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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wishing you a safe New Years

For everyone out and about tonight into tomorrow, please be safe and have a very fun New Year's celebration!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

AirAsia Flight 8501 missing

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families of passengers and crew on AirAsia flight 8501.

You can read more about the latest news here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

As 2015 nears...

Wow.  It's almost 2015 already?  Where did 2014 go?

This is the time of year where I get a bit introspective about the past year, how things are going, and where I see myself in the coming year.  I had quite a few goals this past year, some which were realized and others that were not.  It's amazing in some ways to think about how many wonderful and amazing things occurred and I am grateful for each and every one of them.  A few highlights:

- I was able to meet up with a best friend, Jimmy, while he was stationed over in Seoul.  We managed to do a whirlwind tour of every major site over one weekend.
- I was able to experience a new airline (Croatia)
- I used United miles and Hyatt points to visit Dubrovnik, Croatia and Zurich - stopping and driving through several places along the way (including Zagreb)
- I was able to get home and to Milwaukee on a number of occasions to visit family and friends
- I traveled to a number of other places around the country as time and money permitted
- Presented on a panel at the International Leadership Association Conference

All in all I'd say I had a pretty successful year.  I had a few other goals in mind that didn't pan out but I'm hopeful that a few of them will be on the docket for early in 2015.  Pressing on toward the goals ahead has always been a part of who I am.

In the coming year, I've got a few things in mind that I'd like to try and do and some that I didn't get to in 2014 - hopefully miles and points will help me for a couple of them:

- One aspiration pre- and post-PhD was to start a family, and I'm hopeful for that
- Locations on my travel list: Gimmelwald, Australia/New Zealand, and Ushuaia
- Professionally I aspire to find an administrative or teaching position in Qatar, other countries in the Middle East, or another international school (preferably Zurich or Rome)
- I want to make a more concerted effort to be involved in my church
- I want to do a better job of reconnecting with current friends and reaching out to make new
- I still have several US states left to visit (Montana, Oregon, Idaho, the deep south)

Here's hoping for a fun-filled 2015!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tuesday's Severe Turbulence

I've done my fair share of flying domestically as well as overseas, and it's not uncommon to experience a bout or two of turbulence when you're going over.  I think the worst bit of turbulence I ever had was on a trip to Europe where it was about a sustained 15-20 minutes of non-stop shaking...the British Airways team at that time did an excellent job of getting us through it, but I remember saying a prayer midway through since the sustained jolting was enough to raise me out of my seat.  Thankfully I don't have motion sickness...if I wouldn't have had a seatbelt on it would have been bad, and that's usually my gauge to how severe turbulence is.

But this story from this week makes me wonder - via the USA Today.

It looks pretty bad.  You can watch the video on YouTube here.

I don't blame them for diverting...those jolts were not to be reckoned with.  Especially the one at :25.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Whirlwind weekend

I'm back in San Diego this week after a bit of a whirlwind weekend that took me back to my alma mater on Thursday and Friday.  I was asked to speak at Commencement on Thursday evening, which was a surprise and an honor - a big thank you to the WLC family for inviting me back.  In the process I was able to catch up with many friends and colleagues that I haven't talked to in quite a while.  At the same time I decided to stay through the weekend and also caught up with a number of friends that I haven't seen in a long time.  Sadly I wasn't able to reach everyone, but I'm going to make it a priority again on my next extended visit in town.

Overall it was a really fun time, and I managed to (mostly) kick the cold I've been dealing with for the past two weeks...only a few things lingering.  I also want to give a kudos to American Airlines for getting me back on time and returning me to San Diego (and on the way was able to catch a head/nod from Donald Driver who was on my connecting flight from Dallas). 

Where will my next travels take me?

This coming weekend will be my trip back home for Christmas to western WI...looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

End of trip - Zurich

I thought a stopover in Zurich might be nice to do on the way back - I was not disappointed, since most of the city is already decked out with Christmas decorations.   Plus, I could take advantage of using Hyatt points again to stay at the Park Hyatt Zurich.

As these pictures show, I really enjoyed the Christmas season atmosphere:

I was also able to get a bunch of Christmas shopping taken care of - prices were good!  The flight home on Swiss Airlines would be on the last day after one final stop in the Star Alliance Lounge (won't have Star Gold status starting January 1st for the first time in years).  Alas vacation was winding down...another successful adventure!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Family quick jaunt!

I'm on the road tonight to meet up with my brother and his wife who are at a conference in Las Vegas - and in the process I'll be able to add another new airline to my list!  I found a deal on Virgin America last minute and will get to try them out.  I've heard good things so I'm excited!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dubrovnik - seaching for Game of Thrones locations

A side benefit to being in Dubrovnik is looking for filming sites of the Game of Thrones TV series on HBO.  You can certainly do some Google searching to find exact places, but I wanted to share two photo comparisons so you get a flavor of where I was/what I saw:

The Dock:

Fort Bokar (source: moviemaps)

My Picture!

King's Landing:

King's Landing (source: moviemaps)

My picture!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 2 - the Fort

More time out and about today in Dubrovnik!  I must admit though that I did a little bit of sleeping in this morning, which was not entirely planned but felt good nonetheless.  After getting going and out the door, lunch was first on the docket – and to mix it up, a new place was on tap: Oliva Pizzeria.  I’ve found it curious that there are so many pizza joints in the Old Town.  Word from the locals is that Italian and pizza are very popular, especially in the summertime.  Oliva was excellent – a mixed ham and sauce pizza was just right (and thin crust too) for an excellent price.  Would definitely stop there again!

One major item still on the list to see was Fort Lovrijenac.  It’s a free-standing fort outside of the city walls that also is used extensively in Game of Thrones for the King’s Landing location shoots.  The entrance is not obvious when you walk outside the walls – just a small staircase takes you down and around to the bottom near the water and then up a massive flight of stairs.  I’ve definitely been able to get a workout on this trip – so many stairs to climb and all worth it. 

After spending a bunch of time at the Fort, it was back to the Old Town for some shopping and wine tasting!  D’Vino Wine Bar is highly recommended and the white and red selections were excellent.  They have many local varieties of Croatian wine that pair well with bread and tapenade. 

Dinner was a hard decision – so many great places to choose from.  The winner: Bistro San Francesco.  All I have to say is the Salmon Fettuccine is amazing.  The owner was very kind and even added in some small treats free of charge.  Can’t recommend this place enough if you’re looking for an authentic dining experience.  

Time to wind the day down – off to Zurich tomorrow!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dubrovnik Day 1

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was really excited about walking the old town today and happy that the rain held off for the entire day.  It’s been threatening to do that in the forecast for the whole trip but so far so good. 

The first stop of the day: the City Walls (cue the Game of Thrones music).  Side note: I realized after booking this trip that primary filming of the King’s Landing scenes in Game of Thrones is done here in Dubrovnik on the walls.   How cool is that?!?

Just before walking the walls, though, a quick pickup was required – there is an option to acquire what is called the “Dubrovnik Card” for all major attractions at one reasonable price.  By ordering online in the US you can then pick up near the Pile Gate when you arrive.  This was extremely easy to do and having the access to many major museums and the walls is a bargain. 

And as you can see from these pictures, the walls do not disappoint:

All told, it took almost three hours to walk but was worth every minute (and included a stop at the Maritime Museum housed in one section of the walls).  The views of the Adriatic combined with the city are just beautiful. 

After finishing the wall walk, it was time to eat.  Where to go for lunch?  How about a place called Presa.  Down a side street and off the beaten path, this place is highly recommended and I now know why.  All the food is prepared fresh and while it can take a bit to deliver, is well worth the wait.  I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good tasting burger!

The rest of the afternoon comprised of visits to several of the primary museums in the city, including the Rector’s Palace and the Art History Museum.  Needing a quick break, I also thought it was fun to walk and find a hidden gem in the city called Café Buza.  This place hangs off the cliff and is a great place to sit and enjoy a libation while taking in the Adriatic. 

Following that I thought dinner might be a good option – I just didn’t realize how hard it was going to be.  I had scouted out several places, including Restaurant Dubrovnik and Barba as top places I wanted to visit.  Unfortunately many of the top places close in the offseason (note to these establishments, please update your websites so that visitors know about these things ahead of time!).  After some searching, the current top-ranked place on Tripadvisor was still open – the Dionysus Wine Bar.  I’m happy to confirm that it is a special place – the food was excellent and wine-tasting included in the experience!  All told a great decision and I’m happy to recommend them as a top place to visit for Croatian wine and specialized food. 

Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Arrival to Croatia

I must say that it’s been quite a while since I’ve had such smooth flights and connections while transiting Europe.  Considering that three connections were part of this first jaunt, I wondered if I was asking for trouble.  But other than two small-ish delays of 10 and 20 minutes everything went very well.  To recap, I transited Munich and Zagreb onroute to Dubrovnik HR via Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines.  Touchdown for the final segment was around 4pm local time.

Arriving to Dubrovnik via Zagreb is super easy.  Immigration/Customs checks occurred at Zagreb so there was no need to stop once the flight landed.  In fact, the customs booths were empty and baggage claim within a few hundred feet of the gate area.  The airport itself is very small and only has a few flights a day, so they are able to time things out well when you arrive.  The airport bus was waiting for the final luggage to be given out before departing – that allowed enough time to also nab tickets.  I highly recommend doing this option right when you arrive – they accept either Kuna or Euros. 

(Speaking of the Zagreb transition via Munich, you’ll want to note that you will have to ‘exit’ immigration/customs and then re-enter once you deplane.  Zagreb’s airport is also not very large, so this transition time only took about 20 minutes between deplaning and rechecking through security.  Security, mind you, was much more thorough than at any airport along the way – I ended up having to take out everything in my backpack compared to Munich and the US where I took out nothing.)

Once on the airport bus it’s a relatively quick ride into Dubrovnik.  Since it was later evening already the sun was down, but the lights of the city were spectacular coming down the mountain.  The bus drops off right at the Pile Gate and it was a very fast walk into the Old Town to get to my chosen stay for this trip, Andio.  As you no doubt can guess from the following pictures, it truly is walking back in time to some degree to be in the Old Town - I was speechless.   

Arrival to Andio had its moments, since they didn’t have a room designated when I got there.  But after a quick phone call, that was figured out and it was time to walk around a bit before sleep.  The first restaurant of choice was the Café Festival just a few blocks down from Andio.  I think I had the best lasagna broccoli that I’ve ever had, including homemade cheesecake that was amazing.  Not a bad way to start the visit!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breakfast in Munich

Greetings from Munich!

Vacation has commenced...I'll be updating things as I can again this Thanksgiving trip, but so far all is well. The flight to Munich arrived 42 minutes early which gives me time to relax and get some German breakfast in the Lufthansa Star Alliance Lounge. Probably won't take a shower this morning...seems busy.

My connecting flight departs in about two hours...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skywest to end flying EMB-120 Brasilias!

I almost jumped out of my chair when I read this - sounds like no more turboprops in San Diego!

From AIN online:

St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines will finally retire its fleet of Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops by the summer under a so-called transition plan that will see it become an all-jet carrier for the first time in its history. SkyWest said the plan to remove its last 44 Brasilias stems, in part, from increased costs associated with new FAR117 flight and duty-time rules, which require first officers to carry an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. It flies the airplanes in a West Coast network as a United Express carrier. SkyWest hasn’t yet revealed plans for discontinuing and reducing service to communities now connected to United hubs by the Brasilias.

Those commuter flights from San Diego to LAX just got a whole lot more comfortable...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hyatt Free Night and 10,000 points in Hawaii

This deal seems extremely targeted, but I want to pass it along anyway in case you have a stay coming up in Hawaii and received the email I did. 

Here are the terms and conditions:

Each property offer includes buffet breakfast for 2 people each morning at participating resort restaurants.
Offer of one free night per qualifying stay valid through March 31, 2015 at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa. Reservations are subject to availability and must be made in advance by paying the Sunshine on Sale rate and requesting offer code 10KHGP. Hyatt Gold Passport members must choose points for their stay. Only one 10,000 bonus point award may be earned per member, per stay. This promotion is subject to the terms and conditions of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Please allow 6-8 weeks after travel is completed for Hyatt Gold Passport bonus points to be credited to your account. Limit one free night per night per stay as long as the minimum stay requirement is satisfied. Minimum stay required to for offer and to earn free night varies by property. Minimum 6 night length of stay at Andaz Maui at Wailea, minimum 5 night stay at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, minimum 5 night stay at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and minimum 4 night stay at Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa. Free night must be used on same stay it is earned. All properties offer includes buffet breakfast for 2 people each morning at participating resort restaurants. Offer is not valid for groups or conventions and may not be combined with other promotional offers. Prices are based on double occupancy, standard guestroom accommodations unless otherwise noted. Additional charges may apply for additional guests or for room-type upgrades. Free night is reflected at time of booking. Free night is not combinable with Family Plan rooms. Offer does not include tax or service charges. A portion of the rate for this offer may reflect taxes, service charges, gratuities, and third-party charges for certain included items, and those costs are not eligible for Hyatt Gold Passport® points. A limited number of rooms are allocated to this promotion. Promotional blackout periods may apply due to seasonal periods or special events, and normal arrival/departure restrictions apply. Blackout dates: 12/24-1/2/15.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts on my first Uber drives

I knew that driving for Uber would be an adventure, and so far I have not been disappointed.  I've had my share of characters so far but all have been very kind.  In many ways I'm realizing that beyond the obvious pluses to driving, I'm learning more about the city and many of the major hotspots that people frequent.  I'm also figuring out how to get myself home from those places as well.  :)

I've managed to do seven trips so far (including several to the airport and a few to clubs).  My most interesting drive was being called to a condo to drive two people out to get cigarettes and then go home (too much drink to drive themselves, and no, there is no smoking allowed in the car).  They were very nice and I also scored a small tip from them that was unexpected...a scratch off lottery ticket. Ha!

Looking forward to seeing how well this goes in the next week or so.  Other things I've learned:

1. Demand is not even - the College area where I live is on a 'top' list for demand, but I'm often waiting for chunks at a time to get a call (especially in the early evening)

2. Night driving is an adventure - never quite sure what's going to happen

3. Time is money - maximizing availability is the best way to get riders.  No waiting!

Has anyone else given Uber driving a try?

If you're interested in trying it out as a rider, please feel free to sign up using my referral link (we both get credit!).  I also have a driver referral link I can email you if you're feeling adventurous!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Don't know where to stay when traveling? Try Airbnb!

During my 2013 trip to Zurich in late fall, I had the opportunity to try out several new restaurants and the Airbnb service for the first time.  I usually make it a point to stay at the Park Hyatt whenever I can, but not enough points made me consider other alternatives.  The place where I stayed was excellent and gave me some new local flavor for the city, so I definitely recommend it if you need another stay option!

Here are a few pics of the apartment I stayed at:

If you're interested in this location, you can find it listed here.  Giorgia was very pleasant and helpful to arrange the stay, and I had no issues whatsoever. I also enjoying having a Coop right around the corner so I could get my own groceries and make food instead of eating out the whole trip. 

I was glad I made this choice - don't be afraid to try something new!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reflections on my first Uber driving evening

I have to say: I was pretty excited to finally get approval to be an Uber driver!  Given all of the recent expansion of their service, it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to try and use some of the extra time I have to do some driving.  And even though the process took several months (way longer than it should have), I was ready to go - Uber phone in hand, car ready.  What I wasn't ready for was having to sit and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I finally got my first legitimate call for a pickup (after two cancels and one distance issue) almost 2 hours into waiting.  Seemed like it should be much quicker, but then again, maybe a Tuesday night isn't a great time to try and drive.  No matter...I had a call!  Off I went toward downtown, and while getting on the Interstate received a call from the girl I'd be picking up: "where are you?" Uber had given me this ride with a 12 minute transit time, which I'm sure confused the girl.  I said I was on my way and got there as quick as I could.  We were off to the airport!  How fortunate. 

After I finally got my trunk open for her suitcase (apparently my keychain lock battery decided to start dying at just the same time), we were driving and made it safely.  Success!

I'm curious to see how other nights of the week compare...at this point I'd be hard pressed to recommend much business on a Tuesday evening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

American's AAdvantage program staying (mostly) the same for 2015

It's been making its way around all the blogs today, but I'm happy to share that American's frequent flyer program is staying (mostly) the same for 2015. And I say "mostly", since there are a few tweaks here and there with combining the US Airways accounts into AAdvantage. 

You can read more about the changes here.

I'm excited to see that the upgrade process is getting a bit more streamlined, and the ability to combine miles across accounts will happen in the second quarter of 2015. 

In the end, I think it's smart to focus on the merger for now - will be curious to see what changes will be ahead once its complete.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 ILA Global Conference in San Diego this weekend!


I'll be doing some travel this weekend, but only to downtown as part of the ILA Global Conference being hosted by the University of San Diego at the Hilton Bayfront.  I'm also excited to be presenting as part of a panel on Sunday morning, along with colleagues from Temple University and Alvernia University.  Our panel will be looking at the following topic: Making an Impact: Leadership Development and the Branch Campus Model Worldwide.  We'll be joined by friends from Gonzaga to discuss this topic and leadership implications.

If you have a chance and are interested in leadership and professional development around leadership, feel free to stop down and register onsite!

You can find more information here.

A quick press link about our presentation was written here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quick jaunt home

This weekend I'm making a quick jaunt home - I'll be visiting O'hare long with La Crosse Municipal while I go via American, so I don't have too many worries about the journey.  Weather should be excellent - mid 60's during the day, 40's at night.  If only San Diego could give me that!

I'll be reporting back if I run into any difficulties enroute, but I expect a smooth travel weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

10 things I never leave behind during international travel

I have a good routine in place for when I take a jaunt overseas.  In fact, I've been able to pack rather sparingly and only travel with one smaller-ish suitcase and a backpack for trips that end up being a week or longer.  For shorter trips, one bag is usually my preference.

My family members often ask me about how I end up preparing for these trips...I think they are curious how I could go so far and not bring more things. Light and nimble = always best in my book.

Here are my top ten things I typically don't leave home without (bringing or doing):

1. Bose Headphones - really helps for the loud children that sit near my seat and scream

2. Passport (and electronic copy) - necessary. And a backup via online portal just in case.

3. One debit card - I've had good success getting local currency at an airport ATM when arriving, and usually the exchange rate is better than what I'd get from ordering somewhere.  But I typically don't use much cash in-country...swiping a CC is safer and comes with buyer protection.

4. Travel clothes ala ExOfficio - why pack 10 when you can pack 2 and wash on the go?  Definitely saves space.

5. Earplugs - for sleeping on the way over

6. Intl Power adapters - helps in hotels/hostels and charges up my phone and iPad.

7. US wall plug adapter - I can't tell you how many times I end up needing to convert something from 3-prong to 2-prong...Apple power cords are near the top of the list!

8. Prepare my CC's - I make it a ritual to call my banks to let them know I'm traveling - I'd prefer not to be denied when I get in-country.  Don't forget to use a card with no foreign transaction fees!

9. Register - It never hurts to visit and register with the State Department STEP when traveling, just in case something happens. 

10. Camera - I don't always feel comfortable brandishing my iPhone, so my Sanyo 10MP camera still is a fave.  Got me pictures like this in Gimmelwald!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A fourth airline alliance? Etihad Partners

I received an email recently about a new program being put together by Etihad, called Etihad Airways Partners. From the looks of it, you could deduce that Etihad might be wanting to create its own special airline "alliance" based out of the Middle East.

You can read more about it here.

I'm not that opposed to such a notion - in fact, with American Airlines being an Etihad partner, there might be a future option to make use of a variety of different airline partners should they join in.  Making connections to Doha or even the Maldives is appealing for my travel options, and I imagine others would find similar synergies.

Can't wait to see how this is received - and if other airlines join!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My next travel adventure: Uber!

I know it's not a glamorous flight or hotel, but I'm pretty stoked to have been recently approved to be an Uber driver!  My travel will be local to San Diego, and I'm excited to see how it works from the other "side".  I've used Uber for my own travel needs in the past and I know it's completely different when you are in the drivers seat.  Plus, I'm curious about the revenue aspects of this whole thing - I'm hopeful that my driving will earn me enough to plan some fantastic trips in the future!

Stay tuned for more info - I'll be posting about my first experiences once I have the hardware and am ready to go.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Planning my next trip: Zurich!

I make no attempt to hide the fact that I love visiting Zurich - it would be a dream for me to get a job and work in Zurich (maybe at the University!) down the road.  So I'm always planning for my next trip over - and if I'm lucky, I can squeeze in a side trip to Gimmelwald while I'm at it.

The trick is to find a good time to go.  Summer flights are typically so expensive that the only good option is to redeem miles if you can find the flights.  Also, summer in Gimmelwald is very busy, and finding a place to stay can be tricky.  I usually prefer to stay at the Mountain Hostel to save $, but they sell out quickly.  Another good option is Esther's Guesthouse - book early!  Jimmy tried to get me to hike the Schilthorn the last time we were there...begin your training early if you want to make the trek all the way up.

Miles/points options are plentiful for European travel.  Star Alliance seems to have the best choice, so using United.com to find availability is a great option.  OneWorld might also be possible, but watch out for fuel surcharges across the carriers.

For stays in Zurich proper, I try to use my Hyatt points at the Park Hyatt Zurich.  I also enjoy the Hotel Sunnehus, which is a bit off the trail but a quiet stay.  And breakfast is amazing.

But if you're looking for other options, I also like the IHG properties (you can use points if you get their credit card), located in and around the city center.  They occasionally run sales - for pre-flight departures, the Zurich Airport Holiday Inn is close.  For stays next to the main train station, there is a Crowne Plaza nearby. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New addition to my earning game: IHG

I successfully added another travel/points option to my portfolio this month - the IHG Mastercard.  While most of the main points bloggers tend to look down on the value of these points, I see a great card that will help with grocery purchases as well as supplement my stay options at hotels overseas.  I always seem to run into Holiday Inn or Intercontinental properties, so why not have that option?

Here were the details:

60,000 Bonus Point
After you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for this product in the past 24 months.

Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at our hotels
Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

10% rebate on IHG Rewards Club point redemptions
- Up to 100,000 points back each year.
Annual Free Night Worldwide (no property restriction!)
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Platinum Elite Status for as long as you're a cardmember

Not bad!