Monday, March 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to A Friend

Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy. Especially someone who you have become close to for about 10 years. A friend that has travel the world with you to Europe, Africa, Asia and South America with me. Who am I talking about? My passport!

For Thanksgiving in 2012, I wrote that I am thankful for what the passport stands for: being an American. The truth is that I am thankful for my passport. This combination of cardboard and paper opened the world to me. When I applied for the passport in August 2004, I had never left the United States. I applied for the passport for an upcoming Spring Break trip to London, which never happened. Never in my wildest dreams did I think 10 years later would I have visited Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. 2 continents shy of my goal of visiting all 7 by the age of 30.

Over the past 10 years, my passport has become one of my closest friends. Many of the trips I have taken have been solo. The only thing that has been with me on every trip has been my passport. Its been with me on every trip in my pocket, in my pouch across my chest, or under the airplane seat. I lose it all the time on the airplane. My recent trip to Canada will be my last with this passport. Its time to get it renewed. :(

Here is a quick look of every country that left a mark in my passport:

  • Belgium - August 2005
  • France - September 2005
  • Ireland -September 2005
  • Scotland - October 2005
  • Italy - October 2005
  • Switzerland - October 2005
  • Cyprus -November 2005
  • Austria - November 2005
  • Serbia - November 2005
  • Bosnia Herzegovina - November 2005
  • Croatia - November 2005
  • England - March 2006
  • Spain - February 2009
  • Canada - August 2010
  • Germany - February 2012
  • Burkina Faso - February 2012
  • Niger - February 2012
  • Mali - February 2012
  • Portugal - February 2012
  • Japan - December 2012
  • Argentina - November 2013
  • Canada - March 2014
  • United States - to many times

I have traveled to many more countries, but within Europe travel between countries results in no stamps. Regardless, in 10 years, I think I did pretty well traveling the world part time.

Well good friend, its been nice knowing you. Enjoy retirement.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chinese Travel Sites Blocking Malaysian Airlines

The International Business Times is reporting that the top Chinese travel websites have joined a boycott of Malaysian Airlines. 

"Several of China’s largest online ticketing and travel booking portals have joined the public outrage, announcing the refusal to issue tickets using Malaysia Airlines, and instead, allowing customers to book flights to the Southeast Asian nation through other Chinese airlines. Agencies like eLong,, Qunar and Mango, which are some of China’s most popular travel websites, say that their new Malaysia Airlines-free services will last indefinitely."
I understand the outrage in China, but this is a major step by travel websites which could result in further problems between China and Malaysia. The websites' decision to ban Malaysian Airlines is a direct result of to current public outrage. 

"The online response to the ticketing ban and refunds has been very positive among users, which can often be an appropriate gauge of a company, brand or person’s public perception. “This is the solidarity we need. They [Malaysian Airlines] need to be accountable to all of us,” one person said, reposting the statement by eLong."
The question is how long will these websites continue the ban. Is this indefinite? My guess is the ban will last for a month to a few months. Not all travel booking sites are joining the ban. One of them is Ctrip, one of China's leading travel websites. Eventually, the money lost in Malaysian Airline sales will override the public pressure and you will be able to buy Malaysian tickets on sites again.
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do It For The Motherland

Denmark has a a problem. The country's birthrate is at a 27 year low. One Danish company, Spies, is asking its countrymen to go on vacation for the future of Denmark.

Do It For Denmark is a campaign encouraging vacations for procreation. According to the website, "Danes have 46% more sex on city holidays," and more sex = more chances for babies.

Spies is always offering a contest, as well. Book a trip with Spies, get pregnant of the trip and have the chance to win prices including diapers for 3 years, baby equipment and a family vacation.

Would I participate in this contest? Probably not. However, if you are trying to get pregnant anyway, this might be the motivation to do it.

Even odder, Spies has a tool, on the website, to determine when to take your vacation based on your the females ovulation schedule.

Weird. Absolutely Weird....

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Southwest Sends Me A Gift

Yesterday an email arrived from Southwest. The subject line was very eye catching:

My first thought was what's the catch? What do I need to buy? What do I need to sign-up for? After a quick read, I learned that Southwest was giving me 500 points for not reason.

A quick check of my Southwest account and there is 500 extra points.

Score! Love getting free points for no reasons.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Earning Miles For Buying Food Aboard Airplanes

On my recent Air Canada trip, I noticed an offer to earn Areoplan Miles for buying food on board.

The offer good through April 30, 2014 gives your 25 miles for spending between $10 and $19.99 (exclusive of taxes) in one purchase. Spend more than $20 and earn 50 miles. To earn the credit, you must give your Areoplan number to the flight attendant at purchase. That's the major downside of this promotion. Asking to the flight attendant's to enter the number seems cumbersome and must slow down service.

I think this promotion is a smart idea. US-based carriers should consider this type of promotion, as it might increase on-board purchases. For instance, the guy sitting next to me spent $9 on his meal and quipped to the FA that he should have spent a $1 more to get the 25 miles.

Yes, I know if you use the airlines credit card that you are flying, you can earn extra miles. However, why not extra bonus miles for spending XXX dollars. It might justify the parent in economy buying his three kid snacks on the plane. Or give a points addict, like me, a reason to spend more.

Just a though....

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Observations of My Recent Trip

Recently, I took a trip to Glacier National Park, in Montana via Calgary, Canada. Weird I know. Long story short, I went to visit a friend working in Calgary and he wanted to visit Glacier.

Like most of my trips, I like to put together a post about my observations on the trip.

1. Flying Sleep Deprived Is Better Than Hungover

  I have previously written that I have a problem flying hungover/drunk. Well, on this trip I
  was sober, but sleep deprived. The night before my flight, I could not fall asleep. A last
  minute problem with a client kept me up all night. The best part of being sleep deprived
  was that I slept all the way to Chicago and 3/4 of the way to Calgary.

2. Calgary is Dull & Expensive

   The city of Calgary is city lacking any major attraction. Yes, there is the tower.

Photo Credit:
   But little else. The city only comes alive during Stampede. Any other time of year, it
   lacks a reason to come visit.

3. A City Boy Can Be Silenced By Mountains

    Driving from Calgary and Montana, you pass some of the most beautiful scenery.
    I liked to talk on road trips. However, I was silenced by these the scenery outside
    my car window:

4. Glacier is Beautiful, but Probably Better In Spring

   The reason why we traveled to Montana was Glacier National Park. However, in
   Winter, there is little to see. Most of the park is closed. The little that was open
   was AMAZING.

     Now imagine these pictures in Spring/Summer. It would look like this:

Flicker: Glacier NPS
     I highly recommend going even in the Winter.

5. Whitefish, Montana is a Cool Town

     Since all of the hotels near or in Glacier National Park were closed for the season, we
     decided to stay in Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is 25 miles from the park entrance.

     The town has a great downtown with lots of great restaurants and cute shops.

6.  Grouse Mountain Lodge is Awesome

     My friend got a Groupon for 3 nights at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. I was hesitant
     at first about staying here. However, the hotel stay was one of the best. The hotel has
     a fire pit, outdoor hot tubs and an amazing restaurant.

7. Dog Sledding is Awesome

    I wanted to do something different on this trip. With many things closed due to
    winter, I needed something to remember this trip by more than pictures. We
    spoke with the concierge at the resort and he suggested Dog Sledding.

    He was totally right. It was an amazing experience.

      For $100, we got a ride on an 11 mile+ trail. The trail had super flat portions,
      so we went really fast and it had steep hills that made for a bumpy ride. The
      company we used was Dog Sled Adventures. I highly recommend them.

8. Air Canada has a Great Product

    On the way home, I decided to take Air Canada from Calgary to Toronto. I 
    had never flown them before, so I was a little excited to try them out. Overall,
    I was very impressed.

    What impressed me the most was their own board product. Each seat in economy
    had their own in-flight entertainment system with USB cable hook-up. Also, most
    seats had an AC adapter to plug in your gear.

       The IFE was filled with a multitude of modern movies and TV shows. I decided
       to watch American Hustle. I didn't like it. The system made a 4 hour flight
       fly by quickly.

       The other part of the on-board product I liked was the food for purchase. Air
       Canada had a whole menu of food for purchase aboard at reasonable prices.

       For $9CD, I got a pulled pork sandwich and pretzels and hummus. It was actually
       pretty decent.

10. Plaza Premium Lounge is A Rip-Off

      Earlier in the week, one of my daily deal sites was offering lounge access to
      the Plaza Premium Lounge in Toronto's airport. Since I had a layover, I decided
      to pay the $15 for 2 hour voucher. Overall, the place is a rip-off.

       You can get access to the lounge with a variety of different non-US AMEX cards
       or the Priority Club pass.

       The other option is to pay per hour, which I don't recommend.

     Plaza Premium has 5 lounges at Toronto. I went to the one in the F terminal. The
     lounge had many places to sit, but few power outlets.

     The food selection was average with a few hot dishes, a salad bar, and middle
     shelf liquor.

       A few computers were available for your use, as well.

        The worst part was the "free" wifi internet. Well, the wifi they advertised was actually
        the wifi provided to everyone in the airport. No separate lounge wifi was offered.
        Let's just say that it was a terrible connection. I don't understand how a pay-per
        use lounge doesn't have a separate wifi connection.

        Overall, a decent place to kill 2 hours, but I wouldn't use it again.

As always, each trip brings more adventures and observations.


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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Macy's Spin to Win

This post has nothing to do with points or miles. However, its a post about saving money. Any money saved somewhere else is more money for travel.

To play, go here. You can play daily until March 30th, but can only win 1 prize.

It takes only a few minutes to play. I won a $10 gift certificate and they sent me a 20% off coupon. Not to shabby for a contest.

Best of Luck!
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Goals Finally

Almost though the end of Quarter 1, I am pretty set on my 2014 goals. Last year, I didn't do so hot. That's an understatement. I failed pretty miserable as a wrote about here.

Last year's results won't deter me from being aggressive with this year's goals.

Here is my travel/blog/financial goal list:

  • Visit Australia or New Zealand (booked for September)
  • Plan Antarctica Trip 
  • Visit 2 New States
  • Earn 1 Million Miles/Points  
  • Try at least 4 new airlines
  • Visit Connecticut 2 times
  •  Earn Hilton Diamond Status through Hilton Reserve Account
  • Blog at least 5 times a week  
  • Payoff my student loans 
  • Finish my 6 months emergency savings 

Will I accomplish all these goals? I hope. However, I know myself. If I don't set goals then I am not going to accomplish them. The first step to accomplishing goals is setting them. Simple, but true!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pick the Winner Earn Extra Points

Rocketmiles is a company that pays you airline miles for booking hotels through them.

Frequently, they run promotions tied to current events. Being March Madness, Rocketmiles has a promotion for college basketball fans.

Pick the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament and win extra miles on your next stay. The number of miles you win is based upon the seed number of the winner.  For instance, pick a #2 seed and they win,          you earn 2 x 1,000 miles on your next stay.

To enter, fill out this survey. You have until 11am Central on Thursday March 20th to fill out the survey.

The survey has 2 questions:

1) Who is going to win the tournament?

2) What is the email address of your Rocketmile's account?

The catch is that if you win, you have to make a participating stay to earn the bonus miles. But what do you have to lose by entering.

Who did I pick?

Reigning Champion Louisville Cardinals! A number 4 seed.

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