Tag Archives: Stockholm

Our Year in Travel, 2013

Yes, I realize it’s a little late to be looking back at 2013, but I’m a procrastinator, so this is how I roll.  Better late than never, right?

64,373 miles.  That’s the number of miles I flew last year (Dawn’s number is a bit less thanks to my extra trip back to the States).  I’m a numbers and a list kind of guy, so it’s probably no surprise that I know how many miles I flew.  Granted, the only reason I know that number is thanks to Tripit (for keeping track of all my flights throughout the year) and OpenFlights.org (for taking all of my TripIt data and sorting it out).  Half of those miles (right at 32,000 actually) came from my Thanksgiving and Christmas flights back to the States, and another 8,000 miles came from the flights I took to move to Doha.  With only a solitary work trip from Kansas City to Minneapolis and back (about 800 miles), that leaves me with about 23,000 miles that I flew for ‘fun’.  Even without all of those flights back and forth to the States, that is a pretty decent amount of flying.  I’d love to bump that number up even farther this year, but I don’t really see that happening.  Two and a half trips back to the States is some pretty serious mileage, and I don’t foresee that many trips back to the States this year.  Even if I was to make that RTW flight in business class that I want to take at some point happen in 2014 I still don’t think I’d get up to 64k  again.  It’s amazing to think that there are business flyers that put in over 100,000 BIS (butt in seat) miles a year, year after year.  Even I might get a little sick of flying at that rate.  Well, maybe, maybe not.

Ok, enough boring you with the numbers.  Let’s take a look at where we went.

My US routes courtesy of openflights.org

My North American routes courtesy of openflights.org

Prior to moving to Doha, Dawn and I got in some really great weekend trips.  The first trip of the year was a single day turnaround in January to meet up with some friends for shopping on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.  It was the first time I’ve ever flown in and out of my destination on the same day.  To be honest, it was a little ridiculous, but when it comes to flying and trips, the more ridiculous, the better in my opinion (typically not Dawn’s opinion, although, in this particular case she was completely on board due to the friends we were visiting).  The fact that the flights were free (maybe $10 each in fees) thanks to my British Avios stash made it completely worthwhile.

Our second trip of the year was a long weekend to San Antonio.  Neither Dawn nor I had been to San Antonio before, and it just seems like everyone should see the Alamo at some point in their life.  The Alamo was pretty commercialized, but we did really enjoy visiting the other forts in the area.  Flights were courtesy of my Southwest Airlines credit card sign up bonuses and the Southwest Companion Pass that I had earned in early 2012.  Thanks to SPG points we stayed on the Riverwalk at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel for free.  The property was beautiful, the location was perfect, and we even got upgraded to the lounge floor where we had access to free breakfast, snacks, and drinks thanks to the $20 trick.  Money well spent.

In March we took a pilgrimage down to Florida to enjoy the warm(er) weather, outlet shopping, and, of course, spring training.  We planned this trip as our delayed Valentine’s Day present to each other.  We much prefer travel experiences to gifts, and this trip was a lot of fun.  We only saw two spring training games – Rays vs. Orioles in Port Charlotte and Phillies vs. Blue Jays in Clearwater – but it was a very relaxing trip knowing that I was about to move to Doha in a few short weeks.  Thanks to a blog giveaway I won, we stayed one free night at the Westin Tampa Bay.  We stayed the other 2 nights in a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Brandon, Florida that was somewhat convenient to the ball parks.  While I love staying in luxury hotels on points, I’m a sucker for a deal.  And, at 7,500 Marriott points/night, that was too good of a deal to pass up.  My Southwest Rapid Rewards account and the companion pass picked up the flights again.

It doesn’t get much better than hot dogs and baseball.

Just before moving to Doha, we flew to Indianapolis for Dawn’s brother’s wedding.  The wedding was a lot of fun, and it was great to spend some time with family right before my flight overseas.  Once again Southwest took care of our flights, and I think we stayed at a Comfort Inn.  I can’t remember if we used points or paid cash, but I know we chose it due to convenience as it was close and some family and friends were staying there.

Looking back, it’s pretty amazing how much traveling we did in the first three months of the year, and it’s even more amazing that we didn’t pay cash for any of the flights, and we only paid for two of our eight hotel nights on those trips.  Certainly, there were airline taxes ($5-$10/each per flight), rental car expenses, meals, and other miscellaneous costs, but if you’re not paying for flights or hotels, traveling really isn’t that much more expensive than staying home.

My Europe, Asia, and Africa routes courtesy of OpenFlights.org

My Europe, Asia, and Africa routes courtesy of OpenFlights.org

While I mentioned the majority of my traveling (at least in terms of mileage flown) was done on my flights back and forth to the States, Dawn and I did a decent amount of exploring this half of the world as well.  While I’ll always think we should be traveling more (I’ll probably never be satisfied unless we’re traveling full time), we were able to visit quite a variety of different places.

I stayed in Doha for four months straight before traveling, and I’m really hoping that’s my longest streak of not leaving Qatar.  While Greece in July was Dawn’s first trip from Doha, my first trip wasn’t until we headed to Scandinavia in August.  It was just what I needed as it was cool, green, and the exact opposite of Doha in the summer.  While I posted about our 24 hours in Copenhagen, I had hoped to eventually catch up with posts on both Stockholm and our Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Getting back to it will take a little extra motivation as we lost almost all of our pictures from that trip due to an external hard drive failure.  The fjords of Norway were certainly the highlight of that trip, but I really enjoyed our short time in Copenhagen more than I expected.  We didn’t stay in any hotel more than two nights as our trip consisted of six different hotel stays in nine days.  It was quite a fast paced trip, but I was pretty excited about how much we got to see.  Thanks to a combination of Club Carlson points, Hilton points, and a certificate for a free Marriott night we only paid cash for half a night (using Hilton cash and points in Denmark) out of our nine hotel nights.  Flights were bought with cash.

Preikestolen

Yeah, that’s us with our arms up in the air on Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) 1982 feet above Lysefjord below.

In October my parents and aunt headed over to visit for a few weeks before we all headed to Kenya for our nine day African safari.  Traveling to my seventh continent with my dad was a pretty cool experience, and it was even better that most of the family was there to enjoy the trip with us.  The camps were crazy luxurious, and seeing the sheer quantity and variety of animals in their own environment was an experience that I won’t ever forget.  Africa is high on the revisit list as Victoria Falls and Cape Town are both calling my name.  All lodging and flights were paid with cash (thanks, Dad).

Lake Nakuru National Park

The whole country was this beautiful.

You can’t live in the Middle East without visiting Dubai.  It’s a world renowned city, and as it’s only a 50 minute flight away it was a no-brainer for a short weekend trip.  We spent two days and a single night there, and I actually enjoyed the city a lot more than I thought I would.  The highlight for me, of course, was getting to visit the observation deck of the tallest building in the world (for now at least), the Burj Khalifa.  It’s amazing what men can build these days, and I thoroughly enjoyed the videos and exhibits on the design and construction process.  Watching people snow ski in a mall in the middle of the desert is so ridiculous that it was quite entertaining.  For our one night in the city we stayed at the newly opened Conrad Dubai, a beautiful hotel right on the main street of Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road.  As this hotel typically runs for about $300/night we burned one of our Hilton weekend night certificates.  As it was my first stay at a Conrad I had pretty high expectations that weren’t quite met.  It might have been that it had only been opened a few months or maybe my expectations were too high for this particular property.  I’m glad I only used one of our weekend certificates on this hotel.  Again, our pictures from Dubai were a victim of the fried hard drive, so most likely no post on our short stay.

The weekend after Dubai we took a 4 day trip to Cambodia and fell in love with Southeast Asia.  Beautiful countryside, kind people, and cheap food and lodging.  Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and we were able to spend 3 days visiting the temples all around Siem Reap.  Our final day was spent visiting a floating village far away from city life.  A post to come on that incredible trip in the future.

Angkor Wat

Exploring Angkor Wat

Dawn headed back to the States for the holidays the weekend after we got back from Cambodia.  I joined her the following weekend on my Thanksgiving pseudo mileage run and actually didn’t hate myself afterward for booking such a short trip.  As much as I tried to plan a quick solo trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas while Dawn was in the States it just didn’t happen.  Working six days a week makes it difficult to take weekend trips.  I rejoined Dawn back in the States for 10 days over Christmas.  Doing nothing but relaxing at my parents house for the majority of the trip was just what I needed.

It was an incredible year in travel for both of us, and I’m hoping 2014 brings more of the same.  We’ve already got a couple of big trips lined up for January and February, and I hope to share those with you soon.

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A Scandinavian Escape

I’ve been in Doha for 4 months and 2 days.  Straight.  124 days.  That’s a very long time.  Especially for Doha.  That’s roughly 3 months longer than I’d like to stay in the country at any one time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love living here.  It’s an incredible opportunity, but sometimes you just need a break.  Working six days a week is wearing me out, and I’m ready for a change in scenery.  It’s about time to get out of this country.  Go see something green.  Maybe even catch a cloud or two.

Olden fjord, Norway

Olden fjord, Norway by Kenny Muir, on Flickr

With Eid Al-Fitr (the Islamic holiday to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan) coming up the office is closed for a few days.  Combine that with a couple of weekends and a few days of vacation and I had myself a 9 day trip to plan.  Before moving over here, Dawn and I came up with quite a list of must see places that we wanted to visit during our time here.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to see them all, but we tried to prioritize them as best we could.  Thailand, Jordan, Cambodia.  All very high on the list.  Sometimes the best laid plans are thrown out.  Those places all have something in common.  They’re all ridiculously hot.  Yeah, maybe they’re not Doha hot, but while I’m in Doha I’m sitting in an air conditioned office, car, or apartment for most of the day while it’s 110ºF outside.  I’m not out trekking around visiting temples and ancient ruins.  That did not seem like a good idea at this time of the year.

It turns out Scandinavia can be quite green this time of year, and I think they even have clouds.  More importantly, though, it has highs in the 60’s and low 70’s.  Exactly what we need.  Scandinavia wasn’t really on our radar as far as places to visit, but after talking with a coworker, I remembered that Dawn had mentioned that she’d like to visit those northern countries.  I started looking at flights, and all of a sudden I had a pretty nice looking itinerary.  

I have read quite a bit about how everyone loves Stockholm, and the fjords in Norway are not to be missed.  So, Oslo and Stockholm were definites, and I figured if I’m going to be close, why not try to work in Copenhagen as well.  I may be (I know I am) cramming in too much into a 9 day trip, but if I’m shooting for that Traveler’s Century Club membership I need to visit as many countries as possible.  Actually, as I was searching for flights I looked into  flying into both Copenhagen and Stockholm, and out of Oslo.  And the other way around.  And probably a few more iterations in there as well.  I love searching for flights.  It’s odd, I know, but I enjoy it.  Anyway, for the flights and times I wanted it was actually cheaper to fly into Copenhagen for a little over 30 hours and add the one way from Copenhagen to Stockholm than it was just to fly straight to Stockholm.  Of course then we had to add in our flight from Stockholm to Norway (we ended up with a flight to Stavanger), and then we had our return flight from Oslo to Doha.  Our flights look like this:

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger; Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger (via Oslo); Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

As I mentioned, we only have about a day and a half in Copenhagen, three days in Stockholm, and four and a half days spread out in Norway between Stavanger, Bergen, and Oslo.  It was really tough divvying up only 9 days between the three countries, but I’m looking forward to getting at least a little taste of each country.  Over my years of travel I’ve determined I really enjoy visiting the rural parts of a country over their cities, even while I tend to prefer to live in cities.  My wife certainly prefers the time spent in nature over cities as well.  I think that our Norway in a Nutshell tour of the mountains and fjords of Norway will be the highlight of our trip, and so I’m glad that it’s last on our itinerary (except for Oslo of course).  From the little reading I’ve done on Copenhagen, I have a feeling that there will be a lot we’ll miss out on having such a short time there, but the great thing about major international cities (especially in Europe) is they’re pretty easy to get to.  I hope that three days in Stockholm will be enough, at least for a trip of this length.  We don’t have a lot planned for much of the trip as of yet except for the Norway in a Nutshell tour, but I’m hoping that will change by the time we head to the airport on Friday morning.

No matter what we end up doing and seeing, it’ll just be great to get out of the heat for a few days and experience another part of the world.

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