Better than a self-serve beer fridge at an airport lounge!

Better than a self-serve beer fridge at an airport lounge!

I usually say “points and miles” so typing “miles and points” was a bit of a strain for me lol.

In any regard, come grab a drinky poo with your fellow frequent flyers and points addicts hobbyists tonight in the East Village if you’re available. 6-9pm.

Here’s the link to the RSVP.

The 411:

Professor Thom’s, 219 2nd Avenue, New York, NY (between 13 & 14 St)

Thursday, January 29th, 6-9pm

And the upshot:

I was a Nervous Nelly at my first Meetup but over the past few months, I’ve gotten to know a few people here. It’s easy conversation, and you’re bound to hear someone mention something that’ll perk your ears up. Down a liquid courage and hop in.

Plus, there is nothing quite like geeking out about airlines/aircraft/weird routes/award bookings than with people who know exactly what you’re talking about.

Bottom line

Come one, come all. If I don’t post tonight, now you know why. ;)

Anyone been to one of these before, in NYC or another city? If you come tonight, say hello!

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

My, my, my. British Airways. Now you’ve gone and done it – changed your award chart again.

I don’t care about the changes they’ve made to mileage earned for the various fare buckets – I mean, it truly sucks if you’re loyal to them as a frequent flyer. My relationship with British Airways is as an earner of Avios and redeemer of short haul flights on partner airlines.

I’ll admit, though, I was enamored of the idea of the Travel Together ticket until I woke up today and tried to get through their mess of an explanation email.

Screenshot 2015-01-28 23.10.11

Wait. What happened?

In the end, I feel relatively unscathed. The only thing I want, as an US-based flyer is those partner short-haul awards. Ooooh, yasss.

But, this does change things

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Just wanted to share my impressions.

While writing the previous post, a straightforward review of the Park Inn Yas Island, I wanted to get into the back story of the hotel booking and the overall impression that it left, but then decided it would be better to separate the thoughts into a different post.

When me and boyfriend decided to book the Park Inn for an 18-hour layover, I selected the double bed option without even thinking about it. Force of habit.

Then, he said out of nowhere, “Did you book two beds?” “No, why would I?”

We read the reviews and saw that another gay couple recommended getting two separate beds, because in the UAE being homosexual is illegal. Not “participating in homosexual acts”, but simply being homosexual. For residents, the highest penalty is death. For visitors, it’s deportation, fines, or prison time.

It’s also illegal for unwed couples to share a double bed, for what’s it worth.

So after reading that, I completely canceled the first booking and re-booked for two twin beds instead.

bookings

Respecting culture

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

I stayed here as part of my RTW trip last year, following a superb flight on Etihad in Pearl Business class from MEL-AUH. South Pacific to the Middle East on Etihad using American AAdvantage miles is a sweet spot. For the 14 hour flight, they only charge 45,000 AAdvantage miles each way. That is a crazy steal of a deal on an amazing product.

I was also able to somehow convince United to let me drop CAI-JFK on Egyptair (which is a dry airline) in favor of Lufthansa AUH-FRA-JFK, which were pretty decent (and very “wet”) flights. It left us with an 18-hour gap to fill, and we didn’t want to stay in the airport the entire time. I poked around and decided to pay $90 for the layover at the Park Inn Yas Island. 18 hours would be plenty of time to sleep, eat, take a dip in the pool, shower, and get back to the airport.

So right when we landed, we found the chauffeur desk at AUH and took a car to the Park Inn, courtesy of Etihad (I believe the chauffeur service has since been discontinued on award bookings).

Etihad chauffeur desk

Etihad chauffeur desk

That photo encapsulates the whole experience I had that day: kind of a blur.

I did one of those where I showed up and crashed into the bed without taking pics first (bad blogger!), then woke up in a haze to a cloudy day and decided to catch up on email rather than swim.

Check in desk

Check in desk

Walkway to elevators

Walkway to elevators

When we got to the hotel, it was still the middle of the night. We were dead tired, but the check-in agent was fast and kind, and we veritably collapsed into the separate twin beds.

Hallways

Hallways

The room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

After arriving in Venice on Swiss from ZRH, I picked up the rental car and set about orienting myself in the direction of Padova (Padua), Italy.

I went to Italy for my “round” birthday. After reading up on Venice, I made the executive decision to stay off site at the Radisson Blu in Terme di Galzignano. I wanted the freedom to spend a day or two in Venice, and then drive down to Florence if I wanted. I also wanted to see some of the Italian countryside, and it seemed like the resort was well-situated for day trips in multiple directions. And so it was.

My boyfriend and I booked 4 nights. We both have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature, and both used our BOGO award night for 2 nights each.

We booked a “Superior Room” for 57,000 Club Carlson Gold Points for each 2-night block.

Premium room award rate

Premium room award rate

Premium Room description

Premium Room description

But why the Superior Room? 

We are both Gold in the Club Carlson program, wifi is free at all of their hotels, and for what’s it worth, breakfast is included in every room rate here. I might’ve even scored an upgrade to this room, owing to my status.

I just didn’t want to chance it. It was my birthday trip, and I wanted to be assured of my room choice before I got there.

The normal booking rate is 38,000 Gold Points, so we paid the extra 19,000 points to have our room preference locked in. Plus, I wanted to make sure I had the view of the hills. It was admittedly a purely emotional decision, and probably not the smartest, but I feel like for special occasions it’s worth it to have the peace of mind.

And also, Club Carlson points are just so easy to earn. So I never really overthink my redemptions with this program.

Getting there and first impressions

Dear lord, driving in Italy just about gave me a brain aneurysm – the highways are so poorly signed. Even though Padova was a “straight shot” on the map, in actuality, it required about half a dozen exits, each one leaving me second guessing for miles (or kilos) if I’d done the right thing.

The route to Radisson Blu

The route to Radisson Blu

When we finally got onto the one correct highway, I saw a series of (tiny) signs pointing toward the next turn, until finally, after about a hour, we were at the Radisson Blu.

It is very isolated. There is nothing going on in the hamlet of Terme di Galzignano.

There was another tiny town nearby, Battaglia Terme, that had a couple of restaurants and not much more.

Parking was easy outside of the Radisson Blu, and we went inside to check-in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and right away, the resort felt welcoming and friendly.

The agent checking us in spoke little English and we don’t speak Italian, so it involved a huge variety of hand movements, but after a few minutes, we had our room keys. He wrote down the phone number to the hotel office and indicated that they spoke English if we needed anything. Despite the language barrier, we understood that they recognized our Gold status, combined our reservations, and were fine to let us keep the same room all 4 nights.

Then we headed up to Room 306.

The room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Here at Out and Out, I had this idea to make February “Manufactured Spend Month.”

With the impending blizzard, and then frigid single digit temps on the horizon, I used this nearly 50-degree day to manufacture some spend ahead of schedule.

First, I went to CVS with my Chase British Airways Visa Signature and got $1,000 worth of PayPal My Cash cards. The transaction went through flawlessly. And later this evening, I will pay my first round of rent utilizing RadPad.

After CVS, I dared to face the Target at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.

My heart was pounding as I went in. It’s perhaps the busiest Target store in the entire United States and some say one of the busiest in the Northern Hemisphere (Target does not officially publish their busiest locations), so I wasn’t sure what their stance would be on ol’ REDbird. Would it be par for the course or the one store where credit cards were NOT accepted for reloads?

My experience

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

I paid for this fare after seeing it pop up on The Flight Deal as a fare attack by Star Alliance on Skyteam hubs. It cost me $1,487 R/T for Business Class on Swiss and the routing was JFK-ZRH-VCE-ZHR-EWR.

Now, when I see fare deals like this, I’m always torn between being totally impulsive and trying to think it through. This deal was on a multitude of Star Alliance partners, so I wanted to pick one that A). I’d never flown before and 2.) that would credit well to United.

Why United? They have a non-stop flight from EWR-MEM (only one of two – the other is Delta from LGA-MEM) and those flights can be either dirt cheap or prohibitively expensive. I knew I wanted to go see my Mom in the near future, and thought I could use the miles I’d earn from this booking to book the most expensive leg of a round-trip ticket, which is exactly what ended up happening.

Screenshot 2015-01-25 10.46.05

I earned 12,493 miles from these flights – 7 miles short of a free domestic one-way

The flight to go see my Mom for Christmas was pricing out at around $450 each way on United – yes, over $900 round-trip.

I redeemed all the miles earned on these Swiss flights for a Christmas trip to visit my Mom on United and got a value of ~4 cents per mile, which is awesome. I also picked up a REDbird card while I was down there. And I got to go to Venice for my birthday – thanks to this fare.

Free flight to Memphis

Free flight to Memphis

Anyway, that’s the story behind the booking, back to Swiss business class.

The flight

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

…or any industry. 

thank-youThank you. 

When to thank

People often ask me how I sometimes score upgrades on an airline, get my flights changed for free with no notice, get retention offers on credit cards when others have reported not having success, or get awards changed to better routings without paying a fee.

I’ve read the articles about wearing blazers and showing up early to the gate, the $20 trick, and how people say they will close their credit cards to a retention specialist to get more points from banks. Maybe they have some merit and maybe they don’t – but my approach is to be nice to everyone all the time, and say “thank you” with gratitude.

I believe the feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings a person can experience – more powerful than any negative emotion could ever be.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in life – especially in the travel industry. There are many moving parts and much has to happen for everything to go smoothly. I am constantly amazed at just how cool air travel really is.

Sometimes things happen. There is weather, there are delays, flights get oversold. Every day this happens. Yes, it sucks, but you’ve got to roll with it.

Here is when I like to thank: I state my business, ask my question, tell them I appreciate them looking into it, and say thank you. Then I hush up.

Something like:

Hi, I see there is a flight leaving sooner than the one I’m supposed to be on. Would it be possible to switch onto that flight? I don’t have any checked bags. I’d really appreciate it if you could see if it might be possible. Thank you.

And then I wait.

I think of it as putting my wish out into the world, and then releasing it. I figure if I can get something better by simply asking a question, I am in a better position if I get what it is I’ve asked for, and no worse off if it doesn’t happen. So there is never anything to lose.

When thank you has worked for me

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Also see: 

Thanks to FoundersCard, I just enrolled in another American Airlines status challenge.

The T&Cs say I have to accumulate 10,000 EQPs (NOT EQMs) during the time period of February 12th, 2015 through April 12th, 2015:

FoundersCard Status Challenge T&Cs

FoundersCard Status Challenge T&Cs

Why I care

About a month ago, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have no airline status of any kind when the clock struck midnight on February 28th, 2015 – and that was fine.

I’ve given up on Delta, though still find I’m forced an opportunity to fly their metal from time to time.

But unequivocally, American Airlines has the best thing going of all the legacy carriers with their AAdvantage program.

If I lose Platinum status, my rate of earning goes back to 1 mile earned per 1 mile flown – generous these days – but as a Platinum, I’ve been earning a 100% bonus each time (for economy, more miles earned and higher bonus for premium cabins).

I simply like that earning rate and want to keep it – especially if it’s free to get the status. I also only have to earn 10,000 EQPs instead of the usual 50,000 EQMs -or- EQPs. If it’s going to be this (relatively) easy, I’m gonna go for it.

Well, not completely free because now I have to earn 10,000 EQPs on paid fares. But it beats the pants off American’s “Step up your elite status” promo they have going on right now.

What American would charge to keep Platinum Status

What American would charge to keep Platinum Status

You bet your tooshie I’ll be watching The Flight Deal like a hawk for the next month or so. I want a fare that earns 1 EQP per mile flown, but American is notorious (to me at least) for booking economy into N, O, or S (sometimes Q, hardly ever see G) fare buckets. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, they say.

AA fare buckets

AA fare buckets

This will also be a nice jumping off point into Executive Platinum, which I’ve never attained. I’m of the mindset of “if it happens, it happens.” Most of my flying last year was on mistake/ultra-low fares or award redemptions, so we’ll see what shakes out in 2015.

Regarding the second Challenge: you cannot repeat Status Challenges for two consecutive years. So if you did one in 2014, you can’t do another one in 2015. I did my last one in 2013, so I’m eligible to repeat the Challenge. The final say is up to American, of course, but they allowed me to repeat the Challenge this year.

Bottom line

FoundersCard is offering free Platinum Status Challenges to their members, which would otherwise be $200. Here’s a link to the Flyer Guide Wiki about AA Challenges.

I’ve also written extensively about FoundersCard in the past, which I personally find to be a great complement to my travel goals.

Is anyone else doing a Status Challenge this year, on American or another airline? Is having “status” even more it any more?

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Also see:

As part of Eurotrip 2014, I found myself in the position of being on a train to Bratislava, Slovakia.

I suppose stranger things have happened

I suppose stranger things have happened

Once there, me and my friend Angie got out of the train station, hopped in a cab, and promptly got scammed by a cabbie with a hot meter. Between that and the somewhat griminess of the train station, I was kinda definitely thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

However, I am happy to report, I ultimately found Bratislava to be a progressive city, one rebuilding itself, modernizing in the right ways, and moving full-force into new and diverse industries. The atmosphere of the city was energetic. I could feel the momentum and drive in the air, which was wonderful.

And aside from that one cab driver, everyone else was completely kind and even eager to talk. I also saw lots of tourists, which apparently Club Carlson hasn’t caught onto yet, because the Park Inn by Radisson Danube is a mere Category 1, requiring just 9,000 Gold Points for two award nights (if you have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card).

The Park Inn by Radisson Danube shares a space with lots of vendors on the ground/retail floor, but it’s fairly obvious where it’s located – at the base of a little square, nearest to the river. I had to look for the sign and wasn’t sure exactly where I was going, but I went with it and ended up at the right place (the taxi driver only gave vague hand motions and spoke no English so I wandered away after being scammed for 20 Euros – grrr).

Check-in was very routine. I was placed in a “Business room.” The agent acknowledged my Gold status and thanked me for staying. Then I headed to the elevator and up to my room.

The room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Also see: 

I’ve said over and over that I think the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card is one of the best for everyday, non-bonused spend. In addition to 5 Gold Points per dollar on every purchase, you also get buy-one-get-one-free award bookings, and an annual bonus of 40,000 Gold Points by renewing the card – which is $75 per year.

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

My bonus posted a couple of days ago and got me thinking: what is the annual bonus actually worth? Or rather, what could it be worth? After Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe a few months ago, I can firmly say, “a lot.” But I like putting numbers and values to things, and hence this post was born.

Club Carlson has an awesome online interactive tool where you can filter hotels by category… which is pretty sweet. They currently have Categories 1-7, but for this post, I’m only going to focus on 1-5.

Category 1

This category can get you 8 free nights at Club Carlson properties.

How?

With the buy-one-get-one (BOGO), you pay just 9,000 Gold Points for every 2 nights. Even if you book 8 nights at Category 1 hotels, you’d still have 4,000 points left over – and realistically if you stay 8 nights in a hotel, you’ll get 5,000 more from room charges (make sure to charge everything to your room at Club Carlson properties, because with the card you get 30 POINTS PER DOLLAR20 points per dollar for being Gold + 10 more points per dollar for using the credit card – which is insanely awesome!). And then you could book 10 free nights. :)

A few Category 1 properties that jump out at me are:

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

This is a pretty sparse category, but if you are in the right place at the right time, it could really be a boon.

Category 2

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

From the way overdue files… 

To NAN

As part of my epic RTW trip, my first two segments were JFK-LAX in American First Class, then LAX-NAN (Nadi, Fiji) on Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) in economy.

You know, I gotta say… it was about an 11 hour flight time, an overnight flight. Even though the seats didn’t recline, it really wasn’t that bad. The seats were spacious for economy, there was great IFE, and they served meals and snacks.  I wadded up a hoodie and tried to fall asleep as best as I could, considering.

I knew going into it to set my expectations low, but the flight was actually pretty comfortable. The cabins had great colors and were designed well, the flight attendants were personable, the food wasn’t amazing but at least they served us full meals, and I can’t complain too much about the economy seat, honestly.

And when the plane door opened up in Fiji, I felt my lungs and skin instantly moisten from the humid Pacific air. I’d been in a particularly frigid New York winter with too much dry radiator heat and the humidity was so welcome and wonderful.

It’s always an odd feeling to walk around in a tropical place holding full winter regalia, but I was happy to be in Fiji for the first time. Very… island.

Booking the room

Read More

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!

Enter your Email:

Twits

Insty

    Random Travel Quotes

    The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. - Saint Augustine