Saturday, May 24, 2014

Odds and Ends Before Moscow Flight

The biggest event is that I am now a Grandpa with the arrival of Atticus Wyatt Beckham at 4:39 PM on May 17th after Jessica had a 32 1/2 hour labor. He weighs in at 9 lbs 2 oz. and is 21". Jessica and Joshua are tired but very happy and relieved. We visited them today just before I head off to Moscow on Sunday. I am so happy for them, and I will enjoy getting to know him when I return in August. Just think, my pack weighs less than Atticus.

I just got my Lufthansa boarding passes from SEA to Frankfurt and then on to Moscow. I have an aisle seat on the long flight to Frankfurt and a window seat going from Frankfurt to Moscow.

I think is is worthwhile to mention it again the following travel issues: frequent flyer miles approaches, travel insurance, medical issues, money, and travel guides.
 
Frequent Flyer Miles
I would not have been able to take all of these trips I have taken since 2000 without the benefit of the frequent flyer mileage programs. We use mileage credit cards for almost all purchases to rack up miles. Plus, I do what they call churning my credit cards where I get anywhere from 25,000 miles to 50,000 miles for opening up credit cards. I also switch brokerage firms to rack up 25,000 to 50,000 miles. Right now my wife and I have about 600,000 miles accumulated on Alaska, American, Delta, and United Airlines and only used 62,500 miles for this trip which would have cost over $5,400 if I were to buy a ticket.
Although there are several websites that provide great frequent flyer advice, these are two great sites I look at when I want to learn more about taking advantage of frequent flyer programs:
  • Gary Steiger runs the Frequent Flyer Miles website which has lots of tips and provides updated information on changes to all of the frequent flyer programs.
  • Rick Ingersoll runs the Frugal Travel Guy website which also has lots of travel tips on how to maximize your travel experience using a whole variety of programs.
After getting 50,000 miles for opening a United Chase Visa card and then cancelling it, I then tried to open up a new card after the first card had been closed for about 3 months. Although United gave me a new credit card along with two United Board Room passes, they refused to give me the 50,000 miles because I had previously gotten the 50,000 award.
I consulted with Gary Steiger about the Chase refusal and he suggested that I wait at least 18 months before trying again. He also said that I should apply for the Chase Saphire credit card that gives you 40,000 points which I did and they gave me the points. These points can be added to my United mileage account. This is what I have done, and is the card I am taking on this trip since they have no foreign transaction fees.
Over the years, I have found that the United mileage program gives me the best flights at the lowest number of miles required and they allow for stopovers which Delta does not.

Travel Insurance
You must have travel insurance any time you travel! Avoid signing up for the travel insurance offered by the airline companies as a part of your ticket purchase because you will end up paying more and getting less coverage, especially if you take multiple trips each year that are more than 100 miles from youur home.
I buy annual travel insurance from Travelguard which costs $267 per year. The coverages and benefits include:
  • accident and sickness medical expenses $10,000
  • baggage and personal effects $1,000
  • baggage delay $150
  • emergency evacuation $100,000
  • travel medical assistance included
  • trip cancellation $1,500
  • trip interruption $1,500
  • 24/7 travel assistance included
Check out my April 3, 2012 entry to see some of the successful claims I have had. The critical documents you need for successful claims are police reports which are sometimes hard to get from the police.

 

When you use your credit card for travel purchases, there are a number of benefits you may qualify for including collision coverage for car rentals, trip delays and/or cancellation, up to accidental death benefits, etc.


Medical Issues

You can see how the travel insurance provides me with monetary benefits in case of injuries or illnesses.

Here are some additional measures I have taken to avoid illnesses or lessen the impact of illnesses or injuries.

I have immunizations for the following: yellow fever, polio, meningitis, typhoid, tetnus, flu, and shingles.

I carry the following medicines and first aid: Cipro, neosporin, aspirin, ibuprofen, sudafed, imodium, bandaids, needle, and handiwipes.

I use a steripen--UV light--to purify all water I drink.

 

Money

I carry about $200 in US dollars, mostly in $20s with $10 of one dollar bills that I use only in emergency situations when ATM machines are not available.

My major source of local currency is to use ATM machines which are increasingly found in most large cities. Sometimes I find out that one type of bank ATM doesn't work so I find another one that does. It is essential that you do not lose your ATM card.

However, if you lose your card or the ATM machine swallows it as happened to me in Malaysia, you can still get cash advances from your credit cards, but with a very high fee. I carry the Chase Sapphire Visa and AMEX Delta Gold credit cards, and both of these have no foreign transaction fee. However, local merchants often times charge up to 3% for the priviledge of using credit cards. With AMEX I can get up to a $4,000 cash advance and with Chase it is a $6,400 cash advance.

Travelers checks are now fairly obsolete because you pay a service fee for the checks, generally have to go inside the banks, wait in the queues, and then get possibly more local currency than you need for your remaining stay in that country.

Travel Guides

Although I am still cutting out sections of some of my travel guides for the major cities I am staying at, I am increasingly relying on downloading the Lonely Planet Guides to my mini iPad. I have also downloaded sections of the Seat61 guides for train travel in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

My mini iPad has just the wi fi feature which I can use to access all other types travel information whenever I find a wi fi hot spot. I can make hostel or hotel reservations using my wi fi. I do not use a cell phone, nor do I use my mini iPad to navigate my way around town, however, many travelers find this mapping feature very useful.

 

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