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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Upcoming trip: Stanford/San Diego

I'll be on the road coming up this weekend into next week as I attend the MOR Associates IT Leadership meetings being hosted on the Stanford University campus.  Looking forward to being back in sunny SoCal as well since I'm taking the opportunity to head down for a few meetings and to connect with colleagues and friends at SDSU and USD.

And good thing I'm heading out as well...this winter storm they're predicting could be a massive headache for travel!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016: My Travel Year Ahead

Happy New Year!

Last year I was very blessed in the amount of travel I was able to accomplish - plenty of opportunities and it allowed me to reach some pretty fun status goals.  It helped to have to drive across the country (my Mazda3 made it!) and have a few extra Hyatt nights as well.  So I thought it might be fun to scope out how my year ahead may be looking for points, travel, and other adventures:


Sadly, not much flying for me on United last year with the introduction of the PQD requirement.  While I've been very loyal to UA in the past, I made the decision to go with the best option for accruing last year and it was American.  I'm hopeful to get back to some type of status with UA in the future, but it's not looking good.  In the meantime I'll keep trying to get miles via dining and CC use. (update: I've had to make a few UA bookings after all! Guess we'll see how those go...)


My effort to focus on AA last year paid off and I was able to achieve Executive Platinum status for all of this year.  Fares are still looking very high during the upcoming summer - just to go home would cost me $500-600 and so I'm wondering how my pattern may change.  I think I'll make Platinum again if my pattern holds...Exec Plat will be tough without some international travel at year end.


I ended up having a few more stays at Hyatt properties than expected last year and was able to qualify for Diamond in 2016.  I'm not sure I'll have enough stays this year to keep it, so I'll keep Platinum status via the Hyatt credit card for sure. Looking forward to trying to use suite upgrades this year as I can.

Overall, it looks like I'll be down a bit in my overall travel for the upcoming year.  I'm trying to scope out more deals when I see them and hope I can still fit a few trips in when I can.

What are your travel plans this year?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Challenge of Redeeming American AAdvantage Miles on Etihad

During the last year I was fortunate to have a number of trips that took me to international destinations, and thereby afforded me the opportunity to acquire a good number of American AAdvantage miles.  My stockpile has grown sufficiently enough to allow me to work on some aspirational travel opportunities for 2016 - some such opportunities include possible travel in the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia regions.  Unfortunately, American itself does not fly directly to most of those destinations so the only way to get there is to use other OneWorld airlines or AA partners.   One such partner is Etihad.

Etihad at present is a relatively good value proposition, but it doesn't come without its challenges:

1. You can't book Etihad flights directly on AA.com - you must call the Service Center and book with an agent
2. Because award availability doesn't show on AA.com, you have to price out your itinerary on the Etihad website and look for a specific fare class, usually labeled as "guest" space
3. Right now most Etihad options in Business or First class are unable to be seen by the United States call centers

The last point makes things especially interesting - in fact, there is a list group dedicated to booking questions about how to actually book space you may find.  And why, might you wonder, does it matter to book on them?  Well, due to the upcoming AA award chart devaluation, most of the mileage costs will be going up exponentially.  For example, an award that might cost 60,000 miles in First class will be 100,000 miles after March.  Not a good value proposition.

So in order to lock in some options now, I took to the phone to try and get some segments booked.  An adventure ensued!

My first three tries were to the US-based call number for AA - each agent was unable to see any business class availability even though the Etihad site was showing at least two seats available on most flights.  Here is an example (note the 'guest' space):

So...what to do?  Call Australia!  For some reason, the Australian Call Center for AA is able to see and book award space on Etihad right now.  In fact, they're the only one that can (that I know of).  After some hedgy Skype connectivity, I was able to get at least a few options squared away and confirmed on hold.

Persistence paid off in this case but it begs the question - why does one call center see the availability and others don't?  Time for AA IT to get with it, I think...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ireland Day 6 - Departure/Recap

Could it be that we were nearing the end of our journey?  Only a few last items to wrap before we would fly back, including the return of the rental car.  We bid our BMW a fond farewell (despite me accidentally leaving the Delorme on the dash and making the rental car bus go back to pick it up) and check in was fast.  Our British Airways flight to Heathrow went quickly and after spending a little time in the Admirals Club Lounge we boarded our AA flight back to JFK.  One more time in Business Class to treat ourselves...quite enjoyable.

I really can't put into words how amazing the trip was for me...I had such an great time and really enjoyed being able to travel about with Shannon and explore the country.  We didn't get to everything on our list (Cliffs, Kinsale, Cork city, Londonderry) but we're leaving that for another return trip in the future.

A big thank you to Shannon for inviting me along - can't wait for us to go again!

Sunday, January 3, 2016