Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Photo of the week: Happy Easter Island

Easter island was first discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday 1722. Of course the island was discovered long before that by the seafaring people of the South Pacific who named it Rapa Nui. A unique culture arose in conditions of extreme isolation. The moais pictured here are the most famous and mysterious surviving example of this early culture. I will post more about my visit to Easter island as soon as I get a chance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hotel Status Matches

Hotel status matches are a great way to leverage status with one hotel chain into status with another.  Status matches generally take one of two forms.  Some chains offer you a trial period or a "challenge" where you have a certain amount of time to try out their status.  Often they can be obtained simply by emailing and asking.  You will often be asked to send a screen shot of your account summaries.  It is helpful if you actually have some stays with the chain that you are asking them to match, however you might be able bypass this at the beginning of the year when every ones year to date stays are at 0.

Hilton Gold to Hyatt Diamond Trial

Email and ask about the Diamond Trial.
Here's the reply I got:

Dear Mr. XXXX:
Thank you for contacting Hyatt Gold Passport Customer Service. I
appreciate the opportunity to assist you.
Regarding your inquiry, currently a Diamond Trial Offer is available.
You will receive trial Diamond membership for 60 days with proof of top
tier status with one of our competitor programs.  However, you must
complete 12 nights in 60 days to maintain Diamond membership through
February of 2014.  You will also receive 1000 bonus points on your first
six eligible nights within 60 days, up to a maximum of 6000 bonus
points. Please be aware that the earning period for the promotion begins
at the time of enrollment.
Please note the list of competitors that Hyatt Gold Passport will match:
Hilton Gold VIP or Hilton Diamond VIP
Marriott Gold or Marriott Platinum
Starwood Platinum Preferred Guest
Priority Club Platinum
Please email or mail a statement of your membership activity with a
competitor to us for processing at:
PO Box 27089
Omaha, NE 68127-0089

To find more details on our exclusive Diamond membership, please visit
us online at:
I appreciate your support of Hyatt and the Gold Passport program. Please
let me know if I may assist you further.

SPG Gold to Priority Club Gold

Email and ask about status match.
Here's the Reply:

Dear Mr. XXX,
Thank you for contacting Priority Club Rewards regarding your account. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you with your concerns.  We are pleased you have chosen Priority Club Rewards and would like to match the status of your Starwood Preferred Guest account. In order for us to make this change, however, we need you to send us the most recent Starwood Preferred Guest statement reflecting the current status of your account.  You may reply to this email with a scanned image of your statement or fax it to our service center using the appropriate number for your region found here. You may also mail this information to:
 Priority Club
PO Box 30320
Salt Lake City, UT 84130
Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you and being of further assistance.

Hilton Gold to Club Carlson Silver

Email and ask about status match.
Here is the Reply I got:

Dear Dr. XXXX,
You may copy your statement from Hilton and attach the statement into
the body of an email or fax the attachment to 402-501-9166 and we will
respond to you promptly.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to assist you.

Hyatt Diamond to Kimpton Inner Circle

Email, ask about status match. 
This is the reply that I got:

Hello Mr. XXXX,
Thank you for your email request to gain status match with Kimpton's Inner Circle level.
We would love to welcome you to Elite Status. In order to process your request, would you be able to send a copy of your status with any of the rewards programs as we will match any status that is Platinum or Diamond equivalent? Please join our Kimpton InTouch membership program. I would also need your Kimpton InTouch membership number.
Upon receipt we will have your status updated and you can begin to enjoy the additional benefits that come with our Elite status level.

Accor Platinum to Best Western Diamond.

Best western matches almost anyones status.  All they ask for is a copy of your membership card.  There is also a form that you need to fill out.  That form can be found Here.

Marriott Platinum Trial

Marriott offers a trial status of their top tier status.  You can ask for it by calling 1-801-468-4000.  They might try to push you to a gold trial, but if you are persistent you can generally get the Platinum one.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deep Vein Thrombosis - How flying coach could literally kill you

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT for short refers to a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs (or less commonly arms).  This disease has also been called "Economy Class Syndrome" because of its propensity to occur when people sit in cramped spaces for an extended period of time without moving around.  Symptoms of DVT include pain, swelling and redness in the leg.   

To understand how DVT relates to travel one must first understand how blood circulates in the body.  Blood in our arteries moves away from the heart to the rest of the body and is propelled by the force of our heart beating.  Blood in our veins on the other hand drains back towards our heart.  The force of our heart contracting does not affect the movement of blood in our veins.  Instead the venous blood is propelled by the surrounding muscles contracting and squeezing against the vessel walls.  There are one-way valves in our veins which prevent the back flow of blood.  When we sit in one place for an extended period of time, our muscles are not contracting and the blood in our veins does not circulate.  Blood staying in the same place for an extended period of time is called venous stasis.  This blood has a greater tendency to form clots than blood that is circulating. 

A blood clot in the leg however is not where the real concern about DVT arises.  The reason why DVT is a potentially life threatening condition is because the blood clots (thromboses) in the legs can break off or dislodge and travel to the lungs.  Once in the lungs the clot is called a Pulmonary Embolism or PE.  If a PE is large enough death could result while smaller PEs may only present with shortness of breath or rapid heart rate.  DVTs are diagnosed with an ultrasound of the legs which looks at blood flow and PE is diagnosed by a CT of the chest which looks at blood flow in the pulmonary arteries.  Both DVT and PE are treated with blood thinners such as coumadin (warfarin) or heparin.

There are several things that you can do to help prevent DVT.  If you find yourself in a cramped seat in coach on a nonstop flight to Asia (or any other similar situation) it is important that you periodically get up and move around.  You can also do calf raises and stretches while in your seat.  The goal is to get your muscles contracting and your blood flowing. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed above represent my personal opinion, they are not intended to be taken as medical advice and should not replace a visit to your primary care doctor. While DVT is a serious condition, it is uncommon in otherwise healthy people and should not stop you from enjoying your next great adventure!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Travel Medicine

As both a doctor and a traveler, my hope is that this is a topic where i can distinguish my blog from the multitude of other travel sites out there.  I have to admit that I would much rather write about travel than medicine so these posts might not come with the same regularity as my other posts.  Below is a short list of topics I hope to cover in the near future.  If there is anything else you would like me to discuss, please leave a comment.

-Deep vein thrombosis - aka Economy Class Syndrome
-Altitude sickness
-Motion sickness
-Tips for jet lag
-Travelers diarrhea
-Scuba diving injuries
-Pre-trip medical screening
-Medical help abroad
-Cruise ship medicine
-Wilderness medicine topics

*Please remember that any medical topics discussed here represent my own personal views.  They are not to be taken as medical advice and should not replace a visit to, or the advice of your primary care doctor.

Trip Overview: Paris and Brussels


Round trip flights and 7 nights hotel for $296 per person

My girlfriend and I flew economy from Philadelphia to Paris on USair, stayed 1 night in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, stayed 4 nights in a suite at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome with free breakfast daily, took a bus from Paris to Brussels, and stayed 2 nights at the Novotel Brussels off Grand Place.  We then flew home on USair from Brussels.

For our flights we used miles from our credit card sign up bonus.  Off peak round trip flights to Europe can be had for 35,000 miles.  In addition, if you have the us air MasterCard you get a 5,000 mile discount on award flights.

For the 4 nights at the Park Hyatt we used free nights from our credit card sign up bonus.

For the other nights we took advantage of a 50% off promotion that Accor Hotels was running

Pre trip prep/ What you need:

Before this trip I signed up for the USair MasterCard which gave me 40,000 frequent flyer miles. 
I also signed up for the Hyatt visa credit card which gives you 2 free nights in any Hyatt in the world.
For the Novotel bookings i took advantage of a 50% off sale.
I had also emailed Hyatt to ask for a "Diamond Challenge" using my Hilton Gold status.  This meant that our free nights would be in a suite and that we would get free breakfast daily.

Total cost per person (transportation and hotel):

Flights:                 Free + $130 in taxes and fees
Reims hotel (1nt):             $32
Train in France:                 $56
Paris hotel (4nts):             Free
Bus to Brussels:                $8
Brussels Hotel (2nts)        $69

From the top of Notre Dame

The Louvre


Le Grand Place, Brussels

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Photo of the week

 Although it might officially be spring, winter isn't quite over yet here in the north east.  I figured I could get away with posting a snowy picture at least for one more week.  I shot this out the side of a train in Southern Bavaria on my way from Munich to Fussen. 

While my blog is still in its infancy, I noticed that I have been getting quite a few views from Germany.  I picked this picture this week to say thanks for checking out my blog out and hopefully you enjoy what you see and read.

20,000 Bonus American Airlines Miles

Fly a transatlantic flight on American Airlines, British Airways or Iberia now through May 31st and earn 20000 bonus miles

Register Here


Participating Airline:
American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, OpenSkies

Bonus Miles

The More You Fly. The More You Earn.
Earn American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles every time you fly round-trip between the U.S., Canada, or Mexico and Europe on First Class, Business Class or select Economy Class fares* on American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia or OpenSkies.

Number of Round-TripsBonus Miles for Round-Trip Travel
Each Round-Trip20,000 bonus miles
On Your Fifth Round-Trip100,000 additional bonus miles

You will earn 20,000 bonus miles for each eligible round-trip flown during the offer period. Plus, on your fifth round-trip, you will earn an additional 100,000 bonus miles. There's no limit to how many bonus miles you can earn. With four airlines participating in this promotion, you'll have even more opportunities to earn bonus miles.
Offer Dates:
March 18, 2013, through May 31, 2013

Promotion Code:

Sites I Like

The following is a collection of links that I find particularly helpful when searching for travel deals:

Flight Tools:

ITA software - the best and most powerful flight search engine
Kayak Explore - visualization of flight prices from a given airport

General interest websites/Forums: - Great up to date information on all topics related to travel.  Mostly caters to frequent travelers but great deals on flights and hotels as well as the latest frequent flyer and hotel program information.  See MilesBuzz! for credit card sign ups and bonus point opportunities, Hotel deals and Mileage run deals for bargains on hotels and flights respectively. - More of the same


View From the Wing

Million Mile Secrets

Frugal Travel Guy

The Points Guy

Mommy Points

Loyalty Traveler

One Mile at a Time

Free Elite Status at Langham Hotels

Below is a link for free Voyager (mid tier) elite status at Langham Hotels 1865.  This offer is targeted to holders of a visa infinite card, however only a portion of the credit card number is required to sign up.  A quick google search provided me with some numbers which worked just fine.

Langham is a smaller hotel chain which is more on the upscale end of the spectrum.  They currently have hotels in Boston and L.A. and are opening ones in Chicago and NYC this year.  They have a strong presence in China. 

While you may never stay at one of these hotels, having status with a hotel chain is important because you may be able to leverage it into status with other chains.  Best Western for example will match just about any other hotel chain:  Several other hotel chains will also do status matches.

Here are the perks of Voyager status:

Reims: Champagne Side Trip From Paris

Reims is the capital of the Champagne region of France, a short 45 minute train ride from Paris.  Aside from being the epicenter of the world of "bubbly", Reims also houses a spectacular cathedral which rivals the best in europe. This cathedral is also the de facto coronation site for French monarchs, making it equivalent to the French version of Westminster Abbey.

Our short stay in Reims started out very groggily. We had taken a train directly from CDG airport after our transatlantic flight. After checking into our hotel we fought off the urges to take a nap and headed out to explore the city. We had added Reims on as a last minute addition to our trip to Paris so we hadn't done a lot of pre trip research.  Our first day we simply walked around with no real destination in mind.  It is an easily walkable city.  We passed the site where the treaty ending World War II was signed, saw the cathedral and then got thirsty. 

Along our stroll, we stoped at 3 champagne houses: Pommery, Demoiselle-Vranken, and G.H. Martel.  Pommery seemed very commercial and the tour did not fit into our schedule.  We looked around for a little while then headed across the street to their sister house Demoiselle-Vranken.  Here we had a tasting of 2 different Champagnes a Bruit and a Demi-sec.  Both were very good and I thought the Brut was the best that I had during the trip.  The prices at the house were actually pretty reasonable (6euro a glass) and bottles were near what one would pay in a grocery store (16-25euro a bottle).  We ended our day at G.H Martel where we took a tour of the cellars.  The tour was very informative however the production of this champagne has since moved off site so the cellars had only a few older pieces of equipment in them.  This tour ended with a tasting of 4 different champagnes including a vintage bottle.  For the admission price (about 12 euro) this was a good deal. 

I would certainly recommend a cellar visit for anyone who comes to reims.  These cellars were carved out of chalk and some of them date back to roman times when the chalk was used to make cement.  The cellars aren't the only roman ruins in Reims.  There is also a Roman gate and a very nice museum at the Saint-Remi Abbey.  This museum housed several local roman artifacts. 

There are a total of 3 UNESCO world heritage sites in this compact city (Reims Cathedral, Palace of Tau and St Remi Abbey).  Those alone would make it a worthy visit.  Mix in a few glasses of champagne with all that history and you have an enjoyable and convenient side trip from Paris.

Reims Cathedral (see pedestrian for scale)

Tattinger Champagne House

Vranken Pommery Champagne House

Demoiselle Vranken Cellar

G.H. Martel Cellars

G.H. Martel Cellar

Cathedral Interior

Roman Ruins

Inside the cathedral at night

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hilton bonus points

Just got this email today about the Daily Grand promotion from Hilton Hhonors. Pretty self explanatory: 1,000 bonus points per night for weeknights and 2,000 points per night for weekend stays.  Looks like it might be targeted to elite members (I'm Gold).  Seems like a pretty good deal if you have a stay already planned but isn't something that I'm going to go out of my way to use.  There appears to be no limit to the number of points you can earn.

I believe that this is a preview of a promotion that will soon be available to everyone regardless of status.

Here's the fine print:
Offer valid for eligible stays completed between April 1 and June 30, 2013 ("Promotion Period") at any participating hotel in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio. Hilton HHonors™ members must first register at prior to check-out of their first stay within the Promotion Period. Registered HHonors members will receive Bonus Points only for nights completed during the Promotion Period, regardless of a check-in date before the Promotion Period begins or a check-out date after the Promotion Period ends. Registered HHonors members will earn 1,000 Bonus Points for each week night of their stay during the Promotion Period and 2,000 Bonus Points for each weekend night of their stay during the Promotion Period. For the purpose of this offer, “weekend night” is defined as Friday, Saturday, or Sunday for all regions except for hotels within the Middle East and Africa where “weekend night” is defined as Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. There is no limit to the total amount of Bonus Points earned during the Promotion Period. Bonus Points earned on Base Points do not count toward tier qualification. Please allow six to eight weeks from completion of your stay for points to appear in your HHonors account. Offer is not transferable and cannot be combined with other select offers.

Club Carlson Credit Card

The club Carlson visa card link here is currently offering the following offer:

-85,000 points with $2500 spend in the first 90 days
-5 points per dollar anywhere, 10pts at hotels
-Club Carlson gold status
-Free bonus night on redemptions of 2 or more nights.

*There is a 75$ annual fee.

I personally think that this is a great offer, especially because of the free bonus night with redemptions of 2 nights or more.  When booking 2 night award stays you are only charged points for one night.  Basically what this means is that you can stay 2 nights at a top tier category 6 hotel for only 25,000 pts a night.  On the lower end of the spectrum you can stay 2 nights at a category 1 for only 4500 a night.  After meeting the required minimum spend you would have 97,500 points total.  You could possibly work that into 21 free nights at a category 1 hotel.  By doing a little math its not hard to see that this card can go a long way if you mostly make 2 night stays.  On top of the free nights you also get gold status which means the possibility of room upgrades.

Club Carlson includes Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inn and Suites.  They have a good presence in Europe so if you have a trip planned in the near future i would suggest you and your travel partner signing up for this card.  You could then stay 2 nights under each of your names at a given hotel for 4 nights total.

The one catch with the 2 for 1 redemption is that you cant redeem it more than once at the same hotel.

Points needed for an Award Night (Standard Room)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Photo of the Week - Happy St. Patrick's Day

In Honor of St. Patrick's Day here is a photo that I shot on Achill Island, County Mayo.  Co. Mayo is located on Ireland's west coast, just above Galway.  Achill is connected to the mainland via a bridge and is one of the more traditional areas of Ireland.  This area of ireland is part of the "Gaeltacht" which means that some of the population here still speaks the Irish language.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

Ok so here's the deal.  The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome is a 5 star luxury hotel with one of the best locations in Paris.  Standard rooms run about 600-800 euro or $800-$1000.  The room I stayed in was a Park suite which sells for well over $1000 a night.  I got this room for free as part of my Chase Hyatt Visa signup bonus.  I had done a "Diamond Trial" prior to signing up for the card so my nights were in a suite.  My significant other also signed up for the card so we got 4 nights total.  Also as part of my diamond benefits, a breakfast buffet was included daily.

Upon arrival we were greeted at the door and our luggage was whisked away.  We then proceeded to the check in desk where we were told we would be in a suite all 4 nights.  Technically the first 2 nights were booked into a suite and the other 2 were booked into a standard room using my girlfriends points.  We were then given a personal tour of the hotel and were escorted up to the room.  Waiting in the room was a half bottle of red wine and some cookies.  Within minutes our luggage arrived. 

The room itself was more of a junior suite than a true suite, but for Paris standards it was huge.  It also had high ceilings, lots of mirrors and large windows which made it look bigger.  There was a small sitting area with a chair, sofa and fireplace.  The bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom.  There was a large tub, rain shower and 2 separate sink areas and lots of luggage storage.  We left for the evening and returned to find a bottle of champagne (Billecart-Salmon Bruit) on ice in the room.

The next morning we headed downstairs for breakfast.  As mentioned before as a hyatt diamond member, I got free breakfast each morning.  The breakfast was nothing short of spectacular.  A large spread of pastries, meats, cheeses, bread and fruit.  We also got 2 eggs cooked to order and two sides.  Each day we tried a different style of egg - poached, omelet, fried, soft boiled.  All were cooked perfectly.  The bill each day came to 98 euro but I didn't have to pay a cent of it!

The location also was top notch.  Located on Rue de la Paix, about a half way between the opera house and the Place Vendome.  Easily walkable to most sights.  We ended up renting bikes while there and found that to be a very affordable and fun way to get around.

All in all a fantastic stay and an excellent use of my free nights.  As mentioned before the room sells for $1200 a night and the breakfast was about 130$ for 2 people.  That's $5,320 in hotel and food all for free!

For more information on this fabulous hotel, please visit the hotel's website.

Park Suite King

The sitting area

Tub, there was also a rain shower and 2 sink areas

Complimentary bottle of Champagne waiting in the room when we got back

Breakfast included made to order eggs plus buffet

The breakfast area "Les Orchidees"

The buffet spread


Introduction and Contact

Hello I'm Jason.  I was born in Pittsburgh, went to school in Boston, currently reside about half way between Philly and Baltimore.  I am a resident physician specializing in emergency medicine.  Being a "resident" means that I have graduated from medical school but am still receiving some on the job training before I can practice on my own.  Its a demanding but very exciting job.  In my free time I enjoy travel (of course), hiking, camping, scuba diving, swimming, photography, trying new restaurants, craft beer, and the list goes on.  For the purposes of this blog i will try to keep things centered around travel with an occasional post on gastronomic adventures and travel related medical topics.

Please direct all questions or comments to

Me at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

Ways to travel cheap

Below you will find some of the travel tools in my repertoire.

Look for error fares:

This is one of the most strait forward ways to travel for cheap.  However this often requires a flexible schedule and a quick trigger finger when deciding to book.  Past successes include New York to Stockholm for $150 round trip.

Credit card sign ups:

This has been one of my most fruitful ways of traveling for cheap.  All you need is a good credit score and a bit of organizational skills.  Past successes include 100,000 British airways miles, 150,000 American airlines miles, 2 free nights at the park hyatt vendome paris.  Please see post.

Mileage runs/Mattress runs:

Ok, so ill admit I've never done a true "mileage run" however i have done several mattress runs.  The point of these is to fly or stay at a hotel for the sole purpose of gaining elite status or other benefits.  I have found mattress runs to be very beneficial when hotel chains offer promotions such as the "stay one night get one night free" offer that Raddison was running last yr.  I was able to stay 1 night in Baltimore for $79 and redeemed my free night in NYC at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway which retails for upwards of $300 a night.

Sales/Off season Rates:

Throughout the year airlines and hotels will offer sales to fill seats and rooms that would otherwise go unfilled.  These can be either advertised sales or simply lower priced offerings based on low demand.  Last year Hilton was having an end of the season sale where I was able to book several Hilton hotels in the DC area for 39-60$ a night.  These rooms generally run in the 100-200$ range.

Hotel status match:

Hotel status matches are another great way to get added value from your hotel stays.  By having status with a hotel chain you can get added perks such as free upgrades and free breakfast.  All of these benefits translate into added savings and a more pleasant overall travel experience.  Occasionally brands will offer promotions for free status.  You can then leverage this into status with other chains.  Past successes include: Hilton Gold, Hyatt Diamond, Marriott Platinum.

Other mileage/point earning opportunities:

From time to time hotels and airlines offer bonus points for things such as liking them on facebook to buying items from their associated online shopping mall.  The opportunities here are too varied to describe in detail but if i see something good ill make sure to post about it.

Kimpton Hotels Status Match and Free Nights

I recently matched my Hyatt diamond to Kimpton inner circle.  This generally requires 15 nights a year and since my Hyatt Diamond trial membership was about to expire I figured I'd go for it.  What initially drew my attention to Kimpton was an influx of positive reviews that I got from people who stayed with them.  From what I've heard Kimpton does an excellent job in providing a very personalized experience.  As I was perusing their website i noticed that they have a program where they offer inner circle members a free night and 50$ dining credit at any of their new hotels - no strings attached.  A few days after having my status upgraded to inner circle level i called about this benefit.  I was able to book a night at the Hotel Monaco in Philly and the Donovan House in DC.  Ill let you know how those 1 night mini trips turn out.  For the price (free) you cant really beat it.

Edit: Please see my review from the Donovan House

Two free nights at any Hyatt in the world

By signing up for the Hyatt credit card issued by chase, you will earn 2 free nights at any Hyatt brand hotel world wide.  Depending on your travel plans this can be an enormous value.  I recently used my nights at the park hyatt vendome in Paris.  The rate for the room I stayed in was around $1200 a night.  See Review here.
Other excellent redemption options are at the park Hyatt Sydney and the park Hyatt Maldives.  If you are traveling with a partner you can each sign up for the card for a total of 4 free nights. 

This card does come with an annual fee of 75$, however if you follow the instructions below you will receive a 100$ statement credit which more than offsets the fee.

Here's how to sign up:
1. Go to
2. Search for any hotel in the US
3. Click through to the purchase page
4. Look for the credit card offer on the right side of the page on the page before you actually pay for the room.

****As an added bonus with this card, if you sign up while a Hyatt diamond member your free nights will be in a suite*****


Welcome to my first ever blog post.  Do you lead a busy life and have a limited budget yet also want to travel and see the world?  If you are like me, you know that finding the time and more importantly the money to travel is no easy task.  With the help of frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards I have been able to travel to over 30 countries and experience things I once only dreamed of.  In this blog I hope to share a little bit about my life as an emergency medicine doctor by day and travel bargain hunter by night.  I initially got into this travel "game" while in college and medical school when i was operating on a student budget.  Now that I've graduated, I have my student loans to keep me frugal.  I will tell you a little bit about myself in an upcoming post and will post trip reports and travel deals in the future. 

Please bear with me while I get this up and running.  This is my first venture into the world of blogging and it may take me a few weeks to get all the quarks sorted out. 

Please feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions or comments. 

Please note that any medical topics discussed here are my opinion only, they do not represent professional medical advice.


I hope you enjoy.