On the Fly: United Global First® to Kuwait City

I’m venturing to Kuwait for my first time, and what a better way to start the journey than with 12 hours in Global First® to KWI.

United service tends to always be first rate.  Departing from Washington Dulles, I spent a little time in the Lufthansa lounge (my personal favorite at IAD) before boarding direct to Kuwait City.

Aboard their Boeing 777, the service features:

  • Flat-bed seats that recline to a full 6-foot, 6-inch bed
  • Hot towel service
  • Customized dining experience with menus featuring appetizer, salad and choice of entrée, including local cuisine where available
  • On-demand programming with a 15.4-inch video monitor with more than 150 hours of programming on all 767 and 747 aircraft, and select 777 aircraft
  • Premier Access check-in, baggage handling, boarding, deplaning and security lanes (where available)
  • Access to United ClubSM and Star Alliance® member lounges

IMG_20150313_185204Ticketed and ready to jet!

IMG_20150313_214605Pre-departure bubbly.

IMG_20150313_220138Complimentary Global First amenity kit featuring premium skin care products.

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Appetizer of tempura shrimp.

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A delicious mushroom soup.

IMG_20150313_235116Salad with vinaigrette.

IMG_20150314_000205  Fillet of Turbot with creamy lobster sauce, zucchini, carrots, and spinach.

IMG_20150314_001700The always tasty and ever-glutenous United premium sundae.

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Complimentary Turn-down service with sleeping cushion.

IMG_20150314_091348Breakfast of cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

I’ll have more detail on Kuwait City and beyond coming up.  In the meantime, you can follow us on Instagram @LeapForwardTravel.

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United Clubs to get new food, renovations, service

United Airlines has embarked on overhaul of their United Clubs with a new complimentary food menu launching this week, extensive club renovations, and a hospitality-focused approach to customer service.

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“We’re making major changes in our United Clubs to give our customers the elevated, hospitality-centric service and experience they deserve and expect. This year will be transformational,” said Customer Experience VP Jimmy Samartzis. “These upgrades at our 49 clubs worldwide will give our customers an airport getaway for relaxing or being productive during the hustle and bustle of their travel day.”

The new complimentary food menu is focused on freshness, variety and quality and replaces all current food offerings. The new items will be available at United Clubs at ORD beginning this week; at IAH, DEN, EWR, LAX, SFO and IAD by the end of summer; and at all other United Clubs worldwide by the end of the year.

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United Clubs (and their partner lounges) are some of my favorites when traveling domestically or internationally.  I access the club with my United MileagePlus® Club Card.  The card also comes with Premier Access® benefits, including:

  • Premier Access® check-in: designated airport check-in lines
  • Premier Access security lane: exclusive security lanes
  • Premier Access priority boarding: among the first customers to board
  • Premier Access priority baggage handling: among the first bags to be delivered

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Benefits and Travel Perks with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

Hands down, one of our favorite travel points credit cards is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.  This card is loaded with benefits, including a 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit!  Other perks include:

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR currently 14.99% or 18.99%, depending on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases – Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Chip card for increased confidence and convenience to pay abroad as easily as you do at home
  • Redeem your miles for travel statement credits – redemptions start at 2,500 miles for $25 toward travel purchases made in the last 120 days
  • Get 10% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score access for Barclaycard Arrival cardmembers

Okay, so you get the card, meet the minimum spend, and are ready to travel…  Then what?  Luckily the video provided below details just how easy it is to claim your free travel.  Remember that first you’ll need to actually purchase the flight on your card and let it clear before you can redeem the points.

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Frigid Weather. Time to Cruise?

Having just returned from Germany, today I woke up to nearly five inches of snow covering the streets of Washington D.C. While the photos look nice, it’s not expected to make it much above above freezing for the next week!

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So it gets me to thinking about an amazing cruise I took several years ago aboard the Carnival Fascination.  If you’ve never been on a cruise, there is an endless supply of entertainment, food, scenic views, and of course temperatures above 80 degrees!

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Couch Surfing: Another Way to Travel the Globe for Free

Making travel accessible. That is one of the major pillars under which Leap Forward Travel was founded. While you’ll often see us writing from and posting photos of some of the most amazing hotel properties in the world (including my favorite, the Conrad Rangali in the Maldives), it’s best to have an array of options in your arsenal if you truly want to explore the world on a shoestring budget. Enter Couch Surfing.

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With Couchsurfing.com, you can stay with locals in every country on earth. Travel like a local, stay in someone’s home and experience the world in a way money can’t buy.  Sure the idea of staying for the night in someone’s home has been around for a long time, but harnessing the power of a great Web site to tie together people from all over the world has made this concept an even easier and smarter resource. Throughout our travels in New Zealand, Jordon and I used the Couch Surfing portal to stay with four hosts over the course of four nightsand each with great success.

Couch Surfing is a bit like combining Amazon and Priceline.com, while also adding in a heaping scoop of Southern hospitality. The tool links together eager travelers looking to meet and stay with selfless hosts, all in exchange for for a good conversation about life and travel adventures. Through these matches, it’s not uncommon for perfect strangers to become lifelong friends.

The concept is easy: Write a profile, conduct a search of the area in which you want to stay, contact a host, and stay a night (or more). But there is an element of protocol in order for your request to be a success.

Mike’s Couch Surfing Rules:

  • Write a well thought-out and honest profile. Couch Surfing takes you through the process.
  • When searching for a place to stay, always do your research on a host’s interests and write a personalized request to them. (This is called “doing your homework,” and it’s important to both parties.)
  • Try to make the arrangement as far in advance as possible. (At least a week or two, if not months.) It’s not about just trying to get a free room last-minute; it’s about forming a connection between people.
  • Definitely communicate in advance of arrival. A follow-up message the day before is always best.
  • Always be polite, courteous, and considerate of your hosts, even if conditions aren’t ideal.
  • Be safe! The online rating of both hosts and guests serves as an excellent measure of past experiences. But always stay aware and follow safety best practices as noted on Couch Surfing’s site.
  • Always follow-up with a nice note to your hosts. An email is great, but a personalized thank-you card is even better.
  • Write a positive review after you’ve had a great experience. Your hosts will really appreciate it!

As a general practice, I always offer to take my hosts out to dinner. The cost of the meal is a fraction of what I would be paying if I stayed at a hotel, and it’s a gesture that really shows appreciation for the time and resources of your host. Besides, you’ll likely get a great conversation about the area in which you’re staying, smart local advice, and an exchange of ideas about traveling the globe that could forever change your life.

In terms of expectations, accommodations range from a private home with a butler and a dedicated room, to a basement full of a dozen other travelers lined up on the floor like sardines. In most cases, though, it’s generally somewhere in between. For the most part, you’ll be able to communicate with a host in advance to see if what they have available is what would be amenable to you.

While a few take for granted the generosity of hosts, the couch surfing community is really about meeting new friends and exchanging ideas about travel. Sure, it’s a free or cheap place to stay, but the opportunity to really engage with people of different locals and cultures is quite possibly the most important reason to travel in the first place. But yeah… for those on a shoestring budget, the price is just right!

The final thought is about reciprocity. The system works because of the graciousness and hospitality of some amazing people. No doubt it has to seem a bit odd at first to open your home to someone you maybe never met. But if the circular giving is to continue, there must always be someone to have a couch or a spare bedroom to lend—even if only once and a while. Hopefully as a traveler, you will one day have the opportunity to experience the couch surfing life, only to find a richness that comes with inviting others to stay in your own home.

While I still love traveling and staying at fabulous properties around the globe, and do it mostly by amassing points through credit card promotions and sign-up bonuses, there is a special place for couch surfing; and Couchsurfing.com facilitates it. I encourage you to consider including it in your portfolio of options as a means of making travel more enriching and accessible.

And to our past couch surfing hosts and now new friends, thank-you for inviting us into your homes. Each was a special and memorable experience, and I’ll always cherish the time we spent.

Hopefully by now that thank-you card has arrived.

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Bhutan

Since reading Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss, I have been captivated with the idea of visiting Bhutan.  This mystical, magical, and elusive country slightly east of Nepal, and bordered by India and China, seems like the last place one would go to seek out happiness.  Yet as a matter of public policy, it is the only country that I am aware of that has a ministry of happiness; and seeks to measure the net worth of the nation not through gross domestic product, but through a measure of GNH.  (Yep, thats Gross National Happiness.)

But is all well in Shangria-la? (Bhutan’s ‘gross national happiness’ masks problems, says new prime minister)  We have just completed our travels there and will be writing our experience soon.  Check back soon for our trip report.  In the meantime, why don’t you visit our Travel Tracking Map at http://leapforwardtravel.com/atw2014.

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