Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

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United adds another nonstop destination out of Arcata!

After the launch of United’s nonstop Los Angeles service earlier this year, I didn’t really think another nonstop flight was in the cards for our tiny airport. I’ve dreamed for the day we might have other options. But I figured that would remain a pipe dream.

Well…in a rather unexpected move by United Airlines, our tiny, local airport *is* going to see another nonstop destination!

United adding Arcata to Denver service

Starting in June of 2019, United will provide a once-daily service between Arcata and United’s Denver hub. This will take Humboldt from a single option this spring to three different nonstop flight options in about a year’s time. Connections in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver

The flight will be a night-turn, similar to the new schedule for the Los Angeles flight. The regional jet serving the route will leave Denver at 7:00 p.m., landing in Arcata at 8:50 p.m. It will return to Denver the following morning at 6:30 a.m.

The schedule is fantastic for work travel. United offers connections in Denver to many midwest destinations, which may turn people’s two-stop itineraries to one with a single connection. A healthy layover in Denver would provide enough time to have a nice lunch at the Timberline Grill before catching a connection (SEE: Timberline Grille Denver Airport Review).

Salt Lake City still on my wish-list

While I heartily welcome any additional air service, what I’d really like to see is service from another airline, specifically Delta and specifically Salt Lake City. Delta has become my favorite domestic airline, and it would be amazing if I could fly them locally. They briefly offered this service over a decade ago, but discontinued it after only a year.

Beyond Delta, I’d happily take an Alaska connection to Seattle, or an American connection to either Los Angeles or Phoenix. Any other airline would provide needed competition.

Still, I’m thankful that our area is getting more air service. I’m sure I’ll end up flying the hop to Denver once service begins.

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: Priority Pass Restaurant Review

During one of my work trips to and from the East Coast earlier this summer, I was able to finally stop by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport. The restaurant is one of those within the Priority Pass network. Priority Pass has been on a spree lately when it comes to restaurant additions to their network, which I think is a major plus for travelers. The latest are in San Francisco (SEE: Two SFO Priority Pass restaurants added to network!), which I hope to stop at next time I pass through there.

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: How to use Priority Pass

The Timberline Steaks and Grille is located in Concourse C of Denver International Airport. Since all of DEN is accessible from a single security checkpoint, you can easily access the restaurant even if your flight is from a different concourse. Just take the train there, but give yourself enough time to get back to your gate.

The restaurant is located in the center of the concourse. The hours are from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

timberline grille denver airport

Priority Pass membership will give you and each registered guest $28 off the final bill. Depending on the membership, guests may be free or you may be charged. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, I can bring two guests into a lounge for free, which would give us $84 off the final bill. This is plenty for three people at this restaurant.

To use your Priority Pass membership at the Timberline Grille Denver Airport, you must present your Priority Pass card and same-day outbound boarding pass. Some lounges let you access them on arrival, but it may be that the Timberline Grille does not. Since I was connecting to San Francisco, I had an outbound boarding pass.

When you get your final bill, $28 will be deducted per person registered with the Priority Pass account. If you register people beyond whatever number of free visits your membership provides, you’ll be charged $32 per person, so you’ll actually be paying extra.

Food and drink

The menu offered by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport is excellent. Rather than the typical domestic airport lounge which offers small bites, snacks, and other fairly cheap fare, the Timberline Grill has a full menu or steaks, burgers and other offerings.

The steaks will eat up most, if not all of the Priority Pass credit, so you may still end up paying a little. But for a sit-down airport meal, it’s still a fantastic deal.

I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which came with a salad. The food was very good.

The view of the airport was nice as well.

The Timberline Grille Priority Pass credit can also be applied to drinks. It turned out that the sandwich and a glass of wine fell a few dollars short of the credit. My server still happily ran my card so I could tip her.

One note: I did find the Timberline Grille Denver Airport to be rather busy during my visit. I had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated. Luckily, I had a healthy connection and still wasn’t rushed. The wait might make stopping by a bit hard if you don’t have enough of a window of time to eat. I’m sure the fact that the Timberline Grille takes Priority Pass hasn’t helped the demand!

Conclusion

DEN doesn’t offer any other Priority Pass lounge access, but the Timberline Grille Denver Airport more than makes up for that. It’s a great place to stop for a meal if you’re passing through. And for mostly free. Which is obviously the best part. ūüôā

3 Reasons Why Hertz Is My Favorite Car Rental Company

I have a love/hate relationship with renting vehicles. On the one hand, I love driving various new models that I otherwise would never get to try. They are always a significant step up from our old van, and some have made for quite the comfortable ride to-and-from San Francisco. On the flip side, dealing with rental car agencies has been a pain at times, and I have yet to find a reliable way to consistently score free vehicle rentals like I can hotels and flights.

There is both freedom and risk when renting a car. Back in 2016, my wife and I too a trip to Colorado. We had no idea that a snowstorm was going to hit Denver and Colorado Springs¬†at the end of April. None. Zero. Didn’t cross my mind. Our Coloradan friends chuckled at us (I guess Colorado can throw snow at you pretty much any month of the year, depending on where you are in the state).

Here I was with a rental car booked for our trip, and some serious apprehension welling up inside me. I have very little experience driving in the snow, and the thought of driving an unfamiliar vehicle at night down a snowy freeway was a little unnerving.¬†Luckily everything turned out great that time. Experiences like this sometimes prompt me to make a¬†plan that relies completely on mass transit and/or Taxi/Uber rather than a rental car. However, I’ve gotten more and more savvy with car rental over the past couple years (SEE: 4 tips from my experience renting 4 cars in 4 days). These days I rent a lot.

When I do need to book a rental car, I nearly always look at Hertz first. They have become my favorite rental car company. Here are my top three reasons:

Yet to have a bad experience

Nearly every rental I’ve had with Hertz has been stellar.¬†They are in the top rental car companies by several sources, and one pegs them as¬†only second to Enterprise. I have had one shady incident with Enterprise, so they have a blemish. Honestly, the local Enterprise offers great service. But I still prefer Hertz if I have a choice.

The best feature of being a member of Hertz’s loyalty program is the expedited service at some airports. I love flying into San Francisco or Sacramento, taking the train/shuttle to the rental car center, and simply walking to my car. The stall or section will be right on the board, sometimes even on a sign right over the car. Talk about seamless. No waiting in line for ages or having an agent try to up-sell you. All they do is print your contract and check your license at the gate.

I’m hooked. If rates are comparable to other agencies, I always pick Hertz. With at least two dozen rentals under my belt with them, they have yet to let me down.

Partnership with United

Each rental can score you some serious United miles. I often take advantage of this for work rentals. You can actually earn United miles with several different companies, but the Hertz has been killer. Until recently, each rental of an intermediate car or larger would earn you 2,000 miles (now it must be over 2 days to qualify). It was supposed to be a limited-time promo, but it keeps getting extended.

You will earn even more if you have either the Chase United Explorer Visa or elite status with United. As a silver elite, I currently earn 2,250 miles per rental. The rates for the rentals are sometimes a few dollars higher, but most of the time it is worth the slight premium for the miles. And sometimes you luck out and the rates are cheaper than booking directly via Hertz.

Over the past couple years, I’ve probably earned over 25,000 United miles with this partnership from both work and personal rentals. There’s one guy who earned over a million miles this way. However, I’m less likely to use it as often in the future, as one-way rentals no longer earn the 2,000 miles. I’d now rather earn Hertz points.

As an example, when I initially checked Hertz through United for a trip this past spring, a three day rental cost $180, far more than the $99 rentals I was finding on Expedia with companies I had never heard of. By the day before the trip, however, I checked a final time, and intermediate size cars were pricing at $116. Much better. A total of $18 more for a more trusted company and extra miles. Easy choice. And work was paying, so it was a win no matter what.

The rewards program is very good

My main point of comparison is Enterprise, so maybe this colors my view. Enterprise’s rewards program is mediocre at best. I can see where National’s One-Two-Free promotion might be worth jumping on. But overall, I prefer Hertz.

An award redemption with Hertz often requires fewer points. You can find the chart here. I find that you also earn points on the entire charge, not just the base rental rate. I’ve had one-way Enterprise rentals earn me next to nothing since the base rate is low and most of the charge is a “drop fee”.

I’ve had two fantastic redemptions with Hertz. The first was for a one-way rental back home from Santa Rosa where I got 13 cents per point and paid a grand total of $2 in cash (SEE: Getting 13 cents per point on a car rental!). The second was a one-way rental to the Bay for a short getaway with one of my boys. The value there was even greater, at 21 cents per point!

Conclusion

All things considered, Hertz is my favorite car rental company.¬†I will freely admit, they are often priced above the competition. But when they’re competitive, they’re my go-to.

Luxembourg in 10 Photos

As I wrap up writing about our day and a half in this tiny country, I figured I’d let the highlights speak for themselves. Without words, that is. Enjoy.

3 Days in Paris: Day 3 – Savoring the City

After dragging ourselves through the exhaustion of our first day in the City of Light (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 1 – Surviving the Jetlag), followed by a very full day of seeing the main sights (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 2 – Hitting the Highlights), some extra sleep was called for to start off our third day.

Once the kids were up and ready, we had breakfast at Aux P√©ch√©s Normands for the third time. It was already becoming tradition. The little bakery is a two minute walk from our hotel and offers great pastries, plus fresh coffee and juice. Fueled for the morning, we headed back toward where we’d began our adventures two days ago.

Notre Dame de nouveau

Notre Dame cathedral was both the first and last stop on our first day in the city. We’d enjoyed the view of the famous church from the square in front, returning later to enjoy the view from the towers.

But we’d missed one important piece: seeing the inside of the cathedral. This was what we intended to rectify today.

We arrived at Place Jean-Paul II to what seemed like an enormous line in front of Notre Dame. It extended the length of the square, and then wrapped around back towards the front of the Gothic cathedral. There really wasn’t any alternative to get inside, so we just joined the lengthy queue.

The line moved surprisingly quickly, and we were actually inside in under 10 minutes. The inside of Our Lady of Paris is just as lovely as her exterior. I love wandering around old cathedrals. When my wife and I visited Europe in 2016, we went to cathedrals in Milan, Florence and Dublin.

We didn’t stay especially long, just enough to take in the stained glass and immense feel of the cathedral.¬†From Notre Dame we moved on to the other sights located on the¬†√éle de la Cit√©.

Conciergerie and Saint-Chappelle

A short walk later and we were standing at the entrance to Saint-Chappelle, a beautiful chapel with some of the most impressive stained glass I have ever seen. The chapel isn’t very large, but the ceilings are high and the color is mesmerizing.

Sainte-Chappelle is part of the Palais de la Cité, the residence of the kings of France for centuries. In many ways it is equally as impressive as Notre Dame.

The kids and I enjoyed the stained glass and wandering both the upper and lower levels of Sainte-Chappelle before moving on to the Conciergerie, located just another short walk away.

The Conciergerie is another part of the royal palace on the island in the middle of the Seine, albeit an infamous part of it. It served a number of functions after the French kings moved to the palace across the river, before becoming an infamous part of the French Revolution. Many prisoners were held here before being executed by guillotine, including Marie Antoinette.

I was surprised by how bare the interior is kept. There were a few areas where you could read about the history of the building, but other than that, you just got to wander the bare stone rooms. Bare, that is, except for a flume that is oddly constructed through the space and results in the waterfall you see outside between the towers.

I did my best to relay my limited knowledge of the French Revolution to the kids. They were fascinated by the story of Marie Antoinette, asking again and again why she was killed. The fact that the revolutionaries killed her unjustly, hating her for her wealth and power as one of the French royals, was hard for them to get their minds around.

Even as we left the Conciergerie, the kids continued to ask about Marie Antoinette and what happened during the revolution. I was glad for the moment I could teach them a small nugget of history, right in the place where it happened.

Lazily cruising the Seine

From the Conciergerie we continued our stroll along the √éle de la Cit√©, heading to the dock where one of the river cruise companies operates. Given how much we’d all been on our feet the previous day, I wanted to make sure we broke up our day a bit more with active versus passive activities. I made sure to plan a time where we could just sit and talk and take in Paris. A cruise on the Seine fit the bill perfectly.

The tour company we used was fine, but there is serious room for improvement. Given the price of Paris in general, I was going for cheap. I’m sure there are better companies out there. The main drawback was that the tour guide did little more than point out 8-10 places in very thickly accented English. I caught most of what she said, but the kids hardly understood anything.

But it was still enjoyable to watch the city drift by from the water. The cruise took us from the Île de la Cité to the Eiffel Tower and back again.

We also headed upriver briefly and passed by Notre Dame, which was a highlight from the water.

We also saw (purportedly) the smallest house in Paris.

It was a great way to kill and hour and still enjoy the city. I’d highly recommended adding a Seine cruise as part of your Paris itinerary.

A much needed rest

Even after sitting for an hour, the kids were still tired. Three days of walking and sightseeing was a lot for both of them. It was mid-afternoon, and I still wanted to take them to Champ de Mars that evening to see the Eiffel Tower again and basically saw our goodbyes to Paris.

The best course of action was to regroup at the hotel for a while. The kids spent some time watching cartoons while I closed my eyes and tried not to drift off to sleep. Which was hard. I don’t like taking down time and would rather stay out until I’m completely done for the day. But with the kids, I needed to break it up.

But we had to get moving soon before I just decided to stay put. Dinner. We needed dinner.

Au revoir, Tour Eiffel

We headed out after maybe an hour at the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique, and grabbed some more bread, cheese and lunchmeat at a local store. Dinner was on the cheap yet again. However, we splurged afterwards, buying eclairs at one of the top-rated bakeries in the city. It was the most utterly delectable cream-filled pastry I’d eaten in my entire life.

On our way to the Champ de Mars, I became concerned that we might get rained out. The weather didn’t look promising. Sure enough, as we exited the train station, a light rain was falling. Plenty of other people had umbrellas. We weren’t so prepared. Even living in Humboldt, I cannot remember the last time I used an umbrella out and about.

We decided to just make a go of it. Looking at the clouds, I didn’t expect the rain to get worse, and it certainly wasn’t cold. We would be fine. This turned out to be the right call, as the rain let up within 15 minutes.

We walked along the Champ de Mars, bidding the icon of Paris adieu. Just had to get the perfect photo of these two in front of it. We strolled along slowly, me taking it all in. The kids brought up the fact that I’d made them walk up hundreds of stairs to the top. I have no regrets of my decision.

On the other side of the tower we encountered “the bubble man”. He was in the business of providing enjoyment to at least a dozen kids at a time for a small sum from their parents’ pocket (voluntary, of course). The kids enjoyed jumping and chasing the bubbles immensely. The Eiffel Tower made for the perfect backdrop.

A carousel ride, the perfect Parisian ending

After that we crossed the Seine toward Trocadero once more. This time we weren’t in a hurry, having already accomplished the mission of the evening. The kids asked to ride the carousel, and I figured this was the last chance we’d have. Of course this one picked a plane instead of a horse.

From there we wandered over to a small park maybe 100 yards from the Trocadero fountains. To my surprise, there were a couple families with kids. Young kids. I’m always taken aback by how late Europeans are out each evening. It was definitely late for us. The kids should have already been in bed. But here we were, enjoying the park, as the hour hand crept past 9 o‚Äôclock.

We finally got back to the hotel around 10:00, and quickly to bed. We said goodbye to Paris the following day, which was bittersweet. A final visit to Luxembourg Gardens was all we were able to fit in. We’d had a ton of fun. But the adventure would continue in Luxembourg!

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