A Year Ago This Week: Puerto Rico

Week 1: January 2-6 2014.

A year ago this week, I took off on a stormy winter night to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend my friend’s (also college roommate) wedding. Due to the severe snow storm we were facing, United was offering free flight changes and at the last minute, I was able to get on a flight a day earlier than originally scheduled. I had just landed from Amsterdam less than 24 hours prior, hadn’t unpacked, let alone repack and to top it all off, had to go into work all day. When I finally headed for the airport, all public transportation were either delayed or getting canceled right in front of my eyes. Standing out on the station platform in the piercing cold wind, I looked up at the sky to see the big fluffy snow flakes fall softly but swiftly onto my face. But from the corner of my eyes, I nervously kept my sight on the announcement board. Train numbers were transitioning from their usual green font to red font followed by the word, “CANCELLED” in bold capital letters. If the currently marked “DELAYED” train gets canceled, that is the end of my trip, I thought to myself. I would miss the flight. But luck was on my side tonight. The train finally came and the only consistent factor from that moment forward was my running through the airport with my carry-on. The word, uncomfortable, would not begin to describe that experience. I finally made it to the gate, and became one of my biggest travel pet peeves, the last passenger on-board. No big deal because I was going to make it to the wedding!!  Luck was on my side twice that night. Turned out that the flight I was on was the last flight to take off from Newark before all flights thereafter were cancelled indefinitely. Phew!  Continue reading

9 Countries, 32 Cities, 21K Sums Up My Travels of 2014

Each January, I look back on my travels of the previous year and calculate three things: number of countries visited, number of cities visited and how much money spent. I am super meticulous about keeping track of every single expense on a trip, so my calculations are pretty spot on. This year has been the most expensive, thus far, predominately because of the shift in my travel style. I’ve gone from budget traveler to budget meets luxury traveler. I suppose getting older has something to do with it. But that reflection is best left for another blog post. So, without further ado, here’s a look at where I went this year and what $21,322 allowed me to see. Please note that while a few trips were work related, therefore, all expenses paid, I either extended the trip and/or did sightseeings which contributed to the 21K.  Continue reading

National Aquarium is a MUST See

I’ve never been into aquariums, which is weird since I’m absolutely fascinated with the ocean world. So much so that I’ve finally been convinced to get my scuba diving license (requires a post of its own). And yet, the notion of sea life in a “confined” space just doesn’t fascinate me. But, since I was sent to Aberdeen for work and the closest thing to anything civilized to do around here lies in Baltimore, I decided to check out the National Aquarium. So glad that I did! It is awe-inspiringly beautiful. I only wish my iPhone battery did not die 20 minutes into the visit; alas, I must rely on my memory of the beautiful marine life I saw to write this post. Continue reading

My FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Dream Came Crashing Down

It was 2009 when I was all geared up to go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup games in South Africa. I even bought tickets to a match (turned out I had purchased tickets for the Confederates game accidentally…don’t ask). But as 2010 progressed and finances shaped up, it became quickly evident that I couldn’t afford to take the trip down south. But I wasn’t too sad, because I had planned for it kind of last minute (a year out used to be last minute in my book). I found satisfaction in knowing that I would DEFINITELY make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil! With 4 years of planning, there’s no way I couldn’t make it happen. A shred of doubt did not exist. I announced it to anyone and everyone I knew. I blocked out my vacation dates as soon as the general schedule was announced. For Christmas last year, my secret Santa at work even bought me a  Lonely Planet guidebook to Brazil, which I was very grateful for! And when phase 1 of the ticket sales began, I was logged on at minute 1 ready to bid.

Lonely Planet's Brazil

Lonely Planet’s Brazil

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Suddenly Terrified of Flying?!

I was about 2 years old when I started staring up at the sky at airplanes and assuming my dad was on it, coming to visit me. I’ve been fascinated with airplanes before I could fully understand what fascination meant. As a result, I’ve always LOVED flying. So much so that I would rather sit on a 45 minute flight to a destination, deal with all the airport hassles than drive the 3-4 hours. Yes, to many it sounds absurd, but that’s how much I love flying.

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Ask Saadia Features: Pay using Credit Card or Bank Transfer?

This week’s featured question from the ASK SAADIA column:

I have a question for you: when booking a tour in a foreign country and they ask you to either pay by bank transfer (bank charges a fee) or credit card but you must pay an extra 3%, which is safer? My credit card doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee at least. The bank fee and 3% fee is about the same.

- Eileen, PA

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US Government Shutdown Interferes with Fall Foliage Road Trip

It’s that time of the year. The leaves are turning to gorgeous hues of yellows, oranges, & reds. The air is crisp. The closet has been stripped of all summer clothing to be refilled with wonderful autumn layering pieces. Boots are out and ready to be worn. It’s my favorite time of the year!

And as usual, my annual fall foliage family road trip has been planned. This is the first year both my brothers aren’t around so it’s just my parents and I. We’re headed to Shenandoah National Park & the Great Smoky Mountains in two weeks. Hotels booked. Car rented. Itinerary all set.

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Ask Saadia Features: How I Budget for Frequent Travel

This week’s featured question from the ASK SAADIA column:

You’re basically living the dream right now, which is amazing, but my question is how do you manage your funds to be able to travel so much? Thanks!


Hi Gloria,

Thanks for that compliment! I don’t know if I’m living the dream, but I certainly am trying to! Having said that, the answer to your question is super simple: stop paying mortgage.


Just Kidding.

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Magic Behind Getting a Companion Upgrade?

United and I have accumulated quite the colorful past over the last couple of years — primarily after the merger with Continental. However, this post is not going to focus on the becoming of that – it would take hours on my part to get that on print, and hours on yours to read it all. Instead, I’d like to share my recent experience with them.

In August, I flew United 3 times, a RT to Las Vegas and a OW to St. Maarten. On all three occasions, I was upgraded – twice to 1st class – lucky me! In addition to my own upgrades, I was able to get my travel companion upgraded thrice too, but with some confusion. While I am always thrilled about getting myself upgraded, I am more grateful for the companion upgrades. I’m just not certain who I owe that gratitude to, United’s policies or the actual United agent(s) I encountered?

photo courtesy of airlines.net

photo courtesy of airlines.net

Let me back track a little bit. Continue reading

“Dear Vegas,” My Open Letter.

Dear Vegas,

I have visited you many a times and till now, never truly saw you for what you are. This may be because past trips to you were strictly for fun and the concept of daily life didn’t really register in my brain. But now that I’m here for the first time for a real (non touristy) purpose, I can’t help but wonder the following:

vegas smoking#1: Why do you allow smoking everywhere?! I understand it’s sin city. But could it be sin city with some guidance? I’ve been inhaling so much smoke that I’m seriously terrified for the potential lung cancer I could encounter in the future. And forget me, I’m terrified for my brother, who I’m leaving behind as he permanently settles down here. People are smoking on the strip, in the pool, in the casino, at the restaurants. Are you kidding me?! While the rest of the country finally adopts a no smoking zone in most public places, you’ve made this into a cancerous city! Do something about it, please!

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