Skip the hotel reception desk - Aloft Hotels offer Smart Check-In

Starwood Preferred Guest continues to be innovative in their promotions and programs.  Recently, they offered a special program to allow guests to bypass the check in desk, by providing a reusable RFID card that could be used as a guest key at certain properties.  

My Smart ...
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AVE high speed train for a day in Madrid - Star to Spain

Most of my trip reports are about airplane and hotel experiences, but for some variety, here is a quick review of the AVE high speed train that we took from Seville to Madrid.  Plus, a little bit from our brief time in Madrid.

AVE train at Seville Santa Justa ...
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Lessening the sting of the Hyatt devaluation

Now that the global economy is improving, it seems the most travel loyalty programs are going through devaluations.  United's major devaluation took effect in early February.  This is almost an annual process at some hotel chains.
 

The Park Hyatt Maldives, now 25,000 ...

The Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville- Star to Spain

After our time in Málaga and Granada, our last stop on our trip in Andalusia was in Seville.  Here we let a hotel promotion help guide our destination planning to some extent.  I had some free SPG nights to use, so we tried to maximize this redemption. ...

Presidential Suite at the Sheraton San Diego Marina - Free Upgrade!

Everyone likes surprises.  On a recent trip to San Diego, when I walked up to my hotel room after checking in, I was certainly surprised to see this:
An upgrade to the Presidential Suite, for free!
I have been quite fortunate with free upgrades in my Starwood stays through the years, ...
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The AC Hotel Málaga Palacio - Star to Spain

We finally were in one of the main destinations of our trip, and other than my wife's delayed bag, we were well rested and ready to explore Andalusia for the first time.
 

 Málaga, Spain
 
When booking hotels for leisure travel, I generally start by ...
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Our layover in Brussels and Zurich - Star to Spain

Despite United's delay getting us to Dulles, ultimately we made it to Brussels on schedule.  We now had approximately 2 hours until our onward flight to Zürich.
 

Brussels Airport A pier, photo via creative commons
 
Once at the Schengen gates where we ...
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Brussels Airlines Business Class from Dulles to Brussels - Star to Spain

Our vacation to Europe was nearly derailed before we even left the US.  Yet again United's operational difficulties caused a lot of stress.  We sat on board at O'Hare ready for an on time departure but there were various issues that ultimately lead to a delay of over an ...
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The anatomy of trip planning, an introduction - Star to Spain

Next up on my list of trip reports is our recent journey to Spain in Star Alliance Business Class. Our longhaul flights were on new business class products on Brussels and Austrian Airlines.  

I mentioned my excitement about booking this trip, which was something a bit different for ...

2013 in review- a lot of Regionals, but some First too

It is nearly 2014, which means it is time to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the what the new year may bring.  It also means the counters reset for elite status qualification (argh!)
Here is my flight map from 2013.  
Obviously much of my flying was domestic for ...
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Singapore Airlines First Class to Seoul SQ15 - Singapore Award

The final legs of my trip to the Maldives and in Singapore First Class would take us back to the US from Singapore with a stop in Seoul.  
 

We had already flown this route in the reverse direction on the outbound journey to Singapore.  Like most eastbound ...
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Why would anyone voluntarily fly United...

...well, besides me?  
Despite doing many things wrong, and being rather customer 'un-Friendly', for a few reasons which I will discuss; they will remain my airline of choice, at least for another year or so.
 
I discussed my recent travel difficulties when my trips were ...
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Tales of Life on the Road: Flying Delta and Winter Snows

It's December in the upper midwest, and not surprisingly, we do actually get winter storms.  Not as often as some people think, but I tend to be flying on the days they hit.  Thus far in 2013 its been pretty mild, but the first storm of the season hit over the weekend.  Of course, ...

United Club Pass Giveaway (expires 12/31/13)

Thanks for your interest: pass has been claimed
I have a United Club Pass that I'd like to give to Upgrd readers as a thanks for reading. Hopefully someone can take advantage of this for some upcoming December travel.  The clubs have been devalued a bit, but hopefully it still can be a ...
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Starwood Suite Night Awards expiry extended 4 more months

2013 has been the year of devaluations in loyalty programs.  I was pleased to learn of a positive change for once.  
 

Marvellous Suite at the W Hong Kong
 
Suite Night Awards from Starwood Preferred Guest that were scheduled to expire at the end of 2013 ...

My impressions as a United Frequent Flyer

Rohan's recent post with his thoughts on the current status of United Airlines and his ideas to solve some of the issues has certainly caused a reaction.  His points are valid, but I'm sure the United board of directors is a long ways from such a drastic change.  

I ...
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The True Cost of Building the 777X Includes Cheap Labor

Boeing wants incentives from both its home state and its employees for its just announced 777X project.  Due to workers not agreeing to cuts in benefits, assembly will likely be done elsewhere, possibly even outside the US.  Everett, Renton, and the entire state of Washington have helped ...
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