Top 8 Things To Avoid When Planning A Trip Using Miles

No sooner have I returned from the big South American birding trip, I now have to think of NEXT year’s trip.  The 330 day window is approaching for the outbound and I like to book as soon as I see the flights loaded.  Of course we are using miles from various accounts and there has been some tweaking done because of the American and Virgin Velocity devaluations.  This is why I have delayed the trip reports but hopefully I will soon have the important flights booked and can relax a bit.  It has brought to mind a few things I have to avoid while planning “The Godmother of all African Adventures“.

TOP 8 THINGS TO AVOID

  1.  Major public holidays – not only in my home country of Australia but I want to avoid holidays in the destination countries as well.  It is much harder to get award flights at these times.  I check this using Time and Date. 
  2.  School holidays – the last thing we need is for national parks to be crowded and booked solid.  Doesn’t make for peaceful birding!  In this case, I want to avoid South African school holidays while we are in Namibia and Zambia.
  3. Ramadan – We’ll be using Etihad and possibly Qatar Airlines for this itinerary so I want to avoid traveling during Ramadan.  We like to go into the cities during layovers and have a couple days in Dubai for shopping so don’t want to deal with not being able to eat and drink at our normal times.  This makes the trip a challenge as we want to avoid traveling over Easter on the Aussie end and be home well before Ramadan starts and still get reasonably good weather.  Which brings us to…
  4. Rainy Seasons – we couldn’t avoid all of the rainy seasons because this itinerary is in vastly different parts of Africa but I kept it to a minimum as much as possible.
  5. Major sporting events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, etc.  Also makes award tickets hard to get and airports will be crowded.
  6. Major elections – I like to avoid them as sometimes they are treated as holidays and services are not available or curtailed because everyone is watching the results come in.
  7. Airline miles devaluations – I try my best to book before a devaluation takes affect.  I couldn’t help the AA one which happened on 22 March as our trip next year can’t begin until after Easter 2017 but I had to reverse the order of the trip to avoid the Velocity devaluation of Etihad partner awards.
  8. Personal and family events planned for 2017 – I had to tweak the dates to avoid being away at certain times when we need to be home.

My goal here is easily booked award tickets to go birding at an optimal time when the weather is decent, everything is open and doing business as usual and the parks won’t be crowded.

Chase Adds Flying Blue As A Partner – Good Options For Africa

I know every blogger and his brother has posted about Chase’s new rewards partner but I thought I would draw attention to the good deals to be found on Kenya Airways which is a Flying Blue member.  Flying Blue is one of my Top 8 programs for eco-travellers for a reason. Paying for flights within Africa can be very expensive.

For example Accra to Lusaka would cost $500-600 cash but only 15,000 Flying Blue miles plus surcharges of around $202 USD (most of which is airport tax, not YQ).

I have my eye on a Dubai-EBB (Entebbe/Kampala Uganda) for 20k Flying Blue per person for next year!

Birding In Kenya Part 1

Kenya is one of the most popular destinations for safaris but it is also a top birding spot in Africa.  Sit back, relax and enjoy this video of Mr Currie’s birding adventure.

Velocity 15% Bonus Promo – Ends 31 May

For the last few years, the month of May has been a great opportunity for people to boost their Virgin Australia Velocity points when transferring points from various Australian banks.  For more details, T&C’s and links to the banks, click the image.

Barely back from South America, I still need to plan for Africa next year and Velocity points can be used on Etihad & South African Airways which suit my needs!

Velocity 15

Transfer your points to Velocity between 1 May and 31 May 2016 and receive 15% bonus Velocity Points. You’ll enter a new world of rewards, including flights to over 600 destinations and award-winning Reward Seat availability^.

Back From An Epic Trip To Ecuador, Colombia & The Caribbean

Actually we got back a week ago and I still haven’t really recovered.  This has been a very full-on trip covering a lot of ground throughout Ecuador, Colombia & some Caribbean Islands that have good birding – Trinidad, St Lucia, St Vincent, Dominica & Puerto Rico.  We then spent time in the USA visiting family.  While I usually try to build some down time into a trip, this time it wasn’t possible.  It’s getting so much harder to earn miles from credit cards and my stockpiles are dwindling so I was mindful that we may not get back to these parts of the world again so we had to cover everything possible.

During this trip we experienced the big earthquake in Ecuador on 16 April.  Luckily we were far from the epicenter and in no real danger but the internet and tv reception were out in the lodge we were staying at and we had no way of knowing just how bad the earthquake was until we got to the Quito airport the next day.

Flights weren’t affected and we got to Colombia on schedule only to have our bank shut down our ATM card!  I had done everything right – notified all banks and credit cards of our itinerary and the bank should have known we were in Colombia but they still shut down that one ATM card.  Thankfully they didn’t shut down our credit cards and I was still able to access cash by doing cash advances but I had a mess to sort out when we got home.  They wouldn’t accept my secure message to unblock the ATM card and insisted we call but between lack of phone coverage, quickie one-night layovers and time zone differences between Australia and the Americas we weren’t able to connect until we got home.  The bank finally did reverse the cash advance fees because they had unjustly blocked my card but it took numerous phone calls and a lot of stress.

Other things piled up and I am still trying to sort out some personal stuff but once I do, I can start blogging this trip and trust me, it will be worth the wait!

Great Florida Birding Trail

Many people will find themselves in southern Florida whether it be a visit to friends or family, business, pre-cruise ship or just a family vacation.  There are many beautiful birds to be seen here as shown on the latest Birding Adventures video!

Singapore Airlines Adds Premium Economy As Redemption Option

This is good news for those who don’t have enough miles for a business class redemption but would like a little more comfort than economy.  But in most cases from Australia. the difference between economy & premium economy vs premium economy and business are enough that I still suggest you go for business class awards if you have/can get the miles.  SQ miles are relatively easy to get with American Express Membership Rewards and several other Aussie bank issued cards transferable to SQ.  Remember, you get a 15% discount for awards on Singapore Airlines & Silk Air booked online!

The updated Singapore Airlines award charts – Australia is split between zone 8 & 9.

Full text of SQ’s Announcement

More Legroom Vs Wider Seats On Economy Flights

With airlines tightening up redemptions on premium classes and the huge devaluations that have happened over the last couple years more people will find themselves traveling in economy even though they may have originally been saving for business class redemptions.

This is where doing some homework can really pay off.  Conde Naste has a good article on finding extra legroom seats.  Even if you redeem miles, you can usually pay extra to have these seats when you choose your seats.

You should also check the exact plane configuration on Seat Guru and read the comments as some seats can have problems such as ife boxes under seats which reduce your legroom.  You can also check the width to see how closely you will be crammed in next to your seatmates.

I personally prefer to fly on smaller planes which have 2 x 2 seats on opposite sides of the aisle so my husband and I don’t have to sit with a stranger, so I always choose these planes over a 737.  We also prefer more seat width to more legroom so Seat Guru shows us what our options are.