SECRETS That Travel Bloggers Don’t Want Me To Tell


Greetings! Last year at a frequent flyer travel conference, in front of 500 people,  a blogger revealed something that I had known for years. He admonished the audience that  by staying in the room everyone was agreeing they would keep the information confidential.  Well, not exactly. I crossed my fingers so I guess it did not apply to me. I did not sign an agreement to his terms, and besides the room was so crowded I probably could not get out of the room before he disclosed his so called “secret”.  I would not have been allowed to disclose these types of schemes on First2Board, but I received an email last week from F2B’s management telling me that I have been released from all editorial conditions on content when writing on this blog.

That right. you heard me. I and the other F2B bloggers can now write about everything; Vanilla, churning, and the down rite dirty side for points and miles travel. Yay! Yes George it is true!

Some people would call this a scheme, and in all fairness I have not used this method myself. It involves getting a supposedly very cheap hotel room in a major city nearby an airport.

What happens typically when your flight is cancelled or you miss your connection is that the airline will reschedule you on the next available flight. Hotel and meals are at your own expense.  Those in top tier levels of the frequent flyer programs often times will get hotel and meals complimentary until their tickets are rescheduled.

But what happens if you are a Mileage Plus general member? You get nothing. But in certain cities the baggage claim office will give you a distressed traveler certificate that allows you to book a discounted hotel room at your own expense.

The airports where the United Airlines baggage claim offices give out these certificates are as follows:

        1. Atlanta
        2. Baltimore
        3. Chicago
        4. Dallas
        5. Denver
        6. Fort Lauderdale
        7. Los Angeles
        8. Miami
        9. Milwaukee
        10. Minneapolis
        11. New York
        12. Orlando
        13. St. Louis
        14. San Francisco
        15. Tampa
        16. Washington D.C.

I would suggest asking for some whenever you transit these cities. This is what the front and back of the certificate looks like:

The audience was told how you don’t really have to be a distressed traveler to walk up to baggage claim and ask for the certificate, but they only work for a same day bookings. If you arrive on an early enough flight you can check for a hotel room using one of these certificates and if you get a better deal you could easily cancel your reservation at your original al hotel.  Lets look as what the savings would have been on Sunday night in Los Angeles. First log into the APA Global website at www.APAGLOBAL.COM and use certificate code: JSTRK, the code never changes on any certificate. If you dont have computer access you can call their toll free line at 800-556-2359.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.50.05 PM

The sign in page at

The available discount rooms show as follows:

Available discount rooms for Sunday May 26, 2013

Available discount rooms for Sunday May 26, 2013

But lets look at what they would charge if I went directly to the properties corporate website and booked the room, they have distressed discounted Embassy Suites at $96 and the Hilton website shows lowest available rate at $129. This represents a savings of $33.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.52.16 PM


Next up is Radisson hotel with a distressed traveler price of $99 with the lowest available website price of $109.  This represents a savings of only $10.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.53.57 PM

Next up are the Marriott LAX Airport at distressed price of  $88 and the Renaissance Hotel LAX at distressed price of $91. Full retail price on the Marriott site is $119 for either property. A savings of $31 and $28.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.55.36 PM

Finally the Holiday Inn LAX Airport has a distressed traveler price of $89 and the hotel’s website shows a lowest available price of $139 a savings of $50.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.57.00 PM


As a matter of full disclosure, I need to tell you that you most likely will be able to get even better rates using other travel websites such as, or; you will not usually be offered your elite loyalty program benefits on these rates.  Also you usually will not earn stay credit as these are unpublished rates.  I find that this “secret” was hyped up as being something that only those in the know knew about.  There may be some golden eggs in certain locations. Play around with the site.

You also will generally be able to book only one night at a time. If you need a second night then you need to book the next night on the next day as a “new” distressed traveler.  It was mentioned at the meeting that some people use this method when they are only overnighting in a town or need a hotel when flying out early in the morning.  Seth mentioned that at IAD and LAX airports he has been able to find these pink certificates laying on the counter in baggage claim offices. Free for the taking.

I have three in my travel wallet just in case I ever need them for last minute arrangements. For me I would more likely us some SPG Starwood points at the Sheraton Gateway or FourPoints Hotel before using one of these certificates.  The certificates have no value and no expiration date.

Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).

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Joshua Pickles also known as “mrpickles” has been writing on the forum since 2009 and more recently on the forum telling stories of racking up huge amounts of frequent flyer miles in a short period of time. Primarily focusing on American Airlines AAdvantage miles mrpickles found notoriety in December 2009 when The Wall Street Journal wrote a front page article which featured a story that hinted about how mrpickles earned American Airlines lifetime Platinum status without ever stepping on an American Airlines flight. NBC News affiliate in Washington, D.C. posted on their website about mrpickles “If that’s not a true American hero, nobody is.” 


  21 comments for “SECRETS That Travel Bloggers Don’t Want Me To Tell

  1. ArizonaGuy
    May 27, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    This is by no means a slight against this post but I’m simply surprised this is a secret. There have been threads about this before. It’s only because it has limited appeal (obviously no one’s going to use a airline distressed traveler rate to stay at far from an airport) that I assume many may not have been aware of this trick.

    Nevertheless, I am happy to read about this because it’s different than the usual onslaught of the same repetitious topics. It’s also better than the most annoying posts – those that are fluff and have nothing to do with travel or schemes at all. I don’t always appreciate your style but I do respect the majority of content you create.

  2. May 27, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    For the WAshington DC airport are you talking about IAD or DCA or both?

  3. Miles, Points, and Mai Tais
    May 27, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    I have a huge pile of these that I’ve picked up over the years from SFO, which I’ve been saving for a “rainy day”. Had no idea the code on them was the same though.

  4. May 27, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Airport hotels are some of the best values on Priceline. No doubt you could find better deals with name your own price.

  5. dhammer53
    May 27, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    These ‘secrets’ are for all the rookies attending these conferences/universities. No offense to any of the rookies reading.
    Here’s another secret I’d like to tell you and your readers MrPickles. If your readers attend locals dinners or DO’s, all the ‘throw-away’ statements about an airline/hotel/car, and certainly misc will/may be discussed. Attendees can even ask for, and receive information about a specific program. Just ask!! I’ve had plenty of ‘oh my’ moments over the years.

    For the price of a lunch in Austin, pizza in Brooklyn, or dinner in LON or SIN, you’ll more than get your money back (so to speak).

    • May 27, 2013 at 10:49 AM

      Thanks for your support Dan. I really enjoyed your Brooklyn Reality Tour 10.

    • May 27, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      Great response! I got to do one of your Brooklyn Reality Tours one of these days, heard so much about them over the years. Let me know when you plan to do it again, thanks.

  6. Plush Adventures
    May 27, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    Thanks for sharing as this could prove to be a strategic tool for mattress runs.

    • May 27, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      It’s probably not a good strategy for mattress runs as many of these rates don’t qualify for points or status credit.

  7. ed
    May 27, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    do we get hotel points with this rate?

  8. May 27, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    You did a pretty bad job of listing out the details associated with the way these rates works. Among other things, far more than 16 airports offer up the certs. I usually earn points (it does vary by the brand) and, IME, the rates are far better than anything even the OTAs have for the rooms. But, sure, be proud about “breaking the rules” and still managing to give bad info.

    As for deciding that the rules of the event you attended don’t apply to you, that’s certainly your prerogative. I’m not sure I’d be bragging about that, and it isn’t at all clear why you decided to name me (mostly because I am pretty sure I didn’t make the announcement that the session was “private”).

    Congratulations on demonstrating that you’re not to be trusted when you give your word on something. I have no idea why you’d choose to publicize that.

  9. TWA44
    May 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Do you actually need to show the certificate when you check in? If the code never changes, can’t we just bookmark your post and go from there? Thanks for the tip – it is something this newbie did not know.

    • May 27, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      So you read a 5 year old cert and are presenting the information there as current and authoritative? Why?

      Also, I find it interesting that you suggest there are better OTA rates and yet provide no examples. Why not?

      • May 27, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        I verified yesterday that the certificate code still works and included the pictures.

        What I did not spend time on was looking for AARP rates, AAA rates, or comparisons with other hotels not listed on the distressed traveler hotel list.

        May 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Boys calm down, this is not earth shattering news. Not worth fighting over. Pickles looking forward to the rest of the week, I am one of the masses and you got me hooked. Thanks, Bert.

    • May 27, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      TWA44 – I’ve actually used the certificate 1 time at DCA when I couldn’t find a Starwood hotel for a reasonable price (and yes, my flight was actually cancelled – but then again, flights to CHS are always cancelled) and they did ask for the cert. I’m sure not every hotel asks for it, but better be safe than sorry.

      • TWA44
        May 27, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        Thanks VGP. I will keep an eye out for the certificates next time I am in a United baggage area!

  10. May 27, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    I will post my thoughts about this in my blog tomorrow…You know I always speak my mind:-)

  11. ROn
    May 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Gawd, if this is the type of “secret info” being spewed at DOs, I don’t think I’ll bother attending one. At best, it’s a throw away tidbit.

  12. May 28, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    Thanks for posting this. I am a government employee so can usually do better at the government rate, but its always best to know all of the rates available. And, as for this secret being “common knowledge” – it was not so to me or I’d forgotten about it.

Comments are closed.