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Re: Bethlehem, New Hampshire Master Thread We went up to the White Mountains from July 2 (Sunday)- July 5 (Wednesday) and had a BLAST.

- I went up with my wife and 3 kids (ages 5, 3 and 1) so all activities needed to be age appropriate.
- We stayed in Lincoln, NH at the Days Inn. We rented a 3 bedroom, full kitchen and living room, 2 porch cottage- was quite affordable-
   especially when booking thru Ultimate Rewards with the 50% travel bonus. Clean, very friendly staff and there is a minyan on site (times depend on participating minyan goers). There is also separate swimming (1 hour for men and 1 hr for women) in the morning.
Activities:
-  Polar Caves. About half hr from Lincoln (on the way up from NYC so it's a nice activity to do on the way up) My 5 yr old and 3 yr old
    loved it and most caves were even doable with baby in baby carrier. Great activity- they have animals in cages to feed as well.
- Clarks Trading Post- 5 minute drive from Days Inn. Great place for kids- they have a train ride, water slide, bear show, cute museums,
   splash boats etc.
- Franconia Notch- Flume Gorge. 5 minutes from Days Inn. There are a number of things to do in the Notch but we just did the Flume.
   The full hike is about 2 miles up and down, but they have an option to take a bus a half mile and you only need to do a 1 mile hike
   round trip (and then take bus back). My 5 yr old and 3 yr old did it with no problem and baby went in baby carrier. Beautiful hike with
   waterfall and beautiful brook.
- Story Land- in Glen NH. 1 hour drive from Days Inn. Unbelievable amusement park (and the drive there is spectacular!) for kids. Kids
   absolutely adored it.
- Loon Mountain. 10 minutes from Days Inn. There are many things to do at Loon. We just took the Skyride to the top and included in
   the ticket are the Glacial Caves (similar to Polar Caves but more difficult with the baby carrier), observation deck and some hikes and
   playground (not  a great playground). Cafe up top and picnic benches too. Really beautiful views!!
Food:
We brought our own meat and grilled every night (brought a portable grill). I am told that the Price Chopper in Lincoln sells some Kosher items but we didn't go.

Highly recommend!
 

July 05, 2017, 11:58:25 PM
1
Re: (Group Now Full) Wrigley Field Softball Game DO
7-6

Due to an error by the designated pitcher from SPG.

I'll let the player do the TR but there was a few bad calls in the championship game.
Dispute the charge...

July 30, 2017, 05:31:46 PM
1
saw50st8 TR to Tennessee My 9 year old had been bugging me to fly somewhere for our summer vacation. We usually drive because there are so many places to see near NJ and my kids are all really close in age, so the thought of dragging 4 really little kids on a plane was really not appealing. But at this point, my youngest would already be 4 so I agreed that if we could find cheap flights somewhere, then we could fly. I was playing around on google flights one day and found non stop flights from EWR to TYS for $120/pp. I've been to Tennessee a few times and always wanted to go back to the Smoky Mountains. I logged onto Chase and those flights were slightly more expensive, but I booked them anyway. We got all 6 flights for under 60,000 UR.  My son was so excited when I told him!

Next up was looking for a hotel. I wanted a hotel that was convenient for all the activities and also big enough to have the 6 of us in one room. We chose the Holiday Inn Express in Downtown Gatlinburg. It had a spacious room and when the couch bed was open, there was still plenty of room to walk around.  The room came equipped with a decent size fridge, microwave and my absolute favorite feature - a second sink outside the bathroom! The hotel has a wonderful waterpark with 3 water slides, a heated indoor pool and two bathrooms in the waterpark/pool area. The hotel is also connected to a Holiday Inn Vacation club resort so you can use the facilities there including the other two pools and two hot tubs. In addition, the resort has daily activities that you can join. It's about a block off the main road in downtown Gatlinburg and really convenient to most things you would want to get to. I will say that Gatlinburg itself is everything I think it wrong with touristy places (like Ripleys Believe it or Not and all the other tourist traps) but being even a block off the main, road, we didn't see much of that, except to drive by.

Outside of the Hotel:



Hotel Water Park:



After a short flight, we drove from Knoxville to Gatlinburg. The views are incredible right away. I'm not exactly sure where our GPS took us (or why because the route didn't make much sense), but we ended up driving through the Smoky Mountains and stopped for lunch at a creek where went wading.

Drive to Gatlinburg:



Creek:


We found a snake in the water:



We drove to our hotel, checked in and then went grocery shopping at Food City, a few miles from the hotel. They had plenty of kosher bread, frozen food (including cheese pierogies!), canned goods and of course junk food. Prices were pretty good too.

After our food run, we had a blast at the water park. My kids could have stayed there for hours, but we put them to bed early to get ready for a long day.

October 09, 2017, 09:08:33 PM
1
Re: saw50st8 TR to Tennessee Day 6:

The day started off rainy and wet. Our original plan had been to drive to Cades Cove in the morning and hike in the afternoon but we figured the animals would be hiding in the rain so we switched it up. We drove up to the Trillium Gap trailhead for our hike to Grotto Falls. The ride is on narrow roads that twist and turn up the mountains. The drive is not for the faint of heart, but the roads are well paved. There is limited parking but we had no problem finding a spot.

The trail is well marked and has a warning sign for spotting Llamas on the trail. Much to my kids chagrin, all we saw was llama dung.  The trail winds up the mountains amongst lots of foliage with some breaks in the trees that highlight the beautiful views. It's an easy climb up. The hills aren't too steep. There are a lot of roots to climb over but nothing my 4 year old couldn't handle.  Most people made the climb in about 45 minutes, but it took us about an hour and ten minute or so.

At the top is Grotto Falls - a beautiful waterfall you can walk behind and there is a small cave behind them. The trail continues on, but we stopped at the waterfall and went back down the mountain.

On the way up:



Grotto Falls:



Local Wildlife:




We left Grotto Falls and drove towards Cades Cove, passing beautiful nature the entire way:




Cades Cove is basically a beautiful scenic drive with wildlife roaming around and a visitors center midway. Everyone drives really slowly to see the animals and views and there are plenty of places to pull over. We saw wild turkeys, deer, all sorts of birds and horses.








We pulled into the visitors center and started walking around. We were excited to see deer and then went to the old mill.





We also saw the largest spider ever (picture doesn't do it justice):




There are some old houses including "Aunt Becky's" house.



We walked to the back barn area, when a ranger came up to my kids and said "Hey, come look at this." He shows them a set of prints and asks if they knew what it was. My son answered "Deer prints." The ranger walked a few feet and said "Now what's this?" My other son piped up and said a bear print. Then the ranger asked them if they were a deer, where would they run if they were trying to get away from the bear and they pointed to the woods just a few feet away. The ranger responded "Great! That's what happened, only the deer didn't make it very far." He pointed into the woods where there was a deer carcass and a young black bear pacing back and forth. We got to watch the bear wandering around his lunch. It was an incredible view of nature.



We drove back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbos.

Day 7:

We had a nice, relaxing shabbos at the hotel. The staircases were accessible, well lit, and unlocked. We went down for breakfast, hung out downstairs playing cards and games. After lunch, everyone napped and then we walked to the main street in Gatlinburg to look around. It's all extremely cheesy touristy things that were fun to wander around, including a wood artist carving a large bear with a chain saw.

Day 8: Time to leave. No one wanted to go. My 4 year old was so sad when we went to the airport and asked if we could go back again. Yes we can little buddy.

Goodbye Tennessee!


October 19, 2017, 09:47:56 PM
1
100 Free Aeroplan Miles - Quick and Easy https://www.aeroplan.com/opinion.do?currentLanguage=en?icid=BAN30000618
December 28, 2017, 08:30:22 AM
1
Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Although this trip was not 'technically' a RTW trip or a honeymoon (as we have been on several 'honeymoon' trips before and after this trip) the title seemed fitting. Like most people a trip to the Maldives or Bora Bora was always high on my bucket list. Having recently getting married and with the sale that was going on, I thought what better excuse to make a trip to the Maldives! When beginning to plan I noticed that most of the TR’s I read were lacking some information either intentionally or not. Therefore, I will try to make this TR as transparent and detailed filled as I can! I will try to include prices for everything I remember as well as any information I uncovered from my countless pages of reading. Thank you to all those who contributed, whether I read your TR or not it really does help others a when planning.

I apologize in advance if I make any grammar mistakes, input any unreliable or false information, bad photos or anything else that might offend you. No intentions to do any of the above but if it happens SORRY!

Breakdown of Costs:

Flights:
LAX-JFK = $572 ($286 each paid for with B6 Travel Credit)
JFK-AUH w/ Cai RT = 208k MR (104k ANA each) + $205 YQ               
CAI-MLE = 50,066 UR 
MLE-SR MLE= 64k Arrival + points + $735
MLE-SIN= 37k UR (18.5k SIN each) +$100 YQ
SIN-DPS=15k (7.5k SIN each) +$50 YQ
DPS-USM= 25k (12.5k SIN each) +$40 YQ
USM-URT-DMK= $138 ($69 each)
BKK-HKT=$104 ($52 each)
HKT-CNX= $228 ($114 each)
CNX-BKK= 26k UR (13k each)
BKK-AUH= 36,000 AA (18k each) +$50 YQ
JFK-LAX= $408( $204 each paid in AA travel credit)

Hotels:
Le Meridian Egypt: 3k spg
SR MLE: 234k spg (5 nights @ 46.8k)
Andaz Singapore: Free Night Cert
GH Bali: 36k (3 nights @ 12k) - 20k (for complaining)= 16k
Conrad Koh Samui: 190k (2 nights @ 95k)  (Received Be My Guest Cert for complaint)
Bangkok Thong Ta Resort Suvarnabhumi: $22
Le Meridian Chiang Mai: 24k (3 nights @ 8k)
Hyatt Regency Dubai: 8k
Park Hyatt Dubai: Free Night Cert

Breakdown by Currency:

TOTAL UR: 177,066
TOTAL AA: 36,000
TOTAL MR: 208,000
TOTAL SPG: 261,000
TOTAL HILTON: 190,000
TOTAL Arrival +: 64,000
TOTAL CASH: 1,672 (Most of which were paid with CSR/Ritz travel credits and Arrival + points)
VOUCHERS/CREDITS USED: 2 Hyatt Free nights (50k Hyatt), AA GC ($408), B6 Credit ($572)...

TOTAL POINTS/MILES USED: 936,066

FLIGHT ROUTE:



TRIP PLANNING:

For those that just want a summary of what and how I booked and not the super detailed trip report that will follow, here you go:

   
I happened to book 5 nights at the SR MLE in May of 2017, around the time when all the bloggers were writing about the reduced price for the SR MLE. Since I was able to cancel until December I thought why not just hold the dates just incase. So for 234,000 SPG points I booked the 5 nights in the Maldives. I was busy at the time planning my Summer trip and pushed off the idea of planning the MLE trip.
   
It was only till about late October - Mid November that I started getting realistic about making a trip out of this booking. I seriously thought of just cancelling the 5 nights but after speaking to several people about how amazing their trip was I had to at least try to plan a trip. So I started reading and slowly kept on adding a list of possible stops to this trip to the other side of the globe. My thought process was more or less if I am already flying all the way out there I might as well make the most of it.

We used travel credit from price matching our flights as well as family members flights and other credits we got from complaints to book LAX-JFK for $286 each.
 
After looking at several options it seemed most feasible to make AUH the hub and use ANA to book the roundtrip from JFK-AUH.  I planned to book side by side Etihad Apartment suites for our longest flights and EY was showing availability for 149k MR—> ANA eacH. So I transferred hoping to book. But, when it came too booking ANA was not able too see availability :(. So we booked just Business class. Since these RT flights offer a free stopover, I chose Egypt. Mostly because other places were either to far, not interesting enough, or we had to little time to explore that destination.

We then used 50k Merrill points for two flights from CAI-MLE. But, for reasons you’ll read later we actually ended up using 50k UR.

MLE-SIN (Singapore) costed us 18.5 UR—> SIN plus $50 YQ each (CSR credit).

I then waitlisted a bunch of SIN-DPS (Bali) flights on SIN. A couple weeks before departure they cleared up and I booked it for 7,500 UR—> SIN and like $25 YQ each (CSR credit).
   
It was pretty hard finding a DPS-USM (Koh Samui, Thailand) flight for our dates but we finally found the option to book DPS-USM with a stopover in SIN. How it would work is we would fly DPS-SIN on Singapore airlines and then SIN-USM on silk air. It cost 12.5 UR—> SIN and $20 in taxes each (CSR credit). This flight had us getting into Singapore at like 1:30 AM and the next flight to Koh Samui was only leaving at 8:30 am. I chose this flight because I wanted to get into Koh Samui and enjoy the Conrad the most I could for the short time we were there (2 nights). So we went into one of the PP lounges and slept there.

For the next flights, besides AUH-JFK, I booked them all days before travel as I started to get really busy the weeks before the trip and even during the trip. It was really hard to find flights from USM to anywhere else in Thailand that didn’t leave early morning. And, like I said I wanted to enjoy my time at the Conrad KS. I looked at every option to literally every airport in Thailand and even other routings out of Thailand and back in but could not find anything. And for the flights I did find they either had no availability or only 1 seat available, or were ridiculously expensive. Thinking I struck gold, I booked a flight from USM to BKK on Expedia only to see after paying that it was for dates 3 months out! This was because when I translated google flights to Expedia, it inverted the month and day with the google translation. I immediately called in and with enough HUCA they refunded me. They claimed that these flights were non refundable because flight was within a week and these carriers don’t offer 24 hour refund. I escalated to manager and they gave me a “one time exception” refund. So, with all other options exhausted we ended up taking a ferry from USM-DonSak Pier for $9 each. And then transportation to URT, other known as Surat Thani Airport in Thailand, for $8 each. I then took a flight from URT-DMK for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Air Asia.

We spent like less then 12 hours in Bangkok, pretty much just in the markets as my wife wanted some purses and stuff and we got a massage. Stayed at a $20 hotel found on Orbitz since we were only in the room for like 2 hours and it offered a shuttle to the airport. Our flight was at 6:20 am. We flew from BKK-HKT for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Bangkok Airways.
   
We arrived in Phuket at 7:45am and went to do the Phi Phi Island tour. Came back to airport at around 6:30 for our 7:20 flight to Chiang Mai. We flew AirAsia HKT-CNX, booked a day or two before, for $114 each (CSR/Ritz Credit) and arrived at 9:15pm Thursday night.
   
Stayed in CNX for 3 nights before heading back to BKK for a flight to AUH. We flew Thai Airways CNX-BKK from 3:20pm-4:35pm for 13k UR or $98 each.

With a unforeseen SUPER tight connection it was only by a matter of pure YMMV that I made it to the next flight: BKK-AUH 6:05pm-10:05pm. We flew business for this route as it was a longer flight at around 7 hours and I had been driving my wife crazy with all the intra Thailand flights. It was also a great price! Since I have so many AA points it was easy to spend 40k miles, each, for biz class. With the Citi 10% bonus it ended up being 36k and $25 in taxes each (CSR/Ritz Credit).

After taking forever in customs in AUH for reasons that I never found out (I was like the only one in line and the man left with my passport for like 30 minutes somewhere) and going through a whole ordeal with the rental car we got to Dubai and spent 2 nights there before returning for our flight back to AUH-JFK with Etihad to complete our RT. We left at 10:15 and arrived in JFK at 3:50.

Purposely giving us like a 5 hour layover, our flight from JFK-LAX with AA for $204 each, booked with AA gift cards, courtesy of plat and biz plat travel credit, was from 9:15-1:06am. We did this so we could land, see some friends & family briefly and finally eat  freshly made food!

So all in all we took about 16 flights and a ferry ride over a 3 week 2 day period. We spent approx. 60-66 hours in flights and visited about 3 Continents, 7 Countries, 8 States/Cities, and 11 Islands.

Detailed Trip Report in the works. Have written some of it, but adding pictures on DDF is relatively new to me and seemingly time consuming. Will be posting Egypt TR in the coming days as soon as I finish figuring out the pics.

June 11, 2018, 06:09:35 PM
1
Quick Family Trip on a Dime (no pics) Disclaimer: this no-frills Trip Report is being written in one sitting with the express purpose to help out those looking for ideas on where to go and what to do with kids in tristate area that doesnt break the bank. Nothing fancy to see here so if you're not searching in this category, i'm sure the Maldives thread has something to offer...
Was looking for someplace to go away with the gang. Our needs were:
  • inexpensive
  • within two hour drive of monsey
  • minyan
  • entertainment for ages 2-12
After discarding several options we decided on Diggerland as the main attraction, and therefore just searched for closest Hyatt House which is where we usually go with the clan.
     Hyatt House Mt. Laurel had availability for my nights for a trio suite but not for points so i made a cash booking and later found agent to switch it to a points booking @ 8000 points a night, but at a minimum of three nights, so that's what i took. A trio suite gave us two closed bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. One bedroom has two double beds, with the other a king bed. The walk in closet was more than sufficient for a crib, and the pull out couch slept two comfortably so that we were all quite comfortable.
     I found tickets for Diggerland on Groupon for 29.95 for those 42" and above which is way cheaper than Diggerland's direct price. 36"-42" was same price as Diggerland, so didnt bother buying through them. 36" and below is free.
     As far as minyan, there are several options just several minutes away in Cherry Hill. We chose Sons of Israel since they had the latest minyan shachris at 8:00.  12 min from hotel
The trip from Monsey took just over two hours, and we quickly settled in for the night so that we could have an early start the next day since Diggerland's hours are 10-6.
After quick 15 minute ride we ended up arriving closer to one and were afraid we would be missing out, but as the weather peaked at about 94 degrees, the park was almost empty and we had just the right amount of time to spend there. Diggerland is awesome! Every kid had a grand time, according to his age and skill. There's something for everyone. It is a construction themed park, so that every ride consists of some tractor or truck retrofitted to suit the needs of the ride. There are tractors to ride and tractors to dig with and tractors to look at... you get the idea but there was truly plenty of variety to keep the kids going despite the weather. There's also a rock climbing wall and a ropes course in addition to a toddler play area. The only separate fee in the park is for the Soaring Eagle Zipling @ $6 a kid, and a gem mining station @ $6 a bag of gems. Officially there is no outside food allowed, but they had no issue with our bulging bags beneath the stroller, so we had plenty to eat just bought drinks every few minutes (3.75 for a coke bottle or 2.95 for a water) The Icee in the park is certified o-u so we tried cooling off with those. They also have misting fans in several areas, but they hardly accomplished much in this heat.
We left at six, got to hotel, ate dinner which was put up in crockpot in morn, played some games and called it a night.
The next morning we woke up to same weather and really wanted to do something water related but couldn't find anything within an hour's drive.
We decided on Johnson's Corner Farm (15 min from hotel) which is an amazing place with u-pick fruits and veggies, playground with splash pad, and animal farm. What we didn't realize is that when they advertise hayrides from 10-1 it means that after 1 there is no way to go picking since you need the hayride to get you out there. In any case we had a fabulous time and spent 3 hours there. There is a playground with very creative play equipment like spider web, huge Connect 4 playing boards, checkers tables, pretend areas, go karts, and the absolute best part which were the splash pads. In the sweltering heat the kids just kept converging there. There's the pail area which literally gets you a bucket of water on your head, some overhead sprinklers, inground sprinklers and the like. The entire play area is not that large it is just truly beautiful with tons of comfortable shaded seating, very clean and plenty of variety. The animal farm was not a petting zoo as we had hoped, but was fun nevertheless. There are sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, donkeys and cows. They provide corn with which to feed them, which you drop in to tubes and they come nibble.  Again, kids had awesome time with that. There's also a farmer's market on premises selling their produce as well as trinkets and the like. Admission was $9 a kid and $4.50 for those 13+. If you pay for hayride (i think 4.50) you get half price admission to the playground and animal farm. After 5 it's only 3 per kid, 1.50 per 13+. Wednesday evenings 5-9 feature free hayrides, pay what you pick.
From there we wanted to go to Laurel Acres Park for a grill, but upon arrival realized that there was some community event going on so we just left. We found Strawbridge Park down the road which suit us perfectly and was completely empty. There is a playground there that occupied the kids while we got the portable grill going. We also brought along a large kite for the bigger ones, and the large open field proved perfect for it.
Upon arrival back at the hotel, we realized that the pool was just about to close, and as we hadnt had a chance to use it yet since it was always full, decided to give it a try. Sure enough, just as we got there, there was some lightning and the pool miraculously cleared for us! We had a grand time, especially given that they came to close the pool half an hour after designated closing time.
All in all, this was a low key, totally kid friendly, tznius-sensitive, low-cost trip which created the family memories which will keep us smiling for a while.
Other kid-friendly options to do in the area (within half hour drive):
Adventure Aquarium (29.95 an adult includes one kid free)
Garden Discovery Museum ($5 admission after 5pm)
Philadelphia Mint (self-guided tour free)
Franklin Institute
Please Touch Museum
Independence Seaport Museum
(bunch of other Philadelphia museums, these are just the ones i looked in to)
Thanks for reading, and good luck with planning your own family trip!

August 08, 2018, 01:18:37 AM
1
Re: Panama in 3- A mini TR a small picture tour
Random pictures of the city/skyline:
























Some of the traffic around the city:


Bridge of America which crosses the Panama Canal:


Getting poorer and poorer as we moved farther from the city:


Shevet Ahim:






Monkeys on Monkey Island:








Native American Village:














The food they offered:




This is one of them, he is dressed regular as he was coming from school in the city, notice how he has a normal smartphone in his pocket


Their school:






Our hotel pool area:








August 10, 2018, 11:07:33 AM
1
Tallest peak in the alps- Shortest TR Ideally I would start a TR during the trip, or at least write some notes for one, but now I had no intentions of writing a TR rather I just sat down and prepared it in one go so excuse the laziness and whatever it’s missing.

Here is my incredibility short TR of my short trip to the French alps in Chamonix Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps.

Flights
Since we were all flying at the same time I chose to fly together with my companions, which meant I was flying economy, didn’t mind it as I wanted to fly some Y this year to keep my sanity and will do it again. Flying in to GVA out of TLV gives you multiple direct weekly flights, between Elal and Easyjet, booking 6 days out these flights weren’t on the radar as they were ridiculously expensive, or sold out. So we booked Pegasus with a short stop in SAW for under $100. For the return we were flying to different destinations, and at different times, so I was booking a solo flight. For 25k SQ+ roughly $200  I booked LX J via ZRH.

Accomodations
There doesn't seem to be any points options as far as hotels in Chamonix, so we booked the “Hotel Mont-Blanc” which was 1 of the 2 5* hotels there, with the other being sold out. The hotel looked quite nice, and was at the foot of the beautiful Mont-Blanc.

Sunday 01/13
We arrived at around 5AM to TLV for our 7:20 flight, after a long security process we made it to the Dan lounge  with just enough time to have a coffee and a small bite. We got on the bus and boarded in no time. With the plane being the hottest plane I've ever been on, then the combination of a really small seat on the 738 and my long legs, this was going to be a fun ride. In no time we were in the air and was fast asleep for about 20 minutes before the discomfort got to me and despite not sleeping the night before I didn’t sleep anymore. For our 1 hour stop in SAW we went to the ISG International CIP Lounge before going to the next flight to GVA.on the second flight I was lucky to have an exit row, which had amazing legroom. Upon arriving in GVA we took an Uber to Chabad where we discussed the kosher food situation before Davening Mincha-Maariv there.
For dinner we went to the Sushi spot, Ketori which IMO was extremely expensive aside from the stingy portions, and was really not that good at all. Although we wanted to go to the Kosher grocery store that night it was closed so we instead took a 1 hour taxi ride to our hotel for the night.
The Hotel was quite nice


And the view was amazing


We looked around the hotel and checked out the town before retiring for the night.

Monday 01/14
Since we didn’t get to get our food for the trip yet we had to go back to Geneva to shop, and then just spent the rest of the day touring the town as well as enjoying the outdoor pool and hot tub at the hotel overlooking the alps. It wasn’t much of a day, but was certainly a relaxing one.



Tuesday 01/15
We woke up early Tuesday and skied all morning. After going back to the hotel to relax and calm down for a few minutes we went on to go paragliding which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The views from on top are one of a kind, and gliding over a town blanketed in snow is a once in lifetime experience.



And then of course, back to the hot tub with some beers.

Wednesday 01/16
More skiing of course, before going for some amazing night snowmobiling nearly an hour away.

The guides “house’”


Thursday 01/17
Time to head back to the, we arrived in the Airport 3 hours or so before my flight (mine was the latest of us 4)
Those 3 hours were spent across 4 lounges starting with all of us in the KLM lounge

With these 2 in between


-image missing-
And ending with myself in the LX J lounge



Before boarding a half empty A320 where I had the whole row 1 to myself, and was even served a Kosher “snack” on the half hour flight to ZRH.

In ZRH I had just 55 minutes in the Business Lounge which I really enjoyed aside from the fact that it was absolutely overcrowded. As a #AVgeek the balcony for plane spotting felt like home.


At the gate I managed to get a single seat, 5k

The view after takeoff was outstanding




February 19, 2019, 03:11:26 PM
1
A Getaway to Paradise - as2's Private Island Escape
I will be posting this in chunks, and have links to each section in the wiki.

INTRODUCTION/PLANNING

This trip was taken by @Something Fishy , and detailed quite well, probably better than I’ll ever be able to, but nobody can say it all (he kinda did), so I’ll try to fill in what he left out.


When SF posted his TR, I immediately knew this was a trip I needed to take. I am more of a “relaxing” vacation type of guy, rather than the action packed type, so an island of my own to vegetate on for a few days was super appealing. My wife loves water/beaches (well, most of the time…keep reading) so this would appeal to her too. I showed her the TR and sold her on it almost immediately, and she agreed this had to be done. I decided to plan out our trip for the following January (2018) and began compiling spreadsheets for all our preparations. I mapped out every flight in and out of TGU, SAP, and RTB, with flight schedules, availability, cash prices, etc. As first world problems would have it, I ended up snagging some dirt cheap tickets to Israel and couldn’t bring myself to pass on such fares, so the island was put on the back burner.


Fast forward to October 2018. I had no real vacation plans, but when some sweet overwater villas in the Maldives dipped well below sale price, I booked one, and coordinated with my parents to leave the kids with them. As excited as I was, only 3/4 of me wanted those reservations to be honored, as this wasn’t the ideal time for me to go that far for that short a time. When the reservations were canceled (in some capacity, and for some) I decided this island adventure would fit the schedule perfectly. And so it began…


I emailed the Jackson family, who own the island, to reserve, and was pleased to find availability for the dates I wanted. I requested the night of Sunday, 1/20 through Wednesday 1/23, and we would depart Thursday morning. All “confirmations” (or lack thereof) are just email correspondences, so I did email them to confirm they got my money and we were set for those dates, to which the answer was affirmative. Previously I had seen that the Jacksons accepted payment exclusively through Western Union, but they now offered a Paypal option, which was more appealing to me, even with a fee. I sent them the $560 for my 4 night stay, and incurred a $16.54 fee. I didn’t realize until it posted, that it codes as “travel-lodging” with Amex, so I could have paid for it with A+ points. Oh well.

The rental codes as travel


I read and re-read SFs TR to collect as much info as possible, and heeded his advice (and many others agreed) to fly into RTB, so as to have the best chance of entering the country with all my food. Due to it being an island off the mainland, customs is typically more chilled than the other 2 airports. The flight schedule going to RTB is weak, and there was really only one option that allowed me to maximize my time. United has a Sunday flight from IAH to RTB at 9:55am (The same one SF took). I transfered 60k MT to 35k UA (during 10% promo), and proceeded to book ORD-IAH-RTB for myself and DW at 17.5k UA in Y, as there was no saver availability for J. I paid the $5.60(x2) on my UA Club card for the free bags. For the return, I wanted a bit more flexibility, so I decided to look into SAP and TGU. Ideally, I wanted to stop in PTY, but the only flights available either left me with an hour connection, or a Friday afternoon arrival, neither of which were too appealing. I kept searching, and came across a flight on Deltas site, flying Aeromexico, departing SAP and connecting in MEX for 30k DL in J. I don’t use my skypesos often, so I figured this was the way to go, but it was late, and I decided to take the night to think about it and to spend a bit more time weighing my options. I couldn’t find anything better, so the next afternoon I went back to DL to book it, only to find that the flights had disappeared! I managed to pull up the flight on FB for 34.5k + $83.37 in taxes, and transferred MR over for the booking. Of course, my stupid self had to regularly check back on DL and lo and behold the flights popped back up shortly after(I probably screwed something up, still not sure what). Guess that’s life.

I was now missing only the final pieces of the transportation puzzle, and that’s where I called upon Alice from One World Travel, to help out. Coming highly recommended by SF, and many others online, I knew I could count on her for my travel needs (and little did I know, but this would save a headache later). I shot off an email to Alice with regards to transportation from RTB to UII, and then from UII to SAP. For the RTB-UII route, there was a ferry, and my flight would be arriving a bit too close to the departure time, so I opted for option 2, the private charter. As for the return, I had Alice book us on Sosa Airlines UII-LCE-SAP.  Sosa Airlines shares that route with CM Airlines, but they both only operate every other day, so Thursday was a Sosa exclusive. These airlines are kind of a joke, and you can never be sure your flight will actually happen. They often cancel due to “not enough passengers” so booking via a travel agent is a nice safety net. World Wide Travel happens to be the local representative for Sosa Airlines in UII.
Total cost for the charter was $350, and the Sosa flights were a total of $120 per person (CM is the same price). I opted to pay with a credit card, which incurred a 4% fee. Alice was kind enough to split my payment between my CSR and A+, so I used my TC for the first $300 and paid the remainder with A+ points. If you don’t want to pay with a card, they do work with Chase, and I believe you can somehow pay them directly from your account.

We arranged with the Jacksons that a tuk tuk pick us up at UII, and we would meet Barry at the dock behind Bush’s, the local supermarket. There is a $50 fee each way, (more on that later) for the boat ride to and from the island, which I charged to my A+. Travel arrangements were now complete, and that left us with this:


And a close up of the Honduran legs:



February 26, 2019, 08:50:52 PM
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