Marriott Comes to the Balkans – Rewards Card is Worth it!

RISarajevoBefore leaving the Unites States, some wise friends of ours recommended us to apply for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. We were already Marriott Rewards members, but the credit card takes it to the next level. Initially, we experienced a bit of sticker shock, but trust us: The $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $85 annual fee is well worth it.

The Marriott Rewards Premier card has quite a few perks to recommend it. First off, the signup bonus. Earn 50,000 Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. It has a great rewards rate of 5 points per $1 spent at the Marriott; 2 per $1 spent on airlines, car rentals and restaurants; and 1 per $1 spent elsewhere. And then come the perks. Oh, the perks. Yes, there’s an $85 annual fee (waived the first year).

Since we received a free nights stay in a Category 1-4, we of course wanted to stay the at the best, but the only problems is that we lived in Southeast Europe, AND Marriott had all its hotels in Western Europe. Wait…did I just see a “coming soon.” Yes, Marriott was opening its first hotel in the Balkans in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. WooHoo! That’s not too far from us, and we have never been to Bosnia…yet. 🙂RISarajevoBedResidence Inn Sarajevo is amazing as soon as you walk in from the brisk, cold winter day. The staff, speaking both English and Bosnia, great you with a smile and a wealth of information about the area. As soon as you turn the door knob to come into your suite, you see the fully-equipped kitchen and separate areas for eating, working and relaxing. The well-designed rooms promote productivity with large, well-lit work desks, ergonomic chairs and complimentary high-speed Internet. A welcoming and restorative feel is created throughout with warm, earthy colours and light wood fixtures and fittings. Natural light floods the rooms through floor to ceiling windows and each suite has its own private terrace.RISarajevoLobbySince the Real Geek Dad is in graduate school, the public spaces on the ground floor were inviting, feature flexible seating for working or relaxing and a 24-hour Market selling drinks, snacks and meals. He also squeeze in some time to release some the tension in the fitness center. The Residence InnSarajevo also provided a delicious continental breakfast.RIColdFood RIHotFoodIdeally located near Old Town, the Residence Inn Sarajevo provided convenient access to the city’s historical and cultural attractions as well as restaurants, cafes and shops.

Here some other benefits that offset the fee, you’ll get:

  • One free night’s stay after your account approval, plus one night a year on your account anniversary
  • 15-night credit towards Elite status
  • No foreign transaction fees (key for international travelers – these usually set you back 3% of everything you spend abroad)

The anniversary free night’s stay, by itself, wipes out the annual fee with room to spare. The Marriott Premier gives you quite a bit in terms of rewards and bonuses – the signup bonus alone is better than the industry standard of $200-$300. I cannot wait to use this reward in a year!

What to Pack in Your Carry On

CarryOnBagSince I began traveling for business four years ago, I have flown a lot around the world. I learn something each time I travel, like what I should have packed and what wasn’t necessary. Now with airlines charging fees for checked baggage and some even charge for carry ons, being prepared with the in-flight must haves will help you fly well. Here are some essentials that make it into my carry on every time!

First “Valuable” Class
I always make sure to have my most valued possessions with me in my carry on – just in case my checked luggage “goes to another destination.” 😉 My Canon 4Ti camera, Acer Aspire Intel Switch 10 Intel 2 in 1 and a change of clothes are non-negotiable. Sometimes, I have my laptop for conferences, but fortunately, I do not always need it, thanks to services like Evernote and DropBox.CarryOnInside

Business “Beauty” Class
My Henri Bendel Folding Cosmetic Bag is my lifesaver. It is compact and when opened, the TSA can see what is inside, without removing the content. I usually fly without makeup and apply it on about 30 minutes before we land or in the airport bathroom. There is nothing like feeling fresh when you land for your next adventure.

  • Makeup wipes
  • Moisturizing lip balm
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume
  • Concealer
  • Hand sanitizer

Economy “Entertainment” Class
I try to pack a book or download one to my Kindle app on my Acer Intel 2 in 1, but to be honest, I hardly ever get to read it. I love in-flight movies or playing solitaire. However, I always make sure to always pack my Moleskine Evernote notebook and pen for those moments of inspiration. I find I’m my most creative when my head is “in the clouds” and make the most of those “daydreams.”

What can you NOT live without as you travel? Please share below!

Sponsored: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Take Precautions Online So You Can Relax on Vacations

TechTravelSafetyGuidelinesTravelers often worry about flight delays, bad weather and disappointing accommodations when thinking about the factors that could ruin a vacation. However, the lack of secure Internet access revealing social media posts and haphazard habits online can wreak havoc lasting long after beach tans fade away. PrivateGiant CEO and security expert Shaun Murphy has created a series of tips travelers can use to help keep their personal information and private files safe while away from home.

Prep Before You Go

Patch Up. Packing, printing airline tickets and organizing maps are not the only to-do list items that need to be tended to before a vacation begins. Check all devices staying at home or going on the trip for software updates. Not running system updates is like putting out the welcome mat for cybercriminals. Operating system security holes that could have easily been patched with a quick click can leave you vulnerable to hacks.

Remove Data. Backing up is always important, but before you travel it is essential. Removing unnecessary sensitive data from your devices going on the trip including photos, videos, financial documents and stored passwords can save you from heartache and headaches down the road if your devices are breached, stolen or misplaced.

Wipe Your History. Clear your browser cache files and remove saved passwords. If you accidentally connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi network while travelling do not make it effortless for criminals to steal your private information such as bank access, work emails or photos.

Fake It. Create temporary passwords for sites you plan on accessing while travelling. It is estimated that 60% of people use the same password, or a variation of one, for every account. If you get hacked while traveling, having a temporary “throwaway” password for email or social media will prevent a headache of worry over if your home accounts were compromised.

While Traveling

Browse Safely. Make sure you are using a secured connection to websites when available. A simple “s” (https:// instead of http:// in your web browser’s URL bar) will protect you from most threats local and remote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a utility that will automatically use a secure connection for you.

Double Down. Enable two-factor authentication on your important web services (email, social media, etc.), so in the event that someone does gain access to your passwords, they need a second code to get in. Guidelines for setting up two-factor authentication can be found at here.

Privatize Wi-Fi. For additional security when using a Wi-Fi network at a hotel or airport, consider using a VPN on your laptop. A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a third-party server, and all your Internet traffic is routed through that server. Snoopers on the network will only see encrypted data.

Share Wisely. While it is tempting to post about a vacation on social media or keep a blog about your adventures to stay in touch with family and friends, resist the urge. Every tidbit of information you publicly share online is a breadcrumb criminals can use to piece together a snapshot of your life that can lead to them to cracking your passwords and hacking your digital accounts.

Shut Down. Switch off the wireless connection on your phone, tablet and laptop when they are not in use. By keeping the connection off, you are taking another step in protecting your digital identity, by preventing an opportunity for criminals to automatically connect to your device on an open network without you ever knowing what happened.

After Returning Home

Sweep Clean. Running a security sweep when you get home is a wise precaution. Check your computer and other devices for spyware, malware, and viruses. One indication that malware could be looking is an increase in memory use or data use that is otherwise inexplicable.