Category Archives: Trip Reports

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Have a Complex Award Redemption in Mind? JuicyMiles is the Award Booking Service I Recommend

Last week, I offered advice on how to use an award booking service. Now it’s time to tell you which award booking service I recommend and WHY! Over the past seven years or so, I’ve tried at least 6 different award booking services and have established a great relationship with JuicyMiles, run by Adam from PointMeToThePlane.com

I call it a relationship because I see it as a partnership, a braintrust of sorts. You see, I believe in hiring professionals to fill in the gap in the areas of travel, or any area of life really, where I don’t seem to have the best skill set. I like to get better at what I do well and let others help with my weaknesses. I’m really great at accumulating miles and points, really great at picking accommodations and planning travel adventures, and really really great at having a wonderfully memorable time when I get somewhere. But the actual booking of the award trips… that’s not one of my strengths.

Like you, I want to get the best possible value for my miles and points. I also, perhaps like you, have some particulars in terms of how I like to travel (business class, fully lie flat seats, etc). So let’s look at some of the tips I mentioned in working with these services and you’ll see why JuicyMiles excels!

  1. Sometimes I do a bit of research ahead of time and sometimes I don’t. I figure JuicyMiles award bookers know the alliances, airlines, and miles needed way better than I do. After all, they’re doing this all the time and have seen and heard it all. They never mind my follow-up questions once they present me with my options. Rather than being in a rush, they seem to care more about my satisfaction with my award trip routing.

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Canadian Immigration Installs New Self-Service Kiosks & Releases CanBorder eDeclaration Smartphone App

Buenos dias everyone!

I got an email from NEXUS this week about some changes coming to Canadian immigration procedures which will seem very familiar to US travelers. Starting this weekend, Canada is starting to phase out its paper declaration cards in favor of automated “Primary Inspection Kiosks”, similar to the Automated Passport Control (APC) or Global Entry (GE) kiosks used in most US airports.

These paper declaration cards are going the way of the dinosaurs.

These paper declaration cards are going the way of the dinosaurs.

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My Craziest Airport Arrival Story… Ever!

Do you have a crazy airport arrival story? Traveling as much as we all do, we’re bound to have a few. Recently though, I had my zaniest arrival story ever. See if you can top this! After two long flights and a LONG layover in between them, I arrived at Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) around 6pm. After waiting 45 minutes for bags to arrive in baggage claim, my bag arrived half open because LATAM broke my zipper. Incredibly, because of the way I pack using packing cubes and strapping them all in, nothing was missing. But this isn’t even the zany part!

My friends who live in Buenos Aires for part of the year suggested I take a taxi to my hotel. The company they recommended is called Manuel Tienda Leon. They said not to bother with the bus and not to take just any taxi into the city.  From the reviews and the Manuel Tienda Leon website, it seemed like an easy choice……walk up to the counter, get in the taxi, and you’re city bound in no time. And they even took credit cards. Easy peasy…….YEAH right :(

The airport was packed. I mean crazy crowded. I later found out that due to earlier rain, the other airport in Buenos Aires had been shut down so people were shuttling back and forth trying to figure out what to do next. I did find the Manuel Tienda Leon counter and I headed over there. I should have realized something was up as there was nobody in line. And in fact, there was nobody inside the counter to help, either. Finally, after saying, “Hello hello, anybody here?” a guy comes to the window and tells me Manuel Tienda Leon has NO CARS.  What do you mean no cars? No cars, how can that be?  Continue reading

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JoeyTravel has a Local Friend in Every City (My Review from Santiago, Chile)

There’s a new interesting concept in the travel world where you don’t just travel to a destination, but rather you enrich that experience by connecting with locals.  JoeyTravel.com, co-founded by Ashley Hanson, is the newest player on the scene, and I recently had the chance to try them out, so I can offer you this review. It was a fun experience, but first some backstory.

Grant met Ashley at a San Francisco travel networking meeting and they got to talking about Ashley’s business concept: Joey. Ashley mentioned that she was looking for travel bloggers, particularly women, to try out Joey and see what they thought. Naturally, Grant thought of me! And naturally I had an international trip planned to Argentina and Chile where I could meet with local Joeys and see what the service was all about. So he put me in contact with Ashley.

Ashley was responsive and quick to reply to emails and put me in contact with local Joeys in both Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile. Unfortunately the Buenos Aires Joey wasn’t around during my Buenos Aires stay, but my Santiago Joey turned out to be a great, fun, wonderful guy!

First you connect with your Joey and share a bit about what you might be interested in as far as meeting up. We decided on a leisurely lunch-time visit. My Joey, Diego, was immediately easy to contact and connect with and showed a great sense of enthusiasm and humor. That’s a big plus in my book because travel requires a sense of humor!

JoeyTravel How It Works

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My 7 Tips for Using Award Booking Services

It seems to me in the world of travel there are three phases: the planning process, the getting there process, and the being there process. For me, the planning process can sometimes be the most daunting. It’s fun and exciting to acquire all the miles and points and pick my dream destinations.  And then comes booking the award tickets. Exciting, though often oh-so-frustrating.

If you’re like me, there are times when you’ve considered using an award booking service. You want help booking the tickets, planning a great itinerary, and choosing the best aircrafts and class of service. In other words, you want a great value for the miles you’ve accumulated. Who wouldn’t?  After personally using various award booking services, and settling on the one I think is the best, here’s my list of 7 must-know tips.

I’ve had very varied experiences using these services and I want you to benefit from what I’ve learned. I want you to get the best possible value and have the smoothest experience when you hire award booking services.

7 Tips For Using Award Booking Services

1. Your Preferences. It clearly helps to have specific destinations in mind, as well as approximate dates. However, I’d suggest having a back-up plan both for destination and dates. Knowing what’s most important helps, too. For instance, are non-stop flights more important than class of service?  Would you fly business class even if you’ve got the miles for first class if the route is non-stop and on the exact dates you want? Knowing your preferences helps the award services guide you. Continue reading