Return to International Travel – Introduction

Return to International Travel – Introduction
Review: SWISS A340-300 ORD-ZRH and Marhaba Lounge ZRH
Lodging Review: Sina Villa Medici, Florence, Italy
Our Time In Florence, Part 1
Our Time In Florence, Part 2
Lodging Review: Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris, France
Our Time In Paris, Part 1 (Louvre, Sainte-Chappelle, Arc, Eiffel Tower)
Our Time In Paris, Part 2 (Versailles)
Our Time In Paris, Part 3 (Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay)
Viking Kari and an Afternoon in Montmartre
Our Time in La Roche-Guyon and Vernon/Giverny
Our Time on the Normandy Beaches
Our Time in Les Andelys and Le Pecq
Lodging Review: Renaissance Republique, Paris, France
Review: Air France A350 CDG-ORD

After two years without an international trip I was thrilled to finally be able to travel internationally again. I researched Viking River Cruises that we had not yet taken and was excited to see that an extension on the Seine Cruise was a visit to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey). As a relatively new fan of the show and films that would be something I’d love to see. However we like to cruise in October and not only did that particular extension package end in September, that extension was sold out for all but about two dates during the summer. So we decided to do something different.

In 2008 we had taken a Western Mediterranean cruise where in a single day we visited Pisa in the morning and Florence in the afternoon. We had a whirlwind tour of Florence, just enough for the famous museums and monuments to be pointed out to us but not enough time to get to explore any of them. So we decided to do a few days in Florence before flying to Paris to take a cruise on the Seine out to the beaches of Normandy and back. While the river cruise would start on Wednesday, we flew to Paris the Saturday before and had several days to explore things at our leisure as the mood struck us.

Red: Memphis-Chicago-Zurich-Florence (United and SWISS) Green: Florence-Paris (Air France) Blue: Paris-Chicago (Air France)
Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

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Categories: Air France, Autograph Collection, Award Travel, Cruises, Europe, France, Hyatt, Italy, Marriott, Renaissance, River Cruise, SkyTeam, Star Alliance, SWISS, Tours, Trip Report, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1000 Free Delta Miles (targeted)

If you hold one of the co-branded Delta American Express cards, check for an email offering 1000 free Delta miles.

2016-07-20 Delta email

The email reminds you of all the perqs of the card and when you click on the link it will take you to this web page:

2016-07-20 Delta webpage

Simply enter your SkyMiles number and you have your miles! A nice way to add to your mileage stash.

Thanks, Delta!

Categories: American Express, Credit Card Promos, Delta, Delta Amex | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Need A Credit Card?

I earn far more miles from credit cards than I do from flying or from hotel stays. Credit card sign-up bonuses can give a big boost to anyone’s account! While I’m not one of the big bloggers who gets a cash comission from the credit card issuers, the credit card companies will allow regular members to receive a referral fee (of points/miles) if they refer someone to the card.

Delta Gold CardI’m a little late putting this one out there, but from now through this Tuesday, November 17, 2015, if you’ll allow me to refer to to the Gold Delta Amex card, I’ll earn bonus miles if you’re approved. You’ll get 50,000 bonus miles after using the card to make $2000 in purchases within the first three months after the approval date (not the date you receive the card). If you make a Delta purchase with the first three months you’ll also get a $50 statement credit. To refer you, just send me your first name and your email address to

NOTE: You may be able to get an offer for 60K miles + $50 statement credit. You can find instructions here. Also, it is not open to those who currently have this card or have had it in the past. I believe the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year but cannot guarantee that.

Marriott Credit Card
If you don’t need Delta SkyMiles, what about hotel points? I’m also allowed to refer folks for the Chase Marriott Visa. I value this card if only for the reason that it offers a free night stay each year that you renew the card. The free night is good at any category 1-5 Marriott, so that pays for the annual fee right there. This card does not have foreign transaction fees, making it a good one for international travel.

In addition, this card earns 2x points for purchases from airlines, car rental companies and restaurants and 5x points for Marriott purchases. Plus for every $3000 in purchases, you get one credit toward elite status – that’s in addition to the 15-night credit you get each year at your account anniversary!

You’ll get 50,000 bonus points if you spend $2000 in the first three months after account approval. The annual fee is waived the first year and is only $85 after that.

If you think you’d be interested in this card, just send me an email at the address above and I’ll send you the phone number and the codes you need to get this offer.

Note that there is an alternate version offering 80K after $3K spend, but the $85 annual fee is not waived. Application Link. I won’t get bonus miles for this but it is a better offer so I wanted to be sure it was out there. Neither of these offers is available to those who currently have the card or have received the new cardmember bonus in the last 24 months.

Categories: American Express, Chase, Delta, Delta Amex, Marriott, Marriott Rewards Card | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Delta’s new 20-minute bag guarantee

2015-02-20 Delta Bag GuaranteeBetween now and the end of March, Delta is guaranteeing that your bags will arrive at baggage claim no later than 20 minutes after your flight arrives – or they’ll give you 2500 SkyMiles.  Note that this applies to domestic US flights and US-Puerto Rico flights only.  (This also includes Delta Connection flights and multi-carrier flights where the last leg is operated by Delta.)  To get the miles, you must fill out this form within three days of your flight’s arrival.  If your bags on multiple flights are late, you must submit multiple forms.  You must be a member of SkyMiles and in good standing both at the time of travel and at the time of the claim.

The official clock will be maintained by Delta’s baggage tracking system.  Oversize, overweight bags (like my skis) and special items are exempt from this claim as are lost, mishandled and damaged bags.

I didn’t put a clock on how long it took me to get my bags on my last Delta flights in January but it would have been nice to have had this guarantee waiting in the wings.

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Getting back in the swing of things

It’s been awhile since I posted but I went on vacation so when I returned to work last week I had to pay for taking time off.  That’s the way it always works, isn’t it?

One thing I look forward to each year is taking my ski trips. I aim for two week-long trips each year, usually one in January and the other in February. I know a lot of folks like the warmer spring skiing in March but (to a point) I don’t mind the cold and since I’m not locked into a school schedule, I like skiing when school is in session and not out for spring break.

I typically travel with a ski club which means the only thing I can use points for is my airfare. But I don’t mind. I’ve been skiing with the club for over 20 years and have made a lot of new friends this way. And no matter who is in my condo, we’ve always had a good time – and this year was no exception.

I’d used Delta miles for my flight which meant I could either route via Atlanta or Minneapolis for my trip to Colorado. While it may seem counter-intuitive to travel east to go west, in this case it made more sense to route via warm Atlanta instead of potentially snowy MSP.

One downside of skiing is that you often fly into small mountain towns with limited/seasonal service and therefore the airlines can gouge you on pricing. In this case I was flying into Hayden, Colorado which is about 45 minutes outside Steamboat Springs. I have miles on the three major airlines that fly there but none had low-level availability when I was looking for airfare this summer. American wanted something ridiculous like 80K miles for an economy seat and United wanted 50K. Delta seemed a bargain at 45K – and I’d rather save my AA & UA miles for international travel anyway. I’d originally planned to vacation from Saturday to Saturday, arriving home in the 7-8 pm hour, just in time to go into work at 11 pm Saturday night. Then Delta changed the flight such that I wouldn’t land in Memphis until just after 10 pm. Uh, no, that was not going to work.

In the end, a few days before I left for vacation I changed my flight to return on Friday. I hated to lose the day of skiing but was able to sell the last day of my lift ticket and had a much easier day on Saturday because of it and since the flight on Friday was a bit cheaper, I got back 5000 miles. That didn’t make up for the pain of the $150 change fee, since I’m not elite, but it helped a little.

Next up: a review of our slopeside lodging in Steamboat

Categories: Award Travel, Delta | Leave a comment

Even More Promos

Can you tell that we’re right in the midst of shoulder season?  There are all kinds of promos coming through every day.  Here are recent ones I’ve seen, in no particular order:

2014-10-08 IHG Purchased Points Bonus

IHG Rewards Club is featuring a bonus on purchased points this month.  The bonus depends on how many points you’re purchasing.  I’ve got a nice stash of points at the moment so I’ll sit this one out.

2014-10-08 Club Carlson Bonus

Club Carlson is having a sale at select hotels when you book by this Friday, October 10 and stay on select dates through the end of the month.  Talk about restrictions!  Since I just returned from vacation I won’t take advantage of this either.

2014-10-08 New AF A380 Route

I’m not an aviation geek by any means but one of the few planes I can recognize on sight is the Airbus A380, since it’s a full-length double-decker.  Air France is starting a new route, Miami to Paris (CDG), on December 1st.  Remember Air France is part of SkyTeam which means you can use Delta miles on this flight.  Sadly, Delta will not allow you access to La Premiere (first class) and if you book before the end of the year a one-way ticket will cost as much as a round-trip.  However, Air France’s Flying Blue program is a transfer partner of both Starwood and Amex Membership Rewards, so that’s the way to book first class on the new bird.

2014-10-08 Hilton Purchased Points Promo

And finally, if you hold one of the Hilton co-branded credit cards (Amex has two, Citibank has one) you should have received this offer via email.  The link in the mail is specific for each recipient but you can buy or give Hilton HHonors points until October 22 and get a bonus, depending on how many points you buy or give.  Might be a nice way to top off your account if you’re just a little short.

Categories: Air France, American Express, Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa, Club Carlson, Hilton, Hilton Amex, Hilton Surpass, Hotel, IHG, SkyTeam | Leave a comment

10,000 Delta Miles with DirecTV

Now through October 1st you can get 10,000 Delta miles for subscribing to DirecTV. You must sign a 24-month service agreement but prices will be as low as $24.99 for the first 12 months.

2014-08-31 Delta DirecTV

Is this a great deal? No, but if you were planning to switch to DirecTV anyway it’s a nice bonus. Access this offer through the SkyMiles Shopping Mall.

Categories: Delta, Shopping | Leave a comment

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