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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Swiss Covid Cert success

This past Monday Switzerland introduced new Covid rules and a certificate requirement, specifically for certain situations:


More information can be found here: https://ch.usembassy.gov/covid-19-info/

This means that any travelers from the United States must have a Swiss-approved Covid Certificate in digital format (or paper though I wouldn't choose that) in order to enter restaurants and other establishments.  The only issue is that specific details about how to request such a cert were not provided as part of the announcement.  This has caused a bit of a scramble to find how to request, especially if anyone has travel planned.

Thankfully, some of the Cantons have already created links to submit for a certificate (which can be found via quick Google search).  I took a chance on one link that now seems to be IP-restricted and after a three day wait was just issued my digital cert!  I highly recommend submitting this as soon as possible if you have travel plans already in place for the fall.  Hopefully my October conference remains on schedule!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor Day trip 2021: Switzerland

Greetings from 38,000 feet over northern Missouri!  I'm enroute back to SFO after a very successful Labor Day weekend trip to Switzerland.  It had been 643 days since I was last overseas, and for a time I wondered if this trip would also go due to Covid and changing travel status of the EU countries.  Switzerland's requirements, however, did not change and we were able to depart (though not without a few different unexpected impacts):

1. The remnants of hurricane Ida caused severe flooding all over New England; it didn't change my flight from SFO-EWR though did cause train cancellations affecting Heather.  

2. When Amtrak cancelled, the next choice was a bus from Boston to Newark via Penn Station.  Except that the severe flooding caused road closures all over NYC which rerouted the bus.  Not helpful for on-time checkin!

3. After the bus arrived near Penn, Uber was the next best choice given the road closures - not cheap though more reliable.  However the cancellations caused severe check-in backups which also necessitated a more engaged exchange with agents to make sure boarding passes were in hand on-time. 

4. My effort to use PlusPoints to upgrade was only partially successful - when I called United back after landing to confirm the points use and HB's spot on the upgrade list, the 1K agents changed the ticket block making her go from #1 to #10.  I called at least 4 times to the 1K desk, went round with the gate agents, and after boarding started was no further in restoring the upgrade list.  I don't think I've ever been as frustrated as I was on the phone with 1K agents who insisted on 'policy' - policy won't fix it, just restore what was there originally!  Instead of Polaris, they were able to confirm Premium Plus last minute.

5. Due to crew misconnects, we departed late and had a delayed arrival of almost 2 hours - not a dealbreaker. 

Murren was absolutely amazing - the weather held each day and we got some great hiking in on the Northface Trail.

If Covid testing is required to return to the United States, I absolutely recommend the Binax eMed product and Navica app - no wait times and test results in about 20 minutes online (plus it's CDC approved). I ordered kits in advance and brought backups just in case, no issues with carryon's.  

We had confirmed seats in Polaris Business on the way home - great value for the PlusPoints upgrades (a one way ticket in that cabin was priced at over $7000!).  Since I used previous cancelled travel credit and points, I was happy with another low-cost trip. 

One odd note on arrival back in the US at Newark - no one confirmed the negative Covid test.  It's a requirement to have it on arrival or you're not allowed to enter, and it was confusing that it wasn't checked once?  

Everything was very smooth in Switzerland - trains were on time, everyone was masked, there were not typical crowds in the train station, restaurants had plenty of outdoor seating available, and most businesses were open.  

I hope that access continues to be consistent through the fall - I'm due to be back in Geneva for a conference in October.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

United upgrading EWR-PQI starting 10/31

 I'm excited to read there will be a service upgrade for flights to Presque Isle, Maine starting October 31st:


Can't wait to try this new plane and opportunities for first class!


Saturday, August 21, 2021

One genealogy branch - House of Sax (Hohensax)

 


One of the branches of my family recently unearthed is the family von Hohensax.  I've been researching information about this line that started with Albert I von Sax, my 23rd great-grandfather. His father was noted as Alcherrius De (da) Torre. 

A good summary I found is here: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/House_of_Sax

One note from the site lists the da Torre family as having been part of Churrätien nobility, which was from a medieval province after the Roman province Raetia Prima: 

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Raetia_Curiensis

Fascinating history!  I can't wait to visit these areas on a future trip. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

United offers new qualifying promotion

Recently Delta extended premier benefits to frequent flyers until 2023, and many in the industry were speculating how American and United might respond.  Would both match a similar extension? 

I received an email on Friday from United with details about how I can "fly to the finish" by making a requal to 1K before November 30th.  Some details are here:

Fly to the Finish Details

United is not matching Delta exactly and rather being a bit creative in asking members to continue to fly to meet the extension threshold.  Since I already have flights planned for the rest of the year, I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be able to make the necessary number.  I'm curious how this will affect flyers especially since the Covid variant keeps impacting many organizations.  


Saturday, July 31, 2021

Mid-Year 2021 Travel Check

The coronavirus is still lingering in 2021 which is affecting travel plans and a return to normal.  Airlines and hotels have made adjustments however I believe it will be some time before we get completely back to 'normal'.  I've resumed flying and trips (thrilled!) though wouldn't be surprised if there are adjustments through the fall.

American

I do not currently have status on American given limited flying in the past year.  Miles that I accumulated during the year were used to plan for a return trip to the Maldives in November on Qatar.  Can't wait to be in Qsuites!

United

United is still primary for me and with the early-year promo for PQP I'm surprisingly on track to requal for 1K.  Flying out of SFO hasn't been bad so far but I am missing Newark (I know, I know, bit of a contradiction).  

Hyatt

I've been enjoying Globalist this year for a number of trips and also during my cross-country drive.  Given my job change I've also been able to leverage extended stay rates and will easily re-qualify for Globalist next year beyond the offered promotion.   


It hasn't been easy to plan travel or see family over the past year - I'm optimistic that we are on a good track as countries around the world reopen.  Here's hoping I can still get back to the Maldives in November and Europe in October for a conference presentation!

Monday, July 19, 2021

25% off Swiss Pass (train) until July 31, 2021

Are you planning travel to Europe and Switzerland in the coming months?

RailEurope, one of my go-to sites for securing train passes, is offering 25% off the Swiss Pass - this gives access to any train and many city transportation systems in-country. 

Get 25% off the Swiss Travel Pass. Book now, before 31 July 2021. Travel remains completely flexible: the Swiss Travel Pass retains its validity for 11 months from the purchase date.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Genealogy discovery

I was pretty thrilled over the past week about a major genealogy find for my family, one that opens the door to an entirely new section of research and history.  

To summarize: I've been searching for some time to find more information on a great-great grandparent on my dad's side of the family. He emigrated to the US through NY in 1890 from Switzerland, however, neither Great-Grandma nor my Grandma knew much more than that. He apparently never shared info about his parents nor birthplace/extended family, and no one has been able to locate his citizenship documentation.

A songbook that Grandma shared contained notations about him being "in Glarus" in 1876, so that was a key clue found a few years ago. My initial searches in online databases in Switz didn't find anything and I suspected this might be a dead end. 

This past week, however, I happened to find a website and individual who focuses solely on family genealogy for Glarus, and took a chance sending an email to see if he may have recommendations or information. He was able to find great-grandma's dad's family and more! 

- His family were in Ennenda: https://www.glarusfamilytree.com/kopie-von-riedern

- My first ancestors lived in Saanen, near Gstaad, Switzerland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saanen

- Eventually the family lived in Laufen an der Eyach, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laufen_an_der_Eyach

The information and links are absolutely fascinating (the name list in our tree is now over 2700!) The researcher confirmed that we have a direct line to Charlemagne and the links go back even further to BC. Some highlights:

Berengar I, King of Italy (abt 850) - 32nd Great Grandpa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berengar_I_of_Italy)
Mathilde Plantagenet von England (born at Windsor Castle 1156) - 27th Great Grandma (Matilda of England, Duchess of Saxony) and daughter of Henry II
Antenor I (abt 483 BC), last king of the Cimmerians (Cimmerians) - 85th Great Grandpa

Some framing info on the noble/royal connections is here: https://www.glarusfamilytree.com/nobility

I'm really looking forward to more research and visiting these towns during upcoming trips to the region.  Genealogy is such a rewarding activity and persistence is required!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Switzerland is open to US travelers!

After so many months and other travel impacts due to Covid, I’m thrilled to share that the US was taken off of the high-risk list of countries restricted by Switzerland. This could change at any time though is a positive step for travel. 

Can’t wait to get back! 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Place of the Day: Nasir ol Molk Mosque

I haven't written one of these in quite some time, so now that I'm off the road it's time to start again!  

The Nasir ol Molk Mosque, with construction occurring in 1888, is also known as the Pink Mosque due to the tiles that were used as part of its creation.  Architecture Magazine references the "Panj Kāse concave design" that creates a kaleidoscope effect when visiting the site: 

The Mosque is located in Shiraz, which served as the capital of Iran in the 18th century.  Visiting the Mosque may be challenging for some given current access challenges to this particular region.  The best time to visit is likely in spring when temperatures are more favorable.  One site with possible options for both travel and lodging is 1stQuest.  Your best bet is to fly into Shiraz and a number of cities have connections including Doha, Istanbul, and Dubai.  

Monday, June 7, 2021

Made it to NorCal

Greetings from sunny San Jose, CA!

I completed my cross-country drive to get to the Bay area last night.  Overall I would have to say the trip was successful - no major issues with the car, roads were pretty even, and I was able to stop in WI on the way to see family and friends.  I also visited many new places on the way including Lincoln, NE, Cheyenne, WY, Reno, NV, and Lake Tahoe. 

Back to work today and it's nice to be on the same timezone for meetings.  


Saturday, May 22, 2021

On the road...in the air

Finally made it back in the air!  It's been 447 days since my last flight, and even though it was an RJ145 it felt great to be on the move (yes even at Newark).  

It's a bit overcast and cloudy in northern Maine today though I'll take it.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Summer Chase Bonus offers

I continue to be impressed by the offers extended by Chase for regular credit card spend.  Hopefully most of you have received these as well!  Over the last two weeks there have been notifications about offers through this summer for several cards: 

United Card: 7x points on United purchases and 5x points for travel/gas station purchases up to $1500 from 5/15 through 8/15

IHG Card: 9x points on IHG purchases and 5x points for travel/gas station purchases up to $1500 from 5/15 through 8/15

British Airways Card: 9x points on British Airways/family purchases and 5x Avios for travel/gas station purchases up to $1500 from 5/15 through 8/15

Marriott Card: 10x points on Marriott purchases and 5x points for travel/gas station purchases up to $1500 from 5/15 through 8/15

This is all in addition to the previously announced offers that are good through 6/30.  Don't forget to sign up via the email link for each!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

My favorite hike and trail

Eventually travel around the world will resume (hopefully soon). One of my go-to places to get away and decompress is Switzerland, near Gimmelwald and Murren.  There are activities year round though I prefer hiking in summer especially the Northface Trail.  I typically use GPS tracking with my inReach during hikes which generates a great record:

https://muerren.swiss/en/summer/tracks/northface-trail-2h30/

Here's one picture I took from near the top of the trail:


Can't wait to be back! If you've never visited this region I highly recommend it.  There are numerous point/mile redemption options to the area (Geneva/Zurich) on most airlines - during the summer months ticket prices can be high which make award tickets a great choice. 


Friday, April 9, 2021

Additional Chase Bonus Points offers

In October 2020, Chase made bonus points promotions available to help during the pandemic.  These were additional categories beyond normal spending/bonus and had specific thresholds.

I've received more emails with bonus points offers for regular spend through June 30th - if you have these Chase cards, don't forget to sign up using the email links in each invite.

Hyatt Card: 5x points at Grocery/Restaurants on up to $1500 in combined spend through 6/30

United Card: 5x points on up to $1500 in combined spend through 6/30

IHG Card: 5x points on up to $1500 in combined spend through 6/30

British Airways Card: 5x points on up to $1500 in combined spend through 6/30

Marriott Card: 5x points on up to $1500 in combined spend through 6/30

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A year of remote

March 23rd is another anniversary of sorts for me, as one year ago remote work began in earnest - and I'm still following the same protocols today for safety.  

I'm grateful for the roles I've had and institutions that have kept individuals safe while still providing needed support for campus entities. 

Hoping that the pandemic continues to subside and we are all able to resume regular activities soon!  It's been 480 days since my last overseas trip...I'm ready for travel to be back.

Monday, March 1, 2021

It's been one full year since I've flown...

A bit of a sad anniversary today for me, March 1st marking the last time I was on a plane in over a year!  One year ago I was on my way to Educause ELI in Seattle before Covid shut down most of the area and the conference cancelled while I was transiting to my next gate at SFO.  It didn't make sense to keep going to Seattle, so I went to customer service and changed my ticket back to Newark.  It ended up being a day long trip across the country and my last transcon.  

We're making progress in fighting Covid and I'm hopeful that I will be able to fly again soon.  Most European countries are still closed so it may take a while to have worldwide travel ramp up quickly. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A New Role in February

2021 has already brought a number of changes forward - I'm proud to share that I've started a new role as well.  As of the 1st I've joined Stanford University as Assistant Chief Information Officer for Support Services in the R&DE IT Division.  I'm looking forward to working with several teams in this role to support a number of initiatives and projects supporting R&DE and students.  I'll be working remotely for now due to challenges with the pandemic in CA, though will be making the trek cross-country at some point in the near future.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Chase Bonus Points Promotions through March 2021!

Back in October 2020, Chase was very proactive with bonus points promotions given everything going on with the pandemic.  At the time these seemed to be the best offers for regular spend for the quarter.  

This morning I received several emails with more bonus points offers for spend at gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores through March 31st - if you have these Chase cards, make sure to sign up via the invite email links.

Hyatt Card: Spend $3000 in combined purchases to receive 5000 Hyatt bonus points through 3/31

United Card: 5x points at Gas/Grocery/Drug Stores on up to $1500 in combined spend through 3/31

IHG Card: 5x points at Gas/Grocery/Drug Stores on up to $1500 in combined spend through 3/31

British Airways Card: 5x points at Gas/Grocery/Drug Stores on up to $1500 in combined spend through 3/31

Marriott Card: 5x points at Gas/Grocery/Drug Stores on up to $1500 in combined spend through 3/31

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Cards in my Wallet Right now (2021)

Happy New Year!

2020 was particularly challenging with the pandemic, however, I was still able to do a few card swaps to increase my points balances.  I'm expecting a fairly stable card cache for 2021 given where offers are currently. 


Cards in my Wallet:

Chase Sapphire Reserve - one of the best earning cards with 3x points for travel and 3x for dining

Chase Freedom - Quarterly bonus categories give 5x points and pairs with Sapphire

Chase World of Hyatt - 4x Hyatt points per stay make this one of the best for hotel stays, 2x for restaurant/transit

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select (no longer available) - Platinum Elite status plus free night every cardmember year

Chase United Mileage Plus Select (no longer available) - 3x miles on United purchases plus EQM, 2x gas/grocery/dining + Star Alliance purchases

Chase Biz Plus (replaced with Business Preferred) - 5x points at office supply and phone, 2x on gas station and hotel

Chase Biz Cash - 5x points at office supply and phone, 2x points on gas stations and restaurants

Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless - 6x points at Marriott properties; 2x all other purchases; No Foreign Transaction Fee

Chase British Airways - 3x Avios on BA purchases; 2x on hotels; No Foreign Transaction Fee

Citibank Premier - 3x points on travel including gas stations; 2x on dining/entertainment

Citibank AA Biz Platinum - 2x American Airlines miles on purchases plus free checked bag and priority boarding; 2x on gas stations

Citibank AA Mileup - 2x American Airlines miles on flights, plus 2x miles for grocery purchases

Citibank Double Cash - 2% cash back on all purchases, though the transfer option to Citi ThankYou Points makes this card strong for all non-category spend, No Annual Fee

American Express Hilton card - 7x Hilton points on stays, 5x points dining/gas/grocery, 3x all other purchases, complimentary Silver status, No Annual Fee

American Express Hilton Surpass - 12x Hilton points on stays, 6x points on dining/grocery/gas, 3x points on all other purchases; complimentary Gold status

Discover It card - 5x points/cash on quarterly bonus categories, link to Amazon.com purchases, No Annual Fee

Bank of American Alaska Airlines card - 3x miles on Alaska purchases, $99 companion fare, great travel partner mileage redemption options


Many of these are no annual fee cards though I still value certain cards for the benefits compared to the yearly fee.  

Are there any card must-have's on your list?