Tim Foolery

United Flight Houston to Buenos Aires (IAH – EZE) | Economy

Our upgrade to Buenos Aires didn’t clear, so we ended up paying more than we should have for an economy seat for the 10 hour flight. Using the Global Premier Upgrades has usually worked out for us, but not this time.

United operates a two-cabin Boeing 777 on this flight to Buenos Aires. The economy seats were in a 3-3-3 configuration. The Economy Plus seat was surprisingly comfortable. While not a lay flat seat, I had enough room to drop the tray table, and rest my head for a couple hours of decent sleep. I’m just about 6′ tall, so the pitch between seats was pretty good. Although I did have a bit of a stiff neck when I woke up.

United 777-200 Business Class
United 777-200 Business Class

Speaking of the tray table, the food on this flight was very mediocre. The meal was standard United Airlines Economy Class Food. Luckily, we grabbed a bite to eat in Houston at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. We figured the upgrades wouldn’t clear and even if they did we were pretty sure the food would be disappointing. We planned perfectly here.

Crab Cocktail at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Houston Airport
Crab Cocktail at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Houston Airport

We’ve been fortunate enough to have our upgrades clear – or just book Business Class with miles – fly business class for flights this long. While it sure wasn’t an ideal travel experience, it was good for us to fly Economy. It helped remind us that it isn’t really all that bad.

We landed a few minutes early and made the way through customs, which was quite heinous. The line was well over an hour long. This just goes to show how spoiled I’ve gotten with Global Entry. Clearing Customs and Immigration we grabbed our checked luggage and made our way to our connecting flight. Our layover in Buenos Aires was nearly four hours. We planned on hopping on an earlier flight to Mendoza…or so we thought…


Flight Planning: Argentina

We had so much planning to do for our trip to Argentina. First things first: Getting There. Our Argentina Flight Planning followed our standard logic. Do we use miles and fly Business Class? Maybe we pay for Business Class? Do we pay for Economy and just deal with it? Or do we pay for a higher fare in Economy and use our Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) to upgrade to Business?

Our Plan

Since we both needed the Elite Qualifying Miles to keep our status with United we knew that we couldn’t cash in miles for this trip. We earn nearly 12,000 premier qualifying miles for this round trip from Chicago. We couldn’t let those miles go to waste. When we flew to Lima, we found round trip Business Class tickets for about $1,800 per person. If we could find something like that for this trip, we’d book it in an instant. Unfortunately all Business Class tickets were going for well over $5K each. The only way I’d pay that much money for a flight is to hurry home to someone’s deathbed or to flee the country with no notice to avoid a criminal indictment.

Flight Planning Argentina
No direct flight to Buenos Aires from Chicago, so we routed through Houston and Newark.

The difference between the upgradable Economy Fare and the normal Economy Fare was about $200 more per person. Basically, we’d pay $200 more for the opportunity to use our GPUs. If the upgrades didn’t clear, we’re out that money.

United 777-200 Business Class
United 777-200 Business Class

We followed this same logic as we booked our tickets to Rio in 2017. We booked airfare about eight months out and the upgrade cleared about a month later. Figuring that Argentina wasn’t a huge Thanksgiving destination, we thought this was our best bet.

The days, weeks and moths passed. No upgrade. We had some flight schedule changes, still no upgrades. We chatted up the fine folks at United and they couldn’t do anything, but tell us that they were pretty sure we’d clear.

The Results

Finally, it’s day of travel. We checked in and our upgrade still hadn’t cleared. We kept refreshing the upgrade list. The frustration set in. We’d paid extra money to sit in the same old Economy Seats for nearly three hours to Houston and 10 hours to Buenos Aires.

Fast forward to the return trip. The exact same scenario played out. We watched the list. Our names hovered towards the top of the list, but never crossed that magic threshold. Once we checked in at the airport, we were notified that our upgrades had cleared – for the leg between Newark and Chicago. Of the 26 hours of flying time with United we’d have on this trip, two of those hours would be in Business Class.

I’ll touch on a couple of the details on these flights later on, but at the end of the day, these flights were fine. We arrived safely. The United crew was a good mix of fun and surly, mostly surly. While our Argentina Flight Planning didn’t end up exactly as we wanted, we did have a pretty great trip.

Do you follow the same logic as we do when determining how to get somewhere?

A Dry and Vegetarian January

January 2019 marks the sixth year that I’ve chosen to have a DRY January and the fourth where I’ve given up meat. A Dry and Vegetarian January has become a standard for me. I don’t give up meat and booze for any particular reason – mostly just to reset and be more mindful of what I consume.

A smokey cocktail is great, but not in January. No booze for me!

Losing wait is not my goal (although that would be a nice benefit). I don’t even end up being all that much healthier as we eat more cheese than usual. After all the parties in the fall, I do find the booze-free aspect to be refreshing.

Fall is a big season for non-profit events in Chicago, plus all the heavy work dinners, conferences and holiday parties. At a certain point, a guy just needs to take a step back.

How I started this trek

I started off with booze-free January when a friend leaned over, at a New Year’s Eve event, and asked:

Friend: Tim, do you think you could go all of January without a drink?

Me: Of course. I don’t even think it would be that hard. Do you?

Friend: Uh. No. I don’t think I could. In all seriousness, I don’t.

Me: Well then, you and I must have a dry month. If you can’t stop, you need to.

I woke up on New Year’s Day, with a hangover, and skipped the booze of brunch. A few days passed and I called my friend who was on the booze diet, asking how she was faring. She said she couldn’t make it through the first day. Trying again on the second day, she failed. She made it through the third day, but split a bottle of wine on the fourth.

Each year, at the same New Year’s Party, she commits to having a dry January and each year she fails. She fails within the first few days.

I continue to plug through each January without booze and without meat (although, I will have a piece of fish or shellfish a few times a month). The booze never really crosses my mind (unless it is a miserably cold winter day and we are sitting by the fire – I just want a glass of wine then). I don’t think about the booze. I don’t think about the meat. My life continues as normal.

The Results

Ultimately, I do feel better at the end of January, but I’m not sure if that is because of improved health or a sense of superiority because I made it through the month.

Do you give up anything to start the new year? Have you tried to abstain but failed? What advice do you have for fellow quitters?

Adventures in Argentina: Introduction

Argentina has been on our list to visit for a few years now. We finally decided to pull the trigger and spend our Thanksgiving break exploring three separate cities in Argentina. These adventures were a great break from a hectic work life.

Our goals for this trip were pretty simple – get away from work for a week and explore a new area of the world. Argentina is well known for it’s wine and it’s beef. As with almost all of our trips we built our experiences around food, wine and seeing beautiful spaces. Of course we had to couple these requirements with our need for a relaxing break. It is a vacation after all.

Andes Mountain Views from Argentina
Views of the Andes from Mendoza.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the various flights, hotels, restaurants and experiences, including:

  • Flight Planning
  • United Flight IAH – EZE | Economy
  • LATAM Flight EZE/AEP – MDZ | Economy
  • Park Hyatt Mendoza – Standard Room
  • Valle Uco Wine Tasting
  • Dining in Mendoza
  • Austral Frlight MDZ-COR | Economy
  • Sheraton Cordoba  – Junior Suite
  • Dining in Cordoba
  • Walking Tours in Cordoba
  • Cordoba Airport
  • LATAM Flight COR – AEP | Economy
  • Park Tower Hotel – Corner Suite
  • Buenos Aires Bike Tour
  • Dining in Buenos Aires
  • The Bird Poop Scam
  • Taxis in Buenos Aires
  • United Flight EZE – EWR | Economy
  • United Flight EWR – ORD | First

Not to spoiler the ending here, but we loved our time in Argentina. Next time we will do somethings a little differently though.

Have you been to Argentina? What was your favorite spot? Did you have to deal with the bird poop scam?

Twitter Engagement

When it comes to social media engagement with Twitter, I’m pretty passive. I join some Twitter chats and engage with some fellow travel bloggers that either mesh with how I travel OR are very different travelers than I am.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time on Twitter. But I do reshare blog posts several times a week and work on supporting (liking, retweeting, commenting) on some fellow bloggers, but it is limited.

Honestly, I don’t think much about Twitter.

I was surprised when I was notified yesterday that I crossed 1,000 Twitter Followers. It was a shock because I haven’t done much of anything on Twitter in December.

Crossed the 1K Followers Threshold. Now what?

For all the other bloggers out there, how do you use Twitter? Do you see active engagement and traffic from Twitter? What drives most of your traffic nowadays? Do we follow each other? If not, we should – share your handle with me.