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

Monday, May 20, 2024

Citi Premier is now Citi Strata Premier

Citi recently announced updates to the Premier card - this has been an excellent complimentary choice for earning points along with most other point systems.  ThankYou points can be transferred to travel partners in the same way and have unique choices compared to the other programs.

New travel protection benefits include:

  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption
  • Trip Delay
  • Lost or Damaged Luggage
  • Primary Car Rental Coverage

Additional benefits:

  • 3x ThankYou points per dollar for EV charging
  • 10x points per dollar on hotels, car rentals, and attractions through the Citi portal

More info can be found here:

https://www.citi.com/usc/lpaca/citi/rewards/stratapremier/ps/index.html

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Travel Ahead

May is here!  I'm looking forward to finishing the semester and have a number of trips on the schedule through the summer.  Some highlights ahead:

- Memorial Day to Maine

- BachFest in Leipzig

- InfoComm 2024 

I'm also planning to be back in WI - will be fun to get together with family!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Hyatt Update: Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties now available

I received great news today that Mr. and Mrs. Smith properties are now part of World of Hyatt!  This is a new partnership (that in some ways replaces the Small Luxury Hotels of the World partnership that just ended).  



Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hilton Summer Points Promo

Hilton has shared the Summer 2024 points promotion and I have to say it's a bit underwhelming:



Earn Double Points on stays completed between May 2nd and September 2nd, 2024.  Register first!  


Offer valid for stays completed May 2 - September 2, 2024 (“Promotion Period”) at any hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio. Hilton Honors™ members must first register at HiltonHonors.com/DoublePoints prior to completing a stay within the Promotion Period.

Registered Hilton Honors members checking in before May 2, 2024 will receive Bonus Points for their stay if the stay is completed on or after May 2, 2024 and prior to or on September 2, 2024.

Registered Hilton Honors members will earn Double Points per stay during the Promotion Period. “Double Points” means members will receive Bonus Points equal to the number of Base Points earned during a stay.

There is no limit to the total amount of Bonus Points that may be earned during the Promotion Period with this offer. However, there are restrictions on the number of Base Points that can be earned on a single stay at certain brands.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Trip Recap: Brussels and Maldives

We just recently returned from an amazing vacation trip to Brussels and the Maldives!  Overall we didn't experience any flight challenges and had a very positive experience flying United, TAP Portugal, and Qatar Airways.

As a reminder, this was our primary initial routing:

BOS-IAD:

Very smooth flight with no issues - we stopped in at the United Lounge before departure and enjoyed some snacks.

IAD-BRU (which turned out to be IAD-LIS-BRU!):

We made it the gate after a brief lounge visit, and heard the agent asking for volunteers since the flight was oversold by 6.  This is the most I've ever heard for an international flight!  They were offering $1000 and rerouting either that night or the next day.  Initially this seemed too low so we didn't jump. However, after a second call I went to the desk and offered to help though noted the amount seemed too low.  The agent was able to increase the voucher amount and route us from Dulles to Lisbon and then on to Brussels that same evening.  Perfect!  We now had vouchers as well as a routing that wouldn't make us late for Sunday.  We went back to the Polaris lounge for a bit and then on to the later flight.  Arriving to Lisbon we went through security, passport check, and then visited the TAP lounge which was very crowded.  After a brief breakfast we walked to the gate and onward via a TAP Portugal flight (new airline!).  Arrival at Brussels was easy with a quick walk to the train which looped us downtown quickly.  

We had the evening in Brussels and once checked in to the Hilton Grand Place walked and had dinner at Mokafe.  I had visited this restaurant during my trip to ILA and it was great to stop again - the service and food were excellent.  We also walked to the main square and tried some waffle!

BRU-DOH-MLE:

The next morning after breakfast we zipped back to Brussels Airport via train, checked in with Qatar Airways, then off to the lounge for lunch before departure.  We used miles to fly Business Class to Doha and it was a very smooth flight that had amazing food/drink choices.

Arriving at Doha we had quite a walk to get to our gate though did stop and see the Orchard.  Once onboard we found our seats and I tried to sleep. Unfortunately I had an issue occur with the individual sitting behind me who decided to kick my seat forward twice while I was sleeping since apparently there wasn't room to eat.  Even though I had a right to recline, the individual kept doing this and so I ended up with poor sleep for the entire segment.

At the Park Hyatt Maldives:

Our typical transfer process went quickly (lounge/flight/boat) and soon we were onsite and could relax!




MLE-DOH-BRU-EWR-BOS:

Leaving is always the most difficult thing to do.  We ran to late brunch and then off on our standard boat ride followed by flight from Koodhoo to Male.  In Male we had a bit of a wait though soon we were off on a fairly full flight to Doha.  Arriving Doha we quickly went through security again and then visited the Business Lounge before walking again to our C gate.  We had Business Class again using miles back to Brussels so it was time to sleep!  

Arriving Brussels was fast with a quick visit to security and then off to our gate.  We were not able to visit any lounges since access is restricted to Business class only (no *A or Gold possible).  Boarding was completed quickly and we were off to Newark.  We were able to get quite a bit of work done on the flight and kudos to United for another smooth flight.  No delay for Global Entry this time and we stopped by the United Club before departing to Boston.

Recap:

It was an amazing trip.  We had multiple segments though didn't have any delays or issues on transfer.  Using points and miles was really helpful and we hope to get back to the Maldives soon!


Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Rise of the Do-Nothing Vacation

Most trips I take have a specific idea or plan in mind.  Whether that is to participate in activities or view unique cultural offerings, a defined purpose has often been a part of how I hope to visit a destination (and often collect/use points!).  However...given the hustle/bustle of work, market volatility, and increasing stress due to local factors (including commute, inflation, etc), it's sometimes nice just to go on a vacation and do nothing.

In the past I've been asked why I might travel as far as I sometimes do only to get to a place and do nothing.  There's a simple answer for that: it's to disconnect.  I also happen to enjoy being on planes which for me is part of the disconnect process.

A recent WSJ article highlights this increasing travel trend: https://www.wsj.com/lifestyle/travel/vacation-trends-resorts-all-inclusive-relax-ce3f9026

Travel is the ultimate break!

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Hyatt Award Chart Changes March 2024

Hyatt has announced changes to award categories for free night stays.

You can find the full list here: https://world.hyatt.com/content/gp/en/landing/award-category-chart-updates.html

Generally these types of changes are negative especially when categories move out of 4 to 5 (free night cert) and from 7 to 8 (also free night cert).  

Some things to keep in mind:

  • When you book before March 26, your reservations will follow the current free night award chart found here.
  • Reservations made or modified on or after March 26 will follow the new free night award chart and incorporate the updates noted below.
  • Existing reservations for nights on or after March 26 will receive a refund for the point difference if the hotel moved to a lower category.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Next Travel Adventure: Maldives!

Yes, you read that correctly!  I'm on a days countdown now until departure for Maldives via Brussels.  Looking forward to being back in the air internationally and also stopping over in a new city for HBB.  Here's how the journey will look from Gcmap.com:


Once again this type of itinerary is not possible without the use of points and miles.  The breakdown:

Park Hyatt Maldives (4 nights): 120,000 Hyatt points 
With Globalist status, our breakfasts will be free and we typically treat it as brunch so dinner ends up being the only expense.

BRU-DOH-MLE plus return: 170,000 American Miles for two people with Qatar Airways QSuites included BRU-MLE and regular Business on the return.  

Our overnight in Brussels at the Hilton Grand Place was a cheap rate so no need to use points for that.  

Since this is likely my last year of having Hyatt Globalist status, we need to take advantage of the extra perks (food plus room upgrades).  Should be a fun and relaxing trip!

Friday, February 23, 2024

AA Enhances Service to LSE

Good news this week for flyers to LSE!  From social media:

We're excited to announce that coming in April, American Airlines will add an additional flight each day. Then, in May, they will have larger aircraft (E170/175) for two of the three flights each day! This will provide additional connectivity for our passengers as well as more seats in our market. It is an important step in our air service efforts to prove the Coulee Region's demand for travel!
As we continue to pursue more routes and airlines, please consider clicking the link below and tell us where you'd like to go. The information we get from you will help us razor target specific destinations and carriers. Let's get moving!

I'm glad that AA is committing more seats to the Coulee region.  Now I wish United would restart service!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

AA Takes a Step Back with Earning

I was pretty disappointed to receive an email update from American Airlines recently detailing an update on earning miles and Loyalty Points.  The banner reads they want to 'reward loyalty', however, the changes mean less opportunities to earn miles and points:

  Book directly with American and our eligible partner airlines 
 
  Book travel anywhere as an AAdvantage BusinessTM member or contracted corporate traveler 
 
  Book through our preferred travel agencies

In other words, you may not be able to earn miles/points any longer when using sites like Orbitz and Kayak.  

Worst part, they don't even bother to say which are the preferred agencies!  (list promised end of April).

Terrible in my opinion.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Jetting on the Blue

Today is my first time flying Jetblue in quite some time - in 2011 I was able to take advantage of the Jetblue All You Can Jet program (Blue Pass) which allowed unlimited travel between select destinations for a one time cost over three months.  The locations at that time were amazing and I was even able to schedule a quick run to Bermuda over a weekend!

I'm flying BOS-MKE on one of the newer Airbus 220-300 series and I have to say I'm pretty impressed.  Decent legroom in economy (I didn't pay for more space), seatback system that is new with included wifi and entertainment choices through Directv, and overall excellent cabin service.  I was in one of the last boarding groups but was still able to find a spot for my backpack.

I still have some Jetblue points available though I may need to try and get a few more in the future.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Sad News: TAMU-Q to close in 2028

Cross-post from Linkedin:

I have different emotions reading the news today that Texas A&M in Qatar will be winding down operations by 2028. In my opinion, a sad day for the students and families in Qatar and MENA region. The opportunity for students to study engineering in this setting was meaningful and established positive connections around the world.

Personally, TAMU-Q along with the other universities present in Education City hosted by Qatar Foundation, played an instrumental role for me as I conducted my doctoral research and participated in the QF-sponsored Young Professional's Institute. Our first global study trip to the region offered insight into how we can establish new connections and build teams that support students. The loss of TAMU-Q will be felt by many over time. I hope I can return to Doha soon for additional research.

https://theeagle.com/news/a_m/texas-a-m-to-close-its-qatar-campus-by-2028/article_c8e58538-c6c3-11ee-94a7-b366bd04f334.html


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Feb travel ahead

February is here!  I feel as though January took forever.  

I'm looking forward to some travel planned for this month - the holiday weekend will see me on the road again between the NE and MKE.  Hopefully there won't be many weather impacts!

Saturday, January 20, 2024

How the Challenge resolved

My last post detailed how I had booked a backup option via United from SFO-PHX - I was very confident this would be a solid option to get me to Phoenix.  However, I was surprised when I received a text notification from United saying the flight had been cancelled due to the Max 9 issues.  The assigned plane wasn't a Max 9 though...maybe other network impacts caused the cancel?  In any event, the rebook was for the evening which wasn't going to work.  

After a check of options, I had no choice but to work through the cancels of these flights and rebook on a direct American option.  It wasn't my first choice but I was able to land later morning which gave me time back.  Lesson learned - always be prepared with other connect options!

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Challenges due to 737 Max 9 being Grounded

The news in the past week or so about Alaska 1282 has caused quite a few travel impacts as all 737 Max 9 aircraft are still grounded.  United is a major customer of the Max 9 with nearly 80 aircraft not flying.  Last year I recall a fair percentage of my transcon flights were the Max 9 and I never had any problems in-flight or after.  

My Alaska flight this weekend to Phx is impacted by the grounding - after a quick check I realized it is showing as a Max 9.  While not cancelled yet, I expect it to occur at any time.  Thankfully I had booked a backup staging option and should be able to get to Phoenix a bit later than I had first planned.  

Make sure to check your itineraries in advance to make sure you can still get to your destination!

Friday, January 5, 2024

Cards in My Wallet Right Now (2024)

Happy New Year!  I'm pleased that my overall spending pattern was about even throughout the year and I was also able to gain one new card given my frequent flights - the United Club card gives lounge access and was very helpful for my longer trips last year.  As always, if anyone is interested in referrals please let me know!


Cards in my Wallet:

Chase Sapphire Reserve - one of the best earning cards with 3x points for travel and 3x for dining; No Foreign Transaction Fee

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; No Foreign Transaction Fee

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 United Club Infinite - 4x miles on United, 2x miles on other travel, 2x on dining, United Club membership

Chase Biz Plus (replaced with Business Preferred) - 5x points at office supply and phone, 2x on gas station and hotel; No Foreign Transaction Fee

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 and grocery; 2x on dining/entertainment, No Foreign Transaction Fee

Citibank AA Biz Platinum - 2x American Airlines miles on purchases plus free checked bag and priority boarding; 2x on gas stations, No Foreign Transaction Fee

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, No Foreign Transaction 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, No Foreign Transaction Fee

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 other free night perks. There's a good chance I'll consolidate several this year as my flight frequency has been reduced.