keep Great Tenants, says he’s let tenants out of their lease early a couple of times. “In both cases, we located a new, qualified tenant, made the first tenant responsible for cleaning and repairs, and then wrote a new lease for one year, versus having the new tenant take over the balance of the existing lease.”

  4. 4. Play hardball.

    If your landlord won’t work with you or has tried and failed to find a suitable replacement tenant, you may be on the hook for the balance of the unpaid rent. If that’s the case, you might want to try playing hardball by making sure your landlord is complying to the letter with the landlord-tenant laws for your jurisdiction .

    “No matter what’s written on your lease, you’re legally protected by something called the warranty of habitability,” says real estate analyst Emile L’Eplattenier. “By law, your unit must be ‘habitable.’ In other words, free from infestations, have functioning heat and hot water, etc.” If your landlord hasn’t complied with your state or local laws, let them know—they may be willing to let you break your lease early.

  5. 5. Go back to your lease.

    When all else fails, read the directions, right? The same goes for renting property. Review your lease to see whether there’s an opt-out clause. “This allows you to leave by paying a small fee rather than being responsible for the rent until a new tenant comes along,” says Brentnie Daggett, a rental expert with Rentec Direct.

    Have you successfully broken your lease early? Tell us how in the comments.

The post How to Break a Lease Without Paying Fees appeared first on Trulia's Blog.



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Now that summer is winding down, I’m spending time booking all our travel plans for next year. Obviously, my planning has included spring break as this is one of my favorite family breaks of the year. We’ve gone to the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay three times, and will head there again next year.

Crazy enough, we are mixing things up for this trip and staying in two different hotels. By the time my planning was done, I had spent less than $1,000 for a $5,100 vacation. Here’s how the numbers play out.

Booking Our Hotels

Booking four nights at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay was easy since we both have the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card. We each used our free annual night to book two nights total. Since we both had some leftover IHG Rewards points in our accounts, we each transferred around 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points over so we could make a points and cash redemption. In total, we paid 25,000 points plus $125 per night for two more nights. This means we booked four nights for $250 cash. Also keep in mind that two kids under 12 stay free at this property.

For the rest of our stay, Greg and I both signed up for the Hyatt credit card last year when it was offering two free nights at any property. We used three of those certificates to book three nights for the four of us at the Hyatt Ziva all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, which is a 5-minute car ride from the Holiday Inn. Total cost: $0 but I did pay a $75 annual fee on each of our Hyatt credit cards.

Paying for Our Flights

We chose to fly Southwest for this particular trip, which sadly forced me to part with a bunch of Ultimate Rewards points. In total, we transferred 90,000 Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards to book four round-trip flights from Indianapolis to Montego Bay.

We also paid around $523 in airline taxes, which seems high compared to other years. But I still think it’s a good deal, and I still love Southwest because we’ll get family boarding and our checked bags for free.

Wrapping Up

If you add the total I paid for hotels ($250) and the amount I paid for airfare ($523) up, I paid around $773 for this trip. If you want to add credit card annual fees for IHG and Hyatt in, then I paid another $250 this year. Either way, it’s around or less than $1,000 out-of-pocket for a seven-night all-inclusive vacation.

Since the Holiday Inn is around $320 per night and the Hyatt is around $500 per night, we avoided paying $2,780 for hotels. Our flights would have cost $2,320 if we had paid in cash only, bringing the grand total of our trip to $5,100.

Now all we have to do is bring cash for tips, book transfers, and pay for Club Mobay. My parents are also coming along, and I booked their entire trip with their points as well. At the end of the day, I love Montego Bay and can’t wait to try a new resort and enjoy a hassle-free, affordable vacation with my family.

Have you planned spring break yet? What are your plans?



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In late May American debuted their new premium lounges at JFK. Specifically, American opened their newly refurbished Flagship Lounge, which is open to international first & business class passengers, oneworld Emerald & Sapphire members traveling internationally, as well as those traveling nonstop in business class to Los Angeles and San Francisco.



American’s new Flagship Lounge JFK

This lounge represents a nice improvement over the old Flagship Lounge, though I do have some concerns over crowding, given how many people now have access to the lounge.



American’s new Flagship Lounge JFK

This is only the first renovated Flagship Lounge that American plans on introducing, and as each new lounge opens, the entry requirements for it will change as well. Under the old rules, only international first class passengers and oneworld Emerald members have access, while under the new rules, international business class passengers and oneworld Sapphire members will have access as well.

We know that American plans to open new Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia.

We now have an update on when the next Flagship Lounge will be opening. American intends to open their next Flagship Lounge at Chicago O’Hare in September, so we’re only a few weeks from the next one opening. The lounge will be roughly 17,000 square feet, so it’s a pretty big lounge. American’s old Flagship Lounge in Chicago wasn’t great at all, so I’m happy to see them replace it (the lounge isn’t even taking over the same space — it’s in a completely different area of the terminal).

Meanwhile we can expect Flagship Lounges in Los Angeles and Miami to open later this year, and hopefully the remaining ones to open next year.

It’s interesting to see Chicago be the second city to get a new Flagship Lounge. This might just be a function of the speed at which they were able to do construction, but in general Chicago is a hub that American doesn’t otherwise seem to be focusing much on lately. In fairness, though, Chicago is the only airport to have a United Polaris Lounge so far (which they’re in the process of expanding), so I guess they could also be trying to compete with that.

I look forward to checking out American’s new Flagship Lounge in Chicago! Unfortunately unlike New York, the lounge won’t have Flagship First Dining, but that’s hardly a surprise, given that American doesn’t offer any international first class out of Chicago.



American’s new Flagship First Dining JFK

Anyone excited to check out American’s new Flagship Lounge in Chicago?

        

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These infographics reveal which of your clients is most at risk of a burglary and what thieves are really after.





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