Using Miles to see the World: US Open Tennis Championship, New York

Using Miles to see the World: US Open Tennis Championship, New York

The 2011 US Open Tennis Championship began this Monday, August 29th 2011, following the unlikely occurrence of both an earthquake and a hurricane (Hurricane Irene, to be exact) in the greater New York area. But despite severe weather last week, the show will go on at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens as up-and-coming stars, as well as weathered veterans hit the courts. 


For those of you who may not be familiar with the US Open Tennis Championship, we here at have boiled it down to everything you need to know in one easy-to-read blog!

It’s a five event, multiday match, for professional singles and doubles players with a separate tournament for junior, senior and wheelchair players. The US Open evolved from an isolated competition reserved for the wealthy in 1881, to its modern iteration as an international event with more than six hundred professional players competing for millions and millions of dollars!

This year the United States Tennis Association announced that the reward purse has been raised to a record setting $23.7 million. That is a LOT of trips around the world!The winners of the men’s and women’s singles competitions will now be receiving $1.8 million dollars each with the opportunity to earn an additional bonus of $1 million, based on performance in singles play.

Some of the highlights for 2011 US Open Tennis Championship include defending champion Raphael Nadal, top women players Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova and of course, Roger Federer, the five-time US Open winner who has one more chance to earn a Grand Slam title this year. There is a lot of speculation about whether Federer can continue to dominate into his thirties and if Nadal’s recent foot and hand injuries will affect his performance in the open. NBC Sports reported that Nadal’s fingers were badly burned when he was handed a hot plate in a Japanese restaurant a few weeks ago that scalded his fingers! Unbelievable, we agree. 

Opening Day Recap

Getting There

The first thing you’re going to need to do is figure our how you’ll get there. Fortunately there are a number of New York airports that can accommodate your US Open Tennis Championship experience. You can get started by searching for budget flights going into JFK, LaGaurdia (LGA) or Newark (EWR) Airports.  Or, if you have frequent flyer miles saved up, now could be the right time to use them as the flight to New York will likely be the most expensive part of your stay. In our humble opinion, the easiest way to search for budget cash flights and award flight at the same time is on Just sayin’.

Next you need a ticket. Ground Admissions Tickets range from $80 – $130 and can be purchased for any day of the Open you wish to see. Official US Open Tennis Grounds Admissions Tickets can be purchased here. Keep in mind that due to Hurricane Irene, New York City beaches, outdoor pools and some parks will remain closed until they have been safely cleared of tree and flood damage. There are, however, still several alternative places to go and sites to see, including the Museum of the Moving Image and the famous Jazz Tour of Queens .

If you make it to the 2011 US Open Tennis Championship, please let know! Send us your pics and we’ll post them on our blog. And if you go with miles, please tweet it to our hash tag @UsingMiles, and we’ll help you brag!

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UsingMiles & Randy Petersen Co-Host Book Signing Tomorrow Night!

Happy Monday! I hope you are off to a great start to your week! If I may ask, what do you have planned for this last lovely week of August?

I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do before the big Labor Day Weekend, but I wanted to remind you to sign up to attend the UsingMiles book signing event on Tuesday, August 30th at 7:00. The book signing is FREE, and it will take place at the UsingMiles headquarters in Greenwood Village, just south of Denver.

This is a particularly special book signing because you will actually get to meet TWO very knowledgeable (ok, maybe famous) frequent flyers who will teach you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about being a savvy frequent flyer.

Randy Petersen, Milepoint

Randy Petersen of Milepoint, FlyerTalk, and BoardingArea, just to name just a few of his companies, is the guru of frequent flying and an unbelievable source of information on any topic related to traveling with miles and points. We are thrilled to have him at our headquarters as a co-host of the event and we know you will enjoy meeting him.

Nicholas Kralev is the star of the evening, and the author of the new book, “Decoding Air Travel.” I have talked before about Nicholas in a post about Decoding Air Travel,  and it is clear that his book was written to achieve two dead simple goals: he wants to help you save money and improve the way you travel.

We will be providing some light appetizers and refreshments to give you the opportunity to mingle with other travelers in the room. You simply cannot afford to miss out on this exciting event. Sign up now and we’ll see you on Tuesday!

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Using Miles to see the World: Colorado

Today, is launching a new weekly series on our blog that will help frequent flyers find the best places to visit using their miles. Each week, our savvy editorial travel staff will select one place that you must see and tell you how to do it using miles.

We’re launching the series in our own backyard with a recommendation to visit good old Colorado for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. This six stage race is said to be the most intense bike race in America and 16 teams of professional cyclists from all over the world have come to Colorado to compete at over two miles above sea level.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge started on August 22nd in Colorado Springs and will continue until August 26th, finishing in Denver. Along the way, participants will tour several Colorado mountain towns including Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge.

On August 22nd pro cyclist Patrick Gretsch won the first event of the race, the “Prologue.” The Prologue is a downhill, individual time trial, which determined the order of riders for the first stage.

Patrick Gretsch, winner of Prologue Time Trial

In the first stage of the race on August 23rd, cyclists traveled 102 miles with a total climb of 8,020 feet following this route from Salida to Crested Butte. If that doesn’t sound hard enough already, participants simultaneously competed in side challenges such as the “King of the Mountain,” where a few riders earned additional points for being among the first to ascend the 11,315 foot Monarch Pass. These points, as well as the ones earned for the fastest stage completion, will ultimately be used to determine the overall winner at the end of Stage 6.

Yesterday, professional cyclists endured the most difficult stage of the entire race and perhaps the hardest single day of bicycle racing anywhere in the nation. Stage 2 includes a grueling journey from Gunnison to Aspen, climbing two 12,000 foot mountains on narrow roads with a 6.5% steepness gradient. Riders have 40% less oxygen at this altitude, a 40 degree lower average temperature than at sea level and must bike for 131 miles straight through to the finish line in Aspen. Check out the current standings and records at the USA Pro Cycling Website

Check out the intense elevation gains of Stage 2!

Here is a video recap of Stage 2, the most strenuous race on American soil!

For those who want to be a part of this international event, the race is hosting a festival that features ongoing entertainment, food, drinks, merchandise, gear and a convenient kid’s zone. You can use your frequent flyer miles to travel to any of the stages in Colorado, where you’re sure to have a great time enjoying this world-renowned race.

To get exclusive access to the race, you can still get a VIP pass, including transportation and accommodation, directly from the USA Pro Cycling website. This is the probably the best way to get yourself close to the action, however, you can always book your flights and hotels independently. You can start by choosing a stage you want to see and plan your visit around that day. If you want to check out Stage 6, for instance, you could arrive at the DIA Airport sometime on August 26th, giving you you enough time to settle in to your hotel and watch the cyclists sprint through Denver on August 28th. Check out the Stage 6 Route Map to help choose the best places to stay for a view of this incredible test of endurance and technical skill.


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UsingMiles’ Top 5 Activities for Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day is just around the corber, and in celebration of our nation’s hard-working Americans, we all get to take the day off and relax with our friends and family.

In anticipation of this holiday and due to my personal excitement over holidays in general, I have compiled the Top 5 Activities for Labor Day Weekend, compliments of UsingMiles. I even threw in a few extras just for good measure.

1. Go to a state fair or a festival – Labor Day weekend is one of the best weekends of the year to visit a state fair or town festival, simply because they are EVERYWHERE. The best way to find out what your town or state is offering is by searching for the following term in Google: “Labor Day 2011 State Festival X” (with your city or state replacing X).

Another great site that seems to have a comprehensive listing of festivals and fairs is For instance, I found out that Denver is hosting the
“Taste of Colorado” over Labor Day, and Telluride is hosting the “Blues and Brews Festival.” Not bad choices.

2. Go camping – admit it or not, summer is winding down and so is the good weather, so Labor Day is the perfect long weekend to get one last camping trip planned before fall sets in.

Search for and reserve a campsite on  or or Reserve America.

You can also stop by your local REI store and pick up some free pamplets on great places in your area to camp and hike. Also, get advice from experts on what to bring camping. 

3. Rent a houseboat – if you like sleeping on a boat, houseboats are an awesome way to spend a holiday weekend. Once you decide where you want to go, I suggest calling several different rental companies in the area to get some quotes so you can make sure you are getting the best deal. You will also need to decide how much money you want to spend because houseboats can basically get as fancy as you fancy if cost isn’t a concern. Below are several of the top bodies of water for houseboating in the U.S. If you can’t decide where to go, start here.

  • Lake Powell
  • Lake Shasta
  • Lake of the Ozarks
  • Florida Keys
  • Mississippi River

4. Check out Fireworks – although the 4th of July is the traditional holiday for viewing fireworks, there are actually quite a few displays over Labor Day as well. Again, check with your town, either in the newspaper or online, and see if there are fireworks displays in your area over the weekend. Bring a picnic and a camera and there you have it.

5. Host a BBQ – there isn’t a better way to spend a warm Labor Day then with friends and food. If you have the energy and time to entertain, I suggest hosting a BBQ yourself and inviting all of your closest friends to celebrate the day together! To ease the pressure on yourself, make it more of a potluck and ask everybody to bring a dish or a drink.

Spice up the party by featuring backyard games like Cornhole, Bocce Ball, Ladder Toss or just plain ol’ Frisbee! You can buy most of these games at your local Target or order them online.

Other Labor Day ideas…

Go to the zoo – many zoos have extended hours over Labor Day Weekend

Take a swim – summer isn’t over yet, so track down your local public pool and make a day of it!

Go to a parade – parades are very popular over Labor Day Weekend so check out whether your town is hosting one and grab an early seat to see the action!

Take a hike – simple and fulfilling.

Go fishing – a good way to spend Labor Day anywhere, but particularly in California, where Labor Day is free fishing day!

Go to an outdoor concert – another popular activity and a great way to spend a warm afternoon. Look for free outdoor shows in your area and celebrate to the sound of jazz, folk, or even the symphony.

Regardless of what you do, please plan a fun Labor Day Weekend, and if you’re traveling, let help you get there!

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Krista Paul of UsingMiles Featured in Entrepreneur’s Business & A Beer Event

UsingMiles’, Krista Paul was recently featured in Entrepreneur Magazine’s first Business & A Beer event in Denver, Colorado.

Krista joined a diverse group of local entrepreneurs spanning from first-time entrepreneurs to seasoned veterans and even including financial types who invest in start-ups.

As expected, it was a very active conversation, as most of the personalities in the room were Type A. The conversation touched on many aspects of the lifecycle of a business, including how to build a strong team, advice for first-time entrepreneurs, how to innovate, and what to put in a business plan. Here are some of our favorite quotes:

“Talking about your business is crucial to getting feedback on your idea.”

“Keep innovation lean.”

“Get a great lawyer, and a great accountant.”

“You don’t need a lot of MBA’s or 40 years of experience. You need people who are bright and smart and ready to get going.”

“Starting a business with a co-founder is almost like getting married. You need to be comfortable with that person and know that person well.”

“Ideas are a commodity. It’s execution and validation.”

Check out Krista’s cameo in Entrepreneurs Offer Advice to Budding Business Owners and view the other videos below:

What Investors Really Think About Your Business Plan

How Investors View Innovation

Why Keeping a Business Idea Secret Can Backfire

Why a Strong Team Is an Entrepreneur’s Greatest Asset

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UsingMiles Reports: Does Where You Live Make You Healthy?

We all know that improving your lifestyle is not just about moving to the healthiest country, state, or city in the world, it is about committing yourself to eat healthy, live happily, and be active.

But can your surroundings, including your hometown, help you stay healthy? We think it can. is based in Denver, Colorado, which is the #1 least obese state in the country. And it’s quite obvious why. The culture in Colorado embraces work/life balance and the people who live here thrive on being outdoors and getting fit.

UsingMiles tries to foster fitness and heath in our company. Being employed at our company includes access to a gym and we encourage our employees to take time during the day to work out. We organize mountain bike rides on sunny summer afternoons to get our team out together doing something healthy and fun (and yes, all of us somehow have a mountain bike).

Does your company and community foster exercise, health and fitness? If it doesn’t, maybe you should move!

Here are some lists of the top healthiest countries and cities, as well as a list of the least obese states in the U.S.

Top 10 Healthiest Countries in the world:

  • Japan, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Australia

Top 7 Healthiest Cities in the World: 

  1. Reykjavik, Iceland – less pollution, low disease rate, highest density of physcians, swimming has been included in the school curriculum for 60+ years.
  2. Vienna, Austria – low infant mortality rate, people are covered under government insurance once employed or in university studies, many recreational activities (e.g. skiing, hockey)
  3. Sydney, Australia – has one of the world’s best health care systems, all policy holders are charged equal premiums, low air pollution, 5 national parks that allow residents to enjoy the outdoors
  4. Zurich, Switzerland – spends 11% of GDP on universal health care, parks and gardens, sporting facilities
  5. Helsinki, Finland – one of the lowest pollution rates in the world, low infant mortality rate, lower number of cars per resident than other cities of similar size
  6. Calgary, Alberta Canada – one of the world’s cleanest cities, attractive to sports enthusiasts because it is close to the Canadian Rocky Mtns, great universal health care system
  7. Portland, Oregon, US – 277 miles of bike paths, 146 miles of forested hiking trails

Top 10 Least Obese States in the United States:

  1. Colorado (yay!)
  2. Conneticut
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Hawaii
  5. Washington DC
  6. Utah
  7. Vermont
  8. Montana
  9. New Jersey
  10. Rhode Island
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Frequent Flyer Site UsingMiles Recommended by Los Angeles Times

This weekend UsingMiles was featured in the Los Angeles Times as a site that “safeguards your (travel) values.”

The article highlighted some of our useful (and free) features, such as our award search that deep links you directly to the supplier to book and our expiring miles alerts across all of your frequent flyer programs.

The article also highlighted one particular issue: we don’t have all of the programs integrated into the site. We are working to integrate approximately 40 more sites by mid-August, which will allow us to track over 100 programs.

Moreover, UsingMiles is working hard to make it easier for you to manually enter programs we don’t or can’t manage (like Southwest Airlines). This should be out in about a month.

We are thrilled to be profiled in the LA Times and will continue to find even better ways to safeguard your miles!

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Krista Paul, Founder of, Featured in New Venturist Entrepreneurial Blog

I’m excited to announce that I was profiled today in the New Venturist blog, which is dedicated to introducing it’s readers to the entrepreneurs “who will shape our country’s future.” Wow. What a humbling comment.

The mastermind behind this work is Babs Carryer, a serial entrepreneur who has her hands in many ventures related to entrepreneurism. She is the Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Embedded Entrepreneur for Project Olympus at Carnegie Mellon University, as well as the President of Carryer Consulting, which provides strategic business planning services to technology companies.

The article is a fun walk down memory lane and covers some of my experiences leading up to our venture capital raise and the launch of the *new* It also hints at some of our [very] exciting future announcements about site enhancements, mobile apps (yay!) and our awesome team. She even managed to promote that I am on the hunt for Java programmers (thanks, Babs!)

The entire article is great, but I think the most important point I would like aspiring and active entrepreneurs to take away from it is don’t ever quit. It’s not always going to be easy, and in fact, most of the time it most definitely won’t be — but continue to put yourself out there, meet more people, and find a way to make it work. People are the key to your success as an entrepreneur. And you never know when you might meet that next person who will help you get to the next level — whether it be through a piece of advice, and introduction, or through them taking an active role in your company. I fiercely believe for the most part, that people are good. They like helping other people. And your business won’t succeed unless you have a lot of good people helping you make it happen. In my experience, that has been the key ingredient to getting me to this point.

That being said, I still have my work cut out for me! But I am grateful for where we are as a company and excited to continue building a product that will truly make a difference in people’s lives, even by just cutting out some of the day-to-day stress when it comes to travel.

Thank you so much, New Venturist, for allowing me to take a little trip down memory lane, and to stop for a moment to be grateful for what I have. So thank you Babs, and to echo what you said, I’m you’re newest reader!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment’s Top 5 Ways to Travel Without Breaking the Bank

With a little planning, anyone can afford to explore the world… and we do mean anyone. has identified five of the best ways to travel and stay abroad on a tight budget. There are countless ways to satisfy your wanderlust and still have enough money left over for souvenirs!

1. Volunteering and Home stays

If you are a serious traveler, you know that costs can quickly skyrocket. If you’re willing to volunteer, however, you can live abroad for as little as $800 for five months. You simply spend a couple hours a day teaching English (or doing something specific to your field) and spend the rest of the time exploring the country. Not only do you benefit from the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping the less fortunate, you gain a first hand experience of how locals live by staying with a host family. The best part is, that $800 pays for all your meals too! Get started with the links below:

2. Organize your Frequent Flyer Miles…and use them!

Many people earn enough frequent flyer points to qualify for great rewards but either don’t know how to redeem them, or forget that they eventually expire. Loyalty point management can be tricky, especially if you have multiple accounts. Take a minute to sit down and enter your loyalty programs in the dashboard to efficiently manage all of your accounts. Secondly, you really CAN use your miles to travel. Airlines must reserve a portion of their seating inventory for awards (usually 5%), but many end up giving away 10% or more of their seats to awards. The ability to redeem depends on your timing and strategy. Searching for awards on allows you to search across brands simultaneously, which saves lots of time. Setting up award alerts can also help you get a ticket when it becomes available.

3. Exchange Work For Hostel Stay

Mountaineers who travel the world looking for the next big climb are well aware of how to live for free in hostels throughout Europe. All you really have to do is talk to the owner and organize to clean sheets or cook food. The first step is to figure out where to go. Next, using the links we’ve provided, you can start contacting hostels and ask them what they want you to do. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, especially if you have a special talent that might help them solve a problem (handyman, marketing, PR, etc.) Hostels throughout the world are small, informal businesses and often will gladly except barters for free housing.

4. Be a Deckhand on a Cruise Ship

How do you feel about embracing the spirit of adventure in Moby Dick?  You can actually work with cruise ship companies and smaller ships, as a “deckhand,” earning travel money while you experience life on the sea. Cruise ships sign short work contracts constantly and learning how to work on a ship could provide years of free travel. Besides, what could be more adventurous than traveling the world by sea? Like working for housing in hostels, the best way to start is by contacting cruise line companies directly. Here’s some simple tutorials to get you started.

  • Simple steps to becoming a deckhand
  • Being a deckhand as a career

5. Get Discounts by Traveling in Groups

If you can get enough people together, or if you can organize a company getaway, there are several companies who package group deals for huge savings. Here are a few of the best ones.

Anybody can travel. You just need to be creative, consider your options and go for it! We’ll see you there.

“Choose the World You See, and See the World You Choose.” —- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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Recently had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Kralev, a frequent flyer & point maven and the author of a new must-read book for frequent flyers (and frequent flyer wannabes), called “Decoding Air Travel.”

Nicholas has a very interesting past that motivated him to figure out the rules of travel early on in his career. It quickly became a passion for him, and now he is inspired to share all of his learnings with you and I so we don’t have to take the time to learn it ourselves (other than by simply reading his book).

Nicholas’ goals are pretty straightforward: to help you save money and improve your travel life. We like the sound of that!

We were eager to learn more about Nicholas’ inspiration for his book and how to save money and travel better! Read on to learn about his top tips for maximizing the value of your miles. Describe your background in travel and how you taught yourself the “frequent flyer game.”

Nicholas: Out of necessity, I suppose. It had to do with my job. From 1999 to 2002, I was a correspondent for the Financial Times and I had to fly a lot domestically. Then when I started working for Washington Times, I had to travel the world. I had a very small travel budget and I had to learn to stretch it. The most effective way to do that was to learn everything there was to know about airlines.  I was originally doing 3-4 trips per year with my budget, and after training myself and figuring out the system, I was taking 9-10 trips on the same budget! The next problem was that I didn’t want to fly in coach. So I needed to figure out how to get status in an airline and maintain status from year to year. For the last 10 years I have been top elite status with my preferred airline. The last time I flew in coach was in 2002 (unless the plane only had coach.) I love to travel. I grew up in Bulgaria and we were not allowed to travel so I cherish the opportunity to travel.  My mission is to help more people travel and to help Americans see the world. 

For an aspiring frequent flyer, what are your top 3 practical tips on how to get started maximizing the value of your miles (other than reading your book!)

  1. Pick an alliance. There is no point in spreading yourself across several different alliances.  Domestically, I think the Star Alliance is the best alliance just because of its domestic partners (3 major airlines.)
  2. Achieve elite status. Even if it’s the lowest level, at least you will get all of your baggage fees covered.  Status doesn’t necessarily need to be with a domestic airline. For instance, it’s easier to get Aegean status, but since it is a Star Alliance member, you will not have to pay for your baggage fees with any Star Alliance member, including United.
  3. Learn the air travel science. This includes fare filing. It sounds complicated, but honestly you just have to read the book and you’re done. It took me years to figure it out, but you could do it in hours (shameless self-promotion, wink wink!)
  4. Think before you book and think before you travel. There are many things you can do between the time you book and before the time you travel that can minimize your hassles while traveling.  Stop complaining about the airlines! Learn the system and use it in your favor! The system is what it is. There is nothing you can do to change it. So let’s learn everything about it and let’s find a way to turn all the negatives into positives.

Is your book a better fit for experienced frequent flyers or aspiring mileage junkies?

Both. My only criterion is if you fly 2-3 trips per year, you will get value out of this book. Whether you love to travel or you have to travel, you will learn a lot.

What real-life experience as a frequent flyer are you most proud of?

Typically my proudest moments are when I am sitting in business or first class in an International flight and I know that I have paid far less than people in economy. For instance, I was sitting in first class on a one-way flight to Lufthansa and I paid $1,600. There were people sitting next to me that paid 10 times what I paid.

What is the best place you have traveled to or stayed in on miles?

Sydney, Australia, because it’s very difficult to get business or first class to Australia. I was actually able to take both of my parents with me in business class on the same flight to spend New Year’s in Australia – and I did it on Saver Awards!

What frequent flyer experts do you rely on for advice?

Out of all the travel bloggers out there, the one I read the most and respect the most is Gary Leff ‘s blog. It’s not just, “I went there and I had fun.  It’s hands-on experience that people can use. I also read FlyerTalk and MilePoint.

Intrigued? We knew you would be. You can buy the book on or go to and read some of the reviews if you can’t decide (disclosure: we make zip, zilch, zap if you buy this book, but we still think it’s a good idea!) Morevoer, the eBook is out in Kindle format and selling on Amazon’s U.S., UK and German sites.

Nicholas is also doing a book tour in many cities and rumor has it that he may be co-hosting one with yours truly in Denver, so we’ll let you know!

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