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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mid-Year (fall) 2019 Travel Check-in

I'm a bit late with this post since I've been busy with end of summer construction/start of semester activities.  I feel that we've been busier than usual at work given the amount of projects we're working on including planning for FY20 learning space work.  My travel pattern really picked up in late spring as well which is nice though was unexpected from my assessment early in the year.


No status presently on American even though I took advantage of a brief status match in late spring.  I was able to leverage some new CC spend and have increased my miles balance ahead of some fun travel hopefully next fall.


United is still primary for me as I travel given the close proximity to Newark (not my favorite by any stretch).  My travel for work so far this year combined with personal travel has positioned me to get back to 1K if all holds steady.  I have one additional November trip to confirm as well.  My upgrade pattern has been about 60-70% with no real complaints as planes are typically full.  Looking forward to a full month of travel ahead plus trips through the New Year.  And I'm still leveraging MP Dining and CC use for miles regularly.


I've easily matched Explorist status again for the year, though there is an outside chance I may be able to get to Globalist.  I'll need to make a decision on that in a few weeks otherwise the window will close completely for next year.  CC spend for nights plus the extra 4x on stays has been helpful for future trip planning. 

I'm pretty satisfied overall on how much I've travelled this year.  Strategic use of CC's along with regular spend patterns has helped with overall points accrual as well.  Normal daily CC spend is still one of the best strategies for the points and travel game.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Greetings from over western TX!  I'm enroute to San Diego for the weekend - should be a great trip catching up with friends and enjoying the sun.  Winds might be a bit gusty during my stay too - always fun to be back. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Adding a new airport

I always look forward to adding a new airport to my 'traveled' list.  I'll have the opportunity this weekend to increase my count with a trip to Cornell for Ivy+ Director's meetings. 

The trip to ITH is not long and involves an RJ145.  No problem!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Chase Q4 2019 Freedom Categories

I always look forward to the start of a new quarter - it means new 5x bonus categories for the Chase Freedom card.

Just announced, these will be: Department Stores, Paypal, and Chase Pay

Personally I find these disappointing.  It means you have to structure your spend around mobile devices which is something I don't generally do for security reasons.  Paypal seems hard to use in general for most day to day purchases.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Southwest Network changes 2020

From Airline Route - Southwest is making significant changes to their network.  These include:

Following service to be discontinued from 06JAN20:
Atlanta – Boston
Austin – San Francisco
Boston – Kansas City
Boston – Milwaukee
Columbus OH – Oakland
Dallas Love Field – Jacksonville FL
Dallas Love Field – Oklahoma City
Dallas Love Field – San Francisco
Fort Lauderdale – Jacksonville FL
Los Angeles – Cancun
Los Angeles – Omaha
Los Angeles – Pittsburgh
Los Angeles – Puerto Vallarta
Orlando – New York LaGuardia

Monday, September 9, 2019

New Hyatt Fall Promo 2019

Word is out that Hyatt has a new promo for the fall called Bonus Journeys:

  • Earn Triple Points at nearly 350 Hyatt Place hotels in cities like New York, London, Tokyo and more.
  • Earn Double Points at over 550 other Hyatt hotels worldwide and participating M life Rewards destinations and Small Luxury Hotels of the World hotels.

Register here.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Semester start!

The new semester is here, and we will kick things off this weekend ahead of first day of classes Wednesday.  Hard to believe the summer months have come and gone already; where did the time go?

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Chase Ultimate Rewards partner: Emirates

Chase has one of most valuable points programs for travel; it's part of my main strategy for points accrual and credit card redemptions.

I was excited to hear today that Chase has added a new airline partner to Ultimate Rewards: Emirates

Before transferring miles, make sure to check out the award calculator since redemptions are dynamic to certain areas.   I like the option of having another way to visit/transit via the Middle East to get to Doha or the Maldives.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Next up: Singapore

I depart later today for Singapore and the Next Gen Learning Spaces conference. I'm excited to be participating as a speaker and conference Chair.  You can find more information about the topics and speakers here:

5th Annual NGLS Asia

I've scheduled the flights so that I get a bit of a break midstream traveling east - hoping to see how this compares to past trips via SFO with the major time change.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Place of the Day: Carcassonne

It's more than just a game!

Medieval walls and history of the same have really been focus points for me when traveling.  I had a blast visiting Dubrovnik and walking the city walls, and Hadrian's wall is on my list yet to visit.  So I'm also adding this as a "must" place to go:

Located in the southern part of France, Carcassonne is the one best-preserved medieval/Roman cities with existing ramparts and citadel.  It dates back to early BC time and didn't suffer the same fate as other ruined locations.  It contains 53 towers and two outer walls for exploration.

A good idea of a visit/tour can be found here.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to visit soon!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dubrovnik/Tallinn Trip: Recap

It's always tough to do recaps since the trip must be over!  It was another amazing trip overall; the weather was perfect in each location and we were able to walk or use public transportation with little difficulty.  Climbing the walls is special in Dubrovnik (and if you're a Game of Thrones fan it's fun to find film spots).  I still believe there is nothing like a tiered, walled city to take you back in time.

The food options we explored were also excellent - I highly recommend both Leib and Farm if you're visiting Tallinn.  Each city had a wide selection of choices and I believe they have expanded in the last few years.

For 2020 I'm still doing research on points required, and am hopeful that a return trip to the Maldives might be in store.  It's a bit of a jaunt though worth it if you have the points to fly in business.  If everything works out, a stopover or two may also be possible.  Next trip up: Singapore!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Dubrovnik/Tallinn Trip: Daytrip to Helsinki

On my first trip to Tallinn I had some regrets about not taking advantage of the excellent cruise/ferry options to visit nearby cities.  The Tallink/Silja Lines operate a variety of connection opportunities including Stockholm, Helsinki, and Turku.  We were in luck to find that a day trip to Helsinki would only cost 64 euro for two...not bad!  From D-Terminal in Tallinn, it's only a 2 hour trip to get to Finland.

We got up early and took an Uber down to the Terminal and boarding started shortly after we walked in.  The main sitting area of the boat is open for anyone with no reserved seating; we found a table by a window that also had outlets.

Helsinki is a very easy city to visit.  The city tram line runs right to the arrival terminal and in about 20 minutes you're in the central city - use the app and purchase a day pass for only 8 euro.  Our first stop was Helsinki Cathedral - statues of Martin Luther and Melancton are inside:

The City Museum is just a short walk away from the Cathedral though was not very impressive.  Turning left down the street, though, we came to the Market Square with many outdoor vendors and food choices.

After lunch we decided to take a tram ride northeast of the square to find the Sibelius Monument.  Created with some controversy, this was an interesting creation in a nearby park:

We also chose to stop and see another well-known landmark, the Temppeliaukion Church. Built into the surrounding rockface, the acoustics in the sanctuary are impressive and we were lucky to have a pianist playing when we stopped.

Soon it was time to head back to the ship and transit back.  Our ferry back was uneventful and the main seating area was fairly full. Arriving back in Tallinn, we stopped in at Restauran Contravento just off of the Pile Gate for dinner.  Excellent wine and entrees!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Dubrovnik/Tallinn Trip: First Day in Tallinn

Exploring Tallinn is very easy.  There is a tram service that takes you around the Old City and much if not all of the area is walkable.  I would encourage the use of public transportation and walking to anyone visiting to get a complete picture and flavor of the culture:

We were able to visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral along with St. Mary's Cathedral a short distance away.  Plus walking the wall sections is really special (and similar to Dubrovnik in stature).  Our walk also took us to the main Town Hall Square where we stopped in at numerous market shops.

For lunch I was excited we could visit Leib Restaurant - it boasts a specialized Estonian menu with many organic ingredients.  Make a reservation if you can in advance to secure a seat.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My Star Alliance Goal: one new airline!

Back in 2014, I challenged myself to see how many Star Alliance carriers I could fly.  While my international travel pattern has stayed steady, this is a challenge for some regions.  I'm pleased that I was able to fly Turkish on my most recent vacation and so another check on the board!

Here's my list (red is flown):
Still quite a few to go...

Monday, August 5, 2019

Dubrovnik/Tallinn Trip: Transit via Istanbul to Tallinn

Our departure was an 8am scheduled flight via Turkish Airlines through the new Istanbul Airport to Tallinn.  The sun was already shining when we departed Rooms Megi and caught an Uber from the Buza Gate to Dubrovnik Airport.

The new Istanbul airport is located quite a distance outside of the city though boasts infrastructure to accommodate a significant increase in passenger traffic.  We landed early and a 20+ minute taxi time gave us an ontime arrival.  Why the airport planners built the runways only to one side of the property is a mystery.

No passport control was required after deplaning - the terminal layout means you may have a bit of a walk to get to your connection so allowing for plenty of time is essential.  We had enough time to visit the Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Lounge for lunch.  They spared no expense with the layout, food options, and amenities:

We had an on-time departure and landing into Tallinn was smooth.  After checking into the Hilton Tallinn Park (points for the stay) we made our way into the city for dinner at Farm.  Can't recommend this place enough for Estonian cuisine (and rhubarb wine!).

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dubrovnik: Day 2

One of most memorable experiences you can do when visiting Dubrovnik is to walk the city walls.  We were up early and out the door to make the trek and beat the heat:

The Dubrovnik card really helps save money while giving access to all of the major sites in the city.  For lunch today we stopped in at a local pizzeria, Oliva. One of the best thin-crust options!

In the afternoon we visited the Franciscan Monastery that is close to the Pile Gate.  Inside contains a variety of local artifacts along with a pharmacy that claims to the 3rd oldest in the world:

Our walk also took us to the Rector's Palace where there was a special exhibit of Roman coins dating back to Octavius:

For dinner we chose a new, local establishment called Fat Cats.  Along with Croatian wine choices they have a reduced tapas-style menu that had excellent small plate options.  Don't miss out on the fish tacos!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dubrovnik: Day 1

We were in no hurry to start the day due to our prior evening late arrival.  In the later morning we were out the door for lunch and decided on one of our favorite, affordable stops: Presa

The menu is simple and straightforward - the burgers are out of this world and it's not uncommon to have more than you can finish.

After lunch we walked the main street and square stopping in at the Dubrovnik Cathedral:

We also walked by the eastern edge of the city near the water:

The old city has many levels to explore and there is plenty of walking and stairs:

We also decided to enjoy some time on the cliff overlooking the sea with many boats and kayakers by stopping in at Buza Bar - finding it can be a bit of a trick but it's worth it:

Where to go for dinner?  There are so many great choices and we decided on one near the main square called Buffet Kamenice. We followed up our meal with some dessert at Zuzori where I had to try the strawberry and apple pie:

Walking the streets in the evening is quite an experience - can't put it into words:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Dubrovnik/Tallinn Vacation: DBV Arrival

Vacation is here!

I've learned over the years that constructing trips on multiple tickets can be tricky, especially in the summertime.  Many people are traveling and flight options are not always uniformly available.  For this trip, since we decided to use points, I had the additional challenge of an itinerary with a middle transition flight.  I decided it was best to use points for that rather than try to match the entire thing. So our plan was EWR-FRA-DBV; followed by TLL-BRU-EWR.  To get from Dubrovnik to Tallinn we booked a separate award ticket using United miles via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines (new Star Alliance carrier!): DBV-IST-TLL.  This would also mean we would get to visit the brand new Istanbul Airport and lounges.  The map looks like this (you can click on all pictures to make them larger):

The Frankfurt to Dubrovnik segment included a 9+ hour layover in Frankfurt airport.  We took advantage of the Lufthansa lounge (food, drink, nap):

Arrival to Dubrovnik was in the evening.  Flying into smaller airports is certainly a plus since there are no wait times and passport control is quick.  This view was particularly nice:

We didn't have a bus option to get into the city given the late arrival time, so we decided on an Uber (which was really a taxi but requested through the app) for the 30 minute ride.  The Buza Gate was busy when we got into town, and our lodging, Rooms Megi, was only a 5 minute walk.  Time to crash.