We have our third guest post from Albert today. Wish I had the time to travel as much as he does.

All Hands: Personnel Status (PERSTAT)

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

Bottom-line Up Front (BLUF): As a traveler, passionate about planning, financing, and enjoying trips all over the world, I hope to become a travel resource for you, the readers of The Military Frequent Flyer (TMFF).

First, big kudos to Glenn, who has generously allowed me to start contributing to TMFF.

Already, two posts of mine have been published on the site, so the time is right to introduce myself and provide some expectations. For the TMFF team, I intend to provide regular reporting on where I’m going, where I’ve been, and how I got there. Plus, I plan to learn from TMFF readers, too.

In 1988, I started at the USAF Academy, got my commission, and then retired from the Air Force in 2012. During my career, I was stationed in Minot; Colorado Springs; Thule, Greenland; Guam; Italy; and Tampa. Each assignment gave me the opportunity to travel to some amazing places for both work and leisure.

Today, I live and work in Stuttgart, Germany as a USG civilian for the US Army. From here, for almost six years, I’ve managed to fly over 100K miles each year around Europe as well as Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South America.

This map (courtesy of Great Circle Mapper) shows my travels in 2018.

On TMFF, you can expect the following posts from me:

  1. After Action Reports (AARs): my trip reports
  2. Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs): travel and credit card tips
  3. All Hands: broader topics on travel
    • Mandatory Fun: travel inspirations and aspirations
    • Burn Bag: my whine (and cheese!) column
    • Other misc. travel topics, In sum, I look forward to being part of the team.

In sum, I look forward to being part of the team.

Happy Travels!

Vr,

Albert

Albert Guerrero, USAF (ret.)

Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

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The second guest post from Albert:

Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures (TTP): OCONUS Commissary purchases

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

Bottom-line Up Front (BLUF): Purchasing items at an OCONUS Commissary qualifies as a US-based purchase. Because of this, you can earn credit card bonus points based on what card you use.

Today’s TTP is on credit card category bonuses from US grocery store purchases.

Being stationed overseas definitely has its challenges: new languages, new road signs, and odd flavored potato chips. Your post Commissary provides products you usually can’t find at the local, foreign supermarkets. These reminders of home can be a real comfort especially when you’re looking for your favorite breakfast cereal or individually-wrapped slices of American cheese!

Did you know when you buy something at an OCONUS Commissary you not only pay in US dollars but also in the US? That’s right, shopping at the Commissary is just like shopping at a Publix or Whole Foods. This TTP is essential for overseas living.

In the travel world—and more importantly in the points and miles games—using the right credit card for the right purchase can help you earn valuable “currency” to get you to your next travel destination. Plus, many credit cards offer bonus points for US-based purchases like at grocery stores.

My personal strategy is to maximize every purchase for maximum travel points. Being stationed in Germany, I exclusively use my American Express Gold Card (really a charge card—a subject for another TTP!) for all my Commissary purchases.

For all US-based grocery stores, the Gold Card earns 4 Membership Reward (MR) points for every $1 spent (up to $25K per year, then 1 MR). So, if you use this card at an OCONUS Commissary and your bill is $60, you will earn 240 MR points. While this is small amount, it’s all about maximizing every swipe of your credit card. They will, trust me, add up!

In sum, when stationed overseas, you shouldn’t have to forgo US-based shopping bonuses when you shop at the Commissary, or in my case, for that tasty French’s yellow mustard no one seems to like on German brats but me!

Happy travels!

Vr,

Albert

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Today we have the first of two guest posts from Albert. This first one is on Malta which is a place I have always wanted to visit.

After Action Report (AAR): Malta, January 2018

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

Bottom-line Up Front (BLUF): An enjoyable Italy-lite destination full of ancient ruins, walkable fortress cities, and “Game of Thrones” film locations, Malta is the unsung hero of the Mediterranean. It’s worth a visit any time of year, but winter travel offers fewer tourists and lower prices.

Today’s AAR takes us to the Republic of Malta.

For those of us lucky enough to be stationed in Europe or savvy enough with our travel planning, visiting destinations during the off-season is the perfect way to avoid the hordes of vacationers and save some cash.

In January, we traveled to Malta to take in its walled cities and high 50s/low 60s temps. Located just south of Sicily, the archipelago nation is a very popular summer destination for Europeans looking for warm water and sunny beaches. However, in the winter, the street have less traffic, UNESCO World Heritage sites have fewer people, and the resort hotels, usually packed with gamblers and cruise shippers, have very reasonably priced rates.

We flew Lufthansa from Stuttgart (STR) to Malta (MLA) via Frankfurt (FRA). Ticket prices were $276 per person. We both have Star Alliance Gold status (through United), so we had access to the Lufthansa Senator and Business Class lounges in STR and FRA. In MLA, on our return, Lufthansa uses the La Vallette Lounge. The Lufthansa lounges are always solid places to get a snack and a drink. Star Alliance contract lounges, like La Vallette, can be hit or miss; however, this lounge was pretty spectacular. It had a nice selection of hot dishes and a really great open-air patio with views of the tarmac. All and all, an excellent place to spend time before boarding.

For Malta, we rented a car as we wanted to see as much as possible over the long MLK weekend at our own pace. Please note that driving in Malta is on the UK side of the road. Malta also has narrow streets and lots and lots of traffic circles. Drive with caution…and with insurance!

Given the off season, finding a posh hotel at an affordable price was top of my list. I chose the Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour hotel in Senglea, a city on a small peninsula just south of Valletta, the Maltese capital. Booked with points, the Cugó Gran is part of Marriott’s Design Hotel collection. Per Marriott, Design Hotels are a carefully curated portfolio of independent, uniquely-designed hotels to share, inspire, and celebrate an original experience. (You gotta love marketing material!)

The hotel is part of a fortress built in 1552 by the Knights of the Order of St John (The Baptist) to protect Senglea from invaders. We booked one of the Fortress Suites, an interior room in the ancient wall of the fortress. It was a great room with vaulted ceilings that really opened up the space. A Design Hotel is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a unique hotel experience. During the off-season, the room runs about $250/night, and during the high-season, more than double that is standard.

The area surrounding the hotel consisted of harbor-side Italian restaurants, the Malta at War Museum, the Maltese Inquisition Inquisitor’s Palace, and Fort St. Angelo. If you have an interest in old stone fortresses and medieval warfare, Senglea has a lot to offer within walking distance.

Across Senglea is Valletta, the capital. Accessible via a ferry from Senglea or by car, Valletta is a walled city with a former moat and many ornate and elaborately-styled buildings. We spent the afternoon wandering the pedestrian areas admiring the colorfully-painted doors and bay windows, which the Maltese use to help differentiate their similarly-colored sandstone buildings. Due east of the city center is the Siege Bell War Memorial, honoring the Maltese and British who successfully defended the island from Germany and Italy during WWII. From here you can get excellent views of Senglea and some of the fortresses across the harbor.

The fortress city of Mdina was our next stop, the island’s capital during medieval times. Located almost at the center of the island, Mdina sits on a hill overlooking eastern Malta. With an even bigger moat, one you can walk through as it’s now a park, Mdina has long, tall corridors winding from the main city gate towards the northeast wall where you can take some amazing pictures of the island and the Med.

Mdina was featured in season 1 of “Game of Thrones,” and the series has filmed in Valletta and the neighboring island of Gozo. You can book specific GoT tours to visit all the site–a must for fans of the series. Our driving took us to a few GoT sites, but recently some friends booked a day-long private tour around the island to see the show’s major and minor filming locations. They said a private tour is the way to go. (Thanks for the travel tip, Katherine and Nick!)

In the southeastern part of the island is Hagar Qim, the Stonehenge of Malta. This ancient temple consists of two main sites constructed with giant stones. We wandered around the site which is surprisingly well-preserved. We also watched the short 4D movie in the Visitors Center which traces the construction and eventual excavation of Hagar Qim in 1839. Pay admission is required.

 

Just down from Hagar Qim is the Blue Grotto, a natural sea inlet with bluer-than-blue crystal clear water (hence the name) and lots of seafood restaurants. We parked, walked to the water, took some pictures, and enjoyed the sea air.

Much closer to the city center are the Tarxien Temples, another ancient religious site constructed circa 3150 BC. The temples are surrounded by a raised walkway making views and pictures more three-dimensional. Similar to Hagar Qim, you have the opportunity to walk through the structures for a close-up of the chambers and even see a few wall drawings. Parking is street parking. Pay admission is required.

 

Malta is also home to a large aquarium and Popeye’s Village, the refurbished set from the 1980’s Robin Williams cult classic movie musical. While the island is relatively small, we opted to do only one or two big items per day, so we never made it to these destinations. Malta also has casinos around St. Julian’s, a city just outside of Valletta where many larger hotels and resorts are located.

Malta’s food scene is primarily seafood with Italian influences. We ate around Senglea at nicely appointed restaurants with friendly staff. Most Maltese speak English, and menus are in English too. We found the food simple but really fresh. On our last night, though, we wanted to return to the place we enjoyed the first night, but they had shut down for their winter holiday earlier that afternoon. While we didn’t notice many stores and shops closed, off-season travelers may find a few places closed for an owner’s seasonal vacation.

Malta is on the euro making it easy for those of us stationed in Germany who already carry that currency. Malta is also part of the Schengen zone, part of the open borders/no immigration group of European counties. Both items made Malta a pretty attractive vacation spot.

In sum, we were happy to have made the trip to Malta. We wanted to see the ancient ruins, visit some GoT sites, and go to a place in Europe off the beaten path.

I recommend a visit.

Happy travels!

Vr,

Albert

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

I can’t think of ever seeing a deal giving 10% off of airfare like this. Veterans Advantage is a membership club for veterans that already gives 5% off of all United and jetBlue flights and 3% off of all Alaska flights, along with many other discounts on other travel services.  I’ve paid for membership for many years now and get good value from their deals.

Now they come out with a limited time deal giving 10% off of all Alaska flights to Hawaii from 2/3 – 5/22. This is a great airline to pick to go to Hawaii since they have 29 flights between the West Coast/ Alaska and the four major Hawaiian islands. The wife and I fly Alaska to Hawaii every year using our BoA credit card companion pass (best deal of any CC benefit in my opinion) and often get upgraded to First Class even as MVP Golds…and who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii?

To use this deal, you’ll need to get a membership to Veterans Advantage and then they will give you a code for the airline discount or you will be directed to a site where the discount is applied to your flight.  This deal should more than pay for your membership and then you have those other discounts for the remaining 12 months.

Here are the details, make sure you fly by 5/22!

Let me know how this works out for you, I already have a membership and plan to see how I can take advantage of such a great deal.  Really gives a lot of miles to requalify for Gold for next year. Plus Alaska is still “old school” in their great FF program so as Golds, my wife and I each get 100% bonus to redeemable miles.  Meaning about 20,000 miles for flying to Hawaii and back from the East Coast where I currently live. Alaska miles are generally considered some of the most valuable FF miles since they can also be used on Emirates, Cathy Pacific, Icelandair and unique partners.

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Another donor has stepped forward for free upgrades on United. Bonnie is donating 3 GPUs and 4 RPUs. I haven’t had any takers yet for the GPUs offered by Bill, but I get the fare restrictions severely limiting those who would be eligible. However, you don’t have the same fare restriction on domestic RPUs. Here are the rules again for both:

RPUs: These upgrades are good for any fare as long as the flight stays within Central or North America.  There is an exception for some flights outside of this, such as Guam to Manila, but these are rare exceptions that I am not going to detail.

GPUs: These are for international travel, but have significant restriction on what fare class you can apply them to.  From the UA page: Global Premier Upgrades are not available on flights booked in fare classes Z, P, S, T, K, L, G or N. Meaning that you can’t use them on the cheapest fares.  Even cheap First or Business Class.

The United Upgrade page has the details. Your flight does need to be no later than 31 January.

Posted by glenn | One Comment

We have a generous donor named Bill, who is giving away 4 United Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) which are expiring 31 Jan. He would like these to go to military personnel traveling this month.  The tricky part about using UA GPUs is that they need to be for W class fares or higher.

GPUs: These are for international travel, but have significant restriction on what fare class you can apply them to.  From the UA page: Global Premier Upgrades are not available on flights booked in fare classes Z, P, S, T, K, L, G or N. Meaning that you can’t use them on the cheapest fares.  Even cheap First or Business Class.

The United Upgrade page has the details.

We have successfully given away these type of upgrades every year, but do make sure you have the right airfare. Anyone military Service Member who wants one of these should email me at glennagoddard@gmail.com with your name and Record Locator.  I will then send to Bill and he can apply the GPU from his account.

Thanks for your generosity Bill!

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My friend Ed Pizzarello of Pizza in Motion fame, hosts a podcast called Miles to Go. On his show he often laments/ humblebrags that he has never been to Hawaii.  I almost think that people on his show are so amazed by that fact that he takes it as a point of pride to have never been there.

Ed, sure that’s fine for you, but think of the children!  Sure it will look good on their college essays to list the hardship of never having been to Hawaii, and that’s not a bad strategy to get them into Harvard, but look at the life experiences you are denying them.  They may harbor resentment for the rest of their lives.  You may be labelled as a bad father.  Sure, you take them to Disneyworld like ten times a year, but still…

Most of us in the frequent flyer community consider this crazy since that is a prime destination for users of points and miles.  My wife and I lived there for three years and have returned every year to vacation at one of the islands. We find it very easy to get there and always get there with a great deal.  Today, I am going to lay that strategy out for you and see if you won’t be tempted.

Items required to make this work for a family of four:

Two Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit cards

Two AMEX Aspire Hilton credit cards

480,000 Hilton Honors points for two rooms for five nights

Optional – Gold Guest Upgrade Certificates

Optional – AA or AS Lounge membership

Now, Ed, you may be questioning the first item on the list.  Alaska Airlines? But I live in D.C., not Seattle. Actually, Ed, you might be surprised how much AS has expanded in the last few years.  They fly from all three Washington airports, BWI, DCA, and Dulles to most of the West Coast and then have flights from there to all the major Hawaiian islands. Here is the route my wife and I flew a few weeks ago.

Ed, I know you are concerned with a 10-12 hour flight to Hawaii.  Alaska also allows you a free stopover on their flights. One of my favorite ways to get to HNL from WAS is to fly BWI-SAN, spend a couple of days in San Diego, and then SAN-HNL a couple of days later. You could also do the same for LAX or SFO. In the summer, SEA is also a good stopover. Likewise, you can do the same on the way back.  This breaks up a long journey and is probably easier for the kids to handle, plus they get to see another city or two.

 

Why Alaska and no the other airlines? Because of one of the best CC benefits out there – the BoA Alaska Airline CC’ Companion Certificate.  As the name implies, this is a $99 ($122 with takes) ticket for someone travelling on exactly the same itinerary as you.  Right now, BoA has a deal where they will they are waiving the $99 fee the first year so that companion ticket only costs the $22 in taxes. So it really is two tickets for the price of one.  Ed, if you and your wife each get this CC, your family of four flies for half price (~$1800). Don’t forget to have AS FF accounts as each person earns full distance-based miles for these tickets. At about 10,000 miles round trip, that’s quite a few very valuable AS miles. My being a MVP Gold and my wife a MVP Gold75k, we earn 100% and 125% bonuses, respectively, on these trips meaning almost enough for a free award ticket for this one flight.

If you have a REALLY good friend, they may also give you a Gold Guest Upgrade (GGU) that they get from being an AS Gold. You need to select that from the pull down menu when searching for flights.  Look for flights with blue “F” boxes. If you are fortunate enough to find a flight with both legs showing as upgradeable that still only takes one GGU. Note that these fares may be slightly higher but way cheaper than outright buying First Class as shown below.

So that’s how to get there, but what about an inexpensive stay once you do get here? Here is a strategy for that with Hilton.  The AMEX Aspire card came out about a year ago and offers an interesting way to maximize value.  The card is $450/yr., but comes with Hilton Diamond Status and a $250/yr. credit for incidentals (everything but the room rate) at Hilton hotels. It is really meant to offset the ludicrous resort fee of $50/night, but here is a better way to use it.  Hilton does not charge the resort fee if you stay on points, meaning you can apply that credit to restaurants, surf lessons for your kids, or your morning coffee at Starbucks.  The most economical strategy is to get a room for four nights on points and then Hilton will give you a fifth night free. This applies whether you use points or cash, but let’s stick with points for now. We recently stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for 240,000 points for five nights. That might seem like an incredible number of points, but Hilton points are very easy to earn.  In fact, the sign up bonus for the Aspire card is 150,000 right now so you are already over halfway there just with that.

 

Another benefit from the Aspire card is a $250 credit for airline incidentals including lounge membership. That will almost pay for an annual lounge membership for AA or AS (which also gives access to AA lounges) and make your voyage a little bit easier, especially with a family.

Your new Diamond status should get you an upgrade at the property and also comes with the benefit of a $10/ person (max two)/ night for food and beverage at any of the ten places to eat on the property.  For a five night stay this worked out to $100 off the bill. Note that they simply take off the $100 rather than force you to spend at least $20/day. Here is our recent bill illustrating what I am talking about.

And then my AMEX bill showing the credit. Note that I had used $31 of the credit earlier in the year, but you should get the full $250 if you follow this plan.

So there you go Ed, an inexpensive way for you to take the family to Hawaii. This plan would also work with going to Maui or the Big Island, although most of the things your kids would like are probably on Oahu. Make sure they try the Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

All Veterans’ Days are special, but this one commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of the War to End All Wars – which unfortunately didn’t. First called Armistice Day, it was changed to the more familiar name of Veterans’ Day.

Many establishments want to recognize the selfless service and sacrifice that was made , and is still being made, by those who can call themselves proud veterans of military service.

Here is our annual list of all the various free meals that veterans can get.  Use this as an excuse to take a veteran to a meal to thank him or her for their service.  If you know of other meal deals, please post them as a reply.

Be prepared to show an ID verifying you are eligible.  Pretty easy for those of us still serving, but veterans should show a Driver’s License with veteran status on it, or a VA card, even a DD214 should do.  Most of the time, they just take your word for it, but you don’t want to be called out in a restaurant because you couldn’t prove it.  Enjoy!

In honor of Veterans Day, Red Lobster will be offering a free appetizer or dessert to veterans, active-duty military and reservists with a valid military ID on Sunday, November 11 and Monday, November 12.

Guests may choose an item from the following special menu:
• Appetizers
o Sweet Chili Shrimp
o Mozzarella Cheesesticks
o Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp
o Seafood-Stuffed Mushrooms
o Lobster and Langostino Pizza
o Signature Shrimp Cocktail
• Desserts
o Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
o Key Lime Pie
o Warm Apple Crostada
o Chocolate Wave
o Brownie Overboard

Denny’s – In observance of Veterans Day 2018, Denny’s will give a free Build Your Own Grand Slam breakfast to any guest with military ID from 5 a.m. to noon on Monday, Nov. 12.

IHOP – IHOP® RESTAURANTS THANK VETERANS AND ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY ON VETERANS DAY WITH FREE RED, WHITE & BLUE PANCAKES. Servicemen and Women Are Invited to Savor Time with Family and Friends Over a Made-to-Order Breakfast at IHOP on November 11, Including a Free Pancake Offer From 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

BJ’s Restaurant – 11 Nov., Any meal under $12.95 is complimentary along with a free Dr. Pepper (don’t ask me why Dr. Pepper).

Spaghetti Warehouse – 11 Nov., BOGO free on any entrée. You need to print out the coupon on their website.  www.facebook.com/SpaghettiWarehouse or http://www.meatballs.com/ 

Applebee’s – Join Us On Veteran’s Day, November 11th, As We Honor Veterans with a Free Meal! This Time, Let Us Serve You. Stop By For One Of Our Signature Entrees On Us. Family Friendly. Online Ordering. Grill & Bar. Lunch Combos. Late Night 1/2 Price Apps.

Black Angus – Opening – 1500, 11 Nov., Free top sirloin steak dinner and non-alcoholic beverage

Bob Evans – 11 Nov., Free select menu items

California Pizza Kitchen – 11 Nov., Free items from special menu

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse – 11 Nov., Free 8 0z. steak dinner

Chevy’s – 1100-1400, 11 Nov., Complimentary Fresh Mex 3-item Combo

Chick-fil-A – 5:00-8:00 pm Friday, active and retired military personnel, veterans, and their immediate families can receive one free specified Chickfil-A meal. Valid ID or proof of service is required.

Chuck E. Cheese – 11 Nov., Free cheese pizza

Cici’s Pizza – 11 Nov., Free pizza buffet

Cracker Barrel – 11 Nov., Complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake or one of its Crafted Coffee Beverages

Dunkin’ Donuts – 11 Nov., Free donut

Famous Dave’s BBQ – 11 Nov., Free two meat combo

Friendly’s – 11 Nov., Free breakfast, lunch, or dinner

Green Turtle – 11 Nov., Free meal up to $12 or $12 off a more expensive meal

Hooters – 11 Nov., Free meal

Logan’s Roadhouse – 11 No., Free American Roadhouse Meal. Not valid in CA, NC, SC or Augusta, GA.  Note that vets always get 10% off throughout the year.

Little Caesar’s Pizza – 1100-1400, 11 Nov., Free $5 lunch combo

Menchie’s Frozen yogurt – 11 Nov., Free 6 oz. yogurt

Mimi’s Café – 11 Nov., Free items from special menu

Mission BBQ – 11 Nov., Offering free sandwiches and cake for all veterans and active duty military personnel on Sunday, November 11, 2018 from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.  On a personal note, try to eat here at noon on any given day and watch what happens!

On the Border – 11 Nov., Free combo meal

Outback Steakhouse – 11 Nov., To honor the military this Veterans Day, Outback Steakhouse is offering all veterans and active military a completely free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage, in addition to a discount for police, firefighters, and first responders.

Ponderosa Steakhouse – 1600-close, 11 Nov., Free buffet

Red Lobster – 11 Nov., Free appetizer or dessert

Ruby’s – 11 Nov., Free adult entrée

Ruby Tuesday – 11 Nov., Free appetizer

Shoney’s – 0600-1100, 11 Nov., Free All You Care to Eat breakfast

Sizzler – Before 1600, 11 Nov., Free lunch and beverage

Texas Roadhouse – 11 Nov., Free special veterans lunch

TGI Fridays – 1100-1400, 11 Nov., Free lunch

UNO – 11 Nov., Free entrée or individual pizza

Village Inn – 11 Nov., Free Inn-Credible breakfast

White Castle – 11 Nov., Free breakfast combo or Combo Meal #1-6

Wienerschnitzel – 11 Nov., Free chilidog with small fries and small Pepsi

World of Beer – 11 Nov., Free beer or $5 off check

Golden Corral – 12 Nov., Free dinner

Country Cookin’ – Tuesday, November 13, 2018. Free meals for Veterans from 2pm until 8pm.

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Most people think of the best places to vacation in Italy as the famous cities of Florence, Venice, or Rome. However, let me pass along to you a second-class city that rates as a first-rate destination that you might find more enjoyable than all those famous destinations.  Located in the Tuscany region, it is in prime wine country, and fairly easy to get to.  We flew in to Pisa and took the dedicated train to the downtown train station where a local train took us to Lucca.  You can also fly into Florence, Milan or Venice and get to Lucca by bus or train although that will take about 2-3 hours.

Lucca is a very old city founded by Etruscans over two thousand years ago, then became a Roman colony in 180 BC.  Here is the link to Wikipedia for you to find out more.  It was a major city throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  Notably, the city was never conquered and still has its Renaissance-era walls surrounding the old city.  They have done a great job of preserving the old architecture from that era and you will see almost no modern buildings there.  The city is full of very nice modern restaurants and shops but all contained within the narrow streets and facades of a quaint bygone time.  The ancient river still runs through the town in a canal with fountains that the locals still use.

Free concert from the local music school

A couple of shots from the ramparts.  The walls make a great running route if you feel like getting some exercise.

We stayed at an AirBnB which was very reasonably priced.  There are no major hotels within the old city although they can be found in the larger city of Lucca.

I likes the categories of the pizza!

As you would expect, great food is plentiful in Lucca.  The pizza shown was only 5 Euro and the four scoops of gelato was only another 5.  Much cheaper than the main tourist areas of Italy.

Did I mention they have wine here?  Lots of wine, very, very good wine.  We happened to be here when they had a wine tasting event to demonstrate all the new wines that had been bottled last fall.  It was called the Gandi Cru Della Costa Toscana and is held the first week of May every year.  There were over 140 wineries here and it was all you could taste for 25 Euros. Even tasting and spitting left us pretty tipsy after so many wines.  Here are labels from my favorites if you ever see them in a store.

So give Lucca try if you want a great vacation spot in Italy that is off the beaten path.  You’ll probably save some money too.

 

 

Posted by glenn | 4 Comments

Moxy is one of the 30 brands of the new Marriott/ Starwood family.  It was invented a few years ago to appeal tot he Millennial generation, but you may find it to your liking even if you are over 30.  We used it to stay cheaply in New Orleans while helping our daughter move after graduating from Med School.  We could stay there, only a few blocks off of Canal St., for less than $100/night.

The building looks to be a renovated old hotel or office building.  The neighborhood felt fairly safe, but I would still watch yourself walking around at night.

The hotel tries super hard to be “hip”.  They fail in some thing, but succeed in others.  Such as offering free drinks at check-in.  In fact, the check-in desk is just an extension of the bar area.

We stayed in Room #7.  Eclectic art is a big theme here.

The room was very Spartan, but being a military guy, I was OK with that.

They tried to be whimsical with the décor and some was actually very smart, such as hanging the extra chair and ironing board on pegs on the wall.

You can get both happy hour finger food and breakfast downstairs at the bar for hot food or this pantry for make your own stuff like bagels or cereal.

Our take on Moxy was that it was a great value for the stay and an interesting experience.  We plan on repeating next time we are in New Orleans.

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Just received an email a couple of hours ago from Chase:

So 5,000 miles is not huge and is basically one extra point per dollar.  The UA Club Card already give 1.5 UA miles/ dollar so getting 2.5/ dollar is not a bad every day spend deal.  UA miles are valued at about 1.7 cents each by other Boarding Area bloggers, so that is about a 4.25% return – pretty good.

I use my UA Club Card not only for cheaper access to the UA Club system, but also as my way to get Platinum status on UA.  Fares just don’t add up enough for me to make it otherwise given how cheap fares are now.  $25,000 spend  grants you a PQM exemption for Platinum status.  Unfortunately, that’s the limit for UA.

I am not going to get to the $12,000 PQD required for 1K which is even getting worse next year with the limit raised to $15,000 as detailed by my friend Ed Pizzarello.  Looks like I will never get back to that level.  Hey, Platinum is not bad and even gets free upgrades some of the time.

In the meantime, I follow the standard rule of signing up for everything whether you think you are going to use it or not.  Never hurts to register and you never know when circumstances might change and you can use the bonus.  For this particular deal, I was going to spend on my Chase UA Club Card anyway, so it is a no brainer.

Anyone else get this offer?  Did others get a different incentive?

 

Posted by glenn | 7 Comments

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