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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Greetings from Madison

My travels this week have taken me to Madison, WI for Sonic Foundry's Mediasite Conference "Unleash 2013".

Happy to report it's warm in Wisconsin and the conference is underway!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New American Airlines Elite Rewards Program

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email this evening detailing a new American Airlines Elite Rewards Program.  This is a new program that supplements the standard tier, points, and miles system that American already uses.

For each milestone you reach, there are several choices to pick from:

And, much to my delight, the program is retroactive to the start of year, so all of the miles you've already earned are automatically applied!  Bonus!

I'm not sure how much flying I'll do on American for the rest of the year, but it's nice to see them stepping up to the plate with new programs despite the upcoming merger.  Keep em coming!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the road again: to 29 Palms!

Last weekend my travels took me to a new place I've never visited - Twentynine Palms, CA. (also known as 29 Palms).  The reason for the trip was to visit friends who are stationed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms. This base is one of our nation's primary training centers for combat troops heading overseas to Afghanistan.  I was excited for the visit, and also excited for the drive (since I think my last trip this direction was a trek to Vegas which ended up being quite long). Security was tight when I arrived, but after a short wait and ID verification I was through and on the base.

As you can see, my route took me through Temecula, Hemet, Beaumont, and Yucca Valley. I was also a short distance from Palm Springs, but didn't have time to head that way - next trip I'll do a diversion.  The area between Hemet and Beaumont has a large farming area, and the cattle farms I saw were huge (with appropriate smells to go with).  I didn't realize that the area was so big in farming, since you start in a relatively mild region and end up in the desert by the time you turn toward 29 Palms. 

I loved the view - being in the desert yet seeing snow-covered mountains was a treat.  I also liked leaving 55 degrees and overcast for 85 and sunny.  I'm labeling this trip under "family", since that's how my trip felt when it was all done.  Can't wait to visit again!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

World Airport Awards announced

Skytrax has announced their global airport awards.  The top 10 placed as follows:

1. Singapore Changi Airport
2. Incheon International Airport
3. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
4. Hong Kong International
5. Beijing Capital International Airport
6. Munich Airport
7. Zurich Airport
8. Vancouver International Airport
9. Tokyo International Airport (Haneda, not Narita)
10. Heathrow Airport

I find it interesting that no American airports were listed.  Oh, and over 12 million ballots were cast!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Daily Getaways will be back in June!

Last year, the US Travel Association had a Daily Getaways program that offered up some fantastic travel and points options - and according to the site, Daily Getaways will be back again this year!


This was especially lucrative for certain properties and award levels - I was able to snag one of the Hyatt awards and a Wyndham redemption as well.  Part of the draw was using your American Express card to get a % off of the purchase price, which drove down the actual per-point cost for each award.

I'm hopeful that Hyatt will again be participating, and to a lesser extent Hilton (not as valuable in my book because of the recent devaluation).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Will you be paying more for flights?

With the recent mergers of the legacy airlines in the United States, there is concern that fewer airline options will mean higher fares for regular and leisure travelers.  In some cases, certain city pairs have seen a considerable increase in fares as a result of fewer planes flying.

Marketwatch highlights these changes in a new article.

I tend to be skeptical about whether mergers have any direct impact on fares, but there is something to be said about having fewer flight options to choose from.  If one airline pulls out due to a merger, that means less seats collectively on certain routes - which means a greater chance for higher fares. 

All of this means that there are fewer reward seats as well, since customers are paying the higher fares to get the available seats. 

The impact of the AA/US Airways merger has yet to be felt, but I'll be curious to see what happens with prices and flight options in the long run.  Hopefully it doesn't mean fewer chances to burn my miles!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

LAX-BOG in fall for ~$350: Limited time!

Looking for a quick vacation/long weekend getaway in August/September?

Flights are available between LAX and Bogota, Colombia for only $350 during selected dates in fall.  I did a quick search on Orbitz for a long weekend between these two cities toward the end of September, and found a ~$380 fare:

Get it while it's hot!

And don't forget - Avianca/Taca is part of the Star Alliance, so these flights will earn you miles on United.  Don't forget to check the booking code to verify. 

New UR partner: Virgin Atlantic

The blogosphere has been abuzz about the new Chase Ultimate Rewards partner announced earlier Monday: Virgin Atlantic

The announcement came in my mailbox:

I'm always in favor of adding new partners, especially so since I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points as some of the most valuable and flexible out there.  You can easily transfer 1:1 between all of the airline Alliances, and even top-tier hotels like Hyatt.  Being able to access United for transfers really helps to top off accounts for that special trip you might be planning.

Virgin Atlantic doesn't have many good direct redemption options, but you can transfer miles at a 1:2 ratio with Hilton (minimum of 10,000 to start).  If they would knock down their fuel surcharges, they might be a decent option to get you to London. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Can you visit China without a visa? Yes...sort of.

China is not necessarily high on my list of places to visit, but being aware of the requirements to transit through China is important (since there are other surrounding places that I'd like to visit, such as Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Bangkok).  I was always under the impression that you had to obtain a Chinese visa for any time you have to stop in China, but apparently that is not the case!

Visa not required

I think the important thing to note is that there is a time requirement, as well as documentation necessary.  It's easy to forget those things when you're in the moment of being excited about visiting a new place and they slip your mind. 

This may make it easier for me to find deals to Asia and other cities through China, while not having to fork out the big $ for a Chinese visa.  I do want to visit the Great Wall, though...guess I may need to adjust my visit list!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Staying 'Zen' While flying...possible?

With all of the recent changes happening in air travel (namely, higher airfares and increased fees for everything you can think of), it seems as though it is becoming more and more difficult to stay happy while traversing the friendly skies.

It's not this bad yet:

"Everything is amazing and nobody is happy" by Meowbay

But it's getting there.

Marketwatch had a recent article that highlights this feeling - I really like the word cantankerous.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Adding a FREE One-Way flight to a United/AA Mileage Award

It can be done!

Many blogs have highlighted the generous routing rules available when redeeming United miles, but I believe Mr. Pickles sums up the entire process the best.

You can find the entire process outlined here.  The highlights:

United allows two open jaws and a stopover. In other words you can visit 2 international cities (and travel on your own between them) as well as begin and end in 2 domestic cities. Then you can stopover and add 1 more flight on the beginning or end of your journey.

Here is an example of a simple open jaw trip to Europe: New York – London (open jaw); Paris – Chicago (open jaw and stopover!); Chicago – San Francisco (free one way!). It prices correctly at only 60,000 miles for economy.

Yes, you can also redeem American miles with a free one way added on as well, although the process is much more restrictive - you must initiate the extra segment from an AA gateway city (hub).  More info on that can be found here.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DFW-IST in Fall for under $800!

If you can get to Dallas Fort Worth this fall (November), there are some great deals to be had to Istanbul via Air Canada.

I did a quick search using ITA and found many weekends available through November into December.  Here's my last sample:

Not a bad deal!

If you're flexible and can leave from BOS, the cost goes down to as much as $610!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

3x AA miles on everday purchases through 6/30/13!

If you happen to have one of the AA branded credit cards, you may have already received this notice:

This particular promotion includes the following: Start earning 3 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on things you buy every day at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and drugstores — even commuter transportation expenses. Earn up to 2,500 AAdvantage® bonus miles.

I'm disappointed that it only runs through the end of the June and has a mileage cap of 2500, but these types of things are rare with American, so it's better than nothing I guess.  I won't go out of my way to get the bonus though, with other spending requirements on the horizon.

Come on, American/Citi - you can do better!