Review: Keepgo Global Data SIM card

It’s a challenge that most face whenever traveling internationally:  what about my data?

Traveling outside of the United States can be challenging from a communications standpoint — especially if international cell phone charges are on your own dime, and not paid-for by work.

After paying absurd global data charges with Verizon Wireless ($29 for 100MB of data), and moving to a solution of changing SIM cards in different countries, I started to look for other solutions that could work in multiple countries.  I wanted a solution that would allow me to use the same SIM card in multiple countries (particularly in Europe).

This past summer, I decided to give Keepgo a try, and I’ve been using now on my last five international trips.  I figured it was time to write-up my experience with the product.18

Keepgo Overview

Keepgo offers two main products:  a data SIM card and a mobile wifi hotspot.

Since I have an unlocked iPhone 6 (via Verizon), I went with the data SIM card.  The advertised features of this puppy are as follows: Continue Reading →

Ranking the Different American Airlines Business Class Seats

Product consistency?  Who wants product consistency?

Certainly that’s not the goal at the new American…. at least not as far as Business Class seats are concerned!  Due to its merger with US Airways, an aging international fleet and seat supplier issues, American now features no less than nine (9) different international business class products.

Nine.

Of those, seven (7) are on wide body planes used for the vast majority of international routes to Europe, South America and Asia.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been able to fly on each wide body business class cabin in the American fleet, so I figured it was time to decipher the differences and rank them — all in one post!

But first?  The candidates (along with my past and future reviews of these flights) – many of these flights were in the last few weeks or months, so are in my queue to either write and/or edit and publish reviews:

  • A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite
  • B767-300 “old” configuration
    • MIA-MXP (upcoming)
  • B767-300 “new” configuration
    • ZRH-JFK (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “old” configuration
    • MIA-EZE (upcoming)
    • SCL-MIA (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “new” configuration
  • B777-300ER
  • B787-8 Dreamliner

Let’s go ahead and profile each of these types of Business Class seats!

A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Continue Reading →

Oktoberfest… and Three Days in Munich

So this past fall was the sixth year straight that I’ve attended the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest in Munich.   I’ve been accompanied on these Oktoberfest by a varying number of friends over the years — this year was no exception, as there were six of us including my fiancé, who was making her first trip to the Wiesn.

See this post for ten tips to planning a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

In order to combat the ridiculous crowds that are prevalent on the weekends, we decided to arrive into Munich on a Wednesday, and focus our time at the Oktoberfest during the week — on Thursday and Friday.

We arrived from our overnight flight in Lufthansa Business Class from Washington on Wednesday around noon.  From there, we took the S-Bahn directly to the Hackerbrucke station, which is only two blocks from where we stayed — the Four Points Sheraton Munich Central.

The Four Points Sheraton - Munich Central

The Four Points Sheraton – Munich Central

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Ten Tips for Planning an Oktoberfest Trip to Munich

My favorite trip  of the year is always my annual pilgrimage to Munich for the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest!

This coming year will be the sixth year in a row that I’ve attended the Wiesn in Germany, so I’ve learned on the fly, but at this point,  I think I know what I’m doing pretty well.

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that runs every year,  from the late September to the first full weekend in October.  Plan these dates accordingly.

Planning a trip to this foreign festival can be a daunting task, but here are ten tips along with several guides and recommendations: Continue Reading →

How to Book a Flight to Tahiti with American Miles

American AAdvantage miles are some of the easiest mileage currencies to accrue.  On the other hand, redeeming them can be challenging at times.  One of the places that may be pretty challenging to use AA miles for if you don’t know how is to get to one of the most beautiful places on Earth — the honeymoon and bucket list mecca of Bora Bora.

You’ve seen them.  The lavish resorts featuring elaborate overwater bungalows that are set on top of crystal clear water in a sheer tropical paradise.  Many of these properties are located in Bora Bora or Moorea — both Islands in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, along with Tahiti.  In order to get to these island paradises, one must first fly into Papeete (PPT) — the only international airport in Tahiti.

Getting to Papeete from North America is pretty straightforward when using American miles.  There are exactly two options:  Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui — both partners with American, and both are great partners that allow you to fly to Tahiti with American miles. Continue Reading →

A Layover in Hong Kong and a Quick Flight to Singapore

After spending over 18 hours on American Airlines’ longest flight from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Hong Kong, I was quite ready to stretch my legs and move around.  We got to Hong Kong immigration after about five minutes and had about a ten minute wait to clear immigration.

Outside of immigration, we went by the Hong Kong Airport Express and MTR kiosk where I purchased a round trip transfer from Hong Kong Airport to Kowloon Station for HKD 160 (about USD $30).  The Airport Express is a direct rail link between the airport, Kowloon and Central Hong Kong that runs every ten minutes.  It is very quick and very efficient, as is much of the public transportation in Hong Kong.

We intentionally worked in a long, 22-hour layover in Hong Kong into our itinerary because, frankly, we all wanted to spend a night in Hong Kong!

Continue Reading →

How to Book a Flight on Ryanair and Avoid Hidden Fees

Flying on Ryanair is often one of the cheapest ways to fly point-to-point in Europe.  However, the major complaint people always have regarding Ryanair is their never-ending pursuit of ancillary revenue — they nickel and dime the passenger for seemingly everything.  After all, Ryanair is the airline that infamously once tried to charge for use of the toilet, and has floated the idea of standing room only seats on its aircraft, just to fit more passengers onboard.  Another major complaint about Ryanair is the somewhat predatory booking process on their website.    Though the website has a much friendlier user interface than it used to, the booking process can be downright cumbersome!

Ryanair B737-800 at Kerry, Ireland (KIR)

Ryanair B737-800 at Kerry, Ireland (KIR)

This post is meant to walk you through the booking procedure with Ryanair, so you can avoid accidentally paying for extra things that you don’t want!  Once you successfully do this, Ryanair can fly you for really, really cheap within Europe.  I had a decent flight with them last May from Venice-Treviso to Dublin, and again a few weeks ago from County Kerry, Ireland to London-Stansted.    Continue Reading →

Review: United Business First Dubai to Washington

After spending an enjoyable three days in Dubai, we arrived at Dubai International Airport where we went through check-in, immigration and security without a hitch.  We had about an hour or so to kill before we needed to go to the gate for another round of security, so we headed to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a bit.

This lounge isn’t the largest lounge in the world, but there were a few options of cold appetizers as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.  I had a drink and a quick bite to eat as my buddy and I relaxed a bit before our impending long haul back to Washington.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge - Dubai

Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Dubai

It was finally time to get to the gate, so we made the ten minute trek through the expansive Dubai Terminal 2.   Since this was a flight back to the United States from Dubai, there was an additional security screening at the gate.  They took business class passengers first, but that only meant that we were allowed into the holding pen first at the gate, as boarding had not yet started.  Finally, after about thirty minutes of sitting around, we boarded our United B777-200.

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Three Days in Dubai – Ten Highlights

We arrived in Dubai at the interesting hour of around 8pm and quickly disembarked from my somewhat disappointing flight in United Business First from Washington-Dulles.  We were given express passes for immigration, but this didn’t seem to matter much.  The walk from the gate to immigration is pretty substantial, and by the time we reached the immigration hall, every line was massive — including the “express” line.  After about a twenty-minute wait time, our passports were stamped and we were admitted into the United Arab Emirates.  We breezed through customs and made our way outside to the curb where our friend picked us up for three amazing days in Dubai!

I’d been to Dubai before, but this time I was with two great friends from Grad School — and friends with whom I make my annual pilgrimage to Oktoberfest in Munich — so I knew this weekend might be somewhat aggressive.  We and a jam-packed weekend that featured some late nights, excessive meals, pricey cocktails, and sight-seeing.  Here are some highlights of my weekend in Dubai…

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American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles Combine – What it means to you

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced that it would combine the legacy loyalty programs of American Airlines and US Airways on this coming Saturday, March 28.  Previously, American had stated that these two programs would be merging sometime in the second quarter 0f 2015, so this puts them a little ahead of schedule.  The newly combined program won’t be a huge change to those loyal to American Airlines, but it looks to be quite an adjustment for those US Airway Preferred members — and many of those adjustments are good!

So now that these programs are merging into one, what does that mean to the frequent flyer?

In general, passengers should know the following tidbits while this merger goes through this week:

  • Both websites will be functional this week as the programs combine
  • Some US Airways Dividend Miles functionalities will be unavailable until Saturday, March 28
  • The last day to book US Airways awards and to take advantage of its unique award chart is Wednesday, March 25.
  • If you’ve already linked your US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage accounts, they balances will be combined
  • If you haven’t linked your accounts, the airline will combine your accounts and issue a new American AAdvantage number to you that will show your combined airline activity

Continue Reading →