Author Topic: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai  (Read 7752 times)

Offline @Yehuda

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A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« on: October 20, 2015, 05:01:02 PM »
A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai

The whole trip report is finished, but I know that it's incredibly long, so I'll post it in a few pieces over the next few days. Here goes! Hope you enjoy and hope it helps others plan their trips!

Trip Planning
It’s no secret that I’ve wanted to go to Hawaii for a long time. That’s why I starting writing this trip planning segment in January 2015, 8 months before travelling. I love the stress and thrill of award booking and thought it would be fun to keep track of how my flight/hotel bookings progressed. If you also like the insanity of booking, read on! I do warn you that it gets into technical airline stuff, but I did try to translate as much of the jargon as possible. However, if this long post scares you, feel free to jump to the end of it where I’ll sum up how much I spent on flights/hotels and how I booked them. Or, go straight to the next post for the actual trip report.

After last year’s 6-week incredible journey through Europe, I haven’t stopped thinking about the next trip. Although Europe was awesome, it wasn’t exactly the most relaxing honeymoon one could have. Every day our itinerary was packed, and we were flying once or twice a week. So I knew our next trip had to be somewhere of a more classic honeymoon destination. From the way people talk about it here, I knew Hawaii had to be the choice. I had hoped that we could make it there this past winter, but due to time constraints, we decided a short stint to Orlando would have to do. We had a fantastic time, but as soon as we got back, the travel bug was at my heels once again. This time Hawaii. This summer. C’mon, it has to happen!

From my days of opening up any credit card I could get my hands on, I had enough Lufthansa (LH) miles to make the roundtrip on United (UA) in lie-flat business class (J) from Newark (EWR) to Honolulu (HNL) at 70K miles per person (as opposed to UA miles which requires 80K, although LH is not the cheapest way to book this route – Singapore is at 60K). So, I knew what miles I wanted to use, what airline to fly and thought I had 3 months of summer flexibility. Boy was I in for a surprise. I first learned about the “Shabbos in Hawaii” question and found out from my Rabbi that I should not be in Hawaii over Shabbos. So, in order to get the most out of the weekdays in Hawaii, I would have to leave home on a Sunday and get out of Hawaii by Thursday noon-ish (so that the plane would be past everyone’s opinion of the dateline before Shkia). From my research, the only flights out of any island in the early afternoon only go the west coast – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, etc., so I figured – great, we’ll do Shabbos in sunny California – and stay by fellow DDFer, Yehoshua - and extend our trip through the weekend. Now I had all summer for flexibility, while just needing Sunday and Thursday flights. That abruptly changed. My wife’s job/school schedule changed, and she wouldn’t be free for basically all of June or the end of August. Then, throw in the 9 days/Tisha B’av and some other obligations, and it wasn’t too long until I realized there was literally just ONE Sunday/week that would work for us. Talk about being flexible when it comes to booking award flights.

UA’s availability was pitiful for nonstop flights in any class on any day of the week from mid-June through mid-August, yet I kept checking every day. I knew it was basically pointless to do daily checks in January/February time, but I couldn’t help myself. I even started checking from other destinations - first those that had lie-flat for at least a portion of the trip: Washington, D.C., Houston, and the few flights from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Denver (DEN) that are lie-flat. Nothing doing. Again, lie-flat was ideal, but I couldn’t even find economy (Y) space on any of these routes. It also seems like DEN no longer has lie-flat on that route, but it anyways always has a place in my heart since my wife is from there and her family still lives there, so that also made it an attractive option since we could tack on some DEN time to our trip. Either way, nothing doing there, but I kept checking every day.

A few weeks later, and 2 seats opened up from DEN to Maui (OGG) for the Sunday morning I needed!! I called LH and jumped on those tickets. I chose J (they also had Y available) even though it wasn’t lie-flat (which most would agree is not a good use of miles) because I figured I had the LH to burn and a 7 hour flight will definitely be more comfortable in a somewhat bigger seat. 35K per person for the one way. Next, I quickly booked NYC-DEN on Southwest with our Companion Pass for the Friday before our flight, so we could have a nice Shabbos in Denver with her family and then head out Sunday morning to Maui. I didn’t have a return, but I quickly realized that this was going to be my first trip where I booked the legs one at a time and would wait months in between finding a way there and a way home.

A week later, I opened my computer after Shabbos to find out that LH emailed me over Shabbos saying that the flight was cancelled, and I was rebooked on a super early morning flight with a stop in SFO. Man, that stinks. Of course, I still had the flight and that was great, but that’s a lot less convenient. I went to the forums and got some encouragement from Dan and Ergel to call LH and see what they could do. I had to wait till Monday for their office to open (I never had success dealing with their foreign offices on the weekend), so I left it at that.

(Disclosure: This piece has been posted before, but don’t kill me for retelling the story now.)

I called up Monday morning, and the agent said she couldn't do anything. She tried to search for availability to switch my flight, but obviously could only see what I saw on UA's website– nothing. Then she said the manager wasn't in yet, and she'd have a "scheduling agent" call me. After not receiving a call (they had the wrong phone number), I called back that afternoon and right away asked for a manager, explained the situation and basically told her that I know this will only work if someone from LH will call their representative at UA and convince them to open space on another flight. She tried searching for availability in her system (which obviously didn't work) and then said a scheduling agent would call me.

10 min later someone actually called (!) and again told me there's no space showing. I asked if there was any chance she could call UA and get them to open up space on a better flight. Not only did I need nonexistent space, but since the nonstop DEN-OGG was cancelled for my dates, I needed an origin/destination change. I told her I'm really beginning my trip in New York and only going to Denver because that's where I found a flight to Hawaii from, so if she could get me on the direct EWR-HNL, that would really be great. The rep thought I was crazy but she agreed to call. A few minutes later, she got back on the phone with me and said UA agreed to open space from EWR-SFO-OGG, but that they weren't happy with all these origin/destination changes. That flight would kill the whole day and get me to land at 9PM. With so few precious moments in Hawaii due to the Shabbos issue, I persisted and asked her if she could try for the direct flight one more time…

5 min later she got back on the phone and said I could either have DEN-HNL or EWR-HNL. The choice was obvious. I couldn’t believe it, but thank G-d, magical space was opened direct from New York on the nonstop, lie-flat!!

The next step was to cancel the WN tickets to DEN and book a flight from HNL to another island since everyone on DDF knows that – and say it with me – the first thing you do when you land in HNL is get on a plane to another island! Having thought I was going to Maui for a while, I spoke to some people and decided to keep it that way (plus there was no award space on the interisland flights to Kauai, the other island I was considering). Both Hawaiian Airlines (HA) and Island Air fly the interisland routes with HA bookable with either American Airlines (AA) for 5K or UA for 6K, while Island can only be booked with UA for 6K. Based on availability, I booked HNL-OGG on Island for 6K UA per person. Next up, I booked the Andaz Maui with 2 free Hyatt nights and booked the last 2 nights for cash (not paid upfront) just to hold the rooms for when my wife would get her Hyatt credit card and 2 nights. Not sure that holding the rooms in such a way does anything, but I figured I would try. Her nights posted in March, and I swapped out the cash nights for her 2 free nights (there was still award availability, so no data point from my attempt at holding the nights). I tried for a while to figure out how to use someone’s Diamond Suite Upgrade (DSU) to upgrade us to a suite (and obviously not use free nights certificates for all the nights since those can’t be used in conjunction with a DSU), but the Andaz no longer accepts Cash and Points nights, which means the only way to use a DSU is to pay cash. None of the popular corporate codes brought the rate down low enough, even with using discounted Hyatt gift cards, to compel me to pay for even 1 night with cash. So, I gave up on the suite, but hey, it's still 4 free nights at the beautiful Andaz Maui!

The next step was getting home. As you know, it had to be Thursday afternoon, so I researched and found that UA, AA and Delta all have flights in the early afternoon from OGG-LAX. AA had 1 seat available while the others had none. I thought that ideally I would have used LH to book UA on OGG-LAX-NYC (and make LAX a free stopover and go to NYC after Shabbos), but I found out that LH only gives a free stopover on a RT and my ticket had to be booked as a one way since the outbound was already book when it was the only leg that had space at the time. Since there was no chance of getting in a free stopover, I grabbed the one AA seat OGG-LAX for 12.5K British Airways (an AA partner that is cheaper to use for this route and cancellation is only the $5.60 fees you pay) and kept checking all 3 airlines everyday (probably more than I needed to being that it was still 5 months in advance, hehe).

In the meanwhile, I bought the guidebook recommended by everyone on DDF - Maui Revealed - as well as the corresponding app. What a fun read! I used sticky notes to tick off every item that seemed interesting to me (I’m sure you can guess I ticked way too many things) and then went through all my ticks a second time, knocked some out and organized them by activities per day. I also read through the whole Maui thread on DDF and everyone’s trip reports there and compared those experiences with Maui Revealed to decide the best way to break up the activities for our 3 full days. Much closer to the trip, I posted my itinerary on DDF and Dan helped tweak it based on his experiences to put together an awesome plan for the 3 days. 3 days sure doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s what you have to do if you aren’t going to be there for Shabbos. We’ll just have to go back!

Fast forward to the end of May when I realized that I can possibly get off from work for a second trip to Hawaii this summer – in June! I quickly looked up what dates would work and even found a decent flight situation, DEN-OGG (again) on a Sunday morning, which means we could get in a Shabbos at my in-laws before the trip (which my wife would love), and we wouldn’t need to deal with interisland flights since it goes straight to Maui. The route back through LA for Shabbos also had some availability, and finally, the Andaz Maui even had space!

Wait – go to Maui twice in 1 summer!? Nah – I would just change my interisland flight in August to Kauai (as the Grand Hyatt Kauai (GHK) had space for the week in August that we’re supposed to go), and then make this June trip to Maui.

I first called Hyatt to switch my 4 nights from August to June, since there’s no change fee, and then contemplated the rest of the routing for a day or two, as the flights I currently saw available had lots of seats on them. I’m glad I took the few days to think because I soon realized that my dates conflicted with a family matter that would not allow us to go to Hawaii that week. Dang, shot down once again, but what can you do? I rushed to call Hyatt and switch my reservation back to August, but alas, the Andaz got booked up in the meanwhile! Ahhh! The GHK had space in Kauai for August, so I had them switch our nights to that.

So, we have EWR-HNL in J, interisland to OGG (whose flight time changed about 3 times since I booked, but was now actually at a better time, fortunately), one seat on OGG-LAX, and our hotel is on another island. This should be a fun summer of waiting…

July 17 – This morning, I got an Expert Flyer alert in the early morning that space on AA’s flight from Kauai (LIH) to LAX opened up! Great, we’ll go to Kauai, and I’ll just change our interislands to LIH and cancel the OGG-LAX for 5 bucks, no big deal. I ran to my computer and logged onto AA.com and BA.com only to find… 0 seats on the flight! ExpertFlyer also showed 0 seats. Someone must have beat me to it. Sheesh. Well, we’re back to where we were. :(

July 31 – With just 2 weeks left till our trip, I was randomly searching on UA.com (as I had been doing for months) and found 2 seats in Y from LIH-LAX! (Coach would be more than fine on this leg since J isn't lie-flat anyway.) A quick call to Singapore (a UA partner that is cheaper on this route), and I nabbed them for 17.5K per person. I then called British Airways to cancel the 1 seat that we had OGG-LAX and lost the $5.60 taxes, but I was expecting that. The remaining issue was the interisland flight. Because my HNL-OGG flight had a few schedule changes, I would be able to get UA to rebook me for free on HNL-LIH, but only HA flies HNL-LIH, not Island Air, and they didn’t have any award space. So, I just cancelled HNL-OGG and got back my UA miles and $5.60 taxes. I was going to have to book the HA flight some other way. I could have transferred 7.5K American Express Membership Rewards to HA to book, but the next flight that was available at the 7.5K rate would require me to wait around HNL airport for 3+ hours. The remaining options were to pay cash (hah!), use miles like Chase Ultimate Rewards to book the flight directly from HA (which only gets a value of 1.25 cents per point and UR are worth more than that), or to book with my Arrival Plus (A+) card and use those points to cover the cost (which only gets a value of 1.1cpp, but that’s always the value it gets). I opted for A+ and booked directly on HA.com for $112 person, which came out to 10,080 A+ points per person after the 10% rebate that you get when redeeming miles (soon to become only 5%). I also could have opted to book through the DansDeals HA Corporate account (which offers the same rates as booking direct but also gives free luggage), but the charge wouldn’t post as a “travel” charge and then I couldn’t use my A+ points to redeem against the charge (as A+ points can only be redeemed at 1.1cpp when redeemed against a “travel” charge). My wife and I pack lightly and had no problem packing for 6 weeks in Europe in our carryons, so we figured we’d be able to do it again for just 1 week and save on the bag fees. I imagine that with bringing food we’ll need 1 real bag, so if in EWR I can’t get our bags checked all the way through HNL to LIH, then we’ll pay the fee for 1 bag (which should only be $15 since we joined the HA frequent flyer program). Boy, am I glad we had GHK booked just in case. (And I had bought Kauai Revealed a while earlier to have some fun random reading.) All we have left to do now is find LAX-EWR!

August 6 – Time for the car rental. Everyone makes it seem that to make your trip to Hawaii even more special, you really want a convertible for your stay. While a 4-wheel drive vehicle is necessary for parts of Waimea Canyon in Kauai, the hassle of swapping out the car, plus price of renting a convertible for fewer days and a 4WD for 1 day, steered me away from getting a 4WD. I had previously done research, and the cheapest I could find for a convertible for 4 days was $248 via Avis. However, recently, there was a recall on Mustangs in Hawaii, and Avis temporarily had to return all of their Mustangs. The location in LIH had a few left that they were not making available online and were only taking phone bookings for at a set rate of $109/day + tax. Yeah… no thanks. After trying other agencies, corporate codes and Priceline, I was drawing blanks. Finally, I tried discounthawaiicarrental.com (noted in the Hawaii threads' wikis) and was able to find a Mustang from Dollar for $276. Not the cheapest, but can’t really complain for so close to my travel date and while a recall is going on. I grabbed that for now with my UA credit card since it will cover the insurance and will hopefully switch the card to my A+ after the rental (assuming iy”h the car stays in good shape) to cover the charge with 24,750 points. Convertible here we come!

Food time – Shortly before our trip, I achieved Hyatt Diamond status, so that would cover breakfast at the Grand Club/lounge at the hotel. For lunches, we decided that we’d pick up some bread, spreads, snacks and drinks at Walmart in Hawaii. So, all we needed to bring along with us were dinners. I decided that when you spend so little on flights, you can afford to splurge on food ;) and so we placed an order for 12 pre-cooked, double-wrapped, travel meals from Pomegranate Supermarket (POM) in Brooklyn for $240. The truth is, if there was a Kosher restaurant in Kauai, we would have gone there for all our meals and spent well over $240 – so this was definitely a great deal.


Talk about a close fit :). All pics taken on an iPhone 5, except for a few taken with a Sharp Aquos

As everyone seems to have a POM customer service story, I’ll share mine:
I placed my order in time for Friday delivery and was told that Manhattan delivery would be $20 and that I could just opt for ice packs to be put in the box for $2 instead of additionally having the box lined with styrofoam insulation for $15. After discussing with AnonymousUser who had just ordered from POM himself, I decided we didn’t really need the styrofoam since the food would be frozen, would go straight into our freezer over Shabbos, into my mom’s freezer Motzai Shabbos and under the plane 30,000 feet in the air. After placing the order, I was told that I would be charged $25 for delivery since I lived further out in Manhattan than they thought and my bill had the $15 insulation charge on it. After a few back and forth emails with them, I proved that I had been told it would only be $20 (good to know that next time it’ll be $25 to my neighborhood) and explained that I didn't order the styrofoam, and they agreed and also removed the $15 insulation charge. My invoice said that my order would go out on the 8AM delivery truck. When the food didn’t arrive by 10:30AM (Brooklyn is not that far away), I called up and was told it’ll go out in the next half hour. When it still didn’t arrive by 2PM, I called up and struggled to get hold of someone. After a half hour on the phone, I finally got someone who was able to located my food… still sitting in Brooklyn. They promised the delivery guy would take it right away and that it would make it before Shabbos and, b”h, the food showed up shortly before Shabbos. Of course, the box was insulated with styrofoam, so I emailed the guy I had been in touch with and told him that while he shouldn't worry about this till after Shabbos, I had a lot of stress with the food almost not coming and that I got charged for the styrofoam and it showed up, despite not requesting it. He responded while we were on the trip and said he would refund the insulation fee. (It took about 2 weeks and several reminder emails to get the refund.) Overall, not a huge deal (just needed to keep on top of them), and the food was great, so we definitely recommend ordering from POM for your trip.

With most of our flights booked, I bought travel insurance from Travel Guard. After having a good experience with them on our Eurotrip, I went with them again, this time opting for the Gold plan (2nd highest option) for $88.

Sunday, August 16 – The day of our flight came, and we still didn’t have a flight home. While others here have departed on a trip without a set return, I was nervous (although not as much as my wife) to embark without a flight home, but kind of excited at the same time. A few days ago, I booked a flight on Southwest from LAX-EWR with a connection in St. Louis, as that was the only flight I could find with award space, but even with our Companion Pass, it was still not a great award redemption. I was hoping Southwest’s great cancellation policy would come in handy once better flights opened up, and I was right. I’m skipping here to the final flight booking just to keep all the trip booking in one post.

As we landed in HNL, Yehoshua (the Wonderful) texted me that he was checking flights and space opened up for Motzai Shabbos LAX-EWR in J! While LAX-EWR currently only has lie-flat on 2-3 morning flights (soon to change in October - sheesh, I really wrote this a long time ago), I figured I’d splurge on the recliner-J for the redeye flight in the hopes of getting a better sleep. I originally anticipated leaving Sunday morning/early afternoon, but we realized that we wouldn’t really get in any activities on Sunday morning, so leaving Motzai Shabbos wouldn’t be a big deal. I tried grabbing the flight while making our way through the HNL airport and even while sitting on the HA flight on the runway, but I couldn’t get it done in time and just hoped that the space would still be available that night when we settled into the hotel. B"h, the space was there that night, and I called up LH and booked the return LAX-EWR in J for 17K per person (hey, they rounded down – it should have been 17.5K – even after they supposedly stopped rounding down).

So, our final tally:
EWR-HNL on UA in J booked with LH for 35K + $5.60 per person
HNL-LIH on HA booked directly and paid with A+ for 10,080 per person.
LIH-LAX on UA in Y booked with SQ for 17.5K + $5.60 per person.
LAX-EWR on UA in J booked with LH for 17K + $5.60 per person.
GHK booked with 4 free Hyatt night certificates.
Convertible 4 day rental from Dollar paid with A+ for 24,750.

Total cost of flights, hotel and car rental:
160,160 points and $33.60
;D ;D
#LongLiveDansDeals

Off to the real TR!

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2015, 05:01:12 PM »
Sunday, 8/16

Before Shabbos, we packed up almost everything we would need for the trip so that on Motzai Shabbos we could quickly clean up from Shabbos, pack up the last few things and head over to my mother’s house in New Jersey where we we could be just 15 minutes from EWR for our 9:15AM flight on Sunday. By the time we got to bed in Jersey, it was only a few hours before 6:30AM Rosh Chodesh Shacharis at Adath Israel in Hillside, NJ (which is literally minutes from EWR). After Shul, I headed back to get my wife, pack up the car and have my mom drive us to the airport (thanks!). We were at priority checkin (due to flying J) a few minutes before 8AM with plenty of time till our 9:15AM flight. Now, my nerves kicked in; it was time to attempt to get our bags checked all the way through to LIH. I grabbed my printed out tickets of EWR-HNL and HNL-LIH and stepped up the counter. The agent looked at them and in one second said, “We have a new policy. The flights are not on the same reservation, so we can’t check the bags through (unless you’re a Gold member).” Darn. I asked for a supervisor, got a snarky, “She’ll say the same thing as I said,” and was met by… the same thing the first rep said. Oh well. Because we were flying J and had free bags on the first leg, we decided to check the POM box as well as our 2 suitcases, which were just the size of carryons, figuring it would be nice to not walk through EWR with our bags. With 20/20 hindsight, I can definitively say that was a mistake.

After going through TSA Precheck, we headed to the UA Lounge, which was right past security.



We quickly found out that flying J domestically – even to Hawaii – doesn’t get you access to the lounge. Sheesh. Not to fear, I pulled out 2 one-time passes, and we headed in as I gazed at the monitor and saw that our flight was delayed. I’ve read that this flight, UA15, is plagued by delays, and unfortunately, our flight would be no different from the norm. We were nervous about catching the connecting flight in HNL, but there was nothing we could do at this point, so we put it out of our heads.


Back, back, back, a little bit forward, and how about back again?

Eventually, we decided we better head to the gate in case the time changed to an earlier time. When we got to the gate, we found some seats, and within 10 minutes, they called boarding. Glad we decided to go to the gate. We lined up in Group 1 and were ready to get our trip started.



Turning left upon entering the plane put a smile on my face as we headed towards our lie-flat seats, *just* the second time for us (both on UA). We picked the first row (bulkhead) because supposedly there is a bit more space in the footwell, but I really didn’t notice much of a difference. I did notice that the window seat had more room in the footwell and a larger shelf than the aisle seat, as the seats are tilted towards the window and that shape allows for more room in the window seat.


Our seats for the next 9:20 hours


Dark, but bed-mode

Before we even settled in, the stewardess informed us that our Kosher meal (KSML) was on board and then my nerves kicked in for the second time that day – I asked if it would be possible to warm up the POM meals we brought along with us (in case the KSML was bad), and after some hesitation/confusion (and making a joke about the quality of airline KSMLs that she didn’t seem to appreciate :-[) and explaining that the food was already wrapped up for an oven, she heartily agreed. Right afterwards, she brought out some drinks.


 
That stewardess, as well as the rest of the crew, was extremely friendly and provided great service. I am far from being experienced enough to comment on the quality of the service (soft product) or the seat, entertainment system, blanket, pillow, drinks, etc. (hard product) compared to other airlines’ premium cabins, but to humble me, it was all very nice.

We finally took off at 10:40AM, almost an hour and a half after scheduled departure, but the pilot announced that we’d been given a better route and our travel time would be just about 9 and a half hours instead the scheduled 10:52 hours. I’ve gotten used to the concept that sometimes planes can get a better route and make it much earlier than expected, but boy does it confuse/surprise me. Leaving 1.5 hours late and only arriving 13 minutes late made me very happy as we knew there shouldn’t be any issues catching our connecting flight now.

Breakfast was served shortly after takeoff and was from Regal Caterers. We decided to wash (my Rabbi says to wash on Mezonos rolls) and enjoy a bit of the first course. The danish in particular was very good. I’m not so into the pictures of food, but I know you love them ;) so…



After finding out that the main course was an omelet, we asked if the stewardess wouldn’t mind holding onto our omelets and instead warming up our POM meals once she was done serving everyone else. I figured it would be appropriate to give them time to serve everyone their normal meals before making this request, although it did take a long time for them to get back to us, which was annoying particularly because we also still had to wait for the meal to warm up. Being that it came from the freezer just a few hours earlier, we could tell that 30 minutes of warming wasn’t enough, and we had to ask them to warm it up more. Finally, our penne alla vodka arrived. We both thought it was fantastic, although I personally like the one at Café K better. Again, it was still super flavorful and was an incredible treat while on a plane.



While eating, we watched the live action Cinderella movie (so-so) and then switched off between napping and catching some TV like Impractical Jokers and Shark Tank.


Note my wallet under the TV. We’ll get back to that later :-[

A little while later, they came around with the second meal (I didn’t even realize there would be 2 meals!). It’s always so difficult fitting the KSMLs on the tray tables, but I managed even though the first and second courses were brought out together.



This time I didn’t go for the bread/pita. The cake-thing was… yeah… but the breadsticks were good and the lox was yummy! The third course was a chicken dish that the stewardess was able to show me since someone behind us also ordered a KSML but wasn’t particular about the stewardess not opening up the wrapping. (No one behind me looked religious – could be they either are Jewish, not religious or they just have dietary restrictions similar to Kosher.) After seeing the chicken, plus still being pretty full from the POM pasta, I asked if it would be possible to just have the omelet from breakfast, if they still had it. She warned me that they would have to reheat it, and it might dry out, but that didn’t bother me. I’m not sure if the drying out is what did it, but I really liked it. While this picture is not super-appetizing, the egg and potatoes really were!



Now it was time to try for an extended sleep. I know it’s a bed. On a plane. But, for me, it still really isn’t super comfortable for falling asleep. My knees kinda still hit the divider and arm rest, the pillow kinda hits the hard headrest, the blanket isn’t super long, etc., so it took some twisting and turning to find a comfortable position, and I woke a bunch of times, but I did get in a decent sleep. Not trying to sound fancy or anything, but let’s just make it clear that a lie-flat seat on a plane is still not your bed at home. (I know, I know, I still haven't flown a *fancy* first class to compare to.)

Finally, we started descending and, in a few minutes, landed safely and smoothly 9 hours later and 6 hours back in time. We were in Hawaii! They let everyone out the front door, which meant right by our seat, so we jumped off and got to the end of the jet bridge when I realized… I didn’t have my wallet! I checked all my pockets twice, my backpack and my wife’s bag. Nowhere. The last option was to take the awkward walk against traffic back through the jet bridge onto the plane. At least we were sitting the first seat. Of course, the stewardess was standing right in my seat as I looked for my wallet and sheepishly found it sitting on that mini shelf under the TV. Whoops.

Back in the airport, we were so excited to be in Hawaii, but we were also hit with powerful humidity – not much different than in NY. :P The airport is very open – no windows or walls in many places – which added to the heat, but was very cool. Pun intended. We made our way to baggage claim and, within a few minutes, found our POM box and my wife’s suitcase b”h. But, that was it. :'( We waited till everyone cleared away and then I headed to the UA baggage desk, which was right there. A few minutes waiting on line, and soon enough, I found out that my bag was... still in Newark. Should have just schlepped the bags with us onto the plane, eh? Who could have known? This was my first time losing a bag and boy it wasn’t fun. I was told that the bag should be put on the next day’s EWR-HNL flight and then passed onto HA’s HNL-LIH (following our exact flight #s that we took today) and delivered to our hotel.

After filing the claim, we went off looking for our connecting flight. We were told there was a shuttle that could take us right where we needed, but that the walk was only 4 minutes. We went up some stairs, down some others, and yeah it took more than 4 minutes for someone who hasn’t been there before. ::) To help others out, HA (maybe not all of HA and maybe also some other airlines) is in another building down the road. Not incredibly difficult to find, but it’s also not "just right there." The first HA desks we passed were only for flights to the mainland, and the next set was for the interislands. Interestingly, there was no desk, only self-service kiosks and 2 guys taking bags to checkin. We went to the kiosk, paid $15 to check the POM box and hoped that we could pull off taking our bags on the plane (while they are carryons, my wife’s is officially an inch too tall and mine, an inch too deep). We dropped the POM box with the bag guys and headed to TSA Precheck, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. The TSA agent asked us if we’re taking the bags on the plane, and I froze for a second, but then realized she just wanted to make sure we weren’t bringing checked bags to the wrong place. Through security, we made our way to the gate where everyone had to put their bags through an x-ray machine again due to agriculture security. I guess you can buy things in the airport that you aren’t allowed to take on the plane? I had planned on going to the lounge that the AA Executive card gets access to, but we really didn’t have enough time to make it worth it (plus it turns out that it’s in the main building with flights to the mainland, not in the building with interislands). We found some seats and boarding began almost an hour before takeoff. We were in Zone 3, but still got on the plane pretty quickly. There were no 2 seats next to each other when I booked, and we didn’t get a chance to talk to an agent to see if they could do anything, so we just sat in our seats, one behind the other.

It was at this point (as I mentioned in the trip planning section) that Yehoshua texted me that flights opened up for our return trip LAX-EWR on Motzai Shabbos, and I tried booking from the plane till the last minute as we were taking off. I didn’t get it done, but held out hope the space would be there later.


A last look at Honolulu

We booked Y because paying for J for a 30 minute flight seemed crazy, and we were just fine. I’ll point out that the space under the window seat is very tiny, and my backpack didn’t really fit underneath it. Our “big” carryons fit just fine up top. I knew that we would be rushing around to get our luggage, car rental, etc., so I Davened Mincha on the short flight.


SomethingFishy cleverly posted his HA “KSML”, so I will too :)

Literally just a few minutes later, I got my first peek of Kauai.



As we landed, I could already see the beauty of the waves crashing against the land.



All it took was 1 minute of taxiing to get our first view of the incredible terrain.



We got off the plane to find an airport that was even more open than HNL and felt less humid thankfully. LIH really feels island-y and baggage claim is literally a step off the street. Of course after losing 1 bag already, we nervously awaited our POM box’s thump out of the chute, but there it came. We may not have had my clothing or basically all of our toiletries, but thankfully we had our food. We were pointed towards the strip of road where all the car rental shuttles pick up from, and the Dollar shuttle (as well as many others) was already there waiting. A 2 minute drive around the parking lot, and we pulled up to the rental office. I was ready for the sight we were met with because I read AJK’s trip report, but my wife was shocked and then fell in love with the babies.


Roosters were literally everywhere on the island. I guess they’re like Manhattan’s pigeons

I took care of the car rental while my wife rooster-watched. The rep was very nice but was also like a pushy used-car salesman trying to get me to buy insurance, threatening that my insurance won’t cover me in Hawaii because they have a law that the rental car owner is responsible even if someone else hits you and regular car insurance won’t cover it and by trying to get me to buy the pre-paid tank of gas. They wanted $3.27/gallon, and Google says the car holds 19 gallons, which would have been $62.13. He told me he paid $3.42 that morning on his own car. I took my chances that we wouldn’t use up a whole tank on our trip, and I was right, but not by much. Finally, he let me know that their fleet doesn’t have any Mustangs in it, so they were going to give me… a 2015 Camaro! Woohoo! It took some time till they pulled the car around, but when it came – Wow! I’ve never driven a convertible before, so I looked a bit silly trying to open the roof – you’d think they would have shown me without me having to go ask for help, hehe. The trunk was very small, but just fit the POM box perfectly. We filled up the back row with our bags (not sure how it could have fit if we had real suitcases) and drove off.


The first thing you see heading out of the airport, welcomes you to Kauai amid some beautiful palm trees

Waze worked fine (really throughout our whole journey), and our first stop was 5 minutes away at Walmart to pick up a toaster oven and food for lunches as I mentioned in the trip planning post. We also had to pick up some toiletries and clothes for myself since my bag was delayed and I had no clothing, bathing suit, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. We looked for the cheapest toaster that looked like it could hold 2 POM meals at once. Some obviously large enough ones were more than we were hoping to spend, and some cheap ones looked too small. We settled on this on one for $28, and 2 meals ended up fitting if we squished them a bit, hehe. Since the food is kept in aluminum pans, we were able to just bend the side flaps up and then they fit. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the model number, just have this pic (model # is too blurry to read), but either way, I imagine the exact models that this specific Walmart carries changes every so often. This one says it can hold 4 slices of bread or a 9” pizza – maybe use those points to help you pick one out.



As we headed out of Walmart, I realized I hadn’t gotten a pic of the car yet. :)



After dealing with the bag, connecting on our interisland flight, picking up the car rental and spending more time than we expected at Walmart, we were finally ready to head to our hotel. The “plain ol’ highway views” on the way as the sun was setting instantly made us fall in love with the island.





The half hour drive finally turned off into the famous Tree Tunnel on Maluhia Road, something we had the pleasure of seeing and driving through basically every time we went to or from the hotel. It was hard to capture it in a picture while we were driving, and despite our Blue Hawaiian tour guide the next day telling us people always stop in the middle of the tunnel to take pictures, we didn’t feel comfortable without a shoulder on the side, so you’ll have to live with just this picture. :P


The wise observer will notice that this picture was not taken upon our first entry into the tree tunnel, as 1) the sky is not at sunset, and 2) the thicker side of the trees is on your right side when you enter the tunnel from Highway 50 ;)

After a couple of minutes, alas, paradise was straight ahead – the Grand Hyatt Kauai.



Even just taking in your first view of the hotel shows you how they created the perfect combination of luxury and tropical when designing this hotel.



From prior research, I knew that valet parking cost $10 a night, while self-parking is free. The parking lot is right there on the side, and the valet had no problem letting me unload our stuff right outside the lobby and then going to park the car myself. Before we even had a chance to take the bags out of the car, someone was there grabbing them for us while someone else donned us with our complimentary leis. My wife looked longingly at people who had leis in the airport, so she was super excited when the beautiful lei was given to her. (I knew it was coming for free, so I wasn't about to buy in the airport. :P) They have a stand of leis waiting at the entrance with a worker whose job is just to give them out to arriving guests.


Courtesy of Google Images and some random website. Flowers for the women, black pebbles/possibly-plastic for the men

For you to get an idea of the time, it was 7:30PM by the time we went to checkin, which coincided perfectly with my estimated time of checkin on my itinerary 8), and I was hoping for an upgrade to a suite as a Hyatt Diamond member. As you know, I paid with free night certificates, which can’t be used in conjunction with an official Diamond Suite Upgrade, but I was hoping just to get a complimentary upgrade. Officially, the complimentary upgrade for Diamond status only gets you upgraded to the best non-suite room upon checkin/availability, but I had emailed the reservations manager a week prior and was told I could get a suite if one was available upon checkin. Back in the airport I checked online and there was still a few suites available, so I was excited. However, the checkin agent said we would be upgraded to an Ocean View room, and that there were no suites available. I told him I saw availability just an hour ago, so he went “to the back” to check and confirmed that there were no suites. I looked on my phone again, and there was nothing available. Not sure what happened there exactly, but nu nu, the room was still gorgeous, faced the ocean (which, as you’ll see, was incredible), and we didn’t really need the space of a suite – it just would have been nice. As our Diamond amenity, we chose the free use of a cabana by the pool. However, later on when we wanted to use it, all the cabanas were already reserved for the day, and they were really just 2 beach chairs with an awning overhead, so we just settled onto regular beach chairs and traded in our Diamond amenity for this Kauai book. (Yes, it’s worth less than the value of the 1,000 Hyatt points we could have chosen, but it’s more fun to bring home another souvenir than to collect 1,000 points.)



The lobby, like the airport, is very open with no doors and large openings instead of walls. We glanced around for a minute and checked out the center of the lobby, which is a type of garden (with no roof) laid out right in front of where we got our first of many gawks at the incredible, framed view of the ocean that the GHK so wonderfully built.


It was hard getting the lighting right where it wasn’t entirely bright white or dark black outside the “window,” so I just kept snapping pics every time we passed by until eventually I got the right lighting

Of course, we weren’t *allowed* to push the luggage trolley by ourselves, so a bellhop came along with us to our room on the 5th floor of the Poi’pu Guestroom Wing, which is one floor above the lobby as the lobby/entrance is interestingly on the 4th floor of the hotel. The bellhop was super friendly and offered some tips of the local area (such as – get to Poi’pu Beach!), and I made sure to give him a tip. It’s a bit of a walk to get to the room as the hotel is very spread out, but it's really not too bad. The room was another wonderful blend of tropical and luxury.







As you can see, the room was spacious, had a small, private porch – known as a lanai – and the bathroom was very large. As AJK is famous for pointing out, the toilet (which was in its own room) was very modern with a heated seat and built-in bidet. The only annoying part was that we could never get it to turn off completely, so it always made a low humming sound. The soaps and shampoos are made exclusively for the GHK, and if you could capture the smell of Hawaii and put it in a bottle, they did it. Large bottles are available for purchase in the spa, but are quite expensive, so I just took a few of the small shampoos to keep that smell with me for as long as I can. Sprinkled around the room and bathroom are the same gorgeous flowers that made up the lei.



I thought we would have to request a fridge, but there was one already in the room. We had picked up a case of water bottles for $4 at Walmart, but there were also 2 bottles of Aquafina already in the fridge that would be replenished every day as part of the $40 daily resort fee that award bookings thankfully don’t have to pay :). Our first order of business was to unpack the POM box and move the meals to the fridge. They were still on the frozen side – pretty awesome – and we decided that for just 3-4 days everything would be fine in the fridge, and we could avoid dealing with sending everything down to the hotel’s freezer and requesting meals every night. That idea worked out without a problem as the food did not go bad.

We then checked out the lanai to see our beautiful view and hear the constant ocean crashing up against the beach. The GHK faces northeast, so you can’t see the sunset and can’t see a full sunrise in the morning. An iPhone plus nighttime lighting didn’t help this picture too much, but trust me, the view was… sigh. Boy writing this thing sure brings back fond memories.



If you recall, I was not able to grab the flights home while on the HA flight, so now that we settled in, I opened up my computer and found the flights still available. I wanted to book them at the cheaper rate with LH, but LH’s USA office was closed already, and I’ve never had great success when calling the foreign numbers, so I figured I would wait till the morning to book.

After setting up the toaster and popping in two meals, we may have taken a bit of a risk by letting it warm up while leaving the room, but we were getting tired and also wanted to check out whatever we could of the grounds, so we left – b”h there was no incident. We first realized that our room was extremely close to the Grand Club – just 2 floors above it – so we stopped in there to check it out, thanks to being Diamond.



The club’s ceiling is two stories high and there are glass windows looking down, so I was able to get shots from the hallway above.





In the club, we asked about Kosher food, and as expected, were told that Kosher bagels (from Oahu Kosher) would be available for us for every breakfast of our stay. Glad we went in because you had to “order” them in advance (not just at breakfast), as they need to bring them in from the main kitchen freezer.

After the club, we made our way outside to the beautiful grounds and pools. It was already dark, so it was actually hard to tell what was a pond or a pool, but just listening to the ocean and walking in the serene setting of the grounds was awesome. We passed by an area that had torches lit up around a Hawaiian dance performance and stopping for a minute really hit the Hawaiian spot. The groans and moans of the dancers/“singers” were very funny. It was too dark to get any pictures, but I knew we would be back to explore more in the morning.

Back in the room, our meals were still cold, so we had to add more time (as everyone warns about POM meals), but eventually they were ready-enough for us to eat. My wife had the BBQ chicken nuggets with popcorn cauliflower and garlic broccoli, while I had the fire poppers chicken nuggets with popcorn cauliflower and mashed potatoes. The BBQ nuggets were great – super tasty and not dry – while the fire poppers were a bit too spicy for my taste, but still full of flavor. The cauliflower was very flavorful (although not quite as good as my wife’s own cauliflower heaven), the broccoli was pretty good and the mashed potatoes were good (although they put in onions despite my request to leave them out and the note on my receipt saying “mashed potatoes – no onions,” but no big deal really). I’m a bit surprised that I can’t find a picture of this dinner, because I thought I got pictures of all the meals, but yeah, you’ll just have to wait till this dinner repeated itself in a few nights. :P

I Davened Maariv and then, finally, exhausted from the day and the fact that it was 6 hours later back home, we crashed for the night. Kauai Revealed warns that you could stay at the GHK and not leave during your entire visit to Kauai and still have an incredible time, but you would obviously miss out on the gems of island. At this point, we definitely could agree that we could have stayed there forever.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2015, 05:02:08 PM »
Ya, ya, I know ygygold just started a Kauai TR of his own, but I finally finished mine, so what - I'm not going to post it?

Offline yochiek93

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2015, 05:07:08 PM »
Ya, ya, I know ygygold just started a Kauai TR of his own, but I finally finished mine, so what - I'm not going to post it?
Please do we can use all different  experiences

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2015, 05:22:53 PM »
Beautifully done. Thanks !!

Offline benjie1305

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2015, 05:25:12 PM »
Well well well. Now we all know where you disappeared to. Nicely done!
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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2015, 05:29:44 PM »
Wow, glued for the entire part!

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2015, 06:14:13 PM »
Wow!!!!!! Great start to the TR! Looking forward to reading the whole thing, despite it being the size of a novella. Way to go!

Offline MosheD

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2015, 06:53:35 PM »
That was long! And amazing! Thanks.
I have a feeling future travellers will find this tr especially useful due to its detail.

Offline Aaaron

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2015, 07:00:16 PM »
Great so far! But can you provide a little more detail?

Offline Joe4007

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2015, 07:04:24 PM »
Awesome report! Brings back great memories.

The soaps and shampoos are made exclusively for the GHK, and if you could capture the smell of Hawaii and put it in a bottle, they did it. Large bottles are available for purchase in the spa, but are quite expensive, so I just took a few of the small shampoos to keep that smell with me for as long as I can.
Well said. I miss those.
The GHK faces northeast, so you can’t see the sunset and can’t see a full sunrise in the morning.
I guess we stayed in a different wing. The pictures below were taken from our lanai.



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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2015, 07:12:29 PM »
Great so far! But can you provide a little more detail?

ALOL

Well said. I miss those.I guess we stayed in a different wing. The pictures below were taken from our lanai.

Time of year would also make a big difference on where exactly the sun rises and sets.
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Offline Joe4007

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2015, 07:14:21 PM »
Time of year would also make a big difference on where exactly the sun rises and sets.
Ah, makes sense. We were there in December.

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2015, 07:28:15 PM »
Ah, makes sense. We were there in December.
Making the sun set and rise in the SW and SE skies respectively.

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Re: A DDF Dream Fulfilled: @Yehuda’s Trip to Kauai
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2015, 07:34:45 PM »
Well there you have it:

(Sunrise is the thick yellow line)



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