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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
Best Buy master thread I couldn't find a master thread for Best Buy,So guess I'll start one. Anyone know if I can use Best Buy reward certificate for visa gc or Best Buy gc in store or online ? Mayb if I add a regular item to card as well?
May 11, 2016, 04:01:35 PM
1
Mr & Mrs. BenDor in Japan and HK This is my first trip report, and my first trip ever using points. I’ve been accumulating for just over a year, and I’d like to give a big shoutout to all those who post here and have made this hobby possible, and specifically to PieRSquare (who answered a lot of my questions) and the others who have posted TRs and in the Master Thread. So give yourselves a big round of applause!
On to the report.

Background
It all began with plans for Thailand.
I really wanted to go to Thailand. I had been following the Thailand Master Thread, read all the Thailand TRs, and was completely hooked. Beautiful beaches, diving and snorkeling, elephants, beautiful resorts on points, and cheap kosher food at Chabad. What more could you want? A little research showed that AA offer the cheapest awards to Thailand from Israel (after JAL, but no point in wasting Starpoints on this) with great availability on Royal Jordanian and good connection times. I continued to trawl through the Thailand Master Thread, started researching hotels, and began racking up AA miles (thank you Citi!). Up until now, I had been collecting speculatively, but now that we had a destination in mind, I worked out my points-earning plan.
The plan was to go right before or after Pesach (mid-April 17'), to work with my DW's university schedule.

This was in September 2016. We started opening up relevant cards for signup bonuses, and all was well in the world.

In November, about 4 months before our planned travel dates, we discovered that my DW was pregnant! B”H! Our unborn child would be able to enjoy this trip as well! My elation lasted about a week - at which point I found out that Thailand has the dreaded ZIKA virus, making it a no-go for pregnant women. While Zika in Thailand is endemic, and not epidemic like in South America, we decided that we were not risking it. So, the objective now came to find a destination which wouldn’t cost (many) more AA points, and didn’t have Zika. There weren't so many options, as Zika is endemic in most of SE Asia, so Japan came out the clear winner. We soon found out that we were planning our trip around the beginning of the famous "sakura" (cherry blossom) season, which only confirmed our decision. And after looking at some pictures, the Mrs. was hooked!  ;)

Booking: Flights
While living in Israel is wonderful, it does make things a bit more difficult with regards to earning points. So even though our dates were coming up fast, we still didn't have all the points we needed for the flights. Our low expenses (B"H!) didn't help that fact, nor did the closing of the main avenue for MS in Israel. But we were still determined, and thanks to the help of some friends, we finally earned enough AA miles to book our outbound flights.

All good, right? Just a simple TLV-RJ-AMM-RJ-BKK-JL-TYO flight. That's what we thought, until we found out that all there was no availability on JL from BKK to either Haneda or Narita, without wasting almost 24 hours in BKK. Worse, even if we were to continue to HKG, there was no availability in J or Y for any direct flight to Tokyo!  :'( The Internet says that cherry blossom season is crazy, and it was right!

Finally, after researching with a number of very helpful AAdvantage call center agents (I would always call middle of the night US time) and on BA.com, it looked like we'd have a long journey from Tel Aviv to Tokyo. TLV-AMM-BKK-HKG-KIX,ITM-HND. Total travel time from TLV departure until arrival in HND would be almost 24 hours (not including timezone differences). Ouch. The one consolation was that it would all in Business class. Our first time too! So it would be worth it. (It was! ;D)

To get from TYO to HKG it's only 10k Avios +27$ (in Y) on either CX or JL. The advantage over these carriers as opposed to AirAsia or any of the other LCC (Peach, VanillaAir, etc.) is in the availability and times. Most of the LCCs are either early morning or late at night, and we wanted a nice afternoon flight. Also, you get 2 pieces of checked baggage and a 10kg hand luggage as opposed to 0 and 0 on the LCCs.

For our return to Israel (and to make it back in time for Pesach) we planned on staying in Hong Kong over Shabbat, and catching the new 1am CX flight on Sunday morning from HKG to TLV, booked using Asia Miles which I would transfer from Citi TYP. (Unfortunately, the maiden voyage was a week after we wanted to depart for our trip, otherwise it would have saved us a whole lot of transfers on the way to Japan…) That would give us a whole day and a half to clean for Pesach (which was on Monday evening). There was only one problem - there was no availability, in any class!  :'(
After overcoming my initial horror, I read that Cathay will often open up availability closer to the date. So I sat back, warned my wife and my Mom that we my not make it home for Pesach, and booked award tickets on the waiting list through CX (the main advantage to booking direct, and what - in the end - got us home for Pesach). I also went on asiamiles.com multiple times a day, checking for openings, as I read stories on flyertalk about being on the waiting list, and a seat opening up and being 'grabbed' before handed over to the waiting list... I also kept a close check on fare availability through expertflyer, as there were a lot of unsold J, PE and Y fares, so I was fairly optimistic that something would work out. I also looked into some contingency plans - flying RJ back through AMM (although risking a 45min connection in AMM, and landing Erev Pesach), or just using UR points through the portal to buy (relatively) cheap cash ticket on Ukrainian or Aeroflot... (Luckily, it cleared – but we’ll get to that in a future post.)

Booking: Hotels
Booking hotels was contingent on us figuring out our itinerary. As mentioned below, Japan is huge and there is so much to see! But because it was the sakura season, hotels were filling up fast. Very fast. Luckily, I was still able to get the Prince Sakura (15 min walk to R' Mendi's Chabad House in Tokyo) for most of the nights I wanted in Tokyo, and we spent Shabbat in an airbnb 5 min walk from Chabad, which I had meticulously gone over with the host to make sure it was shabbat-friendly.
Apart from that, we had two nights in Toyama at the Crowne Plaza there, one night at the Crowne Plaza Nagoya, and spent our second Shabbat at the JCC/Chabad in Kobe. From there we planned on going to Kyoto, but there were literally no hotels, hostels or ryoken left in town, so we booked two nights at an airbnb in Osaka (Terrible! Worst idea ever! >:() finishing up with a night at the Prince Sakura and one night at the adjacent Prince Shinagawa (more on that later).

In Hong Kong, we splurged for the Shagri-la Kowloon with Chase UR.  Totally worth it 8)

Keeping kosher in Japan, and other pre-trip preparations:
Japan is an amazing country, and there is so  much to do and see. There is, however, very little to eat, for those keeping kosher (besides your basic fruits and vegetables which are very expensive, and fish). Basically, you have the two Chabad houses (official and unofficial) in Tokyo (only one of which has an active restaurant), the Jewish community in Kobe (run by Chabad). On our trip, we heard from others that a new (unofficial) Chabad house in Kyoto opened up. So we planned out all our meals before hand, and brought a suitcase full of food (cereal, pasta, instant soups, snacks, etc) and a large freezer bag (bread, soups, cheese, lasagna). There is a very detailed list of what foods you can bring in to Japan (and what not). Unfortunately, all types of poultry and meat are prohibited (without proper import certification), and while the reports say that no one has been stopped (yet), we didn't want to break the record and risk getting stuck in Japan with no food. So we brought only milchig food (frozen lasagna, frozen soup, frozen pitot, frozen cheese, etc.).

We planned on doing cooking at both the hotel and at the airbnbs, and purchased an electric-coil burner for about ~20$ in Tokyo and a grilled cheese sandwich maker for about 10$. Remember that Japan uses 100v (and the current is 50/60A) so be careful bringing electronics with heating elements from the USA, as I was told they still need some sort of converter. In Israel all our appliances are 220v, so it wasn't relevant anyways.

At all the hotels we stayed at they were very accommodating with regards to our stockpile of frozen and refrigerated kosher food. The frozen food was stored in the kitchen or porter's freezer in a large freezerbag on wheels, and they would cart it back and forth to our room. Most had no qualms about heating food up in the oven, while two hotels only provided microwave services. We would always ask them to clear out the mini-bar so we could use it for our Israeli cheese and local cows milk (ask your LOR! We talked to R' Herschel Simantov, a mashgiach for the OK, who said it was fine to drink full-fat clearly labeled cows milk).

And for the record, always double wrap frozen soups. Always...  :-[

Planning a Japan itinerary
As there is so much to see, you really have to pick and choose. After combing the Japan master thread, various travel guides, and the nephew of a neighbor who had spent 3 months in Japan last year, we built our itinerary:
  • (Tuesday Day -2: Depart TLV)
  • Thursday Day 1: Land in Japan
  • Friday Day 2: Tokyo (Ueno park)
  • Shabbat Day 3: Tokyo (Chabad + ??)
  • Sunday Day 4: Tokyo (Tokyo National Gallery + Akihabara)
  • Monday Day 5: Tokyo (Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza)
  • Tuesdya Day 6: Toyama (activated 7 day Japan Rail Pass)
  • Wednesday Day 7: Kanazawa
  • Thursday Day 8: Scenic route to Nagoya, SCMaglev Park
  • Friday Day 9: Toyota Factory Tour + Travel to Kobe
  • Shabbat Day 10: Kobe
  • Sunday Day 11: Kyoto
  • Monday Day 12: Nara (return to Tokyo, end of JR Pass)
  • Tuesday Day 13: Tokyo (Cherry blossoms, Shibuya, Ueno and Karaoke! ;D)
  • Wednesday Day 14: Tokyo (Cherry blossoms) + Fly to HKG
  • Thursday Day 15: Hong Kong (touring the Island)
  • Friday Day 16: Hong Kong (Kowloon)
  • Shabbat Day 17: Hong Kong (Kehillat Zion + Museum)
  • Sunday Day 18: Fly to TLV

Redemptions [vs. cash value]:
- TLV-TYO  RJ/CX J:  2 * 30k AA + 42.20$ [~2500$ pp, 8.3cpp]
- TYO-HKG CX Y : 2 * 10k BA + 27.13$ [~350$ pp, 4.3cpp]
- HKG-TLV CX PE: 2 * 30k CX + 330HKD (~42$) [~950$ pp, 3.1cpp]
- Prince Sakurua Tokyo: 4 * 40k Marriot points [350$ per night, 0.875cpp]
- Crowne Plaza Toyama: 2 * 25k IHG points  [~300$ per night, 1.2cpp]
- Shangri-La Kowloon: 3* 24k UR [~350$ per night, 1.5cpp]

Total cash (not) spent: *~11,000$*

Detailed posts will follow, but expect sporadic updates. It takes time to churn these things out...
I'll also try and update the Japan Master Thread wiki with info as I write up the TR.

June 22, 2017, 12:13:46 PM
1
Re: The funny/strange/interesting video thread... https://youtu.be/0FnltJ3GYus
February 18, 2018, 01:03:04 AM
1
Re: The funny/strange/interesting video thread...
[quote
Song of Shas
@ about 4.5 min he starts going through highlights of each masechta in grammen
Very impressive


Impressive indeed, who is this and what was the context?
Yossi Gleiberman when he was being honored for 30 years as a daf yomi magid shiur.

February 18, 2018, 05:10:02 PM
1
Asia Kids Trip with Shabbos Minyanim, Excellent Food & Private Family Swimming! 1st Segment- Trip Planning:

This trip all started after I did a trip to the Maldives (My TR is here: http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=66086.0) in 2016, which was the first high-end, all on points, not just eating tuna and crackers and cheese, trip that I planned after seeing all the cool stuff other people were doing and realizing I could do it too!  So after I got back from that trip, I was trying to figure out, where I wanted to go next and somewhere that would be fun for my whole family, kids included.  We see a lot of cool trips, on DDF, to amazing places for couples or with babies and toddlers but I wanted to write this up for other families to see what I planned for a far off trip with older kids.  I didn't bring a single pot on this trip, although I did bring snacks and milk and except for our first stop we did have a microwave (which is really important for me).

Once you throw older kids in the mix, it made everything SO much more complicated for me, with the extra points and seat availability, dealing with food for 5 people (and picky eaters) and also as my children have gotten older it's very important to me to help them have great adventures while also trying my best not to put them unnecessarily in inappropriate settings and environments.  Add to these issues, that I have very little desire to go to Europe, wanted somewhere warm over winter break, we had just had an amazing family trip to Panama (TR for that one is here: http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=75186.0) so I wanted somewhere not in Central/South America, oh and on top of those things my husband said I could knock myself out planning whatever crazy vacation I wanted as long as a he got one hot, fresh, meat meal per day (that took out Hawaii, unless I wanted to kill myself cooking)! SOOO, where to go?!?! ;D

I decided Asia.  Here is the itinerary I booked and I hope you enjoy this trip report!

Most airlines open a max of two or four J seats so I looked toward Cathay Pacific from the beginning because they often open five seats.  Since they also have the best deal in J when booked with Alaska miles (50k OW pp), that is what I worked toward amassing points and then booking.  We wanted to have our Shabbats with a minyan and heard both Hong Kong and Singapore were great.  We could also eat both meals in the synagogues there so that also led us to those cities for both weekends (Thailand sounds like they also have amazing Shabbat experiences so I'm not trying to discount them, I just thought our family would enjoy these cities more). 

This is what we ended up with (ideally the trip would have included more Thailand time but because of time restraints we couldn't add more onto this trip):
Denver-Hong Kong (stayed three nights)- Koh Samui, Thailand (stayed 4 nights), Singapore (stayed 3 nights)- Denver

Den-SFO (had to purchase)
SFO-HKG CX J  50k AS plus $61.10 so 250k for 5 people and $305.50
     Used Hotels.com nights for 3 nights at the Royal Garden and it was a perfect location to Kehillat Zion in Kowloon

HKG-BKK CX included in the above mileage ticket but I ended up cancelling once I booked the direct flight from Hong Kong to Koh Samui

HKG-USM   Bankok Airways Y, Only 10k pp and 50k total AF miles
     Used HHonors for 4 night at the Conrad Residences Koh Samui

USM-SIN Silk Air Only 10,625  miles pp so 53,125 total SQ miles  (booked before award chart change so got the 15% discount but paid a little YQ)
      Used HHonors for two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn near the shul for only 10k HHonors a night (one of my best ever redemptions) and the last night was paid (yes, it was horrible to pay but fun to stay) :P at the Marina Bay sands

SIN-HKG-LAX on CX J  Again only 50k AS

LAX-DEN originally booked on American for 7500 Avios and and 5.60 fees pp for a total of 37.5k and 28.00 but then I cancelled them when those same tickets went on sale for $44 per person.

All together, I spent:
500k AS I was able to take advantage of that short-term deal where I transferred to Virgin with the SPG bonus and then got another bonus when exchanging to AS so those tickets really cost me about 300k SPG or 60k SPG pp RT (yes, I know that's not going to happen again)!!  That's more than an $.11pp redemption of SPG points for those CX flights.

50k AF
53,125k SQ

Even with all this planning, no large YQ, etc.  the total taxes, fees, and tickets from Denver to California was still about $400pp and $2000 for the family.  I'm not complaining, just trying to give the true costs, when I put every together.

I'm going to work on uploading my pictures and get started with the next installment soon!

February 21, 2018, 07:59:17 PM
1
Re: Sleeping on Long Flights ps. this thread should be UP in the air
February 27, 2018, 10:27:43 AM
1
Re: Credit Card Retention Bonuses
Please explain for the uninitiated how these retention bonuses work. I read the Wiki here (seems outdated) but don’t understand how to find and get these bonuses.
Sometimes, if you important enough for them as a customer, they'll offer you either some point miles or some money, so you should leave your account open, it usually comes with a spending requirement.

Call them, ask if there's any retention offer available.

March 08, 2018, 09:54:56 AM
1
Re: Credit Card Retention Bonuses
Sometimes, if you important enough for them as a customer, they'll offer you either some point miles or some money, so you should leave your account open, it usually comes with a spending requirement.

Call them, ask if there's any retention offer available.
-1
Some banks (reps) won't appreciate being asked straight up for a bonus then won't give you one. You have to ask for a courtesy credit/points etc. to have them offer it on their own.
Asking straight up does work for Chase, and YMMV with Amex.

March 08, 2018, 10:15:07 AM
1
Re: Can You Top This? $200 SUB on $500 SR, NO AF, + 3% back
pretty much, any other opinions?

at some point you run out of $500 options

March 11, 2018, 01:07:06 AM
1
Day -2, -1 and 0: 5 flights, 6 lounges and an instant ramen museum Day -2, -1 and 0: 5 flights, 6 lounges and an instant ramen museum
In honor of it being our tripanniversary next week, I decided about two weeks ago that I would (finally) get out the next post. Hopefully the following post installment will come sooner than the next tripanniversary. (Writing it also really made me appreciate all those people who do manage to get their TRs out in a timely fashion, and especially those who actually *finish* their reports. You make it all worthwhile!)


I’m going to start this post out with a little big thanks to my wife, who put up with my shenanigans and agreed to come on the trip even though we were in transit for almost 72 hours from departing Tel Aviv until we reached Tokyo, as I’m not sure if it came through in the previous post.

Our journey started on a mid-week evening in March.
Our flight to Amman left Tel Aviv late in the evening, but not late enough to prevent a 3 hour layover in AMM, before continuing on to Bangkok. Among the many things I was looking forward to when flying business for the first time was the use of business check-in counter, passing by all those plebeians flying coach and queuing up in those endless lines..
But both check-in lines were empty. It didn’t prevent me from feeling a little heady when the agent handed us our business boarding passes (even if they looked just like the economy ones). Due to our creative routing, the agent told us she wouldn’t be able to generate boarding passes beyond Bangkok, so we’d have to visit Cathay’s transfer desk there.
Passing through security was uneventful, and we soon found ourselves air side.
Flying business got us into the super-luxurious and exclusive adequate Dan lounge, where we feasted on soup and crackers. We had been in the lounge a year before (thanks to an Israeli credit card that used to offer free entrance) and it looked exactly the same (down to the positioning of the drinks in the fridge). At least the salads weren’t a year old…
In any case, even though it was (and still is) nothing special, it’s nice to have a variety of free kosher food, especially in our case where they didn’t serve any food on the 24 minute and 17 second flight (I timed it :-P).
After finishing our snack we hung around in the lounge a bit longer, before heading to our first flight out of five over the next 48 hours.
The TLV-AMM flight is unlike any flight I’ve ever taken. At only 69 miles, the flight is scheduled for 45 minutes, but a look at the flight history shows that it averages around 27 minutes. We literally spent more time taxiing at the two airports then flying.
Due to the low altitude, you have great views of the route. Especially at night, it was really amazing to fly the breadth of the country. Unfortunately, my ancient point-and-shoot camera, which was great for the rest of the trip, did not do so well with the combination of movement, low light and reflective airplane windows.
 So here’s a picture of the crazy lady from the RJ safety video instead:


 Crazy lady from the RJ safety video

Very (very) soon, we found ourselves in Queen Alia Airport. We had 3 hours to kill until our flight to Bangkok, and after a few minutes of browsing the duty free, we decided to go to the lounge and try and get some sleep.
The Crown Lounge (which is also open to Priority Pass holders) is located directly above the terminal, and shares the same open-air space of the terminal, giving a very spacious feeling. It also means there’s lots of people-watching to be done – even at 1am.
View from Crown Lounge
The lounge was quite empty. Upon entering, the lounge splits in to two parts – the right hand side is where the food is, the left hand side is where the seats, couches and comfy armchairs are. So we grabbed ourselves two couches, and took a quick snooze until our next flight.
Snoozing in the Crown Lounge AMM

At about 1:45AM we headed over to the gate, where we boarded our 787 to Bangkok. While the TLV-AMM flight had been our first ever flight in business, it didn’t really count (as business. Or as a flight, for that matter). Here we were going to have our first ever full night sleep on a lay-flat airplane seat. It did not disappoint.

As soon as we hit cruising altitude, we put the beds into sleep mode and hit the sack. Definitely the best sleep I’ve had on an airplane. The flight was about 8 hours, and we slept for about 6 of them (a good thing too, because we weren’t going to get any sleep the next night… More on that later).
We were served some sort of breakfast (or was it lunch?) about an hour away from Bangkok, I seem to remember it being adequate.  Soon enough, we were descending into the beautiful hot and humid Thailand.

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This was the first time I’d ever been on a flight which makes a stop where people get out. The RJ flight continues from Bangkok to either Kuala Lumpar or Hong Kong, depending on the day. Unfortunately, it was the wrong day, which was why we were getting out at BKK. They counted the stopover passengers as we left the plane, and double-checked the names as we entered the terminal.
Next time, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui!



As we hadn’t been issued Cathay Pacific boarding passes when leaving TLV, we headed over to the transit desk, where after a few minutes wait (they needed to electronically move our checked baggage from the RJ ticket to a CX ticket) we were on our way to the CX lounge.




We had a few hours to kill in the lounge, so we availed ourselves of their fruit and drinks, and printed out some info for our excursion during our last stopover, in Osaka. The CX lounge has a wide variety, and great windows and comfy chairs for plane spotting.
It wasn’t long before we were heading to our next plane, a CX A350 – a last minute switch from the B777 that was scheduled.

For those who have never traveled business class, just having a lie-flat seat (like on the RJ B787) seems like a dream. But even to our inexperienced-premium-travel-class-senses, we could tell that the CX business class was a different level. 
Whether it was the service upon boarding, the upholstery and more advanced chair, jam-packed IFE, private enclosed seat – all of it made the CX J experience a whole different class from the RJ J. It didn’t hurt that they had a Hermolis J meal for us either ;-)
The CX A350 J is set up 1-2-1, with the two middle seats having a divider between them that can be raised or lowered. One of the seats is staggered slightly farther back then the other, so one of us needed to lean forward to talk to the other, but it wasn’t too bad.
Though it was a short flight (just under 3 hours) we enjoyed it immensely. I could get used to flying like this!

In Hong Kong we had a 4.5 hour layover which we put to good use – checking out all the lounges! As Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific’s home base, they have no less than 4 business lounges for departures, 2 first class lounge for departures and 1 business lounge for arrivals. Gotta catch’em all!
You can read more about them on Cathay’s own website or on Lounge Buddy, but all of them are amazing. Our take-home points were the following:

-   The Cabin – has tons of private seating, cool fruit juice shakes
-   The Pier – humongous, loved the quiet room (see picture above), lots of reading material and definitely try the tea room
-   The Wing – last lounge open; don’t forget to ask for Haagen-Dazs ice cream!

We had a great time just exploring the different lounges. They also stamp your boarding pass at each lounge, so it makes for a great memento.
Our departure was at 1:50AM, at which point the Wing lounge was also closing up. We were both pretty tired, having been in transit for over 24 hours at this point (and not done yet!), and couldn’t wait to take off and get some sleep. Unfortunately, we were delayed departing Hong Kong – so I fell asleep in the upright position, while my wife waited until she could change the seat into a bed.
The bump of the wheel hitting the runway woke me from my sleep. We were finally in Japan! But not in Tokyo…

Our first stop in Japan was in Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan (after Tokyo), and one of the largest in the world.  It is served by two airports – Kansai International Airport (KIX), where we landed – and Osaka-Itami International Airport (ITM), where we were departing from. Despite its name, it serves very few international destinations. There are flights from both KIX and ITM to the two Tokyo airports Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND), but there was no availability for any of the flights out of KIX, despite my checking multiple times a day for the week before departure. Out of ITM there was quite a lot of availability, but even the earliest flight would require us sitting in the airport for 2 hours. We needed to get some fresh air. So with a little help from the Japan Guide, we were able to find an attraction not too far from the Itami airport which we could visit before getting on our flight to Tokyo.

This is a good place to introduce the Japan Guide ( https://www.japan-guide.com) that I just mentioned. It is the ultimate guide to everything in Japan for the English-reading tourist. Attractions, schedules, transportation maps, instructions how to transfer between airports, Cherry Blossom best viewing areas – it’s got everything. The navigation is a bit “Japanese” at times, and you’ll sometimes have better luck searching the website on Google then trying to find the link you want – but it’s amazing.

Regarding Japanese passport control and customs: going through the border control was very smooth. If I’m not mistaken they took thumbprints, and a picture of us. I don’t even think they asked us how long we were staying.. I was slightly apprehensive regarding customs, as we were bringing in quite a lot of food, and even though I tried to follow the rules (see my first post), I wasn’t really looking forward to explaining to a Japanese customs agent why I had frozen lasagnas and chicken soup in my suitcase… Luckily, they let us through with barely a glance. Though I did throw out the apple I had picked up at the lounge in Hong Kong.
From the Japan Guide I knew that there were two ways to get between Itami and Kansai airports – one was taking an airport limousine bus, which took you directly from the terminal in Kansai to the terminal in Itami, and the other was to take three different trains through the heart of Osaka (it came out more expensive too). Guess which one we decided on?

A quick note about the airport limousine bus. When you first hear about the airport limousine bus, you might think this:



But in reality, it’s more like this:


 
I guess the Japanese think that if they would just call it the airport bus, nobody would take it... Or some enterprising foreign businessman managed to sell them “limousine busses” ;-)

This was where I will mention my first mistake of the trip. Researching the cheapest option for internet showed that buying a SIM card at one of the electronic stores in downtown Tokyo would be much cheaper than purchasing one at the airport – which is true. I saved about 15$. But the headache and worry it introduced was, in hindsight, not worth saving 15$. I definitely recommend getting one of the SIM cards or pocket routers at the airport (or possibly have one waiting for you at your hotel).

Knowing I couldn’t rely on having internet access, at the lounge in Bangkok I had printed out instructions on how to find the bus. We found it easily enough, purchased a ticket at the window, and we were then treated to our first display of Japanese bowing. There were two attendants hanging around the curbside.
When the bus drove up, the driver got out and the two attendants bowed to him. He bowed back. They bowed again. Then the bus driver got back on the bus, and the attendants started loading the luggage. We saw this happening many times afterwards, but the first one really made an impression (lack of sleep might also have had something to do with it).

The ride on the bus took a little over an hour, and it was our first opportunity to view a Japanese city (even if it was mostly from a highway).
The bus dropped us off right outside the terminal. Unlike the Kansai airport which clearly catered to many foreigners, due to the English that appeared on every sign, the Itami airport had very little English. Very very little.
Our plan was to check in to the flight and get rid of checked luggage, store the hand luggage in a coin-locker (a common fixture in public places throughout Japan) and go touring for a few hours. We were, however, slightly hampered by our lack of knowledge of Japanese. We finally found the correct check-in counter (they have different counters for Japanese, non-Japanese, and people with baggage) and after a harrying wait in which the agent couldn’t figure out how to pull up our economy JAL ticket on the business award reservation, we were finally rid of the suitcases. We found the closest coin locker, deposited the hand luggage and away we went.

Our destination: the Momofuko Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

Getting there from the Itami airport was very easy (and we had printed out Google Maps instructions before hand), and involved taking the airport monorail one stop, switching to the Hankyu line, and going one stop - 18 minutes total (including a 5 minute walk from the station to the museum).
Japanese ticket machines are very impressive. It’s like an arcade game, with lots of flashing buttons and lights. They’re usually brightly colored, with lots of information (in Japanese of course) printed around them. Luckily, all of the ones we encountered throughout our trip all had an “English” option.  I forgot to take a picture of it, but it looks something like this:



After a quick ride and a short walk through the streets of Ikeda, we found ourselves outside at the museum. The museum is located on the grounds of the house shack where the creator of instant ramen noodles – Momofuko Ando – lived and invented the instant ramen.
For those who have never encountered instant ramen, it’s basically a cup of noodles which you cook very quickly with hot water (similar to the Israeli “mana chama”) . Usually it includes pieces of chicken or seafood, but as with other foods, the Japanese are happy to experiment with all sorts of interesting additions and flavors (wasabi flavored kitkats anyone?).

A statue of Momofuko Ando:
P_20170323_105218 Momofuko Ando

A lifesize instant ramen cup:
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They have a short animated video telling the history of the instant ramen, the shed in which Momofuko Ando worked his magic, a “hall of instant ramen fame”, and a floor where you can make your own instant ramen from scratch. They also have an exhibition of many different types of instant cup noodles from all over the world, which was very cool.
All in all, we spent a good two hours here, and it was a great, short and fun excursion to break up the endless travel.
We headed back to the airport, retracing our steps. We arrived back a bit earlier then we needed to, and there were no priority pass lounges at Itami, so we spent our spare time plane watching on the open-air observation deck.

As I mentioned in my first post, American Airline awards can only book into economy on domestic Japan Airlines flights. While there is often availability to upgrade with cash for a very low price (when travelling on paid tickets as well), we didn’t really care about the ever-so-slightly larger seat. The flight took about an hour, and we landed at Tokyo Haneda airport.

Here came mistake number two. I had read in multiple places that Haneda was much closer to the city center, was connected via a fairly and cheap subway, etc, as opposed to the much more expensive Narita Express train. Which was why when choosing between landing at Narita or at Haneda, I chose Haneda. I obviously wasn’t thinking of the fact that we wouldn’t want to schlep our suitcases on the infamous Tokyo subway, or that -  as we would be departing from Narita anyways – I could get a round trip ticket on the Narita Express or Airport Limousine Bus, which would make it cheaper than getting one way tickets from Haneda on the arrival and to Narita on the departure.

As we were planning on taking the subway, and we didn’t want to lug all the suitcases on the train with us, we planned on using the luggage delivery service provided (for a small fee) by the Prince Sakura Hotel.  Such services are very common in Japan, and we used it again the following week to send some of our luggage directly to Kobe, where we would spend the second Shabbat.

It really did make a difference. We took the subway with just our backpacks to the Shinagawa station, which is a 3 minute walk from the hotel.  I’ll describe the hotel in a later post, but we really enjoyed ourselves. At check-in they noticed that I had multiple reservations, and asked if I’d be leaving luggage in between. I explained about our food situation, that we’d need to store food in the room service freezer and they said they’d be happy to help, and to contact the front desk whenever we needed something. As our luggage was still in transit (we arrived at the hotel at about 3pm, and our luggage was scheduled to be there by 5pm), they told us it would be sent straight to the room once it arrived.

The bellboy took us to our room. We were planning on having an early dinner at Chana’s Place (the kosher restaurant run by Chabad, about a 20 minute walk from the hotel), but I really didn’t want to leave before we had made sure that the food was put away in the Freezer.
We hadn’t been in the room for 10 minutes, when there was a knock at the door. It was our luggage! It had arrived well before the scheduled time. We immediately went to work unpacking all the food. I had asked for a box to be brought up for us to put the freezer stuff in, and the bellboy was amazed at the amount of food we had brought. His English was passable, although I made sure to write down the word “freezer” on a piece of paper, just in case.  We had brought real food for 10 nights (and bread for 12 lunches), and the other nights were Shabbat or eating at the restaurant. Good thing we were flying business class, otherwise we would have been very overweight…


 
I also asked him to empty the mini-bar, and he said he’d ask room service to come up and do it.
This was when we discovered mistake number three. As I mentioned, we had brought frozen chicken soup for dinner (which we had made the previous Shabbat). However, we hadn’t moved it from the plastic container we had originally frozen it in to a zip lock bag before putting it in the freezer bag in the suitcase. Big mistake! The container had gotten punctured somewhere along the way (it wasn’t a very good quality one), and while in transit from the airport the soup had defrosted a bit.. and leaked into the freezer bag! Luckily I had brought a supply of ziplocks in a variety of sizes, so we transferred the still-frozen soup into one, and disposed of the box. I then spent the next 10 minutes trying to clean the bag, before laying it open on top of some sort of air purifier that was in the bedroom. I must have managed to get most of it out, as by the next day it smelled fine :-)

We headed out to Chana’s Place. The walk was straightforward, and we passed by all sorts of stores and shops, as well as two shrines. The streets were clean, and the sidewalks were pretty wide as well. There weren’t so many people about, but we enjoyed just walking around the neighborhood.

 
Chana’s Place is located in the Chabad of Japan complex house run by Rabbi Mendi Sudakevitch (Chana is his wife). They have a full time cook (who is also the waiter, cashier and manager of the restaurant). It’s a small room with 4 or 5 tables with two chairs each, and a large doorway into the kitchen (you can see the picture on their website). The menu is fairly priced, considering the difficulty in getting kosher ingredients, and is available on their website.

I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, but it was yummy and filling (a nice sized portion). As we were paying, the cook casually mentioned that the following week the restaurant would be closed, as they were cleaning for Pesach! Unfortunately, we had planned on going to the restaurant the day we came back from Nara, as I didn’t want to have to deal with dinner. So we’d need to make a slight change to the meal plan, not a big deal.
On our way out, he offered us some kosher jelly some previous traveler had left with them, which we took. Mistake #4: We had brought bread and peanut butter to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but hadn’t brought any jelly!! Oops…
On the opposite street corner from the Chabad is an upscale store called Peacock, which we went in to just to see what a Japanese supermarket looked like, and whether there were any kosher products. The answer to the first: very much like a western store. The answer to the second: absolutely nothing. Except for this:
Looks really filling…

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At the store we purchased some aluminum foil (which had somehow escaped the packing list) and some (expensive) bananas and tomatoes, and headed back to the hotel, where we got our first full night’s sleep in almost three days.

View of Tokyo from our window. The thing that looks like the Eiffel Tower is called the Tokyo Tower.

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March 21, 2018, 12:54:39 PM
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Re: All Halocha Shailos and teiffa Questions
I want to throw away (rather than sell) all my real Chometz. Questions: Are the following items Chometz?
1. A box or sealed container of (dry) barley?
2. A box or sealed container of (dry) bulgur grains?
3.  A box or sealed container of (dry) instant oatmeal? I think the latter is Chometz because I assume it was already processed....
I'm sure there are items that not everyone agrees to, but here's a list:
https://www.star-k.org/articles/articles/seasonal/347/guide-to-selling-real-chometz-before-pesach/

March 22, 2018, 10:57:56 AM
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