Part of the addiction dedication to frequent flying is seeing those mileage counters roll over to zero on New Year’s Day and knowing you have to figure out a way to fly a bunch more flights so you can keep your status for the following year.  OF course, ideally you would get your employer to pay for all the flights needed or have those miles already paart of a family vacation.  However, that’s not always enough so you need to grab a bunch more to put you over the hump.

While some writers claim that the mileage run is dead, I am going to show you how to make one and get a great payout from it on Alaska.  More and more flyers should be looking at this program now with AS buying Virgin America which greatly expands their long haul routes.  AS’ Mileage Plan has really worked well for my wife and I ever since we moved to Anchorage in 2002 and discovered how great this program really is.  It is so great that we have continued with it despite living in D.C. for the last four years.  What makes it great?  Well, great service from the people, like the pilot who came out on our pre-flight today to brief the First Class passengers on the flight plan and answer any questions.  Always, always the great Flight Attendants.  Valuable miles that are a great currency to use domestically, but especially internationally on Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Iceland Air and several others.  Mileage earning is still based on distance flown, not price.  Lastly, the huge number of times we are upgraded to First Class.  My wife is a MVPGold75K and was upgraded 33 out of 36 flights in 2016.  I am merely an MVPGold and was upgraded 19 out of 20 flights last year.  Can’t match that experience on any other airline.  I am a Million Miler on UA and don’t get any where near that much love.

One of the best times to rack up cheap mileage run flights is from right after New Year’s to right before Spring Break – so basically mid-Jan. to mid-Mar.  By definition, you want as long a journey as possible.  So I look for as far away a spot from D.C. as possible and then try to find interesting side trips to get there.  ANC, any of the Hawaiian location, and Costa Rica are all great choices.  Of course, if you are West Coast based, you have a ton of East Coast destinations even without adding in those Virgin routes.  AS just keeps quietly expanding their offerings.  It would appear way too small on this screen, so here is a link to AS’ latest route map.

We usually pick one of the Hawaiian islands to visit every year and my wife chose Oahu for 2017.  With the end point settled, I started planning various stops or detours.  Also, I examined flights to those points that had wacky routings that added up the miles flown.  I’ll let you in on the main secret that makes mileage running viable with AS and that is the Companion Fare that come with their B of A credit card.  For only $99 (+$22 in taxes) more than a regular coach flight, I can fly my wife with me while she collects EQM and RDM also.  Other airlines with companion fares do not offer this so it makes mileage running very lucrative as I will illustrate below.

We broke up a week’s trip by making it two days in SAN, three days in HNL, and two days in SJC.  Purists will argue that this is not a true mileage run since we actually leave the airport and enjoy the town we visit.  OK, you win, but to me it is still a mileage run that we also turn into a vacation.  Here is what we finally ended up with:

DCA-LAX-PDX-SAN (two days) – HNL (three days) – SJC (two days) – SEA-DCA

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All for a fare of $859 including the companion fare cost.  So that essentially mean that we paid half that or $430 each to fly 12,132 miles.  That earns us that many EQMs each, but also much more RDM due to the bonuses for Gold and Gold 75K.  While I get a 100% bonus for being a Gold (used to get that as a Gold on UA, but now only 50% from them) and the wife gets an incredible 125% bonus for being a 75K.  She will also get a bonus 50,000 RDM once she re-qualifies for Gold75K, but let’s leave that part for later.  Lets do a quick calculation of the RDM earned and the value of those miles.  I will earn 24,264 RDM, so essentially a free ticket, and the wife will get 27,297 RDM meaning we get 51,561 RDM.  Most bloggers value AS miles at 2 cents each.  Doing the math, means that those miles are worth $1,031.22.  Pretty good return on investment there!  Get miles worth more than the flight cost and a good chunk of EQM to get to do it another year.  Not to mention flying most of that in First Class.  As I write this from Waikiki, my wife was upgraded on all four flights and myself on three so far.  First Class is a great way to earn this investment…

 

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A couple of winners from the previous contest came back and couldn’t use their upgrades from Michael and now reader Joe has volunteered a couple of more.  They expire and must be flown (not just booked) by 31 Jan.  More importantly, they can only be used on a W fare or higher.

MP_Upgrade2_120x120Photo courtesy United.com

There are also some other ways to use them, like on Lufthansa, so refer to United’s webpage on upgrades if you have specific questions. So any takers out there?  Reply with a comment to this post.

 

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I am not a big fan of booking at a hotel brand that I have never heard of.  While sometimes a surprise can be pleasant, just as often it turns into a disappointment.  I would much rather count on the consistency of a name brand such as Hilton when booking.  At a recent conference in Europe I chose to stay at the Frankfurt Airport Hilton and was very pleased with what the hotel has to offer and didn’t mind the trade-off of not being right next to the conference location.

As you would expect, you can reach the hotel by walking from the terminal, although we chose to pick up our rental car and drive.  Driving to the hotel is not the easiest to figure out and involves a lot of looping around between the airport and the adjacent autobahn, but a good GPS can figure it out.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have one of those and it took us the better part of an hour to get to the hotel parking.  The building is massive and situated right along the autobahn, but the noise levels never bothered me and the building looks pretty cool.

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That turned out to be the most trouble we had (other than figuring out the right direction to go on the autobahn) and the rest of the stay was great.  There are actually two hotels on the property, a full Hilton and a Hilton Garden Inn (to the left in the picture).  While I was able to stay at the Hilton at the Per Diem rate, if you are on vacation, you might be able to stay cheaper at the Garden Inn.

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The hotel is very modern with nice architecture.  You come up from the parking garage right into the check-in lobby which has a very nice bar across from the front desk.  I took the front desk photo from the skybridge leading to my room.  This place has a massive atrium!

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The glass elevator take you up to your floor and the place is full of automatically opening glass doors, I kind of got the Star Trek vibe.  The room itself was not large, but they did a great job with the space available.  Wasn’t a fan of the bed, a little too hard for my tastes, but the bathroom and the working desk were excellent.

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As a Hilton Diamond, I had access to the lounge and the cocktail hour and free breakfast there.  Missed the cocktail hour as there were better things to do at night, but the breakfast was nice even if it was just continental.

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Outside the hotel is a small mall filled with the usual traveler’s shops, restaurants, etc.  In the middle of it was the walkway to get to the terminals.  Pretty nice way to get there in inclement weather.  This would definitely be a good alternative if you got weathered in at the airport.

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Altogether, I give this hotel very high marks.  Something else to note is that it is about 15 minutes to downtown Frankfurt or 15 minutes in the other direction to get to Wiesbaden.  Overall, a good experience in a god location.

 

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Thanks to everyone who commented trying to win one of four United GPUs.  As I mentioned, these come courtesy of Michael there is more to that story.  Michael has written a travel book and I wanted to publish the links so that all of you can check it out as well.  Titled “The Millennial’s Guide to Business Travel”, you should definitely take a look.

Michael Puldy has a passion for travel and has flown close to 3 million air miles. He has visited over 40 countries and all United States. Learn the ropes of business travel from a seasoned road warrior, and read crazy travel stories from Michael and a few of his friends.

Find his book at: htttp://www.nextgentraveler.com or on Facebook: facebook.com/nextgentravel

And now to the winners:

Simon Kuo

the dood

Tigeramps

Angelina

I’ll be emailing each of the winners so they can provide their names and Record Locator to Michael for the upgrades.  Thanks again Michael!

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Traveling creates experiences and memories that you will remember for the rest of your life. These moments are what make life more meaningful, especially if spent with your loved ones. It’s not all a walk in the park though. Aside from the cost of travel that you need to consider, there’s also the common problem of many travelers, which is the preparation of the things to bring.

This is one of the most stressful parts because you need to make sure that you got everything you need, including your documents, cards, cash, clothes, shoes, etc. However, there are ways on how to resolve these concerns, making your travel preparation a more convenient one. To avoid missing anything, take note of all the items you need to bring several days or even weeks before your travel.

Do the packing days before, instead of the night before. With this, you will not feel pressured because of the time crunch. Plus, this will give you more time to search for the items you need or purchase them if you don’t have them at home.

You don’t want to lose your way on your destination. So, save Google maps for offline access. With this, you can still use it and find your away around even if there’s no Internet connection.

We have created an infographic that shows more practical tips to make not just your travel hassle free, but the preparation as well.

Check out the amazing image below and get everything ready for your trip like a pro:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Do visit us at http://personalincome.org/ for more interesting finds about different careers and salaries, work productivity, as well as those about budgeting and finances.
Hope all of you enjoyed this guest post by Sarah. Please visit her site if you liked it.

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Reader Michael has kindly volunteered to give away Four United Global Premier Upgrades. As with the giveaway before, please read the rules for using these upgrades.  They are not straightforward to use and need a W fare class or higher.  Provide a comment to this post and I will randomly pick four winners on Thursday.  Note that these upgrades need to be used (i.e. flown) not later than 31 Jan 2017.

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One of my favorite things to go to when traveling is a Christmas Market in Germany.  Of course that is not a reason to travel to Germany, so I just have to luck out and have an event to travel to in December.  That actually happens more often that you would think and I always make a point of finding time in my schedule to go check out the local Christmas Market as pretty much every town and city has one.  One of the best German traditions in my view.

I was staying in Frankfurt, near the airport, and decided to see what the big city had to offer.  It wasn’t hard to find the city center and the start of the Christmas Market.  I say start because, unlike many city where the market is out in the town square, Frankfurt’s was spread over a series of small platz, but all close enough that you could see one from the other.  This gave a very nice feel for integrating the market with all the many historical buildings throughout the city.

If you don’t know where a Christmas Market is, just go to the city center and follow the crowd.  The place was packed and we went on a Monday night!

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The first stop should always be a Gluhwein vendor to get a little anti-freeze in you and put you in a Christmas spirit.  For those who are not familiar, Gluhwein is a spiced wine served hot which you can find only at Christmas time in Germany (although they sell bottles of it here in the States in wine stores if you look carefully).  I was amused by the guy preparing a huge vat of it as shown in the second photo below.

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One thing that is popular is collecting the coffee cups that gluhwein is served in.  Some vendors will include the cost in the price you pay (6 Euros most places) while others will give you a token and if you return the cup, you’ll get a Euro back.

 

The Christmas market is a string of little booths set up by families to sell alcohol, food, gifts, and trinkets.  It is great just to wander around, fill your belly and see some interesting stuff.  I always like to get at least one ornament to take home although I am too afraid of getting the most delicate items.

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This barbecue rig was fascinating and the guy who I was with was freaking out and vowed that he would make one for his home when he returned.

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The sausage they served was outstanding, I could have eaten one of each variety.  They were all served with a small roll and mustard or other condiments.

They even had a double decker merry-go-round which seemed to have more adults than kids riding it.

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If you ever find yourself in Germany between 23 Nov and 23 Dec, you’ll have to make a point of visiting a Christmas Market.  Trust me you’ll have a great time.

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Congrats to four winners – Chris Pepin, Christopher C., Janet, and Nick.  I have emailed each of your a code for a free pass to the Alaska Lounge.  They expire 12/31 so use them on your next trip and post a note in the comments or send me an email on your experience there.  Have fun printing pancakes!

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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, all that jazz!  More giveaways from The Military Frequent Flyer, mainly because they are going to expire otherwise.

If you are not aware, they made a name change from the Alaska Airlines Boardroom to the Alaska Lounge a little over a month ago.  Don’t be confused if the passes have the old name but the sign on the door says something different.  As per the usual, just reply in the comments section and I will pick four winners on Friday.

sea-board-room-downstairsPhoto courtesy of Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex.

If you have never been, enjoy!  you have to try the pancake machine just to say you “printed pancakes”.  Good luck!

 

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A great thing about going to a new place is having a local show you some of the hidden gems.  Even though a med school student doesn’t get out much, she knew a perfect place to take us for our last night in town.  This spot is not very well known and you would pass by it during the day and not even think twice about stopping.  The name of the restaurant is Bacchanal and they have a very unique concept of operation that I am surprised has not spread around the States.

Taken from their website, this is all you’ll see at 600 Poland St.  No big signs, if you didn’t know to go here, you would have a very hard time finding it.  It is located in a residential neighborhood that is sort of an artists’ colony in New Orleans.  I guess that’s why they don’t mind the nightly music which travels throughout the neighborhood.

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The first thing you see when you walk in is that you’re in the middle of a small wine shop.  They also have cheese and some cold cuts for sale.

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Here is where this gets brilliant.  You select one or more bottles of wine, some cheese and meats if you like and then take it to the counter to pay.  After paying they give you a number and direct you to the back of the house.  They take all that you have bought and will then plate the assortment and add in bread, some added “fixins” like gherkins and orange marmalade and then meet you out back.  The way out to the back is going through a little portal and then finding yourself in the house’s backyard which is full of tables and stand bars with a stage at the far end which has a jazz band playing.  There is also a stairway to an upstairs and that is where the band plays in inclement weather.

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The food you purchased is then brought as shown below, but if you want hot dishes you can order from the waiter.  My wife and daughter got a bowl of mussels and some other seafood that they raved about.  I simply enjoyed the wine and cheese.

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We first heard a French band Harmonouche playing kind of folk music in French and then a second band came on that was more traditional New Orleans jazz.  Both were fun to listen to.  One thing about New Orleans is that they have a wide variety of music styles.  Closing time is midnight, although us old folks didn’t stay to the end.

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So now you have a great little secret to share with your friends or check out yourself next time you are in NOLA.

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Continuing on our adventures over the Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans.  Our daughter lives in the Garden District, one of the better suburbs of New Orleans.  She thought we would enjoy a morning walk around to view some of the historical homes.  It is worth noting that you don’t really need a tour guide as so many of the homes contain a historical plaque or marker to explain their background.

The first cool thing we hit was the Commander’s Palace.  This is a historical restaurant that started in 1880.  While we didn’t eat there, my daughter says she has and a great turtle soup there.  The address is 1403 Washington Ave.

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Right across from the Commanders Palace is one of New Orleans famous above ground cemeteries.  This one was very old with many of the early names and text in French.  I thought it was kind of neat how entire generations are all buried together in one tomb and they just add plaques, eventually running out of space on the front and going around to the side.  Note the many generations of vets buried in this one tomb.

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Continuing to wander around the neighborhood, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to go as almost all the homes were lovely.  Plus, we were enjoying the 75 degree weather!  This first one has a big sign out front “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”.  A family home that was eventually turned into a charity.

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This next one has really interesting cast iron fencing of corn.  Apparently, this was the house of a rich guy from Kentucky and to make his wife less homesick, he made all the fencing look like corn stalks and ears of corn.

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You really see an enormous variety of architecture in the Garden District and almost all the houses are very well maintained.

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Then it was time for some more sightseeing and our daughter took us to Parkway Bakery for Po’Boys.  They were voted the best Po’Boys in New Orleans this year and they didn’t disappoint.

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I had the Stewed Turkey with Gator Sausage Gumbo and my wife had the Shrimp Po’Boy (there were over a dozen large shrimp on the sandwich), while my daughter had their famous Roast Beef Po’ Boy.  Everything was delicious, but be prepared to stand in line.  It took us an hour to get served here and the line was just as long at 2:30 when we left.

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After coming out to find a flat tire on my daughter’s SUV, we finally made it over to the National World War Two Museum downtown.  We didn’t have a s much time as I would have liked due to the delay, but still saw a lot of the museum.  Really nice exhibits that were mostly interactive and entertaining.  That should be a must-do on your list if you visit this town.

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