...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of my family, friends, and readers a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Final work day

Today is my final work day for a while over the Christmas and New Years break, and I'm ready for vacation to start!  I will be traveling home to WI for my brother's wedding, so I'll get to experience all of the joy that is winter Wisconsin and the recent snow.  It's too bad I won't get any snowmobiling in while home, but it will be nice to see friends and family. 

It won't completely be a full vacation though, as I'll be bringing along dissertation data and other work that must continue.  

Safe travels to everyone over this Christmastime, and be safe!  I've already been upgraded on my flights home, so an early Christmas present for me.  :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hyatt Gold Passport Award Chart Adjustments

Hyatt released an update today on changes to some of their property designations for the upcoming year.  This will only apply to you if you're planning to redeem points for stays:

Current Category
New Category
Hyatt Place Chantilly/Dulles Airport-South
Hyatt Place Tulsa/Southern Hills
Hyatt Place Sterling/Dulles Airport-North
Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
Hyatt Regency Greenville
HYATT house Chicago/Naperville/Warrenville
HYATT house San Ramon
Hyatt Place Las Vegas
Hyatt Place Louisville-East
Hyatt Place Pittsburgh-North Shore
Hyatt Regency Incheon
Hyatt Regency Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa
Hyatt Santa Barbara
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort
Park Hyatt Toronto
Hyatt 48 Lex
Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Thankfully no major changes in the locations I usually stay, but it's important to note the shifting at levels 4 and 5.  If you make use of the Hyatt credit card that gives you a free stay each year at a Level 4 property or lower, this could affect your choices. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An evening of food, fun, and friends...

...at Phil's.  :)  Couldn't help myself.

One of the many things I think about and am I'm grateful for during this holiday season are the close friendships that I've been able to make over the years.  Of special note is my "Qatar" group that routinely is able to get together, typically over dinner.  Our group started at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar as we were exploring the many fine culinary options available to us, continued as we explored Dubai, and has kept up over the last few years (even though the distance between us has increased). 

We typically try to find a new place every time we go (and at first were quite specific on visiting restaurants of Middle Eastern fare), and tonight's place of choice was Phill's BBQ.  It's one of those San Diego "institutions" that you really should visit when you're in town, and we were very happy to stop in tonight and only had a 20 minute or so wait to order. 

I marvel at my group and how all of us continue to make time to gather.  We catch up on our lives and how our families are doing, and in a true spirit of reflection that would make Cheryl smile, we inevitably reminisce about our time in Qatar and how the things we learned on our first trip to the Middle East stay with us every day.  Freezing in the desert, dune bashing backwards, small group work with our friends from Maryland and EC, visiting Al Jazeera, all of it - lessons we learned in how to interact with others, focus on student affairs and higher education development, and work to understand principles of leadership.  We carry these things with us every day in our homes, at work, and in social settings.  It's amazing to me to think that a relatively short two week trip would have this much of an impact, but it has (at least for us).  I hope that I'm able to share that type of experience with other students or professionals in the future - every subsequent trip I've taken to Doha has built on this understanding. 

For now though, I'm grateful for my Qatar group and the times that we can share together.  And our fun BBQ from tonight.

Friday, December 14, 2012

if you're looking for the Packers this weekend

For those of you on the road and looking for the Packer game, please see the map below:


Thursday, December 13, 2012

A hike I probably won't do

China's Mount Hua pilgrimage is one of the most interesting hikes in the world.  

Yeah...not sure I'm going to be too much up for this trail:

See more here:


Mmm, no thank you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New "tiered" ticketing options on American

Per The Points Guy, American is now laying out new tiered ticketing options that include various perks depending on the type of ticket you decide to buy.  Details include:

1. Choice Fares: These are basically the discounted economy fares as they are today – the least expensive way to get from point A to point B with no extras added on. You pay fees to make changes and you accrue miles normally.
2. Choice Essential: For an additional fee of $68 roundtrip, these fares will include 1 checked bag, Group 1 priority boarding and no change fees.
3. Choice Plus: These fares cost $20 above Choice Essential (so $88 above Choice/Regular Fares) and have the same three perks as Choice Essential plus a 50% AAdvantage mileage bonus (not Elite Qualifying Miles), waived same-day confirmed flight changes, same day standby and a premium beverage (including alcohol).

At first glance, it doesn't look like it's going to change any boarding options (since the Group 1 boarding is after Priority Access boarding) but instead will welcome a new host of people to that level.  Since I have that Group with my AA credit cards, the gate lice I'm sure will out in force. 

It also highlights various perks that may make sense for some people to purchase (such as same day flight changes and standby).  If you're already paying for these, you'll get your perk plus additional miles - not bad.

American seems to be taking a proactive approach to new fare options, and it's the first airline to do so without going too crazy or make things too complicated.  While this isn't necessarily a game changer for me (since as a United 1K I'll still be doing the majority of my flying there), it does provide some interesting future options.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snow in the northwoods!

Been waiting to see when the first storm would come...here it is!

Phillips, WI

... Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 9 am CST Monday...

The National Weather Service in Duluth has issued a Winter Storm
Warning for heavy snow... ... which is in effect until 9 am CST

* Location... northern Wisconsin.

* Timing... steady snowfall will persist today and tonight... with
the main period of accumulating snow expected this afternoon
and evening.

* Snow accumulations... 6 to 8 inches.

* Winds and visibility... visibility will be reduced at times in
the heavier snow.

* Impacts... travel conditions will rapidly deteriorate through the
day. Expect snow covered and slippery roads.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Star Wars in the dunes?

Earlier this week I was fortunate to support an event on campus for the Provost, and little did I know how much I'd learn as a result of having to be there.  The featured speaker was Seth Mallios, one of our department chairs who also happens to be conducting a lot of anthropological research on SDSU.  His brief presentation covered a variety of topics on the university (history, mascots, what happened to the Normal school, etc) and one particular thing I found interesting and didn't know was that San Diego county was host to one of the film locations for Star Wars.

Where, might you ask?

Probably one of the only places in the county that isn't very nice during the summer, actually.

On the way out to Imperial Valley we always go through a desert area - out there in the great sand pits just happens to be one location.

Not sure if I'm going to visit anytime soon, though.


In case you were wondering, I also found out that one of SDSU's mascots was the "wampus cat"...

If you're interested in the book Seth wrote, you can find more info here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fare alert: Cheap flights to Russia!

Sharing this from TPG:

Delta and their SkyTeam partners are running some incredible fares to Russia - there are plenty of dates Baltimore to Moscow (via JFK) on Delta for $357.84 total roundtrip, including all taxes and fees! The trip nets 10,322 Medallion Qualifying Miles, or just about 3.5 cents a piece, which is definitely mileage run worthy. However, Russia does charge $170 in visa fees (you can pay companies like Allied Passport, who I’ve used in the past to save me time and frustration) around $45 to do the dirty work for you. Russia is also pretty expensive, but it could be a great way to burn some hotel points. 

Don't forget that Delta lets you cancel free of charge up to midnight the day after you purchase the ticket, so you can book this and then firm up your plans later.  If you're looking for some cheap travel during Easter break, this may be your chance.  I just did a test search in March, and was able to find a weekend fare 3/1-3/3 for $357.84.  Adding another night or two will bring up more options.

Happy Hunting!

To renew, or not to renew

It's been almost a full year, and I'm sad to say that my access to all of the United Club's as I fly is coming to an end.  I originally got in on the deal by spending miles (which may not have been the smartest decision at the time, but saved me spending $500 in cash).  Now that I'm a 1K, the price to renew the membership has gone down slightly but up $25 from where it was before (so for me, $400):

Effective January 1, 2013, United Club annual membership rates will increase by $25 and membership-with-spouse rates will increase by up to $100 (thanks TPG). 

While I've enjoyed the ability to access the clubs during longer wait times, I'm having a hard time justifying spending the $ to renew again.  Word also has it that the miles option is still available but by phone only, so I could go that route again.  But I'd be giving up a 50,000 mile redemption option for a future overseas flight. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Qual levels for Hilton in 2013

I've always enjoyed staying at Hilton properties, and even though I've stayed at Hyatt much more in the last few years, I still check what deals Hilton is offering wherever my travels take me. 

But the news that Hilton is upping its qualification requirements for stays starting next year is a bit baffling.  They already have so many ways to earn points (between stays and credit cards) and the only thing I can figure is that the addition of more credit card options means they're trying to get some space between their earners. 

You can read more about it here (thanks to VFTW).

I'll probably continue to stick with Hyatt...and hope that their requirements don't also change.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

lima recovery

Been a long week so far after getting back from Lima.  Was a fast trip and everything went well, but transitioning back into work-mode and dissertation mode is not easy.  But it must be done - need to get this degree finished. 

For those of you who have visited the Colosseum in Rome, it seems as though some changes may be happening due to adjustments in the structure of the building. 

You can read more about it here:  http://usat.ly/U4mGZf

I still need to get there to see the catacombs - during my last trip it was flooded and noone was allowed in.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lima Trip - Notables

Thought it might be fun to share a few lessons learned:

1. Don't ever lose the immigration card you get when you check in - it is checked all the time
2. Advil and tea work great to prep for altitude - no problems to speak of with that combo
3. Along those lines, avoiding caffeine and alcohol were also smart
4. Being Star Alliance Gold for flying Taca was a great assist for boarding and getting luggage on - might have had an issue without
5. Bottled water is great for everything - including drinking, brushing teeth, and washing hands
6. Bring along toilet paper - just when you think it's dumb to have, you need it
7. Arrange and confirm taxis ahead of time to avoid schedule problems.
8. If a gate isn't listed on your boarding pass, do what you have to and confirm. It's better than running to a gate and almost missing boarding. Signage at LIM is not the best.
9. You definitely need more than 2 hours to transfer terminals at LAX to go international - esp between terminal 7 and 2. Avoiding running like a madman to get to your gate and breaking your luggage handle.
10. Arranging the trip details for Machu Picchu before you depart will save a ton of hassle...and make the entire trip more enjoyable.
11. Patience is a virtue...especially when standing in a six row deep winding domestic Peru security line and everyone is shoving to get ahead
12. Global Entry will let you make a 1.5 connection time on the return easily. Well worth the $!

If I think of any more, I'll add them!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lima Trip - Weekend

After a very long train ride back to Cusco, my evening ended without too much fanfare. I did run and get some food (was starving) before walking back to the hotel and crashing...sleep was not easy though after what I had seen at the ruins.

The next morning my flight was due to depart around 1pm, so I arranged for a ride at 10 so I could grab a bite of breakfast first. This time my ride was not late, and off we zipped. The was a big todo happening in the main square - bands playing, lots of people - so we had to detour all around it.

I was pleasantly surprised when checking in that I could catch an earlier flight if I wanted, and so I took the chance to leave sooner. No checked luggage meant an easy choice for me. Taca has been very good this trip, and I will recommend them in the future (although they are merging names and becoming only "Avianca" in 2013).

It became very obviously upon landing back in Lima that I was sore and worn out. The ruins are quite a trek, and so rather than pushing I erred on the side of taking it easy and relaxed for the evening - I did take a walk and enjoyed the nice weather though. Can't wait to come back when I have more time and see more of the area.

Overall it's been a great trip - long day of flying to get back home. ¡hasta luego Lima!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lima Trip - Day 4 (Machu Picchu)

Was an early morning alarm...5:30a...oof. Was necessary so that I could grab a bite of breakfast before starting my day-long trek to the ruins. After a quick shower and a small sandwich, I was ready to go - my hopeful driver had my tickets and all was in order. Only problem...the car was late. After 10 minutes, the driver who was supposed to take me found me another ride via a separate shuttle to get me to the Poroy train station. I was a little concerned...it was to be a 30 minute ride and the train doesn't usually wait. And of course we had to make five other pickups along the way. After all the stops and several slow vehicles, we made it to the station with about 10 minutes to spare. I ran to my car and seat, and soon we were off. I was surprised to see that half of our train car was empty, so after about 10 minutes everyone shifted around and I got my own seat for the four hour ride.

At this point I will quickly comment about Peruvian driving. I thought there were worse drivers, but none compare to those here. Weaving, jerking, all over the road...add that to very uneven roads that aren't paved, and if you have any type of motion sickness you'd be in trouble.

The next several hours were amazing. The countryside seemed to change every 10 minutes or so and with large windows on every side, picture taking was very easy. We transitioned from relatively barren terrain to much more tropical as we moved. My only complaint would be how much rocking took place on these train cars - not at all like the Swiss ones I'm used to. It was pretty neat though to be whisked along right on the side of the mountain...the route takes you along the river and at some points crosses the actual Inca Trail (next trip).

I wondered how my transition would take place in Aguas Calientes, and as I suspected it was people chaos. Thankfully a nice man was yelling out my name and after all of our group members were found, we walked down into town as a light rain started to fall and to the busses where we loaded and then were off for our 30 minute ride up the mountain.

And we were literally on a one lane dirt road that weaved up the mountain (reminded me of Spring Coulee Road). One wrong move...but our driver got us up there safely and to the entrance!

The ruins...are special. It was a workout to get around (which reminded me of the trek from Gimmelwald to Murren the first time), but at the top the views were unparalleled. Our tour guide was very good and we were constantly on the move for the next few hours. Although it started out cool and with low clouds, the sun eventually came out and things warmed up. Soon after it was back down the mountain to my pre-arranged train trip, and back to Cusco.

A long day, but I'm so happy how everything turned out. Can't wait to come back and spend the necessary time to really explore Cusco and the other ruins around Machu Picchu.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lima Trip - Day 3 (Cusco)

Another Taca flight and I have successfully made it to Cusco. It took a while to take off since the flight was oversold and they were offering vouchers. I seriously considered it, but it would have screwed up my airport pickup. Oh well...next time.

The flight was quick - 50 minutes. They served a small snack that should tide me over until dinner tonight, so I'm happy about that. When I got to my hotel, I was greeted with tea and a very nice room. For the short time I'm here, it will be perfect. Internet is only in the lobby but that is workable.  The boutique style of the Marqueses is very intriguing and I love the seclusion. 

My trip to Machu Picchu departs tomorrow morning at 6:45a...will not be a late night tonight. I'm hope to sample some cuisine later...and maybe find my colleague from work who is also here in town somewhere.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Lima Trip - Day 2

A gray, overcast day here today, but warm - I took advantage and got outside for a bit of a walk around the area. Lima (and the part where I am, Miraflores) would remind you of a metropolitan city like Chicago. It's big (10m people) and very western...you can find lots of comfort food if you're worried about any of the local cuisine. With departing tomorrow for Cusco, I'm not going to go too overboard today but will be back on Sunday to try more options.

Learned another tidbit about the microclimates in Peru last night. Lima is in spring/summer right now, while Cusco will be in fall when I get there. And Lima hardly ever gets rain...they don't even have street drains.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lima trip - Day 1

Travel. That has pretty much summed up my day so far. I'm writing this from high above El Salvador on my last segment into Lima. I must say that the trip so far has been pretty smooth with no real hiccups. This is my first time flying Taca (new Star Alliance member) and I'm pretty impressed. The staff has been professional, and despite my lack of Spanish I'm finding it not too difficult to manage my surroundings.

A couple items of note:
1. Taca has very early boarding times - ala one hour prior. Early checkin will save a scramble to get through security
2. One item I forgot - contact case. Never assume you can find one easily.
3. The handle from my newer suitcase bit the dust. Good thing it happened just as I was getting to the gate (note sarcasm)
4. Taca has all new planes, including the E190 I'm on with USB power at my seat!

My next post will come after I've settled in at my hotel in Lima. I wonder what the dinner service will be on this leg - last one was a penne pasta dish. Yum.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 19, 2012

T-minus 2 days

The packing has already begun, but I'm only a short two days away from my short Incan adventure.  I heard back this morning from my staff colleague who made it down to Lima safely and is already on to
Ollantaytambo.  He's reporting a very asymptomatic experience so far with the altitude, so I'm thinking that will bode well for me too (although I've already convinced myself of starting up some ibuprofen on Wednesday before Friday afternoon hits).  Better to be safe than sorry - in all of the times I've been in the mountains and high up in Colorado, I can't recall ever having any altitude sickness issues.  And Machu Picchu is at the same height relative to a place like Aspen.  But the trick is Cusco - that is around a height of 10,200 feet, so chances of feeling something are greatly increased.  And, since there really isn't any other way of getting to the ruins without going through Cusco, I will need to need to brave the city for about 14 hours on each end (Friday eve and Saturday eve) before flying out Sunday morning.  I think I can handle it.

Any suggestions on things to pack?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

tica taca...a new experience

I will be taking the opportunity on my upcoming trip to try out a brand new airline that I've never flown before: Taca.  It is a relatively new member of the Star Alliance, and I'm excited about seeing how far my new United 1K status gets me while I'm on my way down yonder.  I should at least get lounge access while I'm traversing through El Salvador and into Lima - and it can't possibly be any worse than what the United lounges are offering right now (who serves donuts in a lounge??). I'm a smidge bummed that my fare class will only allow me to earn 50% mileage while I go, but I was more than happy to take that in stride since my fare was so low...will be hard to top the price of this ticket in the future considering how far I'm going!

One thing I truly enjoy about flying United as much as I do is how well I'm taken care of, in respect to service, luggage, and upgrades.  And this sentiment pretty much also applies to the whole of the Star Alliance that I've been able to fly (US Airways, Lufthansa, Cityline, Swiss, Brussels, Qatar when they were a United partner).  My favorite so far out of all of these is Swiss, although Qatar is a close second.  Since I will have a considerable amount of time getting down to Lima, I'll be able to get a pretty good sense of how Taca operates and where on my favorites list it will rank.  I'm wondering what kind of food will be served...

Thankfully, it looks as though I'll be flying on A320's on the way down and back, so it should be fairly pleasant.  I'll also be bringing some work along to keep me going on my dissertation...must keep going!

If anyone has been to Lima before, any recommendations on fun things to make sure and see? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

countdown: one week

I looked at my calendar today, and realized that I should probably start an official one week countdown to next Wednesday.  Why, do you ask?  My next mini-adventure starts one week from today.  In fact, at this time next week I'll already be in the air and on my way.  I've got quite a bit to do before then, but I enjoy making a countdown.

Where is the airplane taking me this time? You may or may not recall back in the first part of June that Orbitz had an unbelievable one-day sale on airfare to South America.  Fortunately, one of my staff members saw this deal and alerted me to it, and after a quick check on vacation approval he and I both got approved to go, and tickets were bought!  The fare was amazing...only $250 roundtrip from LAX to Lima (cheaper than flying to Wisconsin).

So...in one week...Lima, Peru and Machu Picchu!

This post from TPG gives a great overview...can't wait to see it myself.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day salute

I certainly want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many men and women in uniform that have kept our country safe - we should all take time on this veteran's day weekend to be thankful for the many freedoms that we have and should never take for granted. 

As I have several family members in the service (and relatives in the past who have served), I am particularly proud of their service.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Place of the Day: Vienna

It's time for another "place of the day" to highlight on a Thursday, and so here we go...to Vienna!


Outside of Switzerland, Austria is one of the countries I truly enjoy returning to.  Not sure if its the gemutlichkeit or just the atmosphere of being so close to the alps.  You can find the legacies of Beethoven, Freud, Klimt, and Mahler in Vienna, and there is never a shortage of musical offerings to experience.  Some notable things that can be visited include:

The Imperial Apartments - Home to Franz-Josef I and full of 19th and 20th century artifacts

The Treasury - Collection includes the crowns of the Holy Roman and Austrian empires

Vienna Boys Choir - At the Hofburgkapelle and linked to Austria since 1498, try to get a listen if you're able!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


No, 1K is not a seat assignment.  And it's not a lottery ticket number.

It's the designation for United's 1K status - of which I have finally reached!  I wasn't quite sure if I was going to get this far ever in United's program, but with having to travel to Doha for dissertation research, I accumulated enough miles to put me over the top.

If you're curious about how the tiers work, you can find the grid here.

One of the best benefits is the higher priority for complimentary upgrades to first class, as well as Global Premier Upgrades (which can upgrade you to business class on international flights from purchased economy tickets).

Woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A check and a sky

I have two personal travel-related updates to share - they've been on my list from past trips, and want to make sure to highlight my experiences:

1. TSA Pre-check - if you haven't heard about this, it's a program intended to help travelers speed through security checkpoints.  Initial rollout occurred at select airports, but they are continuing to implement it at most of the major US airports.  I was able to qualify for it based on the fact that I am part of the Trusted Traveler program (through my Global Entry access), which has really been helpful when I've had to travel back through customs from overseas.

My experience with Pre-check was probably the easiest security experience I've ever had - there was a separate lane just for Pre-check, which came up when my boarding pass was scanned to tell the agent that I was allowed to use it.  Best part - didn't have have to take off my shoes, didn't have to take off a belt, just walked right through the metal detector and that was it!  If you have the ability through your airline or otherwise to sign up for it, I highly recommend doing so.  I completely skipped an otherwise long and winding security line!

2. Boeing Sky Interior - Most of the newer Boeing planes are coming equipped with the new Sky Interior, and I finally was able to see what the hype was all about on a recent flight.  New lighting, new air ducts, new overhead bins - I have to say that I was pretty impressed.  Gone were the terrible side lights on most 737 planes, and they were replaced with soft white light and translucent blue overhead lights.  I even had a power outlet from which to plug something in.  Chances are you will only find these on newer -800 and -900 model 737 planes, but I know that the new Dreamliner also has it. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

my only post re the election

I've tried very hard not to comment too much on the politics of the season - with election day tomorrow, though, I'm sure the airwaves will be full of last-minute spots about who to vote for.

This article was passed my way from the Washington Post, and I thought it might be a good one to share - feel free to read if you're curious, ignore if you've had enough with politics already this fall.  You won't hurt my feelings.  :)

Young Voters

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

A Team of Rivals movie!

One of the memorable things about my PhD program at USD will be having had the chance to read and present on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  It really opened my eyes to the leadership struggles and lessons that Lincoln had to balance between his cabinet, and it sucked me in completely.

Smithsonian is highlighting the new movie coming out that is based on the book - you can read more about it here:

Mr. Lincoln Goes to Hollywood

I highly recommend reading the book before seeing the movie, since I believe you will find an easier connection between content areas.  And, from early reviews, the movie is centrally based on the latter third of the book.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

a calmer Friday for flying

My post today is not necessarily specific to any particular region in the east, but rather a quick update on most of the east coast cities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully, most if not all airports in the NY area are back open and most are operating normally (with the exception of maybe La Guardia as it still works to get back online). 

Please note that if you're traveling through the NY region for the next few days, some airlines have still issued waivers.   United has a waiver out from 11/4-11/7.  You can see the update here.

Hopefully this weekend will be a bit calmer for everyone - I'm sensing storm fatigue in certain areas. 

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Travel to the east restricted

Thoughts are prayers are certainly with all of those displaced or being affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast.

If you're planning on traveling toward New England or other parts east, you may want to revise your travel plans (at least for now).  La Guardia, JFK, and Newark airports are still closed as of this morning per Flightview, and other airports such as Washington Dulles and Boston Logan are showing very few if any flights arriving.  Make sure to check ahead of time if you're on the docket to fly to any of these areas.

Flightaware.com has also been compiling information about airport status.  You can find the link here, but a summary of the info (as of right now):

6,047 flights cancelled so far today. Most affected is still Philadelphia with with 1,085 cancellations, NYC airports have nearly 1,000 each. We expect more cancellations to happen, especially in NYC, soon.

Only 635 cancellation so far tomorrow (Wednesday). We expect this number to rise once damage can be assessed and re-open times are communicated.Airport-specific updates:

BOS Open/operational, minimal post-hurricane disruption

PHL Open/operational, expecting flights from Delta and Lufthansa.

IAD Open/operational, expecting flights from Delta and foreign carriers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

succesful ILA conference

Back to work today, but I wanted to make sure to do a quick recap of the International Leadership Association conference that was held in Denver this past weekend.  This was my third trip to ILA, and second where I was presenting, and it once again was very informative and busy.  I only wish I could have been there longer!

My friend and colleague Jimmy and I presented our paper and research concerning Leadership, Adult Development, and Tension.  You can find the abstract and information below:


This was a topic that we worked on through our experience in an Adult Development class, and were very proud to have proposed an addition to Kegan's "I" stages

Looking forward to attending next year's conference in Montreal - my plan by then is to present my dissertation research!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Qatar Airways to expand in the US

Looks like something is going right - the CEO of Qatar Airways today announced an increased presence in the US.  From the USA Today, here is a snipit:

Qatar Airways' current U.S. destinations are New York JFK, Washington Dulles and Houston Bush Intercontinental. The carrier also announced it will begin flying to Chicago O'Hare this April.
"After Chicago, we are going to start operating three more destinations," Al Baker said. "This will be Atlanta, Detroit and Boston."

I'm interested in seeing how this affects American's bankruptcy proceedings, if at all.  From the outside, it seems as though more options to the Middle East will be opening up.  Yay!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

world's longest flight to change

Just crossing the wires this morning, it sounds like Singapore Airlines will be giving up the title of flying the longest commercial route non-stop (currently Singapore to New York).

Here's the story from USA Today: http://usat.ly/P22Jpd

This was one of those flights that a lot of flying and points enthusiasts talk about, simply because you can get there without stopping and having to connect in all sorts of other cities (Moscow, Seoul, etc).  And, if you have enough points (or $), Singapore's product in business and first class is top notch.  I don't think I'm going to have the chance to fly the route before it stops (saving for the Maldives), but I'm hopeful that SIA will bring it back with some other option.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012


I certainly enjoy visiting Zurich - typically I try to make a good effort to get there whenever my travels permit, and I'm never disappointed by the feeling I get walking down the Bahnhofstrasse near the Sea of being in a calm, yet energetic environment. The trains are efficient and always on time, and it's easy to walk to any location you need.

So, I thought it was ironic that Zurich was chosen place to highlight by the Points Guy today - you can read his review and update on places to stay here.

Definitely would recommend the Park Hyatt if you can swing it - points may be your best option!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

vest, weapons, and body bags??

This today from the AP and USA Today (and honestly, I couldn't believe it when I read it the first time - what would possess someone to do this?):

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Why would a man flying from Japan to Boston need to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a suitcase full of weapons, leg irons, a smoke grenade, a gas mask and a biohazard suit?

That's what federal investigators are trying to figure out despite a lack of cooperation from 28-year-old Yongda Huang Harris, who was arrested during a stopover at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Harris, who was taken into custody at the airport Friday wearing the vest and flame-resistant pants, was not cooperating with federal officials attempting to interview him, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Qatar Airways to join OneWorld

Yes - it seems as though it is now official:

Qatar Airways to join OneWorld Alliance

Much speculation has abounded about whether or not this would actually happen, given the denial of any such rumors by Qatar Airways' CEO in recent weeks.  But it seems as though it is official...and even though it will take 12-18 months to be finalized, this has great travel implications. 

If you've been saving up your British Airways or American Airlines miles, you will potentially be able to use them on some fantastic routing to the Middle East and Asia (including India, Qatar, and the Maldives!).  I'm interested in seeing how the mileage charts work out, since Qatar Airways' business class product is top-notch, and there are direct options to Doha from Houston, JFK, Dulles, and others. 

I also wonder what the other airlines in that area (Etihad and Emirates) will do...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Departing is such sweet sorrow

In a few hours I will hit the road for the States, my time here in Doha doing data collection for my dissertation complete.  I am so very thankful to Cyndy and her family for hosting me the entire time I was here, including our Canadian Thanksgiving we had last night.  Since this year I'll be out of the country for Thanksgiving, it meant a lot to be a part of the celebration here with the family.  I couldn't even begin to try and come up with something to repay the kindness and hospitality.

And yes, I will even miss Amy the cat once I'm out the door.  :)

This has certainly been a learning experience for me, and one that I will never forget.  I only hope that my analysis and writing will do justice to the amazing educational opportunities that are being experienced here in Doha and Education City, and to the students who are ultimately making it all happen.

Now the fun part begins.......

Friday, October 5, 2012

packing...not so fun

Not having much fun packing right now (bringing back more than I came with, and that's ok).

And it looks like someone doesn't want me to go...either that or its the warm sun.  Ha.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

grilled cheese....yes

I must admit that I do enjoy eating grilled cheese sandwiches.  And since it's a featured highlight from today's update from Food and Wine, I thought I'd just have to share some of their more interesting takes on this classic:

Food and Wine Grilled Cheese

My first of the list to try (hard to choose only one, honestly): Tomato, Prosciutto, and Gruyere

I bet it would go nicely with my famous eggs...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

last day

This is it.

My last day of data collection.

second to last

I had to sit here a minute in a bit of shock as I contemplated that this is my second to last day of official research for this trip to Education City.  The time has flown by (as I was told it would) and has been overall very positive.  I'm working to finalize my last interviews and access to students, and complete the logging that I've been doing as part of this experience. 

Soon this part will be all wrapped up, and I will be on my way back.  I'm mixed though - a little sad to be done with this part, but also happy to be coming back. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

reading reflection...

In my process of reviewing literature, came across the following today:

Many faculty members do not receive sufficient preparation to teach students from diverse populations in international branch campuses, let alone formal intercultural competency training (Smith, 2010; Wang, 2008).

The idea of transnational competence for faculty members is intriguing, and I'm not sure is discussed enough.  Are faculty receiving the preparation they need in order to be successful both academically and culturally in the setting they are in?  I'm curious what specific activities could be constructed to meet this gap - is it possible to do without actually being in the culture?

Monday, October 1, 2012

not a bad average

My results today were 2 out of 3 - I had three students on the docket, and the first two showed up on time and were ready to go (early in fact).  The third...no show...no email.  So I attempt to reschedule.  This is pretty much a common theme with how this has gone for me, but I continue on with only a few days remaining to get as many as I can.  I have several interviews planned for tomorrow, including another over in QF. 

And other than the occasional issue remembering how to correctly calculate the time difference between here and the states, things go fairly well.  (chuckle) You'd think I'd have it down by now, but I still have to look at the clock and count just to double-check myself.  I'm sure those who have lived here a long time have this down pat.  Why does this matter, you ask?  Well, one of the many things that make me count the hours is double-checking my bank stuff just to make sure none of my purchases get stopped - and inevitably the banks do online maintenance at weird hours. 

Congrats to the Packers on the win...the season may yet be salvageable.  Ha.  They play the Colts next week, so maybe they will win again.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

already Monday...

...sheesh.  The start of my last week here.  Time has flown by.  Yet here I am.

I had a great (but long) day of interviews, along with a focus group that made the day go quickly.  The students have been very willing to share their experiences, and my second school has come through as well for access which has made things much easier.  I'm hopeful that I can still get a few students from the second school yet, and have another bunch ready to go for tomorrow.

In a bit I'm going to head out to Souq Waqif to do some bargaining on gifts, and then will wind down for the evening.  Maybe I'll stop by the Italian restaurant my USD group liked so much the first time we were here...the food is excellent.  Care to join me?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

time for a travel post

I'm way overdue for a travel-related post - hope you can forgive me while I've been conducting dissertation research in Qatar!

Thought this might be a fun time to do a quick update on my success so far in the last month - overall I've been pretty happy:

- Both of my CC bonuses from AA were posted exactly as they should have, and so I am now 100k miles bigger in my AA account for future travel (although in the last week their on-time average has been only 47% because of their pilots...hope that gets straightened out quickly or they might be more in trouble)
- Bonuses correctly posted for my BA account, and so my flexibility has also increased with an additional 50k miles
- I successfully used Hyatt award nights for my brother, and in so doing also managed to get some points re-credited as I save up for Maldives (and also happened to discover how to properly say it: mall`-deevs).  If you're wondering why the Maldives, these pictures should tell you:

- Helped out another friend with sign-up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card - the points are great and flexible for use across BA, Hyatt, United, and others
- My research trip this far tipped me into United Platinum status - happy for no fees to book award travel, no cancel fees, and more mileage accrual for every flight.
- There are fantastic cross-country fares right now on United and American (found as I was kayaking the river of fares) for the first two weekends in November - jump on these while they're hot!

Not sure when my next churn will be, but I'm feeling pretty good about where I'm at, even for domestic travel in the next three months.  Right now its looking like I will be on the move...

the last push

Tomorrow begins my last push for final data collection - its a bit surreal that the time has gone by as quickly as it has, but I've been so very grateful and thankful to be here and for Cyndy to host me.  I've got more interviews lined up along with class and a focus group - tomorrow will be a busy day. 

I've certainly spent more time than I realized on logistics related to setting things up, but that comes as part of the deal for being here and working within the culture.  Another way to look at it is that the connections I'm making will be helpful later on down the road when I'm writing and analyzing all of this data from what the students are saying.  So a silver lining.

My weekend so far has been good as well - was definitely lifted yesterday and was happy to have the time.  I also got to Landmark and did some walking and shopping...although I don't like to shop all the time, I was pretty successful in bargaining.  Seemed as though everyone wanted to make a deal.  :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

better day

My Thursday (re Friday) was so far the best day of the week I've had - I conducted several interviews, and all of my students showed up like they were supposed to.  It always helps when that happens.  :)

I have more scheduled for Sunday, and then the push will be on to make sure I've got enough by next Thursday - technically my last day.  Cyndy's class is on Sunday morning, so I will be able to get one of my focus groups done during that time as well. 

Now the weekend is here...time to relax a little - or at least try to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Would Bach roll over?

This has been the trending talk of EC so far in the last 24-48 hours - I've heard (or overheard) the fact that there's a huge group of people going to go see this thing called "Red Bull Flying Bach" tonight down at Katara Village.

Now, I feel as though I keep pretty up to speed on things, but I have to admit that I wasn't really sure what the heck Red Bull and Bach had in common.

Apparently...its break-dancing.  Yeah.

I'll include a link below so you can see for yourself, but apparently this group (named Flying Steps, based out of Germany) breakdances to the Well-Tempered Clavier and/or variations on it, and everyone thinks its awesome.

(If I was to do a mini-rant, I might vent a little about how people tend to disregard the arts in general and don't want to fund things like orchestras and other fine arts activities, but then turn around and mix breakdancing with Bach and call it a mixture of 'high culture' and 'urban art'??? Maybe they're trying to bring more attention to Bach, but I doubt it...)

keeping perspective

Yesterday I wrote about the river...my hope and plan for today was that the river would drop me off at my first student interview and I would be off with all of them that I have scheduled.

Only problem...it helps when the student actually shows up.  (sigh)

Yeah.  And so I roll forward.  I'm trying to get in touch with him to reschedule, and have more scheduled for tomorrow. 

Just a little bummed...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ebb or flow?

I'm working to stay positive today, as I navigate the rivers that contain life and dissertation research.  Sometimes they flow smoothly; other times there's a big ol' tree branch that falls down into your boat and pokes a hole. 

And sometimes, on very rare occasions, there is a sea turtle present to pull you out.

I've got an interview coming up this afternoon, so I'm in preparation for that - very happy.  I've also been in meetings and correspondence today about student access at other schools, and those experiences have contributed to my river analogy. I'm thankful for the results I've been able to get so far, but I know I have a lot more scheduling to do in the next bunch of days. 

Anyone want to join me in the boat?

Monday, September 24, 2012

hot and cold

I've discovered now in my short time here in my new office that they really like to keep the AC on full blast most of the day.  I'm not someone who usually gets cold, but I heard even one of the other staff members complaining late last week about it (apparently there is a problem with some of the 'shut off' valves controlling the amount of AC?).  They thought it was fixed, but something must have happened again because I was just about completely chilled out this morning.  The director across the way from me even has a 'heating' fan on his desk...something doesn't seem right about that...ha.  I took a walk over to ABP for lunch which warmed me up, but still...not good to always go in and out of extreme hot and cold.  Anyway.  It's only 100 out today...not awful.  :)

I've got a meeting coming up over in the neighbor building at 3, and then will call a driver to get me home.  Maybe the Packers will win tonight.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First day of the new week

I'm very happy to report that I was able to get my first interviews scheduled today - they will happen later in the week.  I also was able to hear from several QF administrators about possible interview times, and got those scheduled as well.  Overall it was a very promising day, and tomorrow I will have a meeting with one of the schools about student access, with a second later on. 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Zurich

I don't give out many five star ratings, but in the case of the Park Hyatt Zurich I am happy to do so. My brother and I stayed here for three days on a recent trip, and it was one of the finest hotel stays I've had so far. The room was immaculate - very clean, and we found out on check in that the TV had just been replaced for us. Our bags met us in the room while it was being serviced, along with complimentary refreshments. Housekeeping visited twice a day, and we were never lacking with service. The beds were soft and very comfortable and the bathroom clean and sported a tub along with two showers. Complimentary Internet was much appreciated, thanks to Platinum status.

While the location is a bit away from Zurich Hbf and other busier sections of town, the walk down the Bahnhofstrasse did not take long - the tram is available should you need.

Would be pleased to stay here again the future and look forward to another enjoyable experience.

Recommendations: Breakfast is pricey - eat out for best variety!

You can also find this review on Tripadvisor at the following link.


So far today:

More Reading

Will probably be repeating the 'reading' part often for the rest of the day...

Friday, September 21, 2012

first weekend day

Fridays are Saturdays in Doha - the weekend is here!

Here's a quick roundup of my day so far:

- Helped my host family purchase a new computer - a very nice HP system
- Ate lunch at one of the "fun" places to eat in Doha, Rik's
- Did some flight shopping for December/January - I always love flight shopping
- Confirmed that I am now a United Platinum member - no fees for flight changes or refunding award tickets/bonus mile increase/regional premier upgrades for myself and a companion
- Looked at Hyatt's new promotion for stays and reviewed my upcoming bookings

Overall, not bad...oh, and I got to sleep in too.  That was really nice. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 3 - a slight 'bump'


Day three is winding down, and while I've definitely made progress on the research front, I ran into a little bit of a 'bump' in the road today when I was finally able to meet with my contact at the second site...who promptly conveyed to me that she didn't have much confidence in me being able to access any of her students.  I accepted her reasoning (which I won't get into for the sake of things here), and we left it at her contacting the Assoc Dean to see if there was any possibility of me getting access.  But she wasn't at all optimistic, which was a bit of a frustration since I had made in the initial contact weeks ago and hadn't heard anything back.

As I've come to find out from previous research done here, one has to take these things and roll with them.  I was able to get in contact with students from my first site this afternoon, so I was pretty happy about that.

This is all a process - and life throws you challenges sometimes.

Thank goodness its "friday".

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Qatar Airways and BA to join?

Wanted to pass along some news (since I'm over here in Doha) about Qatar Airways - looks as though there is a rumor going around about QA joining up with British Airways.

You can read the article here.  From Doha News here.

I tend to be skeptical about these things, but always wonder when it hits the airwaves about where the actual "rumor" came from.  I have to believe that there was some discussion at some point between the two parties about a potential joint venture.  Ever since Qatar and United ended their agreement, I've hoped that Qatar would find a new home alliance - I never liked the fact I couldn't get PQM's when I flew them, but their product is vastly superior to United's. 

Time will tell.  Stay tuned...

Day 1 underway

My first day on campus in Education City is underway - happy to report that I'm back again in the office I used during my last research trip.  It's a bit surreal to be back here in the same building I was before, but I'm sure I'll get over that quickly.  My day so far has been working on research articles and journals to finalize my literature review, and I'll also be starting to get students scheduled.  I still need to take a trip over to the other site building, probably with Cyndy.  I'd like to get my contact there on board so that I'm set with both locations. 

I'm heading over shortly to CM to watch a special presentation on the state of education in Qatar (and future trends, I believe).  I'll be curious to see if the new EC university model is discussed and what reactions are.  Still forming an opinion on that...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Made it to Doha

Good morning, everyone -

I'm happy to report I've successfully made it to Doha!  I'm getting things a bit organized today, and will start in tomorrow in earnest on arranging my interviews and meetings.  All flights went very well to get me here, and I'm excited about what is to come.

It's still a little hard for me to grasp that this is it - dissertation research (followed by just a bit of writing).  But I'm hopeful and (as I said above) excited to be here and work with the students and staff.  I'm also very grateful to be able to stay with Cyndy and her family for the next number of days.  My best friend told me that this all will probably go fast...but I will do my best to get as much out of it as I can.

Email is probably the best way to get a hold of me if needed - or feel free to post a comment below.

More updates to come!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jetblue GoPack instead of BluePass

Some time ago I posted about the fact that we hadn't heard any information concerning this year's big Jetblue promotion (which in past years has been the unlimited BluePass options).  The main thing that made this promotion worthwhile was the one cost, unlimited travel option round trip or one-way between certain dates on 90 minutes notice.  I even blogged about getting to Bermuda on the pass from last year!

Well, I just received an email outlining the new Jetblue promotion that unfortunately falls short of the BluePass.  Here are the specifics (more info at this link):

Grab a Go Pack and take 10 nonstop, one-way flights to select destinations starting September 13 through December 19, 2012 (blackout dates: 11/20 – 11/26). Choose from seven different Go Packs that’ll offer you convenience, flexibility and great value guaranteed for fast travel between your most frequent destinations—for work or leisure.

On sale 8/28/12 through 9/6/12, or while supplies last. Book travel online starting 9/12/12 through 12/19/12 up to 90 minutes prior to scheduled departure.
  • Choose from seven different Go Pack destination options, purchased online only at shop.jetblue.com.
  • Go Pack may be purchased between 8/28/12 and 9/6/12, or while supplies last. Must be over 18.
  • Confirmation of your Go Pack purchase will be sent within 24-hours of your purchase.
  • Go Pack cannot be exchanged and is non-refundable. NO REFUNDS OR EXCHANGES.
While there are several packs to choose from, none of them include San Diego (instead LA and SF) and all priced pretty high considering the limited number of flights included.  I'm also disappointed that they've now reduced it to only 10 one-way uses - gone are the unlimited flights.

Guess I'll be passing for this year in hopes of a better promo in the future!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

on the eve...

This is a quick Sunday evening post on the eve of the start of school tomorrow.  The campus was buzzing today when I stopped in, and it's a bit hard to believe that everyone will be traveling back to campus officially for the first time tomorrow. 

Everyone will be a bit nuts as the day goes on, but I'm hopeful for another great semester coming up.  Here we go!  (and let my phone ringing off the hook commence)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

pay vs miles for flights

This is the one question I'm typically asked the most - is it better to pay for a flight outright or use miles?  And depending on who you ask, you may get a few different answers.  It's something that's even widely debated in the blogosphere and seems to always invite varying opinions.

First, each situation is different, and you should always make the decision that's the best for you.  There isn't one single way of going about it and it varies per person.

That being said, my general rule of thumb for domestic tickets has been: if it's under $450, then I pay for the flight and earn the miles.  This has been my value threshold, since I fly enough to maintain my status on United. 

One additional question to ask yourself is how much you value the miles and elite qualifying you may receive. If you value miles around 0.015 per, then a 25000 mile saver ticket would value around $375.  A 50000 mile standard redemption in the US would value at $750.  Those 50k redemptions are very near the amount needed in coach round trip to Europe, so I tend to stay away from those unless there's an important reason for me to burn the miles.  And...they are also near saver award levels in business class depending on availability.  If you can go, why not go in style?

I've adjusted my mileage accrual frame of mind over the last months to strive for the ability to travel in business class using miles if at all possible (ideally overseas).  This means much more planning ahead of time, but I feel that I can be pretty successful if I stick to how I use and accrue.  It also means that for my research trip to Qatar I decided to pay outright for the ticket so that I can get all of those lovely miles in the bank. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

fighting jetlag

I've certainly learned some valuable lessons flying, and one over the years has been tricks to get myself acclimated from jetlag.  It used to be for me that flying from the west coast to east coast would do me in for a day, but I'm thankful that I don't have to worry about that much these days.

Where I do get burned a bit is travel to Europe and farther.  My first trip to Qatar was a great example - felt great the first 40 hours or so, and then it hit me pretty good right after.  Europe doesn't seem to be a problem any more - I can beat it just by sleeping as much as I can on the plane ride east, and staying awake as much as possible on the flight coming back west.  But I know myself well enough to make sure to acclimate before I go farther than Europe (just so my stomach has a chance to take a breath).

A recent article in the NY Times highlighted jetlag, and I'll share it here. And please feel free to comment with any tips that have worked for you in the past.

Friday, August 17, 2012

looking for a good card?

Just wanted to take this chance to share the Discover Miles card - I've been very happy with it, and it has no annual fee!  You can easily accumulate miles and there are always double miles promotions - right now they're running double on utility and phone bills, plus an end of august double promo.

Check it out!

And...you get $50 cashback with your 1st purchase within 3 mos.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deals a plenty

I'm always on the lookout for good deals, mostly when it comes to flying.  It's not uncommon for a typical search these days to come up at $500 for a roundtrip, especially coming from here in the extreme southwest corner of the country.

Happily, there are deals to be found if you're looking to travel into October and even November.

United right now has $230 roundtrip flights from San Diego to Denver in October, and Chicago O'hare is also possible in November from $296 roundtrip.  These are the kind of prices I'm used to seeing for flights...it's been a while since my searches have been successful like these. 

The Points Guy has also found a number of good deals over the Thanksgiving holiday time period for award redemption - you can find out more here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

50k plus churn

My last credit card churn included two cards for AA that normally I would have avoided (since I've honestly not had much luck flying AA and typically their prices are way more than what I would normally pay).  Top it off that they are in the midst of bankruptcy, but this time I was not deterred in going for the sign up bonuses.  Figured why not take the opportunity as presented.

Very happy to report that I had my first 50k post yesterday...the other should be following soon.  Not a bad haul...will mean a round trip in business class pretty much anywhere!  Now the question is where...


Monday, August 13, 2012

hot in the desert

Yep.  It was hot.

Rudy and I made a trip out to Calexico and Brawley today in order to get some classroom followup work completed.  And, as you can see, it was a tad bit warm.

(forgive my hand and Rudy's head)

The rental SUV we had could barely keep up when we finally hit the road for home, and once we hit the mountains we even encountered some rain.  Definitely a day of odd weather.  Made it home safely, and now decompressing from the day.  I don't think Doha will be this hot when I get there!