SXSW 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 11.38.16 AMI didn’t make it to SXSW in 2015, as planned; but, I am going this year! My flight is booked (Delta) and my hotel is reserved (Marriott). If you can’t get a hotel downtown your life will be miserable and the thought of massive traffic jams?… I just cannot and I will not deal with it (even in my own city), so will be doing A LOT of walkingAustin, TX has changed drastically since my time there in 2001 as an intern with Dell Computer and I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to attending this festival for the first time and exploring the city.

So, what will I do? That’s a great question and one I am working on answering. First of all, I am NOT registering. Official badges range from $495 to $1,745 and I have no tolerance or interest in doing that. There are plenty of free events I can partake in and I plan to do just that so I will be 100% #unofficial!

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 12.00.20 PM

The festival is divided into 3 portions:

  1. Interactive: March 11-15
  2. Film: 11-19
  3. Music: March 15-20

I will be there for the music portion only so that helps limit/target my research. So, how do you do it? First off, you absolutely must RSVP for a free SXSW Guest Pass – it will grant you access to all of their free events (there are quite a few). After that, you can download the SXSW mobile app (iOS, Android) and have access to information on the go. Spotify (rsvp), StubHub (rsvp) and Pandora (rsvp) all have FREE all-day music events – that’s enough in itself!!! (RSVP for everything now, decide later) SIDE NOTE: Spotify is sponsoring a few SoulCyle sessions and I absolutely requested a bike! There are also “Unofficial SXSWTwitter and Facebook pages you check out. Turn on notifications for ALL associated social media accounts you can find and be sure to STAY IN THE KNOW, Bri Alys Style!!! #superexcited

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 11.15.40 AM

Austin, TX resources: TripAdvisor, Thrillist, Zagat, Walking Tours, Travel Channel, Austin360

Buyer Beware – Budget Travel Sites

Hotels Fight Back Against Sites Like Expedia and Priceline

This was a headline I read this morning in the New York Times. It’s true that most people are not brand-loyal when they travel and will search all sorts of 3rd party sites to get the best “at-the-moment” deal. A few days ago I even told you about a new way to search for flights that can provide tremendous value. But – Buyer Beware when it comes to these budget / 3rd party travel sites. That doesn’t mean that I used these sites to PURCHASE anything. In fact, I ALWAYS use these sites to SEARCH for deals on flights & hotels. Then I ALWAYS BOOK DIRECTLY WITH THE SOURCE. Even when I wasn’t loyal to Delta & Marriott I would do that. I don’t really know why ,I just do. I guess booking with them makes me feel more legit? (shrug) I’ve read too many cases where people use these sites and their reservations get lost, room types aren’t honored, etc. I’d rather not deal with all of that. Use the tools available at your disposal, but ALWAYS book DIRECT.

I’m saying Buyer Beware because:

  • Hotels can “see” on your reservation that you booked via a 3rd party site. We also know that they do not make as much profit/commission on these type of reservations. As a result, they can give you the crappiest room available and save the swankiest rooms for people who book directly with them.
  • Airlines are creating basic, no-amenity, no change, non-refundable no advance seat selection site ticket fares to fill demand from 3rd party sites. Delta calls theirs Basic Economy. as a Gold Medallion Member, I would never book that. Ever. Even’t if I wasn’t Gold. If you are rock solid with your travel plans and don’t care about a middle seat, then go right ahead. Just make sure you also read the fine print.
  • Hotels are offering perks for people without status – those who “Just Enroll” with their programs on reservations booked directly with them. Things like room type, Wi-Fi and selecting room location on your mobile phone are now offered by brands like Hilton. The offers look legit and like they may apply to ALL reservations but that’s just not the case. You must read the Terms and Conditions.
  • You will not earn points for you stay/flight. You’re giving up major benefits here. Loyal pays off, really. You can stay for free, eat for free and be treated pretty much like royalty wherever you go. I’m super serious here.

So ask yourself, is it really worth it? You may be saving $20 on any given flight or hotel stay but in the end, booking DIRECTLY with the travel companies almost always outweigh the GAINS.

Check out my Travel Section for more Tips and Tricks.

Marriott Terms & Conditions - WiFi only
Marriott Terms & Conditions – WiFi only
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Hilton "Just Join" Member Benefits
Hilton “Just Join” Member Benefits

photo credit:

Marriot hearts Netflix

watchI love when two companies I love join forces! I think there should be much more of this!!! Recently we saw Starbucks and Spotify combine forces to partner on a music streaming service. Now, Marriott and Netflix are teaming up! And you KNOW how I feel about Marriott!!!

Marriott Hotels Becomes First To Offer Netflix On Guest Room Televisions: The partnership allows members to sign in to their existing accounts to stream content on their hotel room’s internet-connected TV or if guests do not have a Netflix account, they can sign up on the spot! (Remember Netflix offers a free 30-day trial). The service is available now at 6 hotels (New York Marriott East Side, San Jose Marriott, Princeton Marriott, Newport Marriott, Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Solana, Bethesda Marriott Suites), with six launching this summer (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Dayton Marriott, San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Anaheim Marriott). The press release also makes reference to the Netflix being available at 24-other properties (no mention of locations) with more on the way. By 2016 all of Marriott’s 300+ properties will offer Netflix.

I have loved to have this while I was traveling across Europe!!! Let’s hope they introduce this internationally! Marriott Netflix

The Marriott Factor

marriottI recently wrote a post explaining that I never pay bills because I have automated my finances. The reason: credit cards. In that post, I promised to write about how to select the credit card to use for accumulating rewards. Articles like this one in US News often provide generic criteria for evaluating which credit card to use, like: decide on which type of reward you want (points, cash back, gift cards), understand annual reward limits, and weigh your options.

Picking one or more credit cards should not be a generic process. The number one criteria you should use for determining which credit to use is YOUR LIFESTYLE.

I love to travel. It makes me happy and enhances my life. In fact, I have these weird criteria for measuring my happiness level in life. Because I love Marriott hotels and am 100% loyal to that brand, one of my happiness criteria is called The Marriott Factor: Each year I need to earn at least Gold status (>50 nights). Why? Because the perks associated with that status or above makes me happy! These two elements made it easy for me to select the type of credit card I use each and every day: Marriott VISA.

An example always helps. I have been saving Marriott points for years. I decided to use a large chunk of my points on my honeymoon at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. I booked a full week’s stay, all with points. And because I have Platinum Elite Status I get tons of perks that make ME happy: room upgrades with fabulous views, free Wi-Fi, and a room on the concierge floor which, on weekdays, means free breakfast, dinner and dessert! From gas, to my cell phone bill, car insurance and groceries. You name it. It all goes on there. Always. No questions asked. Ever.

I could have gone with a credit card from Delta (my favorite airline). The reason I didn’t is because I automatically get Silver status through my company. The perks of boarding first (domestic and international), automatic upgrades (based on availability) and a free checked bag is enough FOR ME so that credit card was a no go.

If you are a shopper, find a credit card that allows you to earn the maximum benefit at the stores you frequent the most. If you prefer free gas, find a credit card that gives you that perk. Like cash back? Find a card that gives you that. The key is to PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET. You also must know the rules on how to earn points. Marriott frequently has Mega Bonus offers: always sign-up! They also have a new program allowing you to earn Elite Lifetime Status which I am working eagerly to obtain! Maybe once I get there I’ll switch to a different card.

Again, choose a credit card that fits YOUR LIFESTYLENo two people are the same and the process for choosing a credit card rewards program shouldn’t be either! If you pay your bill off at the end of the month, the interest rate doesn’t matter. Once you select a card, monitor promotions, follow the company on twitter, sign up for emails, etc. STAY IN THE KNOW!