From fellow BoardingArea blogger The Gate
From fellow BoardingArea blogger The Gate
I had received word during the week that my townhome had flooded and the HOA and my landlord were taking care of it. I got home last night and everything from the walls of the garage had been moved to the middle of the garage so I had to park in my driveway. The forecast for Charlotte had called for snow and I thought most of it was over because everything was fine at midnight driving home. I figured I would have no issue parking in my driveway.
It must have started snowing pretty badly because when I tried to go somewhere today I discovered my car looked like this. Living in Charlotte and never really being home I never bothered to replace my broken ice scraper. I could have just done the good old hotel keycard trick, but since I didn’t really need to go anywhere I decided to not bother.
I assessed garage space again and determined if I moved the fan over I’d have enough room to park in my garage again so that’s what I did. Now all the snow will melt all over the wood framing and drywall that was just dried out, but oh well.
I’m glad I’m flying out at noon instead of 6 am on Monday so I can let the restoration people in. I don’t really like the fact that they have free reign on my house and I’m not there, but at least I’ll only be gone 1 day so if they are back on Wednesday I’ll be around the whole time.
There are two important things when it comes to wallets and travel: have a wallet that meets your needs, and fill it with the right cards.
I use my wallet as the main organizer for my expense reports. I went through a few wallets early in my travel career, but settled on one with multiple bill-length compartments. This allows me to easily keep work receipts separate from personal receipts. Business receipts go in the back compartment, personal receipts and cash go in the front. I also like a zippered coin compartment to keep control of parking meter money. Having multiple compartments also allows me to keep Canadian currency separate so I can quickly get the appropriate money.
I also like a wallet with slots for many credit cards so I always choose the correct one. The current cards I carry are: Hilton HHonors American Express, Citi PremierPass, Citi Professional, my local bank debit card, and my Charles Schwab Investor Checking debit card. In addition to these cards I have some that sit at home collecting dust.
I don’t like to change credit cards often so I’m not the person to emulate, but I have learned to keep track of which card to use in which situation. At first I tried to be a 1 credit card person putting everything on my PremierPass card, but I quickly grew out of that. I tried the Starwood American Express, but since I rarely had Starwood stays to supplement my earnings I was not earning much. That card has been filed away and I do use it when I stay at a Starwood.
The actual wallet I carry was purchased at Target 2 years ago. I am not a brand whore and I’d rather have more money to use for travel so I bought a $20 wallet instead of a $200 wallet.
I’m bound and determined to finally tip over the edge to be a 1K with United. Since this time of the year is typically cheaper than many other parts I figured now is the time to try to get some extra miles under my belt.
I’ve finally RSS’d the Mileage Run Deals forum of Flyertalk and I saw a United mileage run that included CLT. It was originating in ATL and ending in BUR so I played around a little and found out the fare was valid originating in CLT also. I tried last night and couldn’t get the trip to ticket. I decided to look again today and finally got a routing to work so I managed to get almost 7,000 miles for just over $250.00. I didn’t check for the fare on the following weekend because I’m not mean enough to mileage run on Valentine’s day, but I did check the next weekend and the fare for the same trip was $450.00 so I’ll wait a bit.
It’s odd though, yesterday I was having problems with the ticket actually pricing out when I tried to purchase it. Today cheapfares.com kept telling me my credit card wasn’t valid. I try to purchase all my airfare on my Citi Premier Pass because I get Thank You Points for the miles I fly also. With 2 tickets to MEL on that card coming up in March and then adding this ticket I was going to have tons of Thank You Points, but I booked with my Hilton American Express instead.
So now I will hopefully be around 40,000 miles by April. I keep hoping for a Double Elite Qualifying Miles promotion so I can actually take advantage of it.
I don’t think I still have any of my original followers, but this blog originated over a year ago as a means for me to track my attempts to stay healthy on the road. I realized I liked talking about travel more than eating right and working out so I reformatted, but the dietitian in me keeps finding ways to try to maintain enough fitness to walk from the T concourse to the E concourse in ATL without taking the tram (that’s over a mile according to the distance markers). Even though I haven’t adjusted the items in my carry on it seems to get more and more difficult to put in the overhead so it’s time to make a concerted effort at fitness again. Many frequent flyers, including me, believe that you should be able to put your own bag in the overhead bin. If you can’t lift it, check it. I need to do my part to get my bag into the overhead in record time.
I’ve tried using hotel gyms. They are just so hit-or-miss. I like treadmills, but I’ve tried to run on too many old hotel treadmills that have what I call “freeze points” where if you step in the wrong spot it freezes the belt and I feel like I’m going to die. Last time I tried to use the treadmill it just simply didn’t work so I knew I needed a better solution.
I have some friends who did a program called P90X. I finally looked into it and it’s a DVD bootcamp series with 90 days of progressive exercise. Each day it rotates through different muscle groups. There are 3 different flavors and the routines have a different rotation based on the flavor you choose. I am trying the Lean routine with more cardio. Today was day 3 which was arms and abs. I missed yesterday because I met up with flyertalkers, but I knew I couldn’t quit already.
The work out routines mainly just need resistance bands. Free weights are the usual way, but the DVD today had someone showing every exercise with bands so that made me happy. I can bring resistance bands on the road with me, I can’t bring a rack of free weights. There are other substitutes for a typical dumbbell also, but the bands work for me. I had a band I bought when I first started blogging, but it was a little heavy for certain arm motions so I needed to buy some more thicknesses. I headed over to Target and I could have purchased several different bands or a yoga kit, but the product pictured on the left seemed to balance form and function. I have more variety for resistance with this system than with purchasing individual bands. The old Reebok band I have has hard plastic handles and they hurt. This has nice and soft handles.
I think P90X is a little too intense for me, but so far I’m OK. This blog will not revert to being a travel fitness blog, but I will periodically post my progress through my 90 days.
Now many frequent flyers who qualify on segments will tell you to add a connection and increase your segments, especially short flights which can add 500 mile minimums on certain airlines. That works for many, but this post is actually advising something different…avoiding “direct” flights.
To be competitive in certain markets airlines will use a direct flight (1 flight number) to advertise a route that a competitor doesn’t fly non-stop. Charlotte is a big US Airways hub so airports without non-stop flights from US Airways will often get a “direct” flight on another carrier. Charlotte doesn’t have a non-stop flight to Omaha or Chicago-Midway so Delta will sell a flight with one flight number which looks like it goes from CLT-OMA.
What’s wrong with this? Well the reason I keep putting direct in quotes are because they aren’t direct. There isn’t a plane that goes from CLT-OMA without stopping. This week, against my own advice, I booked a flight from CLT-MDW on Delta. I knew Delta/Northwest doesn’t have a plane going from CLT-MDW, but it was a better price than some alternates so I booked it anyway. It turns out the flight really connected in MSP. CLT-MSP is 929 miles, MSP-MDW is a 500-mile minimum on Delta so 929+500 and 2 segments is what I’d get on a connecting flight. “Direct” flights accrue mileage like non-stop flights so CLT-MDW really got me 584 miles and 1 segment. over 900 fewer miles.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that a “direct” flight means nothing as to whether you’ll have to change planes or not. This week I actually had the same plane and the same flight crew, but sometimes you’ll have to change planes. My upcoming MEL-ORD trip is all 1 flight number, but is a 747 from MEL-SYD-LAX and then a different plane from LAX-ORD.
How to detect a mysterious direct flight: if it takes more than 1:30 per 500 miles, if you see a flight from a non-hub to another non-hub (but not always), if you see a flight to a city you didn’t think your city serviced, if you look at your seat map and it seems like certain seats are unavailable when they should be.
So, if you really want convenience you need a non-stop flight. If you have a “direct” flight, print 2 copies of your boarding pass just in case you lose it on the first leg since often it is just 1 boarding pass for the whole direction.
I consult to an industry that does not have very many non-local vendors. That means many of my clients are fascinated by the thought of traveling for work. I seem to get asked the same questions over and over so here are my answers.
1. You fly a lot so that means you accrue a lot of frequent flyer miles. Do you get to keep them?
Yes. in the US the way the plans are structured the miles belong to the person flying regardless of who purchased the ticket. I hear rumors of some exceptions such as WalMart employees, but to my knowledge the majority of business travelers get to keep airline miles. Hotels can be different depending on the chain. Direct billed rooms may not accrue points for the stayer.
2. You obviously don’t have kids, do you?
I’ve noticed this is a big double standard in the business world. Since I’m not home during the week there is no way I could be a good mother (in the minds of some people out there), but I doubt the same question would be posed to a male traveler. I don’t have kids, I don’t want kids, and I’d stop traveling if I did have a kid, but that doesn’t mean a woman can’t be a good mother and travel.
3. How much do you travel?
I’m technically 80% which means that every week I should be going somewhere, but I manage my own projects instead of being told where to go so sometimes it turns out that I’m home for a whole week.
4. Do you like your job or do you see yourself doing this long term?
Sometimes those questions go hand-in-hand, sometimes I only get one. Now it mainly stops after the “do you like your job” part because I now just prempt the second question. Do I like my job? Yes, absolutely. I like being on site with my clients, I have friends all over due to our mobile society and I’ve been able to keep in good touch with friends I probably wouldn’t have seen as much without travel. I like the company I work for and the product I represent. I don’t, however, like the headaches of dealing with TSA, airline delays, driving in snow, or traveling to cold climates during the winter. This is stuff that isn’t directly related to my job, but still affects how I feel about it. So my usual response to “do you like your job” is “I love my job, but I’d like it more if I didn’t have to deal with the hassles of TSA and travel in general.
5. Are you allowed to get in early and explore the towns you visit?
You’re paying the bill, are you giving me permission for next time? This question always fascinates me because I go to mostly middle-of-nowhere 1 hour away from the closest thing to an airport type places. Many on FlyerTalk proudly proclaim they have never flown on a regional jet…my first year of business travel I didn’t see anything but them! It seems the good places like museums close around 5 pm and since I work until at least 4:30 on site it is difficult to make it to anything. Sometimes I can get on an early flight and get to a city before noon, but not always. If i’m in a middle-of-nowhere place and I get asked this question I usually say “Is there anything in particular I should see while I’m here? 90% of the time they say no. Departing Tucson one time I saw a bunch of planes. I knew planes “go to the desert” but I never really paid attention to this desert. I looked it up and discovered this is the largest collection of military aircraft for storage and recycling called Davis-Monathan Air Force Base and a tour is possible through the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson. It took a couple trips to get in early enough to visit, but eventually I did so I toured the museum and the bone yard. It was great. I forgot to bring my good camera so I was only able to take phone pictures, but oh well. I’m not really a tourist anyway.
6. How often to you get to [insert city of company headquarters]?
once a year. With technology like conference lines and WebEx we can have montly department meetings and never see eachother. I can honestly say that I’ve met everyone in my department and I see my boss regularly because I have a client in her city, but I have no real business in the city of the HQ because no one in my department really lives there.
7. What’s your favorite city?
If they specify for work to me this is like picking a favorite kid. I’m not going to say who my favorite client is, i’m not that tacky. If they don’t put that modifier on I simply say Charlotte. I live there for a reason and there’s no place like home.
8. Do you get to use those lounges in the airports?
For US programs anyone can use the standard lounge, it’s simply a membership or admission fee based system. There is no requirement to fly a certain amount and for the most part most frequent flyers don’t have free access to lounges for domestic travel. Delta is giving lounge membership to Diamond (125,000 mile/year flyers). Certain levels of frequent flyers get to use lounges when flying internationally, but I don’t cross any borders from Charlotte to Cedar Rapids. My company pays for 1 club membership so I’m a Delta Sky Club member. If I want to go into any other lounges it’s on my own dime since I don’t travel on flights that would qualify me for United Red Carpet Club access enough, but in March I’m headed to Melbourne, Aus so I’ll do my part to visit Star Gold lounges.
I’m a bit of a contrarian so when I moved from Verizon to AT&T a year ago I didn’t want an iPhone. I thought about a blackberry but thought since my company didn’t have a blackberry server I wouldn’t be able to sync with exchange like I would with a Windows Mobile device. Well it turns out my company doesn’t support exchange on windows mobile either so I got stuck with a bummer phone and I couldn’t do the basic function that I wanted a smart phone to do. I still get disappointed when I hear applications such as Gate Guru are looking at Android as the next move after the iPhone, before even the Blackberry.
Well since nothing has been developed for Windows Mobile for years, the things that have still don’t look quite right on the AT&T Fuze screen, and my emoze push e-mail forced me to upgrade and stopped syncinc sub folders (where I put all my itineraries to keep them easy to find) I decided it was finally time to check out this Android.
With a little basic research I learned that I could actually run android on my fuze as a dual boot system. This allows me to try out Android as an operating system to make sure I can do the few things I could do on my Fuze and I have the benefit of no hardware expenditure yet. I found a new push e-mail system that’s in beta right now called Seven. On the WinMo part it works just like emoze used to: syncs inbox and subfolders of the inbox, syncs appointments, and can sync contacts (although I choose not to do that). Maybe I’m missing something, but on the Android partition it will sync my inbox and subfolders, but it doesn’t sync any appointments. I like my flight info to go from my travel agent’s website into a .ics file into my outlook, then from my outlook to my phone. I’ll still have the e-mail with my flight info, but not the appointments themselves. I may check and see if there are any other OWA e-mail pushers out there for Android.
The people at the xda forums have managed to make everything functional on the Fuze running android except the camera and the GPS, but I have a brand new Nuvi to replace my old Nuvi so I don’t care about the GPS so much. I used the camera quite a bit so I didn’t have to lug my nice camera on business trips, but the Fuze camera wasn’t good at adjusting the light settings so I’d always have to do it manually or have blue or yellow pictures.
Now that I’ve played around with Android I think I might check out the Droid and switch back to Verizon.
My blog has found a new home as part of the Boarding Area family. It’s good to be here and I seem to be in good company. Hopefully you all will enjoy the new decor.
I’m going to come out and admit I’m a Windows Mobile smart phone user. On my Fuze I have an application called BeyondPod which is an open source RSS feeder. I have a classic iPod I used to use for podcasts, but I didn’t sync my iTunes often enough to keep podcasts up to date and when I’m stuck at an airport without free internet I couldn’t download new episodes so a smart phone with cellular connection works better. I like podcasts because I’m not much of a reader.
Podcasts, like Blogs, need to be updated frequently or the audience loses interest. On my phone I have a mix of blogs with different update frequencies.
Grammar Grater (RSS and iTunes links on site) is a short podcast (usually no longer than 8 minutes with a couple quick ads) about a grammar topic. Although I write in choppy sentences, can’t form paragraphs, and don’t know when to hyphenate or not I do at least try to improve my grasp of English grammar. This podcast isn’t updated very regularly, often no more than twice a month.
The Crew Lounge (RSS) is a new podcast from the people who give us Upgrd but this time from the perspective of flight crew instead of frequent flyers. There are only 2 episodes so far and they are around 30-40 minutes. they are trying to do a weekly podcast. Since it’s new I’ll take a wait-and-see approach to that, but good luck to them and welcome to podcasting! If you are like me and RSS your podcasts instead of using iTunes, click on the RSS to get that link. Upgrd is not very forthcoming with RSS feeds and that took some digging.
Free Talk Live (RSS and iTunes on site) is my bread and butter podcast. It is the syndication of a daily radio show so even on the longest flight I usually have enough Free Talk Live to get my through. It is ~2 hours per podcast and there is a new episode Mon-Sat. This podcast has nothing to do with travel, but some of the TSA haters out there do call in periodically.
I just found Travel Commons (RSS and iTunes on site) recently and haven’t really checked it out much yet so I can’t comment, but the most recent episode is from last year so I’m guessing it isn’t updated too often.
And last but not least is Upgrd (RSS). Upgrd is run by several flyertalkers and for any true frequent flyer it is must-listen material. I think it is bi-weekly and episodes try to stay under 40 minutes. This is usually the first podcast I listen to on a trip before using Free Talk Live to fill the rest of the flight time.
Other podcasts I have subscribed to include Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! which is an hour long weekly podcast and is like the Daily Show of NPR. It’s a good way to see how well you keep up with current events.
Any other travel or general podcasts anyone out there recommends?