1st Segment- Trip Planning:
I know when people start their TR's they do the obligatory thank you's to Dan and DDF and it seems hokey but as I am beginning this TR I really do think it is so necessary although possibly for a different reason than others. Within the frum community, DDF is known to provide a wealth of information and an amazing community to help people easily earn points and maximize their redemptions (and it certainly has helped me move light years ahead on that since I joined only a little more than a year ago), but more importantly it helped with something even greater and for that I want to express my thanks. I actually grew up overseas and was a elite level frequent flier as a child because of travels back to the US for vacations and my dad was a DDFer before his time (and before the internet, so I really don't know he figured out all the stuff he did) and we traveled tons of places but all of that was not while keeping Shabbos and kosher. Actually the first orthodox people I think I ever met were a couple of Bochurim from the Aleph Institute who gave me the Rebbe's Book "Toward a Meaningful Life" in Northern Japan, during High School. When I became fully observant after college, I just kind of assumed that all the interesting and amazing travels that I had a child were things that I would have to give up, along with the many other things that a Baal Tshuva has to give up when they become frum and I was ok with that. Fast forward many years and children later, with very nice family vacations basically to Phoenix and LA to get warm in the winter and have fun with my kids without worrying about kosher food and Shabbos, when I heard about DDF at a Shabbos table and started reading DDF. All of a sudden it hit me that maybe I CAN still go to exotic places, enjoy my food and have top notch travel experiences like I used to have before I became frum but now in an observant way. DDF opened back up the world to me, without compromising my Jewish values and for that I thank all of you!
Ok, on to the planning. My husband was coming upon a milestone date in his life and I wanted to give him a trip of a lifetime to help celebrate that milestone. Also, we were really poor when we got married plus didn't have the time or inclination back then to take a big trip, so I was hoping to also kind of make up for that with this one. Both my husband I weren't raised in the US, have been to lots of places, aside from Israel, don't really have very many places we want to go or return to so where to plan an amazing, over-the-top vacation?
Where was worth arranging babysitting for many days for our kids, arranging precious time-off from both our businesses and worth the time to travel. My feeling has always kind of been that I wanted a truly spectacular place, otherwise I'm not willing to even take a connecting flight and I can just enjoy a quick getaway somewhere close. The places that pop up on DDF all the time are Bora Bora or the Maldives. BOB would have been WAY less travel time for us from Denver, with just a quick flight to LA and then an 8hr non-stop flight but even looking at the beautiful scenery and the nice overwater villas at the different resorts, none of the OWV's in BOB appeared to be very private, where you could sit on your deck and enjoy the view without others seeing you, much less have a private pool. From my perspective, even though it was more significantly beautiful than other places, if I wasn't getting a private deck or pool, the travel, expense or time to BOB wasn't worth it to me when I could get a not as nice but great experience in Cancun but be there on a direct flight in 4 hours with 8k SW points (obviously Cancun isn't BOB but my time and miles are very valuable to me). Pretty much then the only place left that I was really excited to go to was the Maldives, because from my perspective, it was the closest I was going to get to being on a private island, in stunning surroundings, while paying with points.
Once, I decided on the Maldives, I needed to book flights. Because of the businesses we have, it was very important to be able to go on very specific dates, where business is anyway slow, we wouldn't lose that much money from being away and I could also get flights. I chose to try to get flights over Labor Day weekend and since it is the exact same distance to the Maldives going either East or West, we decided that we'd much rather fly on an Asian airline, have a stopover in Asia and also there had more possibilities of being able to incorporate some business dealings that would help justify the time and expense of the trip. Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore airlines consistently have multiple business class seats available to their hubs from LAX and SFO but because I had MR points not SPG (which are the best points deal in J to MLE because it is only 62.5 Alaska miles ow on Cathay Pacific) we chose to go Via Singapore Air, with a two day stopover in Singapore.
Total mileage for both of us in J SFO-SIN, via ICN (stopover), SIN-MLE and then the return on the exact same route was 306k miles total for both us, so 153k pp.
. We got a cheap Frontier flight from Den-SFO that was the only flight that would give us a comfortable connection and then on the way back to United from SFO-DEN (and they did tag our bags all the way to DEN from MLE). It was worth it to book these last two segments separately in order to get the 15% mileage discount from SQ.
We were able to set up a great business meeting for one of the days we were in Singapore and also had set it up to have all our kosher food for the Maldives delivered to the Conrad, where were staying. We ordered the food from www.koshwhere.com
and the ordered was fulfilled from the local restaurant. I could have tried to order it directly from the restaurants but it was so easy from the website that I'd preferred to do it that way. There were some small hiccups with the food that I will get to later but I do love the way that website works.
I'm not going to describe the Singapore Air flights except to say the seats were amazing, got a great sleep and our 777 flights didn't have suites and I wouldn't probably pay the extra miles for First class because Business class was awesome, I can't enjoy the better food and the bigger seats wouldn't really help me sleep better, which is my personal reason for paying more points for J. Unlike other DDFers I don't enjoy flying and just want it to be comfortable enough that I can sleep!
The Conrad Singapore is a horrible points redemption but a great Cash&Points redemption, which we were able to get for $127SG (about $100US) and 24k HHonors points for a room that cost about $400SG. They also gave us a beautiful diamond upgrade to a Centennial Suite. It is also a great location, easy and direct to the Jewish community center, shul and restaurant. It's a bit farther but also a nice walk to the kosher Coffee Bean as well.
Next installment- Singapore with Pictures!