Is the Tax Man Coming After Your Frequent Flyer Miles?

Two years ago, I read this regarding the taxation of frequent flyer miles/loyalty points:

Scores of individuals reported the week of January 23 that Citibank issued them Forms   1099-MISC, representing the value of frequent flier miles awarded as part of a promotion for opening an account. The story was first reported in the Los Angeles Times on January 24.

Citibank defended its decision to report airline miles as income. “The Internal Revenue Code recognizes rewards as taxable income — with the exception of promotions tied to credit and debit purchases. This recognition by the [Internal Revenue Code] is disclosed to customers prior to their election to participate in the promotion,” it said.

The IRS agreed. “When frequent flyer miles are provided as a premium for opening a financial account, it can be a taxable situation to reporting under current law,” it said in a statement.

Now word comes out that the IRS is considering enforcing what they already believe to be their right to tax your frequent flyer miles.  Apparently an industry group representing hotel and airline owners has written a letter to the Treasury Secretary protesting in advance, but other than the few tidbits in this post and here, the issue remains under the radar and has not been written about except in a few blogs.

Here’s your chance to weigh in, although as usual I am skeptical that anything other than a mass uproar will derail the regulatory state’s never-ending expansionary efforts.  But you’ll feel better if you try, right?  After establishing your anger at the very idea and then blasting them for ever considering it, I’d make two basic points in letters to the White House and Congress:

1.  Does the IRS really have the right to do this, as opposed to Congress? (OK, you can stop laughing now,  Include this question anyway).

2.  Not everything ought to be a taxable event.  That’ll blow their minds.

Good luck to us all!

New Paris Guides Page at

We recently realized — well, my principal Paris author Andy Herbach realized it and I am simply taking credit for it — that we have four different kinds of guides to Paris now and they really deserve their own page at our website.  So take a look at our new Paris page and let us know what you think.

The four books are the forthcoming Wining & Dining in Paris; Open Road’s Best of Paris; Eating & Drinking in Paris; and Open Road’s Paris with Kids (update coming Fall 2014).  Here’s a screenshot of just the top part of the page:

Feedback requested — thanks!

Happy New Year

Here’s hoping that all of you have a great 2014!  I like this pic so I thought I’d share; here’s how they brought in the new year in Montepulciano, Italy.

Photo by Pug Girl,

For more on things to do in Italy at any time of the year, pick up our Best of Italy by Douglas E. Morris, now on sale at amazon for just $12.51!

Visit Texas with Fido in tow!

Open Road has just released Dogtipper’s Texas with Dogs – the only book that goes in-depth to show readers the best places to travel with your dog in the Lone Star State. We bring you Texas’s top destinations, dog-friendly hotels and restaurants, and special doggie activities and events of all sorts.

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are a husband-wife team living in Austin, Texas. The authors of numerous travel guides and pet books, Paris and John publish, one of the most visited dog sites on the web. The award-winning site is also a leader in the social media world, reaching over 100,000 devoted dog lovers per day. Paris, a certified dog trainer, is also the co-host of the Internet radio show “Dog Travel Experts,” covering all types of dog travel, from around the block to around the globe. Paris and John are the authors of the ‘Bowser on a Budget’ column for FIDO Friendly magazine, the country’s only magazine dedicated solely to dog travel, and are also weekly columnists for pet360, the sister site of petMD.

Order here at a great discount from amazon!

Germany, UK issue travel advisory for US

Due to the partial shutdown of the US government, both the German and UK governments have issued travel advisories for US travel, warning that there will be longer lines at US passport control when entering or leaving the country. But so far, that has not been the case. If the shutdown continues for a few more weeks, perhaps then things will change — although I really doubt it.

Most TSA employees are considered essential, including those working passport control at airports and other border crossings, and so far all are still on the job — as, by the way, are roughly 80% of all US government employees! Visas are also still being processed abroad, so I’m wondering what really is behind these governments issuing a fairly dire warning when after four days we’ve had no problems?  Perhaps they want to keep their citizen’s tourist dollars at home?  Just a question …..


Can I eat ‘Krapfen’ – and Do I Want To?

The answer to the question posed in the title of this post, in short, is absolutely yes.  For krapfen is an Austrian jelly donut or fritter. And this is just one of an amazing world of Teutonic culinary delights with which many Americans remain at best only slightly familiar.

If you are considering a trip to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, where English is not spoken as much as in, say, the Low Countries or Northern Europe, consider our e-book only Eating & Drinking in Germany, Austria & Switzerland.  The book features thousands of German dining phrases and food terms translated into English, plus a guide to wurst, regional dining specialties, beer halls in Germany, the best Austrian coffeehouses, and much more.

Links to each of the three main e-book stores are provided below the cover image, below.

Click here to order from Kindle.

Click here to order from Nook.

Click here to order from Apple’s iBookstore.

Here’s author Andy Herbach’s introduction to this unique book:

“We know the panic of opening a menu without recognizing one
word on it and the disappointment of being served something other
than what you thought you’d ordered. On our first trip to Europe,
we were served a plate of cold brains; we thought we had ordered

Can you imagine a foreign traveler who speaks basic English
understanding what prime rib is? Or a porterhouse? Veggie platter
anyone? Buffalo wings? Sloppy joes?
Even people who speak passable German can have trouble reading a
menu. You might be surprised to see Himmel und Erde on a menu.
Although it means “heaven and earth,” it’s a dish of blood sausage
with mashed potatoes & apple sauce.
Experienced travelers know the importance of a good guide to get
the most out of vacationing in Europe. It’s the easiest way to maximize
their time abroad, while minimizing unwanted “surprises.”
The same is true for eating in a foreign country. This little dining
and food guide will acquaint you with the wonderful local and
regional specialties that Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have to
offer, while the menu-translator section will help you make sense
out of German menus.
All in all, it’s a handy reference tool that’s specifically designed to
help you avoid culinary catastrophes during your travels, and dine
deliciously in German.”

Fido-friendly Travel

Many of you have dogs and enjoy traveling with them.  This isn’t really an option for us, because our pooch, Lucy (see photo below), gets car-sick traveling to the vet a mile away!  Hanging out on the back deck on a sunny day is all the excitement she can take.So we decided to do something for those of you who have been asking about doggie travel options.  Authors of some of our ‘traveling with kids’ series of books, Paris Permenter and John Bigley, own and run one of the most popular dog sites on the web,  And now they also have their own Dog Travel Experts radio show on the web.  They proposed that Open Road do a series of ‘traveling with dogs’ books, and we decided to do them on a state-by-state basis.  The first one is due out in the Fall, and we’re calling it Dogtipper’s Texas with Dogs. Click on the title and you can pre-order if from amazon.

More books are planned for the series covering other states — stay tuned for more details.  For now, we wanted to let you know that this book will soon be available for all you dog-lovers out there!

Staying at the Trémoille

So, to wrap up my series on the three wonderful hotels we stayed at in Paris and Amsterdam, here is my post-trip report on the five-star Hotel de la Trémoille. I knew it would be terrific, but it exceeded my expectations in every respect. The hotel is an elegant bastion of refined service, classic French decor, with lovely rooms and appointments.

In our forthcoming revised fourth edition of Open Road’s Best of Paris, which is due out in print next month and which you can pre-order now at amazon by clicking here, we selected the Trémoille as one of our favorite hotels in Paris. Here is the full review from our guidebook:

“La Trémoille is located not far from the Arc de Triomphe, a few blocks from the Champs-Elysées in what is known as the “Golden Triangle.” Originally built in 1883, La Trémoille is now a modern hotel that underwent extensive renovations ten years ago. There are 93 elegant rooms, including 13 suites, decorated in more than 30 color schemes.

“And here’s something you don’t see everyday: they have installed a private compartment (a “Hatch,” they call it) in each room opening up to the hallway, so that room service can be brought to and from your room without their staff entering your room. Now that’s privacy! The rooms are refined, comfortable, spacious and sound-proofed. You will find plush fabrics, Molton Brown bath products, a small terrace or, if you book a suite, you’ll be treated to panoramic city views from a private balcony.

“There is a fitness center (really a workout room), spa, and sauna. The bar and sitting area just off the lobby (see photo above) is a welcome amenity after a long day of tramping around the city. And the hotel’s restaurant, Louis 2, is a good alternative if you wish to stay in for the night, although there are plenty of other good restaurants within a five-minute walk.

And that’s our write-up for this wonderful hotel. We had such a great time here we’re sure you will too. Consider the luxurious Trémoille next time you’re in Paris.

My Favorite Amsterdam Hotel – the Andaz

A few weeks ago we stayed in what has become my favorite hotel in Amsterdam – the Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht.  This modern edifice sits on the Prinsengracht canal, less than a 10-minute walk from the Anne Frank House.  I cannot say enough good things about this hotel!  The extremely helpful staff is a big plus, and for those of you who don’t know, English in Holland is spoken fluently or near-fluently by virtually everyone.  That is certainly the case at the Andaz.

The photo above is of the magnificent contemporary lobby.  One wall of the elevator is glass, and as you rise up towards your floor you see a variety of mostly classic Dutch images signifying an ascent from the lower depths of Hades to Heaven.  It’s really quite impressive, but I would not describe the lobby as hellish — quite the contrary!  Check-in is done at a table with a laptop or iPad, and you sit down in the bar area with a complimentary coffee or soft drink while the process is completed.

Rooms are very comfortable, pretty, and modern featuring cool motifs — ours was fish as you can see from the photo below:

With all due respect to some of the amazing breakfasts we’ve had at other hotels around the world, this gets my vote for the numero uno (or as they say in Dutch, nummer een) hotel breakfast.  Their spread is not to be believed, with tasty fresh breads, croissants, rolls, muffins, delicious cheese and fruit — and the cooked foods — from eggs any style to bacon, sausage, and the like — prepared delicately and bursting with flavor.  Coffee and hot chocolate are of the highest quality.  Below are some pics from the dining area:

The hotel’s location on this glorious canal is hard to beat as well.  As I mentioned earlier, you are not only very close to the Anne Frank House, but also the West Church, Leiden square, and quite a few museums, such as the Hermitage Amsterdam and the Rembrandt House.  The hotel is adjacent to the “Nine Streets” shopping area, filled with great boutiques, and there are many restaurants within a very short walk as well.

What more can I say?  I will leave you with a picture of Amsterdam taken not far from our hotel (all photos in this post were taken by my wife Betty).  We loved the Andaz, we loved Amsterdam, and we are already making plans for a return trip!  If your travels take you to this vibrant and beautiful city, strongly consider staying at the Andaz.