SFO bans the sale of plastic water bottles

Effective August 20th, San Francisco International Airport will become the first American airport to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. The decision to prohibit the sale of plastic water bottles is related to a San Francisco ordinance banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owner property and is part of a broader plan to eliminate carbon emissions, most landfill waste, and increase energy use efficiency.

As a frequent traveler who doesn’t always fly with a refillable water bottle (shame on me!), I’m slightly bummed by this but know it is the right move. I’m happy that it will push me and other travelers to bring our own water bottles.

I wouldn’t be surprised and hope to see other airports implement similar bans in the near future, with my guess that Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Denver and all Hawaii airports being the most likely to follow-through with a similar prohibition.

What do you think of the plastic water ban? Let me now in the comments!

Priority Pass eliminating non-lounge experiences for AmEx cardholders

Effective August 1, 2019, American Express cardholders who have Priority Pass memberships through their credit cards will no longer have access to non-lounge experiences, including discounts on dining at select airport restaurants.

This is a bit of a bummer, as I have Priority Pass memberships through both my AmEx Hilton Ascend and Hilton business cards. But good news if you have Priority Pass through your Chase Reserve — currently, there are no plans to cut back on non-lounge experiences for those members.

Have you used Priority Pass for a non-lounge experience? Let me know in the comments!

Should you travel to new places or go back to old favorites?

I often say that the problems I have now are the best problems I’ve ever had.

One of these “problems” is deciding between traveling to new, exciting locales or going back to locations that I already know that I love. Even as a remote-working digital nomad, my travel time is limited and precious to me.

My dream, and one of the reasons I travel so much, is to see as much of the world as I can. Travel has given me a great amount of perspective and really shaped my worldview, and I think I will also want to visit new places.

But that said, having been to 49 countries and most states already, there are so many places that I’ve loved and want to revisit (in fact, as I write this, I am on a flight to Maui, having just stayed there – at the same exact hotel – 4 months ago).

As a remote worker, it’s almost always easier to go to a location that I’ve been before, especially if I stay at the same hotel/Airbnb – I already know that there’s reliable WiFi, where to go nearby for quick meals, and will sometimes already have friends in those locations. This is one reason that I keep going back to Medellín and Puerto Vallarta, where I already have work routines in place.

Also, when my friends ask me to travel, just given all the places that I’ve been, it’s often to locations that are old hat to me. When that happens, I’ll usually look past the fact that I’ve been somewhere because the experience of going places with friends is usually worth the repeat in travel.

And just because I’ve been somewhere doesn’t mean that I’ve experienced it all. The third time I was in Medellín, for example, I took a tour that took me to some stunning places 2-3 hours outside of the city. Sure, I didn’t get to mark off a new country, but that trip was unforgettable.

So, for me, it’s a delicate balance and I usually try to split my travel 50/50 between places I’ve been and places that I want to go. Of course, when I was newer to travel, I was purely focused on new places, which I think makes a lot of sense if you’re just getting started – it’s very hard to tell what you’d like and what you wouldn’t if you only have a small sample size.

Do you prefer going to places you’ve been or to new destinations? Let me know in the comments!

Hilton devalues points, moves to dynamic award pricing

Hilton is hopping on the “dynamic pricing” bandwagon, according to a recent release from a Hilton spokesperson.

The statement said (with emphasis added on the part referencing dynamic pricing):

Since the launch of Points & Money two years ago, our team regularly monitors the performance of the program and makes necessary tweaks along the way. Points & Money is performing very well and we’re thrilled so many members are taking advantage of it.

A few days ago we made a slight shift in the program and as we previously shared, while we won’t be sending updates for each and every shift, we are fully committed to delivering the best value to our members, and will carefully consider any adjustments for Hilton Honors properties.

As Points can flex depending on the hotel and date, visit https://pointsexplorer.hiltonhonors.com/ to search desired hotels, destinations and preferred dates to book your next stay at over 5,000 Hilton hotels.

Hilton Honors is the only program that allows members to make use of ANY combination of Points and money starting at just 5,000 points to redeem at one of our properties.

Recently, I was able to redeem 380,000 Hilton points for 5 nights in a Water Villa at the Conrad Maldives and was already trying to accumulate more points to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui. Right now, it does appear that prices are remaining the same for the upper-tier hotels, with One Mile at a Time reporting that prices are currently the same at the Conrad Bora Bora and the Waldorf Maldives (which was already clocking in at 120,000 points per night – their most expensive property).

I’m happy that other travel bloggers are calling this what it is – a devaluation – and it’s, unfortunately, part of an ongoing trend.

Is the switch to dynamic pricing changing your plans for spending points? Let me know in the comments!

American Airlines confirms imminent move to dynamic pricing

The senior vice president of revenue management for American Airlines confirmed today, while speaking at the Bernstein’s 35th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, that American Airlines will soon be moving to a dynamic pricing model.

This is being heavily reported on a number of leading travel blogs, including The Points Guy. Importantly, the move to dynamic pricing may happen as soon as July 31, 2019, so if you are holding onto American Airlines miles, you may want to consider them using right away since dynamic pricing almost always leads to a drastic devaluation of miles/points held.

American Airlines is following in the shoes of Delta and United, the latter just announcing the switch to dynamic pricing in April.

I definitely expected American Airlines to make the switch, but wish they had given customers more time. I absolutely love their current business class redemption rates to Asia (I was recently able to score a 70,000 point business class ticket on Qatar Airways, in their QSuite), which I’ve found to be one of the best deals around.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what these awards will look like after they make the move. But I’m not at all optimistic.

Why Hotels.com and TopCashBack.com are the perfect combination

I’ve been loyal to Hotels.com for a while. The main reasons are the hotel selections, that their prices are normally as low as you’ll find on any other site, and, perhaps most importantly, their reward program where you get one free stay for every 10 nights that you stay at a hotel booked through their website.

The free night program basically gives you 10% back off all hotels booked (for instance, if you stayed 10 nights at hotels that cost exactly $200/night, each night that you stayed, you would get $20 and when you completed 10 stays, you’ll have a $200 voucher to use).

Recently, I discovered a website called TopCashBack.com and I use it for almost all my online shopping, including travel, now. The website basically runs an affiliate site, but instead of TopCashBack keeping the affiliate sales (i.e., how much they make for you clicking a link on their website and purchasing a product), they give 100% of the affiliate fee to you and instead make money off running their own ads.

This sounded too good to be true, but after trying it, I’ve already received 3 payments for purchases I was going to make anyway, including between 2-8% back on hotels booked on Hotels.com and 12% back on a laptop purchased through Lenovo.

The exact amount of cashback that you’ll get from Hotels.com will depend on when you book, but generally ranges from 2-8% on TopCashBack. This means when coupled with the 10% you’ll get automatically from the Hotels.com reward program, you are looking at 12-18% savings on all hotels booked. This doesn’t even include credit card rewards that you may get – for instance, one Capital One credit card currently gives you a whopping 10% back on Hotels.com purchases, which means you could find yourself nabbing savings of as much as 28% on your Hotels.com bookings.

Just keep in mind that you won’t be paid out from TopCashBack until your stay is complete and the payments can take up to 5 weeks to hit your PayPal or bank account.

3 reasons why Banff is the perfect spring getaway

Banff is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. Located about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Calgary, Banff (and the surrounding area) is known for incredible views, breathtaking mountains, and, during the winter, skiing and snowboarding.

I’m not a skier/snowboarder myself and hate cold weather, but I’ve been dying to go to Banff for years. After finding an amazing deal (more on that below) and a willing friend to accompany me, I was lucky enough to stay there for most of the second week of May. After visiting, I’m convinced that Banff – known more for its winter-time activities – is also the perfect spring getaway.

1. Beautiful scenery

The drive to Banff from Calgary is stunning. When you land, you can already see the snow-capped Rockies in the distance and, in no time at all you’re soon taken away to a majestic winter-ish wonderland.

It’s a “winter-ish” wonderland because, depending on when you go in the spring, some of the snow has already started to melt away. This means that the rivers are starting to fill back up, that some of the lakes no longer are covered in ice, and that you may even be able to catch an avalanche (I did!). Of course, and this probably goes without saying, you should be careful if you’re searching for avalanches, as a number of tourists have died hiking in the area in the last few months.

View from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Despite looking pretty cold, it was actually warm enough to stroll around in a t-shirt.

Something that drew me to Banff was pictures of snow-covered mountains and lakes with crystal-clear blue water. While some lakes, like the famous Lake Louise, were still covered in ice, we were able to find other lakes that had the iconic clear water.

2. Enjoy the snow/ice, but without the cold

Although it’s impossible to predict the weather in advance, May weather in Banff is often between 50-65 degrees farenheight for the high. When I was there, the weather was actually around 65-70 degrees. Because it was the first really warm days of spring, I got to enjoy one of my favorite activities – laying by the pool while staring at snow-covered mountains.

Lake Louise, Alberta in 60-65 degree Fahrenheit weather (before the ice melts).

It also made hiking a lot easier, particularly if you’re woefully prepared for winter activities like myself. One word of advice, though – be very careful when hiking up mountains because melting snow can be slippery (so be sure to invest in a pair of hiking shoes, if you can).

3. Spring is one of Banff’s shoulder season

If you read Josh Trips regularly, you know that I love a good shoulder season. The most popular times to visit Banff are winter and summer. While in the winter you can take advantage of the slopes and during the summer you can play on the lakes, some major benefits to traveling to Banff during the spring are lower hotel prices, less crowds, and better availability for popular activities, like dinner at the top of Sulphur Mountain (the latter usually books up weeks in advance, but I was able to grab tickets only a few days before).

The entire time I was there, we didn’t experience one traffic problem (except for needing to stop for a few minutes to let a train pass), were able to get a table at every restaurant we went to, and were always able to easily find parking.

While it’s worth visiting Banff any time of year, I think I may have a found a new favorite spring-time destination.