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A Million Miles with United Airlines

Wow! What a journey… A few months ago I hit one million flown miles with United Airlines! I think I beat Brad by about a month :-).



It took me about 8 years to get here. I'm 31 years old, and I started traveling heavily for business when I got my first job when I was 23. Over the years, I have flown as few as 50,000 miles in a year and as many as 150,000, typically averaging ...

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Review: Le Meridien Ile Des Pins


Prior to this trip, this was probably in the top three of SPG resorts I wanted to visit. I stumbled upon it a few years ago while just browsing the SPG website, and my first reaction was, “Where the heck is New Caledonia?” Reaction two: “Wait a minute… a tropical island with pine trees?” When a recent business trip took me to Australia, my wife and I decided to tack on Vanuatu and New Caledonia so we could finally visit the ...

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Convert Bing Rewards Points to Airline Miles


If your first question is, "What's a Bing Reward?" you're probably not alone. Bing, the Microsoft search engine that I have photography competitions with (see here, here, and here), has always offered a rewards program. The more times you search on Bing, the more credits you get. You have to do quite a few searchs before you get any meaningful amount of points, and even once you do, you can't redeem for much. The most valuable things there are $5 Amazon ...

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Review: Moyyan House by the Sea, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

I'm not typically one for the bed and breakfast type of place. I primarily travel for business, and I accrue points during this business travel. Then I redeem my travel points for free vacations. Repeat. As great of a system as this is, it often limits us frequent travelers from going a bit off the beaten path and exploring new experiences. When my wife and I had the opportunity to plan a trip to a couple islands in the South Pacific, we decided to spend ...

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Trip Report: Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

WOW! What a place!

I don't think my wife and I have ever had such a fun island adventure like we had on Espiritu Santo. First, where the heck is Espiritu Santo, more commonly just called Santo?

Santo is the largest island of the island nation of Vanuatu, located in the South Pacific, about 1100 miles from Brisbane, Australia. While Santo is the largest of the islands, ...

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Are United "Confirmed" Regional Upgrades Worthless?

"Confirmed" upgrades on United used to work. Back in the day, if a cabin was mostly open, I could apply one of my confirmed upgrades and voila. Upgrade confirmed. I don't think I've seen a confirmed upgrade actually upgrade one of my flights in quite some time. I was especially surprised for an upcoming SFO-JFK-SFO trip. Take a look at how empty both business class cabins are. I'm still on the waitlist for the upgrade, unfortunately.


On the second flight, there are only two seats taken in business class, according to the seat map. This map is basically empty, and it still won't confirm. Does anyone else have better luck?

Of course, United does not allow complimentary premiere upgrades to be used on P.S. flights so the upgrade isn't "worthless," as I wouldn't even be in the running for an upgrade if the instrument didn't exist.

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Trip Report: Etihad from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi

After flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg and killing our long layover in JNB, it was time to head for Abu Dhabi en route to the Maldives! Our itinerary was CPT-JNB-AUH-MLE, with the last two segments being on Etihad Airlines. I was really excited about the last two flights, as I had never flown on Etihad before, and I had never stepped foot in the Middle East either (not that a 2 hour layover counts as spending time there)! As our departure time ...

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Review: Sheraton on the Park Sydney (Executive Suite)

I’ve had the pleasure of doing business in Sydney a couple times this year, and for my most recent stay, I decided to give the Sheraton on the Park a try. Last time I was in town, I stayed at the Marriott on the Harbor. I selected the Marriott for my first stay based on its proximity to the harbor and the fact that I was going for the Megabonus. I have already hit top tier status with both Marriott and Starwood this year so for my most recent stay, I had my pick of hotels. Despite my ...

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Head to Head: Austin's American Admirals Club vs. United Club

I recently found myself in Austin, and a few days before my trip, Brad mentioned that he had an expiring American Airlines Admirals Club pass and wondered if anyone could use it. I said that if he had no other use for it, I'd use it to check out the Admirals Club in Austin. After all, I had never actually been to an Admirals Club before! I'm a United Club member, and as I frequent the Austin United Club, I figured this would be a good opportunity to compare the two head to head.

Both ...

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Review: Andaz San Diego

A recent business trip brought me to San Diego, and while I usually stay at the W Gaslamp or the Sheraton in Mission Valley, I figured it was time to start shifting some stays over to Hyatt. I looked online, and I found an Andaz downtown. I had never stayed at an Andaz before, and I was excited to try one out for the first time! When I arrived at the Andaz, I realized that they actually took over the Ivy Hotel, which I had visited before.

The check-in experience at an Andaz is ...

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Testing United Wi-Fi on 4 Different Flights: The Results

I have been really excited for United Wi-Fi for a long time. For years, Gogo has slowly crept onto just about every airline out there. Delta even offers it on some regional jets. Gogo, in its current implementation, uses a ground link that relays to a cellular connection. This makes flying over water impossible and flying over international borders equally challenging.

While the entire industry migrated to GoGo Wi-Fi, United resisted. Instead, the airline decided to bring out its own ...

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Review: The W Hollywood

Hotel reviews are a funny thing in that you never know when the reviewer just had an abnormally good or bad experience with the hotel. As it pertains to this review of the W Hollywood, you should have no such concern about me. This review is based on countless stays I've had at this hotel over the past couple years. I often stay here when I'm traveling for business as its location allows me easy access to Hollywood, Burbank, and parts of LA.

From ...

Cape Town to Johannesburg on British Airways

We had an absolute blast in Cape Town. Interestingly enough, The Points Guy recently visited Cape Town, and he had just as many great things to say about it as we did. However, after all the great times we had, it was time to go to the Maldives! I had booked a ticket with American Airlines miles. The ticket was CPT-JNB-AUH-MLE. We had a flight around lunch time from Cape Town to Johannesburg booked on British Airways, operated by Comair.

I'm not ...

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A Day Trip Around South Africa's Cape Point

I love Cape Town. Let me just reiterate that. We had SUCH a fantastic time, and we can't wait to return. A highlight of the trip was our day trip around Cape Point. Cape Point is a promontory at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula. Table Mountain and the city of Cape Town are on the north end of the same peninsula. We actually had some bad luck with weather.  While the view out the window in the morning was beautiful, there were some ominous clouds out there. Check out the ...

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United Airlines Satellite Based Wi-Fi is Finally Here... Sorta.

Announced today on the United Hub, United Airlines has announced that it has introduced satellite based wi-fi on the first of its international wide-body aircraft. It will be very interesting to see how the speeds compare to GoGo based in flight Wi-Fi. GoGo Wi-Fi uses a link to connect to the ground, and then it has speeds that are compareable to a non-LTE cellular internet conncetion. This connection is shared by the whole plane.

United has also announced pricing:

You can ...

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Avoid TEP Wireless for Your International Hotspot Needs

If you're reading this blog, you probably have some kind of elite status with a hotel chain. Thus, you're likely to get free internet access at the hotel when you're traveling abroad. However, if you want mobile data on the go or if you're staying at a hotel that isn't in one of the chains where you have elite status, you might be interested in renting a mobile hotspot.

You pay an upfront fee, and then you get a MiFi device shipped to you. When you ...

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Cage Diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa

Our honeymoon brought us to Cape Town, but… it wasn't supposed to! No… we were supposed to be in Egypt, seeing the pyramids, walking in the Valley of the Kings, and touring the Nile River. Unfortunately, circumstances led us to cancel this portion of our trip, and we immediately started to look at where we could go with our award tickets instead of Egypt. I have to admit that I initially wasn't to keen on Cape Town, but after seeing that the top attraction on Tripadvisor was ...

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Review: Hiton Cape Town City Centre

Cape Town was the second on our list of three honeymoon destinations. We started with the island destination of Mauritius, and we ended with the Maldives. Cape Town was sandwiched in between. Surprisingly, Cape Town turned out to be our very favorite place on the whole trip! I will have a sequence of posts describing a bunch of the fun things that we did in Cape Town, but this post will focus on a review of our lodging: The Hilton Cape Town City Centre.

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2012 Travel Status: Where I Landed

2012 has come to an end. Soon all of our elite qualification meters will be reset to zero, and it will be time to play the game again in 2013. As I reflect on the different status levels I have earned, I can say that it isn't too different from my previous year. Check out my 2011 status qualifications here.

United AIrlines

As Brad mentioned, traveling on United Airlines in 2012 was a chore, at times. My ...

Has the TSA Ever Locked Your Suitcase Before?

There's a first time for everything. When my wife and I were unpacking after arriving in Cancun, Mexico, we noticed that her suitcase could not be unpacked... It was locked with a lock we had never seen before.

Very odd... I tried the usual combinations... 0,0,0. 1,2,3. 1,1,1. Nothing. As I started fiddling with this lock, I noticed the bottom of it was marked by TSA.

I mean c'mon... what's the point of that? Locking my suitcase without giving me the combination? What a bunch of pranksters! Anyhow... I had the last laugh... Hotel "engineering" had some bolt cutters that came in handy.

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