Happy 2013

Here’s wishing the diehards who occasionally stop by here a Happy and Prosperous 2013.

As noted in the last post(s), real life sort of took precedence over internet life in 2012, especially when it comes to blogging. Obviously, it’s been pretty quiet here, but we have also taken a needed break from blogHOUSTON (which should return sometime in 2013 with a new WordPress install – hoping for earlier than later, but, we’ll see. Maybe even a FEW more posts here, but no promises)…

2012 turned out to be quite the travel and social year.

Float Trip 2012 saw new faces (which should return for next year) along with the usual diehard crew, and we spent quality time with family and friends (and wine, LOL) throughout the year. Xmas 2012 was also quite the blowout — I think we’re still recovering. :O So much social time cut into the time we used to spend geeking around on the ‘net, which is probably a healthy development overall. Zooming around in aluminum tubes at 30,000+ feet also soaked up some time…

Some travel writer somewhere once said that if you chase good fares, you’ll wind up seeing some pretty interesting places, and so finding nice fares remains an obsession. Add following my friend Stephan’s advice that all these miles accumulated in one’s loyalty program of choice (United’s MileagePlus in my case) should be cashed in for at least one luxury trip per year, and it was a great travel year. Highlights included:

  • A $325 roundtrip to Brussels on Air Canada, which involved weather delays on the outbound (we watched a pretty snowstorm from the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal’s airport, and we eventually pushed out after a few hours of delay), a mechanical on the return, and all sorts of fun things that eventually resulted in some proactive rerouting (and Y fares to BRU, boosting the mileage earnings on my ridiculously cheap fare). People complain all the time about airlines, and there is a lot to complain about, but there are also ways to work things in your favor (most of which involve BEING NICE to the front line agents, and having backup options in mind for when you actually get in front of an agent who can help you during irregular operations). I probably ought to post more about those experiences, hmm? 🙂 In Brussels, this guy made us two nice meals at his quaintish restaurant.
  • Relatively cheap fares to Madrid (a new destination for us, which I liked and Callie was kind of “meh” about) and London (always a good trip – we visited the Camden Lock area this time, which was a first and kinda fun).
  • Reward travel in International First to my favorite islands, and back in Business. Since Lufthansa has now restricted reward availability in First considerably, I decided to jump on the seats when they came open several days before our trip — and it worked out well, since we arrived at a remote stand and enjoyed limo service from the tarmac to the terminal. I probably won’t blow the additional miles again anytime soon, but the first class treatment (not to mention Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in FRA) is fun. The islands, by the way, were THRIVING. The mainland — every bit as depressed as one might expect, given the news reports, sadly so. Quite the contrast between the two.
  • Return trips to Alaska (never gets old, even though a marine wildlife excursion in the bay in early May is QUITE chilly *brrr*) and New Hampshire (food run to Maine, also never gets old), plus a trip to Rhode Island (first trip – we discovered the winery in Newport puts out a decent little Cab Franc).
  • With a little help from PQMs via a legacy CO credit card, I made Plat for the first time at the very end of the year. We’ll see if the benefits make it worth pursuing next year.

Travel lowlights, unfortunately, included more delays, schedule changes, cancellations, refunds, and time spent on the phone with agents in one year than I’ve experienced in any previous year of flying (and maybe cumulatively — it was pretty bad). I was also 0/2 trying to fly United’s new 787 Dreamliner (once because of a schedule change, once because of a mechanical). I will say that United agents were very helpful in accommodating my requests to reschedule or cancel/refund, and we were lucky in that we were never stranded for any real period or put in a situation without good options. The merger is proving more of a challenge than I think many of the former Continental execs expected, but I’m still fairly optimistic that they’ll eventually work out the kinks. Here’s hoping the new United will continue to have a very good rewards program as well (which is a key source of my loyalty).

Callie is well, loved ones have (mostly) been healthy this year, Kiwi is trucking along, and we added a new dog to the mix (Jefe, an energetic chihuahua mix who wound up in our yard over one stormy night and was never claimed). So overall, I think we put 2012 in the win column.