On November 15, I gave a presentation to the San Francisco Travel Hackers meetup about strategies for accruing frequent flier miles now that most US-based airlines award miles based on the amount of money paid for your ticket. The presentation is embedded below – please comment if you have any questions or additions!
Getting a visa from the Chinese Consulate can be time-consuming, but it's not particularly difficult – if you know what you need to do.Read More
Over the past couple of days, Citi sent out emails informing cardholders that due to a change in benefits providers, some coverages would be changing. It turns out that there are some major improvements coming with these changes in at least two areas: travel protection and extended warranties.
All of the pieces of Citi's travel protection package (trip cancellation, trip delay, delayed and lost luggage, medical evacuation, etc.) have been updated with significantly better terms:
|Old Policy||New Policy|
|Covered Individuals||Cardholder, authorized users, spouse/domestic partner, dependent children under age 19 (or under age 24 if full-time students).||Cardholder, children, spouse, fiancée, Domestic Partner and their children (including adopted children or step-children), legal guardians, siblings or siblings-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, and anyone traveling with them.|
|How much you have to pay||Trip must be paid in full with Citi card or ThankYou Points.||A portion of the fare must be paid with Citi card or ThankYou Points.|
|Trip length||Coverages do not apply to trips longer than 60 consecutive days||No limit except for medical evacuation (still 60 days)|
Citi also made significant improvements to their purchase protection benefits, including making certain coverages primary (meaning if you have other coverage like renter's insurance, you don't have to file a claim with them first) and doubling the amount of extended warranty coverage.
|Old Policy||New Policy|
|Citi Price Rewind||Maximum coverage of $300 per item and $1200 per year||Maximum coverage of $500 per item and $2500 per year|
|Return Protection||60 days||90 days|
|Extended Warranty||Double the original warranty for policies under one year; 1 year in addition to longer policies. Secondary coverage.||24 months added to all warranties. Primary coverage.|
|Damage and Theft Protection||Secondary coverage||Primary coverage (except in New York)|
With these changes, Citi has seriously stepped up its game and is now matching or beating the best cards on the market.
Have you spotted any other changes in the new Citi benefits? How will these changes affect your purchasing decisions?
Several people have told me that I keep coming up with amazing deals in both travel and life, and suggested that I share my process with others. This is an experiment in doing so…let me know what you think!
Those of you who know me know that I don't often stay in one place for long when I travel, and this winter is no exception. I'll be spending time in four cities between December 16 and January 4, and the whole trip is costing me a total of 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles and $195.
(I could probably have done this for even cheaper had I been able to plan further ahead). This was booked as three separate tickets, as follows:
Ticket One: Graduation Party in Western Massachusetts
One of my best friends is graduating with honors from community college next month, and he invited me to his graduation celebration. Unfortunately, his party is scheduled for Saturday, December 20, right in the peak of the Christmas travel season. By doing a flexible date search and leaving a few days early, I was able to find a one-way redeye flight from San Francisco to Boston for $180 - which would be a decent price even if it wasn't so close to the holidays. Using a Delta 5% meeting discount code I found online earlier this year knocked the price down to $173. I'll earn roughly 4,600 Alaska Airlines miles for this flight because I have MVP status with Alaska.
Ticket Two: Christmas in Oregon and New Year's in Alaska
I've always gone up to Anchorage for Christmas, but since my mom passed away right before Christmas in 2012, things haven't been as festive. I don't get to see my extended family in Oregon too often, so I thought I'd change things up this year and go see them for Christmas. I'll be spending five days in Oregon and then flying up to Anchorage the night of the 27th.
Alaska Airlines is very flexible about letting you have stopovers in connecting cities, so I was able to book Boston-Portland and Portland-Anchorage (via Seattle) as a single ticket. Low-level award space was completely sold out (no surprise on a transcontinental route, especially three days before Christmas), but since I'm getting a lot of bang for my buck I felt okay with spending 30,000 miles for a fully refundable ticket (plus $11.20 in federal security fees).
Ticket Three: Back to California, with a Weekend in Seattle
After spending so many miles on that ticket, I wanted to get the cheapest possible award flight to get back to Oakland. Since Alaska has so many flights up and down the West Coast, there were a handful that still had availability for 12,500 miles (the standard price for low-level Continental US awards), but trying to do a straight shot from Anchorage to Oakland or San Francisco would have required a long layover in the middle of the night. I enjoy Seattle and have friends there, so I decided to leave a couple of days early and spend the weekend down there, taking advantage of the aforementioned stopover option again. This flexibility allowed me to spend a weekend in Seattle and get myself back to Oakland in time to start work again on Monday for just 12,500 miles + $11.20.
Flexibility is the name of the game in travel, whether you're looking for paid tickets or award flights. I'm fortunate that the work that I do allows me to do a lot of things remotely – if I didn't have the ability to leave a few days early for Boston, that same ticket could easily have cost $300 or more. Similarly, if I'd insisted on getting back from Anchorage to the Bay Area in a single day, I would have had to shell out 20,000 miles instead of the 12,500 I actually spent.
If I were planning this trip again, I would have definitely tried to start earlier, so that I would have a chance to get a cheaper ticket out of Boston (12,500 or 20,000 miles one-way). However, given the time constraints and the busy holiday travel season, this worked out very well. If I hadn't had miles to use for this trip, it simply wouldn't have happened - these tickets could have easily cost $1000 had I been buying them with cash.
If you don't have any Alaska Airlines miles, a good place to start is signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card from Bank of America, which gives you $25,000 miles for signing up, or a personal or business Starwood Preferred Guest cards from American Express, which gives you 25,000 Starpoints that can be transferred 1:1 to Alaska Airlines miles (plus you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 miles transferred). I'll get 5000 Starpoints if you sign up through one of those links.
Photo from the Alaska State Library.
“I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind the gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.”
For those who know anything about Elizabeth Peratrovich, this sound bite from her famous remarks to the Territorial Legislature is probably what they think of. Her signature accomplishment was the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, which made Alaska the first place in the United States to outlaw racial discrimination. The floor speech she delivered immediately before the bill passed the Territorial Senate is what she is best known for, but her systematic efforts to fight discrimination in Alaska started long before she set foot in the Senate chambers.
When Elizabeth and her husband Roy first moved to Juneau in 1941, they found themselves unable to buy or rent in the neighborhood of their choice, and signs in front of businesses advertised “We Cater to White Trade Only,” “No Natives Allowed,” and “No Dogs or Indians Allowed.” In response to this, and reports of active discrimination in other communities, Elizabeth and Roy published
in the Ketchikan Fishing News objecting to the double standard of Native men being asked to fight in the war when they were not granted the decency of equal access to businesses in their own communities. As they wrote:
We, as Indians, consider this an outrage because we are the real Natives of Alaska by reason of our ancestors who have guarded these shores and woods for years past. We will still be here to guard our beloved country while hordes of uninterested whites will be fleeing South.
The war effort became a rallying point for anti-discrimination efforts. When the Commanding Officer of the Juneau Army Corps forbade “troops from having any contact with Native Alaskans,” Roy Peratrovich wrote
pointing out the fact that there were already Native Alaskans in the Juneau Army Corps. He demanded that they be treated with the same respect as their white counterparts.
At the same time, Elizabeth and other members of the Alaska Native Sisterhood staged a protest demanding that if local businesses were to be allowed to post “No Indians Allowed” signs, they fully expected the same sign to be placed in the window of the Selective Service office. They also organized strategic ambushes of elected officials: one person would set up a one-on-one meeting with a legislator and then show up with three or four friends, each with stories to share about being rejected by local businesses, harassed by military police for socializing with their own relatives, and excluded from the USO clubs.
While these public efforts were under way, Elizabeth and Roy were also working closely with Governor Gruening to help build Native political power and move the state into a position where anti-discrimination legislation could become a reality. Gruening was a strong ally to the Native community and developed a reputation for intervening in incidents of discrimination, writing and visiting officials — ranging from the Mayor of Nome to President Roosevelt — and taking them to task.
In collaboration with Anthony Dimond, Alaska’s non-voting delegate in the U.S. House, Gruening and the Peratroviches developed a two-part strategy: Roy and Elizabeth traveled around the state (at their own expense) “educating, convincing, taking note of the slightest example of discrimination,” and starting up new chapters of their respective organizations, while Gruening and Dimond worked to convince Congress to expand the Territorial Legislature from 24 seats to 40. When that change was implemented in 1944, it allowed the Native community to secure a voice in the Legislature (two Tlingit men were elected the following year, with widespread support) and in general provided a much higher level of local accountability.
The Anti-Discrimination Act was first introduced in the Territorial Legislature in 1943, and Elizabeth and Roy visited the Capitol daily to try and sway what was expected to be an extremely close vote. The opposition was still loud and strong at this point, and after a series of “overwhelmingly negative” testimony about the uncivilized nature of Alaska Natives, the bill failed by a single vote after a delegate from Anchorage reversed his position and voted against it.
When the newly expanded legislature convened in 1945 and the bill was again brought up for consideration, Elizabeth and Roy came armed with copious amounts of research comparing the proposal with similar laws in seven other states – a feat of legal research that was undoubtedly far more difficult in the 1940s than it is today. The most compelling thing they brought to the table was their testimony, though – at the time, the Territorial Legislature provided an opportunity for anyone present at a hearing to share their views on a piece of legislation. Thanks to the Peratroviches’ mobilization efforts, the Senate chamber was “packed to the rafters.”
Photo from the Alaska State Library.
came after hours of shockingly offensive debate and testimony before the “all-male, mostly White” Territorial Senate. Several senators espoused their opinions that “mixed breeds” like the Peratroviches were the source of all racial tensions, and one stated that he “personally would prefer not to have to sit next to these Natives in a theater” because “they smell bad.” Others argued that segregation was beneficial for all parties involved, and one church leader shared his belief that it would take 30-100 years for Natives to reach the same level of civility as their white counterparts.
After Elizabeth spoke, though, the senators had nothing left to say, and the bill passed easily by a vote of 11-5. Elizabeth and Roy celebrated by dancing the night away at the Baranof Hotel, which had just taken down its “No Natives Allowed” sign a few hours earlier; the bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening 69 years ago this week, with Elizabeth standing at his side.
Alaska has come far in the past 69 years, but racism and other forms of discrimination are still pressing issues. Our elected officials keep finding ways to remind us that we’re a long way from a truly equal state, but Elizabeth Peratrovich’s legacy also offers us a reminder: with dedication, organizing, and the right allies, a small group of people can make a powerful impact.
Merry Christmas, Mom. I'll always love you.
Photo credit: American University
Having just spent four years of undergrad in DC at American University, I was initially uncertain whether to say I would attend. I’d received invitations from the White House before, and I would be on my own for transportation from Chicago. However, after sharing the news with friends and learning that I knew people traveling from Las Vegas and San Francisco for the event, I decided this was an invitation I couldn’t refuse. So I cashed in some frequent flier miles and part of an American Airlines bump voucher, and after only 36 days in the Midwest, I found myself on a plane back to Washington.
Being back in DC was a surreal experience, especially since I was there for such a short time. I can still navigate the Metro system with my eyes closed, so it was no trouble to get to the house I was spending the night in or to get to the White House for a tour the following morning.
That tour was just the standard self-guided tour of the East Wing that anyone can request on the White House website, which was slightly disappointing – I’d seen it before, and if I had known it was just the standard tour, I probably would have gotten a little more sleep. My friend Sarah interns at the White House, though, and she was with our group so we got a little bit of “unofficial” commentary as we made our way through the building.
Following the tour, we were invited to a three-hour LGBT Policy Roundtable at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This event featured three panels representing nine government agencies’ efforts on LGBT rights in the context of domestic laws, international relations, and support for young people. While most of the information shared was not particularly new to me, it was a good opportunity to get an big-picture look at this administration’s multifaceted approach to such an important civil rights issue.
Most moving was the keynote speech by John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay person in the history of the federal government. He shared stories of the countless people who directly and indirectly helped him get to where he is today, and told us of the importance of thanking people who support us in our struggles. Berry closed his remarks with an admonition to do everything we can to preserve our integrity, comparing it to holding water in one’s hands – there are countless places and ways for integrity to slip away, but ideally you should seek to end your life holding just as much as you had when you started.
Of course, the main event was the evening barbecue at the Naval Observatory, home of the Vice President’s Residence. Even the White House staff who organized the event had never been there before, so it was a real treat for everyone involved. After an opportunity to mingle with friends old and new while enjoying food and drink (complete with napkins featuring the Vice Presidential seal), Dr. Jill Biden took the stage to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and reflect on her experiences as an educator. Vice President Biden then shared stories of his history working for civil rights as a public servant, and thanked us for our work to free the soul of this nation from the travesty of discrimination.
The profound remarks by John Berry, Dr. Biden, and Vice President Biden left all of us with a lot to think about and be thankful for as we left the event that night. I was incredibly honored to be a part of this amazing event, and I look forward to strengthening the connections I made that day to continue seeking justice at Loyola and beyond.
Originally posted at IPS in Action, the blog of the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.
Last week, I participated in a direct action with a national grassroots LGBT rights organization called GetEQUAL. GetEQUAL isn’t much like other nonprofits I’ve worked with in the past. They don’t write policy or file lawsuits. Instead, they take to the streets, the White House, and Congressional offices to put pressure on Democrats who have been getting elected and funded for years on a platform of achieving civil equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but have failed to deliver.
Until this weekend, I thought GetEQUAL was kind of obnoxious.
One major source of this feeling was that some of GetEQUAL’s supporters have in the past been extremely critical and dismissive of the work that national organizations do, which frustrated me because I was working with these groups and was directly involved in a lot of important efforts that are leading to or have already led to positive change. I reacted to this by in turning dismissing GetEQUAL as a bunch of misguided activists who weren’t actually doing anything productive to make a difference, and were perhaps actually damaging our efforts by angering people who were supposed to be our champions on Capitol Hill.
But when a friend of mine gave me the opportunity to travel to Miami to participate in an action, I jumped at it. I’d never been to Florida before, and it sounded like it could be fun.
The action itself was rather elaborate (you can read the plans and the AP article), but my role was simple: go with a team holding banners outside the entrance to the estate where Obama was holding a massive fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and take pictures and video.
You wouldn’t think that this would be a particularly empowering experience, but when I captured President Obama on film directly acknowledging us (I was at that point holding up the center of a banner, while my camera sat on top of a police car), I realized the important purpose that GetEQUAL serves.
All of our policy work is incredibly important, and change couldn’t happen in our government without it, but somebody has to keep our issues at the forefront of the President’s mind – and GetEQUAL can let Obama and the Democrats know that we’re not going away anytime soon in ways that policy organizations can’t.
This by itself wouldn’t have been enough to change my mind about the organization. It was the conversations I had with other activists and GetEQUAL co-founder Robin McGehee that made me realize that the organization itself was very supportive of the work of many other national advocacy groups.
While I still have a few unresolved qualms about the organization itself (specifically the recent sudden firing of a friend of mine without notice), that weekend definitely changed my opinion of GetEQUAL’s work – and direct action in general – as an important piece of the larger movement for LGBT civil rights and social justice.
Originally posted at Talk About Equality.
Compared to the previous weeks of testimony, Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting was surprisingly tame. There were no massive red banners, no long lines winding through the lobby, and never more than maybe twenty people picketing along 36th Avenue. The busloads of schoolchildren and out-of-towners were conspicuously missing. Despite Pastor Jerry Prevo’s email earlier in the day telling those who had not yet testified that it was “imperative that you be there tonight,” his flock seemed to have found better things to do. Was this just a one-time respite, or has the opposition been worn out by this marathon of their own creation? Do they think they can rest just because Dan Sullivan is in office? Only time will tell.
Early in the meeting, newly returned Assemblyman Matt Claman introduced a pair of amendments to the Municipal Charter which would add sexual orientation to the city’s protected classes and give the Assembly authority to enact appropriate measures to protect people from discrimination on that basis. It takes eight votes to place the charter amendments on the ballot, and Claman struggled even to muster the three votes necessary to schedule a public hearing on the issue. That hearing has been tentatively scheduled for August 11th, which would theoretically give the Assembly time to finish testimony on the proposed ordinance before considering the charter amendments. Jeff Mittman of Equality Works says that the 8/11 meeting will be the next time we need a strong showing of support before the Assembly, although it appears that they will be taking testimony on the ordinance at their July 21 meeting as well.
Once Claman’s proposal was considered, Jeff Mittman and other members of the Equality Works steering committee joined community members on the front lawn of the library for a quick meeting and status update. The most significant item shared was that Patrick Flynn is working on an S-2 version of the proposed ordinance, which Equality Works anticipates being able to fully support. Jeff also gave a brief and very politically correct overview of where the members of the Assembly stand on the issue, with most being in support: in short, Ossiander and Johnston
are the two who need the most positive pressure from our community, as all of the others seem to have made up their minds. Respectful messages to Mayor Sullivan would also be helpful, as he is largely unfamiliar with these issues and needs to be educated on the impact that discrimination has on our community. One attendee suggested that phone calls and in-person contact would be most effective, especially for Assembly members, since their email inboxes have been flooded with hundreds and thousands of emails regarding the proposed ordinance.
While I did not listen to much of the evening’s testimony, it was limited (they didn’t begin hearing people until after 9:30pm) and my understanding is that it was just a rehash of the same opposition arguments that we’ve been hearing week after week. The Assembly was in the mid-480s when I left around 10pm, out of over 600 names on the list. Those who can make it on July 21st will be welcomed, and people who are signed up to testify should definitely come to make sure they don’t miss their spots. Definitely plan to come to the August 11th meeting, though, so that you can sign up to tell the Assembly why it’s not okay to let the citizens vote on the rights of a minority. Until then, spend a few minutes reminding your Assembly member(s) and our new mayor why this is important to us, and take some time to enjoy this strange and unfamiliar phenomenon they’re calling “summer.”
Originally posted at SOS Anchorage.
Good evening. My name is Tonei Glavinic, I'm a lifelong Anchorage resident, and I live in Assembly District 5.
I graduated from Steller Secondary School in 2008, and now attend American University in Washington DC.
Part of the reason I chose to go there is because American University and the District of Columbia are very protective and supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. I feel safe, respected, and valued there, because I know that my school and the city around it will be there for me if I am harassed or discriminated against because of my sexual orientation or gender identity.
I don't know that here. I love Anchorage - it's a beautiful place with lots of opportunities. But it doesn't have laws to protect me. I'm in the process of finding a summer job right now, and if someone decides to discriminate against me because of who I am, I can't do anything about it.
When I was in high school, I was involved with Anchorage Youth Court, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Alaska Teen Media Institute, and a number of other local organizations. Many of the other LGBT youth I know are the same way – they're some of the most involved students in their schools and communities. Anchorage needs bright, motivated young people like us, but right now you're telling us that you don't want us here. So we leave, for cities that /are/ willing to stand up for our rights.
I don't think we want to be known as a city where you can be legally discriminated against because of who you are or who you love. That's what we're saying right now, but you can change this. Passing this ordinance with the suggested amendments will tell me and my peers that you do want us here, devoting our energy and passion to making Anchorage a better place. Without it, you're going to just keep watching us leave and never come back.