About Travis

Travis has been playing in the world of miles and points for over a decade. At one time or another he has held status on just about every major domestic airline and hotel program. He has visited all 50 US states and over 50 countries. Nowadays he travels almost exclusively with his wife and three young children.

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Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago

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We arrived on our United “Polaris” flight from London and had a four hour layover in Chicago before our connecting flight. This gave us plenty of time to check out the brand new Polaris Lounge which we were rather excited about. Unfortunately, it was a few days before they began serving restaurant-style order-off-the-menu meals so those won’t be part of this review. A day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

We cleared security and headed over to Terminal C through the psychedelic tunnel.

As you come up the escalator, the United customer service counter is straight ahead. And the Polaris Lounge is just to the left of it.

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Review: United Club London Heathrow

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This was the first time that we had passed through London since the new Queen’s Terminal opened and we were curious to see it. I don’t remember that much of my last visit to London Heathrow other than the Star Alliance airlines were sharing a common, mostly nondescript lounge that seemed to have few if any windows.

With the opening of Terminal 2, there are now so many choices for Star Alliance flyers at London Heathrow that it’s almost overwhelming. Ben has recently reviewed all of them — Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, and United. That meant there was no need for me to take one for the team and we could just head to the best. Which is considered to be the United Club. That’s not a misprint.

Not only was the United Club rated the best but it was also undeniably the most convenient as it turned out to be right next to our gate. We headed over, though got sidetracked for a long time at the kids play structure as you approach the pier. It’s an impressive space filled with kids, and is even staffed by a Heathrow employee. Judging by the no photography signs posted in the vicinity, the Brits are camera shy, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Review: SAS Plus Oslo To London Heathrow On A 737

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We left the lounge and quickly headed over to the gate for our 7:50 AM flight down to London Heathrow. Boarding was already underway, which isn’t too uncommon for us.

Since this was a business class itinerary, we were booked in SAS Plus. I had known that SAS eliminated their business class cabin on intra-European flights, but I’d forgotten they replaced it with something else. I guess you could say my expectations were sufficiently managed such that anything more than economy was going to sound pretty good.

It turns out that SAS Plus has a few features that separate it from SAS Go, which is regular economy.

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Club Carlson’s Latest Stealth Devaluation

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Club Carlson used to be one of my favorite hotel loyalty programs. On the earning side, they used to run some killer promotions that were totally mattress runnable. The best of those awarded 50,000 Carlson points for one a night stay at a Radisson hotel, basically enough points for a night anywhere in the world.

On the burning side, you could get a free award night on every redemption, so long as you had the Club Carlson credit card. This amounted to BOGO award nights and effectively doubled the value of your points.

Those days are long gone, however. And Club Carlson recently devalued their loyalty program even further by taking away a somewhat obscure but valuable benefit for Carlson Gold and Concierge members.

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Review: SAS Lounge Oslo Airport

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We had decided to spend our final night in Norway at the airport so we wouldn’t have to get up quite so early for our 7:50 AM flight to London Heathrow. The terminal is only a short distance from the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport, most of which is covered to protect you from the weather. The walk probably took no more than five minutes and was made easier by the luggage cart we had cached the night before.

On the way, we passed through a set of double revolving doors which gave me flashbacks to Super Mario Brothers. In fact, I stood there for a minute trying to time up my steps so I wouldn’t get squished in the middle.

Having made it to the next level, I mean, into the terminal, we quickly found the Star Gold counter for SAS. There was a bit of a line, but the agent was very efficient and we waited no more than a couple of minutes. She then had the five of us checked in and on our way. Even as SAS Plus passengers, we weren’t directed to Fast Track Security or advised about the location of the SAS lounge despite that being one of the few perks of SAS Plus. That was no big deal, just a little surprising.

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Review: Radisson Blu Oslo Airport

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Given our early departure the following morning, we decided to spend the last night of our trip at a hotel at the Oslo Airport.

Having stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport on the first night of our trip, we decided to try the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport this time. In my experience, both of these hotels are comparable in price with the Radisson Blu maybe just a few dollars more.

We rode the NSB train from Oslo Central Station to the airport and then walked over to the hotel. The Radisson Blu is the closest hotel to the airport, but you still need to exit the terminal to get there. It’s an easy walk that takes only a few minutes.

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The Best Valentine’s Day Surprise I’ve Ever Pulled Off

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First, let me say that I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day or other Hallmark holidays, but there are a few times in your life when it can be worthwhile to go with the flow. And for me, that was ten years ago when I managed to pull off the biggest Valentine’s Day surprise of my life for my then girlfriend, now wife, by flying in unannounced halfway across the country to meet her for dinner.

Looking back, I kind of laugh at the crazy things that I did like that as a young man in love. But it was fun. And given that that girl became my wife, it apparently worked.

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10 Things To Do With Kids In Oslo

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Like the rest of Scandinavia, Oslo is an incredibly kid-friendly place which made it pretty easy for us to get out and explore with our three kids aged 5, 4, and 1.

This is a culture of bundling the kids up and taking them out, regardless of the cold weather. The compact nature of the central area makes for good walking, and features like two-track ramps help make even steps accessible to strollers.

We’re an outdoorsy family so we packed our cold-weather gear so that we could get out and explore during the Norwegian winter.

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When (And Where) Will The Next United Polaris Lounge Open?

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United recently introduced their new Polaris product which will feature a new business class seat, an improved soft product, and a network of lounges exclusively for premium cabin flyers. The new soft product launched in December of last year, while the new seats won’t start appearing for another month or so and will then take up to five years to trickle out across the fleet.

I had the opportunity fly United Polaris for the first time last month and was reasonably impressed with the enhanced dining and bedding options as well as the new amenity kit.

I also had the chance to visit the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago and will have a review shortly as part of my current trip report. Suffice to say that the Polaris Lounge is the most impressive aspect of the new product in my opinion — I think even the most casual of business class traveler will recognize that it is definitely not a United Club.

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Review: Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion Oslo

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We spent part of our stay in Oslo at the Hotel Folketeateret, but decided we might as well give another Clarion Collection property a try. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the Hotel Folketeateret per se, as it’s truly a wonderful property with excellent service. It’s just that their rooms were a little small for our family of five.

So we decided to see what was behind door #2 and headed over to the Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion for the reminder of our stay. I’m sure glad we did, as the Hotel Bastion is a real gem. We quickly fell in love with the old-world style of the hotel. I mean, who doesn’t want to come back from a long day of sledding and sit by a crackling fire?

Like the other Clarion Collection hotels in Oslo, the Hotel Bastion costs 16,000 Choice points per night. Assuming that you purchase those using the cash-and-points booking strategy, that equates to $120 per night which is an absolute steal considering that covers your room, breakfast, afternoon snack, and dinner. For our family of five, the food each day was worth at least half of that.

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How To Sled Oslo’s Korketrekkeren Like A Boss

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No trip to Oslo in the winter would be complete without playing in the snow. And there’s no better way to do that then to sled the Korketrekkeren, Oslo’s city-operated toboggan run.

But let’s be clear — this is not your leisurely ride down a gentle slope in the park. Korketrekkeren translates to “corkscrew” and that should give you an idea of what you’re in for. This is basically the bobsled run that was built for the 1952 Winter Olympics. It’s 1.25 miles long with over 800 feet of vertical. Depending on your skill and insanity, you might just hit speeds in excess of 25 MPH. On a sled with no brakes and minimal steering.

If you search on YouTube, you’ll find videos of the course with titles such as Death Sled and The Madness.

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Review: Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeateret Oslo

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We had a bit of trouble deciding where to stay in Oslo. The two most useful loyalty programs in this part of the world are probably Choice Hotels and Club Carlson, both of which have a slew of properties in Oslo. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to pick one.

Food in Norway can be pretty expensive so we decided that Choice’s Clarion Collection properties in Olso would be a good deal for our family of five as they include breakfast, afternoon snacks, and dinner in the room rate. That’s real savings. We narrowed the candidates to three Clarion Collections: Hotel Folketeateret, Hotel Bastion, and Hotel Savoy. I would probably have chosen the cheapest one, but they all cost 16,000 points so choosing based on price wasn’t going to work. I don’t usually put that much stock in TripAdvisor ratings, but I had to decide somehow, so we went with Hotel Folketeateret. At least for now.

We booked the Hotel Folketeateret using Choice points, some of which I outright purchased using the cash-and-points strategy. Based on that approach, the hotel costs $120 which is an incredible value considering that you’re getting two meals a day included.

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Review: SAS Museum Oslo Airport

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After spending the night at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport, we decided to visit the SAS Museum before riding the train into the city. The museum is only open on Sundays and Tuesdays, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out given that it aligned with our schedule.

The SAS Museum is located sort of directly across the runway from the main terminal. If you could just walk out across the tarmac, you’d be there in a jiffy.

But instead, you have to go the long way around which would make it about a 3-mile trek. My wife vetoed that so we took the bus from the airport terminal.

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Review: Park Inn By Radisson Oslo Airport

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Given our relatively late arrival into Oslo, we decided to stay at the airport the first night. I’m sure we could have headed into the city, but with three tired kiddos this seemed like a good option. And the Oslo airport has two very convenient hotels — you can walk to both the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport and the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport.

We chose the Park Inn for this night because it was a bit cheaper. In reality, you can’t go wrong with either one.

Getting to the Park Inn is really easy since you just exit the terminal on the arrivals level and turn left. There are plenty of signs confirming that you are going the right way and you never even have to cross a street. If it’s winter, you might want to walk to the end of the arrivals level before exiting.

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