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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Greetings from Istanbul

I'm very behind in travel posts relating to this trip, but I will be catching up just as soon as I return home  for a full trip report on the experience.

So far everything has been amazing, the food excellent, and the weather perfect!

Long travel day tomorrow…

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

T-24 to Istanbul

In less than 24 hours from now, my Istanbul adventure shall begin!  (as long as the stupid weather crap doesn't play havoc on connecting flights...)

I'm looking forward to the fun - back in August, there was another amazing flight deal on the docket through Star Alliance for roundtrips to IST...and of course I had to jump on it!  It wasn't as amazing as the $250 r/t to Lima last year, but it's close.  And...I get to visit a completely new country!

I shall be blogging as Internet permits, as I decided not to purchase the AT&T plan for this trip.  And I will also do my best to take as many pictures as I can of whatever I run into. 

Weekend trip, here I come!  (and yes, I will be in Turkey on Thanksgiving - no jokes please).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tis the Monday before Thanksgiving...

...and there are a lot of people taking this week off which means that my workday will be very quiet. 

And I'm not complaining about that either.

My vacation begins tonight after work and goes through December 2nd.  Can't wait for a little time away and a nice break from life.

Where are your travels taking you this Thanksgiving holiday?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Place of the Day: Cappadocia

Very soon I'll be making my first trip to Turkey (Istanbul in particular!), but on a future trip I hope to have more time to do some exploring outside of the main cities.  One place that will figure at the top of my list will be the ruins and rocky heights of Cappadocia, located in central Turkey:

Part of what makes Cappadocia unique is the rocky pinnacles or minarets that have formed out of the surrounding hillside.  These were most likely carved by volcanic stone and make for an impressive view while on the ground or even above.  One particular site describes these features in this way: Cappadocia was one of the most important places in the spreading periods of the Christian religion. The first christians trying to escape from the Roman soldiers who wanted to avoid the spreading of the Christian religion have settled in the region of Cappadocia which was so suitable for hiding and so they were able to continue their natures and to spread their religions.

I'm fascinated by things like underground cities and civilizations that had to build these places from the ground up.  Makes me appreciate even more the things we have now!
Some travel sites recommend getting to Cappadocia via plane: there are several daily nonstop flights from both Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) to Kayseri's Erkilet Airport (ASR) and Nevşehir's Kapadokya Airport (NEV) on Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, and AtlasJet.  You might find better deals by buying your airfare in-country, but search around to find the best fares.  United miles are definitely an option if you're booking through Turkish!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

20% off hotel booking through Orbitz

Orbitz is running a short promo through November 28th on hotel bookings:

20% isn't terrible, although be sure to double-check your points earning possibilities before booking (to make sure you don't miss out if your chain requires you to book through their website directly).

Bookings are good through June 30, 2014.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One more day: Southwest Double Points!

Southwest is currently running a double points promotion that is set to end in one day!

If you're a frequent traveler on Southwest, check your email for the promotional sign up.  These don't come around very often. (and this one was really short!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

catching up

Another long weekend (including some travel) has me behind in posting, but I'll be in a better spot to catch up by tomorrow.  Expect a return to normalcy soon! (somewhat)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Heard of "Coin"?

There's been a lot of buzz recently on a new card wallet called Coin.  When I first read about it, I was a bit skeptical that something like this would universally work for all purchases.  I'm always open to trying new things, but it seems like this idea might be a bit far-fetched. 

TPG recently broke down the details (and some concerns):

Now for the gritty details. As I mentioned, the actual card itself can only take 8 cards at once while the app can store an unlimited amount. That’s probably okay for most people, but for other points enthusiasts like me (I currently have 19 credit cards that all earn me points, miles and other benefits), that just won’t cut the mustard.

You can use the card as an ATM card, which is helpful, but it might not work outside the US and it won’t have EMV Chip technology. You also can’t use it for online purchases. When you are making a purchase online, the Coin mobile app can be used to reference your card details, but the Coin itself cannot be used directly for online payments.

Currently you cannot lock your Coin to prevent others from using it, but it will automatically deactivate if it loses contact with your phone for a period of time that you configure in the Coin mobile app. Your account is password protected and the mobile app requires that you type in your password before you can access sensitive card details as well.

Coins are designed to last for 2 years under normal usage (10-20 swipes per day) and do not need to be recharged. Once the battery dies you will need to replace your card. Coins are water resistant but not waterproof so if you accidentally take it swimming, time for a new card.

Each Coin will also cost you $50 for now, but the price goes up to $100 once a certain quantity are ordered, so only folks willing to pony up now are going to get it for half price. They will also get a referral code for $5 per referral up to 10 referrals, potentially taking care of their purchase cost. Referral orders be completed within 90 days of your own order to count.

Cards will not ship until the summer of 2014, so they’re not asking for your shipping information – the website justifies this by saying a lot can happen between now and then, like you move. Or Coin goes bust (my additional hypothetical).

Maybe I’m just too much of a doubter, but the fact that they’re asking you to pay a $50 fee and $5 shipping, but they’re not delivering the cards till the summer at the earliest doesn’t pass my smell test. Not only does it seem strange that you’d have to pay for a product so far in advance of getting it, but it seems to me like this is a bid to raise some venture capital through the $50 sign-up fees.

For all these reasons, I'm going to take a pass. $50 for a card that you won't actually have in hand for another 6 months???  Seems fishy to me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Devaluations all around

It's been an overall rough week for points earning in major travel programs.  Devaluations have hit just about every program in my earning portfolio, from Hyatt to United, and some of my favorite sites have highlighted the many new changes:



For some Hyatt properties, the new Category 7 will hurt frequent points travelers - and I'm sad to see that the Park Hyatt Zurich is among those on the list that will be going up substantially (36%).  As one of my favorite properties to stay at while on vacation, I'll be needing to save up even more points for future stays in Zurich.

On the United side, most changes are occurring on awards in first class on worldwide travel on partner airlines.  The amount of miles needed increases on location from 63%-86% depending on where you go, which is terrible.  If you choose to travel on United metal exclusively, the changes seem modest compared to the partner areas.  Keep in mind, though, that United does not fly to all locations on their own planes, and often travelers must rely on partners to get to specific destinations. 

I'm fearful that the coming US Airways/AA merger will also gut that program - time will tell if that is the case.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Amazon.com ups order minimum without notice...time for Prime?

Did anyone else notice the subtle change in Amazon.com order minimums for free shipping that occurred recently?

I did. 

Way to go Amazon - not only did you do this without any notice, but you haven't publicized it all for the general ordering public who may not even be paying attention when they order.  $25 to $35 will change most peoples ordering habits.

It might be time to go for Prime (and free 2-day shipping).

If you're interested, you can use my referral link for Amazon Student:


Don't forget you can score 5x UR points by using gift cards via Ink Bold.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Grateful for all of the hard work and sacrifice by all of our country's veterans on this special day.  We certainly appreciate your work and never take it for granted!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Place of the Day: Hue

I have yet to visit many of the countries in the Far East.  Up until this point, most of the travel that I've done has focused on Europe and more recently, the Middle East.  But there are many fascinating places to visit in southeast Asia, and I'm looking forward to a possible trip to Seoul coming up this spring.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight another place that I'm interested in seeing, located in Vietnam:

The complex of Hue Monuments is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and was the religious center of Vietnam until 1945. It lies within a 1300 acre citadel on the Song Huang (Perfume River) halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.  I find it interesting that its architecture is modeled after the Forbidden City in China, and speaks to how closely aligned the cultures are in the region.

Most of the major airline alliances fly in to cities surrounding Hue, so there are many options to get you there for a visit.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Made it back

I'm happy to report I made it back from Zurich safely - after an entire day of flying and one small delay, I touched back down at SAN last night.  Today (and for the next few days I'm sure) I'll be jetlaging just a bit. 

I'll be sharing some more thoughts from my trip in a coming post...

US Airways 100% bonus mile offer is back

Once again, US Airways is offering a 100% bonus mile offer on purchased miles - I received my notice via email in the last few days:

Here are the main specifics on the offer:

Buy 10,000 milesGet 20,000 miles
Buy 25,000 milesGet 50,000 miles
Buy 50,000 milesGet 100,000 miles

Overall, it's similar to other past offers, and requires a hefty outlay to get the full 100% bonus.  But it may be worth it if you're planning for a specific trip and need to get the miles.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Restaurant Review: Ristorante Italia

I catch myself sometimes being skeptical of restaurants that are "off the beaten path" and away from the main hub of a city.  Sometimes, though, these are best restaurants in a city.  They offer home grown favorite foods and well constructed meals that are not in main touristy places.

So it is for Ristorante Italia - down one side street and away from the main area of the train station and Bahnhofstrasse, this restaurant offers a truly authentic Italian eating experience for a reasonable price within Zurich.  I was particularly drawn to their restaurant philosophyHaving a passion for traditional recipes and a variety of regional dishes. They pride themselves on intense taste of fresh, seasonal produce.  And they are proud to have the reputation of being more authentic than most Italian restaurants in Zurich.

They have a main menu as well as a separate take-out list - I chose the take-out list for this visit, and went with the spaghetti pomodoro.  When I got home, I had one of the best prepared meals of spaghetti I've ever sampled.  The sauce and noodles were prepared as exactly as my mother would make, with a particular spice not present in most sauces.  The accompanying breads were also exceptional.

With intimate seating available, the restaurant also has a fairly extensive wine list.  Next time I look forward to giving a vintage a try. 

And despite the quiet street, the main seating area was mostly filled - a testament to the word of mouth this location speaks to.  If you're in the area, be sure to stop in and check it out!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: The Bite

While scouring the map for new culinary delights in Zurich, I chanced to see the 19th ranked/rated restaurant in Zurich (by Tripadvisor) as right around the block from where I'm staying.  So...I couldn't resist giving it a try!

I'm not sure how to describe them, but the burgers served by The Bite are simply outstanding.  Maybe its the flavors within the meat itself, maybe its the sauce, or quite possibly...all of them together!  Since it was my first time visiting I tried the "Classic" - figured I should start off basic and work my way up.  The food was quickly prepared, server always attentive, and I had no issues with the meal.  I also enjoyed the ambiance of the room - it's the first place where I've been served a meal on a table made from a door!

The menu is not complex - I think it helps them focus on their product and makes it unique (Swiss Beef mix included)

Next time you're in Zurich, be sure to stop in and try The Bite - I was lucky they could fit me in without a reservation.  Next time I might not be so lucky!

Friday, November 1, 2013

United Award ticket Devaluation...and it's not good

Greetings from Zurich!

I was thinking about scaling back posts while on vacation, but when I saw this cross the wire today, I had to share:

United Increasing Miles for Award Redemptions

After taking a look at the comparable data, it seems as though domestic tickets will be left unchanged for the most part.  It's when you want to redeem miles for Business or First class on United it starts to get bad, and when you choose partner airlines it becomes disasterous.

For example:

Business class seat to Europe:  Was = 100,000 miles;   Now = 115,000 (United), 140,000 (partners)

I think what might be poorest is the fact that it came out of the blue, right in the middle of United's big campaign to focus on their "new" services.

Not very positive to me.