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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Place of the Day: Sidi Bou Said

Said what?   No, not that kind of "said".

I'm picking a Place of the Day to highlight today from somewhere that's on my list of places to visit down the road - not sure when it might be, but it's there nonetheless (maybe a stopover from Italy).

Tunisia has long been known for its European and Middle Eastern culture, weaving, rugs, tapestries, and otherwise rich history and scenic views. It has been conquered many times, and boasts a variety of traditions that date back centuries.  One of the notable things to see, though, is the charming collection of whitewashed stone houses that sit on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Tunis.  Its famous blue doors make the view unique!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

And the winner of the most chronically delayed flights is...

...a place that I don't ever enjoy flying through.

Check out the list here.

It always seems like weather, fog, wind, snow, rain, or birds muck up my flight options through there.

I avoid unless absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Points for Amazon purchases

One of the frustrating things about the popularity of buying things on Amazon.com is that while the selection and shipping are fantastic, the ability to earn points is terrible.  Amazon doesn't partner with anyone, with the exception of Ebates, and even that is only for a 3% return. Not good.

But...there is a way to get around that points earning conundrum.  There are many merchants that carry Amazon giftcards at those stations/racks you may see from time to time, and if you're fortunate to have a Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus card in your possession, you can get in on the points bonanza!

Just visit a local Stapes, Office Depot, or Office Max store and find those Amazon cards - I recently did that for a larger family purchase I need to make, used my Ink Bold card, and wahla!  5x Ultimate Rewards points for my giftcard purchase (which can be transferred to a host of airlines and hotels, including United, British Airways, and Hyatt).  Anything purchased on your Ink cards at an office supply store scores 5x UR points!  Then add the balance to your Amazon account and purchase like you normally would. 

I'm going to really make an effort to maximize this for future earning...definitely easy to do!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mem Day weekend

A very happy Memorial Day weekend to all, especially those in the Armed Forces.

Stay Safe!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Place of the Day: Socotra Islands

Not all places in the Middle East/Africa are experiencing unrest, and that leaves a wide variety of choices for places to visit should you have the time and money. 

One such place boasts a wide biodiversity of things to see:

A tiny archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, the Socotra Islands claim an environment of over 800 plants and animals and has been called the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean". While its people are claimed to have descended from the Queen of Sheba, it has also claimed to have been the possible site of the original Garden of Eden, due to its proximity to other notable places in the area.  You won't find many roads or other amenities when visiting, but you will find a diverse atmosphere and a possible fun camping adventure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How the Internet has changed our travel

There are many obvious answers to the statement above - the ability to have a phone with you wherever you go with information at your fingertips, being able to search for locations and activities ahead of time, reading reviews of restaurants, checking in for your flight, and the list goes on.  How we interact with each other has drastically changed.

It's even more pronounced when the unexpected happens, which it did this last week at work: an Internet outage.  My office turned from an operation that was humming along to one where everyone just stood around, looking at each other, wondering what to do next.  Have we become that dependent on being connected?  No email, no Dropbox, no Facebook, the horror!  I marvel at how many times I see our student workers with a bowed head buried in their phone on Facebook.  I shake my head every time.

I share with you this disconnected article for more context.

The Internet and access has changed the way we do business, the way we interact with each other, and also the way we travel. 

Does anyone know how to address an envelope anymore?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Academic Freedom in the Middle East

The Chronicle for Higher Education recently posted an article about how Arab universities are grappling with accreditation by U.S. agencies, and the related affect this may be having on academic freedom and intellectual content.

Having recently done research in Qatar and experienced the atmosphere in Education City with the numerous U.S. universities, I'm interested in seeing if this has any affect on the current educational offerings of that model or future branch campus development.  Texas A&M is mentioned toward the end of the article, and I found it compelling that a possible decision-making point was whether or not the presence of a branch campus in Doha would align with the values espoused by the university.  Ultimately, TAMU thought it did.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

SDSU Commencement 2013

I'm not traveling too far today - just to my office for Commencement Coverage.

You can catch our broadcasts on Cox and Timewarner Cable locally, or view the stream here:


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Small Towers not closing after all

I previously wrote about the FAA closing a number of smaller ATC Towers due to the sequestration cuts, and the impact this could have on flights.

Now, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the FAA will not be closing any towers.

I'm happy the impact will be minimal, although I'm curious what they're going to do in September.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Star MegoDO details announced!

Want to attend an event where all of the points and airline luminaries get together and experience all of the fun of a particular airline alliance.  TPG puts it like this: "[you get to] charter a jet and fly around to different cities and the airlines/hotels set up really interesting events that provide access to places few people ever get to see."

The Star Alliance MegaDO 5 information is now available!  

Tickets go on sale May 20th at Noon CT - the last years have been sold out, so if you want to get in on it, be ready to click fast!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Place of the Day: Bukhara

The area around NE Africa and the Middle East is fascinating to me.  So much rich history and culture to experience, and the unfortunate unrest in that part of the world means that many people are unable to visit and take in the sites.  Having spent a lot of time in Doha, I have a number of different places I'd still like to visit in the area.  And I just found a new one to add to the list:

Bukhara - Uzbekistan

Once situated on one of the most important trade routes between the West and China, Bukhara has many cultural sites that you can visit.  The Mir-i-Arab Madrassa is just one of the highlights.  

Bukhara (BHK) does have an airport, and you can find connections to get there via Moscow.  Another option would be to fly into Tashkent (TAS), and then find a connection through to Bukhara.  Korean, Turkish, and Air France all have flight options into Tashkent.

If you're interested in tours of the area, those are also available.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Things to see in Istanbul

If you're planning a future trip to Istanbul, there are a variety of sites you can visit to get an idea of things to see.

This one was recently shared with me - I thought it was a pretty nice collection.

What to do in Istanbul


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Want to fly like a champion?

I recently shared a video on a 10-day RTW trip, and the same guy (Casey) also has a video out about how he always is able to fly and get free upgrades, all the time.


Status definitely helps with these things - you can do it as well!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10 days around the world? It can be done!

I love videos like this....

Wanted to share a pretty well constructed video montage of a guy who did a RTW in 10 days...and even stopped in Doha!


Make it count!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dialects as you travel

A friend shared this site/map with me recently, and since a fair majority of my travel is North America, I thought I would share it here as well:

English Dialect Map

I love how specific it is by region, and includes audio examples so you can hear differences.  Give it a try!

Friday, May 3, 2013

When the writing is done...

There's a lot I have to figure out once I've officially wrapped up my PhD (defense and graduation), but one thing is becoming clearer the closer I get to being done: I'm going to need a break. 

I haven't decided yet what that break will be, but in talking with other colleagues who attained their doctorates, every person has taken time away for a break (in one case, four weeks!). I don't think I'll have enough vacation time saved up to do something long, but I would like to treat myself to at least a week somewhere that doesn't require me to get up early or need much brain power.

Any suggestions? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It pays to be 1K

I was so excited at the end of last year to reach 1K status on United, knowing that I was probably going to be doing a lot of flying between here and Doha for school.  And I haven't regretted getting the complimentary upgrades to First for many of the flights I've been on.

But I was thankful to have the status after a recent issue flying back from a short trip to Miami, where I ran into a delayed flight, missed connections, and a forced overnight in Denver.

Frustration #1: Flight pushed back "early".  Now, to clarify, the flight had already been delayed by 30 minutes to a specified time, but when a time is set, what are the rules?  Can you just leave ahead of the time listed?  In my case, deciding to leave 10 minutes before the stated time meant I missed my connection.  And forced an overnight in Denver.  When I asked the gate agents about it (after pounding on the door to try and get their attention), they were extremely flippant and offered no help.  "You'll just have to wait" was the response.  How terrible.  When I pointed out that it left 'early', all they said was that it had already been delayed - but then, the next question was if I had been on a delayed Dulles flight.  When I said no, it was "too bad".  Since when do other flight delay locations matter???

Frustration #2: Staying the overnight. United, please understand that it's NOT helpful to post a sign with the 800 number for hotel options just outside of the customer service area saying "call and you will be able to get a room".  Instead, it was really "do you have a code?  If not, too bad - you need to get one" which is code for "you need to stand in a line 3 miles long and wait".  After being in the 45 minute line, though, I was glad to have waited since my 1K status afforded me a free hotel night (a big thank you to my agent for checking with a supervisor).  I wasn't happy about missing, but happy I didn't have to pay for gate agent stupidity.

The moral of the story is that if you have an option to fly enough to get airline status, get it.  You will not regret the perks when you are in a delayed or cancelled flight situation and need assistance with hotels or rebooking.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Place of the Day: The Bay of Kotor

I love going to Italy (Rome, especially), but there are so many other places to visit around the area that it's almost hard to choose where to start.  After seeing a few pictures, though, I think this may be my next:

Kotor - Montenegro

Known for being the southern-most fjord in Europe, the Bay itself has many small towns dotting its coast, and has become of the the most noted places to visit in Montenegro.  The Crkva Gospa od Zdravlja Church is just one location to see, and I would look forward to a very peaceful and stressfree experience walking the old town (Stari Grad).  

Your best bet would be to fly in to Dubrovnik (DBV) and drive down to Kotor, or possibly snag a flight into Tivat (TIV).  More information is available here.