Air France Business Class Review: Detroit (DTW) to Paris (CDG)

Mauritius, Munich, Oktoberfest, Berchtesgaden and Paris: Air France Business Class Review

Trip Summary: Back in January of 2012 I decided to put my frequent flyer mileage knowledge, skills and learnings to the test and book the honeymoon of our dreams for my wife and me. While it took several months for the plans to fully materialize, the result was an amazing, while not always seamless trip. This is not only a recap of the trip we took and how we got there, but also the beginning of more formal travel blogging to showcase my adventures in the United States and abroad. 

This trip will be summarized in the following topics:

This was perhaps the best flight of my life until this point for reasons outside of the actual level of service received on the flight. As explained in a  previous post about a passport scare, this flight almost never happened.  The space we were able to secure on AF377 to Paris was a blessing, and I have counted my blessings ever since.

The airplane itself was an Airbus A340-300 with 6 rows of business class seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. While I was slightly disappointed that I would not have the chance to ride across the pond in an Airbus A380 that was scheduled originally, I was simply counting my blessings that I had a flight at all at this point. My companion and I were situated on the right hand side of the plane, in row 5. This is definitely my preference for international flights – sitting next to companion with one window and one aisle seat for maximum flexibility.

Business Class Seats on Air France

[Read more…]

An Unexpected Passport Scare and Public Service Announcement About Passports

Passport Expiration Scare: Your Passport may not be accepted even if it has not expired yet

After a 48 hour whirlwind travel experience, I’m finally settled in to my villa in paradise – otherwise known as the Four Seasons in Mauritius. While I have already mentioned in this space that I will be writing about my amazing travels across the world, this story is about how the trip almost never happened. It may not be for the faint of heart, but as I sit here in the luxury of a tropical destination, I feel I can already look back at what happened and breathe a sigh of relief.

It all started innocently enough. Wedding reception on Saturday (blogged about here), travel plans beginning with a 7 AM flight on Monday morning, and then after 45 hours of travel, arrival in Mauritius. While I wasn’t looking forward to the time of the travel, we were able to secure business class seats for most flights, so at least we could get some sleep on the plane.

The least of my worries was the first day of travel, which featured a seemingly routine flight from MSP to Washington Dulles Airport, with a ~7 hour layover before our next flight to Paris. In fact, it was so routine that I made a list of tasks I wanted to accomplish while sitting in the Air France ‘Salon’ for that entire time. A mix of personal and professional tasks would keep me busy that entire time, no doubt.

After checking in to the Air France Lounge, the attendant asked us to have a seat while she looked made sure everything was in line with our tickets. While seated in the lounge, I was looking up information about things to do in Mauritius, trying to change our train tickets from Munich to Paris later in the trip, etc. Basically tying up last minute details.

The lounge agent came up to us and said, in her best and most condescending French accent (it helps if you read it all with an accent):

“We have a small problem. You can’t go to Mauritius and I am canceling your tickets” [Read more…]

Wine Country Wedding Video – Kunde Estate in Sonoma Valley, CA

Wine Country Wedding Video

If you know well me enough to read this blog, you know I got married earlier this year to the love of my life, Amanda, in a small ceremony at Kunde Estate in Kenwood, California. The setting was absolutely beautiful; on a mountain top overlooking Sonoma Valley, 1,400 feet above the roads below, with views all the way to San Francisco bay on clear days.

Since it was a small ceremony and I knew we would be having a reception with all of our family in friends later in the year, I decided that it would be prudent to film the video with HD cameras and create something to share with everyone in attendance. This would prove fairly easy, since our wedding was at a baseball stadium (Target Field) and we signed a contract to rent the Jumbotron for an hour during our reception.

With the pressure of seeing ourselves on a 101 foot wide screen in full HD weighing down on me, I took on the assignment of producing, directing and editing the film to be put on the screen. This was my first time being back in action since I was part of an Emmy nominated documentary team while in college in 2003. Boy was I rusty!

It’s amazing how much the equipment, technology and software has improved during my 9 years of focusing elsewhere. To get the job done, I rented a Sony NEX-FS100U camera to do the majority of the filming. With a polarized filter added to handle the California Sun, it did a great job.

In addition, the main camera was flanked by two Sony HD camcorders that also shot in 1080p, while not quite at the level of quality current professionals would use (but definitely good enough for this video).

Video Production at Amanda and Jeff's Wedding

Video Production at Amanda and Jeff’s Wedding

During the wedding, most of the video capture was done by my friend Tom, who happened to be a whiz when it comes to cameras. He picked up everything beautifully and thoroughly. So thoroughly that when I got home I realized that there were several hours of raw footage to sift through after I purchased and installed Final Cut Pro X to be my editing software of choice for the video.

I soon ran into an issue while looking at these videos – my laptop was simply not fast enough to handle 1080P video and final cut pro. The Hard Drive wasn’t big enough either, so I needed to handle the situation by purchasing a brand new 2011 model iMac desktop witha  27″ screen and 2 TB hard drive, along with a 3 TB Firewire hard drive for storing uncompressed video.

It was only then that I was able to get rocking on the video. The first cut was what I like to call our “trailer” and is what is shown above. It’s ~3 minutes of video set to the theme song for Baywatch – almost entirely for comedic purposes. The song just screams California and ended up matching our footage perfectly.

I self consciously showed the video to a few trusted friends and family members, and they all gave pretty similar feedback – they loved it. I knew that it was worthy when a friend of mine, a video production professional with major credibility, told me “Love it!! Don’t change a thing!”

With the trailer in hand, it was now time to tackle the rest of the movie and turn everything into a 24 minute video that could run twice on the jumbotron. This was not as easy as you might think, because there wasn’t a lot of footage to use. The audio from the ceremony on the hilltop was garbled and barely understandable, even after applying audio filters (it was so windy that day on the mountain top that the odds were against us).

Along with my dad, we decided to split the video up into sections – intro, photo collages of Amanda and I, the ceremony and the wedding speeches. This proved to be a perfect move, because it allowed us to control the timing of the video based on the songs we chose in our photo collages.

My dad lead the charge on the photo collages and created one for young Amanda set to “I’m too Sexy”, one for me set to “Regulate” and one for the two of us set to “So Happy Together”

The end video is far from a masterpiece, but definitely a fun way to share in the celebration of our wedding. Even better was seeing ourselves on the jumbotron with many of our closest family and friends watching.

While it was a lot of work to produce the video, the fact that our wedding will be forever documented in a high quality way kept me going when time was wearing thin.

Do you like the video? Please feel free to comment or share with your friends!

Hyatt Visa Signature Card Overnight Delivery

At any given time, I have between 5-25 tabs open in my Google Chrome browser, toggling between information, keeping track of items I want to discover, and more.

One of the tabs I had open from early March through mid July was an offer for a $75 statement credit (waives the annual fee for 1 year) when signing up for the Hyatt Visa Signature card, which is one of the better cards available for hotel programs.

Elegant Packaging

Elegant Packaging for Hyatt Visa Signature Card

Unfortunately, I was not able to apply for the credit card in time before the offer expired, and I thought I had missed out on the opportunity. I was disappointed, because I wanted this card in particular for the European portion of my upcoming trip, because it has a Micro-chip on the card, which is very important for European travel. I learned this the hard way when I was in Prague in December and most merchants were hesitant to take my credit card without a microchip.

Fortunately, I saw a post from Gary last week that announced the $75 credit offer was available again. All you have to do is visit the Hyatt website, start a reservation and you will be met with a targeted credit card offer.

Not only is the credit card completely free, but it also offers some amazing benefits for frequent travelers:

  • Instant Hyatt Platinum status (usually requires 5 stays or 15 nights in a year)
  • Two free nights at any Hyatt in the world (easily can be worth $1,000+ internationally)
  • Free upgrades for current Platinum members
  • A free night every year at renewal
  • Smart Chip on your card (big plus for European travel)
  • No Foreign Transaction fees (look at this as a 2.7% rebate traveling abroad)
  • 3 points per $1 spent at Hyatt properties
Hyatt Visa Signature - Full Package

Hyatt Visa Signature – Full Package and Letter from Chase

These are some amazing perks for essentially paying $0 to get started. There doesn’t even appear to be a minimum spend required to get this deal.

So basically, you can get 2 free nights and platinum status for free. That’s a good deal friends.

Hyatt Package Closeup

They know what they are doing… nice work Chase

Needless to say, I bit the bullet and signed up for the card on Sunday. They didn’t tell me I was approved right away, so I was afraid I wouldn’t get the card at all or at least not in time for my upcoming trip.

Boy was I wrong. The card was waiting for me when I got home on Tuesday – beautifully packaged in an overnight envelope.

The packaging was beautiful, and the card fits nicely in my wallet. It’s almost as elegant as my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but without the nice weight.

What an incredible experience signing up with this card. Chase and Hyatt have created a fantastic program.

Next Stop: Mauritius and Oktoberfest!

Man, it seems like years ago that I first blogged about our planned honeymoon in Mauritius. Come to think of it, it was nearly a year ago that I first booked the trip.

Now we are exactly 1 week away from our departure to the promised land(s)!

Since then, a lot of the details of the trip have rounded out and I plan on blogging about the aspects that my wife will allow me to talk about.

Here is what you can expect to see from me if all goes well and motivation stays high:

  • Delta Lounge at Washington Dulles (if this exists)
  • Flight Report: Air France Business Class from Washington DC (IAD) to Paris (CDG) on the Airbus A380
  • Air France Lounge in Paris
  • Day Trip to Paris
  • Flight Report: Air Mauritius Business Class from Paris to Mauritius (MRU) on a 777-300
  • Staying at the Four Seasons Mauritius
  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in Mauritius
  • Sight Seeing in Mauritius
  • Golfing at the Ernie Els Designed Course at the Fours Seasons Mauritius
  • Flight Report: Air Mauritius Economy Class from Mauritius to Paris
  • Flight Report: Air France Paris to Munich
  • Staying at The Hilton Munich Hotel
  • Sight Seeing in Munich
  • Oktoberfest in Munich
  • Driving to Berchtesgarden, Germany
  • Staying at The Intercontinental Berchtesgaden
  • Sight Seeing in Berchtesgaden
  • Train from Munich to Paris
  • Staying at Park Hyatt Vendome Hotel
  • Sight Seeing in Paris
  • Flight Report: Air France Business Class from Paris to Washington DC on the Airbus A380

Wow, this is a jam packed two weeks of travel! 4 overnight flights and 11 nights in premium hotels (four of these using points). 7 Total flights, a train ride and two car rentals. 4 Hemispheres.

I can’t wait for this trip and I hope you stick with me as I share the details (once again, as long as my wife allows it).

Jeffalytics Digital Marketing Blog

Jeffalytics Screenshot

This is where I seriously geek out and teach everyone what I have learned over the years as a web developer and Internet marketer. It turns out that I have learned a lot and there is a lot of great information for me to share!

In September of 2012 I chose to create this site as a standalone site dedicated solely to Digital Marketing and WordPress development. While this information could have gone on Jeffsauer.com, I didn’t think the audience would appreciate a mix between such diverse topics as random thoughts/travel blogging and hardcore marketing. That made a standalone website necessary.

Jeffalytics is taking off quite well and already has received industry recognition and a great following. Interested in learning more?

Sign up for the Jeffalytics Mailing List

Visit Jeffalytics Digital Marketing Blog

An Accurate Depiction of Minnesota (map)

I saw this map on Facebook the other day and I couldn’t help but saving it to my hard drive for a future blog post. The map is hilariously accurate in its ability to stereotype the  state of Minnesota by regions.

I especially love the descriptions for the other states. South Dakota? “Mt. Rushmore or Something”

Iowa? “Corn and Idiots”

Canada? “Hockey and Santa Clause”

For those of you who grew up in Minnesota, there is surely a lot of head nodding in agreement.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to visit much, it sure looks appealing doesn’t it?

Well, just know that the ghetto isn’t really that ghetto, the rich aren’t really that rich (except on lake Minnetonka), but the bad drivers really are bad drivers.

Print this out if you ever come to visit. Laughter is a valid currency in MN.

On Being CIO

I am about to leave for a photo and video shoot that be used alongside a story about an award I am receiving – the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s CIO of the year.

CIO stands for Chief Information Officer, and is often synonymous with the title CTO (Chief Technology Officer). While the explanation can be nuanced, I would say it can be generalized as the person in an organization responsible for making the technology choices needed to empower an organization to get work done more efficiently, effectively and accurately. This includes both computer hardware and software purchases, internal technology development and championing positive change in an organization.

While my title has never indicated that I am a CIO by any means, I have taken on many of the qualities of this role throughout my career. I stay on top of technology developments, I’m not afraid to evaluate new technologies, and I can easily summarize the positives and negatives of a technology in a matter of minutes.

In addition, by being a web developer for over 10 years, I especially understand how the underlying technology of the web works, as well as the database structure that powers most of our lives. The ability to understand how data is stored, accessed, and can be utilized to make decisions is a key part to the success of a chief information officer.

Preparing to be on camera talking about this role can be a little difficult, because this is an all encompassing role and there’s really no right or wrong answer. My only worry is that I get the definition wrong compared to my peers.

Then again, how can you be wrong when they already gave you the award?

Here are the questions and my answers as of now:

What is a CIO?

A CIO is the person in an organization responsible for making the technology choices needed to empower an organization to get work done more efficiently, effectively and accurately. This includes both computer hardware and software purchases, internal technology development and championing positive change in an organization.

What makes a good CIO?

A good CIO starts with being curious. They will want to know how everything works, have a strong understanding of technology and how to best apply it to organizations. They spend money wisely, balancing current needs with future investments. They don’t bring change to an organization too soon, but they should never be too late either.  They should know what they don’t know and confide in others to round out their knowledge.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I like to travel – I have been to 6 continents and only have Antarctica left. I enjoy photography, especially using photos to document my world travels. I love to cook with my wife, and we make cuisine from all over the world, all from scratch. In addition, I have built several websites for hobbies, expanding my knowledge in several industries that expand beyond the marketing and technology world.

Wish me luck! Although, by the time you read this, my ugly mug will be forever emblazoned on a giant memory card in the sky.

Photo Opp: Washington DC Cherry Blossoms in Monochrome

Monochrome

The blooming of the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC is a big draw each year to our nations capital. It’s the sign of spring, with pink blossoms decorating much of the city, especially the Tidal Basin where many of the trees are aligned.

The trees were a gift to the US from Japan, and they have proven to be the gift that keeps on giving.

I was fortunate to have been there at peak bloom in 2012, and took many pictures of the event. However, I’m not sharing them all today. Today I’m sharing the one picture I have that completely strips out the color and lends focus simply to the scene. It was beautiful.

Surely in a future photo opp we will examine more cherry blossom photos, that time in technicolor.

 

Being an Entrepreneur – How You See It, How I Live It

I stumbled across this image a while back and I decided that it was an extremely accurate depiction of life as an entrepreneur. Well, at least most of it.

I think that there is potentially a perception among friends who don’t see me every day that what I do is easy, filled with travel and leisure, and I understand why. That is the image I project on my blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Heck, I’m going to Mauritius in a month pretty much for free.

What they don’t see is the time spent in between these trips, where I am sitting in front of a computer for 12-14 hours a day trying to make all of this look easy. The truth is that it’s not very easy to own a business, but it’s also something I couldn’t imagine doing without.

These two I’m not sure about. I don’t really understand how Gordon Gecko (an investor character from the movie Wall Street) has to do with the image investors paint of entrepreneurs.

Also, I’m pretty sure that my mom doesn’t really know who Mark Zuckerberg is. She is just proud of me and happy that I’m not in jail ;).

These last two are frighteningly accurate. While I like to think that I am changing the world, inventing something, and solving problems, it can’t be that way without customers.

I can plan on having the greatest product, the prettiest looking website or the most coveted service in the world, and it really doesn’t matter if the phone doesn’t ring.

The phone ringing (actually, it’s really inbound emails), is what makes a business work. Without users, your company is useless. Without a revenue stream, everything is academic.

This is the thing that most people don’t realize. When you are in the center of a business, trying to make it grow, you are desperately waiting for people to find your product and make good use of it. This was true for Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple before they hit it big.

Until you can have a steady stream of people in the door, none of the rest matters. Sure, the lifestyle looks amazing when you see planes and pictures, but for the most part that is just an escape from the stresses of trying to make things work 70+ hours a week.

Then again, you may always see entrepreneurship as a glamorous lifestyle until you live it yourself.