Some dashcam video from the driving in Daytona Beach, Wilbur By The Sea, and Ponce Inlet, Florida that I did on May 3rd, 2017. The video is at 750% speed and I used some of my original music for the soundtrack.
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In 2015 I found a cheap airfare to Barranquilla, Columbia and booked it mostly for a chance to visit a country that I had never been to before. My flights were on Copa Airlines which I like and I departed from Orlando, Florida and connected in their very nice Panama City, Panama hub.
I arranged my flights so that I had almost a 24 hour layover in Panama City both going to Colombia and back. I’m going to write a blog post about all of the times I’ve been to Panama City in the future.
The flight from Panama City (PTY) to Barranquilla (BAQ) was pretty short and over water for most of the time. The immigration form you need to fill out prior to landing was entirely in Spanish, but another passenger assisted me with the one question I didn’t understand.
The airport was OK and I soon was inside of a taxi on my way to my hotel. The driver really didn’t speak English so my basic Spanish skills came in handy again. I think that I had exchanged some money prior to this trip and had some Colombian currency to pay and tip with.
After a little while my phone which has service from Google Project Fi was able to find a cellular signal and roam on the ComcelOccel/Celcaribe network with a HSPA+ connection.
Looking out the window of the car reminded me of the places I had visited in Mexico and Central America. We arrived at the Hilton Garden in which was fairly new, and I was checked into the hotel pretty easily by their bi-lingual staff.
As a frequent guest of Hilton properties I was upgraded to suite. I took some pictures as well as a short Periscope video which I’ve used in this post. The hotel’s WiFi worked great for me during my stay.
The room was sort of on a corner of the building and had plenty of windows. It’s a shame that I was only there for one night.
The bathroom was clean and nicely appointed. There was a coffee machine and a mini fridge just outside the bathroom in the entry to the room.
I grabbed a burger from the onsite restaurant in the lobby. It was pretty good as I expected.
I was surprised for a moment when I checked my account on the TV before checking out of the hotel the next day but of course those prices were in Colombian Pesos. It was about $85 for my meals and the single night stay.
I got to the airport a couple of hours early and spent the time surfing the internet using the cellular data service on my phone. Project Fi offers 256k connection speeds when roaming in Colombia and that’s what I saw.
I also bought a couple of beers in the airport to use up my final Colombian Pesos. They cost about $1.20 a piece and it helped the time go by while I was waiting for security to allow me to go to the gate area.
When I got to the gate area, I experienced the most intensive search of my carry on bag I have ever experienced. Even more detailed than the ones in Germany! They were looking for cocaine and of course I didn’t have any in my suitcase. Every thing was smooth on my flight back to Panama City, Panama, a place that I have been several times.
I recorded a short Periscope video tour of my hotel room.
I didn’t fly on United Airlines last year, but I received my 2017 Silver Elite MileagePlus materials in the mail today. It IS possible to earn airline status without flying.
In my case, I earned this status based on my participation in a hotel chain’s customer loyalty program that is partnered with United Airlines at this time. I’ve spent a lot of time and money with Marriott and they recognize that via their Marriott Rewards program.
There are some credit cards that include airline elite status as a part of their benefits, or the use of that card for a certain amount of spending also allows the holder to earn airline status without flying.
You do have to sign up for the frequent flyer program, and use the associated ID on your reservations in order to take advantage of the program’s benefits.
United Airlines no longer issues a physical card for their frequent flyer program and like other airlines has migrated to a digital image of a card inside of their smartphone app for members to display if required. I think there is an option to print one out via their website but I won’t be doing that.
This year they still sent a small tag that can be use on a piece of your luggage. I’ll probably put this on whatever small cabin bag I use on my next trip. There were no drink or snack coupons in the mailing.
I wrote a blog post about my Medallion Elite Status with Delta Airlines earlier this year, and why I was no longer going to have it in 2017.
Not quite a year ago I wrote a post for this blog where I said “My goal for 2016 is to earn at least Delta Airlines Gold Medallion elite status again, which means I will try for 50,000 MQMs and spend $25k again on my Delta charge card.”
I did not make it. In fact I stopped having it as a goal about 6 months ago, and this posting is about why. Times are tough and I didn’t find a job in 2016 like the one I had in 2014. I still took trips to Vancouver, Amsterdam, and Negril but I didn’t fly close to enough to earn enough miles for status in 2017. With the reports of Zika breaking out in the nice and warm places I enjoy, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for me to go somewhere I wanted to go.
I cancelled my American Express Delta Skymiles card, and my elite status will run out soon. The good news is that when I do decide to go somewhere, I can go on what ever airline suits my schedule and budget the best without feeling like I have to choose Delta or one of their partners. I also still have elite status with United airlines and have been watching to see if their new CEO can turn things around. Delta has been getting stingier and stricter with their frequent flyer benefits since they have been in a leadership position in the industry, and don’t need to incentivize travelers as much.
As you can see by looking at the map of countries I’ve visited, I still have a lot to go. If I take any trips in 2017 it will probably be by using airline points to pay for the tickets. There’s some places in Eastern Europe and South America I think I might like to visit soon.