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Master Thread Of Trip Reports I figured I'd gather together some of the random trip reports and other useful threads on this board.
If anyone has any suggestions for how to better organize them I'm all ears!
Also if I missed any other useful threads from this board please post those as well.

Here is a link to the Dansdeals.com Trip Notes Tab where you can read numerous Trip Reports with helpful tips and pictures.


Trip Tips:

Free Offbeat Travel Guides from SPG by aussiebochur

Helpful websites for basic info when traveling by steve2

Packing tips & tricks by SuperFlyer

Trip Guides & Tour Books Recommendations by Avid Reader

What Do You Do For Kosher Food While Traveling by Dan

Trip Reports:

Ashkelon $30 Holiday Inn Report by Chaikel

Amsterdam, Zurich, And Paris on United and Hyatt's tab by eliteflyer

Around the world by moish

Around the world using aa miles tlv-bkk-hkg-pek-nrt-hnl-lax-jfk Trip Report by momo

Europe May 2010 Trip Planning Thread by Dan

Help planning trip to europe by steve cohen

Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Tokyo, Honolulu and Maui Trip Report by Eli

Paris, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome and London Trip Report by Eli
Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel and Towers Reports by Deal Guy

TLV-IST-HKG on the new Turkish Airlines 77W in First Trip Report by damaxer91

Trip Planning And Trip Report: Shanghai, Beijing, Macau, Hong Kong, Istanbul by chuchem

Trip with Train Through Southern Europe will be continued whenever...) by SuperFlyer

UMAN ROSH HASHANA Trip Report by Eli


July 13, 2010, 10:25:04 PM
1
Writing a trip report? Here's how to add pictures. Updated 7/10/17:
- Sizes now work differently
- Photobucket no longer works as a host
- Flickr screenshots are updated to the current interface
- The process of embedding a private photo is now (somewhat) simplified



I can't even count the amount of times I've answered this question in one form or another, both on the forums and by PM. I figured I'll write up some detailed instructions and hope people will find this useful.

This tutorial has five sections:
  • Understanding the basics
  • Adding pictures
  • Sharing private pictures
  • Additional methods
  • Summary

Note that nothing in this post will show up properly in Tapatalk; use a regular browser to follow along.

Understanding the basics:

Hosting: The pictures have to live somewhere. They are not stored on DDF; the forum system follows a couple of codes which tells it where the picture is stored, and it "pulls" the picture from there and displays it in your post. What this means is that for any picture to be displayed on DDF it first has to be uploaded to an image hosting service.

There are many hosting services out there, including ImageShack, tinypic, and imgur. All work on the same principle: you upload your pictures, the site provides the necessary code and links, and will display your picture when called upon to do so by DDF.

My personal host of preference is Flickr, for a multitude of reasons:
  • They're part of Yahoo, so I know that it's not going anywhere soon. Many hosts have come and gone, and with it, your pictures and links. That's not something I'm worried about with Flickr.
  • They give you an entire terabyte of space for free, with no limits on the amount of uploads or views per day (like some others do).
  • You could organize your pictures in many different ways, such as by type, trip, etc.
  • You could name and describe your pictures (and have that show up on DDF too, should you choose to), and people could leave comments, etc.
  • You could keep your pictures private, making them only accessible if it's clicked through from DDF, should you choose to.
  • If someone wants to know more about the picture they could click on it and see the exposure info, tags, even a map of where the picture was taken from (considering the file has location information included).

The examples we'll examine below will all be from Flickr, but the steps generally apply to all other hosting sites.

BBCode: The forum runs on something called BBCode (BBC for short). Without this code all that could be displayed is plain text; adding BBC tags however will let you format your post in many different ways. You do not have to know any coding to use this; generally you could click on one of the icons while posting and the code will automatically be entered for you. However, understanding how the codes in question work, what each part means, and so on are all very useful to know and will be explained here.

Once your pictures are online on a hosting site, you will use the [img] tag to tell the forum where your picture is stored, what size to display it at, and what happens if the picture is clicked on.

Adding pictures:

Let's have a look at the different options and controls, and how they would show up on the forum.

Step 1: Uploaded your pictures. Sign in or create an account on your hosting site of choice, and follow the prompts to upload your pictures. 

Step 2: From your host, navigate to the picture in question and choose to "share", "get link", or whatever that particular website calls it. On Flickr this is designated by an arrow on the lower right-hand corner of the image:



Step 3: There may be many different sharing options. Here the choices are Share, Embed, Email, and BBCode. Click on BBCode (top box), and the correct code will be generated (bottom box):



Note that BBC can also be referred to as "Forum" or "Forum Code" on different sites.

This will generate the required [img] code needed, but don't copy and paste just yet.

Step 4: Choose a size; I find that Large 1024 seems to work best - it displays at a nice size in the thread, while not slowing everything down:



If the size you picked is too large, DDF will automatically resize it to fit the width of the page. That means that you're getting basically the same view as Large 1024, but it will run slowly due to all the resizing happening. And if you choose a smaller size, your picture will not be resized - it'll just show up smaller.

For comparison, here's what the picture would look appear like in Large 1024, Small 240, and Original, in that order:


Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr


Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr


Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

Note that the size options you get will vary slightly depending on the particular picture in question; however it'll be close enough to the options here.

Step 5: Copy and paste. Once you've chosen a size, copy and paste the resulting code into your post. While editing it'll look like so...


[url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i][img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/39027193@N05/]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr


...and display like so once previewed or posted:


Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

Let's take a detailed look at what we have, and how it happened:
  • We have the picture displayed at the size we chose.
  • If you click on the picture it takes you to Flickr where you could see more details, different sizes, and move around my pages to see other pictures.
  • We have the image name as a caption, which itself is also a clickable link to the above-mentioned page.
  • We have a photo credit, which links to my Flickr profile page.

How did all this happen, and how could we manipulate the code to change which of these actually happen?

Let's break the code down piece by piece:


[url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i][img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/39027193@N05/]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr


Red is the most important part - the [img] and [/img] tags notify the system that a picture should be inserted here, while the URL in between tells the system where to find said picture. This is static: all it does is show the picture - no links, credits, etc. If this is what you want, keep only this part of the code and erase the rest (see example 1 below).

Green is a [url] tag. This is what makes the picture clickable. Since this tag surrounds the [img] tag, it means that the entire picture is clickable, not text, as is typical. This is how I personally post my pictures, since I'm not a fan of the caption and credit parts. By only using the red and green parts of the code, it shows the picture only, but clickable. See example 2 below.

Blue Is the caption; the [url] tag makes the "Haleakala Sunrise" clickable.

Purple is the link and text to my profile page. You could eliminate either the profile link or the caption by deleting the applicable parts of the code (personally I delete both, like I said above). See example 3 below where I kept the caption but got rid of my profile link.

Brown is pure text and is there to turn the caption into a coherent sentence.


Example 1 - Static, non-clickable picture. The code used shown first, then the result:


[img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img]





Example 2 - my personal preference. Clickable picture, no caption:


[url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i][img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img][/url]




Example 3 - As above, but with the caption and no profile link:


[url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i][img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i]Haleakala Sunrise[/url]



Haleakala Sunrise


Sharing private pictures:

The above steps only works if the picture is public. What if you want them private, but viewable (and clickable) only through DDF? For this we use something Flickr calls a Guest Pass. It generates a special link for your private photos, and only someone with that link (and in this case, DDF) could view the picture.

This adds two more steps to the process:

Step 6: After step 5 above, jump back to Flickr's sharing menu, and choose Share. A special link will be generated:



Step 7:Replace the red part of the original code below with the new link, and everything will work as if it was a public photo:


[url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i][img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3928/15221252347_97db0ca75a_b.jpg[/img][url=https://flic.kr/p/pc3U2i]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/39027193@N05/]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr


Flickr has a couple of options for the Guest Passes, such as setting expiration dates. See this page for more info.

Additional methods:

DDF hosted: The forum actually does have a built-in image hosting feature, but that is only for extremely small file sizes (meaning the pictures will be very low quality). Additionally, the pictures only show up at the bottom of the post, and as thumbnails only. All this means that it's is generally not a good option for trip reports. To use this feature, click the "Attachments and other options" link below the text field.

Tapatalk hosted: If you have your pictures on your phone you could click on the camera icon to upload a picture. This works in a similar way to Flickr - the picture will be uploaded to Tapatalk's servers, and it will automatically generate the code and insert into your post. The disadvantage of this method is that you have no control on the size of the picture - it will be displayed like the Original sample above.

Other websites: If the picture is hosted on any other website, you could copy the image link (generally this will not be the page link) and paste the address between [img] and [/img] tags. As with Tapatalk, you will have no control on the size of the image.


Summary:
  • Upload your pictures to an image hosting site.
  • From their "share" or "link" dialog choose BBCode or Forum, and select a size.
  • Paste the resulting code into your DDF thread.
  • Tweak the code if desired to change some settings
  • If your picture is private, use a Flickr Guest Pass

October 25, 2014, 11:11:43 PM
1
Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l
August 01, 2015, 11:57:21 PM
1
Nescafe Italy/London Honeymoon I wanted to start my report by thanking all DDF’ers for helping me plan this trip. I couldn’t have done it without you! 

This was our first trip and therefore the first report that I am writing, so pardon my lack of experience in writing a TR!

Ever since we got married almost a year ago we had wanted to go to Italy, but we weren’t sure how to go about doing it. That was until I bumped into DDF which gave me all the information I needed and a big push to start planning our trip. After reading through various threads on Italy, I was ready to go ahead and book tickets.
While searching for tickets, I saw that the best prices would be with BA to Milan since tickets to Venice were $500 more per ticket. I figured we would take the train from Milan to Venice, where we planned to start out trip. Since we were flying through LHR we decided to stay in London for a few days at the end of our trip. I therefore booked tickets JFK-LHR-LIN and LHR-JFK for $828.79 pp (using AARP-Cardofferu). I then booked tickets with Ryanair Business Plus from CIA-STN for $85 pp.

About a week after booking, I noticed that the price from JFK-VCE (via LHR) dropped to about $900 pp. which made me call up BA and ask if there was a possibility to change our reservation. To make a long story short: after 12 hours of continuous calling, and finally speaking to a supervisor, my reservation was switched to JFK-LGW-VCE for the price difference of $57 pp and a $25 processing fee. This was much cheaper and more convenient than taking the train from Milan to Venice.   (Of the 100 times I called, one of the agents felt bad for me and credited me 3,500 Avios to my account. So I got that too)


Ill skip the planning and write about the trip as you can read through the same hundreds of pages and get the same information I got 

The trip:
Our flight (JFK-LGW) was scheduled for Wednesday night at 9:55PM but was delayed by almost an hour. Our connection time in LGW was about 1:30 which was just enough time for me to daven (it was Rosh Chodesh and that took longer) and head to our gate.
We arrived in VCE after 3PM exhausted after not sleeping a whole night on the flight. In the arrival terminal, after stopping at an ATM for Euro (not foreign exchange fees for CPC) we headed to the information desk to buy tickets for the Alilaguna Boat which was €15 pp for a 1 way ticket. The agent at the desk was not well informed on which stop to get off by until we showed him on the map where we have to go. You can get this information by checking the hotel website.  We also bought a map for €3 which was unnecessary as the hotel provided maps for free.
We took a 10 minute walk through the white underpass/tunnel and followed the signs to the vaparetto/water taxi and boarded the Boat. We took the orange line (there are also red and blue lines) to the Guglie stop (as per our hotels website) (Pronounced Goo-Lee). The ride was about 45 minutes and the walk from the stop to the hotel was about 5 minutes with luggage. We arrived at our hotel 5:30.
We stayed at the Carnival Palace Hotel as it is the nicest hotel in the Jewish Ghetto area and we planned to eat there Shabbos. After settling into our hotel room, (and changing into comfortable sneakers) we headed out to explore the Ghetto neighborhood. We first stopped into Gam Gam to make a reservation for supper. We then strolled around and found the Chabad Shul, said hi to Rami and got all davening times. We then headed back to Gam Gam for supper. We ordered an entrée of Humus and meat (€9), Tagliatelle with meat sauce (like sloppy joes) (€9.5) and Shwarma (€15). Water is not for free. It has to be purchased with every meal unless you’re a cheapskake and bring your own (not sure if its ‘legal’) water costed €3. (pictures of food to follow). I liked the food, but my wife didn’t love it since she doesn’t like Isreali spices (zatar ect) that are used there.
After supper, I went to daven Mincha & Maariv in the Chabad Shul. (9:30ish)
After mincha/maariv, we took a vaparetto down the Grand Canal. Since it was so late at night, we had to buy vaparetto tickets at St. Lucia train station, which was about a 10-15 minute walk away from our hotel. The English option on our ACTV (24 hour ticket machines) didn’t work of course, so we stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Some kind lady finally helped us (she spoke Spanish) buy a 1 day pass (€20 pp), as we planned to use it the whole next day. We found out afterwards that we could’ve bought a student 3 day pass, which is only available at the airport, to save money (€35 pp)
We got back to our hotel room at about 12:00 really tired as we still didn’t sleep since Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. (it was Thursday night).
Friday: Murano, Burano.......... to be continued

August 15, 2016, 11:01:25 PM
1
Re: The funny/strange/interesting video thread...

August 26, 2016, 12:17:08 PM
1
Re: Argentina - Buenos Aires, El Calafate & Ushuaia

Will get some pictures up for sure - on my phone in Patagonia at the moment but I'll see what I can do.

Yes I'm a UK citizen; no Visa charge for us.
Oh, didn't realize you're still there. Enjoy!

I confused the UK with Canada and Australia that still pay the reciprocity fee.

August 30, 2016, 08:20:56 AM
1
CS91's Bar trip to Asia (ICN, CNX, USM & HKG) Here goes part 1! Gonna do my best to actually finish this one but it may be a bit slow because haven't written up anything yet and I'll be quite busy over the next month between moving and starting work but I'll try my best!

Background

A few months after I was done booking my MLE trip, I started thinking about what to book for my Bar trip in August. For those of you who don’t know what that is, most law students, after graduating and taking the Bar, book a big trip as a way of celebrating and getting away and enjoying life one last time before starting work. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere far because once I start working, even when I do take vacation, I wouldn’t really have enough days to blow two days travelling.

We were aiming for about a 12-15 day trip, and originally we were thinking about going to Hawaii and splitting our time there between two different islands. But then I realized that I’d have about a week and a half off between my last exam and my graduation in May, so we decided to go to Hawaii then for 6 days (Hawaii TR, yes, I know, I never finished it) and choose a different destination for my Bar trip.

So it was back to the planning board. I read through some TRs and asked on the Next Vacation – Ideas thread, and MarcoPolo suggested Thailand as a great place to take a kid who will be one at the time of travel, and to add a country or two on the way there and back. I went to Thailand (Phuket and Phi Phi Island) and Hong Kong as a kid with my parents and remember it being beautiful, and thought it would be cool to take my wife and kid, and see other parts of Thailand.

We originally thought of doing Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore, but after seeing SQ’s unfavorable lap infant policies (10% of revenue fair) and realizing that I didn’t have enough points for 3 seats on SQ F/R, we decided on South Korea instead (KE charges 10% of award fair for a lap infant). Now that we decided on the cities that we’d be visiting, it was time to book. I’ve read about people encountering headaches and issues when booking award travel, but I was not prepared for the curveballs that I was about to be thrown… If you're not interested, feel free to skip the flight portion as it's pretty lengthy.

Booking

Flights: Before looking for flight availability, I did a quick search for the hotels that I wanted to stay at to see if there was availability for the dates that I was targeting. Thankfully, availability seemed wide open so I started working on the flights.

The plan was to fly on KE for the JFK-ICN-CNX flights, PG for the CNX-USM-HKG flights, and CX for the HKG-JFK flight. I started with CX because I know that was the hardest to find availability on. I was lucky enough to find 3 J seats available (as expected, there was no F availability) for the dates that I needed, so I called AA to put the flights on hold. The plan was to book my seat under my account (I had enough points for the one seat), and my wife and daughter’s seats under DW’s account (she was about 20k points short, but had just hit the bonus on her Citi AA Plat. card and the statement was closing two days later so I thought I was good). More on this later. Once the CX flight was on hold, I looked at KE availability, and found two F seats (Kosmo Suites 2.0) available for the dates that I needed, and called them up to put that reservation on hold. Side note – every airline should strive to provide customer service like KE. Their reps are extremely pleasant to deal with. After just a couple of minutes on the phone, the reservation was on hold so I got to work on the PG flights. That’s where I encountered my first curveball.

I looked on EF and found availability that would be bookable through FB for the two PG flights. After being reminded by D93 (this is going to be the first of many times that he gets thanked in this TR; to say that he came in the clutch for me while booking this trip is an understatement) that MR to FB transfers are instant, I decided to wait until FB confirmed that they could book the flights before transferring. I picked up the phone, called FB, and was told that two days ago FB got a notice from PG that they were terminating their relationship and therefore they couldn’t book the flights. Bummer. But I decided to so some of my own research. I googled and googled and found nothing about this apparent termination. I then looked on FB’s website and it said that they are affiliated with PG. Time to HUCA! So I called back, landed on a representative who saw the availability and put the reservation on hold for me and told me to go ahead with the transfer. Score, right? I saw the reservation on my end under my login, and the rep told me that he had to put me on hold for a minute but that I should go ahead and transfer in 40k points to my FB account. I logged on to Amex, input 40k, was about to click transfer, and for some reason, and I have no idea why, I didn’t click. I decided to wait for the rep to come back on the line so that I can confirm that everything is set one more time. After a few minutes, the rep came back and the first thing that he said was “please tell me you haven’t transferred the points yet!!!” I told him that I hadn’t, and he said that while I was on hold, the system didn’t allow him to go to the next step of booking it and when he inquired why, he was told that the relationship had been terminated and the flights weren’t bookable. I dodged a bullet, but now I had to figure out how else to get this booked.

So I did some research, bothered D93 a bit more :), and learned that AB, CX, EY and JAL were my other options of booking PG flights. I had a lot of MR points and not that many extra SPG points, so I started with the first three choices. AB couldn’t find availability (can’t search for the type of fair that these airlines need to be able to book on EF), CX was impossible to get a hold of and partner award bookings need to be done by submitting a form and waiting 7-10 days for an answer – no thanks. Before trying EY, I decided to give JAL a call and see how many points it would be and if they could find availability. I landed on an extremely nice rep named Erica who was able to find availability on the flights that I needed. She told me that because of the current promotion, both flights combined would be 10k JAL miles per person (they use a distance based award chart), but that unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to hold the flights for me. So I decided to transfer 20k SPG points to JAL and keep my fingers crossed that there would still be availability once the points showed up in my JAL account.

While waiting for the JAL transfer to go through, I went back to ticketing my CX flight. Problem was, the 5 day hold was expiring on Shabbos afternoon (the day after New Years), and while DW’s Citi AA statement had closed and it showed that she earned the points, the points had not posted to her AA account within the standard 24-48 hours. I called Citi on Thursday night (New Years Eve) and they said it could take up to two weeks, so I called AA and they said that they were experiencing delays because of the Holidays. So I thought about what to do and then I remembered that somewhere deep in the Citi AA thread, someone had reported that AA allowed them to book a flight and have a negative point balance because they conferenced in Citi who confirmed that the points were en route. So I called back AA, landed on a rep who knew about that process but informed me that in order to do that, they needed the help of AA Customer Service who was closed until Monday morning because of the Holidays. I tried getting them to extend the hold, HUCA’d countless times, but kept getting the same answer – they can only do such things on AA flights, not partner airlines. So I had two options: A) release the hold before Shabbos and hope that it goes right back into inventory, or B) let the hold expire on Shabbos afternoon and then log on right after Shabbos and hopefully the seats went back into inventory and haven’t been scooped up yet. I didn’t like my chances with either, so I went back to my savior, D93, and Whatsapp’d him on Friday morning (15 minutes before Shabbos for him) and asked him if he’d be so kind to log on to my wife’s AA account after Shabbos was over for him, and if the points posted to have it ticketed (I gave him my cc number), and if the points didn’t show up, to release them and see if it went back into revenue. He said that he’d be happy to help me out and that he’d let me know what happened after Shabbos. Needless to say, I was sitting on pins and needles all Shabbos, and right after Maariv, ran to my phone, opened Whatsapp and saw a text from D93 saying that the points hadn’t showed up, but…he released the hold and the tickets went back into revenue!!! New 5 day hold to work with. Phew! So I waited until Monday when customer service would be open and called and asked to have me account in the negative once Citi confirmed the points were on the way. I HUCA’d and HUCA’d (at least 15 times) but nobody knew what I was talking about and I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided as a last attempt, I’d call Citi to see if there was anything that could be done. I called Citi, told them the situation, and they looped in AA CS. AA CS told me that they didn’t see the points anywhere but that they’d make a “special” exception and let me ticket the reservation anyways and go into the negative because Citi confirmed that the points were earned. Finally!!!! In order to do that, they looped in Advantage reservations, who looped in a supervisor (at this point there were 5 of us on the call) and after about an hour and a half, the tickets were on request! I honestly thought about making a Kiddush ;D.

The next morning, I woke up, checked my JAL account and the points had shown up! I picked up the phone, called JAL, landed on Erica again (!), and booked the PG flights. All that was left was to contact PG directly to add the lap infant to the reservation. PG isn’t reachable by phone unless you speak Thai so I sent them an email and took care of it all that way. (About a month later, once I had recuperated from the AA fiasco, I finished the KE booking that I had on hold.) Finally, thanks to a little luck, a lot of persistence, and D93 being my savior, the flights were taken care of!

Hotels: Once the flights were taken care of, I took care of the hotels. I called SPG and booked the LM Chaing Mai for 6 nights (base room), and then called the Sheraton Samui and booked a base room there for 5 nights.

Then I called Hyatt to book the Hyatt TST in HKG, and of course, the hotel was booked and there was no more award availability. I flaunted my Diamond Status, told them that because there were base rooms available for revenue bookings that they had to let me reserve it on points according to the T&Cs, and after pushing them a little, I got a supervisor to book me into the room and confirm my reservation.

For our hotel in ICN, it took me a couple of weeks to decide whether we should stay at the new Hyatt in Incheon which is supposed to be beautiful, or at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul. Pro of staying in Incheon would be being able to take advantage of the free tours that KE offers, and pro of staying in Seoul would be the better location. After talking it over with a friend who’s been to Seoul many times, we decided on the Grand Hyatt Seoul for a few reasons. 1) better location if we just wanted to walk around at night, 2) if we stayed in Incheon and wanted to actually see a decent amount of Seoul, we would’ve had to do two of KE’s Seoul tours which would have been a lot of bus rides back and forth between Seoul and Incheon, 3) doing two of KE’s Seoul tours wouldn’t have left enough time to see the DMZ, and 4) most DMZ tours provide pick up from your hotel in Seoul which is convenient.

A couple of days after I finished booking the Thailand hotels, the bonuses for our Citi Hilton Signature cards (75k each) posted, and I decided to look and see if the Conrad Koh Samui was available for the dates that I’d be there. It was, so I quickly applied for the Citi Hilton Reserve card (we were booked to be in USM for Shabbos) and kept my fingers crossed that it would still be available when the certificates posted to my account. Why not go for gold, right? Fast-forward a month and a half. Free night certificates from Hilton Reserve card posted to my account so I called up and booked us at the Conrad Koh Samui for 5 nights and cancelled the Sheraton Samui. Once I got the points back for the Sheraton Samui, I called back SPG and upgraded to the Executive Suite at LM Chiang Mai. NOW we were set!!

Total Cost
JFK-ICN on KE F (2 Adults + 1 Lap Infant): 199,500 KE Miles + $501.59 YQ
Grand Hyatt Seoul (1 Night): 1 Anniversary Night
ICN-CNX on KE J (2 Adults + 1 Lap Infant): Included in above mileage and YQ
Le Meridian Chiang Mai (6 Nights–Executive Suite): 44,000 SPG Points
CNX-USM on PG Y (2 Adults + 1 Lap Infant): 20,000 JAL Miles + $247.50 YQ
Conrad Koh Samui (5 Nights): 2 Free Weekend Nights Certificates + 228,000 Hilton Points
USM-HKG on PG Y (2 Adults + 1 Lap Infant): Included in above mileage and YQ
Hyatt Regency TST (2 Nights): 1 Anniversary Night + 15,000 Hyatt Points
HKG-JFK on CX J (3 seats): 165,000 AA Miles + $167.28 YQ

Total Dollar Value of Flights and Hotels: $50,783.93

August 31, 2016, 10:20:23 AM
1
Family of 5, 3 day 2 night trip within driving distance of NYC for under $200! I am going to try my hand at a mini trip report. We were looking for a vacation within driving distance from NYC and that wouldn't break the bank for 3 day 2 night vacation. Much to my own surprise we needed actually fuguring out and doing a great trip that met that criteria. So here goes:
Besides needing to be within driving distance of NYC it needed to be appropriate for young family with 5 and 3 year old boy and a 12 month old baby.
I didn't really have a starting point until someone my wife works with told her about Edaville USA. Since we saw a total of 0 frum jews there on a major vacation weekend I am assuming the word has not gotten out about this place yet. It was an old small amusement park that they have rebranded into a Thomas (the train) themed park. Since my boys love Thomas we decided to try to center the trip around that especially bc we assumed my 5 year old will grown out of it soon.
Edaville USA is located in Carver, MA. Looking at a map I saw that it was pretty close to a number of options to base around. I could choose from Boston providence and newport. I nixed Boston right away because as it is Carver was really farther then I wanted to drive for such a short trip and I liked the idea of cutting some time out of the drive back by basing out of Rhode Island. A look on ddf and TripAdvisor pretty much ruled out Newport for a trip with my kids so I started looking at providence.
I had 2 free marriot nights from the Marriott CC (1 extended from last year and  from this year). I was nervous that I would have availability issues labor day weekend but that was not an issue at all. I found good reviews for the residence Inn providence-coventry and they had availability. I called them and there 2 bedroom suites were wide open so I had a very good chance of getting the upgrade but I would have to wait until the day of to know for sure.  I was taking some what of a risk bc if I didn't get the upgrade it wasn't going to be much of a vacation.... but I took the gamble.
Next I looked for things to do there.  I found on trip advisor good reviews for the providence children's museum and realized I may have free access with my LI. Children's museum membership a drop of research and confirmed free day 2! ( I did have to pay $9 for one kids bec they only give 3 passes through the reciprocity program... so basically free). While researched I discovered that there are a number of good beaches near providence and i figured our 3rd day was Tuesday after Labor day when all public schools start the beaches will be empty. So our plan was fitting into place perfectly. Sunday edaville usa (only day they were opened) Monday the museum and Tuesday beach.
In terms of food it seemed that there was no reliable kosher places and we had a full kitchen so we just brought a large cooler filled with cheese yogurt pasta tuna etc... and so we made do with that.
More to follow...

September 08, 2016, 07:54:24 PM
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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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Savannah TR on JetBlue promo Here we go, my first large trip report (I’ve done a few small things here and there, but this is my first full trip recap effort). There's next to nothing about Savannah on DDF, and we really enjoyed our trip, so I figured I'd put as much detail (and photos) as I could.

NOTE: I obviously set up the pictures and captions on my desktop, and I'm reasonably certain some of my formatting won't work well on a phone or tapa, and possibly even on some desktop's depending on screen size. I'd love to hear feedback from people as to whether the layout worked well from whatever device they viewed it from.

Planning
Having enrolled myself and my wife in the JetBlue Points Match promo (not enough SPG points to do the kids too), we had to decide where to go and for how long. Last resort would be the in-and-outs that many DDF’ers seem to have done, to wherever the cheapest option would be, but we much preferred an actual trip where we could visit a city. But, since we were leaving our other 2 children with my in-laws, we couldn't be away for too long. We actually booked Charleston first, but quickly decided to switch to Savannah for a number of reasons. As far as timing, we would fly flew in Tuesday morning and out Wednesday evening – basically giving us 2 days and 1 night. I booked window and aisle for both flights, hoping to bring the infant car seat on the plane. Our flights were as follows:

8/23 7:05AM JFK-SAV
8/24 5:50PM SAV-JFK

Flight and Arrival in Savannah
Tuesday morning we were up and out nice and early for our 7:05 AM flight, taking an Uber to JFK for free with a referral credit I discovered I still had. Unfortunately, we forgot the cooler bag with what was supposed to be that day’s lunch at home. Instead, we picked up a sandwich and a salad from Fresko at the CIBO in T5 right after security. I’m curious if they might have had other choices at the other CIBO’s, because I did not like the selection. It was a rip-off, but I guess that’s what happens when you have to buy food at the airport.

The flight was full, so no extra seat for baby, but b”h he was extremely well behaved. After a short flight, we arrived at SAV. It’s a nice little airport with some local character. All the rental companies have the cars on-site, so we proceeded to the Dollar desk, where I had reserved the cheapest option - under $40 for 2 days. The woman at the desk was trying to get everyone to upgrade, and not to a level above, but to the biggest thing she could sell you on. She said “there’s no trunk in the car you’re getting, how about a Jeep instead.” That sounded bad enough to upgrade, but we figured, let’s go out and see what it is, and come back if we can’t squeeze in. Lo and behold it’s a Chevy Cruze (that’s a compact, the category of the Civic, Corolla, etc. – not even Chevy’s smallest car), with plenty of room in the trunk for all our stuff. It was also extremely well equipped for such a budget car (and such a budget rental price!).

Forsyth Park
We had some time to kill before the first real item on our itinerary, so we stopped at Publix by the airport for some snacks and headed into Savannah to squeeze in Forsyth Park. It’s a nice little park, and you immediately get a sense of the type of city you’re in. This is not NYC, it's got a very southern feel and an air of history about it. Especially striking are the colorful houses facing the park, something that can be found all over the historic parts of Savannah. Having said that, there’s not much to do or see there, and the trolley tours (more on that later) usually cover it too. It was nice to stop by given our schedule, but not a must see attraction. The northern half of the park is covered with live oaks (the state tree), with paths surrounding a very pretty fountain. The southern half is mostly open fields, with a really tall confederate memorial smack in the middle, and a memorial for the Spanish-American War at the southern tip. In between, there's a playground, a 'fragrant garden' and a cafe. After 15-20 minutes, we’d seen the sight and moved on to the next attraction.

(L)Plaque commemorating the naming of the park, right in front of (R)the big fountain featured in the northern portion of the park.

   

(L)Crepe myrtle with a few flowers, dwarfed by live oak, covered in Spanish moss (which seemed to cover nearly every tree). (R)Walled 'fragrant' garden

   

(L)Little bird pond/fountain in the middle of the fragrant garden. Not much there in the heat of summer's end, but I did find this one (R)rose.

   

(L)Confederate memorial. (R)Spanish-American war memorial.

   

Just to give you a sense of the very different vibe of the area, here are some of the houses lining the park:

      

Dolphin Boat Tour

Our next stop was a dolphin boat tour. Savannah is situated on the Savannah River, but fairly close to the mouth where it flows into the Atlantic. As a result, there are Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that hang out downriver of the city. I had first seen a company that operates out of Savannah proper, but it was twice the price of all the other companies I eventually found, which launch from Tybee Island. If Hilton Head is Savannah's nearby resort town, Tybee is its nearby beach town - no fancy chain hotels, no fancy vacation communities. We were planning on visiting Tybee anyway, so it was a no-brainer to drive out that way for the dolphin tour as well. We booked an 11:30 tour with Captain Derek's Dolphin Adventure - $16/person after tax for a 60-90 minute ride. They let us bring the stroller on without a problem, though I had to carry it to where we sat as the boat is not quite big enough for maneuvering the stroller.

They operate with a captain piloting the boat, and another guy who basically attempts to entertain with jokes, and points out the dolphins when they start appearing. We saw a good number of dolphins at a distance, until finally a pair of them decided to come right up to the boat and say hi. They also speed the boat up at one point to make waves, hoping to have the dolphins 'surf' in the wake, but they were unsuccessful getting the dolphins to do that on our tour. It's a nice ride providing some relief from the heat and humidity, and it was definitely cool to see the dolphins up close. If I were to do something like this again though, I'd make sure to bring something faster than my point and shoot, as you have to be quick to catch the dolphins in frame.

As we were boarding the tour, we saw (L)this dredging vessel coming upriver, followed by (R)a container ship. The guide later told us that they're doing dredging work to deepen the channel for even bigger container ships, and when there's a storm coming, they bring all the ships into the relative come of the river a day or two before.

   

(L)Our first dolphin sighting! After getting a bunch of not too great shots from distance, (R)eventually they decided to come hang out near the boat for a few minutes.

   

Fort Pulaski, built after the War of 1812 as part of the US coastal defense system, saw significant fighting in the civil war (that's why the walls are so scarred, you can zoom in to see).



(L)Cockpur Island Lighthouse, the smallest lighthouse in Georgia. At low tide you can walk from the fort, but as you can see it's covered by water in the middle of the day. (R)Tybee Island Lighthouse, the largest lighthouse in Georgia, and one of seven colonial era lighthouses still standing today.

        

(L)Just a nice shot from the marina looking back over the marshes at a storm that thankfully never hit us. (R)Someone on the boat pointed out a rainbow in the cloud and this was the best shot I was able to get.

   

Tybee Island

After the tour, we continued on to the rest of Tybee Island. We stopped at the North Beach parking lot, where my wife went to check on the conditions on the beach. It was too hot for the baby, and too not-deserted for me, but she did see a sign that made us realize we'd seen Tybee Island in nature shows, as it's a significant nesting site for sea turtles. The lighthouse is right by that lot, as is a museum in an old fort (Fort Scriven), but neither were open, so we moved on. I had seen something about a pier and pavilion at Tybee's South Beach, so we headed that way to check it out. Parking is $2/hour, but we didn't have quarters, so I ended up paying the $4 cc minimum. We thought we'd get our money's worth by also visiting the marine science center, which is right next to the pavilion, but we ended up deciding to skip it in the interest of time. The pier and pavilion were worthwhile in their own right.

(L)Food court under the pavilion. (R)Fishing pier past the pavilion, stretching out into the ocean.

   

Semi-panoramic view from the fishing pier of the pavilion, the beach, and the resorts in the background.

      

We took in the views and sea breeze for a half hour or so before heading back to the car and back into Savannah.

Congregation Mickve Israel
Next stop was Congregation Mickve Israel, the 3rd oldest Jewish congregation in America (after Spanish and Portuguese in NY, and Touro in RI). They have tours that last around 30-45 minutes, with a $7/person suggested donation (they made it seem mandatory though, which was fine by me as I was planning to pay that amount anyway). The tour takes you into the shul and then to a single room museum they made in a relatively modern part of the building that also houses the office, gift shop, meeting rooms, etc. I did not realize this beforehand, but it may be halachically problematic to enter the shul itself (my Rov told me after that I shouldn't have gone in), so AYLOR beforehand if you plan to go. They seat you in the shul while the tour guide talks about the history of Jews in Savannah and the congregation itself. Then you go up by the aron and where they open it to show the sifrei torah. Finally they bring you up to the museum room to see all the historical artifacts they have curated for tourists.

The history is remarkable, as the Jewish presence in Georgia dates back nearly to the founding of the colony. This congregation didn't officially become reform until 1904, though it seems like it was fairly progressive as time went on, and very integrated into it's surroundings. The building itself highlights this with its Gothic style, more reminiscent of a church than a shul, and artifacts in the museum that show the role of congregants in Savannah, and more generally American, society.

Not my photo, but I wanted to highlight just how church-like the building is from the outside (you can click through to see the photographer's flickr page).

     

(L)Sefer torah which was brought over by the first Jews to come to Georgia in 1733. (R)Note from Robert E. Lee to one of the congregants.

   

(L)Front of the shul, including aron and bimah. (C)Looking back from near the aron on the rest of the shul. Note the organ above the doors in the back. (R) One of the 8 large stained glass windows covering the sides of the building.

       

(L)Shofar, havdalah set, haggadah, shabbos lamp, siddurim, and megillah. (C)Ceremonial helmet of Rabbi George Solomon, who was the Rabbi of Mickve Israel from 1903-1945, and served as a chaplain in both world wars. (R)Menorah at middle right and mohel's set (which was brought over on the boat with the Torah above) at bottom left.

      

It was now late enough to check-in, so we headed to the hotel to get settled before mincha/maariv and dinner.

Part 2 will cover the hotel, kosher food and minyan, trolley tour and City Market.

September 12, 2016, 04:49:11 PM
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