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A little different Maldives TR I'm sitting right now in the Conrad Rangali Island and while I can't quite manage a live TR I wanted to open this so that I won't be lazy when I get back and make sure to write it.

We're watching some football, about to head out snorkeling as soon as the game is finished but for now GO Broncos, from the Maldives!

September 08, 2016, 11:19:19 PM
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Re: Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
If you have a chase sapphire reserve you can use your UR as cash towards any travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. So 26k equals a room that goes for $390

It could be worthwhile for Pesach also, where I need a few more nights. It'll be about 40k UR for a $600 a night room so I'm not sure if it's worth it.  I may need to ask elsewhere but any of you know if you'll receive HHonors points on a stay booked through UR because if yes and I got back another 60k HHonors for the three nights then I think it would be an ok redemption.

September 20, 2016, 02:09:36 PM
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Re: Hilton Master Thread
That's one of my pet peeves with Hilton. Other than sign up bonuses, it doesn't make sense (unless there's something I don't know), for both spouses to keep the cards.

It might be worth it for the annual free night from Citi but it's probably just better for spouses to trade off getting a new one every two years.  As I see it, the crazy value with Hilton is IF you actually have to travel or spend money with hotels for work because if you can redeem around $.01pp like at the WA Jerusalem, you will earn back between 30-40% in points on every dollar you spend.  You have to redeem wisely for HHonors to make sense but they blow everyone out of the water on how generous their earning structure is.

September 20, 2016, 02:20:56 PM
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Re: A little different Maldives TR 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!


September 21, 2016, 01:29:00 PM
2
Re: Cathay starting HKG-TLV service 03/2017
Is there anything left on April 6th?

Yup, 2 Premium Economy on the 6th and also on the 4th and also 2 J seats on the 4th, so get on the horn and get your tickets for Pesach...and that was special guys I'm not searching for everyone. J

Also, I called Alaska and even though CX website was only showing Premium economy seats from US to TLV they can see the J seats of each segment and would book me for 62.5k miles and $176.20 total fees.

Hope this is helpful to everyone!

November 02, 2016, 05:27:18 PM
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Re: Maldives Master Thread
Being that it is peak season i cant really find any good owb for much less than 1500 after taxes and fess, do you know a specific TA or place that you would recommend me check out? and again if someone has a reservation there for 30k or at the Conrad i am willing to buy/trade.

I just booked Jan. 9-12 for you at the Conrad.  It's only got a 15 day cancellation so lots of time to figure out if it will work for you.  I've got no idea what the up charge for an OWB this time of year is but will email them if you like.  I can also double check that the main chef that knows so much about kashrut will be there.  If he's there he'll hook you up for breakfast and can also fix you fish, potatoes, etc. and will let you in the kitchen to check whatever you want (eggs for blood, scales on fish, etc) and he knows to let you light the flame and he keeps separate glass plates to serve on.  The Conrad can also arrange kosher meals from Australia for about $40 per meal.  I'd offered upthread to trade 30k SPG per Conrad night so it would be 90k total.  If you are interested PM me and if not, I can cancel it.

November 28, 2016, 09:28:44 PM
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Re: Maldives Master Thread Wow, leave again for a couple hours and get 5 more pages!  C760 thank you so, so much for all the time spent to give all the info on every room and the service.  Just from hearing you describe the butler service it sounds WORLDS away and better than what we had at the Conrad.  Their service was great, but not what you described and that sounds like a huge SR plus.

And just back to the "whole package" of what people are looking for, I happen to 100% agree with Dan that I wouldn't take such a slog of travel (with headache of arranging babysitting) to MLE or BOB without getting the privacy, pool, views and lower down snorkeling (which BTW, the Hilton BOB is being converted to a Conrad with many OWV with pools, although no idea availability or costs to upgrade).  I personally would want all of those things or I can just go back to Cancun or Hawaii. 

I don't know if there is even one other woman on this thread and maybe the privacy isn't as big a deal to other women or they or your wives don't cover their hair (or they do and these things still aren't important to them) but when I was showing my Conrad pics to all my (girl) friends, literally the first thing they all commented on was how nice and relaxing it must have been to just relax in the OWV with such spectacular views, eat on the deck in PJs, not have to wear a swim cap in the pool, etc.  That's part of the reason I loved the OWV so much.  Our Conrad beach villa was awesome but because it was so private, it had no view (and I could have had the same private pool in Palm Springs) so if I wanted to just read and see the ocean or sunset I still had to put on my whole get-up even though I was only 25 feet from the beach.

Hope this isn't TMI and you DDF dudes aren't traumatized :P but just stuff to keep in mind if you're planning a huge trip like this and again everyone has different preferences so different info helps different people, without having to argue or belittle what others find important.  ;)


January 25, 2017, 05:24:02 PM
1
Re: Panama Master Thread
Hi Denverite, are you going to write up a TR? I would really look forward to it especially since you are traveling with your kids. We are thinking about bringing the family (4 kids ages will be 10, 7, 5, 2.5) for winter 2018 because of all the reasons you mentioned previously. We did Maui this year and loved the green tropics, mountains, and beaches. Panama (or possibly elsewhere in Costa Rica) seems like it would be a good fit for us as well.

I just got back this week and it was so amazing I literally want to move there! ;) We all agreed we want to go back since we purposely took the week easy but then didn't do everything we wanted to and need to return! All my kids had a blast, there are over 20 EXCELLENT kosher restaurants (that cost less than the US) and since Panama is so physically small we were able to have breakfast in the kosher Coffee Bean next to our hotel (there were also a number of bakeries and cafes close by) and later come home from our tour or excursion and have the driver just drop us at a new kosher restaurant to try.  It is the full package of the convenience of vacationing in Miami but can do a lot of of the cool stuff that you'd want to do in Costa Rica, the Carribean or even the rainforest in Brazil.  I don't want to promise but hopefully I'll start to write it up on Sunday.  Also, if you have any specific questions just let me know and I'll try to answer.

February 10, 2017, 05:45:49 PM
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Re: Singapore Master Thread New super cheap points redemption walkable to shul in Singapore. Hilton Garden Inn Singapore for only 10k HHonors per night....great redemption value.
March 14, 2017, 11:11:16 AM
1
Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)! Before I get into all the details of our trip that we took for mid-Winter break.  I just want to let you know that we were traveling with 3 kids from pre-school to middle school so I wanted somewhere where we could both relax and do excursions but at a low-key, non-stressful pace and in a comfortable environment that all my kids would enjoy.

With Panama, I basically found a place that has the ease of vacationing in Miami or Scottsdale but with the adventures you can get in the rainforest and beaches of Costa Rica and Brazil.  On United or Singapore it is also only 35k RT in Economy or 60K in J, with tons of flights out of NY, LA and other markets. Since there are no direct flights from where we live in Denver we booked the outbound through IAH and on the return we did a two night stopover in Cancun.  Because we knew we were going to Cancun we did not make the effort to visit some of the amazing beaches and islands they have in Panama, although I'll try to still provide info on them.

Ok here is it goes (and before I begin, thank you to @Yehuda for helping me with the pictures)...we arrived late on a Sunday and thanks to this AMAZING app called Kosher PTY we had awesome sushi and pasta waiting for us at our hotel!





The app is in spanish but a lot of the words are the same and y'all have google translate so you should be able to figure it out!  Also, they do NOT accept payment over the app, it is just for ordering so remember you need to be there at your delivery time (so you can't have food waiting at your hotel for you).

We stayed at the Hilton on Avenida Balboa, and I would HIGHLY recommend it!  Because hotels are so cheap, I actually decided not to waste any points and just paid for the room (Panama City would be a great place to spend less points by booking with your Sapphire Reserve although I will also have info later on one hotel that might be the best possible use of your Marriott 7 night cert in the whole system).  Since it cost less than two rooms, and I don't like being crammed with our kids into one room we booked an Executive Master Suite.  It was HUGE, over 1100sqft. with a full kitchen and 2 bathrooms.

Here are some pics:

Kitchen, Living and Dining Area




We had a huge bedroom and Master Bath and another full bathroom with shower although my pictures of those are loading her upside down so if someone wants to help me figure out how to post them correctly, I can add some pics of them too!  ;D


Most people don't know that Panama City has more skyscrapers than any city in Latin America (yep, more than Rio and Mexico City) and it has a truly stunning skyline...





The hotel lobby was also just gorgeous with stunning two story windows and views of the Pacific Ocean and Bay:



This is a picture take from our suite of the Waldorf Astoria, one block over (sorry it's showing landscape and not portrait).  You can see it is a row back so it doesn't have water views from most rooms or the pool.  The pool also looks really small.  Because of those reasons and also no breakfast or lounge, I decided to book instead at the Hilton and was very happy with my choice.  The Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Le Meridian and InterContiental are all super close and in what I think is an excellent location.



Since it was a long day of outbound travel and we were there a full week, we decided to make the first day a lazy one.  That morning got up late and went to the Kosher Coffee Bean literally a block from the Hilton and enjoyed some awesome pastries and empanadas and they have beautiful salads and sandwiches too (and all those wrapped goods had a hecsher on each product, in addition to the teudah on the store). I have a picture from here but that one also is loading upside down so it's not included.


We then walked a few blocks more to the Multi-Centro Mall to the HUGE Deli K Supermarket.  My kids actually had fun picking out stuff from Israel and all over that we can't buy in Denver.  They also have a sit down meat and dairy restaurants (we did not order from those though).  For those of you that keep CY, they even had shelf stable CY milk.  We didn't do any overnight or extreme excursions while we were there but if you were you wouldn't have to bring anything from the US and I would pick up everything here.  I regretted packing any snacks as they really do have everything!



After our little shopping trip and laden down with bags we decided to take a cab the almost mile back to the hotel and it was a whopping two bucks and I didn't even have to bargain (try that in Israel or Cancun where you better be ready to battle the cab drivers over fares)!

We then headed down to the gorgeous Hilton Pool, it's on their 12th floor, with great views.




Hope you enjoyed the beginning of my TR, my apologies for newbie photo or other errors and hopefully more is coming soon!

March 15, 2017, 01:52:28 PM
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