...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.