Friday, September 20, 2013

Dealing with Jet Lag

Quite simply, Jet lag is a mismatch between the time your body thinks it is and what time the clock says it is.  Desynchronosis, as it is known as in the medical community, is a serious phenomenon - one in which mismanagement can take days of enjoyment off of your trip or cause under performance on the job.  From a travelers perspective, jet lag can occur anytime travel crosses timezones.  The more timezones crossed, the higher the likelihood of developing symptoms.  For the non traveler, desynchronosis can occur when working several different shifts throughout the week.  

The symptoms of Jetlag eventually improve as your body becomes accustomed to the new pattern of sleep and wake cycles but this process can take several days.  While your body is adjusting you may experience numerous symptoms including: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, daytime drowsiness, difficulty thinking or concentrating, agitation, digestive issues such as nausea or diarrhea and decreased energy. For the road warrior proper management of jet lag can be the difference between closing a major business deal or a very long flight home with the boss.  For the leisure traveler, it can be the difference between watching the sun rise over Haleakalā or sleeping in.

Sunrise over Haleakalā

The biological basis of jet lag is simple.  Your body has an internal clock which is based on 24hour cycles of light and dark, wake and sleep.  When you cross timezones you either add (going west) or subtract (going east) hours from the day.  After a transatlantic flight, your body thinks it is 1am but the local time is 7am.  The best methods to coping with jet lag involve behavioral modifications.  If you are flying west you should attempt to stay up until it gets dark.  If you are flying east the best medical advice involves avoiding bright morning light but to get outside as much as possible in the afternoon.  In my personal experience I've had success with forcing myself to stay awake until around 9pm local time, then waking up with the sun the following day.  When it comes to meals, you should try to eat with the timezone, not when you are hungry.  Finally, try to get some sort of exercise the first day. 

When behavior modifications fail, there are a few pharmacologic options.  One of the most popular remedies is a supplement called melatonin.  Melatonin is a hormone which is naturally produced in a part of your brain called the pineal gland and helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.  While this supplement is relatively safe, it can interfere with certain medications, so please consult your doctor prior to taking it.  The usual dose is anywhere from 0.5-5 milligrams daily and the timing of the doses depends on the direction that you travel.  Melatonin was found to benefit adult patients crossing more than 5 timezones. 
Direction of travelDuring the trip1st-4th evenings in new time zone
East (for example, from the US to Europe)After dark, 30 min before bedtime in the new time zoneAfter dark, 30 min before bedtime in the new time zone
West (for example, from Europe to the US or from the US to Australia)Not neededAfter dark, 30 min before bedtime in the new time zone

There are two newer medications which have been found to promote wakefulness called modafinil and Armodafinil.  These medications can be used to treat excessive daytime sleepiness.  While these medications were initially used in patients with sleep apnea, a large study has shown that they may decrease sleepiness in travelers.  These medications are available by prescription only and the consensus on their overall effectiveness and safety is still out. 

Finally, sedatives and stimulants also have a role in helping travelers adjust to jet lag.  Fast acting benzodiazapines such as Valium can be beneficial in promoting sleep in westward travel.  This class of medications can lead to dependence and you should have a through discussion with your doctor before starting this.  Stimulants such as caffeine may be beneficial in eastward travel, however this is more of a quick fix and does not address the underlying hormonal balance caused by the jet lag.

In summary, jet lag is common in people crossing one or more timezones.  The more timezones crossed the more severe and prolonged the symptoms will be.  Exposure to natural light and behavioral modifications are important in adjusting to a new timezone. When non medical interventions fail, melatonin is available over the counter and can help reduce the length and severity of the adjustment period

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Best use of SPG points: Category 2

Category 2 nights are only 3000 points on weekends and 4000 points during the week.  As I've mentioned before, YOUR best use of hotel points is for hotels which you can actually use.  At 3000 points a night, even a hotel that retails for 60$ will get you 2cents/point value out of your SPG points.  Below is a list of hotels which I have actually stayed and those which have caught my attention and which I hope to visit someday.  I apologize that this post is so long but in my mind SPG category 2 properties are the sweet spot of hotel redemptions.

Sheraton Annapolis Hotel, Maryland

I have personally stayed at this hotel.  With weekend rates in the 150-$200 range and free shuttle to the harbor you really cant beat this.   Check out my review here.

Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel - BWI, Maryland

I have also previously stayed at this property.  Hotel is typical of your standard sheraton with free shuttle to BWI airport.  This hotel is also within 10 miles of the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  You can find out more information and book on their website:

Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, Virginia

I have not stayed here, but it is on my list of weekend getaways

Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center, Peru

I have stayed at this hotel, although it was before I had my blog up and running.  Very nice (albeit dated) property in central lima.  Our room was newly renovated on the top floor and offered stunning views all the way out to the ocean.  We also had club access which gave us free breakfast and evening buffet daily.

Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel, Maryland

This is a perfectly fine hotel (which I have toured but never stayed).  Yes downtown baltimore does have its seedy areas and I would watch where i was going at night outside this hotel, but this hotel has recently updated rooms and a city center location.  Easily walkable to the inner harbor.

Sheraton Fuerteventura Beach, Golf & Spa Resort Canary Isle, Spain

I have an upcoming trip planned here in march.

Sheraton Santa Maria de El Paular, Spain

A abbey converted to hotel

Le Méridien N'Fis, Marrakech Morocco

Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, Vietnam

A full list of category 2 hotels can be found here

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Free gold status on American Airlines (possibly targeted)

Link for free gold status on aa:

Code: hvdgr

Thanks to

Friday, September 13, 2013

United Airlines Fare Glitch

For a a brief period yesterday afternoon, United Airlines booking system was showing 0$ base fares +5$ in taxes on several routes.  United shut down its booking system upon discovering the error.  The mishap caught the attention of several mainstream media outlets including this USA today article, this one in Forbes, and this one from ABC. Below is a screen shot of kayak explore that I took this morning.  The wide use of social media has meant that news like this can spread rapidly among the general public.  It is unclear at this point if United will honor the fares.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Choice hotels stay 2 nights get one free is back

As mentioned in my post here, choice hotels has brought back its lucrative hotel promotion where you get 8000 points after 2 stays.  Full details can be found here.  As I have mentioned in the past, Choice has an excellent range of properties in Europe and offers some great redemption options.  Often times you are able to redeem 8000 points for $300+/night hotels.

  • Register before your first trip at to earn unlimited free nights
  • Book at or 800.4CHOICE and after your second qualifying trip with arrival between September 5 and November 13, 2013 you’ll receive enough Choice Privileges®points to redeem for a FREE night at over 1,500 hotels; corporate travelers can book through a travel agent or corporate booking system
  • Elite Diamond and Elite Platinum members can book directly with a hotel; however, if they book through these members will receive 100 additional Choice Privileges points with every qualifying trip 
  • Trips at Econo Lodge®, Rodeway Inn®, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel®, or MainStay Suites® hotels must be a minimum of two consecutive nights

Save 5,000 miles on American Airlines awards to Hawaii

For a limited time, redeem AA miles for flights to Hawaii for just 15,000 miles each way.
Full details can be found here

Terms and Conditions
*This award special is valid for travel on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines between Hawaii and the U.S. or Canada, excluding Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for MileSAAver Off-peak Economy Class award. Award inventory is subject to seat availability and capacity controls, and seats for award travel may not be available on all flights. Standard AAdvantage award travel terms and conditions apply. AAdvantage flight awards are subject to, and the passenger is responsible for, the September 11th Security Fee, applicable departure taxes, federal inspection fees, passenger facility charges and any other taxes and fees imposed by a government entity (U.S. or foreign), as well as any carrier imposed fees or surcharges. View complete details on award reservations. View complete details about the AAdvantage program.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Best uses of SPG points: Category 1

I personally think the best value in Starwood points lies in the lower category properties (Categories 1-5).  Free nights in category 1 properties are just 2000 points on weekends and 3000 points on week days.  For those of you who have signed up for the SPG Amex credit card your 35,000 points can translate into 17 nights at one of these hotels.

In all honesty the best category 1 hotel is the one you can actually stay at, however these ones have really caught my eye.  If anything they will get your Wanderlust going....Just think about it....17 free nights...

Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa, Indonesia

Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, Egypt

I realize that Egypt might not be the safest place in the world right now, but just look at the views!

Airport Hotels Galore:

There are several airport hotels in category 1 including: Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Richmond, Tucson.  Airport hotels often offer FREE parking and FREE airport shuttles.  Instead of paying a week for parking and driving to the airport in the wee hours of the morning why not check out your options at one of these hotels.

A full list of category 1 properties can be found here

Friday, September 6, 2013

2,000 Bonus Miles on American Airlines

Earn an additional 2,000 bonus miles after spending 35$ through American airlines online shopping portal.  This may be a targeted promotion so your results may vary.  Link for the promotion can be found here.

Terms and conditions: Now through 9/30/13 11:59 PM EST receive an additional one-time bonus of 2,000 miles when you shop through this email and spend a cumulative amount of $35 or more online in the AAdvantage eShoppingSM mall. Returns, shipping, taxes, gift card purchases, and certain products are not eligible for bonus; please see site details on any coupon code details or usage restrictions. Please allow 8-10 weeks from end of promotional period for bonus miles to post to your account. Void where prohibited by law.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Overview

Starwood points are some of the most valuable points out there.  Not only do they offer you very generous redemption options at SPG properties they also have the flexibility to be transferred to numerous other travel programs at good exchange rates.  In the realm of travel currency, SPG points are at or near the top.  Points are only valuable if you can use them.  Because of this, I really like programs which offer you the most liquidity or flexibility in booking options (see my posts on Chase and Amex points).  There are several options for redeeming SPG points and below I have outlined the 3 most useful redemption options.

Redeem SPG points for flights:

Flights can be booked directly off of at the following rates:
Ticket Price*Starpoints
up to $15010,000
This is probably not the best use of your points but it does give you the most flexability in redeming points for flights as there are no blackout dates and flights are not subject to award availability with airlines.

Transfer to miles:

This is especially helpfull if you see an award flight that fits your exact travel plans but you don't have enought points.  With SPG you recieve a 5000 mile bonus for every 20000 starpoints you transfer.

Use SPG points for free nights: 

This is my personal favorite use of SPG points.  There are several options to use your points for free hotel stays.  The 2 best options are using points outright and using cash and points.  The following tables show the number of points required.  Cash and points is an interesting option where you can essentially "buy" the extra starpoints you need at a reduced rate.  The best booking option will ultimately depend on how many points you have and the value of what you are using them for.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Free flight to Hawaii on American Airlines

A quick look at American Airlines award chart shows that when it comes to international awards, they define "North America" as inclusive of Hawaii.  When you combine this with the ability to add in a free stopover, you can tack on a free one way flight to Hawaii if you are planning on redeeming miles for an international flight.  This trick only works if you live close to an American Airlines international hub as you are essentially making your "stop-over" a return back home in between trips.
AA Award Chart

Follow these steps for a free flight to Hawaii:

1. Go to to search for an award flight
2. Select multi city, plug in your dates for the international portion of the segment
3. Add on a one way flight to Hawaii.  Note that your "stop-over" can be several months.
4. Select Dates flexible

5. Chose your dates based on availability.
6.  You should see the following message for the Hawaii segment of the flight.

7.  Book a 1 way award back to the mainland from Hawaii (unless of course you want to stay there forever).

You can do a similar trick on United and I hope to have a post on that coming soon.