Picture of the Week: Lake Bled, Slovenia

This time last week I was in Bled, Slovenia, taking pictures of its lovely lake.  There’s an unbelievably medieval feeling around the lake.  I was hoping for better weather, but I feel like the clouds actually set the mood of the shot better than any sunlight ever could.  The one part I didn’t like was the rain.  My camera (Sony a7) is allegedly weather sealed, but that allegedly bit doesn’t really bring lots of comfort.  I ended up taking this picture bent over my camera to shield it from the elements.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

For the photographers out there, I shot this with my Sony a7 with the 28-70 (kit lens), f14 ISO 100 with a 2.0 second shutter speed.  I shot this through a hole in some trees and feel like the branches do a nice job of framing the shot.  Whenever I shoot landscape-ish shots like this, I always try to have something in the fore-, middle-, and background.  In this case the branches would be my foreground, the island the middleground, and the castle on the cliff the background.

I’m in the process of writing up my trip report from last weekend, so be sure to follow along! (part 1 was here)

Categories: Europe, Photography, Picture of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Singapore Airlines Teddy Bear giveaway ends today!

Just a friendly reminder to sign up for your chance to win a teddy bear from my recent Singapore Airlines flight!  Details are here.

Categories: Giveaway | Tags: | Leave a comment

Hilarious Misadventures on another Weekend Jaunt to Europe: Planning


A month or so back there was a slight malfunction in Aeroplan’s award pricing engine (Aeroplan is Air Canada’s award program).  They have a zone-based award chart (much like American Airlines and United) in the Star Alliance.  After the big United partner devaluation, many started going to Aeroplan for premium awards.  They have reasonable rates for awards but charge fuel surcharges on most redemptions, which limits the value somewhat.

Anyway, there were reports of a glitch in the matrix award booking engine.  I dropped what I was doing (sorry about all those eggs on the floor) and ran to my computer to check for myself.

So, what caused the glitch was booking a domestic stopover on an international itinerary.  This would cause the award to book at the domestic round trip rate for whatever class you booked instead of the international rate.  Canadian Kilometers reported the mistake and had a great post covering the details, but basically it meant I could get a roundtrip coach award to Europe for 25000 miles.  Far less than 40000-60000 other carriers normally charge.

Long story short, I wanted to go back to Austria, to St. Gilgen.  I made a booking quickly, checked my vacation, and started putting a trip together.  Here’s what it was going to look like:

  • Fly to Chicago on United and stay there for a night
  • Fly Chicago to Munich on a mix of United and Lufthansa, connecting in CDG
  • Go to Austria for 3 days
  • Fly home from Munich on Lufthansa and United (all in coach)

Sounds quick I know, but that’s kind of how I do things.  In the end it would end up looking like last year’s Weekend Jaunt to Europe.  Things took an interesting turn, however, and the trip ended up taking a unique twist, and by “unique twist” I mean I changed it completely two days before I was scheduled to depart.  Somehow, everything worked out.

Here’s what the revised itinerary ended up looking like:

  • Fly Dallas to Munich on a combination of American (in Main Cabin Extra on their 777-300ER) and British Airways (coach, but a window seat with an empty middle, so basically Business Class)
  • Drive to and around Austria for a few days
  • Drive to Frankfurt
  • Fly to New York City on Singapore Airlines in Suites Class!
  • Fly home to Dallas later that night on the most depressing flight ever in Coach

So stay tuned for a great trip report, there will be some hilarious misadventures along the way!

Categories: Austria, Europe, Germany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

GIVEAWAY: Singapore Airlines Teddy Bear!

This morning I was on the best flight of my entire life.  My Singapore Suites experience was incredible, even better than my first trip in Suites, which was also very special.

The flight attendants found out I was a travel blogger (i.e. I told them I was a travel blogger, which explained all the pictures I was taking) and said sincerely (and this is a quote) “Thank you for the opportunity to make the blog of this flight your best ever.”

They did.

What they also did was give me quite a few souvenirs to give away to my readers!  We’re going to start off our giveaway with this lovely Singapore Airlines Teddy Bear (Singapore Sling not included).



So here’s how it’s going to work.  And yes, this is designed to increase my readership as well.  Leave a comment on this post (telling us something you’re thankful for as we enter the US Thanksgiving holiday) for one entry.  For another entry, go to the ATB Facebook Page and share this post on your wall.

The winner will be selected Friday, November 21 at 5pm Central Standard Time.  Good luck!

disclaimer: Singapore Airlines did not sponsor, approve, edit, or most likely even read this post.  This contest is operated by Andy’s Travel Blog and is independent of any company represented in the blog.


Categories: Giveaway, Singapore Airlines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

So how’s my trip going?

Howdy everyone!

My most recent weekend jaunt to Europe has gone well.  Managed to hit four countries (Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic) and each one of them had their own unique bits of greatness.

I’m hoping to have the trip report turned around later this week, so look forward to seeing some posts about it!

Until then, I leave you with a preview of my flight home…

Suites Selfie!

Suites Selfie!

Categories: Singapore Airlines | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Picture of the Week: Autobahn Sunset

Howdy!  I tried to look up a direct translation of “howdy” into Slovenian, but it kind of broke Google, so I’ll just stick with my first language, Texan.

I’m in Bled, Slovenia, right now after a long day of flying and driving.  Tomorrow morning I’m hoping for good weather to go take pictures of Lake Bled (bucket list item for me), then it’s off to Hallstatt and St. Gilgen in Austria!

I was driving along zie autobahn this evening and was astonished by the sun setting over the Alps in the background, so I stopped to grab a picture.  So here’s your picture of the week, autobahn at sunset!

Autobahn Sunset, by Andy Luten

Autobahn Sunset, by Andy Luten

Categories: Picture of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Behind the scenes on an Air New Zealand Photo-shoot



I love Air New Zealand.  I flew them last summer in coach on a super long-haul from Los Angeles to Auckland and really enjoyed my experience.

Air New Zealand is a quirky airline that has friendly service and a modern long-haul fleet.  They’re also known for their quirky flight safety videos.  As part of a new campaign, they invited one of my favorite photographers, Trey Ratcliff, to participate.  Trey’s an American who moved to Queenstown a couple of years ago and is known for his landscape and HDR photography.

Anyway, Trey posted a video on his site talking about the shoot (which features Air NZ flight attendants in Hobbiton).  It’s a great video if you’re into photography, but there are also a few great moments from the flight attendants talking about where they fly and what they want everyone to know about Air New Zealand and New Zealand in general.

Anyway, here’s the link, hope you enjoy it!  It really took me back to one of my favorite countries in the world and reminded me that I need to get back there very soon.

Everyone have a great weekend!  I’m off for another weekend jaunt to Europe, so I’ll talk to you from the road!


Categories: Air New Zealand, Photography | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek: Perfect

“Wait, Andy, we’re not staying there are we?  That place is so expensive!”

“You’re right Mom, it runs about $700/night.”

“OMG Andy!  Absolutely not!”

“Ok, it NORMALLY runs $700/night, we got a slightly better rate.”

“Oh.  Ok then, I’m excited!”

I have a wonderful mother.  She’s the best mom ever.  I can’t say enough great things about her, suffice it to say she deserves every bit of good in the world.  We all recently suffered a death in the family and I thought she needed to get out of town for a few days so we grabbed a cheap American fare to Denver and went on a nice weekend in Colorado.  When I was putting the plans together, I thought to check out rates at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, just to laugh at how expensive they were.  Wait.  $128/night.  Ok done.  Resort fees ($25/night since it was offseason) and valet fees ($25/night since it was offseason)?  Yep, fine, whatever, booked.

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

Put simply, the Park Hyatt is one of those epic hotels where you feel like you need to capitalize the The in front of the name.  It has a sterling reputation, and by “sterling” I mean “expensive”.  So how did we manage such a great rate?  Read on. Continue reading

Categories: Hotel Reviews, Hyatt, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WINNER: Gogo Inflight Internet

Well folks, we have a winner of the free one-time Gogo Inflight Internet pass.  Everyone congratulate Samuel, who wants to go to Bali next!  I asked everyone to tell us where they wanted to go next, and Australia had to be the winner by a longshot.  A lot of South Asia and Europe entries too.

As for me, the next place I want to go is Slovenia, which is convenient because I’ll be heading there in a few days.  Samuel, check your email, enjoy your Gogo pass, and use it to travel well!

Categories: Giveaway | Tags: , | Leave a comment

REMINDER: Gogo inflight internet giveaway – 11 hours left!

Just a reminder to everyone to sign up for the Gogo inflight internet giveaway.  11 hours left to enter!


Categories: Travel | Leave a comment

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