Review: JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro

In honor of the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, I’ve decided to publish some previously un-published blog entries that I already had written about my trip there last September.  I’m not going to change anything since these were my thoughts immediately upon returning from Rio.  


 

Introduction
Ten Things I Did in Rio
Getting There, Getting Around, and General Impressions
JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro 


We arrived in the late morning after our overnight flight from Houston via a private transfer from the airport to the hotel. Though we arrived well before check-in time, they still had our room ready.  This was probably because my roommate this trip was Platinum Status with Marriott.  By comparison, I was only Gold status, which I received as a benefit of having United Premier 1K status.

JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro

JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro

The JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro is located smack, dab in the middle of Copacabana Beach, making it one of the best situated hotels on Copacabana.  The lobby was undergoing renovations while we were there, so that was a bit obnoxious, but we got over it.  Despite the ongoing renovations, the two-story lobby was quite large and an overall attractive space.

We had a standard deluxe ocean-view room on the 11th floor with a beautiful view of Copacabana beach.  It was a good-sized room with a functional bathroom and very comfortable beds.  The highlight of the room was the view.

Since we were both Marriott elite, we had access to the concierge lounge.  The concierge lounge features a two-story glass wall overlooking Copacabana.  There is ample seating space with a couple of TVs and computers.  Breakfast is served in the lounge, and it was delicious.  They also serve a variety of tasty appetizers every evening, along with unlimited beer and wine.  I ended up spending more time in this lounge than I planned, but oh well!

JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro Concierge Lounge

JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro Concierge Lounge

One of my favorite features of the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro is the stellar rooftop patio and pool.  The rooftop has an amazing view of Copacabana.  I spent one evening here around sunset, and it was beautiful.  There is a nice bar where one can order a beer or a fantastic caipirinha.  The rooftop pool looks inviting, though I didn’t take a dip.  From the south side of the roof deck, one can see the sunset behind the Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer statue.  It’s just a fantastic outdoor space, and one of my favorite things about the hotel.

All in all, this is probably one of the best hotels in all of Rio de Janeiro due primarily to its location.  Marriott is mighty proud of this hotel too, as it’s quite pricey.

How I booked it…

We booked this hotel with Marriott points.  My friend had a ton of points since he regularly stays with Marriott, so he used those.  The JW Marriott is a category 8 hotel, which requires 40,000 Marriott points per night.  This is still a decent deal considering the standard rates at this hotel are often well north of USD $400.

Marriott Rewards Free Night Award Chart

Marriott Rewards Free Night Award Chart

 

Booking a Transatlantic Flight on Aer Lingus with British Airways Avios

Updated January 29, 2015:  This particular award will no longer be available once the new British Airways award chart goes into effect for bookings made after April 28, 2015.  This award in business class will increase to 37,500 Avios, each way.


 

I recently reported on my experience flying Aer Lingus business class from Shannon to Boston last month to conclude my European vacation.  I did so with the use of one of the best valued awards that currently exist to get across the Atlantic — British Airways Avios for travel on Aer Lingus.  In the rest of this post, I will detail how one can easily fly from Boston to Ireland in business class for fewer miles than most airlines charge for a one-way in economy.  I’ll hit the following points in this post:

  • The Sweet Spot on British Airways’ Award Chart
  • Checking Award Availability
  • Calling British Airways to Book
  • Fly in Style for Cheap
  • How to get British Airways Avios…. if you don’t fly British Airways

Continue Reading →

Analysis: How Will United’s New 2015 Revenue-Based MileagePlus Program Impact You?

Yesterday, United Airlines announced the new MileagePlus earning structure for award miles that will go into effect on March 1, 2015.  Basically, United is changing the way one earns miles from a system based on the mileage flown to a system based on the price of one’s ticket.  Customers will no longer be able to rack up tons of miles by finding deals on long-distance trips.  The only way one will be able to earn miles flying United is by the price of the ticket.

This change only affects the earning of Redeemable Miles (RDM) within the United program — these are the miles that one earns and then can redeem for free travel.  This change does NOT change the way one accumulates Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) — the miles that determine one’s status with the airline.  United announced changes to that system last June, and they took effect on January 1.  Those changes added a Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement in order to qualify someone for elite status.

The basics to Tuesday’s announcement are as follows according to United’s website:

As of March 1, 2015, the award miles you earn on most United and United Express tickets will be based on your ticket price (that is, base fare plus carrier-imposed surcharges) instead of the distance you fly, so members will be rewarded for their travel spending on United.  And when you have Premier status, you’ll earl even more.

Earning Rates are below, as listed on the United site:Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.36.33 PM

Some important caveats follow here from the United site:Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.36.47 PM

This highlights a few important points:

  • There are no longer RDM bonuses for class of travel and Premier status, as those bonuses are contained in the earning rates
  • This system only pertains to United-ticketed flights.  Flights ticketed and flown by partner carriers will still earn RDMs based on mileage flown.
  • There is a cap of 75,000 miles earned on any flight

Are you confused yet?

The changes announced this week definitely have a profound affect for those frequent flyers who rack up miles and/or status on cheaper tickets.  It essentially kills the value proposition in this opportunity.

I decided to perform an analysis on these changes to figure out:

  • How this change affects different types of elite customers
  • How this change affects different types of flights
  • What is the break-even price of a ticket where the RDMs earned in 2015 equals that of 2014
  • How this change affects general populations of customers
  • How this change affect my travel profile

I knew that this change would be potentially catastrophic for me, but I wanted to run the numbers to see just how bad it really is.  I decided to run an analysis based on four flights from my home base, Washington-Dulles.  In order to account for different types of flights, I priced out the following round trips:

  • A short-haul trip from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Newark (EWR)
  • A trans-continental flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to San Francisco (SFO)
  • A long-haul, Trans-Atlantic flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to London-Heathrow (LHR)
  • An ultra long-haul flight from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Singapore (SIN) with a routing through Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Hong Kong (HKG)

I priced all of these flights on June 11, 2014 for the following booking scenarios:

  • Last minute booking (~1 week):  June 18-21 for IAD-EWR and IAD-SFO; June 18-25 for IAD-LHR and IAD-SIN
  • Booking 5-weeks out:  July 16-19 for IAD-EWR and IAD-SFO; Jun 16-23 for IAD-LHR and IAD-SIN
  • Booking in advance (3 months):  September 11-14 for IAD-EWR and IAD-SFO; September 11-18 for IAD-LHR and IAD-SIN

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.34.22 PM

So what does this analysis tell us for…?

General Members:

  • It’s a win for short-haul since not getting 500-mile minimums
  • All-in-all a bad thing for Trans-Continental fares; especially the most discounted fares
  • Not terrible for long-haul unless buying a cheap, economy ticket
  • Terrible for ultra long-haul in economy; bad for business; great in full-fare First class

Premier Silver Members:

  • All in all, it’s okay unless paying super cheap fares planned far in advance for short-haul
  • Trans-continental travel is terrible unless buying last-minute, first class fares
  • Transatlantic looking good unless buying cheap, economy fares
  • Terrible for economy fares of all kinds on ultra long-haul.  Business is a small improvement unless a “discount business” fare;  first is massive increase

Premier Gold Members:

  • Slight increase for everything except for cheap, economy tickets.  Last minute F is an increase
  • Trans-continental travel is terrible unless buying last-minute, first class fares
  • Transatlantic looking good unless buying cheap, economy fares
  • Terrible for economy fares of all kinds on ultra long-haul.  Business is a small improvement unless a “discount business” fare;  first is massive increase, but capped at 75K

Premier Platinum Members:

  • Slight increase for everything except for cheap, economy tickets.  Last minute F is an increase
  • All-in-all a bad thing for Trans-Continental fares; especially the most discounted fares
  •  Not terrible for long-haul unless buying a cheap, economy ticket
  • Terrible for economy fares of all kinds on ultra long-haul.  Business is a small improvement unless a “discount business” fare;  first is massive increase, but capped at 75K

Premier 1K/GS Members:

  • Slight increase for everything except for cheap, economy tickets.  Last minute F is an increase
  • All-in-all a bad thing for Trans-Continental fares; especially the most discounted fares; start to realize some increases in first tickets
  • Good thing for Trans-Atlantic flights, except for cheap economy tickets
  • Terrible for economy fares of all kinds.  Business is a small improvement unless a “discount business” fare;  first is massive increase, but capped at 75K

What does this analysis tell us for different types of flights?

Short-Haul Flights

  • For the most part, an increase in RDMs, with the exception of cheap economy fares for elites.

Trans-Continental Flights

  • Major decrease in RDMs.  The exception is for last-minute, expensive first class fares.

Trans-Atlantic Long-Haul Flights

  • Increase in RDMs for everything except discount economy fares (>$1,300)

Ultra Long-Haul Flights

  • Major decrease for any economy fares.  Huge increase for first class fares and for more expensive business class fares.
  • Notice that RDMs are capped at 75,000 RDM per round-trip.  This caps off the potential earning for long-haul first class tickets, BUT even in some of the most drastic circumstances, one would still earn more RDMs in this new system for any round trip less than 21,429 miles (assuming that passenger is a 1K or GS, flying in Global First Class).

Break-even Ticket Prices

I continued to analyze for each of these scenarios exactly how much one would need to spend on a ticket in the 2015 MileagePlus Program to earn the same amount of miles as they would in the 2014 MileagePlus Program.  I also added in several mileage milestones to use as guidelines to see how much one must spend on a ticket in 2015 to receive the same amount of RDMs as they would have in 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.35.03 PM

How do these changes affect you?

  • Occasional flyer who buys cheap tickets:
    • It really doesn’t affect you that much.  You will earn fewer RDMs on most cheap, economy fares, but it wouldn’t be in such a volume to cause you to avoid United.
  • Frequent Flyer (Elite) who primarily flies Trans-continental flights:
    • This devaluation hurts you unless you purchase relatively last-minute, first class tickets.
  • Frequent flyer (Elite) who shops for cheap tickets and deals; Mileage Runners:
    • It’s time to start looking at other programs.  This is a significant devaluation from a RDM perspective, and there are better options out there (for now).  United MileagePlus is no longer a good value for earning RDMs.
  • Frequent flyer (Elite) who flies on expensivefares (last-minute or premium fares):
    • This change is potentially extremely lucrative for you.  Specifically, if you fly expensive short-haul tickets, or long-haul flights in premium cabins.

Essentially, the everyday leisure traveler does not gain much from this, and is actually hurt a little bit as far as mileage accrual, but not enough to where it should sway them from United.  The big winner here is the corporate traveler whose company is most likely bankrolling their flights.

So, I suppose these changes aren’t all bad… unless you’re the one playing for the ticket.

What does this mean for me?

As an elite (United Premier 1K) customer who primarily flies cheap tickets – especially cheap trans-continental and long-haul fares, this devaluation is a game-changer and deal-killer for me.  I will no longer be using United Airlines as my airline of choice unless they’re clearly the least expensive choice on a trip that I must take.

I plan to status-match or challenge with American Airlines, who has yet to change to a revenue-based system (for now).  Once this challenge is complete, I may fly United to bank some RDM miles before this change on March 1, 2015.

In conclusion

This is a game-changer for me.  Honestly, it’s a huge devaluation for the frequent-flyer / points community.  However, all is not lost, as this change is not the End-of-the-World for the occasional leisure traveler.  This new MileagePlus Program clearly benefits those that United deems to be their more valuable customers – those who spend top dollar on premium tickets and those who spend really high amounts on otherwise cheap tickets.  I can see the potential benefit in this for United, even though it significantly alters my personal travel profile.  It will be interesting to see if this alters United’s customer loyalty enough to influence their bottom line in one way or another.

My Current Strategy to Earn Miles and Travel Often

In early 2012, I started to really understand how to seriously accrue a ton of airline miles, and I began to travel on a regular basis using many of the things I learned.  That year, I flew over 96,000 miles on a variety of trips.  This year, I’ve already eclipsed 2012, by traveling over 100,000 miles before the beginning of July.

How do I travel so often?

1.      Actually Flying — and doing so with a form of “Miles Arbitrage”
2.      Earning miles from Credit Card sign-up bonuses and spend

“Miles Arbitrage”

As detailed in an earlier post, I actively hunt cheap airfares.  Many times, my goal is not to go to a certain place – it’s to go wherever, whenever — as long as it’s a relatively long distance, and it is cheap.

Why would I engage in this madness?

Simple:  I get to travel some in order to earn miles and travel even more!

Hunting for ridiculously cheap airfares allows me to take quick, weekend trips to a lot of really cool places where I otherwise would probably never really bother to go.  Additionally, these trips earn valuable Premier Qualification Miles and Redeemable Miles for at a very cheap rate.

  • Premier Qualification Miles (PQMs) are the miles that determine one’s status in an airline’s frequent flyer program.  In my case, I primarily fly United and its Star Alliance partners.
    • The more PQMs one flies during a calendar year, the more perks one gets – perks such as:
      • Complimentary upgrades to first class on domestic flights
      • Upgrade certificates for international travel
      • Priority boarding
      • Free checked baggage
      • Reduced change fees
      • A miles multiplier to which you can earn redeemable frequent flyer miles.
        • For example, a Premier 1K member with United earns 2 miles for every 1 mile flown.
    • Generally speaking, the only way to accrue status on an airline is good, old-fashioned flying – you must hit the status threshold for segments or miles flown within a calendar year.
    • In the future, the quest for airline status will get much more complicated, as Delta and United have recently introduced an additional criterion for Premier qualification– minimum dollar spend.  This will likely kill my current strategy.
  • Redeemable miles (RDMs) are traditionally what people think of when one mentions “airline miles.”  These miles are ultimately redeemed for future travel.

By collecting miles cheaply on flights across the country and internationally, I accrue a hefty balance of miles.  I prefer this method to straight up buying the miles, since these provide me a pretty fun weekend getaway while earning them.  These miles, in turn, enable me to take major, long vacations to even more exotic locations in international business or first class – tickets that I never would have otherwise purchased.

Miles got me this -- First Class on a Lufthansa A330 from Munich to Washington

Miles got me this — First Class on a Lufthansa A330-300 from Munich to Washington-Dulles

Essentially, it’s miles arbitrage – I’m earning miles for a low price, and redeeming them at much, much higher values.  I am generally earning miles at a rate of $.02 – $.035 per mile, and redeeming them on tickets that cost in excess of $.12 per mile.  That’s a pretty decent return on investment right there!

Credit Card Sign ups and Spending

Last year, I was heavy in the credit card sign-up game.  Co-branded travel and bank credit cards are some of the easiest ways to get a bunch of miles quickly.  Through a few credit card sign ups, I was able to quickly accrue over 400,000 miles over the course of the year.  Before employing this strategy, you should see if this tactic is right for you.  Applying for new credit cards does take a temporary, small hit on your credit, but the long-term effects of building a good credit history of paying your bills on time, and in full will do nothing but help you credit going forward.  The important thing to remember is to make sure you pay off your balance in full every month to avoid any interest fees, as interest on owed amount negates the value of the miles.  In future posts, I plan to get into a little more detail on credit card sign-up bonuses, but since this is not currently part of my strategy, I will save it for later.

This year, I have stayed away from credit cards and focused my effort on earning miles organically – by flying.  With that said, the majority of all my spend is on one of two or three points-earning credit cards.  This ensures that every dollar I spend is earning valuable miles that I will later use for travel.   I will go into greater detail on credit cards in future posts.

Though the quickest way to compile a serious bank of frequent flyer miles is through credit card sign ups, I enjoy taking quick trips on the cheap to earn my miles the natural way — by actually getting on a plane and flying somewhere!

Getting Started With Miles — Flying

I hear it from people all the time:  “I can’t earn enough miles to do anything!”

Well, what these people generally don’t know is that there are a myriad of ways to earn miles.  And odds are, they don’t know how to effectively redeem miles in a way that offers the maximum value for those miles.  There are so many ways to earn frequent flier miles, and I try to maximize my earning to the greatest extent as possible.  In future posts, I will highlight various ways to earn more airline miles with a variety of frequent flyer programs.  Furthermore, I will detail some tricks of the trade for getting the most out of your miles.  Redeeming miles takes a keen understanding of each airline’s award charts in order to maximize the value of your hard-earned miles.  With that being said, each airline has its own caveats and “sweet spots” that one can exploit for maximum value.

In this post, I will detail what one should do, at minimum ensure that they’re getting credit for the miles that they’re actually flying.

In order to begin the whole mileage game, one needs to start with the basics:

  • Establish frequent flier accounts on the airlines that you typically fly
  • Track your miles online with a spreadsheet or an online resource such as AwardWallet.com
  • Remember:  Not all miles are equal!  Miles are only as valuable as the costs at which they can be redeemed – some programs offer much more lucrative value propositions than others.
  • Always credit your flights to a frequent flyer account – even if it’s not your primary program.  Every little bit of miles count.
  • Know your airline partners and alliances and try to stick to the airlines who partner with your primary carrier.
  • It is helpful to have a goal – what do you want to accrue miles for?  A first class trip to Europe?  A round-trip to San Francisco?  Knowing what, exactly you’re gunning for can help you focus on which airline best suits your needs.  For example, if your goal is for overseas, international travel, Southwest is probably not the airline for you, since you cannot redeem Southwest miles for travel outside the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  It is; however, an excellent option if domestic travel is your goal.
  • Know that redeeming miles is an art itself.  Every airline frequent flyer program features a different award chart, and has its own little caveats.

To figure out your strategy, it’s important to know how often you plan on flying.  If you fly enough to achieve elite status (generally at least 25,000 miles per year), then  it would be beneficial to pinpoint one airline where you focus your flying.  Elite status on airlines generally carries with it benefits such as priority boarding, no baggage fees, complimentary upgrades, and reduced fees for other services.  If you’re going fly enough during a calendar year to earn elite status, you should:

  • Try to stick to one airline’s mileage program.  Your hometown airport may have a significant say as to which airline you choose.
    • The major airlines in the US with connections to major, global alliances are:
      • United (Star Alliance)
      • Delta (Sky Team)
      • American (OneWorld)
      • US Airways (Star Alliance until November, and then OneWorld).
  • Know your airline partners and alliances and try to stick to the airlines who partner with your primary carrier.  For example, if you’re a United frequent flier, credit your miles to United when flying partners like Lufthansa, US Airways, or ANA.

If you are an occasional traveler, it makes more sense to simply hunt for the cheapest fares available on any airline.  You should still credit these flights to each individual airline’s frequent flier program, but since you aren’t trying to achieve status with an airline, the carrier does not matter as much — you just want to travel for cheap.  A good starting point would be my previous post on hunting for cheap airfares.

These are merely some tips to get you started.  In my next series of blog posts, I will detail some strategies for increasing your mileage balance through a variety of ways, including miles arbitrage, credit card sign ups, spending habits, and more.  Of course, I will also cover ways to derive maximum value from these miles.

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: United BusinessFirst: Tokyo – Denver

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1 (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda
Tokyo, Day 1 (Park Hyatt arrival, Roppongi)
Tokyo, Day 2 (Imperial Palace, Shibuya Crossing, Ebisu, Kendo, Dinner and drinks in Shinjuku)
Tokyo, Day 3 (Ramen lunch, Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Baseball at the Tokyo Dome, Dinner at New York Grill)
Tokyo, Day 4 (Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Subway, Airport Transfers)
Park Hyatt Tokyo
United BusinessFirst Tokyo – Denver


Boarding the Dreamliner for a long flight over the Pacific

Boarding the Dreamliner for a long flight over the Pacific

It took almost an hour and 45 minutes to get from the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku to Narita Airport.  This airport is really nowhere close to Tokyo, as we ventured far from the city center, all the way out to Narita.  Narita is Tokyo’s primary international gateway, but Haneda is definitely the closer of the two airports.  In the future, if I’m staying in Tokyo, I will try to get on a flight into Haneda if at all possible.  The drive out of Tokyo was nice since I got to see some areas of Tokyo that I had not seen before.

Eventually, we pulled first into the city of Narita, and then into the departures area of the airport.  I grabbed my bag and headed to check-in, where there was no line at all.  I quickly went through security and immigration and headed to the United Club since it was only about 90 minutes prior to departure at that point.  The United Club was absolutely slam packed, so I did not take any pictures.  I did; however, have a few beers from the automatic beer machine — I definitely need one of those in my kitchen!  After about 45 minutes in the lounge, boarding for the Denver flight was announced, and I headed down to the gate to embark on a sparkling new United 787 Dreamliner (ship# 3901).

United Airlines (UA) 138
Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Denver (DEN)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 1E (BusinessFirst)
Thursday, June 27
5:00 PM – 12:50 PM
Duration: 10:50

Seat 1E

Seat 1E

It’s a pretty awesome thing whenever one is seated in row 1 on an international flight, as this almost certainly means that your flight will probably not suck.  We boarded the aircraft through door 1L and the flight attendant showed me to my seat — seat 1E in the front BusinessFirst cabin.

On this flight, the BusinessFirst cabin was completely full, but I still had plenty of room in my seat.  Since I was traveling by myself, I prefer the middle pair of seats so I wouldn’t have to climb over anybody to get to by belongings during the flight, and so I wouldn’t have anyone climbing over me when I was asleep.  This turned out to be a good idea, because my seat-mate was pretty intoxicated — I mean, flat-out drunk.  Luckily, he passed before we even took off, but he did receive a warning from the flight attendant when he woke up a few hours out of Denver.  We departed Tokyo on time, and rolled out past what seemed like dozens of JAL 787 Dreamliners before we rolled down the runway en route for Denver.

After about an hour in flight, the dinner service started.  It was very similar to the menu on the flight over with one Japanese entrée and three Western entrees to choose from.  Since I’d eaten the beef tenderloin on the flights over, I chose the Hawaiian Sea Bass for my main on this flight.  It was excellent, though the sushi, ironically was not quite as good as it was on the flights over (go figure!).  Overall, dinner was very, very good.  Though it was not quite as good as the dinners on the outbound flights, it was definitely tasty and cooked correctly.

IMG_3977 IMG_3979 IMG_3981 IMG_3983 IMG_3985 IMG_3987 IMG_3989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I finished my sundae for dessert, I had a few drinks and watched several episodes of House of Cards on the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.  The IFE on the new and newly renovated United (ex-Continental) planes is fantastic with a multitude of movies, tv shows, and other entertainment to choose from.  It is certainly enough to entertain someone for a ten-hour transpacific flight.

IFE and legroom in seat 1E

IFE and leg room in seat 1E

After a few episodes of House of Cards, I reclined my seat to the lie-flat position and dozed off for about 5-6 hours of shut-eye.  The bed was extremely comfortable, and I slept right up until the flight attendants started the breakfast service.  As I’ve mentioned before, the bulkhead rows on United’s BusinessFirst cabins provide much more leg-room in the foot well, providing for a much more comfortable ride.

Anyway, breakfast was served — I ordered the omelet.  It was pretty good — certainly an improvement over United’s domestic first class breakfasts.  Overall, this was a fantastic flight with a great, attentive crew, awesome IFE, good food, and a comfy seat — definitely not a bad way to cross the Pacific!

We arrived in Denver almost 90 minutes early.  Since I was seated in the first row, I was off the plane in a hurry.  After a long walk to Denver International Airport’s immigration area, I broke to the right to proceed through Global Entry.  After about 30 seconds, I was cleared and headed out into the main terminal.  Global Entry is absolutely fantastic, and in my mind is definitely worth the $100 fee for five years.

Because of my early arrival in Denver, I went ahead and changed to an earlier flight back to Washington-Dulles.  By doing this, I gave up my first class upgrade back to IAD, but I did nab and exit row.  The major win here was that it got me back home almost 3.5 hours earlier.  After a relatively short, non-eventful flight back to Dulles, I hopped the Washington Flyer bus back to West Falls Church Metro Station and took the train back home.  WIth that, my 15 day adventure all over the world was over!

Mid-Year Report: My 2013 Travel So Far

As the mid-way point of 2013 has come and gone, I’ve been meaning to assess how much I have actually traveled so far this year.  It feels like the entire month of June I was out of the country, and I know I’ve spent plenty of weekends on the left coast, or in another country all together.  So, I went ahead and updated my flight history at Flight Diary.net, and my 2013 map looks a little like this:

Red / Organe = Traveled in 2013 White = Scheduled in 2013

Red / Orange = Traveled in 2013
White = Scheduled in 2013

Well, as it turns out, I’ve traveled a whole, whole bunch.  Though I’ve taken four different international trips, a good bulk of my flying has been transcontinental, domestic trips to the West Coast.  While this may seem miserable, life ain’t bad considering that I was upgraded to first class on a relatively high percentage of my flights.  I’ve also enjoyed meeting friends for lunch in San Francisco, for beer tours in Portland, or for weekends full of shenanigans in San Diego or Vegas.

Domestic Flying 2013

Domestic Flying 2013 (Red/Orange = flown; White = scheduled)

Yup, it appears I’ve already flown over 100,000 miles on 55 flights, so far this year — 100,793, to be exact!  Thus far, I’ve visited:

  • 29 cities
  • 8 countries (5 new — Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and UAE)
  • 4 continents (North America, South America, Europe, and Asia)

With all this flying, most of which has been focused on United or one of its Star Alliance Partners, I have just about hit Premier 1K Status with United, which is United’s top achievable status.  Only about 4,500 premier qualification miles left until I do so!

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.52.36 PMScreen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.52.52 PM

Though I’m taking a break from travel for the next few weeks, I have a full slate of travel scheduled for this fall and winter, including scheduled trips this year to:

  • Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for Labor Day Weekend
  • Europe (Oslo, Copenhagen, Munich) for a Frequent Flyer event with Star Alliance and SAS, and Opening Day of Oktoberfest
  • Europe (Munich, London, Edinburgh) for Closing Weekend of Oktoberfest and my annual EuroTrip with friends
  • Sydney and Cairns, Australia (Sydney for New Years and Cairns to dive the Great Barrier Reef)

I’ll also be taking several weekend, domestic trips to:

  • Auburn, Alabama (twice for football — War Eagle!)
  • Atlanta for a wedding
  • Tampa, FL
  • Houston and College Station, TX for football
  • Raleigh, NC

All in all, this year will mark the most travel I’ve ever done in one year… and I’m loving every bit of it!  In some of my upcoming posts, I’ll detail how I’m able to travel so much, and how I find the deals, so stay tuned!