Month: February 2014

Travel Tips: Why It’s So Hard to Use Those Flyer Miles

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mileage award points

It’s that time of year when you want to start planning that dream cruise to Europe, and you really want to use those frequent flyer points to book your flight.  Only, let’s face it.  It’s hard.

I get it.  I’ve been there.  I’ve watched my frequent flyer miles like a hawk, and when I finally go to redeem them for a dream vacation… it’s next to impossible to use them on my flight of choice.  Most people are finding it increasingly challenging to find those awards seats. Delta, especially, makes it difficult to book award seats.

That’s because the airline, ever-dedicated to making money, is doing everything in its power to sell those seats first. (I suppose that’s understandable – business is business.)  As a result, they hold out on releasing the seats until the very last minute, or they require an astronomical number of points to book the ticket. It’s annoying, I know.

It’s even worse when you want to use your points to upgrade to business class.  In that scenario, you have to purchase a higher class of service – a so-called “upgrade-able ticket” – which could be almost as much as buying a business class ticket outright.  It’s just not easy to book peak season award tickets, especially on direct flights. (Though you will have better luck booking seats with airline partners like Air France or KLM.)

This understanding of the unfortunate strategies used by major airlines is all well and good, but what can you do?

There are a lot of things about awards programs that can slip through the cracks unless you do your research. You need to milk the most out of your points.   Gain leverage.  Find loopholes. Honestly, the general population isn’t necessarily equipped to do this because those airlines are pretty sneaky, and awards programs can be complicated with all of their fine print exceptions and rings of fire that they make you jump through.  Lucky for you,  there are experts who do this for a living who have had proven experience with “battling” the airlines.  They’re knowledgeable about this stuff.  Save yourself a bucket of tears and let them do the work for you.

I recommend contacting  mileage-award expert Gary Leff, who writes the blog View From the Wing and helps people get the maximum value for their miles and points via his BookYourAward service.  If you are still unable to get that award seat, just bite the bullet and buy that ticket.  Regardless…

JUST GO! Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!


Peru: Up Close and Personal

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Saying that I love to travel is an understatement.

I mean, I love it so much that I made it my career – my life.  That means that much of my time is filled with countless, amazing trips, and 2013 was no exception.  I’m so excited that I can now share them in detail with all of you on this new blog.  With all my recent adventures last year – from Australia to New York – it was difficult to choose just what to write about first.  But if I’m honest with myself (and you), my favorite trip was by far my adventures in the mountains of Peru.

And with good reason.

Susan & Lhama
I enjoyed meeting a friendly llama and some native girls in the mountains of Peru.

What an amazing country! Every day of my journey was full of surprises and beauty at every turn. The resorts were fabulous, and the food!  The food was fresh, wholesome and delicious.  We explored Machu Picchu, the legendary lost city of the Inca Empire, rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It is truly one of the most amazing and mysterious places on earth. We also had entertaining and knowledgeable guides throughout who told us all about the history of the people.

This is me standing atop Machu Picchu.  This could be YOU!
This is me standing atop Machu Picchu. This could be YOU!
The lost city of Machu Picchu
The lost city of Machu Picchu

From Machu Picchu, we took the famous Hiram Bingham luxury train to Cuzco, enjoying a delicious gourmet meal, fine drinks and music along the way.  All the while we were met with views of breathtaking scenery and vast landscapes.  It was a great reminder that half the fun of travel is getting there.

The highlight of the trip was a cruise on the Amazon aboard the 24 passenger Aqua Expedition’s  Aria.  We explored  the river on small skiffs with native guides  who could point out gorgeous birds in the trees, sloths and even chameleons that we never could have seen on our own.   The most exciting moment was when the guides spotted an anaconda lounging in the reeds.  They struggled with it for quite a while before finally pulling it out of the water. What a photo op!

I got to test out my navigation skills on the Amazon.
I've never been in such close proximity to such a huge reptile!  The tour guides were having fun, too.
I’ve never been in such close proximity to such a huge reptile! The tour guides were having fun, too.

Lake Titicaca was another notable highlight. The lake is both the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America, and it is home to a population of pre-Incan people called Uros who live on artificial islands made of floating reeds.  (Yes, reeds.) It’s like the mother of all houseboats, really.  Someone decides who he wants for a neighbor, then builds the island. If the relationship sours and they no longer want to be neighbors, they just cut off their portion of the island and float away!   It was like nothing I’d ever seen.  And I guess that’s what I love about travel – there is so much about the world that you have to see to believe, and I want to see it all.

1-Uros 2
Here are the floating islands at Lake Titicaca.
1-People on Boat
People riding on a boat at Uros.

Peru was truly unforgettable.  From the kind people and the hospitable culture to the delectable food and exciting attractions, what’s not to love? I would go back again in a heartbeat.

Don’t take my word for it, though.  Let us help you experience it for yourself.  This is one trip you don’t want to miss.  Check out more pictures from my trip in our photo gallery for more inspiration.