personal reflections travel planning

Travel itinerary puzzle is working on a mystery

a window with a reflection of buildings in it

Rock song lyrics from memorable music in my past in Loyalty Traveler posts may seem as obscure as Beatles or Hermann Hesse quotes to millennial-age readers. One song in mind lately is Tom Petty ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’.

Tom Petty in Salinas in 1979 was probably the biggest show in Monterey County since the 1967 Pop festival when Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar with lighter fluid. I’d love to see camera footage from the Tom Petty 1979 show to see if he was really pouring bottles of Jack Daniels into the mouths of stage front fans or is that my invented memory I created some 37 years after the original concert vibe.

Yeah runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

Tom Petty – Runnin’ Down a Dream

I remember Superbowl 2009 comments about how could they select such an old rocker like Tom Petty for the half time show in the year following Prince.

Amsterdam reflection
Amsterdam reflection

Workin’ on a Mystery, Goin’ Wherever it Leads

Since I arrived back in Monterey from an 11-day trip to Amsterdam, Vilnius and Stockholm at the beginning of April, my Loyalty Traveler published posts slowed significantly. I posted only about half the number of articles in April compared to March 2016. This is attributable in part to 11 days spent traveling around Europe. The point of my travel is to be somewhere else doing something different than sitting on my computer writing and leading my normal life.

When I travel I am in the experiential mode of Loyalty Traveler. There is still always an attempt to acquire knowledge about a place for tips I can share with other travelers. One of the more pleasant aspects of writing about a travel destination is this often brings out comments from locals in that area. Keeping the balance between real travel and real travel deals is what I strive for in my Loyalty Traveler articles.

I also managed to watch a season of Vinyl episodes on HBO since returning to California. The Nasty Bits in Vinyl remind me of Tom Petty’s sound from the 1970s with the attitude of the Ramones. Here is Woman Like You with James Jagger on vocals as The Nasty Bits lead singer Kip Stevens. James Jagger is son of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.

Even more distracting to Loyalty Traveler writing during April than my actual travel to London, Amsterdam, Vilnius and Stockholm or TV shows were the large number of great airfare discounts these past three weeks.

  • Since April 12 I ticketed the flights completing the puzzle of our Europe itinerary in July. Award tickets and price drops provided a few days window of opportunity.
  • I have another ‘drive out of Florida’ one-way car rental road trip planned for Orlando to New Orleans with a week partying in New Orleans on the agenda for June. I waited over a month for a price drop on tickets to New Orleans to buy airline tickets before they once again came near matching low fares I saw in March.
  • This past weekend I established a 12 night itinerary to Italy and Switzerland in September with hotel nights booked. I still have to buy airline tickets for travel within Europe and I have to buy a ticket back to the USA in September. Prices are still low today to complete that travel itinerary puzzle.
  • Those are all parts of the travel mystery I have been working on for much of April and now into May.
  • And in November I fly Qantas to Australia and New Zealand on a $225 USD round trip ticket. Have not looked into that trip much yet.

Travel Itinerary Puzzle Play

Piecing together travel itineraries for low budget travel away from home for about 45 days between June and November required me to put in significant amounts of research these past three weeks on places I plan to travel. The personal payoff mitigating my low writing production and lost revenue for Loyalty Traveler is I think I have created well-thought out travel itineraries for places I want to visit. After all, the primary opportunity I get for applying my loyalty program knowledge in practice comes when I travel. That is when my years writing about hotel points and frequent flyer miles pays off.

Nice hotel stay reservations booked with sensible flight plans ticketed is one area I attempt to achieve with every international trip. I am pretty assured there will be a comfortable bed awaiting me in every upscale hotel room each night and my airline ticketing usually avoids forced taxi cab rides to and from airports between midnight and 6am with plenty of scheduled time to make connections.

April Showers Bring 2016 International Trips

My ticketing strategy for frequent trips to Europe is unconventional for a leisure traveler residing in the USA.

This past year my ticketing strategy for big discounts on frequent travel to Europe is booking all my travel to Europe with purchased round trip tickets I start in Europe.

Examples of my American Airlines tickets over the past year have been Bergen BGO Norway to San Francisco two times for $370 and $400 round trip. I flew Amsterdam to Las Vegas twice on $422 round trip tickets. In July, I will fly to Stockholm, completing the $500 round trip ticket I started last November to get home from London. I was in London in November 2015 after redeeming one way economy class AAdvantage awards for 20,000 miles + $5.60 per ticket.

I purchased American Airlines round trip tickets last November for Stockholm to San Francisco as a cheap way to get us back from London after Thanksgiving. I already had hotel reservations for Stockholm in July 2016 made in May 2015 to burn Club Carlson points while the 2-for-1 benefit was still available to Club Carlson Visa card holders. Four nights in Stockholm for 100,000 Club Carlson points is a great bargain compared to the 280,000 points required now for the same hotel stays. The ticket from Norway to San Francisco I bought at the end of March 2016, a few days before flying to Amsterdam, settled my summer travel return to California, however, Kelley still needed a ticket back to California in July. She can’t travel to Europe in September as a public school teacher at the beginning of the new school year, so my flight from Stavanger was not an option for her.

Less than eight hours after arriving home to California from April’s Europe trip, I scored the $225 round trip ticket deal to New Zealand. There were advantages to being on Central European Time and wide awake at 3am in California. I’ll be flying San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand next November. I have done minimal research for that trip, aside from noticing Best Western and Choice Privileges points will place me in a hotel in several New Zealand towns where there are no other major hotel brands for points redemption rooms.

That same week, after returning from Europe and a couple days after buying the Auckland ticket, I found Kelley’s American Airlines AAdvantage award ticket and booked her Business Class flight home to Monterey in July 2016 with 57,500 AAdvantage miles + $61.56. Kelley had no idea her return flights home were the last missing piece to frame the puzzle of our Europe July 2016 travel itinerary.

A travel itinerary puzzle ‘frame’ or for a trip to Europe, or anywhere, is constructed once airline tickets set the date and airport for departure and flights back home. With both our return dates and airports from Europe ticketed for Scandinavia to California in July, it was time to fill in the big picture of the Europe trip with detail pieces. I also refer to this as ‘closing the circuit’ or ‘closed circuit’ travel when a trip takes me from my home in California and back again. My July puzzle to Europe is framed with departure dates for flights to and from Europe and all hotels set with an itinerary for Stockholm, Krakow and Copenhagen. I see the big picture as complete for July’s European travels. All that remains is to live the adventure.

I am still working on framing the mystery picture of getting back to California from Switzerland in September. Round trip airfare from Stockholm to San Francisco is $400 with American and even less with KLM and Delta for flights in September. I’ll get around to ticketing that piece of the travel puzzle before long, then I will know where to go in Europe when I leave Switzerland.