We spent an unforgettable spring break in Zion National Park, Utah (where we learned the correct pronunciation rhymes with 'lion' and not 'lie on' like we had been saying lol).
The two most iconic hikes of Zion are Angels Landing (too dangerous for children!) and The Narrows, which despite what others may tell you, is definitely doable with kids!
Follow this plan and you'll be on your way to making fantastic, Insta-worthy memories.
1. Get There and Book Accommodation: The closest airport to Zion is McCarran International Airport of Las Vegas. So fly into Vegas, rent a car and drive to Springdale, UT (a little over 2 hours). Springdale is right at the foot of Zion and has many campgrounds, "glamp-grounds", and hotels, so you’ll have lots of options for where and how to stay.
2. Shuttle Tickets: At exactly 5:00pm, shuttle tickets for the following day are released. NOTE: If you do not get shuttle tickets, you can’t go! The tickets are highly competitive to score and on most days will be completely sold out by 5:01pm. So be ready, signed in to an account and refreshing the page at 4:59pm. We had 5 devices trying at once and one of them got through for tickets on the second day of trying. If you try every day of your trip and still aren't lucky enough to get tickets, you can always show up to the Visitor Center the day of and enter the standby line, for a chance to get on the last shuttle of the day at 2pm. However, the line is known to already be a few hundred people long by noon, so be prepared to wait if you choose this option.
3. Check Conditions: On the morning of, be sure to check the weather for any signs of flashfloods (!). During a flash flood, water walls 12 feet high or more can rush down the canyon and because there are steep cliffs on either side, it can be fatal as there is no way to climb to higher ground. Yes, people have died on this hike. Often times, flashfloods can be caused by storms miles away, while the weather overhead looks clear, so it's imperative to check the weather within a 30 mile radius of the park. If the weather looks good all around, you then need to check the water level of the river. This is especially important if you have children doing this hike. (Remember, what may be waist-deep water for you, will be chest-deep water for them!) The ideal height for this hike is anything flowing below 50 cfs (cubic feet per second). If it is at 50 or below, a child age 5-8 will have no problem doing this hike. If you have a child younger than 5, use your discretion. You might need to carry them in a carrier, unless they are advanced hikers and know how to swim.
4. Find Parking! If all the stars have aligned for you, you will still need to find parking at the Visitor’s Center. By 11:00am, this parking lot will fill up, so beware! If you don't find a lucky spot, you will need to look for (paid) parking back in the city of Springdale and take the free shuttle to the Visitor Center. NOTE: This is not the same shuttle that you have tickets for. If you are staying at a hotel in Springdale with parking, it might be a better idea to just leave your car there and take the shuttle to begin with, especially if you are staying at one of the hotels which has a shuttle stop in front.
5. Get Your Gear: You will need to rent gear from Zion Outfitter, located next to the Visitor's Center. They rent water proof pants, socks and shoes and special canyoneering hiking sticks. The water is COLD and the hike is hard so you will need this special gear. The package costs $55 per person per day to rent. Those who didn’t have gear didn’t make it very far into the river or in at all. Trust us, do not attempt this hike without renting the proper gear.
6. Ready to go: Once in your gear, walk to the Visitor's Center and show your QR code to board the shuttle into Zion at your designated time. You will need to pay an entrance fee to enter the park which is $20 per person. Ride the shuttle all the way up the canyon to the very last stop (stop number 9 also called "Temple of Sinawava"). This will be your last place to use the bathroom, so take advantage. From there, follow the paved pathway for about one mile to get to the Narrows entrance. When the river walk dead ends, it's time to descend the stairs, enter the water and let the true adventure begin. This is also the perfect place and time for a picnic lunch to give you energy for your journey ahead. You don't want to risk having soggy sandwiches, should you lose your footing accidentally and fall in (which you will, at least once), so eat before you enter the river. The entire Narrows hike is 8 miles up the river (and then you must come down!), but the sweeping views start almost immediately, so don't worry if you don't go all the way up, we'll never tell 😉. In fact, we only hiked about 2 miles total in the water and it was more than enough for the gorgeous views and fun experience.
What to do on the days you don't have shuttle tickets: Without shuttle tickets, you can still explore the East end of Zion, which is open to car traffic. The highlight of the East side is the one mile long Zion Mount Carmel tunnel, which was blasted straight through the sandstone cliffs, and includes fun peepholes throughout to look out at the valley down below as you drive through. Be sure to stop along the pullouts for some gorgeous photos amongst red rock cliffs as you meander your way up to the tunnel.
Immediately to your right as you exit the tunnel (drive slow as you near the end so you won't miss it!) is the parking lot for perhaps one of the most picturesque hikes in all of Zion. It is a very short (1/2 mile hike) to the Canyon Overlook. However, the parking lot is tiny (only a dozen spots), so it will take a certain amount of luck to do this hike. If you can't get a parking spot, keep driving and there are plenty of places where you can pull over and do an impromptu day hike. There aren't officially marked trails in this area, so people just stroll along the rocks and river beds at the sides of the road. Keep your eye out for the big horned sheep that roam this area frequently! Finally, be sure to pack lots of water and food because traffic builds up to get back through the tunnel in the afternoon and you might be stuck there for awhile.
Have you ever hiked The Narrows? Let us know how it went and if you have other tips!
We recently got a brand new 2020 Mercedes SUV! But, we assure you, this isn't a humble brag post.
Afterwards, we went online to set up autopay and were pleasantly surprised to see that Mercedes now allows payments to be made via credit card.
Traditionally, it is very hard to earn credit card points from some of the biggest monthly expenses (mortgage, rent and car payments) because it requires you to pay using Plastiq a company that charges a 2.5% fee (rarely worth it, unless you are in a bind to meet a minimum spend).
However, Mercedes uses Repay which only charges a flat fee of $4.95 per payment.
Is the $5 monthly fee worth it?
Let's pretend your monthly car payment is $500. Set up autopay for it using your Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card which earns you 1.5 points per dollar spent. So each month you will earn 750 points for your car payment. These points are worth $7.50, so you are already ahead with an extra $2.50 more than the fee you paid to use credit card.
Next, transfer these 750 points accumulated each month to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and redeem them for another 1.5 times on travel. This means that now they are worth over 1000 points in travel which is a little more than $10.
So if you subtract the $5 fee from the $10 you gain each month, you end up actually making $5 net profit on each monthly car payment.
How can I set it up?
If you have a Mercedes, and want to collect on this hack, follow these steps:
1. Go to Mercedes Financial Services
3. Select your vehicle
4. Click Make a payment
5. Click Visit Repay
6. Click Guest Account Lookup to bring up your account
7. Enter your credit card info
We only know Mercedes to be using Repay services right now, but if you don't have a Mercedes, try it out on your car payment and let us know in the comments if you find any other companies who also have this option!
We've been getting many questions lately for more details about how we travel the way we do. If you are just beginning with us in the #Game of Points, start here!
What are points?
Many credit cards and banks are competing for your business today by offering incentives to open an account with them. We open credit card accounts that offer "points" incentives, which means for every dollar you spend you can earn 1-5 points that you can then convert into miles to "buy" plane tickets with, or to book hotel rooms with. While you would have to spend a whole lot of money on your credit card to earn enough points for luxury travel, many cards offer sign-up bonuses. A sign-up bonus means that you open an account, and after spending a certain amount on your credit card for your normal purchases, they gift you a large sum of points. Some credit cards offers are not worth it, so don't open a new account without our recommendation first! We check in to ALL offers and will tell you which ones you should get, and which ones you should pass on.
What is the first credit card I should get?
Your first credit card in the points game should be the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This card earns some of the most valuable points in existence, with a very reasonable annual fee. Our points game began back in 2014 with opening this card, and we continue to hold onto it to this day. Let’s review this card and identify why it’s a solid start for anyone entering the points and miles game.
Why should I get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
1. The sign-up bonus is HUGE! The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers 100,000 points as a sign-up bonus. This is a 40,000 point increase from its previous bonus (when we opened the card), and significantly higher than other similar cards on the market. Just to give you an idea, 100,000 points will cover two business class flight from Los Angeles to anywhere in Europe, South America or Asia and you will likely still have points to spare.
2. A low annual fee! The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is only $95, which is significantly lower than other similar cards. (For reference, a similar card called the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee!) If you think about it, trading in $95 for business class tickets to your desired destination is not a bad deal at all. Now, if you don't want to close the account after collecting the sign-up bonus, but don't want to pay $95/ year, there is a solution. After opening the account and collecting your sign-up bonus, call customer service and ask to downgrade your card to a lesser card on the same account that doesn't have an annual fee, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. This will not impact your credit score like closing the account will, but you will no longer have to pay an annual fee.
3. Valuable Points! Not all points are created equal, so you may get targeted offers from some credit cards for 200,000 points and be tempted to go for it, but how and for what they can be redeemed is the key to knowing whether it's a good deal or not. The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Reward points, which are arguably the most valuable points on the market. You can redeem these points in the Chase Travel Portal for 1.25 cents per point, which give you 25% more bang for your buck. However, and perhaps what makes these points so special, is that you also have the option to transfer these points to twelve different airline and hotel companies directly which can make your points go even further. With our sign-up bonus points, we transferred 50,000 points to Virgin Atlantic Airways and then claimed a business class flight from Seattle to Paris on Delta Airlines (because Delta and Virgin are partners).
4. Double Points Earning! The Chase Sapphire Preferred will earn you 2 points for every dollar spent on travel or dining. So, when you purchase plane tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and even city trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots, garages and even ride-share companies, you will earn double the points. Also for all purchases made at any restaurant or fast food you will earn double the points. So next time you are out eating with friends, make sure to be the one to put the entire bill on your credit card and have them Venmo you their share of the payment so you can collect those points! Get creative!
5. The option to pool points for your household and add authorized card users for free! The Chase Sapphire Preferred allows for people living in the same household to transfer points back and forth to each other. Let us explain why this is useful. In order to earn your sign-up bonus, you need to spend $4,000 on this credit card in 3 months. For some, that might seem daunting. But we put EVERYTHING on our credit card: gas, groceries, there are even ways to put your mortgage or rent on it! $4,000 quickly adds up! But if your normal living expenses are less than $1350 per month, add your spouse, partner or roommate as an authorized user to your card and all of their spending will also help you earn your sign-up bonus. A great couples strategy would be for partner #1 to apply for the card, and add partner #2 as an authorized user for free. They will send two cards in the mail with your individual names but it is the same account. Between the two of you, you can hit your spending target and earn a sign-up bonus in 3 months. Then, do the reverse. Partner #2 then applies for the same card and adds partner #1 as an authorized user and work together again to earn a second bonus. In this way, in 6 short months, you will have earned TWO sign-up bonuses which is enough for two international luxury tickets wherever you want to go! Bon Voyage!
6. Primary car rental collision coverage! Yes, from now on you can deny insurance coverage when you rent a car, because this card will cover your rental automatically! The Chase Sapphire Preferred even includes vehicle theft protection, in case your rental car is stolen. Other cards might offer secondary car insurance, which means that if you get into an accident in your rental car, you will first have to submit a claim through your personal auto insurance. However, this card offers primary coverage, which means that you can submit the claim directly to the card issuer right off the bat and avoid involving your own insurance policy entirely. In other words, if you get into an accident while driving a rental, it won't affect your personal car insurance rates.
7. Trip cancellation reimbursement if inclement weather or sickness arises. Use the Chase Sapphire Preferred to pay for car rentals, cruises, plane tickets and hotels, because you never know when a trip will no longer be possible. This card will refund your travel purchases, should you be unable to travel due to a death, illness, weather, etc.
8. Other purchase protection! Be sure to also put all other major purchases on this credit card such as new electronics or appliances because this card will protect any purchases for 120 days against damage or theft. That's right, if you drop your brand new cell phone and shatter the screen, the bank will reimburse you right away! It also extends all manufacturer warranties by 1 additional year.
9. Baggage delay insurance and lost luggage! If your plane is delayed, or your luggage is lost on the way, it can be hard to get the airline to take responsibility. Now you don't have to have that fight! With this card, Chase will offer you $500 for the inconvenience of your flight delay, $100 per day for delayed baggage and $3,000 per person in lost luggage reimbursement.
10. Roadside Assistance! Go ahead and cancel your AAA membership because this card has roadside assistance included. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year in the U.S. and Canada. If you are driving and get a flat tire, run out of gas, have a dead battery, are locked out, etc just call the number and they will be available to assist. You can use this service for a total of four times per year.
How do I redeem my points?
When you are ready to redeem the points you’ve earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that's when the card’s flexibility really comes in handy. You have several options for how to redeem. First, you can always use your points to purchase airfare, reserve hotel rooms and rent cars in the Chase Travel Portal, which is accessed through your card's personal login on the card website. So, at an absolute minimum, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase, meaning that 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points will get you $1250 worth of travel if redeemed in the portal.
However, while it is easiest to use your Ultimate Reward Points this way, it is not the most cost profitable choice. The way to get top value for your points, is to transfer points to any of Chase's 13 airline and hotel partners, which are:
If you go this route, it will take a little research to learn which partners are best utilized for which trips and searching for award availability, and remember you can always shoot us a comment or DM for advice!