travel budget travel planning trip reports

Loyalty Traveler Travels

This is a collection of posts from countries and states, cities, hotels, airports, parks and museums where I have traveled on Loyalty Traveler trips in the past few years.

September 2016


London – Slovakia – Austria trip report, September 2016
  1. Slovakia on my mind
  2. My late summer trip Kosice, Slovakia to Salzburg, Austria
  3. Hotel Review Holiday Inn London Commercial Road (East End London)
  4. London East End impressions from a one day stay
  5. East London Canal Walk Holiday Inn Commercial Road to Wapping, St. Katherine Docks and Tower of London
  6. Wizz Air London Luton to Kosice, Slovakia
  7. Two cozy days in Košice, Slovakia
  8. Kosice, Slovakia – The Singing Fountain Spievajúca fontána
  9. Hotel Review DoubleTree Kosice
  10. Hotel Review Suite Boutique Hotel Chrysso Kosice Slovakia
  11. Lomnické sedlo, Slovakia – Roof of the High Tatras
  12. Hiking High Tatras Slovakia
  13. High Tatra Peaks Slovakia on a Clear Sky Morning
  14. Grand Hotel Stary Smokovec Slovakia 1904, Historic Hotels of Europe
  15. Slovakia as a tourist destination? I’m lovin’ it!
  16. See the world through ‘We Are Happy From’ videos
  17. Levoca UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval town
  18. Hotel Review U Leva Hotel, Levoca
  19. Spis Castle UNESCO World Heritage Site 12th century castle ruin was one of Europe’s largest castle complexes
  20. Slovakia recap after 10 days
  21. Bratislava, Slovakia highest SPG reward redemption rate I recall finding (I had a reservation here, but ended up canceling to stay two nights at DoubleTree Slovakia for 4,000 HHonors points + 30 EUR).
  22. Hotel Review DoubleTree Bratislava Slovakia
  23. Bratislava, Slovakia where you can afford real life one hour from Vienna
  24. Slovakia and Austria cheap travel on buses and trains
  25. Hotel Review Ramada Salzburg City Centre
  26. Salzburg – Mozart was here



Krakow, Poland

July 2016

Stockholm, Krakow, Copenhagen, Stavanger, London

Over 100 beers and 100 miles walked in 16 Days European Vacation

  1. Headed to TBEX Stockholm today

  2. The Rave outside Radisson Blu Strand Stockholm

  3. Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Waterfront Stockholm

  4. Stockholm Clarion Hotel Sign great deal on points, convenient airport train access

  5. Stockholm price of food and beer
  6. Summer postcard beautiful Djurgården, Royal Game Park of Stockholm
  7. Stockholm, I’ll be back, but probably not stay
  8. Krakow, Poland Europe’s Best Travel Bargain (Sep Update: I learned Slovakia is even better value).
  9. Krakow Cost of Food and Drink
  10. Scenes from Krakow, Poland a new city in my Top 5 Places to Visit
  11. Holiday Inn Krakow City Centre great location for tourists
  12. Copenhagen is cooler than Stockholm and half price
  13. Hotel Review Clarion Hotel Energy Stavanger, Norway
  14. July still life stroll through Stavanger, Norway
  15. United paid me $400 to stay in London
  16. London Walking Tour in 8 to 10 hours from LHR, introduction
  17. London Walking Tour Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square in 1 to 2 hours
  18. London Walking Tour Trafalgar Square party, Leicester Square theaters, Chinatown food
  19. London Walks Lost in Sexy Soho
  20. Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel July 2016

June 2016

Florida Road Trip Orlando to New Orleans and Louisiana Tour

  1. Rough Start for Drive Out of Florida road trip to New Orleans
  2. Orlando to Pensacola road trip notes and photos
  3. Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express Pensacola West–Navy Base on PointBreaks
  4. Beautiful Sweet Home Alabama driving U.S. 98 and U.S. 90
  5. Gulf Islands National Seashore at Ocean Springs Mississippi
  6. Road Trip Photos Gulf Coast Mississippi to New Orleans 9th Ward
  7. Dispatch from New Orleans-Huge Ass Beers, NOLA Gay Pride, June Mardi Gras
  8. Hotel Review-Hyatt Regency New Orleans
  9. Airline History: Why Delta Air Lines HQ was in Monroe, Louisiana until 1941
  10. Best Western Low Rate Guarantee success and Cracking Hotel Confusion in Krakow

April 2016

Amsterdam Shadow Wall to Post-Wall Vilnius, Lithuania

Kelley wanted Belgium and I wanted Vilnius. I capitulated and almost gave in to her desire for a trip to Ghent, Belgium. Until I purchased tickets for us to fly from Amsterdam to Vilnius, Lithuania. She was not too excited about my decision… until terrorists rocked Brussels ten days before our trip to Europe and Kelley suddenly liked the idea of flying from Amsterdam to Vilnius, Lithuania and staying out of Belgium. New York Times published a story this week about the chilling effect fear of terrorism has had on tourism and entertainment for restaurants and hotels in Paris.

The big upside to this trip is we visited some new places and Kelley loved Vilnius as a tourist destination for leisurely walks and afternoon lounging in city cafes. We had no issue with finding people all over the city who spoke English. This has been a major change I have noticed since first traveling to Dresden, Germany and Czech Republic in 2000, when I still frequently encountered many places where few people spoke English.

Some 25 years after the break up of the U.S.S.R., Vilnius has its eyes and culture facing westward, yet Russia and Belarus are still on its borders. The culture in Lithuania is strongly nationalistic as a small country with significant central European history.

If it were not for having spent a couple of hours in Amsterdam and Vilnius airports waiting for flights, I might have remained totally unaware of the U.S./NATO military build-up in the country. Nearly every American we encountered over six days was U.S. military, and there were very few Americans we came across in Vilnius. While not apparent from being a tourist on the streets of Vilnius, where life is not too different from many other European cities, and nicer than many European cities, the presence of a buildup in U.S. military and NATO forces in Lithuania indicates post-Cold War Baltic states and Poland military relations between Russia and the West are heating up from all the friction being generated.


Old Town Vilnius

  1. Greetings from Vilnius, Lithuania (April 8, 2016)
  2. Photo Walk around Vilnius, Lithuania (April 9, 2016)
  3. Five Star Ramada Hotel & Suites Vilnius, Lithuania (April 10, 2016)
  4. Voguish Vilnius Vacation trip report overview (April 13, 2016)
  5. Flight Review Norwegian Stockholm to Oakland for $211 one way (April 14, 2016)
  6. More impressions of Vilnius, Lithuania (April 15, 2016)
  7. Hotel Review: Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate (April 7, 2016)
  8. Andaz Amsterdam Suite Upgrade on Hyatt Points + Cash rate (April 16, 2016)
  9. Hotel Review Crowne Plaza Vilnius PointBreaks stay (April 18, 2016)
  10. Review Chic Holiday Inn Vilnius (April 19, 2016)
  11. Review Quality Airport Hotel Stockholm Arlanda 10,000 points Choice Privileges reward night. (April 21, 2016)

Winter 2016 Travels ’bout Dam Time

Flew Norwegian Air Oakland, California to Amsterdam and flew back on American Airlines starting two round trip American Airlines tickets from Amsterdam to Las Vegas for trips to Amsterdam in February and Amsterdam and Vilnius, Lithuania in April.

  • Norwegian Airlines Oakland to Amsterdam $276 one way via Stockholm
  • American Airlines and British Airways $422 round trip Amsterdam to Las Vegas (two trips on low fare tickets)

Monterey to Amsterdam January 2016 trip report 1

  1. Flight Review: Norwegian Air OAK-ARN
  2. Best Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture hotel review
  3. Best Western Leidse Square Amsterdam – Isn’t guest recognition the whole point of a hotel loyalty program?
  4. Loyalty Programs Work: I am underpaying for Holiday Inn Leiden
  5. Pilgrimage to Holiday Inn Leiden
  6. Pilgrim History and more in Leiden, Netherlands
  7. Amsterdam British Airways Lounge Review
  8. American Airlines Flagship Lounge London Heathrow
  9. Flight Review: AA LHR-LAX 777-300ER Business Class using my first SWU upgrade

Monterey to Amsterdam February 2016 trip report 2


InterContinental Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam

1. Allegiant Airlines low cost nonstop flights between Monterey and Las Vegas.

2. SLS Las Vegas, Starwood Hotels Tribute Portfolio

3. American Airlines LAS-PHL in First Class

4. PHL lounge reviews British Airways First and American Admirals Club

5. American Airlines Philadelphia – Amsterdam Business Class and Economy Class Seats Comparison

6. Radisson Blu Amsterdam location is perfect for poke and toke

7. Hotel Review – Amsterdam Radisson Blu Hotel

8. InterContinental Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam

9.  Cost of food in Amsterdam at Albert Heijn and Marqt

10. 75th Anniversary of the Amsterdam Strike 1941 against Nazi persecution of Jews.

11. Dutch Resistance Museum, Amsterdam

12. W Amsterdam HotelAfter drinking up at W Amsterdam rooftop bar, go downstairs for toilets

13. Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam

14. Oude Kerk AmsterdamSecond most famous dead woman of Amsterdam – Saskia Rembrandt’s gravestone in Oude Kerk Amsterdam.

15. American Airlines Flagship Lounge London Heathrow

16. American Airlines London LHR – Chicago ORD business class

17. The Venetian, InterContinental Alliance Resort

Washington D.C. (Hilton Worldwide sponsored trip) – December 3-6, 2015


  1. Introduction: Thanks Hilton. Nice week to be in Washington D.C.
  2. Hilton@Play in legendary International Ballroom Washington Hilton
  3. Washington Hilton rooms with a view
  4. American Airlines flight photos AAbove the California Storm


Loyalty Traveler – Hotel Value for Frequent Guests

London and Sweden Thanksgiving Week November 2015


  1. Using Sweden for cheap flights to California in 2016
  2. My Club Carlson 2-for-1 Sweden deal where 2 nights cost less than one
  3. observations booking paid and award tickets between California and Europe
  4. IHG Rewards Club made Thanksgiving in London affordable
  5. Trip Report Monterey MRY–London LHR AAdvantage 20K economy award: Horizon Air segment MRY-LAX
  6. AA LAX Flagship Lounge Monterey MRY–London LHR trip report
  7. American Airlines Flight 108 LAX-LHR economy class on B777
  8. Bed time at InterContinental London Park Lane
  9. Review of Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park
  10. Review: Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury
  11. Factor Hoppa in transportation cost at Holiday Inn London Heathrow T5
  12. Remembering London
  13. British Airways hand baggage only fare trumps Oneworld Emerald elite benefits
  14. British Airways Goldilocks transatlantic temperatures LHR-SFO
  15. Review: British Airways LHR T5 Galleries First Lounge
  16. Burning and earning in London with IHG Rewards Club Accelerate Sep 1- Dec 31, 2015
  17. IHG Accelerate tasks not updating. Time to Worry?


American Airlines Executive Platinum Challenge with three trips to Europe
Sep-Oct 2015


  1. My fantastic American AAdvantage elite fast-track offer (June 22, 2015)
  2. Cost of flying 30,000 AAdvantage flight miles
  3. Thoughts on my AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge
  4. Nested tickets for more AAdvantage EQM California to Scandinavia
  5. Staying in the Alps with Best Western, Choice, IHG and Wyndham points.
  6. AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge 39,294 EQM booked for $1,583
  7. American Airlines Executive Platinum Challenge routing ticketed and six intra-Europe flight choices
  8. Oneworld American-British Airways Scandinavia to California under $400 round trip fares
  9. Loyalty Traveler strategy for low cost flights to European airports
  10. What $385 in Choice Privileges points bought me in Europe
  11. How much did I spend for ten IHG reward nights in Europe?
  12. Go for EQM or EQP? American AAdvantage ExPlat Fast-Track
  13. AAdvantage Executive Platinum 30K Challenge – Day 1 California to Dusseldorf 5,956 EQM
  14. My account has been upgraded to AAdvantage Gold after 6,000 EQM this week
  15. AAdvantage Elite Challenge – Day 9 – Platinum after 13,205 EQM
  16. American AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge–Day 17–19,221 EQM
  17. American AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge–Day 20–25,668 EQM
  18. AAdvantage ExPlat fast-track diary Day 22
  19. AAdvantage ExPlat fast-track Diary Day 26 – Ready, Set, Go to London and Paris
  20. Bags and stuff I traveled with to Europe
  21. First Confirmed Upgrade as AAdvantage Executive Platinum
  22. AAdvantage Executive Platinum Diary Day 35 – the nightmare ends or is just beginning?
Malmo, Sweden (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 1)


  1. First impressions of Malmo, Sweden
  2. Humanitarianism is the serious side of Sweden
  3. Sweden 2.8 beer is great at Scandinavian average prices
  4. Clarion Collection Hotel Temperance Malmo, Sweden food alone worth 8,000 points
Brno, Czech Republic (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 1)


  1. Impressions of Brno, Czech Republic
  2. Moravian Karst caves near Brno and why you will never see a tour like this in the USA
  3. Price of travel in Brno, Czech Republic
  4. Outside looking in Brno, Czech Republic
  5. Holiday Inn Brno, Czech Republic
  6. Student Agency cheap bus travel in and out of Czech Republic


Bergen, Norway and Harstad in Arctic Norway (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 2)


  1. Get high with the locals in Bergen, Norway
  2. AAdvantage Elite Challenge – Day 9 – Platinum after 13,205 EQM
  3. Rain forecast for Arctic Norway trip this week
  4. Oslo Airport Never Odd or Even
  5. 68.8° N in Harstad, Norway
  6. American AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge–Day 17–19,221 EQM
  7. Clarion Collection Hotel No 13 Bergen with dinner at Hotel Oleana
  8. Clarion Collection Hotel Arcticus Harstad, Norway
  9. Arctic Norway and whales
  10. Clarion Bergen Airport modern style
  11. American AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge–Day 20–25,668 EQM


Hotel Arcticus, Clarion Collection – Harstad, Norway

London (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trips 2 and 3)


  1. Battered by rain in Battersea London
  2. Tiny Room Comfort Inn Westminster London
  3. Back in LHR British Airways lounge
  4. AAdvantage ExPlat fast-track diary Day 22
  5. AAdvantage ExPlat fast-track Diary Day 26 – Ready, Set, Go to London and Paris
  6. Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4
  7. Feeling lucky punk? Definitely not in LHR Terminal 4 Security
Paris and Clermont-Ferrand, France (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 3)


  1. Feeling Paris under full moonlight
  2. Liberté and free nights in Paris
  3. InterContinental Le Grand Hotel, a storied institution of Paris
  4. Price of food and beer in France
  5. Cheap RoissyBus Transportation Paris CDG to Paris Opera
  6. Paris Orly by Air France bus
  7. Feeling connected to Paris, City of Light (post-Paris terrorist attacks)
  8. Clermont-Ferrand impressions are authentic France
  9. Streets of medieval Montferrand
  10. Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand France PointBreaks extended stay
  11. You can call me Reeshard
  12. Necessary to improvise in France today
  13. Normally I would not kiss and tell, but when in Lyon


Geneva, Switzerland (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 3)
  1. InterContinental Geneva has the views
  2. Flying Swiss Airlines Geneva to Copenhagen


Copenhagen, Denmark Oct 2015 (AA ExPlat challenge Europe Trip 3)
  1. You may find yourself traveling to Copenhagen Airport. Part 1 – Are you experienced?
  2. Copenhagen Get Your Mind Together then come on across
  3. Copenhagen on the waterfront
  4. Freewheelin’ Copenhagen Dealin’

Little-Mermaid-1.jpg Christiania.jpg

Monterey Peninsula Year of the Whales December 2014 – August 2015


Whale of a show at Point Lobos  (Aug 29, 2015)

Humpback whales bubble netting off Carmel Beach in July  (July 26, 2015)

Summer fog season returns in California (May 30, 2015)

Too cute harbor seal pups and sea otter pup turns 50 days old (April 18, 2015)

Rare sea otter twin pups at Point Lobos State Reserve (Feb 27, 2015)

Gray whale migration passing by Monterey (Dec 27, 2014)

Boston, Copenhagen and London  July 2015

  1. Delta Bags on Time 20 minute guarantee claim for 2,500 miles
  2. InterContinental Boston History Walking Tour
  3. WOW Air. My worst low fare deal to Europe ever!
  4. WOW Air Boston to Iceland flight review
  5. Blondes in Black in Hot Copenhagen
  6. Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen views and brews
  7. Skt. Petri Hotel Copenhagen, Nordic Choice Ascend Collection
  8. RyanAir CPH-LTN $63 and two carry-on bags for free
  9. London 7 July Memorial Hyde Park Ten Years After
  10. Please sir, do not take photos of our hotel security cameras
  11. So much owed by so many to so few, London 75th Anniversary Commemoration of Battle of Britain
  12. Treasures of the Natural History Museum London
  13. Six nights at The May Fair London for 210,000 Club Carlson points
  14. Into the ‘Free’ Nights at InterContinental London Park Lane
  15. Alternative London in Camden Town
  16. London Royal Parks offer country in the city
  17. Rock history and a view at Holiday Inn London Camden Lock
  18. Camden Market London and Music Venues in Rock History
  19. Cost of food and transportation in London
  20. RyanAir flew us LTN-CPH with no bag fees again
  21. Am I in the Copenhagen loyalty program?
  22. WOW Air Review Part 2 Copenhagen to Boston
  23. Marriott’s Custom House Boston
  24. Marriott Long Wharf Boston
  25. Free Boston Rocks Outside the Box
  26. On the Waterfront at InterContinental Boston
  27. What $385 in Choice Privileges points bought me in Europe
  28. My $80 Boston Marriott Copley Place room with breakfast
  29. Boston Walks – Back Bay to Harvard Yard
  30. Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill surrounded by history

Disneyland Anaheim family trip June 2015

Orlando to Knoxville road trip in 1,100 miles–my outline of destination articles.

After the U.S. Travel Association IPW 2015 Orlando convention May 30-June 3, 2015, I rented a car from Avis for a six day road trip out of Florida to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. I visited Daytona Beach, Jekyll Island Georgia, attended a blues festival in Savannah, stayed at a beach hotel on Tybee Island, hiked in Congaree and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, weirded out in Asheville, explored expansive Biltmore Estate, hiked to several waterfalls in western North Carolina and experienced one of the most amazing drives in the USA on the Blue Ridge Parkway across western North Carolina into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Drove through an incredible rain storm to attend a theater dinner show in Pigeon Forge for professional bluegrass performances and family fun comedy show.

Loyalty Traveler Road Trip Orlando to Knoxville June 4-9, 2015

  1. Drive out of Florida rental car deals April and May 2015
  2. $11 rental car drive out of Florida road trip (April 10)
  3. And I call this work visiting Orlando
  4. Welcome to Gator Country Florida
  5. WaltDisneyWorld in synchronization
  6. SeaWorld Orlando and marine mammal intelligence on cue
  7. Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes for locally sourced experiences
  8. Orlando to Knoxville road trip in 1,100 miles–my outline of destination articles.
  9. Daytona Beach, FloridaBabes, Bikes and Speed at Daytona Beach
  10. Jekyll Island, Georgia from historic country club to State Park  This article was accidentally published when I had only described the Jekyll Island Causeway. Rather than delete it, I left it posted and the story of the transformation of Jekyll Island from historic country club to Georgia State park continues in the post below.
  11. Jekyll Island, Georgia History and Jekyll Island Club Hotel
  12. Best Western paid me $11 for my Georgia hotel night
  13. Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Hospital, Jekyll Island, Georgia
  14. Westin Jekyll Island, Holiday Inn Resort and Quality Inn Jekyll Island
  15. Savannah, Georgia Historic Buildings and New Hotels
  16. The Brice, Savannah, a Kimpton Hotel
  17. It’s Tybee Time on Savannah Georgia’s Barrier Island beach
  18. Fort Pulaski National Monument and Civil War history in Savannah region
  19. Tall Trees at Congaree National Park, South Carolina
  20. Footloose and roaming Asheville, North Carolina
  21. Biltmore Estate is more than a Gilded Age mansion, Asheville, NC
  22. View from Inn on Biltmore Estate
  23. Asheville Vibrant Craft Beer Scene
  24. Chasing Waterfalls  in DuPont State Forest, Western North Carolina
  25. White squirrels, black bears and waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
  26. Appalachian Highlands on Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
  27. Vast forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park thanks to Rockefeller
  28. Out of Great Smoky and into DoubleTree Park Vista Gatlinburg

Vancouver and Vancouver Island: Victoria, Tofino and Sooke, British Columbia April 2015

  1. Choice Hotels Best Rate Guarantee free night approved Expedia claim for Vancouver (April 6)
  2. Strike 3 on best rate guarantee claim for Park Inn Vancouver (April 9)
  3. Missing Hyatt’s best rate guarantee phone service  (April 9) – approved Hyatt best rate guarantee reduced room rate from $239 CAD room rate to about $99 USD after tax for Hyatt Regency Vancouver.
  4. Best Western gives dumbest reason ever for Best Rate Guarantee claim denial (April 8)
  5. 2 of 6 hotel best rate guarantee claims in Canada approved. What worked and what did not work. (April 11)
  6. Hotel Review: Radisson President Hotel Vancouver Airport (April 19)
  7. Richmond, British Columbia for an Asian experience around YVR (April 19)
  8. Perfectly comfortable at Comfort Inn Downtown Vancouver (April 20) upgraded on my free hotel night.
  9. 420 Vancouver Experienced (April 21) Here is what happens when 25,000 people are allowed to illegally buy cannabis and smoke in public in downtown Vancouver during a tolerated annual festival.
  10. Into the Spirits of Earth Day 2015 Vancouver Island, British Columbia (April 22) a drive through old growth trees with several bald eagles sighted.
  11. Victoria, British Columbia First Nations murals surround toxic waste site (April 23)
  12. Vancouver to Victoria transportation for $23.20 CAD ($19 USD) by Skytrain, bus and ferry. (April 25)
  13. Quality location at Quality Inn Downtown Inner Harbour Victoria, British Columbia (April 26)
  14. Tofino is the end of the road for adventure in British Columbia wilderness (April 27)
  15. On the Beach at Best Western Tin Wis Resort Tofino, British Columbia (April 28)
  16. Victoria to Tofino driving slow roads on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (April 28)
  17. Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Vancouver $99, my 420 brg rate (April 29)
  18. Can’t see the forest for the missing trees in Vancouver Island logging photos (April 30)
  19. Go west from Victoria for Best Western Premier Prestige Oceanfront Resort Sooke (May 1)
  20. Beacon Hill Park Victoria a British Columbia Pacific Northwest garden (May 3)
  21. Earned 50,000 Club Carlson points on last paid stay of $150 (May 6) describes points earned for Radisson Vancouver Airport stay on April 18.
  22. Fairmont Vancouver Airport Best Airport Hotel in North America (May 6)

Amsterdam, Netherlands February 2015

  1. Lost in Amsterdam, unLucky stolen wallet too
  2. I Amsterdam
  3. Discover Amsterdam with tram tickets
  4. Park Plaza Vondelpark Amsterdam
  5. Words and pictures of Andaz Amsterdam
  6. My best friend in Amsterdam is Albert Heijn
  7. Amsterdam XXX, prostitution and coffeeshops
  8. KLM economy to Europe with adult IFE
  9. Get lost walking Amsterdam canals
  10. Amsterdam cyclists fought Rijksmuseum and won
  11. Hotel Review Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht
  12. Debra Hill, my favorite living artist in Amsterdam

Dublin, Ireland  February 2015

  1. Beer or Points? Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport
  2. Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Northwood, butterflies are free
  3. Radisson Blu Dublin Airport amazing fruit bowl amenity and shower fail

Salt Lake City, Utah and Park City Sundance Film Festival January 2015

Alaska Airlines Ski the West promotion motivated me to fly round trip between San Francisco and Salt Lake City two times in two weeks in January 2015. For under $100 each, I purchased two round trip tickets and spent 8 nights in Salt Lake City and two nights in Park City during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. That was a great party with several opportunities for free Stella Artois as the official beer sponsor of the festival. I used my free Alaska Airlines ticket in April 2015 for San Jose SJC to Vancouver YVR for $85 in taxes.

  1. Alaska Airlines Ski the West Fly 2, Get 1 for tax only CA, OR, WA residents
  2. Alaska Airlines First Checked Bag Free for January flights
  3. Alaska Airlines economy flights, Club Carlson midscale hotel and Salt Lake City domestic tranquility
  4. A Pagan in Temple Square
  5. Country Inn & Suites West Valley City Fire False Alarms
  6. Club Carlson 46,000 points on 3 nights $250 stay
  7. Salt Lake City mountain vistas
  8. Courtyard Salt Lake City Downtown free stay during $400 rates at category 3 hotel
  9. Making TRAX around #SLC
  10. Eyewitness Report – Beer seen in Utah
  11. Radisson Salt Lake City Downtown
  12. Sundance Film Experienced
  13. Stella Artois Buy a Lady a Drink for
  14. Snow Monkeys in Park City Pools
  15. Sundance Film Festival 2015 Park City poverty jet setters
  16. Waldorf Astoria Park City
  17. Racing Alaska Airlines 20 minutes checked bag guarantee

San Diego December 2014

London-Ireland November-December 2014

This post contains a series of 28 articles related to our trip to London and my week in Ireland in late November-early December 2014. My ticket was SFO-London-Dublin with British Airways and included RyanAir from Dublin back to London Gatwick. My wife Kelley flew American Airlines from SFO to London Heathrow. I stayed two nights in Athlone, Ireland before flying to London for seven nights and then back to Dublin for four nights.

Planning Phase

These articles relate to buying an airline ticket in October during a low fare sale from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland when tickets were around $500. Once a great airfare is detected, the clock ticks with little knowledge of how long the deal will last. Deciding to spend $2,000 for a trip to Europe is one of the thrills and headaches of travel. And $2,000 is an economy budget week for London.

Kelley had an $800 American Airlines voucher and her ticket was $835 for San Francisco to London. I took advantage of the low Ireland airfare to stay in Ireland a couple of nights before Kelley arrived in London during Thanksgiving week and I stayed four nights in Dublin after a week in London.

The articles below cover the planning period of our trip from the day the low airfares to Dublin were published to my ticket purchase and hotel planning. I bought tickets about five weeks before travel.

One of my primary objectives with hotels in London and Ireland was earning two free nights from IHG Into the Nights promotion by staying in an IHG brand in two different countries outside the USA. The other main objective was taking advantage of the Club Carlson Visa card member benefit of one free night on stays of two nights or more in London. I booked three 2-night stays in London at The Mayfair, Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street and Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street. I also used Club Carlson’s 2-for-1 weekend rate for two Radisson Blu hotels in Ireland.

SFO-DUB under $500, SFO-Europe under $750 (Oct 14, 2014)

Finding Dublin Deep in the Heart of Taxes (Oct 16, 2014)

London hotel rates and competitive set hotel pricing (Oct 19, 2014)

Comparing hotel reward value in London among different hotel programs (Oct 20, 2014)

London with Club Carlson points and Club Carlson credit card (Oct 20, 2014)

Geography for 18 Club Carlson hotels in London (Oct 21, 2014)

Club Carlson London hotels TripAdvisor rankings (Oct 22, 2014)

Club Carlson Gold elite 2-for-1 rates scarce availability in London and Dublin (Nov 3, 2014)

Where the hell is Athlone, Ireland and why am I planning to go there? (Nov 12, 2014)

Trip Report


British Airways LAX-LHR A380-800 in World Traveller Class (Nov 21, 2014)

A day in Athlone, Ireland (Nov 22, 2014)

Irish dancers at Radisson Blu Athlone, Ireland (Nov 23, 2014). Hotel review and this article includes a visit to Sean’s Pub, Ireland’s oldest pub according to Guinness World Records.

Estate Life at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin (Dec 13, 2014) Hotel Review.

Dublin footsteps of Bono, Michael Collins and Oliver Hardy (Dec 1, 2014) A day hike from Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in south Dublin along the coast to Dalkey, Ireland.

James Joyce slept here and Ulysses begins here in Sandycove, County Dublin (Dec 2, 2014) Part 2 of coast walk.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk in County Wicklow Ireland (Dec 2, 2014) One of Ireland’s most popular coast walks.

Bono and Enya’s neighborhood Killiney, County Dublin (Dec 14, 2014) Photos of the coastal village of Killiney, the so-called Beverly Hills of Ireland.


Holiday Inn London Gatwick for IHG Into the Nights (Nov 24, 2014)

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London convenient for LHR arrival and departure (Nov 25, 2014). Hotel review.

Live Well for Less at The May Fair London (Nov 26, 2014) Grocery shopping in London.

Ritzy enough for The May Fair London (Dec 4, 2014) Hotel review.

Radisson Blu Bloomsbury Street London location by British Museum (Dec 6, 2014) Hotel review.

My Square Foot London Edition (Nov 27, 2014) Descriptions of small rooms in London hotels with focus on Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street.

Gatwick to Heathrow in 3 hours for £8.10 with Oyster card (Nov 30, 2014)

London Gatwick Airport ATM Bad Exchange Rates (Dec 12, 2014)

London touring

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain for the public Hyde Park London (Dec 7, 2014)

St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Paddington Trail (Dec 11, 2014)

Canals of Paddington London

Can London teach America art tourism? (Dec 16, 2014) Piece about public art displays in London with London buses and Paddington Bear temproary exhibits.

Norway September 3-17, 2014 Trip Posts

Norway for two weeks on a budget with a $541 United Airlines round trip ticket SFO-OSL and $300 spending cash for the trip.

Climbing hills for a few days in Bergen was the highlight of my trip. While Norway is expensive, in top three countries worldwide for cost of living, the hotels I picked for stays provided most of the food I wanted to eat. I only needed $25 or about 150NOK for food and I spent about $275 for  train and bus tickets and a plane ticket to travel OSL (airport) – Oslo Central-Larvik (southeast Norway)-Sandefjord TORP Airport – BGO Bergen (Norwegian Air) – Express Bus Bergen Center – Bergen Line to Oslo (bus/train) – OSL (airport).

There was no corporate or tourist board sponsorship for this trip. My objective was to find out what value Choice Privileges have in Norway. Answer: Terrific value. Sweden and Norway have about 170 Nordic Choice Hotels. The focus of my trip was checking out Nordic Choice Hotels with stays at six hotels and site visits at four other hotels in Oslo, Bergen and Larvik and also a visit to Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic, a unique hotel/whaling museum  in Sandefjord, the whaling capital of the world a century ago on the southeast coast of Norway, 75 miles south from Oslo.

I redeemed 216,000 Choice Privileges points for 13 nights with $6,000+ in hotel stay value. Most of the points were purchased at a rate around $4.00 per 1,000 points through U.S. Travel Association annual Daily Getaways promotion, generally held between April and June each spring and limited to U.S. residents. Loyalty Traveler – Daily Getaways Choice points are good deal for Europe Hotels (May 14, 2014).

Bergen seen from Mount Floyen
  1. Oslo, Norway walking on a summer day (Sep 6)
  2. Hotel Review Clarion Royal Christiania Oslo, Norway (Sep 6)
  3. Hotel Review Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo, Norway (Sep 7)
  4. Think before you eat whale meat (Sep 8)
  5. Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food (Sep 9)
  6. Hotel Review: Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Larvik, Norway (Sep 10)
  7. Hotel Review Farris Bad Kaupang Suite upgrade (Sep 10)
  8. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord offers whaling culture experience and beds too (Sep 11)
  9. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord, Clarion Collection (Sep 13)
  10. Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport low cost flights (Sep 12)
  11. USA Branded Bergen (Sep 12)
  12. Oops! Radisson Royal Bergen hotel damaged Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sep 12)
  13. Walk like a Norwegian up Floyen in Bergen (Sep 13)
  14. Think before you eat Norwegian farmed salmon (Sep 13)
  15. Biked, hiked and psyched about Bergen (Sep 15)
  16. Clarion Collection No 13 Bergen, Norway (Sep 15)
  17. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen, TripAdvisor #1 hotel – Part One (Sep 16)
  18. Clarion Collection Havnekontoret Bergen – Part Two (Sep 16)
  19. Bergen Line to Oslo, 500 km by train (and bus) – Part One (Sep 18)
  20. Bergen Line to Oslo 500 km by train part two (Sep 19)
  21. How I stole 2 nights at The Thief Oslo with points (Sep 23)
  22. Hotel Review The Thief Oslo Room 603 (Sep 23)
  23. The Thief Oslo by design (Sep 24)
  24. Clarion Collection Folketeateret Oslo is recommended Nordic Choice Hotel (Sep 27)

Road Trip Posts from $105 one-week rental car deal Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia May 3-11, 2014

Three objectives for trip.

1. Visit Savannah, Georgia and learn about open container drinking, but it turned out to be a record breaking anticyclone heat wave in early May and I could not walk around outside drinking anyway.

2. Visit Charleston, South Carolina and learn more about the southern perspective of the Civil War. Charleston blew my mind with its beautiful and old architecture. The historic center of Charleston is a seaport relic. By chance, I found myself at Sullivan’s Island and learned a deeper history than expected.

3. Outer Banks, North Carolina Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk via North Carolina State ferries and on Highway 12.

Bodie Lighthouse, North Carolina Outer Banks
  1. Jacksonville and the St. Johns River (May 4)
  2. St. Augustine, Florida: History in Black and White (May 5)
  3. Hotel. Casa Monica St. Augustine, Marriott Autograph Collection (May 6)
  4. $15 to $20 per day in May for one-way rental cars out of Florida (May 7)
  5. Notes from the Atlantic Intracoastal Road (May 9)
  6. If I’m Ever Back This Way (May 9)
  7. Images of Historic Charleston South Carolina (May 10)
  8. Hotel Review: Savannah Andaz Suite (May 11)
  9. Road tripping Highway 17 St. Augustine to Savannah, Georgia (May 13)
  10. St. Simons Island of Georgia’s Golden Isles (May 14)
  11. Hotel Review: Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, Marriott Autograph Collection (May 14)
  12. Southern City in Green: Savannah’s 22 Squares (May 17)
  13. Savannah’s ’Crown Jewels’ Monument Squares (May 18)
  14. Red wolves, alligators, dolphin and birds at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge South Carolina (May 24)
  15. Hotel. Historic Charleston, SC 1853 The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel (May 25)
  16. British Cemetery Memorial Service Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Outer Banks (May 26)
  17. Hotel. Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah, Marriott Autograph Collection (May 31)
  18. Road Trip to DoubleTree Atlantic Beach North Carolina and Ocracoke Island (June 1)
  19. Three lighthouses of Cape Hatteras National Seashore (June 5)
  20. Hotel Review: Florida Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront (June 6)
  21. Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Savannah (June 7)
  22. Meeting History on Meeting Street Charleston, South Carolina (June 8)
  23. Sullivan’s Island, SC is perhaps the most significant historical site in the USA you never heard of (June 9)
  24. Hotel Review: Charleston Marriott South Carolina (June 12)
  25. One location, many memorials — Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina (June 14)
  26. Ocracoke, the ferry island on North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks (June 15)
  27. Pilgrimage to Wright Brothers National Memorial (June 22)

Iowa and Chicago for #IPW 2014 (April 1-8, 2014)

Iowa sponsored tour

  1. Iowa, more than a four-letter word? (April 2)
  2. Hey L.A., looks like Fenelon Place Dubuque beats Angels Flight for shorter incline railway (April 3) – historic funicular in Dubuque, Iowa by Mississippi River rivals Los Angeles historic funicular.
  3. Hotel Julien Dubuque and Al Capone Suite (April 4)
  4. Bald eagles and eaglets in Iowa (April 5)
  5. Iowa Farm Country Shopping
  6. Iowa Ag Tours–Embrace the Tractor (April 14)
  7. Hotel Review: Upgraded, Hilton Garden Inn Ames, Iowa (Free sponsored hotel night on Iowa tour)

Chicago for U.S. Travel Association #IPW 2014

  1. 360 Chicago Views (formerly John Hancock Observatory) (April 7)
  2. Historic Renaissance Blackstone Chicago (April 8)
  3. Inn of Chicago, Ascend Collection one night for free – successful Choice Hotels Best Rate Guarantee claim. (April 12)
  4. Palmer House Hilton history of Chicago’s oldest hotel (April 14)
  5. Hotel Review: Chicago Downtown, Autograph Collection, Marriott brand hotel (April 15)
  6. Field Museum, 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Ferris Wheel

Minneapolis, Minnesota February 13-21, 2014

Mill City Museum tells history of when Minneapolis was the milled flour producer for the world.
  1. Beating Priceline again with a Minneapolis Hyatt Suite BRG (Feb 10, 2014)
  2. Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hotel review (Feb 19)
  3. Largest hotel fitness center I’ve seen (Hyatt Regency Minneapolis) – (Feb 17)
  4. Hilton Minneapolis in pictures (Feb 21) Photo essay from visit to 821-room downtown Minneapolis hotel. Hilton has two other higher rated hotels in city.
  5. Chillin’ Minneapolis for Valentine’s Day (Feb 14)
  6. Freezin’ for a Reason with Cupid’s Undie Run Minneapolis (Feb 15)
  7. Bridging the Great Divide in Minneapolis (Feb 15)
  8. Craft Beer Revival in Minneapolis (Feb 16)
  9. Down by the river Minneapolis, then and now (Feb 17) is a story about the city’s industrial past of timber and flour mills and urban renewal of the Mississippi riverfront.
  10. Depositing Points in the Westin Minneapolis BANK (Feb 18) The Westin Minneapolis BANK restaurant occupies a former bank lobby and the wine is stored in a bank vault.
  11. TripAdvisor #1 attraction is Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Feb 22) A fine art museum founded in the gilded age of Minneapolis. Well worth time to visit.
  12. Hotel Ivy Minneapolis, Starwood Luxury Collection in photos (Feb 28, 2014)
  13. Radisson Blu FireLake Grill House, Mall of America and Minneapolis

Detroit, North America International Auto Show (Jan 9-15, 2014)

Ford Motor Company invited me to be their guest in Detroit for the auto show. By chance I stayed two days at The Henry, an Autograph Collection hotel of Marriott before the start of the Ford event and I spent one day at the Henry Ford Museum. Great museum.

Ford trimotor airplane (1920s) – Henry Ford Museum
Ford clay modeling mustang
Ford Clay Modeling exhibit featuring Ford technician-artist modeling a Ford Mustang on site at 2014 North America International Auto Show Detroit.
  1. From Monterey to Detroit NAIAS flying United on Ford’s Dime (Jan 9, 2014)
  2. The Henry, Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan (Jan 10)
  3. Aviation History at the Henry For Museum – Part 1 (Jan 11, 2014) I did not know that Ford Motor Company was one of the powerhouse manufacturers of aircraft in the 1920s – until I went to the Ford museum.
  4. History of Early Commercial Aviation at Henry Ford Museum – Part 2 Travel Remembrances of Things Past – discovering my life memories in Henry Ford Museum exhibits kind of blew my mind with the realization that I am getting old.
  5. Detroit in my Pictures – a few snaps of Detroit.
  6. World’s First Airport Hotel, historic Dearborn Inn, a Marriott Hotel (Jan 16)
  7. Intro to Dearborn Ford Land and #FordNAIAS (Jan 16, 2014)
  8. Hotel Review: Westin Metropolitan Detroit Airport (blogger disclosure: Ford Motor Company paid for two nights at Westin DTW hotel for attendance at North America International Auto Show.)
Fox Theater Detroit was world’s first theater built for speaker system sound when it opened in 1928.

California Travels

Sierra Nevada Mountains

Rafting Tuolumne River Wilderness with SierraMac.


Highway 1 south of Big Sur, California
Highway 1 south of Big Sur, California

San Francisco

Pier 39, San Francisco

Monterey County


Humpback whale in Monterey Bay, California

Big Sur

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Pacific Grove


Point Lobos State Reserve

View from Point Lobos south along Big Sur Coast. Hyatt Carmel Highlands is visible near center.
View from Point Lobos south along Big Sur Coast. Hyatt Carmel Highlands is visible near center.

Monterey County


Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Mountains


Southern California


Northeastern California

Remote Modoc County, Burning Man, Oldest Petroglyphs, Captain Jack and the Modoc Indian War (August 18, 2013)

HawaiiWhat a Trip 1977 – Oahu Brothers and Sisters in Arms (Aug 10, 2013) Flashback story my teenager beach bum life on Oahu.

Loyalty Traveler Destination Posts March 2013 – Europe Ten Winter Days and Nights Overview:

Trip Planning for Flight Award Ticket on American Airlines.

Zurich, Switzerland

Berlin, Germany

Berliner Dom seen from my suite at Radisson Blu Berlin.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo Dom
Oslo Dom – Oslo Cathedral

Helsinki, Finland

Hotel Kamp suite, Helsinki, Finland

London, United Kingdom

Room view from Park Plaza Westminster, Carlson Rezidor Hotels

February 2013 Chicago, Illinois

Radisson Blu Aqua Tower Chicago
Radisson Blu Aqua Tower Chicago

Monterey County/California

Las Vegas

December 2012 SPG Amex Stars trips

September 2012 was a travel month for me with trips to Manhattan-New York, Barcelona, Spain and a hosted Costa Brava tour (60 miles north of Barcelona) after the TBEX Europe conference in Girona, Spain. SPG Amex Star trips and New York. Airfare, hotel stays were free courtesy of SPG Amex Stars gig. Thoughts are my own.

Barcelona, Spain and Travel Blog Exchange TBEX12 Europe, Girona, Spain with 4-day Costa Brava Tourism post-conference sponsored trip. Barcelona


TBEX12 Girona, Spain and Costa Brava Tourism Board sponsored tour

Where I’ve been in Europe (22 countries): England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia.

Where I’ve been in Asia-Pacific (7 countries): Singapore, Thailand, Bali, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand.

Where I’ve been in the Americas (15 countries): All USA,  except North Dakota and South Dakota, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic.

Where I’ve been in Africa/Middle East (0 countries): Not that big on list of places I want to visit.

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