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1
Trip Reports / Westin Hilton Head and a few hours in Savanna
« on: August 26, 2019, 09:27:48 AM »
Last week I took a small trip with the family to Hilton head, South Carolina. 

We have not taken what I consider to be a "real" vacation in about a year and a half.  Sure, I have been to Miami 3 times within the year and a half, but I haven't booked a trip searching award space on flights plus hotels in a year and a half when DW and I went to Palm Springs (though all Miami flights were booked via AA points).  The reason we have not taken a real trip in this time is because BH last year our family grew by 1 and DW was too nervous to go anywhere that wasn't MIA where we have a relatives apartment we can stay in, not have to worry about packing food, etc.

So why did I  choose Hilton Head?  I promised DW we wouldn't go anywhere far or outrageous.  I was set on going to San Antonio; they have a nice Hyatt over there, a decent amount of activities... Many people were telling me that Hilton Head is fantastic.  One friend even stayed by the Westin a number of times over the last few years and said its amazing.  So, I looked into it.  There were plenty of nights available via Marriott Bonvoy, there were plenty of seats available on B6 on the dates I was looking into for about 8600 points a seat, so I went for it.

More to come, decided to write a little bit to give myself an incentive to actually write this TR.

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Trip Reports / 5 years and off to palm springs
« on: February 12, 2018, 10:12:06 AM »
Introduction:

So DW and I celebrated a big milestone recently, 5 years of marriage.  We decided we would like to celebrate by going on a nice big trip.  We started coming up with ideas long ago.  First idea was to go to St. Marteen and the surrounding islands of St. Barts and Anguilla.  Besides for Zika, we decided maybe we should go somewhere further and more exotic.  We were debating between Maldives and going to the Conrad in Koh Samui, Thailand.  Clearly Palm Springs is a similar destination, jk.  The reason why we ended up vetoing those awesome destinations is because of our little one; she dealt with a health thing over the summer, without going into detail, it was a benign event, but nonetheless, it made us not want to be too far from in case chos v'shalom she needs us.  So we wanted a warm place that was close by and Zika free.  We decided on Palm Springs.

Flights:

So we still were not 100% set on going to Palm Springs, but all of a sudden one day in November DW calls me on the way to work to give me some good news, no Zika places, and two or three hours later Dan posted $95 dollar flights direct NYC-Palm Springs and vice versa.  I thought this was a sign from G-d, so I jumped on the deal and booked it with cash rather than using miles.  Flights overall were good each way.  The flight on the way there was packed with Chasidim which I did not expect, kind of felt like an El Al flight when some of them refused to sit in their assigned seats.  Minor issue was on the way there half of the TV stations on the plane did not work, so I had to watch Trump's State of The Union on MSNBC, that was not a pleasant experience.  We took a red eye on the way back, took off early which was nice.

Hotel:

We kept on going back and forth on where we should stay.  I wanted to rent a house, DW wanted a hotel.  There were plenty of points options in Palm Springs, but I wasn't sure which one would be best.  I kept debating between Waldorf, Kimpton, JW, Marriot Shadow Ridge, Westin, the other Westin, etc.  Finally at the last minute I was able to book an Executive Suite at the JW with points; had to play around and move some points over.  Can't remember what the rate was, you can PM me in the future if you're interested. 

About the hotel:

The hotel was beautiful.  This is going to sound blasphemous here on the forums, but the hotel kind of reminded me of the Grand Hyatt Kauai.    Grand Lobby (obviously nothing compares to GHK), parrots in the lobby, the fruit infused water coolers, the front desk being on the side, the few pools, the never ending hallways leading to all of the hotel rooms, the grand drive from the main road to the hotel, etc.  One has to see it for themselves to understand what I am trying to say.  Many chasidim stayed by this hotel as well.  The views of the mountains were gorgeous.  The biggest downside to the hotel was the long walk from the self parking lot to the room I was staying in.
My room:  We stayed in the executive suites.  I have been in nicer suites in my life, but this one was still pretty nice.  The biggest down side was the fact that the bathroom wasn't too fancy considering it is the nicest type of room the hotel has to offer.  The room was equipped with 2 smart TV's, had a large dining room table, a big porch, big bathroom, separate bedroom.  All in all it was a very nice room. 
https://youtu.be/f3QYTNG_-dk

I apologize for the not such great quality video and for the messy room, but I took the video a few minutes before Shabbos while we were in the process of packing since we were leaving Motzai Shabbos.

Food:

Our first day we went to Ralph's to pick up some essentials; bread, peanut butter, etc.  Turns out they had kosher deli and cheese and challah and that would have been sufficient enough for Shabbos, did not know that ahead of time.  For dinner one night we got kosher in palm springs, food was very good, I highly recommend ordering food from them-it is the daughter and son in law of the Chabad of Palm Springs Rabbi, they are looking to expand and open up a sit down restaurant one day soon.  On Thursday we decided to drive to LA to pick up some food for Shabbos and get lunch and dinner.  For lunch we went to Pizza World, it was very good.  For dinner I wanted to go to La Gandola but DW wanted to head back earlier, so we picked up Jeff's for dinner, one can't go to LA without getting Jeff's.  For Shabbos we got take out from Western Kosher, Challah from Got Kosher, dessert from Shwartz', everything was very good. 

Activities:

Wednesday and Friday we spent most of the day in the resort, mostly chilling by the pool.  I got a massage on Friday, it was called the desert journey massage; it was essentially exfoliating the body and the creams and stuff were being massaged onto me.  Not my cup of tea, but it was still relaxing.  While we went to LA to get kosher food I did not want to not do something touristy, so we did a quick gashmius drive, we drove to all of the (gasp) Modern Family houses from the TV show Modern Family.  Pritzus City.  Shabbos we just chilled in the room and hung out in the lobby and pool areas.  It was very nice.

Car:

Just priced out all of the cars.  I got the best price from Thrifty-$27 a day for a Buick lacrosse or similar.  We got a brand new Cadillac ATS, beautiful car. 

All in all it was a great trip, relaxing.  I would recommend Palm Springs to everybody on the forums as a relaxing getaway.

Hopefully I will put the pics up soon.

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Trip Reports / Mini LA TR/ a graduation trip?
« on: July 13, 2017, 11:53:02 AM »
Going to do this TR a little bit differently and break it up into sections:

Intro-I recently graduated grad school, DW recently passed her nursing boards (you may remember that she graduated based on my Kauai trip).  For my graduation trip I wanted to go to Roatan, Honduras based on pictures that I saw, but due to Zika that was out.  Dan posted a big jetblue sale months ago JFK-LAX round trip, so I jumped on those and decided to make LA my graduation trip.  The 1st time we went to LA we centered it around our baby’s needs, so I wanted to see LA without a baby.  First trip we took without the baby.

Flights-Dan posted a deal for $62 flights to LAX and back.  I texted DW, she told me to get them.  I booked for a long weekend, Friday morning July 7th-Monday night July 10th.  I figured I’d be saving some miles this way by buying these cheap tickets.

Hotels-2 nights at the Residence Inn Marriot Beverly Hills by Pico and one night at the Residence Inn Marriot by Oxnard.  Don’t remember off hand how many points I used, but I got a good deal on it.

Food-Picked up Shabbos food from Pico Kosher Deli, placed the order the night before; food was very good.  Got Challah from Schwartz bakery, quite expensive but good.  Motzai Shabbos we ate at Nagilla pizza, pretty good, better than the pizza we got in LA last time.  Sunday morning we ate at delice bakery, phenomenal.  Lunch Sunday was at fish grill on the coastal highway; I do not like to eat fish so I got pasta, it was okay.  My wife said her fish was good, but she thinks the fish is better at Dag Dag in Cancun.  Sunday night we went to Tierra Sur as per everybody’s recommendations.  Though the food was really amazing, it was not the best meal I have had in my life like many people say it is for them.  Monday morning we got cereal from the hotel.  Monday afternoon we went to Mexikosher, I found it to be better than the mexikosher in NYC.  Dinner on the way to the airport we went to my favorite place in LA, Jeffs. 

Activities-Friday afternoon went to the grove.  Saturday night we went to the movie theater in century city, wonder what we did there.  Sunday we went to downtown Burbank, Warner Bros. studio tour.  Monday we went to the Reagan Presidential Library, drove down pacific coast highway, went to Santa Monica, and picked up souvenirs on Hollywood Blvd.

Simple quick trip.  Hopefully I’ll put up pics soon.

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Trip Reports / DW's graduation trip to Kauai with a splash of LA
« on: January 25, 2017, 06:58:17 AM »

Background:
Just a bit of a background of my history prior to this trip.  When DW and I got married, we knew we wanted to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon.  At the time, we weren’t really involved in miles and points (though we had tons without even realizing).  When trying to book a trip to Hawaii at the time, the prices were outrageous.  We ended up going to Atlantis in the Bahamas which ended up costing more than a potential Hawaii trip would have cost us.  I told DW when she IYH graduates nursing school, I will take her to Hawaii.  After years of DW taking different pre requisites for different nursing programs, finally starting a program, having a kid which caused a delay in her graduation, she BH finally finished this past December.  She deserved the trip I promised her.
Planning:
Which Island-We always wanted to go to Maui, but the main attraction in Maui is the road to Hana.  On our trip from Miami down to the Florida Keys last year, DB was not able to handle the drive, so I decided that Maui wouldn’t be ideal this time around being that we were bringing DB on the trip with us.  I thought maybe Oahu, seems like it would be good for a baby.  After reading up here on DDF I figured going to Oahu is like a klala-Why make the trek out to Hawaii and go there?  I thought that the big Island required more time, so I decided on Kauai.
Flights:
I decided on the way to spend a weekend in Los Angeles since we have never been there before.  I heard great things about Virgin America (don’t listen to those great things, I’ll go into detail later), so I transferred some MR points to Virgin and booked a one way to LAX from EWR then later changed the flight leaving from JFK later on in the evening due to a scheduling conflict.  I used citi points to book us in lie flat first class seats from LAX-LIH (aircraft was later changed unfortunately).  I used aadvantage points to book us from LIH-LAX-JFK (not saver rewards, hard to find saver availability).
Hotels:
Though all of our flights were free, I decided to pay for hotels on this trip.  Why?  Because this was DW’s trip and I let her choose the hotels.  I told DW to choose any hotel in LA within the Eruv, she chose the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire.  I don’t know about you, but I did not have Kimpton points.  After months of checking their site, I finally locked in a fantastic rate on a great room.  For Kauai DW chose GHK; she has good taste ;)  I was low on chase points, so with the help of somebody here on DDF, I booked at a fraction of the cost of what it would have cost me had I paid out of pocket.  I literally paid about 15-20% of what the average guest paid for the most basic room that GHK has to offer. (I will not say how much I paid or who helped me out as to not solicit for anybody here on DDF). 
Rental Cars:
After constant searching around and playing with the codes, I settled on Alamo for each leg of the trip renting a standard SUV for each part of the trip.
Food:
Guess what!  I work across the street from Pomegranate, so obviously POM meals were a no brainer…WRONG!  We decided we didn’t want to shlep the POM meals since we had a weekend stopover in LA.  I know, what’s the matter with me?  What we ended up doing was we took an extra suitcase with us-took things out of our other suitcases which made them lighter and put them in the extra suitcase, used that suitcase for just food from LAX-LIH and no matter what the weight on our bags, we wouldn’t be charged due to flying first.  After the trip we wouldn’t take any food home with us which helped us redistribute the weight into the extra bag.  We went to Ralph’s before our flight and bought enough food for the week.
Next up, Los Angeles….

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Trip Reports / Cancun on a glitch (2014)
« on: November 25, 2016, 08:30:04 AM »
I just want to point out that this trip was taken in 2014 and I am writing this to the best of my memory.
Let me start by saying there was a lot of speed bumps when it came to planning this trip, so if you aren’t interested in reading through all of the troubles that I had to go through prior to the trip, I suggest you skip to the part where the actual trip starts.
A little bit of a background.  For our honeymoon we went to Atlantis in the Bahamas.  We paid through the nose, but had the time of our lives.  After the trip I settled on 2 things.  1. I love tropical destinations; I must go as often as I can to tropical places.  2. I am never paying so much money for a trip ever again.  It was after this trip that I decided to find extremely cheap deals, or start playing the miles game (or a mix of both).  Upon returning to New York, before I started applying for credit cards, I decided to find a nice destination for a low price.  My research led me to Cancun.  It was settled, we were going to go to Cancun summer 2014.  (Winter we were going to Israel and London).
So it was a cold February day, I was visiting a friend in the hospital, the psych ward no less (no joke).  I get a text message from @dansdeals: $7.77 a night for the Barcelona tower Suites in Cancun through Orbitz.  I said, yes please.  I immediately tried to book.  The security guard walked over to me and said “you can’t use your phone in here.”  So I asked him where the bathroom was.  He escorted me to the bathroom and in there I booked 4 nights in May, awesome!
All of the people that booked were afraid that the hotel wasn’t going to honor it.  People that got this deal have different stories of the hotel refusing to honor it prior to their arrival and Orbitz not helping out, some people said Orbitz fully refunded them after their trip, some people showed up to the Hotel and weren’t given a room, etc.  I didn’t want to have to deal with any of this.  I didn’t even call up the hotel.  As soon as I could I called Orbitz and told them that the hotel wasn’t going to honor it.  Their response after a long conversation was I can choose any hotel in Cancun that I wanted, pay for it up front, then they would refund me the difference of the two hotels, then refund me what I paid for the Barcelona Tower Suites.  Amazing!  So as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t too keen on using credit cards yet, so I had about $400 in my checking account at the time of that phone call, so I told them to book me at this hotel called the Flamingo Resort, I’m not sure why I chose that place, but hey, it was a free hotel in Cancun.  Problem 1 solved.
At the time that I booked, I had a job where I was getting paid hourly, so I was able to take off whenever I wanted for a long period of time, so the trip was going to be no problem.  Right after I booked the deal, I was actually promoted, but with that promotion came 4 weeks of paid time off, but the job was lousy.  Regardless of the job being lousy, I was still able to take the time off to go away.  Come a month and a half later, I was offered a job somewhere else.  I took the job and began in the beginning of April.  I had a problem; I was on a 3 month probation which means I wasn’t able to take off in May for this trip.  Not a problem, a few phone calls to Orbitz, and I changed the dates.  We were officially booked to go the 2nd to last Sunday in August, great.  Problem 2 solved.
Summer came along, and my wife got a job in a nursery.  She was allowed 2 off days the entire summer.  Her last two days of work were Monday, Tuesday, the two days after we were supposed to be in Cancun.  Not a problem, just save the two off days for the 2 last days.  Alas she told her bosses her plans of taking off on the last two days.  They said no!  We need all staff to be here!  It’s the end of the summer and we need to pack up the place!  What was I to do?  Call up Orbitz yet again?  That’s exactly what I did.  I called up Orbitz and explained to them that I will need to change my check in day from Sunday to Wednesday.  They said not a problem; we will send a FAX to the hotel.  I said great, not realizing they said they will fax the hotel of the change in reservation.  Problem 3 solved.
So since we changed our travel plans and we were supposed to be in Cancun for the weekend, I decided to extend our trip without telling my wife.  I had a nice amount of JetBlue miles, and I booked us from Wednesday to the following Tuesday.  I told my wife the good news.  She said WTH?  My orientation is going to be scheduled for that Tuesday, you need to change the reservation.  Fine.  I called jetblue and they were kind enough to change it for me on the spot.  We were now traveling Wednesday-Monday.  Problem 4 solved.
So it’s the Sunday before the trip.  DW and I decide to go shopping for the trip that day.  We are walking down one of the aisles in the supermarket and DW says to me, “call the hotel to make sure they provide refrigerators in the room.”  I call up the hotel and asked to which they responded that they do.  Then they said, “see you later today.”  I said, “don’t you mean Wednesday?”  They said that my reservation was for that day.  I told them that Orbitz changed it to Wednesday.  They said they have no confirmation of that.  I would have to speak to their reservation department to fix the reservation, but the reservation department doesn’t work on Sundays.  If I didn’t show up that day, I would lose my reservation all together.  I was in such a state of panic.  I called Orbitz immediately.  I was on hold the entire time at the supermarket, driving to Brooklyn from Queens standing outside a funeral hall (I know, I’m a terrible person for being on hold with Orbitz instead of going into the funeral, but DW and I took turns waiting on hold.  I didn’t want our trip that was coming up to be ruined).  After the funeral DW walks over to me and says the call got disconnected.  WTH.  DW went inside the shiva house while I was on the phone with Orbitz outside.  They finally said there was nothing they could do that day as nobody that works in reservations departments in Mexico works on Sundays, I would have to call back the next day.  So I arrive to work the next day, and instead of doing work, I call Orbitz.  After 2 hours on the phone, they tell me they will look into their records to see if they made a mistake (which they did and found out that they did) and in the meantime, choose any hotel that I wanted and they will issue me a full refund after I pay for it.  Great.  I said no way in gihenim I am staying by Flamingo.  I did some research and saw that the Hyatt there just changed ownership and was now called the Krystal and it was very close to Chabad.  So I chose that hotel.  I was issued a refund.  Problem 5 solved.
All problems were solved, or so I thought…
So when I was booking the flights, all of the flights bookable via true blue points required a stopover in MCO, which I was fine with.  But I kept trying to book a segment online which was supposed to be LGA-MCO-CUN and on the return CUN-MCO-JFK.  I was having problems on the computer, so I ended up calling jetblue and the agent actually suggested I take the earlier flight out.  So our official itinerary was this- JFK-MCO-CUN and the return was CUN-MCO-HPN.  For some reason it didn’t register in my mind that our departing flight was from JFK, though I did register the return to HPN.  Problem 6 is about to sneak up on me…

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Up In The Air / Cebu Philippines deal TFD
« on: October 31, 2016, 09:40:44 AM »
Did anybody book the JFK-Cebu deal?  Didn't know what Cebu was, but it looks totally awesome.  Only problem is that it's only a June deal

7
Up In The Air / ewr-mia 106 round trip
« on: October 28, 2016, 10:05:59 AM »
@TheFlightDeal: #Airfare Deal: [UA] Newark - Miami (and vice versa) $106 r/t. Details: https://t.co/QR3VYm6AT6 #travel

m.twitter.com/TheFlightDeal

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Deals/Deal Requests / Promo code for dirque de soleil paramour
« on: September 20, 2016, 12:01:47 PM »
Someone just gave me this promo code

DMPARA

have to book on paramouronboradway.com

11
Trip Reports / Provo T&C
« on: August 26, 2016, 09:15:29 AM »
I took this trip in January 2015 and I can honestly say it was so unforgettable that I will not leave out any details though it was a long time ago.

Planning:
DW and I had a deal to LA with flights taken care of and free passes to Disney; the catch was to stay at a specific hotel averaging $150 a night; we were okay with that.  We were about to book when we realized we were too burned out to go to LA, we needed to go somewhere to just veg out.  DW was finishing up her first semester of nursing school that required her to do 12 hour clinical shifts (3rd semester of nursing school).  I was just finishing up my first semester of Grad school which was super intense, on top of working full time.  But where to go?
At this point we weren’t so rich in miles and points, but we had enough to go to some good places, but we had no hotel points at the time.  My first thought was to do the U.S.V.I, I was doing so much research, but then I stumbled upon St. Martin, looked so much nicer than U.S.V.I, plus the surrounding Islands of Anguilla and St. Bart’s looked stunning.  Time for planning.  All of a sudden I get an email from jetblue getaways, 60% off hotels in Curacao.  Now we are going to Curacao.  Finally I said enough is enough, I need to book something.  I looked up Turks and Caicos on a whim, saw that hotels.com was having a really good sale going on, so I booked a hotel and a minute later I logged into jetblue, used some points and booked a direct flight from NYC-Provo.
The hotel that I booked was not in Provodenciales, it was on Grand Turk, so I needed to book another flight.  There was a flight going to Grand Turk on intercaribbean airlines leaving shortly after we were supposed to arrive in Provo.  I chose the flight and I tried paying for it.  The website said that my flight was booked, but I need to pay at the check in counter before my flight.  Sounds strange, but alright.
Off to T&C…

14
Deals/Deal Requests / 8x11 Hardcover Books now just $11.99 from snapfish
« on: August 16, 2016, 09:12:06 AM »
8x11 Hardcover Books now just $11.99 with code 1199BKS
       

15
Trip Reports / A few days in Grand Cayman
« on: August 08, 2016, 08:49:41 AM »
I would like to thank everybody that helped me out with this trip here on DDF.

I might get into some details about the planning here that may seem boring to some, but I would like to include the boring details to be able to potentially help others with a trip there.

Planning:

My wife is a beach bum; I hate going to Miami, I'm so bored of Miami.  I told DW we should go to the USVI; no passport needed for the baby, nice destination, shouldn't be an issue getting there and booking a hotel with points, etc.  We later found out that USVI had ZIKA!!!!! What to do now?  We thought maybe we would go to Lake Tahoe or Hilton Head, then I went on the CDC website and saw that there were 4 destinations in the Caribbean that did not have Zika: Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Grand Cayman.  Great!  So we have been to Bahamas and T&C, I wouldn't mind going back or going to one of the islands there that I have not been to, but I prefer to explore new countries if I can.  So I was trying to decide between Antigua and Grand Cayman.  Before I figure out how to book with points, I usually price it out.  Antigua hotels were the same price as always, and I am pretty sure there are no points options over there.  I look up Grand Cayman and hotels there were a third of the price of what they usually are. (side note, prices went up as the trip got closer and I have yet to see the prices be as low as they were when I was planning).   The reason I knew that prices were slashed was because I have tried planning a trip to GC on 2 different occasions in the past, and those 2 times I didn't see a single night in any hotel for less than $300.  This time around, prices were anywhere in the $100-$200 dollar range which was pretty good.  I thought maybe because summer is low season, but I looked into it last summer and prices then were higher also.  Sweet!  I was sold on Grand Cayman for the end of August after tisha bav...

Flights:
Dan posted a priceline deal; $96 one way from JFK-GCM.  I looked at the dates, and the last possible date to go was July 13th.  Made a quick call to DW from work, she said whenever we go is fine just as long as we go.  I booked! I figured if I can save some miles then why not.  I used 10,400 True Blue points pp to book the way back.  They said they would charge international taxes and fees for the baby, but never did.

Hotel:
I was considering using SPG points for the Westin.  Before the trip I found out that Chabad did not have minyanim in July due to the community being on vacation.  So I thought that it didn't matter where we would stay if that was the case.  Holiday Inn had the lowest prices of all the hotels, so I booked a few nights cash $120 a night and a few nights using points to book a one bedroom suite with a full kitchen.  DW said she would Kasher the kitchen.  (she prefers if we have a kitchen when traveling because then we have to shelp fewer things.)

Food:
Yes, my office is right across the street from Pomegranate; when I step outside I see that pink sign.  I know it's DDF policy to get POM meals, but DW insisted on getting food from Seasons in Queens.  All in all the food was very good.  Maybe next time we will go with POM meals.

More to follow.

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