Travel With Ivan is now Travels With Ivan

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.46.34 PM.png

Readers, I’m excited to announce the new Travels With Ivan blog at

Thanks to your valuable feedback and readership, I’m improving the quality of my product to better serve you, including a dedicated, shorter domain and speedy self-hosting.

I’ve moved all my past posts and updated the links, so the transition is complete. Please continue reading there!





Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 2

Progress to book flights to Finland: Intro

Now that we had a destination and timeframe, we could start working on the flights.

How to find flights:

  1. Determine where/when I want to go (airport code: HEL for Helsinki).
  2. Total how many miles I have (enough for two one ways on two alliances).
  3. Determine which programs can get me there (factoring in transfer partners). You can ask me for more details in the comments.
  4. Transfer enough miles to the appropriate programs (done).
  5. Look for availability, one route at a time.

Progress: 1-4 complete.

On Jan 22, I ferried enough miles from SPG to top off A3 account for two one-way awards at 45k mile each. The 45k miles each way NA to EU in C seemed like a lucrative sweet spot, so I started crediting *A miles to A3 starting early 2015. <Edit> Jan 25 – SPG points have been transferred, so it only took at most 3 days.

The main destination is HEL, but we want to visit another country in the same journey, so finding a natural stopover was ideal. Iceland is ideal, but CPH, OSL, DUB, are fine as well.

However, the priority is finding any award that will get us there.

SideTrack: Because I wanted a stopover, I researched options with A3 or AA award tix:

AA (Oneworld): no stop over allowed, but natural plane stops for OW awards include ORD, MIA, JFK, YYZ, DUS

A3 (*A): no stop over allowed either. Natural plane stops are normally east coast, FRA, IST, or CPH. Use ITA Matrix, filter by *A to find more. Found MUC (UA/LH) and ZRH (LX – swiss)

Since no stopover was possible, we need to find a reasonable cash ticket to the 2nd EU destination, and ideally one that has easy routing for the return award.

HEL-CPH 60-100 Euros on AY, DY, SK, almost every hour.

HEL-OSL 99 Euros on AY, DY, SK, 5 daily scheduled flights.

HEL-DUB: 333 Euros on AY, once per day and monopoly.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.22.11 PM.png

Thus, It looks like I will have the return (inbound) award coming out of CPH or OSL.

In the next post, I will be testing out routes via searches.

The Case of the Missing Pack’n Play

I went skiing with a group of friends in Denver last week. One of them brought her baby and the pack’n play. Somewhere between the luggage claim and the cabin, the pack’n play went missing, but we decided to make do with extra pillows and a sectioned off area of their bedroom. Wasn’t going to let that ruin a good weekend and it wasn’t worth our time to call the airport, given that if found, we would just pick it up on the way home.

On the way back, we stopped by the rental car counter to see if it was left on the rental car shuttle. No luck. Time was looking ok, so we went to the missing luggage counter at the airport. 30 minutes later, we emerged with the pack’n play! Apparently, we picked it up off the conveyor belt, but left it on the arrivals floor when the group was using the restroom before mobilizing to the shuttle stop.

By then, we were cutting it short with 40 minutes to scheduled departure time. I used the restroom, then Pre-check’d my way to the gate. I thought my friends would pull the baby card, but they ended up in the general line. Despite my attempts to hold their space, the plane took off without them. Thankfully, the gate agent was kind enough to accommodate them on a later flight, albeit 8 hours later.

Lesson learned:

  1. Get TSA Pre-check (or Global Entry).
  2. Leverage the baby card for as long as you can.
  3. Re-evaluate your available time after every un-expected turn.

My friends are now scheduled for their Global Entry interview.

And they lived happily ever after…