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

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Travel stats 2022

Happy New Years Eve to all!  Hard to believe we're just about to jump into 2023, and as I reflect back on my year of travel I ended up with more time in the air than I thought possible.  

I ended up with just over 149k miles flown across 93 flights (134,589 BIS just on United!).  Quite an adventure and one that I'm grateful for including several trips overseas.  All of those miles means I circumnavigated the earth just over 6 times total.  With 20 airports visited, I definitely spent some quality time with TSA too.

Wishing everyone a safe New Years and successful travels in the year ahead! 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

end of 2022....

Bit under the weather this week, and thankfully I was at home so I wouldn't be contagious to anyone else.  Hope everyone is staying safe.

The mess of Southwest Airlines scheduling continues to persist though it appears most will return to normal by the weekend.  

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Kickoff of Holiday Travel?

Good morning!  I'm on my way back east and wanted to share a quick update.  It appears holiday travel has kicked off!  Lines at security for Terminal 2 SFO were significant though moving steadily.  If you're planning any travel this weekend or through the upcoming week, be sure to build in some extra time for bag checks and TSA.  PreCheck was busy though not as full as primary security.  

Safe travels to all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Hilton 1Q 2023 Promotion - Double Points

Hilton released information on the first promotion of 2023 - Double points and brand bonuses!


I wish this would have been triple points but it's not awful for planned stays.

Don't forget to sign up!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Hyatt/AA Instant Status Pass

Has anyone else received an email from American about the Instant Status Pass partnership with Hyatt?  I received the email and invite to participate, and with some shifted travel this month decided to register. 

Instant Platinum Pro status on American helps for a number of reasons, mainly for seat selection.  The possibility of upgrades is also included though I tend to keep my expectations low for those given the high number of elites flying these days.  

I'm not sure I'll be able to fly enough to get points and requalify, but I'm happy to have the options for the next few months of travel I have planned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022: Venice

We're back on the road this year for another Thanksgiving week excursion, this time to Italy and Venice.


The best option to get to Venice was via Milan (MXP) since United stopped its seasonal service direct to Venice from Newark.  I was very impressed by the Milan Airport - easy to get through the security and passport controls, and the train connection is in the terminal basement.  

We chose to train from the airport to Milano Centrale - this is an easy connect via one way direct train with many frequencies.  Since we had a little bit of time at main station, we stopped for quick coffee at Caffe Pascucci then back to board our direct train to Venice St. Lucia station.  The Frecciargento train option from Trenitalia offered a special business class fare for 2 people that was only 68euro!  I highly recommend this option since there were fewer people and a quieter car.

Arriving to Venice we decided to walk to our hotel, a Hyatt-affiliated property the Hotel Ai Reali. I used points again for this stay for the three nights and we were very impressed by the service and room.  The property is an easy walk to the Square and many excellent food choices.  On Monday evening we also visited the Vivaldi Church for a concert featuring Telemann, Pachelbel, and the Four Seasons!

I made several reservations for food and we also did a few impromptu stops - our choices:

Dinner on Sunday: Ristorante La Piazza

Monday Lunch at Cavatappi - both of us tried the pizza, it was tasty and reasonably priced.

Pizza for lunch on Tuesday at Ristorante e Pizza on Calle Larga San Marco - great 4 cheese option and vegetable soup!

Tuesday Dinner: RistoPub Rossini - live music and a fun food vibe

For the most part the weather has been excellent with the exception of rain on Tuesday.  That didn't stop us from visiting many of the well-known Venice landmarks including the Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and Museo Corer.  Our departure on Wednesday was easy using the Alilaguna to get to VCE airport via waterbus.


We hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

November is here

Happy November!  I'm still not sure where October went...

In addition to my flying each week, I'm looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving trip in a few weeks which will take us to Italy and Switzerland.  More info to come on those plans with associated trip reports when we're back.

I'm ready for a vacation...

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Swiss Travel Pass Promo until 10/31

For anyone planning to visit Switzerland and make use of the excellent train system, RailEurope has a promotion active until 10/31 for travel through April!  

RailEurope Swiss Pass Promo

This is an excellent offer - a quick search for 2 in November shows about $70 discount on normal pass rates for 2nd class seats.  And it's valid until April 30, 2023!

Terms and Conditions are here:

Terms and Conditions

 No further discount for youth up to their 25th birthday, not including Flex
 Services identical to the standard Swiss Travel Pass offer, incl. Museum Pass, Swiss Travel Pass scope, free Swiss Family Card for own children under 16 years old is valid
 Valid on 4 consecutive calendar days between 19 September 2022 and 30 April 2023
 The pass is only available if dated = the 4 days must be specified at the time of purchase
 1st day of validity must be within 6 months of the issue date

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Place of the Day: Tiger's Nest

If you're interested in a once in a lifetime experience that may be different from other trips, you may want to consider visiting the Tiger's Nest near Paro, Bhutan.  Also known as Paro Takstang, the collection of buildings at this monastery are situated nearly 900 meters above ground in a unique location. 

Tiger's Nest


Located in the Paro Valley of Bhutan, history notes the monastery was founded in 1692 and has undergone several reconstructions due to fire and other changes.  

It's possible to visit the monastery as part of an organized tour, or if you're adventurous, you can solo hike to the location.  One such site shares an example of the route and expectations here.  

Bhutan is not an easy country to visit - connections could be made through a variety of countries nearby, however, it's important to review any specific visa requirements before booking flights and other travel arrangements.  The high value, low volume policy recently changed as well, so plan to cover costs to access the country along with regular expenses.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Site share

Hello everyone!

Just wanted to share Heather has a new website that just went active - please feel free to visit and bookmark!

www.heatherbraun.com


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Hilton Double Night Credit promotion

Don't forget to register!  Hilton has a double night credit promotion active for stays October 11 through December 31st.  There is no limit to the number of double night credits that can be earned.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

ILA Global Conference 2022 - Washington, DC

I'm currently in the air and on my way back east for the ILA Global Conference 2022 in Washington DC.  I look forward to this gathering every year to hear about new leadership topics and practices, and also connect with friends and colleagues in the field.  While I won't be presenting or chairing a session this year, I'm expecting another excellent event.  

I had a memory pop up this morning about today being the five year anniversary of attending the ILA conference in Brussels - has it already been 5?

You can find more information on the conference here: https://ilaglobalconference.org/

Last night I flew LSE-ORD-SFO, so it's definitely been a week for time in the air...

Monday, October 3, 2022

A 700k milestone

I reached a milestone today on my way back to San Francisco - 700,000 lifetime miles flown on United!  It's a bit crazy to think how many miles (and hours) of travel that is over the last bunch of years...quite a number of flights.  Only United planes count. 

The Million Miler threshold is in site...

Friday, September 30, 2022

Chase 4th Quarter bonus for British Airways

Not to be outdone, Chase has also added an additional 4th Quarter points earning opportunity for the British Airways visa card.  

Cardmembers can earn 15,000 additional bonus Avios when spending $5000 on the card between October 1st and December 31st.  

Not the best for spend bonus, but another option for the fall!


Thursday, September 29, 2022

4th Quarter Chase Bonuses

Chase continues to exceed my expectations for spend options on many of their cards. I hope you've received these as well!  Emails today noted the following for the 4th quarter:

United Card: 10x points on Gas purchases and 5x points for Amazon and Grocery purchases up to $1500 from 10/1 through 12/31

IHG Card: 10x points on Gas purchases and 5x points for Amazon and Grocery purchases up to $1500 from 10/1 through 12/31

Marriott Card: 10x points on Gas purchases and 5x points for Amazon and Grocery purchases up to $1500 from 10/1 through 12/31

World of Hyatt: 10x points on Gas purchases and 5x points for Amazon and Grocery purchases up to $1500 from 10/1 through 12/31


Don't forget to sign up via the email links in each message!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Labor Day trip 2022: Switzerland

This year's Labor Day trip took us back to Switzerland and the Jungfrau region, specifically, Murren and Gimmelwald!  We've really enjoyed being able to visit when we can.  The mountains were excellent and we were able to get a small hike in during the stay before the weather turned and rain arrived.  We used the Swiss Pass to get back to Zurich and had no problems with any train changes. 

 

For this trip we stayed at the Hotel Alpina - the rooms are comfortable and we had the chance to get a balcony facing the mountains.  

 

There are many restaurant options available and we chose to dine at Hotel Edelweiss and the Alpina restaurant. The Rosti was excellent!

Even though we weren't able to confirm upgrades this trip, we had a wonderful time and no travel issues between Zurich and Newark.  Can't wait to go back!


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Mid-Year 2022 Travel Check

The coronavirus is still lingering in 2022 and airlines have continued to make adjustments to schedules and flights.  Summer fares were very expensive - only recently has a small shift occurred for fall travel where prices are starting to drop and become more reasonable again.  The effects of inflation are also present and I'm curious how this may influence prices over time.  I continue to have the opportunity to fly each week and hope that the experience remains consistent. 

American

I do not have status on American given limited flying in the past year with the exception of trips back home.  I'll keep accruing miles for another longer trip to the Maldives or NZ.  The addition of loyalty points has complicated earning so I've used my AA card for some purchases as another channel. 

United

United is my first choice for travel and I've already requalified for 1K next year.  Upgrades out of SFO are not easy though I had some success early in the year.  I'll continue to look for deals given my current work and flight schedule. 

Hyatt

I've enjoyed having Globalist throughout the year for stays and work.  I've already requalified for next year and expect to continue to leverage low rates where I find them.    

Hilton

Last year I successfully qualified for Diamond status and was able to use it as a great rate alternative when needed.  I'm on track to requalify and will likely complete that in the coming weeks.  

Have changes in travel affected your points and earning plans?  

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Labor Day Trip 2022: Switzerland

And we're off!  Well, almost...

I'm writing this from somewhere over CO as I make the trek to Newark and then onward to Zurich.  It's a gorgeous day to fly with no travel delays expected (though of course that could change in a flash at Newark).  I'm ready for the short break - with projects in the queue the last few weeks, school year start, and Penn State start, it's been busy.  

Unfortunately it doesn't appear my pluspoints upgrades will be confirmed on this trip - hopefully I'll have better success in November.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Hyatt Fall/Winter Promotion - Bonus Journeys

Hyatt has just recently announced the fall/winter promotion - Bonus Journeys.  

More info can be found here: https://world.hyatt.com/content/gp/en/offers/bonus-journeys.html

Register for Bonus Journeys to earn double points on qualifying stays of 2+ nights at 1,100+ hotels worldwide—including participating MGM Resort destinations, Small Luxury Hotels of the World hotels and Lindblad Expeditions. Plus, all qualifying nights count double at 65+ participating Inclusive Collection resorts across Cancun, CuraƧao, St. Martin and more.​ ​

Register by November 15, 2022, and then complete your stays between September 15 and December 20, 2022.​

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Travel to Canada

For a time over the past years US citizens were not allowed to visit Canada - the changes due to Covid were significant and rules were established that prevented non-essential travel across the northern border.  This affected leisure travel as well as commercial traffic related to commodities (including lumber).

Many countries eased restrictions earlier this year, and a quick review of current guidelines show that travel to Canada is once again possible for US citizens, the caveat being you should be fully vaccinated to avoid any additional requirements including quarantine for 14 days and isolation for 10 days.

Any travelers also need to create an ArriveCAN account to provide proof of vaccination and travel plans.

More information on current expectations can be found here.


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Using PlusPoints for Partner flights

I always thought that PlusPoints were a United-only feature - learned something new today!  PlusPoints can also be used on select United partners per segment:

Star Alliance partners

You’ll be able to use PlusPoints for upgrade requests on eligible flights operated by Copa, Lufthansa, and ANA. Each upgrade request on a partner airline will be priced at 40 PlusPoints per flight segment. All PlusPoints upgrade requests on partner airlines will be deducted at the time the PlusPoints upgrade request is placed.

The following Copa fare classes are eligible for PlusPoints upgrades: A, B, E, H, K, L, M, O, Q, S, T, U, V, W, and Y. The following Lufthansa fare classes are eligible for PlusPoints upgrades: B, C, D, E, G, H, J, M, Q, U and Y. U.S. government fares are not eligible for upgrades on Lufthansa-operated flights. The following ANA fare classes are eligible for PlusPoints upgrades: B, C, D, E, G, J, M, U and Y. PlusPoints cannot be used to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy on Lufthansa or ANA-operated flights.


Good to know this for future flight choices!  More info: link

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Covid requirements lifted on return to US

This past week the CDC lifted the Covid testing requirement for passengers returning to the United States from overseas.  The past 20+ months of needed tests have not been awful in my opinion - in fact, it gave me peace of mind to know that passengers were negative prior to long flights.  

The Swiss notification is here: https://ch.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas/covid-19-travel-to-the-united-states/

I may continue to do this anyway on future trips - the box doesn't take up much space and I'd prefer to know before I fly.  We'll see if availability for the tests changes. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Going Home for Dad

I was lucky to get upgraded on my way back today from SFO to ORD - ever since our trip to Oslo when I was able to get dad and I seats in Business Class, he would always ask whether I was being upgraded on all my flights.  He was so happy on that trip - the ability to lay-flat to sleep, the food with real silverware, and the made to order drinks and ice cream cart...we had quite the time.  

These trips will no longer be the same. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Infocomm 2022

I'm thrilled to be going back to InfoComm 2022 today - it's only a short flight from SFO though I'm looking forward to meeting with vendors and exploring new technologies.  There have been many changes over the past few years and I suspect the floor will be busy as usual.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

On the road

I've been on the road quite a bit over the last month or so with trips home as well as to the east coast - fitting these in is increasingly challenging with high fuel prices as well as demand for seats through the roof.  I'm fortunate that most options I've found have included connections that are reasonable.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into the fall.  Masks are for the most part gone on every flight - I'm one of the few still going for an N95.  Stay safe out there!


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Trip Report: Napa-St. Helena

I've visited Napa previously for touring and wine tasting though never had the opportunity to stay overnight until this trip.  I highly recommend it for anyone visiting the area and scheduling tastings!  

My first choice of stay would be Hyatt (as usual) and thankfully due to recent partnerships there were two options, one in Napa and the other in St. Helena.  I've never stayed at an Alila property, so we chose the Alila Napa Valley.  Points redemptions can be scarce at these locations, and I was shocked to find two rooms available!  My Hyatt concierge helped with the booking - there were no upgrades possible at booking though I checked back the week before departure and two rooms were available.  I couldn't believe it - two Jr. Suites!  These rooms were going for $4000 a night each and we were very fortunate to get them.  This is also an adult-only property that Hyatt also recently changed to Category 8, so future redemption options will require more points. 

Alila Napa Valley



Located just north of the downtown, the Alila is a short walk away from shops and other restaurants.  Most vineyards are an easy drive to access - we chose two for this trip:


We had several choices for dinner and ultimately chose to eat on the property as well as visit Charter Oak:


We were very impressed by the menus and overall atmosphere at both establishments - can't wait to return!

Other perks of Hyatt membership also apply at this property - as a Globalist, breakfasts were included at the restaurant and room refresh/water occurred each day.  Internet was complimentary.  And of course the chance for suite upgrades may apply based on availability.  


Friday, April 15, 2022

Trip Report: Alcatraz

I'm thrilled to share a brief trip report on an excursion that has been on my list for some time - visiting Alcatraz island!  


We booked this a bit in advance and had the opportunity to join one of the night tours - the views of the bridge and city were amazing.


I'll share more pictures here from the buildings on the island - I can't recommend this experience enough if you are in the Bay area and have time.

Ticket info can be found here.







Monday, April 4, 2022

Weekend to Zurich

The weather held for the most part (rain some days and sun the last day) and it was an otherwise lovely trip back to central Europe in spring.  Some additional positives made it that much more relaxing - suite upgrade confirmed at the Park Hyatt Zurich and Polaris upgrades from EWR-ZRH and ZRH-IAD on the way home.  I was able to catch up on all of my course grading and fit a movie in as well. 

The Park Hyatt stay was using points - airfare roundtrip from SFO was only $590!  

And I got some great pictures on departure and over Maine...





Thursday, March 24, 2022

Qatar Airways Adopts Avios

A recent announcement has now become reality - Qatar Airways has officially adopted Avios as its program currency.  The email announcement details this:

This fantastic new partnership opens up a world of possibilities for you and your Avios, including:

  • Better access to destinations worldwide - from the stunning beaches of the Maldives to even more of Australia

  • More opportunities to book a Reward Flight with guaranteed Reward Seats on all Qatar Airways flights

  • New ways to collect Avios with a range of new upcoming partnerships

  • Selected routes and cabins now available with fewer Avios, so your rewards can take you further than ever before

The ability to use Avios for Qatar airways itineraries is something I'm looking forward to exploring - low fuel surcharges and the near-guarantee of at least 2 premium seats open per flight make flight options excellent (especially to locations overseas).  

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Maldives Covid Testing changes

As many countries around the world continue to make changes on current vaccination and testing requirements, I was thrilled to see a recent update that the Maldives will be making changes for visitors as soon as today!

More info here: https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd

Effective from March 5th, 2022, the following changes have been brought regarding the PCR requirement;

Vaccinated travelers are NO LONGER required to present a PCR test result upon arrival to the Maldives.
Vaccinated tourists who stay on the inhabited islands are NO LONGER required to present the PCR test result during departure.

Excellent news if you're thinking about using points/miles to visit!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Switzerland Drops Covid Restrictions

I'm catching up a bit on recent travel news and pleased to share/remind that Switzerland has dropped nearly all Covid restrictions that have been in place over the last year+.  You can find the official announcement here:

https://www.edi.admin.ch/edi/en/home/dokumentation/medienmitteilungen.html.msg-id-87216.html

From Thursday, 17 February, masks and COVID certificates will no longer be required to enter shops, restaurants, cultural venues and other public settings and events. The requirement to wear masks in the workplace and the recommendation to work from home will also end. At its meeting on 16 February, the Federal Council took the decision to lift the majority of measures in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Only the requirements to isolate in the event of a positive test and to wear masks on public transport and in healthcare institutions will remain in place until the end of March to protect those at high risk, after which the situation status will return to normal.

It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form.

This should drastically improve the arrival experience to Zurich from United and other US airlines.

As of this writing, a Covid test taken 1 day before departure is still required to get back into the US.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Updated points earning for Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

It's been another few months of change in the new year, and as expected hotel and travel partners are still trying to be creative with customers and how to encourage activity in the economy.  Rising inflation has been an impact for everyone.  Despite this challenge, I'm glad to see Chase and Marriott looking to add earning opportunities for cards.  The most recent from this week is for the Chase Marriott Boundless card:


To summarize:

- You can now earn 3x per $1 on Grocery, Gas, and Dining, up to $6k total per year. 

- Card holders will earn 1 Elite Night Credit for every $5k spent on the card

Will anyone be taking advantage of these new benefits?  The current Chase Freedom quarterly bonus is for Grocery at 5x up to $1500, so I'll likely continue using that to maximize points.  There's a chance I might consider the Boundless card after that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Place of the Day: Meteora

If you're looking for a unique adventure, visiting the monasteries that are part of the Meteora area of Greece may be something to put at the top of your list when travel resumes in earnest!  

Meteora

Located near Thessaly, Greece, there are several different monasteries that are possible to visit based on different access and tour options.  The Monastery of St. Stephen seems to be the easiest one to start, though I wouldn't necessarily rule out the others if you have a few days open.  Housing several cathedrals and a chapel, the primary cathedral at this monastery dates back to the 16th century.


Access to Greece may be the best via train or bus with numerous options from Athens International Airport to Kalabaka direct.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

Cards in my wallet right now (2022)

Happy New Year!

The ongoing pandemic has posed many challenges though for my current card lineup things stayed relatively stable. I'm hoping for the same in 2022 based on current offers.


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; 3x Gas/Grocery/Dining up to $6k, 1 Elite Night credit per $5k spent; 2x points on 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, No Annual Fee

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


I still value many of these for the no annual fee, and others have perks/free nights that make them excellent to hold. 

Are you looking to upgrade any specific cards this year?