Archive for December, 2011
In just a few short days it will be January 1. On that day my Elite Qualifying Mileage for the year will drop to zero. But it won’t stay there long!
American Airlines is running two promotions at this time: double Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) on all flights until January 31, and double EQMs and double Redeemable Miles (RDMs) on flights between DFW and San Francisco (SFO) or Los Angeles (LAX) through March 31.
The important thing for me is that these promotions will piggy-back on each other, giving me the chance to earn triple EQMs and triple RDMs on some of my flights — that is too good a deal to pass up! So, to take advantage of these promotions I have booked five mileage runs in January and two in February. Here is how those will work for me.
January: four flights AUS-DFW-SFO-DFW-AUS
Base mileage is 3,928. I’ll get double EQMs for the entire flight, giving me 7,856. I’ll then get double mileage again for the DFW-SFO flights. That’s 1,464 each way, giving me an additional 2,928 EQMs. Add that up and I’ll earn 10,784 EQMs for each flight. I already earn double RDMs for my Platinum status, so that gives me 7,856 plus double for the DFW-SFO flights, giving me the same total of 10,784. So, with these four flights I will earn 43,136 EQMs and RDMs.
January: one flight AUS-DFW-SFO-LAX-AUS
I was a little bit too quick with the purchase button on this one, buying it before I realized that the return flight went through LAX instead of DFW, which means I won’t earn as many miles on this flight as I did on the others. Base mileage is 3,706 times 2 gives me 7,412 EQMs. I’ll get double miles for the DFW-SFO flight, so that is an additional 1,464 EQMs for a total of 8,876. Again, I already earn double RDMs for my Platinum status, so that gives me the same 7,412 plus 1,464 for the same total of 8,876.
Total mileage at the end of January: 52,012 EQMs and RDMs
February: one flight AUS-DFW-SFO-DFW-AUS
Only one promotion is in effect in February, so I will not earn as many miles as I did in January. Base mileage for this trip is 3,928 plus the DFW-SFO bonus of 1,464×2 = 2,928 + 3,928 for a total of 6,856 EQMs. I earn double RDMS for my Platinum status so I’ll have 7,856 miles plus 2,928 for a total of 10,784.
February: one flight AUS-DFW-LAX-DFW-AUS
Base mileage is 3,470, plus double for the DFW-LAX segments gives me another 2,470 for a total of 5,940 EQMs. My Platinum status gives me double RDMs 6,940 plus the extra mileage to/from LAX of 2,470 for a total of 9,410 RDMs
Total for February: 12,796 EQMs and 20,194 RDMs.
My year to date totals after these 7 flights: 64,808 EQMs and 72,206 RDMs.*
That total will put me closer to Executive Platinum in February 2012 than I was to Platinum in February 2011. I may never have this chance again to go for EXP, so that will be my goal for the year. I’ll need another 35,192 EQMs to make it.
But that isn’t all that will happen for me in January and February. I signed up for a Hilton promotion that will give me 40,000 bonus points for 4 stays before March 31. Then I saw a note on Twitter about a mistaken room rate at the Hilton at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport of $20 per night. I actually waited a day before I booked this, but finally did and ended up with 4 one-night stays for a total of $93. For that price I’ll earn almost 45,000 Hilton points.
When I spend another $1,000 on my new Chase Sapphire Card I’ll earn 50,000 Ultimate Reward points than can transfer into Hyatt points at a 1:1 ratio. Given what I already have, I’ll soon have almost 60,000 Hyatt points.
All of these miles and all of these points at two different hotel programs (in addition to the 47K Starwood points I already have) give me great flexibility on arranging our next vacation. Once the miles/points have all gone into my accounts, I’ll be able to start the search.
Where will we go? Bali, Fiji, Maui are a few locations that quickly come to mind. Once I have the points in hand I’ll be able to see what is available and what we can afford. I do know one thing for certain: the search will be fun!
*Mileage figures come from the Flying Fish application. American Airlines measurement of the miles will be approximately the same, but no more than 20 miles difference for each flight.
One of the most special things you can do on a trip to Rome is to take a tour of the Vatican. My wife and I both looked forward to our visit.
Before we left home I went online and booked a tour through Viator Travel. The tour was described as Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Walking Tour including Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and St Peter’s, for $74.99 each. Visitng the Vatican is a once in a lifetime event, and we both looked forward to it.
Our first challenge was deciding how to get from our hotel, the Sheraton Roma, to the Vatican. The bus from the hotel would take us downtown to a location that was “near all the major sites,” except for one — the Vatican. I thought the Vatican would be near the Colosseum, but I was wrong, it is actually several miles away in the northwest part of Rome. So, the hotel bus was not an option. I spoke to the concierge at the hotel, he told me the best option was to take a taxi. The doorman got a cab for us: the fare to the Vatican would be 20 Euro.
It was morning rush hour, the streets were congested, and we had the chance to watch as drivers on motor-scooters cut in between cars and trucks every time traffic stopped for a red light.
I’ll say this for the people on those motor-scooters: they are braver than I am!
After a 20-minute drive we arrived at the Vatican. I had thought that we would pull up in front of St. Peter’s Square, but we did not — we arrived on the other side of the Vatican at the entrance to the Vatican Museum. I was glad that we would not have to wait on line for our tour; even at this early hour there was already a 90-minute wait to get in.
We made our way to a stairway across the street from the museum entrance where we would meet our guide. Several tour companies use that stairway as a meeting place, and where they organize the tour groups of 10-20 people and introduce them to their guide.
We met our tour guide, Simon, and were issued our radios. These small devices hung around our necks, we used ear-buds to listen to Simon as he conducted the tour. Every group had their own radio on a different frequency and the system worked perfectly, we never had any interference from any other group’s radio.
Simon gathered us up and we crossed the street to the Vatican Museum entrance. The entrance is on the side of the Vatican where the original fortress wall was built.
The first thing we had to do once we entered the building was to clear security. Entering the Vatican is like entering an airport terminal: it’s loud, crowded, and everyone must go through a metal detector and have their bags scanned.
After we cleared security Simon got us back together again as a group and led us to the beautiful Vatican gardens.
We were also able to see the original transmitting tower for the Vatican Radio.
So many people take the tour that the Vatican wants to avoid anything that might slow down the flow of people once they moved indoors. Their solution was to set up information kiosks outside the museum where guides can describe what the tourists will see inside.
Simon, our guide, is a college student, working towards his Masters degree in art history. His love of art was obvious to us during the tour. His detailed explanations provided an insight we might otherwise have not had.
As Simon took us through the Museum we saw paintings, tapestries, statues, every type of art you can imagine. The breadth and variety of the Vatican art collection will take your breath away. One constant throughout the tour was how crowded it was.
While the artworks were beautiful, I must admit that I am not a great fan of art, and after a while, it all started to look the same. I knew however that we would soon reach the one thing I was most looking forward to: The Sistine Chapel. Little did I know that it would also be the most disappointing part of the tour.
The Sistine Chapel
The beautiful paintings on the chapel ceiling were painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti during the 1500s. Unfortunately, 450 years of burning candles in the chapel created a layer of soot on the ceiling that hid a great amount of the detail and beauty of these magnificent paintings. A complete restoration of the ceiling began in 1979 and was completed 20 years later. Simon explained that Kodak had funded a large amount of the restoration with the condition that no photos could be taken in the chapel: if someone wanted a photo they could buy a book or a postcard. He told us that no photos were allowed due to copy write and that photos with flash could damage the paintings, but this was the only place in the Vatican where photos were not allowed.
This prohibition did not mean much to me, I didn’t plan on taking any photos, but I did look forward to seeing the ceiling.
When we got to the Chapel entrance Simon again explained that no photos or videos were allowed once we went in, and that we should only speak in whispered tones since this was a Chapel where the Pope sometimes holds services. He also explained that he was not allowed to conduct a tour in the Chapel, and he would meet us at the exit at the far end. With those comments from him, we went through the door and entered the Chapel.
We walked into a room that was so crowded that it reminded me of Grand Central Station at 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Wall-to-wall people bumping into each other, jostling each other.
Even though photos and videos were not allowed, that did not stop some of the wiseguys from trying to take them. As soon as the security guards saw this they started shouting “No photo! No photo!” or “No video! No Video!” If the crowd got too loud, the guards would clap their hands or blow whistles to get everyone to quiet down. This was not the atmosphere that I had expected for the Chapel. I had hoped to be able to quietly gaze upon the wonders of Michelangelo’s works — unfortunately that was not meant to be. The Chapel is a large area, 43 feet wide by 131 feet long, with room for a lot of people. The crowd and the noise from everyone talking and the guards shouting simply made me want to leave as soon as I could.
Our next stop was the largest church in the world: St. Peter’s. Why is it called St. Peter’s? I did not know, but the answer is fairly basic — St. Peter is buried beneath the church. You can see his tomb, but it is not part of the standard tour, you need to take a second tour to see his resting place.
Simply put, St. Peter’s is spectacular. The size is one of the first things you notice; it is 730 feet (220 m) long, 500 feet (150 m) wide, and so large that it can hold more than 50,000 people inside. The size is amazing, but the great beauty of everything in it cannot be compared to anything in the world.
There was, of course, a huge crowd in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta — it was so large that I could not get close enough to get a good view or picture.
We saw a massive marble crypt holding the remains of Pope John-Paul II. Simon explained that he was placed in crypt after he was beatified.
And then we saw something that just seemed odd to me. We saw the crypt that serves as the final resting place for Pope John XXIII. It was odd because one side of the crypt was glass and you could look in at him.
The Pope is in his Papal garments and is, thankfully, wearing a death mask. There was something about it that just did not seem right to me, from someone bumping into me and saying, “Excuse me, I need to take a picture of the dead Pope!” to the young child with his face pressed up against the glass to get a better look, just like he would look at the penguins at the aquarium.
At this time our tour ended, we all thanked Simon for the four hours he spent with us. He did a magnificent job.
We walked around some more, marveling at the great beauty of St. Peter’s. As we were getting ready to leave I managed to get a photo of a wonderful scene.
We went outside into St. Peter’s Square.
We admired the square, then left the Vatican grounds. Our first stop was in front of a food stand where we each ordered one of Italy’s treasures, gelato! Italian ice cream is delicious, much thicker and more flavorful than what I am accustomed to here in the States. We tried to eat gelato every day.
We walked away from St. Peters, even from a distance it remains an impressive sight.
We soon came upon Castel Sant’ Angelo, a massive fortress built on the banks of the Tiber River. It originally served as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (AD 130-139), but it later served as a dungeon, and eventually a place where the Pope could seek shelter in time of danger. A covered passageway connects Castel Sant’ Angelo to the Vatican.
Atop the Castel is a statue of an angel. The statue depicts the angel who, according to legend, appeared on top of the fortress in the year 590 and miraculously ended the severe plague that had infested the city of Rome.
We crossed the Ponte Sant’Angelo, found a cafe where we had lunch, then took a taxi back to the hotel. The cab driver told us that the fare would be 40 Euro, not the 20 Euro we paid that morning because demonstrators had forced the police to close down several major streets in the area, and he would need to take a much longer route to get to our hotel.
Was he telling the truth, or did he see us as tourists that he could take advantage of? I don’t know, but we had to deal with demonstrators closing streets late on during the trip, which led to one of our worst days of the vacation. But that’s another story that I will share in a later post.
Whatever your faith, I hope you will share the blessings of the season with those who are special to you.
Enjoy this Christmas video from Air Baltic!
I wrote earlier about American Airlines offering double elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and double miles to the west coast through March 31. That is a great deal. Now they have made it even better.
I received an email announcing that they are offering double EQMs on all flights from December 13 to January 31. This includes tickets that were bought before this bonus was announced, all I have to do is register. That is too good a deal to pass up!
With the holidays and all, my schedule for the rest of December is pretty full so I won’t be able to fly in December. Instead, I’ll need to load up in January. I looked at some flights to Europe and saw that AA now has the oddest pricing I have ever seen. I can fly to Frankfurt for $148 one way! Fabulous! But the return flight costs $319. Still not bad, But by the time they have finished adding all the fees and fuel surcharges, the trip that started with a $148 fare costs $885. So, even with double EQMs that was not an option for me.
So, I looked at doing additional trips from DFW to either Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO). I was already earning double EQMs on those trips in January and February. With the new promotion I’d earn triple EQMs on any trip in January. That’s too good a deal to pass up.
In late October when the first promotion was announced, I booked one trip to SFO on January 14, I paid almost $300 for that trip. But now that they have the second promotion, the price has dropped to $220. So, I booked it for January 15, (yes, I am flying to SFO two days in a row) and then another trip on January 29.
If my math is correct, I’ll earn 10,784 EQMs for each of those trips, for a total of 32,352.
I have two trips in February, one to LAX and one to SFO. Since the newest promotion will have ended I’ll get double rather than triple EQMs. I’ll earn 6,856 EQMs for the SFO flight, and 5,940 for the trip to LAX, for a total of 12,796 EQMs. Combine that with my January flights and I’ll have 45,148 by the end of February. Not bad for flying slightly more than 16,000 miles! I will also have earned more than 55,000 redeemable miles. (RDMs).
In 2011 I did not reach 45,000 EQMs until August, so I’ll be way ahead of the curve to start 2012.
My goal for the year has always been to maintain Platinum status; that requires 50,000 EQMs. If I do one more trip to SFO in March before the promotion expires, I’ll hit that goal. Then what do I do?
I can say “I’m Platinum!” and stop flying for the rest of the year, but I doubt I will do that.
I can keep flying for the rest of the year, building up as many RDMs as possible. Or, I can set my goal on reaching Executive Platinum status, which requires 100,000 EQMs. Normally I wouldn’t even consider that, but with the fast start to the year that the bonuses are giving me, I think I’d be foolish to not try. The chances of me having this many miles so early in the year again are pretty slim, I need to go for it while I can.
So, I’ll look for some deals in January. I looked at FlyerTalk and saw one person had found a good deal on a trip from New York to Hong Kong, spend 8 hours at the airport and then fly back. That’s a bit extreme for my tastes, but if I can find a good enough deal, I just might take AAdvantage of it. I’ll let you know what I find.