21/ 04/ 2016

GIVEAWAY – Two United Club Passes

UPDATE — MAY 3, 2016 — And the winner is…

Congrats to Jenny who suggested I say at The Merrion (not Marriott!) in Dublin!

RandomNumber5

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog Justin Does… Travel Blog + Dining Blog + Frequent Flyer Tips Blog, which I started over three and a half years ago.

Cayman and Casey Do Maroon Bells

My dogs, Cayman and Casey, and me before a hike at Maroon Bells, Colorado

This is my little corner of the web where I rant and rave about all things travel. Thanks again for visiting, and especially to any new readers! I’m holding a contest where I’m giving away TWO one-time passes to the United Club (both passes expire 30 June 2016)!

Here’s how to enter. I recently wrote about my upcoming Northern Europe and Russian cruise, where I’ll be visiting the following cities:

  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Stockholm, Sweden,
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite thing to do  should in one of these cities. If you haven’t been, then do some research and tell me what I should do!

That’s it. Contest ends 9:00 p.m. CDT on Sunday, May 1, 2016. All decisions are final, void where prohibited, I make all the decisions regarding the giveaway, and there is no appeal **yadda yadda yadda**  The winner will be announced by 3:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Good luck!

 

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15/ 04/ 2016

My Upcoming Northern Europe and Russian Cruise

I can’t believe that my next major trip is about a month away! This trip will bring me to seven new countries and will be my second trip on a Seabourn cruise.

Sebourn Sojurn Map

Scheduled Itinerary from Stockholm to Copenhagen

Our ship, the Seabourn Quest, will depart from Stockholm, Sweden and arrives in Copenhagen, Denmark, stopping in the following cities:

Tallinn, Estonia
St. Petersburg, Russia (with a day in Moscow!)
Helsinki, Finland

Before and after the cruise, we’ll be spending several days in:

Dublin, Ireland
Stockholm, Sweden
Oslo, Norway
Copenhagen, Denmark
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I’m really excited for this trip and I need your help!

Have you been to these cities? What do you recommend to see and do? Anything to avoid? What treasures should I pick up in each city? Any tips are greatly appreciated!

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13/ 01/ 2016

Justin Does…2015 Travel Review

In 2015, I traveled more than in previous years (2014, 2013). I easily requalified for American Airlines’ top tier Executive Platinum status, even with the increased qualification requirements. While I didn’t blog as much as previous years, I’ve been working behind the scenes on a blog make-over (to be revealed soon)!

As for flights, I took 157 domestic flights in 2015:

domestic flights 2015

My domestic flights in 2015.

And a map of the 11 international flights I took:

international flights 2015

My international flights in 2015.

A few statistics:

  • A total 129,829 butt-in-seat miles were flown – enough miles to circumnavigate the earth 5.21 times
  • I spent 15.7 days or over 376 hours in an airplane
  • I was at 40 airports in 8 countries
  • My longest flight was 7,256 miles (LAX to Hong Kong)
  • My shortest flight was 84 miles (Kona to Kahului, Maui)

Some of my favorite blog posts of the year (there weren’t many):

Some of my favorite photos from my travels in 2015:

Skiing Vail's Christmas run on Christmas!

Skiing Vail’s Christmas run on Christmas!

Perfect view to finish off the Tokyo trip: Mt. Fuji and Boeing 747 engines while climbing out of Tokyo-Haneda airport.

Perfect view to finish off the Tokyo trip: Mt. Fuji and Boeing 747 engines while climbing out of Tokyo-Haneda airport.

One of my favorite pictures from my day in Kyoto, Japan: The Torii, or gates, of Fushimi Inari-Taisha.

One of my favorite pictures from my day in Kyoto, Japan: The Torii, or gates, of Fushimi Inari-Taisha.

This is how Justin Does...Dubai.

This is how Justin Does…Dubai.

Arriving to Tinjil Island, Indonesia after over 24 hours of flying.

Arriving to Tinjil Island, Indonesia after over 24 hours of flying.

Do you know what's awesome? Randomly running into your friends at the airport and scoring them an upgrade.

Do you know what’s awesome? Randomly running into your friends at the airport and scoring them an upgrade.

I was super excited for my first time on Cathay Pacific and the first leg of my Round-The-World itinerary.

I was super excited for my first time on Cathay Pacific and the first leg of my Round-The-World itinerary.

I spent my birthday being awesome.

I spent my birthday being awesome.

I always enjoy hiking with my girl Casey.

I always enjoy hiking with my girl Casey.

On a random flight cancellation and delay, I ran into my friend Susan when re-routed via Chicago.

On a random flight cancellation and delay, I ran into my friend Susan when re-routed via Chicago.

Visiting Graceland with my friend Vanessa as part of my visit to my 50th state.

Visiting Graceland with my friend Vanessa as part of my visit to my 50th state.

Hanging out at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado

Hanging out at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado

Thank YOU for reading! Where did your travels take you in 2015?

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18/ 11/ 2015

Justin Does…Hawaii, Tokyo, and Hong Kong

While I’ve taken a short break from the blog, I’ve not taken a short break from traveling and planning trips (for the record, I DO plan on posting about my round-the-world trip). I’ve returned to the blog to share an upcoming trip as well as get some tips on what to do, should you happen to have already been where I’m going.

What I learned planning my RTW trip was that award tickets can be fun. Especially when you can make changes for free (thanks to my Executive Platinum status with AA). With my trip right around the corner, I’m pretty sure I’m done tinkering with my tickets and routing. Here’s what it looks like:

AUS-LAX-KOA-OGG-HNL-TYO-HKG-LAX-PHX-AUS

Here’s what my upcoming trip looks like!

Austin to Hawaii

Early in my trip planning process ELEVEN MONTHS AGO, I stumbled across very decent airfare on American Airlines from Austin (AUS) to LAX to Kona (KOA), so I put the tickets on a free 24-hour hold. I had several Systemwide Upgrades to use so I called AA and asked if there was availability to use them on these flights. Yes was the answer, so I ticketed the itinerary and the first class upgrades were instantly confirmed. Score! [Side note for you #AvGeeks: When ticketed, the LAX-KOA flight was on a 757-200 and the aircraft was recently subbed to a brand new A321.]

We’ll be in Kona for three nights and then will head over to Maui for the 2015 Maui Invitational college basketball tournament (no, I’m not playing this year). Hawaiian Airlines had several flights from KOA to OGG. I found a convenient time and fare and booked that (on a 717-200, an aircraft that is not common in myFlightMemory).

Hawaii to Tokyo

Here’s where things get interesting. In an attempt to fly new airlines (to me), I did my research to see how to get from Hawaii to Tokyo. Lo and behold, I found the *perfect* flight: Japan Airlines from Honolulu to Tokyo/Narita (NRT) on a 767 in business class. SCORE. When I called AA to ticket, I asked if they could add on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from OGG to NHL and they did.

I spent $5.60 in taxes and burned 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Maui to Honolulu to Tokyo/Narita one-way portion of the trip per person. Because I wanted to see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. Keep in mind that I did this search the same day I booked with miles. Prices vary, but this was the going rate for these flights on these dates. The cost for my exact flights was priced at almost $3,250. Overall, I think I got an excellent value for my AAdvantage miles and the flights worked perfect with my schedule.

Tokyo to Hong Kong to Austin

Here’s where things got really interesting. When I called AA to see what options I had using AAdvantage miles, the AAgent offered me Tokyo/Narita to Hong Kong to Los Angeles, all in business class. I immediately booked it (more on that later). I had read a post on One Mile at a Time about how to search Cathay Pacific award availability, I found a flight from Tokyo/Haneda airport to Hong Kong in business class, on a 747-400. Um, yes please. So I called back, AA and sure enough, they confirmed the space. The agent then offered if I wanted to go back to Austin there was availability on US Airways from LAX to Phoenix to AUS. I agreed to book it and hoped for availability on the non-stop flight to open later (it never did).

SIDE NOTE: Apparently routing Tokyo to Hong Kong to Los Angeles is against AA’s award routing rules. I confess, I didn’t realize this when I booked the tickets but the agent processed the award. (Double side note, when an award ticket is booked, it goes through a review process where a second agent verifies the ticket before booking it. Therefore, this ‘illegal’ routing passed by multiple people.) Third side note: Imagine my surprise when my reservation was showing ‘invalid‘ online and I called AA only to be told the ticket was not valid. Long story short, AA decided to honor the ticket. Woop woop!

In the end, I spent $88.60 in taxes and burned 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Tokyo/Haneda – Hong Kong (22 hours in HKG, by the way) to Los Angeles to Austin one-way portion of the trip per person. While I didn’t look at the cost of these tickets when I booked the award, I think I got an excellent value for my AAdvantage miles and the flights worked perfect with my schedule.

What do you think of my itinerary? Have you flown these airlines/routes? What would you have done differently?

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29/ 07/ 2015

My Final Round-The-World Itinerary and Plans

A few months ago, I wrote a post described how I am flying around the world with the caveat, “for now!” Because I have Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, I can make free award ticket changes on award tickets. As a result, I have been regularly constantly checking for different airlines and routings for my trip. I even reached out to y’all for your help!

With my trip right around the corner (two weeks to go), I’m pretty sure I’m done tinkering with my tickets and routing. Here’s what it looks like:

AUS-LAX-HKG-KUL-CGK-AUH-DXB-LHR-DFW-AUS

Here’s what my Round-The-World routing looks like!

Austin, Texas to Jakarta, Indonesia

I was really hoping to be able to fly airlines I haven’t flown before and was fairly open to the routing to get from Austin to Jakarta and again back to Austin (but crossing the Atlantic this time). I’ll be flying American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles in First Class on a 737-800. I’ll have five hours at LAX airport (lounge-hopping anyone?) where I’ll fly a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER in business class to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, I’ll connect to a Malaysia Airlines 737-800 in business class to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My connecting flight from KL to Jakarta departs the next day, so I’ll have almost 10 hours in KL. I found an interesting on-airport hotel: Capsule by Container Hotel, which is a (luxury?) pod-hotel. I prepaid the room there for a whopping $25 for the night. {I plan on reviewing the hotel so stay tuned!} The next day, I’ll be in Business Class on another Malaysia Airlines 737-800 from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta.

I spent $53.60 in taxes and burned 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Austin to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta one-way portion of the trip. Because I wanted to see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. Keep in mind that I did this search the same day I booked with miles. Prices vary, but this was the going rate for these flights on these dates. The cost for my exact flights was priced at $6200. Overall, I think I got an excellent value for my AAdvantage miles and the flights worked perfect with my schedule.

Jakarta, Indonesia to Abu Dhabi, UAE

I nixed my plans for Budapest and Helsinki when an opportunity to spend a few days in Ireland with some friends and found a ticket on Etihad Airways to go from Jakarta to Abu Dhabi to Dublin. Ultimately the friends couldn’t make the Irish rendezvous, so I dropped the Abu Dhabi to Dublin segment.

I spent $12.80 in taxes and burned 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Jakarta to Abu Dhabi one-way portion of the trip. To see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. From Jakarta to Abu Dhabi, the cost of a business class seat for my exact flights was priced at $3,551.

Dubai, UAE to Austin, Texas

I’ll get to spend a full day the United Arab Emirates and I’m still finalizing my time there. I hope to have a post next week about what I’ll be up to. I found a very interesting ticket to get from Dubai back to Austin. I’ll be flying a Qantas Airways A380 from Dubai to London/Heathrow in First Class. I’ll have four hours at LHR where I’ll connect to a British Airways 777-300ER in First Class to Dallas/Ft. Worth. After three hours in DFW, I’ll be on an American Airlines Super-80 in First Class for the short hop down to Austin.

I spent $372.40 in taxes and fuel surcharges and burned 90,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the Dubai to London to Dallas to Austin one-way portion of the trip. To see the value of this award ticket, I searched to see how much these exact flights would have cost. From Dubai to London on Qantas, London to Dallas on British Airways, and Dallas to Austin on American, the cost of a First Class seat for my exact flights was priced at $20,020. {I don’t necessarily think anyone would ever buy the routing I did at that price, but that’s what Kayak.com said it would cost!}

Overall, I spent $438.80 and 175,000 AAdvantage miles to take eight flights and fly 23,219 miles all the way around the world.

What do you think of my itinerary? Have you flown these airlines/routes? What would you have done differently?

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05/ 05/ 2015

Here’s How To Get $1.00 Off Every American Airlines Flight

Disclosure: Some of the links contained in this post are referral links. If you choose to use my links, I may receive a commission for your purchase. More information is available on my Privacy Policy page.

 

It’s only a dollar. But that dollar can add up if you fly American Airlines a little or a lot. How do I do it? What’s my secret? It’s simple.

Mr. Rebates

Back when I first started my blog, I wrote a post about shopping portals. I love them. I’ve been using them for years. In my interview with Million Miles Secrets, I pointed out that using online shopping portals is one thing you can do to earn more miles while doing things you’re going to do anyway.

I fly American Airlines a lot. A lot. So I love the fact that I can earn $1.00 from Mr.Rebates.com every time I buy an airline ticket. What’s the catch? None. You just have to click to American Airlines from MrRebates.com each time before you buy a ticket. This even works if you place your ticket on hold (for free) for up to 24 hours (and sometimes longer) on AA.com as well!

What are some other ways I earn easy cashback when shopping online?

  • I earn 7% off my iTunes purchases by first visiting ebates.com.
  • I usually earn between 4.5% and 9% back when booking reservations at IHG Brand hotels (Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, etc.) by first visiting ebates.com or MrRebates.com.
  • I earn 2.5% back from all my car rentals from National Car Rental by first visiting ebates.com.

Do you have any quick and easy cashback secrets when shopping online? 

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11/ 04/ 2015

MOAR Plane Food

I’ve written before (HERE and HERE) about how I actually enjoy airplane food. What surprises me, though, is that people seem interested in my airplane food adventures. It’s odd, website traffic seems to spike tremendously when I post food pictures (thanks for stopping by, y’all!). As a result, this post is all about MOAR PLANE FOOD. Sit back, relax, and nom nom nom.

2014_10_AA1403

Pepper Jack Cheese and Broccoli Strata. AUS-LAX. October 2014.

2014_10_AA1188

Miso Chicken. LAX-AUS. October 2014.

2014_10_AA1188

Spinach and Cheese Tortellini. LAX-AUS. October 2014.

2014_11_AA1114

Tarragon Chicken. DFW-LGA. November 2014.

2014_12_AS0670

Tom Douglas’ Cascade Brisket Chili. SEA-AUS. December 2014. 

2015_01_AA2222

Quiche Florentine. DFW-PHL. January 2015.

2015_01_0132

Cheese Lasagne. PHL-DFW. January 2015. 

2015_0130_AA0937

American Airlines’ “Lite Bites sandwich. DFW-EGE. January 2015.

2015_02_AA1454

American Airlines’ “Lite Bites basket. EGE-DFW. February 2015.

2015_02_US2043

Beef with barbecue sauce. AUS-CLT. February 2015.

2015_03_AA1214

Quiche Florentine. AUS-ORD. March 2015.

2015_03_AA1551

Chicken Thai Curry. ORD-BOS. March 2015.

2015_0321_AA0291-D

Asian-style beef. JFK-AUS. March 2015.

2015_0320_AA0291

Pecan ice cream (I think!). JFK-AUS. March 2015.

Are you an airline food foodie? What are some of your favorite meals you’ve been served in the air?

Did you enjoy this post or learn something new? Please like this blog on Facebook (fb.com/JustinDoesBlog)follow me on Twitter (@JustinDoesBlog), and follow me on Instagram (@justindoesblog). And please, share with your friends!



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