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Should I Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Back in 2008, I joined my first frequent flier program. Despite having traveled around the world for close to two years, I never saw the value in signing up for one – I’d always been more concerned with price than brand loyalty, so I switched…

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Joining a frequent flyer program is important and very valuable if you fly often.  Saving you money, making booking easier and enjoying in all the perks related to frequent flyer programs, you will be a happier traveler for sure.

Back in 2010, I joined my first frequent flyer program. Despite having traveled around the world for close to two years, I never saw the value in signing up for one – I’d always been more concerned with price than brand loyalty, so I switched networks and carriers all the time. The lowest price always won.

Another reason I had never signed up before? All my favorite carriers are spread out over different alliances. Japan Airlines (JAL) is on the Oneworld network, while Singapore is on Star Alliance. Emirates Airline, the carrier that makes me salivate the most, isn’t on any of these networks.

Yet back in 2010 I realized that as I was going to fly around the world more, blogging as I went, it was probably a good idea to join an airline alliance – racking up miles, earning upgrades, and getting lounge access was probably a good idea for someone who was going to be in an airport every few weeks.

Over the years, I’ve been a member of all the alliances and my opinion about these programs has changed since I first wrote about them in 2008. Last year, I wrote about why people should not be members of frequent flier programs. Sure, you should always sign up for the program to get the points, but if you aren’t flying enough to hit elite flier status, then you should base your decisions on price. Go with the lowest price and when you do get miles, exchange them for a free flight.

But if you do think you are going to fly enough to make it worth it, you should totally join a frequent flyer program. The lowest tiers in the program, while not great, usually start at 20,000 flown miles.

You can read a lot of opinions on which program to join. Some people will say to join them all, others will tell you to join the ones with your favorite carriers, and others believe you should join the one with the major airline in your home town. I’m of the last opinion. The right alliance to join is the one on which you will most likely earn elite status.

This year I switched from Oneworld to Star Alliance. I did so because I was supposed to move to Europe and the major airline out of Stockholm is SAS, a Star Alliance member. But now that I’ve moved back to the States? I’ve switched back to American, a Oneworld carrier, because they have a hub at JFK and I like them better than United, who is part of Star Alliance.

I strongly recommend that if you are going to be traveling a lot, you stick to one alliance and earn elite flier status. Your status will last 14 months, so even if you don’t fly a lot the following year, you can still reap the benefits for a little while longer.

Because there is nothing like seeing the line for security check-in and realizing you can whiz right on past it or sit in a comfortable lounge with free drinks to make the flying experience infinitely times better.

 

 

 

Check out the full article over at NomadicMatt

Photos Courtesy of Baltia, dailyMail

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Destinations

The Most Beautiful Train Rides In America

America has some of the most beautiful scenery, and what better way to view it than a leisurely train ride. Why take the family on a vacation rushing from place to place, when the journey can be the vacation. Railway travel is the easiest, most pleasant,…

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America has some of the most beautiful scenery, and what better way to view it than a leisurely train ride. Why take the family on a vacation rushing from place to place, when the journey can be the vacation. Railway travel is the easiest, most pleasant, and surprisingly affordable way to enjoy some of the most magnificent scenery in the United States. Whether you want a quick jaunt through the countryside or a cross country odyssey, these train rides are the best rides in the nation. 

 

CASCADES

156 MILES – Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia

This ride through America’s Pacific Northwest does not disappoint. Traveling from Eugene to Seattle you will travel through magnificent evergreen forests. The train then travels along Puget sound, where on a clear day, passengers on the western facing side can view the majestic Olympic Mountains. 

 

CASS SCENIC RAILROAD

8 miles – Cass, West Virginia

They call West Virginia “almost heaven” because of it’s spectacular scenery. This quick trek is a fantastic way to soak it up. Original locomotives, once used to transport lumber to mining camps, now haul passengers up an 11% grade slope for an amazing view of the mountains below. At the top is the Whittaker Station, a restored logging camp. In October when the fall foliage is at it’s peak is the perfect time to visit.

 

CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR

2,438 miles – Chicago, Illinois to Emeryville, California 

Retrace the trail the pioneers took when they settled the American West on this 50 plus hour train ride. In Denver the train journeys through the towering Rocky Mountains, then into the red rocks of Utah, through Ruby Canyon, into the Sierra Mountains, through Donner Pass and then into San Francisco Bay.

 

 

WHITE PASS AND YUKON ROUTE

120 MILES – Skagway, Alaska

This round trip ride, on a narrow gauge railway built during the Klondike Gold Rush, will have you traveling along the side of sheer cliff drops. Departing from Skagway, you travel 3.000 feet up, past glaciers, mountain lakes and thunderous waterfalls. You can choose the original miner’s supply route to Carcross, Yukon stopping at a restored station house in Lake Bennett, or take the route past Bridal Veil Falls and Dead Horse Gulch to White Pass Summit.

 

CAPITOL CORRIDOR

168 miles – San Jose, California to Auburn, California

This train trip was designed to quickly transport Bay Area residents to the Capitol in Sacramento. This trip will have you speeding alongside the picturesque San Francisco Bay, through the industrial bays and waterways near Martinez, and into the majestic rolling hills of Northern California. 

 

CAPE COD CENTRAL RAILROAD

27 miles – Hyannis. Massachusetts to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Ride through the cranberry bogs, salt marshes, oceanfront trails and adorable little towns of Massachusetts. There are two options for this train ride, the sightseeing tour with complete informational narration, or the dinner train where you will enjoy freshly prepared meals on board. Both options will have you journeying through areas of Cape Cod that can only be seen by train.

 

GRAND CANYON RAILWAY

 

130 miles – Williams, Arizona

 

On this round trip train ride you will fly right past all the vehicle traffic and travel directly to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. Departing from Williams you will enjoy dense pine forests, majestic desertscape and rich wildlife.

 

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILROAD

32 or 44 miles – Bryson City, North Carolina

With your choice of two excursions, this train ride is an excellent way to take in some of America’s greatest wilderness. The Tuckasegee River Excursion takes passengers through 32 miles of lush green valleys, over historic bridges and into the quaint town of Dillsboro, where it stops for an hour and a half. The Nantahala Gorge Excursion journeys 44 miles along the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers, over Fontana Lake and into the gorge. 

 

COAST STARLIGHT

1,377 miles – Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington

This train trips hits all the highlights of a classic American road trip, driving up the Pacific Coast. This ride let’s you enjoy the dramatic cliffs along the Pacific Coast Highway, Mount Shasta, San Francisco Bay, Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.

 

SUNSET LIMITED

1,995 miles – New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California

Delight in the grand vistas of red rocks and cacti on one of the most scenic train routes in America. It begins in Louisiana’s bayou country and travels on through the expansive Southwestern deserts of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. During the peak season you will find National Park guides on board who will explain the history and geography of the region. 

 

STRASBURG RAIL ROAD

9 miles – Strasburg, Pennsylvania

Take a quick trip through Amish Country, enjoying the rolling hills and expansive countryside. Once used to transport goods from the heart of Pennsylvania to the coast, restored to being a passenger train in the 1960’s, the first class and president’s trains are outfitted to look like Gilded Age luxury. 

 

EMPIRE BUILDER

2,206 miles – Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington

Enjoy this 46 hour ride as it travels through Lewis and Clark’s expedition route. From your comfortable seat in the observation lounge experience the Great Plains in all their splendor, ride through a seven mile tunnel cut through the Cascade Mountains and spend 8 hours marveling at the Glacier National Park. 

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Destinations

Traveling Across All 7 Continents in a Wheelchair

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For many, traveling across all 7 continents is an ultimate goal. For Cory Lee who is also a traveler, however, it’s his most fervent wish. So, he found a way to reach his dream destinations.

A Traveler with Skeletal Muscle Atrophy

Lee has been using a wheelchair ever since he was 4 years old. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that causes weakness and skeletal muscle atrophy, Lee was raised by his single mother who was a teacher. He says that he developed his love for traveling because of the numerous road trips they did together across the US.

Visiting Antarctica before Covid Travel Restrictions

Right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee and his mother were able to visit the last continent on his list, Antarctica.

In his interview with “Good Morning America,” Lee shares that the trip “was surreal. There were icebergs, mountains of ice, penguins. It was everything you would imagine and more. I was moved to tears.”

Advice on Travel Essentials

When asked about how he got to execute those trips despite being in a wheelchair, Lee shares that traveling in a wheelchair requires systematic and extensive planning. He adds that his recent Antarctica trip was already booked 2 years prior. He said that each trip needed in-depth research of what various tour companies had to offer including the possible destinations he and his mother could go to and the transportation required to those places.

To help other travelers who may want to visit those destinations, Lee began writing a travel blog, “Curb Free by Cory Lee,” enlisting all the travel essentials based on his travel experiences.

He shares that, out of the 37 nations he visited, Morocco and Antarctica are his best choices. Lee mentions that he did not really have “high expectations of Morocco but the alleyways of Marrakesh, the snake charmers, it blew me away.”

Traveling on a Wheelchair

Lee insists that traveling while using a wheelchair is entirely possible. Doing in-depth research helps people discover the multitudinous conveniences that travel companies have to offer. To further encourage younger travelers to start their own dream destinations list, Lee launches his new children’s book entitled “Let’s Explore with Cor Cor.”

The book narrates the story of a young boy who travels the world using his power wheelchair. Lee asserts that children must not only learn about the different travel destinations but also about those who may be entirely different from them.

Lee’s book was released on 26 July which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which was successfully passed after he was born.

Limitless Possibilities

In closing, Lee shares that “traveling to all seven continents wasn’t something I was sure was going to be possible, but if you stay determined and keep a positive attitude, the opportunities are limitless.” Indeed, having a disability does not prevent anyone from reaching their goals. Travel restrictions are not solely based on the present quarantine measures practiced all around the world. They can include personal issues that may prevent easy mobility, as well. Nonetheless, Lee serves as a credible inspiration for everyone as he points out that nothing can really stop us if we persevere and continue to reach for our dreams—and our desired destinations.

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Destinations

2017’s Newest Travel Trends Revealed

How exciting, a new year and 12 whole months of travel possibilities, I’m ready for the new travel trends. Where are we going to go and what the heck are we going to don once we get there?   We can say goodbye to eco-tourism as…

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How exciting, a new year and 12 whole months of travel possibilities, I’m ready for the new travel trends. Where are we going to go and what the heck are we going to don once we get there?   We can say goodbye to eco-tourism as the hottest trend on the travel block, 2017 has some interesting stuff in store for us.

 pantelleria

European Islands

It’s nice that the exotic, far-flung islands had their pinnacle in 2016, because those well-known hot spots are now over with. They aren’t over and done, they just aren’t the hottest spots anymore. If you want to go to Turks and Caicos, I won’t stop you, but you won’t be considered elite anymore. If you want that true baller experience in 2017, you will have to go to one of the small, unknown European islands, like Pantelleria or Naxos. Naxos is a Greek island, not Santorini or Mykonos, so its lesser known. Check it out if you are interested in divine local cuisine and a fresh take on island life. 

Meanwhile, also in the Mediterranean Sea, Pantelleria is in Italy, between Sicily and Tunisia. Made famous by Giorgio Armani who has a home there, this unknown island is going to be real hot this year. These future hot spots are favorable because of their anonymity and prestige.

 

bellmont farms 

Food Resorts

The clear-cut winner for travel trends this year is Food Resorts focusing on farm-to-table and ocean-to-plate menus. These resorts are hiring the best chefs, sourcing from the most local and fresh producers and satiating all their guests’ wildest cuisine dreams. This trend is following food trends all over the globe, where diners want the freshest and healthiest foods prepared by world-class chefs.

Check out Kittitian Hills in St. Kitts, for some top notch locally sourced cuisine. They have their own organic gardens, livestock and even use goats to cut their grass, talk about grass roots.

Another real winner at food resorts is Bellevue Hotel in Croatia, where the entire flat roof has been turned into a usable garden.

 sailing

I’m on a Boat

The comedy group Lonely Island said it best, “I’m on a boat, Bitch!” Everyone wants to go sailing or party on a yacht, but until now that kind of lifestyle has been unaffordable. Thanks to an adventure-travel company, Intrepid Travel, being on a boat is everyone’s business. They are offering affordable sailing adventures to amazing destinations for a fraction of the former price.   Live like the one percent with their weeklong sailing tours, through remote destinations like the Zanzibar archipelago.   Snorkel in exotic locals, sip champagne on yachts and ball out like Lebron James on your budget.  These trends are getting exciting and making me want to travel now.

 

finemerch 

Resorts simplified

Resorts are stripping down to the bare essentials and focusing more on relaxation and pampering instead of opulence and luxury. Gone are the clunky cluttered hotel rooms and instead rooms are adorned with just a huge comfortable bed. Expect restaurants to simplify their menus and only offer eth freshest and most delectable items. These new luxury standards should catch on and help with the enormous waste that these resorts create.

 

glacier 

Polar Excursions

People are tiring of the same old beach resort or mountain cabin; instead travelers in this New Year are opting for more extreme locals. Welcome the new polar adventures, where vacationers will face the harsher climates for a more rewarding excursion. Glaciers are a huge destination in 2017, as people realize that with global warming, many of these destinations won’t be around for long. Get those snow mobiles warmed up and make sure you have warm clothing, because 2017 just got interesting. Cruises are now setting course for the Arctic Circle, as adventurers want that polar ice cap experience.  Polar travel will include penguins, polar bears and the exquisite Northern Lights.

 

2017 is starting off with a bang, so set your travel destinations and make travel happen.

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of bellemontfarms, wikiwand, intrepidTravel, finemerch, MontanaVacationBlog, starchop

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