Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from The #hustle Blog!

Cheers!

Cheers!

May your 2014 be filled with complimentary First Class upgrades and plenty of mistake fares!

2013 Travel in Review

2013 was a great travel year for The #hustle Blog family. We didn’t eclipse the number of miles we’ve ever traveled in a year but we did take more trips than we ever have.

All in all, together we traveled 63,179 miles in 34 segments. Not even a lot by any stretch of the imagination, but we visited a lot of great places that we’ve never been to before.

This was mostly due to some great mistake fares in 2013 and a mistake promotion that we decided to capitalize on. Here’s a short recap of how our 2013 travel went down:

2013 Domestic Travel

2013 Domestic Travel

2013 International Travel

2013 International Travel

  • Madrid
  • Vancouver
  • Austin
  • Buenos Aires
    • Mistake fare for $386. Wow what a glorious beef overload!
  • Tampa
    • Frequent Traveler University, another great meetup with fellow miles & points junkies
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
    • A nice 4-day getaway and complimentary upgrades on Delta
  • American Airlines #questforEXP
    • Hawaii
    • LAX
      • A quick 8 hour stop to hit the beach and grab some In-N-Out
    • SJC
      • Our first true mileage run where we got off the plane, grabbed a snack and got right back on 30 minutes later
    • Panama
      • Seeing the Canal & Miraflores Locks in person was awe inspiring
    • Miami
      • This final trip of 2013 capped off the AA promotion and we caught our first Miami Heat game at, appropriately enough, American Airlines Arena

Again, 2013 was a great year and we were blessed to travel as much as we did for as cheap as we did.

Here’s to another great year of health, happiness, and travel!

Maybe sprinkle in some huge credit card signup bonuses and some mistake fares and we can call it a year!

2013-travel-collage

The #hustle Blog Holiday Travel Gift Guide 2013

This seems to be a popular type of post around this time of year. Some people find gift guides annoying, but when they’re well curated, I think they’re pretty helpful.

Of course, the links to Amazon are my affiliate links so thank you if you decide to use them!

So with the gadget-loving traveler in mind, here goes…

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

For those who like consuming media in their hotel rooms, the Google Chromecast is an interesting new idea. It plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port (hopefully your hotel room has a TV with one) and can stream media from your Chrome web browser or through its native apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Pandora, and more.

I have one at home and love it!

Noise Cancelling Headphones

 bose_qc20

Now these are offered in different form factors – the classic over the ear and the new ear bud style. Joann has the over the ear Bose® QuietComfort® 15 and they work really well, much better than the cheaper set I bought to see if there really is a Bose difference (there is).

I have my eye on the Bose QuietComfort 20i because I like ear buds better. Everyone I know who has them says they are amazing!

If you’re looking for a more budget-minded set of noise cancelling headphones, look into the Sony MDR-NC7. I currently have a pair and while not even close to the quality of the Bose, they do a good job of canceling out airplane engine drone at almost 20% of the cost.

Travelon Bag Bungee

Travelon Bag Bungee

This is definitely a cheap & handy item. The Travelon Bag Bungee lets you securely strap your small bag/purse/backpack to the top of your roller carry-on for easier strolling through the airport. Both Joann and I have one and it sure beats lugging a back over your shoulder along with having a rollaboard in tow.

External Battery Packs

anker slim3

Nowadays, I am rarely without an external battery pack for my phone or tablet. I prefer the Anker Astro Slim3 6000mAh since it has a built-in micro USB for my Androids and has plenty of juice. For newer iPhone owners, the Photive Ultra Capacity 3000mAH
is a well reviewed battery that boasts a built-in lightning cable. It’s nice to know that you’ll never be without a cable if you bring either of these battery chargers.

Portable Speaker

xmini

Phone speakers suck. The X-Mini II portable capsule speaker is cheap and LOUD! I received it for Christmas last year and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not fancy bluetooth; it simply plugs into your device’s headphone jack. It has a USB-rechargeable battery, too. I’ve even used it with our Chromebook and it performs well for watching movies.

Samsung Chromebook

chromebook

Speaking of Chromebooks, I love mine. I bought the Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) used for under $180 from Amazon Warehouse. Even at $229, it’s a nice device providing you know what you want from it. On trips, I use it to do the standard stuff – read/write emails, write blog posts with photos, and watch movies. Battery life is great and the instant-on of Chrome OS is very nice. It’s no Macbook Air, but it’s also not $1000.

Travel Surge Protector

Belkin

After going through a few power strips, I find the Belkin SurgePlus to be the handiest. The swivel plug is key for fitting in tight spaces and it also sports 2 USB ports, great for a multi-device traveler/family. It has 2.1A total so it will charge your larger devices like iPads.

Travel MiFi

Huawei mifi

This is something that is only for international travel. It’s almost always cheaper to buy a local SIM card than to set up a global plan with your US provider. We use the Unlocked Huawei E585 3G MiFi device because we have so many devices that it’s just easier to have a central device to connect to. It takes a bit to initially set up (changing APNs and such), but there are great tutorials on the web and after you set it up once, you’re a pro.

Inflatable Seat Cushion

Thermarest

This is nice for those longgg mileage runs or mistake fares in coach. Since it’s inflatable, the Thermarest Lite Seat packs easily and doesn’t take up much room. I love it for any flight over 6 hours.

Grid-It Organizer

gridit

The Grid-It Organizer is something I like to keep in my personal item to keep little things like cords, cables, ear plugs, spare memory cards, and other small miscellaneous objects in order. You can also get by with a rubber band or some twist-ties.

Waterproof Pack

waterproof-case

This is handy for any water activities. The FRIEQ® Universal Waterproof Case is universal to gadgets that are iPhone-sized and also certified waterproof up to 100 feet. The last time we used ours was when we did a hike in the rain forest of Puerto Rico. It was perfect – one for Joann’s iPhone and one for our point & shoot camera. It worked great at all times, even while rappelling down a 90 foot waterfall!

Flashlight

fenix-e05

This last item may seem weird for a travel item, but I’m one that’s rarely ever without a flashlight. We used ours last in Panama when walking back to the hotel after dinner and drinks. There weren’t many streetlights and with a light this bright, it does help feeling a bit safer. Now, you can accomplish the same with a simple flashlight app on your phone, but I think everyone should have a solid flashlight in case of emergency.

My favorite brand is Fenix because it can run on regular AA batteries (many run on expensive CR123A type) and aren’t too pricey. I have the Fenix LD20; they have an updated model, the LD22, which is just as great.

For something a little more compact, check out the Fenix E05. It’s only 6.5″ long and uses a single AA battery.

Happy Holidays!

If you’re looking for a gift for any type of traveler, I hope this very personal list helps you out. Most of these items are things that I use often and when I find a good product, I won’t be shy about sharing it with friends, family, and readers.

Happy holidays and happy gift hunting!

Frequent Traveler University Tampa This Weekend

ftu logo

This weekend, Joann and I are headed down to sunny Tampa! Not for a weekend getaway or a mileage run, but for Frequent Traveler University (FTU)!

It’s basically a get together for travel aficionados like myself to learn a few topics and make some new friends.

I’ve attended FTU NJ and it was an awesome time. Nothing spoken about that weekend was new to me but, more importantly, I met a lot of interesting people who share the same crazy hobby as me.

On tap for this weekend are talks from Ben from One Mile at a Time, Summer from Mommy Points, and Gary from View From The Wing. And of course, it’s always a pleasure to hear Randy Petersen speak. After all, he is the Godfather of this game!

I hope to meet a lot of fellow travelers this weekend and chat miles/points/travel for a bit. For those of you that use Twitter, I’m guessing #ftutampa will be the hashtag of the weekend if you want to keep up.

If you’re curious, check out Milepoint or ftuniversity.com for more info! It’s never too late; there’s always an event coming up.

And as always, follow me on Twitter or Facebook for the most up-to-date posts about what’s going on.

First Time Using Southwest Companion Pass & What’s Up Lately?

First Time Using Southwest Companion Pass

I’m happy to report that Joann and I finally got to use her Companion Pass (CP) that we earned last year. It was really easy to book a Companion ticket. On top of it being the first time using the CP, it was both our first times flying on Southwest. Almost everything went without a hitch.

Overall, it was a great experience and I wouldn’t at all mind flying like that domestically.

It was a light flight – not many people flying Newark to Austin in April, I suppose. Joann and I easily got our own row.

The flight attendants were cheerier than most domestic ones we’ve encountered and boarding was quick and efficient. On the way back, the plane had some engine issues and we diverted to Baltimore (BWI). We did eventually make it home to Newark, but 3 hours later than scheduled.

I wrote a quick note to Southwest regarding this delay and they were very prompt in responding, holding true to their estimate of within 48 hours. They issued both Joann and me $100 vouchers! That certainly does count for service recovery in my book.

We are definitely looking forward to flying Southwest again.

Austin

Austin was a cool city! I’m sure it was much crazier during SXSW, but we had a nice time checking out the weird stuff Austin has to offer and eating PLENTY of BBQ.

Brisket, Sausage, Beef Rib.. Yes please!

Brisket, Sausage, Beef Rib.. Yes please!

We stayed downtown at the Hyatt Place (couldn’t find any free nights at the newly Hyatt property The Driskill). Most nights, we felt it was like we were in a ghost town or a deserted movie set, but maybe that’s just the time of the year. No matter, we were able to see a lot of Austin and its surroundings and most of all, just chill out.

With Southwest and their new EWR-AUS nonstop route, we could be back to Austin soon enough… although we’d probably do Southwest’s new EWR-MSY nonstop route before that 😉

What’s Up Lately?

I’m in a break between my old and new job right now, which worked out perfectly with this quick trip to Austin and our next trip.

I probably won’t have a post up until next week because we’re going to Buenos Aires today! This is the great fare that was on sale last November from several North American cities to Argentina.

This is our first time to South America so we are really excited. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE leave them in a comment below. I would love to hear some great must-do suggestions.

Looking forward to lots of steak, wine, and just kicking back before I start the next chapter in my life.