Update 3/25/17: It’s my birthday again and I’ve made a couple additions to this post! Most of my stores are within 5 min from each other so I usually just take an hour or two to run around collecting the ones I like. It’s like a game! 🙂

Update 7/15/17: Updated in honor of my good friend Allen!

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since you last heard from me, due to all my traveling recently. Unlike Daniel and Michael, I have a hard time keeping up with computer-related stuff while traveling. But I am back now, and have a lot of things to catch up on and things I want to share with you! I seem to have a ton of friends with birthdays in the spring, so hope this is timely for some of you (p.s. happy birthday to my girl Lizzie!).


Birthday Deals at Home — a week/month of freebies!

Most of the time, you have at least 1 week to 1 month to redeem these deals. You can find a ridiculously extensive list here, but I’d like to share my favorite ones that I find most valuable. I’m sure everyone knows about Starbucks and Jamba Juice, but hopefully you’ll find a few new ones here that you didn’t know about before. If you didn’t, hop on over to their websites and sign up for their mailing lists in advance, and get ready to celebrate your birthday for up to a month! 🙂


My must do’s:

  • Free makeup or skin care set at Sephora (2017: Tarte blush & lip paint, or Caudalie moisturizer & serum)
  • Free anything at Starbucks that can also be used on a drink/ounce of tea at Teavana (I prefer to use my reward on Teavana’s Golden Dragon ounce of loose-leaf tea, it’s worth like $16)
  • Free bundtlet cake at Nothing Bundt Cakes (my favorites are lemon and red velvet!)
  • Free “rooty tooty fresh ‘n fruity” or take $9.95 off your order at IHOP
  • Free small smoothie or 16 oz juice at Jamba Juice (have you tried Pink Star?)
  • Free breakfast at Black Bear Diner
  • Free item at Red Mango ($5 off, which is more than enough)
  • Free makeup item at Ulta (2017: it’s a Benefit Porefessional product)
  • Free makeup item at Bare Minerals (2017: not sure yet)
  • Free brow waxing/trimming service at Benefit (just call to make an appointment, no need to sign up for a website or anything)
  • Free $10 at Kohl’s
  • Free burger with bottomless fries at Red Robin — you can take this to-go
  • Free pretzel at Auntie Anne’s — this can be used on ANY item, not just the pretzels. To fully maximize, get the pretzel bites, they cost more than the pretzels. 😉
  • Free $10 at Victoria’s Secret if you’re an Angel Card holder (get it with the Shopping Cart Trick so no hard pull!)
  • Free 500 points from JetBlue
  • Free Elite Night Credit from Marriott
  • Free mini-facial at L’Occitane
  • This one’s from fellow travel hacker @brandip…if you sign up for Godiva Rewards you’ll get a free shipping coupon for signing up and then a $10 birthday coupon. Both can be combined online for free chocolate to your door!


Some hyperlocal deals to the Bay Area:

  • $40 dining credit at HS Lordships in Berkeley (you can get the most expensive entrée on the menu, which I believe is the $39.95 Surf N Turf) – this is one of my favorite birthday deals. Be sure to make a reservation close to sunset (best time is maybe 30 min before sunset) by the window so you can enjoy a delicious meal with a view of the sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge. 🙂 Use this link to sign up for their loyalty club.
  • Free boba at Kung Fu Tea (Dublin), Pearl Café (Mountain View), T4 (San Leandro), and Shiny Tea (Oakland), redeem it via FiveStars app (update 2017: my FiveStars app only showed it for San Leandro T4 this year)
  • $20 dining credit to Restaurants Unlimited (Kincaid’s, Palomino, Skates on the Bay, etc)
  • Free all-you-can-eat shabu dinner at Zabu Zabu (multiple locations) on your birthday only, minimum 4 people in the group (update 2017: this might be minimum 6 people now, call in advance to confirm and make a reservation)
  • Free all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ dinner at YakiniQ (San Francisco) on your birthday only, minimum 4 people in the group
  • Free pizza from Pizza Studio


And a few others that I occasionally will take advantage of but don’t go out of my way for:

  • Free ice cream cone with order at The Habit Burger
  • Free bakery item or cup of soup with purchase at Erik’s DeliCafe
  • $5 off DSW
  • $3 off CVS (no, it does not work on gift cards ;))
  • $5 off Famous Footwear
  • BOGO $30 off at Benihana’s (I miss when this was just straight up $30, not BOGO!)
  • Free doughnut and coffee/soda at Krispy Kreme
  • Free 6″ regular sandwich with purchase of drink at Togo’s
  • Free burrito at Baja Fresh
  • Free entrée at Rubio’s
  • Free entrée at Pasta Pomodoro
  • Free entrée up to $12.99 at Chevy’s
  • BOGO 1/3 lb burger at Fuddrucker’s
  • BOGO steak dinner at Black Angus
  • Free pizookie (ice cream on freshly baked cookie) at BJ’s
  • 15% off your purchase at anthropologie 
  • $10 at Victoria’s Secret (this year it does coincide nicely with the Secret Rewards promotion)
  • 15% off your purchase at The Container Store
  • Free birthday crispy at Noodles & Company (I’m a little offended that it’s not free noodles :P)
  • Free Kona Pie or Chocolate Lava cake at Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks
  • Free appetizer at Lazy Dog
  • Free dessert at Pacific Catch
  • Free dessert at McCormick & Schmick’s
  • Double points when shopping through the MyPoints portal (my referral link, thx!)
  • $50 off Southwest Vacations package (flight+hotel of 3+ nights)
  • $25 off Rent The Runway
  • 5% back in rewards from Office Depot
  • Free gift with purchase at L’Occitane
  • 20% off Cole Haan
  • 15% off Keds
  • 15% off Cost Plus World Market
  • $10 off Puma


Do you have any others you think are must-do’s? Or do you have similar stories of little awesome surprises you’ve received while traveling on your birthday? Let us know in the comments below!


How I celebrated my birthday in 2016 — traveling in style on miles & points

It was my birthday recently and the Japan trip with my husband and Michael was in celebration of it (and to chase sakura season!). We celebrated in style in Japan Airlines First Class both ways, which was actually my first-ever international long haul premium class (first or business). The flight to Japan was literally on my birthday and it was AWESOME. The flight attendants treated me like royalty and surprised me with gifts of champagne and yummy snacks to take home and a handwritten card, all wrapped up. On my return flight they gave me a gift of two First Class mugs, fancy chocolates, and a handwritten card with the flight stats. So thoughtful!

Of course, we all know that luxury travel on miles/points isn’t a deal that’s only available on your birthday, however, traveling on/around your birthday is likely to get you extra nice treatment and possible gifts. 🙂 And you get to see the world as you turn another year wiser!

We also lived in style in Japan. We stayed at the Conrad Tokyo in a beautiful upgraded room (thanks to Michael), Westin Miyako Kyoto, Hyatt Regency Osaka with a DSU (my first time using one of those darn things too), and Hyatt Regency Tokyo. While we did get small amenities of a snack at the Conrad and HR Osaka, these are customary for Diamond members, and none of the hotels seemed to do anything extra for my birthday (despite it being in the notes). Perhaps if we had stayed at the Park Hyatt instead (at the very least I know they pay close attention to honeymoons and anniversaries)… 😀

Here are the “values” of each element of my luxury birthday trip done on miles and points:

JAL F flights: 62,500 AA miles each way, per person (cash price $25,606 for SFO-HND and $9,335 for HND-SFO!)

Conrad Tokyo: 2 free nights from Citi Hilton Reserve signup bonus (cash price ~$578/night)

Westin Miyako Kyoto: 11,000 SPG points per night (normally 10,000, but it was peak season, cash price ~$404/night)

Hyatt Regency Osaka*:  4000 Hyatt points + $58 per night  (cash price ~$172/night) + Diamond Suite Upgrade (DSU) to Club Twin

Hyatt Regency Tokyo*: 6000 Hyatt points + $79 per night (cash price ~$307/night)

*I used cash & points on these reservations because 1) in order to apply a DSU, you need to pay at least part of your reservation in cash, and 2) I am aiming for at least the first tier in Hyatt’s Stay More, Play More promotion

At the Conrad and Hyatts we also had free breakfast and lounge access with cocktail hours; the free food was much appreciated even though we love eating out in Japan. As an aside, we found HR Osaka (Category 2) to be a significantly nicer and more beautiful experience than HR Tokyo (Category 3), but the location of the Hyatt in Tokyo was significantly more convenient.

Everything was such an awesome experience that I figured I should try to schedule a luxury trip every year for my birthday using miles and points and see what kind of surprises might be in store for me. Next up on my bucket list is probably Singapore First Class Suites! Or Etihad Apartments? 🙂

JAL F flight attendants gave me 2 bottles of champagne and a large bag of delicious Japanese snacks, accompanied by a handwritten card. I received a different gift on my return flight too!

JAL F flight attendants surprised me with 2 bottles of champagne and a large bag of delicious Japanese snacks, accompanied by a handwritten card. I received a different gift on my return flight too!