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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Maldives: Arrival

Our arrival to Male was an adventure (although we knew that coming in having done a bit of research).  To get to the Park Hyatt atoll, your journey includes the flight to Male, a connector flight on Maldivian Air to Kooddoo, and then a speedboat transfer to the Gaafu Alifu Atoll about 40 minutes away.  The Hyatt arranges the transfers in total before you arrive so you don't have to worry about it when you get there.

I was curious how this would all go - and as I suspected we had an adventure!

Our arrival to Male was ontime and upon landing we met our greeter who took us to the arrivals lounge to wait for our connection flight.  Due to low clouds and rain we were delayed about 1.5 hours.  So...we got to experience the very 'purple' lounge (which also didn't smell the best):

Food and wifi were available as well as drinks so the time passed by though we were very ready to get going after such a long flight from Sydney.

Soon our greeter came to take us to the plane - a small Q200 turboprop.  Boarding was fast and our hand luggage was able to fit under the seat behind us as the plane was not full. Soon we were off - a fairly quick 1 hr flight.  

Landing to Kooddoo we saw that it was raining and encountered a pretty stiff wind while being driven to the boat landing from the terminal.  We were the only two on the cart for the transfer, which also happened to be covered tight with plastic to keep the rain out.  

Our boat ride from Kooddoo to the Atoll was not as smooth. 

It took almost 50 minutes at high engine speed in what I can only describe as the roughest sea I've ever been on.  In my estimation the waves had to be 6-10' since we were constantly going up and slamming down in the low part of the swells.  The attendants tried to make this a typical transfer, offering us a cocktail drink and parfait before we left but that was soon spilled and not consumed once we felt what we were in.  I must admit I made a small prayer while we were going though I knew we must be ok since the Maldivians driving weren't even hanging on to anything.  If they're not worried, I shouldn't be!

We arrived to the Park Hyatt in the rough sea and since the boat was still in such swells at the landing we had to wait until upswells for three guys to launch us out of the boat onto the deck where three other guys caught us and our luggage.  They had a cart waiting for us which took us to our room and we had a modified checkin since we were the last to arrive that evening.  No upgrades possible since the property was full but our room was amazing.  Sleep came quickly - we made it!

Some arrival pics as we made it to Male:

Friday, December 16, 2016

AKL-SYD-AUH-MLE: Departing the island for the Island

This was the one part of the trip that I was curious about from a logistics perspective.  Since there wasn't a direct Auckland to Maldives flight, I chose to book a short connector on Emirates between Auckland and Sydney before connecting to the Etihad flight option (using miles) through Abu Dhabi to Male.  When trying to checkin online ahead of time, however, Emirates would not complete the process.  We found out that this was due to the system thinking Sydney was our end-point and we did not have an Australian visa purchased.  The Emirates agents in Auckland were great and figured out what needed to be done to include our Etihad connection information on the ticket to print our boarding passes.  (whew) 10 minutes of frowning faces made me wonder what would happen - no problem.

To recap, we booked Sydney-Abu Dhabi-Male on Etihad A380 Business Class using American Miles pre-devaluation for a cost of 90,000 miles total.  For 45,000 miles per person in business, this was an exceptional redemption that I'm sure I'll have a hard time finding again.

With a flight time of 14.5 hours to Abu Dhabi, we found it to be a wise decision!

Monday, December 12, 2016

In Auckland: The Sites (and Wineries)

We were blessed to have relatively good weather throughout the trip and our time in New Zealand was no exception.  Just a short walk down from our rain forest chalet was an inlet on the coast that during low tide was a coral dream:

Downtown Auckland was fun to walk and we were able to visit the Art Gallery, the SKYCITY Center, and St Matthew in the City. The Maori exhibit at the art gallery was a highlight and it was nice to visit a number of shops along the way:

The wineries we visited in the Kumeu region were also excellent...once we found them.  Our #1 choice was to visit Kim Crawford wines, and sadly when we arrived everything was closed.  A worker came out to talk to us that they were moving locations - and we were surprised when he came back out with a bottle of wine as an apology!  Our second try, Kiwi Estate wines, was also closed.  Finally we found success at Coopers Creek, West Brook, and Soljon.  The West Brook winery had especially beautiful grounds and is well worth the trek!  Tasting there was the best experience we had and we shipped a few varieties back home as well:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In Auckland: The Food

We had the opportunity to sample some fine cuisine while in the Auckland region.  Here are some of the highlights we had across our stay:

Depot: One of the top-ranked restaurants on Tripadvisor, Depot did not disappoint.  Freshly cooked food with fantastic service made this visit memorable.  The wine list was choice and we really enjoyed the ability to pass small plates and sample a variety of options.  Can't wait to visit here again on a future trip.

One Tree Grill:  More of a fine dining establishment, the food was very flavorful though a bit more pricey.  I really enjoyed being able to choose items via iPad where you could see the preparation and what options were in picture.  Parking was an adventure since it's in a busy neighborhood but I liked the atmosphere.

Hell:  Yes, we actually tried this place and it was excellent. The pizza menu alone was one of the more creative I've seen.  Check it out (and marvel at the flavors)!

Elliot Stables: Another notable location in downtown Auckland, Elliot Stables offers a variety of choices for dining with one central seating location.  You can hop from place to place depending on your preference and they deliver right to your table.  We tried Burg'z - no complaints!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Overhead bin access for a fee on United?

Earlier this week I saw a post about United starting to charge for overhead bin space, and I couldn't resist the urge to do some research to verify.  Turns out this is part of their new Basic Economy ticket structure that will soon be implemented (if not already in select markets).  From the United hub:

Basic Economy fares include:

  • Automated seat assignments will be given at check-in. Passengers will need to acknowledge when making a multi-seat purchase that seating together is not guaranteed.
  • Carry-on bags are limited to one personal item, unless the customer is a MileagePlus® Premier® member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance™ Gold member. Passengers with disabilities will be able to carry-on mobility aids and other assistive devices.
  • There will be no voluntary ticket changes except as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.
  • MileagePlus program members will earn redeemable award miles; however they will not earn Premier qualifying credit (miles, segments, or dollars), no lifetime miles, and no contribution to four segment minimum.
  • Customers will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades.
  • Customers will board in the last boarding group (currently Group 5) unless a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.
  • Basic Economy fares can't be combined with regular economy fares or partner carriers.

What isn't changing with Basic Economy fares:

  • Economy seating: Customers with Basic Economy reservations will be seated in the United Economy® cabin, which remains unchanged.
  • Checked baggage: Checked baggage policies remain the same as for our regular United Economy fares, and baggage benefits for MileagePlus Premier members, and primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card and Star Alliance Gold members still apply.
  • Inflight options: Onboard food, beverage and entertainment options remain unchanged.
  • Award miles: As a MileagePlus program member, customers will still earn redeemable award miles.

Friday, December 2, 2016

In Auckland: The Stay

I've decided to break up the time in Auckland into several posts covering the place we stayed, restaurants and food we ate, and other things we saw.  Normally I'd write this all in chronological order per day, but I figured it might be easier to try something different since we were onsite at each place for a few days.

To start, I just want to share how incredible the Airbnb location was for our stay.  I've really had nothing but great experiences using the site and highly encourage everyone to give it a try if you're looking to experience life beyond a typical hotel.  In this case we chose a place outside of the city limit, near the coast, and in part of the rainforest area of the north island.  We couldn't beat the low price and option to see a bit more of the country.

I'll let the pictures tell the tale:

We had absolutely no complaints - Dave and Kim were excellent hosts and available at any time to answer questions and make recommendations.  Included in the room were a small fridge, coffee/tea, utensils and plates, and access to a washer.  Since we had our rental car we could come and go as we pleased without interrupting them.  With the town of Titirangi nearby, we were able to get food and bring it back to eat at our place.

One feature of the room/cabin is the outdoor adjoining bathroom/shower.  With the weather in the 70s and 50s at night, it wasn't a problem to walk out onto the deck.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

LAX-AKL: Pleasant experience in AA 787 Business Class

Movies, food, drink... couldn't have asked for a better or smoother flight to Auckland.  We boarded LAX early and found our seats in row 2.  After a short taxi we were airborne and dinner was served. I opted to try the steak with potato and salad which was flavorful and not tough in the least.  Sleep soon followed and the 13.5 hours flew by before breakfast and landing preparations were underway.

After a short line to confirm we weren't bringing anything bad into NZ, we exited the airport to track down our rental car. For only $90 I hoped the deal lived up to the hype.

Gratefully, the Holiday Auto person was quick to arrive and pick us up - after a short orientation we were off to find our Airbnb hosts!  Driving on the left side of the road came back to me quickly and the views were awesome as we drove through the city and out into the country. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

PHL-LAX: Drama to start

Nothing like a little drama to start the trip. Thankfully, it was nothing directly having to do with me (though it did occur in my row).

 As we prepared for departure, the gentlemen in my exit row (10A) decided to make a fuss about something you should never joke about on the plane: the safety briefing. As the flight attendant started it as normal, about halfway through she started to cry and did everything possible to keep it together.  The reason for crying was unknown. As she tried to get the attention of Mr. 10A to pay attention, he blew her off at the start and then grudgingly said yes at the end before she went up to the front of the plane. A few minutes after, another flight attendant came and apologized, asking if we were ok after our briefing acknowledgment.  Mr. 10A said no - he wasn't and wanted the full briefing. She started in again and he insisted on having it complete or else he would complain.  She made all of us actually hold a briefing card and went through the entire info. When compete he also insisted that he know the reason for the crying before he would acknowledge the process.  The attendant asked if he was going to be a problem and he said no.  Apparently that wasn't good enough. The captain came on, telling us we would be delayed a few minutes for a 'customer service issue' and would be putting the jet bridge back.  The CSR agent came on and asked Mr. 10A to deplane with her. He said nothing, grabbed his things, and left the plane. A short time after the door was closed and we departed for runway 27.  Later I found out there had been a problem on the jetbridge with the same person and it supposedly carried over. Not sure what tripped him off but he was a jerk and deserved to get kicked off for how he was treating the FA's. They apologized profusely though everyone in our row was supportive.  Coincidently I overheard him on the phone as we boarded talking about how he had just flown in from Italy and picked this specific flight so he wouldn't have to drive in LA traffic when we landed.   Weird.

 Otherwise an uneventful and smooth flight.  That is until the lead flight attendant figured out our itinerary and came back to offer me some prosecco in celebration of the trip. Prozt!  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Introduction: How far can you go on miles and points? Round the world!

T-Minus 8 days!  I must admit that this was one of the more fun (and complicated) bookings I've ever done.  And I'm proud about how much value we could realize!

In planning a possible RTW excursion, I knew that miles and points would figure prominently into our plan (would never be able to afford this kind of trip otherwise).  Would it be enough to go to one location or could I maximize the available points options?

In the end I feel as though I made the most of what we had available for the best value.  The general outline for the trip is listed below - the mileage value is tremendous:

11/19 - depart for Auckland
PHL-LAX-AKL on AA (points plus miles, low OW fare)

11/21-24 - New Zealand (AirBNB in the jungle! $370)

11/24 - depart for Male, Maldives
AKL-SYD on Emirates ($350)
SYD-AUH-MLE on Etihad A380 Business Class: 90,000 AA miles (pre-devaluation)

11/25-29 - @ Park Hyatt Maldives (100,000 Hyatt points)

11/29-30 - depart for JFK
MLE-AUH-JFK on Etihad A380 Business class: 135,000 AA miles (pre-devaluation)

The biggest challenge in the end was finalizing the initial connection to NZ, since there are not as many options available to connect directly.

Using AA miles on Etihad was also fun to arrange - the US Call Center for American does not always see availability from the Etihad website.  For this booking, I had to call via Skype the Australia/NZ AA call center and those agents were able to see and reserve the proper mileage flights.  When looking for availability on Etihad.com, if you see Guest Economy/Business/First available you can use AA miles:

Round the world we go!  More trip reports to come from along the paths once we are underway.

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Hyatt Program "World of Hyatt" starting March 2017

If you haven't seen the news, Hyatt is making substantial changes to its awards program as of March 2017.  Different tiers, earning structures, and point accruals make many of these changes terrible for leisure travelers and somewhat lucrative for business travelers.  I'm not a fan of the changes upcoming.

The following letter was recently sent - take part to share your feedback if you can:

I hope you are as excited as I am about World of Hyatt – your new loyalty program launching March 1, 2017. What makes this loyalty program so special is that it’s an extension of Hyatt’s purpose – to care for you so you can be your best. More specifically, the program is the result of listening and understanding what is meaningful to you. While we have some time before World of Hyatt officially launches, we are eager to highlight five things that stand out about World of Hyatt: 
• There are even more opportunities for rewards, benefits and new experiences
• Now, Base Points from stays, dining and spa count toward earning elite status
• Members may earn a free night award at a category 1-4 Hyatt hotel after staying at 5 different brands starting March 1, 2017
• Preferred rooms and upgrades when available for all elite members
• Seamless transition into World of Hyatt, retaining all information and activity to date

These are just a few highlights. There's a lot more at HYATT.COM/WORLD. Be sure to check it out to see all of the details and benefit descriptions. 

I will also be hosting a special Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on November 16 at 12 noon CST to personally answer your questions. An email invite will go out next week with instructions on how to participate. I look forward to connecting with you then. 

Thank you for your loyalty. You are the heart of our community and the inspiration for World of Hyatt.

All my best,
Jeff Zidell
Senior Vice President
World of Hyatt

Monday, October 31, 2016

Reasons to renew your passport now

Changes are coming (along with $110 fee)!

U.S. Passport Changes

If you were part of the group back in 2007 that jumped on the new passport rules then your time for renewal is coming quickly.  Unfortunately you can no longer just add pages to your existing passport, so be sure to include plenty of lead time before sending.

Take care if you have any relevant visas as well - your old book should still come back to you but I would double-check to make sure before you send.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PHL "Re-Banking" Flights - Changes ahead...

If you read between the lines, it appears that PHL International Airport will be reducing options for travelers:

PHL Re-Banking Flights

Larger planes, check.  More seats, check.  Fewer flight banks?  Hm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chase to offer new Biz Class Credit Card

It's a competitive market right now for credit cards, and Chase continues to roll out new options.  The recent Sapphire Reserve card was the first; now it appears they will try to improve on their already existing business card offerings.  From Bloomberg:

Called Chase Ink Business Preferred, the card offers users an 80,000-point signing bonus when it rolls out later this year, according to Pam Codispoti, president of branded cards for the New York-based bank. Business owners earn 3 points a dollar for the first $150,000 spent on travel, telecommunications, shipping and advertising on social-media and search engines. Purchases after that limit or in other categories earn 1 point per dollar.

I'm excited to see more options coming available with new categories as well!

Monday, October 17, 2016

American ending PHL-EWR in Feb 2017

Another connection point via American Airlines has been pulled.  Per AirlineRoute:

American Airlines in February 2017 is ending service to 3 routes from Philadelphia, including Binghamton, Elmira and Newark. Binghamton and Elmira is served Piedmont Airlines Dash8 aircraft twice a day, while Newark is served by Air Wisconsin CRJ200 aircraft 3 times a day.

I liked this option as a connection feeder to Newark since it's a fast train ride from most points along NJ Transit.  Much harder to get to PHL directly by train.

As American pulls back from these type of flights, I find myself more resigned to 'free-agent' flying in 2017 that most likely will include JetBlue and United.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Sites to help you book that special trip

I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting sites that help with travel planning (especially using miles/points since there have been so many changes recently between American, Delta, and United).  Here are some of the newest and greatest (that are free)!

AwardAce: This site combs several programs to find the best options for your next reward.  Just pick your origin and destination for results. You can also "discover" based on how many miles you have currently.  Below is one sample search from Ohare to Zurich - notice the heat map for cheapest options:

RewardExpert: This site helps you find travel redemption choices though it discovers options based on your existing account balances (which requires an account and login).  Using automated research it also estimates your total 'spend' to predict how much you'll have in order to use for booking.  I like the goal-based idea for searches though I think using actual mileage/points balances give you the best results.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

United's new website update: challenging

Effective for tickets purchased on or after 10/6, United now has new award fees and stopover rules in place.  Others have already written at length about the changes though I thought it important to call out a few changes that might impact the more casual traveler.  Probably the biggest change is the new "Excursionist Perk" that replaces normal stopover rules from the past.  United describes it in this way:

The Excursionist Perk is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries. Members who book an itinerary with three or more one-way awards will be eligible to receive one of those one-way awards for free, if it meets all of these conditions:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.)
  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined region.
  • The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  • If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.
Lucky notes that the variability of the site search makes certain awards difficult to find (if not impossible) based on current rules.  One of the best ways to make sure that things price properly is to also search by one-way awards and comparing the roundtrip price.

Be diligent in your searches and always recheck your options!  You might find some mileage savings if you do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer Route Cancellations for American Airlines

Disappointed to see some cancellations on AA's schedule coming up this summer (via AirlineRoute):

Chicago O’Hare – Dusseldorf Seasonal service will not be resumed in summer 2017, previously scheduled daily from 11MAY17 with Boeing 767
New York JFK – Birmingham
 Service to be cancelled from 06JAN17 (JFK departure), currently served by Boeing 757
Philadelphia – Brussels Seasonal service will not be resumed in summer 2017, previously scheduled daily from 05MAY17 with Boeing 757
Philadelphia – Zurich Seasonal service will not be resumed in summer 2017, previously scheduled daily from 04MAY17 with Boeing 767

Especially pertinent for my own travel plans is the Zurich cancellation - now the only best route direct is to fly from JFK (which can be a nightmare to access due to traffic, etc).

Also cancelled is service to Halifax from PHL in January.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

New Hyatt Promo: More Points, More play through November 30

Hyatt's fall promo is now active through November 30th and it's very similar to the promo that ran earlier in the year.  It's also another 'nights' based promo, so if you're looking for stay credit you may have to get creative.  Sign up here.

The Terms and Conditions are similar as well - that means Las Vegas property nights also count for credit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Place of the Day: Khiva

I think I'm very overdue for a Place of the Day post!  Today's highlighted location: Khiva

Located in Uzbekistan, Khiva was once a main player on the Silk Road and a major hub for a variety of traded goods throughout the region.  To this day, the city remains an excellent example of preserved culture and contains many vestiges from ancient times (including some amazing city walls).

As one of the "-stan's", Uzbekistan is one of the easier countries to access.  It does require a visa to enter though that is easy to obtain.  You also must register onsite every three days of stay and no letter of invitation is necessary for US Citizens. April-June is the best time onsite if you can get there.

For more information and some great pictures, the BBC also recently highlighted Khiva here.

Is Khiva on your travel bucket list?

Monday, August 29, 2016

New Exit Tax at Qatar's Hamad International Airport (DOH)

If you're like most international travelers, you do your best to avoid adding any unnecessary fees or charges when buying your airfare.  London airports come to mind as the most egregious of these extra fees as the UK Air Passenger Duty can add a sizable amount to any ticket purchased.

Now another airport/country is looking to add a similar fee.

Doha's new Hamad Airport reportedly will be adding a new departure tax to purchased tickets after 8/30 and travel 12/1.  Doha News notes that the fee will be QR35 (about $10 USD).

While it isn't a large amount, it still is worth watching to see whether it increases in the future. Dubai also recently implemented a similar type of fee when going through UAE airports.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Are you getting the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card?

It's been the talk of the blogosphere for the last week or so, and there is good reason - the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card is looking to be one of the best all around cards available.  Reasons?  Just the sign up bonus alone for spend along with lounge access and 3x points.

TPG did a comparison of the cards here.  You'll see that there are additions that make the larger annual fee worth it.  The travel credit offset is really compelling compared to the normal annual fee of the Preferred card.

I decided to take the plunge on the card app at my local branch, hoping that the 5/24 rule wouldn't deny my application.  It only took about 30 seconds and I was approved!  Looking forward to the bonuses and all around use.  I suspect I will try and downgrade my Preferred card or retire it all together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mid-Year 2016 Travel Check-in

It's over the halfway point for the year, though I thought it might be helpful to do a quick check-in on my travel and re-qualifications so far.  It's been a different year with less cross-country travel so earning EQM's has been more difficult.  Not sure if that's going to get any better in the near term.


I've been enjoying Exec Plat this year and have really made use of the Same Day Standby and Flight Change options when applicable.  Normally that would cost about $75 an instance so I'm getting great value along with frequent upgrades.  Unfortunately, my overall accrual is way down - reaching Platinum won't be an issue, but my days of Exec Plat are probably ending.  With the addition of fare dollar-requirements for next year ($10k for Exec Plat!) I may never get the status again.


There have been a few reasons to fly United this year and I have to say it's been nice to be back those times.  For a few years United was my top choice.  I was able to snag a promotion to Silver status for the rest of the year though my chances of requal are slim.  Dining and credit card use are still my prime ways to get miles (and flying Star Alliance to Europe still is the easiest!)


Diamond status has been a great perk for this year and the bonuses alone make stays that much better.  Free breakfast doesn't hurt either.  I'm about half way on requalifying though I'm fairly certain I won't make it unless more options come available.  If I had a choice I'd requal on American or United before Hyatt in the next year for sake of value.

Overall I'm satisfied with my travel so far for this year - it would be nice to get one more year of top status on American though not a necessity.  Credit cards are becoming a much more viable way to offset access to elite benefits and normal daily credit card spend to acquire points and miles are really the way to go.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Alaska Airlines Expands Service at Newark

I used to fly Alaska Airlines quite a bit out of San Diego, since miles can be counted toward requalifying on American (though that will be changing significantly with the upcoming AAdvantage accrual devaluations).  I've seen Alaska planes at Newark though haven't done much research on their routes since most are just to main bases like Seattle.

Some encouraging news, though, was just shared that Alaska will be adding capacity at Newark - including a direct flight to San Diego!  From Routesonline:

Alaska Airlines in winter 2016/17 season is expanding Trans-Continental service for Newark, as the airline gradually introduces 1 daily flight each from Portland OR, San Diego and San Jose CA. These service will be operated by Boeing 737-900ER, with reservation to open on Monday 25JUL16.

eff 10NOV16 Portland OR – Newark

AS774 PDX0655 – 1455EWR 73J D
AS757 EWR1555 – 1905PDX 73J D

eff 21NOV16 San Diego – Newark

AS772 SAN0955 – 1755EWR 73J D
AS773 EWR1900 – 2200SAN 73J D

eff 12MAR17 San Jose CA – Newark
AS782 SJC0630 – 1455EWR 73J D
AS783 EWR1605 – 1940SJC 73J D

This is another excellent option to get back to the West Coast if fares are outrageous on the other main airlines.  And it also makes using the companion certificate easier to get those EQM's on AA!

Monday, August 1, 2016

American Airlines Goes Revenue Based Today

Just a short reminder that the dreaded day has come for primary AA flyers: revenue-based earning on American begins today regardless of your ticket purchase date.

You can read more info on it here (great summary by Gary).

Sadly, this means much fewer miles being earned for flights.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Family Camping at Interstate Park

This past weekend I made a trip back toward home to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary with a family camping excursion to Interstate Park.  It's been far too long since we did this type of activity together, and despite a few downpours managed to have a pretty enjoyable time.  The mosquitos also tended to stay away for the most part!

The park itself is quite large - you can find out more info here:


I'm looking forward to doing this again in the future.  Nice to be outside and enjoy nature!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Switzerland from South to North

A much needed vacation week has now concluded and overall the trip was very successful.  Given the current events happening in Nice and Turkey, I'm glad that there were no flight delays or other impacts.

From a travel planning perspective, I couldn't have been more pleased.  2nd Class Swiss Travel passes were used for four days and provided excellent value traveling between Bellinzona, Murren, and Zurich.  A side trip to Baden was even possible.  I chose Booking.com for the lodging reservations and points for the final night with no problems (I've found excellent value using the site in the past) - the train pass also included the Swiss Museum Pass and access to all local transport.  Flights were booked using United miles (60,000 r/t) with limited taxes on Swiss and UA.  Choices for stays this trip included:

The weather cooperated for the most part and there were splendid views and pictures possible.  The time always flies by too quickly - looking forward to another excursion back soon!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

3rd Quarter Chase Freedom bonus now active!

We are now into the 3rd quarter of the year, so if you have the Chase Freedom card you can now earn 5x points on all Restaurants and Warehouse Club stores.  (Don't forget to register!)  I'm especially looking forward to the restaurant earnings since even the cafeteria on campus qualifies for the bonus.  Between that and normal gift card use it's a great way to earn bonus for your everyday spend!  And if you don't have the card, there's no annual fee and a very minimum spend requirement.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The new Gotthard tunnel is now open! (sort of)

Billed as a marvel in engineering, the Gotthard base tunnel is now open in Switzerland (though not accepting passenger traffic for another bunch of months).  It's quite impressive all around and will definitely save travel time for trips to the north and south through the country.  It also has unique safety aspects with evacuation areas and tunnels throughout.  More info can be found here.

I'm looking forward to trying it on a future trip - here's hoping we can figure out something similar in the US someday.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Vacation upcoming

July is almost here (June seems to be flying by) and that means its almost time for vacation.  I'm ready for a break after a long semester and year.  I'll be using miles and points to escape the US coming up mid-month and will look forward to some fresh mountain air, on-time trains, and flavorful wine.  Anyone wanna guess the destination?  : ) 

Monday, June 6, 2016

American Airlines introduces changes to the AAdvantage program

I think I may need to evaluate my options.

Some months ago we heard about American introducing changes to the AAdvantage program in the second half of this year.  None of us knew exactly what that would entail but the announcement came today about what those changes will be.  And they're not good.

Award earning based on elite level starting August 1st:

New Elite tier and Revenue Requirements as of January 1st, 2017: Platinum Pro (still wondering about the name...):

Overall, pretty terrible.  In fact, the revenue requirement alone makes it impossible for casual travelers to see any type of benefit.

I think this may cause me to seriously think about being a flying "free agent" while relying on the status provided by credit cards to get me by.  It's really too bad that the three major airlines have all copied each other, though I'd say it's not surprising.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A shared reflection on the state of miles and points

I wanted to share this short opinion piece about the state of the miles and points game.  And in some ways it really is a 'game', since the airlines and hotels have been devaluing redemption options with some frequency over the past number of years.

Post: Fewer Points and Miles

I'm not sure if I subscribe to the notion of hoarding of points, but that may be a possibility to try and hedge against further devaluation.  I'm confident it's not going to cramp my travel style, though, in the short term.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sprint Free Global Roaming Expands

Almost one year ago to the day I posted about Sprint's new option for roaming overseas - a service that is free though speed-restricted to 2G but includes free texting.  The list of available countries was also limited and I was hopeful that they might expand this in the future.

Well, it appears as though they've done just that.  Now called "Global Roaming", it captures a much wider base of countries and includes many of my favorite places:

The full country list includes:

I'm excited to see Qatar and Switzerland are now included, as well as an expanded base in Asia.  Looking forward to trying out the service on my next trip!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alaska Airlines add JAL as a partner!

Per View from the Wing, Alaska Airlines will be adding Japan Airlines (JAL) as a partner - this is especially good for the Mileage Plan program and possible redemption opportunities.  You can read more about the announcement below:


June 29 will be the effective date for all new codeshare flights, and you may also notice the increased frequency from west coast destinations like San Diego.  Great to know there is another miles earning option!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Hertz Spring Bonus Promo Starts Today!

Hertz has started a new promotion today (May 1) headlined "The Sky's the Limit", running through June 30, 2016.  Double and triple point possibilities exist for reservations, and you gain additional points when you reserve certain 'extras'.  Not bad if you have reservations coming up!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Royal Air Moroc to join Avios

Late last fall I had an opportunity to fly and try Royal Air Moroc while visiting Casablanca, and despite a lengthy delay in departing had a very pleasant experience onboard.

Per this article, it seems as though RAM is expanding its reach into other markets by becoming a partner of Avios (along with many others including British Airways and Iberia).

It's great to see them branching out and I like the possibility of redemptions to other places in Morocco.  Possibly Marrakech in the future!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Hyatt to open three new properties in India

Per this article on Business Traveller, Hyatt plans to expand their property footprint and introduce three new properties in India.

The properties would be located in Hyderabad, Rameswaram, and Delhi.

It's exciting to see Hyatt looking for ways to increase locations in their portfolio and I'll be interested to see what category each is assigned.  Hopefully they will be reasonable for point+cash redemptions!

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Hyatt Promotion: Stay More, Play More through June 30

It's been a while since the last Hyatt promotion so I was pleased to see the new posting for Stay More, Play More now through June 30.

And the best part, looking at the T&C, is that it seems like Vegas properties are also included.  Not to mention this is a nights promotion instead of a stays promo.  

Click here to sign up.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

American Airlines Devaluation - the day is here

I hope all of you were able to get in on any last minute mile redemptions before today - as you know, today is the official day of the American Airlines devaluation for mileage awards.  There is a broad range for the changes, but most rewards are going up (some significantly).

I'm grateful to have locked in a few options later in the year - made it in time!

Monday, March 14, 2016

China Trip recap and pics

My long weekend trip to China was a success!  Beautiful, clear skies allowed me to have an enjoyable tour and I had no problems with my visa and security checks.  I also managed to keep all of my electronic devices turned off to minimize security concerns.

As a quick recap, the trip was extremely cost effective - voucher covered the flight, points covered my hotel stay at the Grand Hyatt Beijing.  

Enjoy these fabulous pics!  (click on each to enlarge)

For those wondering, I booked this entire experience using China Guide - overall it went very well from pickup to drop off.  Give them a look if you want a great experience!