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1
Trip Reports / Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi
« on: October 27, 2020, 02:08:41 PM »
MALDIVES ROUND 2 TRIP REPORT:

Breakdown of costs:
280k AA + $190 YQ
480k HH
Infant fees: $282
Boat transfer fee: $1,450


PLANNING:

I thought I would start this trip report while on the trip or like my other trip reports, I won’t make the time to finish them. So, here I am on my LAX-DOH flight starting the TR!

What inspired this trip was a couple of things. We had a big France-Israel-Italy flight planned for June of 2020 but COVID got in the way of that and with our son turning 2 we wanted to make a trip before we have to start paying for his own seat. After my wife, son, and I all contracted covid early September we decided to just book the Maldives for end of October and see how things pan out.

I first booked the 5 nights with points (5th night free) at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and checked availability every couple days for Q suites for our outbound trip. There was no availability for QR flights on our initial 5 nights booked but I found flights leaving LAX the following day with a mixed class itinerary on J LAX-DOH (9 hour layover) and then DOH-MLE in Y, while hoping that the second leg would open up by the time we have to fly.

However, there was no longer availability with WA if I wanted to change my 5 nights hotel to start the next day. A quick email to WA MLE reservations got that sorted out and was even able to change my double bed queen to a king reef villa (which was not showing available online for the standard rate). Now finding the return flight took several weeks. QR had nothing available for our return on November 2nd and I always wanted to fly something new, preferably a shower class. So my other alternate was using Aeroplan to fly Etihad back. However, that gave me unfavorable times leaving MLE and I had to pay close to $600 for PCR tests to transit through AUH. Regardless, we booked MLE-AUH-LAX and MLE-AUH-JFK-LAX (Hoping I could convince my wife to take the detour for shower class) just incase since Aeroplan’s cancellation policy was free. A week later Aeroplan changed my itinerary and looking at EY’s website it seems they cancelled all flights for that week from AUH-LAX. JFK was still an option but with the PCR test and the multiple stopovers it just wasn’t ideal. So I cancelled all my Etihad flights and began looking into other options. Here is a pic of my idea board:




Unfortunately, there wasn’t many great options. I considered routing through London and spending a week there but the quarantine rules seemed pretty strict and flying Turkish just didn’t seem exciting with both the actual product and the multiple stops and long layovers. So we ended up finding and booking QR for the way back. I was only able to book one mixed class itinerary for MLE-DOH in Y (9 hour layover) and DOH-LAX in J and one full Y ticket for both segments. Up until the trip I was checking twice a day, if not more, on BA and AA hoping that segments would open up in J to upgrade. Nothing at all ever opened up for MLE-DOH or DOH-MLE in J and I think QR just stopped opening up seats because from October through the end of the year there was 0 availability in Business. But, 12 hours before our flight there happened to be 1 seat in business class open up for both segments and I was able to upgrade the full economy ticket to all business which was amazing.

A week before the trip we cooked, packaged, and froze our own food for the trip and put it in our polar bear cooler. We made a food itinerary for the whole trip and worked from there. We froze milk and yogurt as well for the baby:


Some pics of the food under the foil

We actually had planned to return to the amazing SR MLE at the glitch rate of 240k for 5 nights in an OWB for the summer last year but we had to cancel it for a family wedding. (Coincidentally, I ended up helping book the SR MLE for their honeymoon shortly after). After cancelling SR MLE actually agreed to honor that rate again up until a year after original booking but with covid and our new plans we never took them up on it. Although we truly loved the SR MLE on our last stay (unfinished TR :(), our favorite hotel we have stayed at so far (writing this on the way to the WA MLE…), we wanted to try something new and the WA MLE seemed amazing from @israshot  TR and had a great kids park.


Now what was really difficult about this booking was that since up until 12 hours before the flight, our flights were mostly booked mixed class. And QR and AA refused to ticket an infant award on it. Constantly giving me the runaround saying the other airline has to ticket it. AA told me they don’t even handle Infant awards and when I got a supervisor to finally agree to ticket an infant award after quoting me the price and everything. When she tried to ticket it she said it was impossible on her end since it was mixed class and to call QR. Qatar took a lot of HUCA’s before someone could help me even start the infant booking process. And I was finally able to book the infant on the economy ticket no problem for my wife original return flight in Y (cost $170) and on the mixed class it seems that one of the reps were either uninformed or didn’t care but he pushed through an infant award all in economy for both segments. When asking him if that would be ok he said it shouldn’t be a problem. Something didn’t add up so throughout the week I called and spoke to like 5 people and they all confirmed that both infant tickets were all good.


THE TRIP:

I have never seen LAX look so empty.




Thankfully I came to the airport early, which I rarely ever do, and when I got to the checkin desk there was a massive issue with the infant ticket.  As mentioned above the infant award that was booked by the agent incorrectly had to get upgraded to business for the leg we were in business. The agents at the counter had absolutely no clue what to do and we were waiting there for 2 hours until they finally fixed the issue and ended up charging me $160 to upgrade the infant ticket to business. But for those 2 hours they said they had never encountered this issue before and that they don’t think they can do anything. At one point they said they would not be able to get me on the flight today which is when I said that was not possible as I have a whole itinerary planned and arguing so on and so forth. Then they said they can maybe do it but it would cost me $1,400 which I demanded they pay for. With only 20 minutes to spare before flight leaves they figured it out and said they would have to charge me the $160 upgrade fee. With there being no time to argue I gave them the CC to charge and I guess I will just have to figure it out later. (Open to any suggestions on if I should push any further to get that money back or if I should maybe dispute). We had someone escort us to the gate and we definitely were clearly the last ones on the plane holding it up.

The flight was relatively empty. Face masks and face shield were required to enter the aircraft but once you were in your suite it seems that none of the passengers were wearing either masks or face shields and the flight attendants didn’t care. Economy was pretty much completely empty except for a few seats here and there.


The business class seats were not full but also not empty. We sat in seats 11F and E and it was basically a section of the airplane that was cutoff from economy and cut off from the main business class. It was amazing! There was only one other person in the corner which basically gave us 7 seats to use.



The Q suites were simply stunning and they let us use any suite we wanted for anything. We had a suite for our bags, a suite where I would daven, and another 3 for lounging/sleeping.







We opened the partition in the middle and had an extra seat just for the baby to sleep.

Please excuse my mosaic jetblue socks they are just so comfy and soft!



With Q suites you can have 4 seats. Two of the four don’t have a wall in between



But the other two do have something in between. However, you can lower the partition in between but only heads would really be visible and the middle partition can be moved to the side so everyone has a view of one another.




Bathroom has a window also which was interesting. And here was the sunrise view:

 

Service was amazing and the flight attendants were really nice and relaxed. Seats were comfy, infotainment was great and found it really cool that they have a iPhone like device that is really responsive to control the main display.


Kosher food was catered by Emunah and although I forgot to take a picture it was a chicken and mushroom herb with rice and veggies that didn’t taste too bad but was pretty dry for my liking. The breakfast was omelet with hash browns that were not so bad.



My initial concern was that since I am flying Y on the second leg then I wouldn’t be entitled to the business class lounge access. But according to flyertalk and one world if you have a layover more than 5 hours and you arrived in premium class then you are entitled to lounge access. If not my backup plan was to pay around $250 for the Doha Airport Hotel or just slum it in the priority pass Al Maja lounge.

After landing, I stopped by the transfer desk to see if they would be able to bump up my Y flights to J for the next leg but they weren’t willing. The airport was really nice, clean, and modern. All the shops looked open and it was not at all busy or crowded but a decent amount of people flowing through.






We went straight for the business class lounge, Al Mourjan. They denied us entry stating that since our flight was an “upgraded flight” (which it was not. Rather, it was an award flight which should have no restrictions) the standard rule for allowing mixed class itineraries was not applicable. I asked for the supervisor and he was no help so we left and headed for the priority pass lounge Al Maha. The lounge was pretty small and nothing special. With no private areas for family and just chairs and tables. I left my wife and son there and headed back for the business class lounge to argue my way in as something didn’t sound right about their policy.

On one worlds website it states:

Quote
“https://www.oneworld.com/airport-lounges?location=DOH
* Connecting between oneworld marketed and operated flights:
    * First and Business Class customers connecting on the same day of travel, or before 6am the following day, can access the lounge when travelling between an international long haul (a oneworld international long haul flight is defined as an international flight marketed and operated by any oneworld carrier with a scheduled flight time longer than 5 hours) and an international short haul or domestic flight (and vice-versa).
    * Lounge access will be determined on the international long haul ticketed flight (either First of Business Class) regardless of the ticketed class of travel on the international short haul or domestic flight.
    * You must be prepared to show your boarding pass or itinerary showing travel in First or Business class on the international long haul flight, in order to access the lounge before your international short haul or domestic flight.”

After showing this to the supervisor, he still didn’t budge. So I demanded he showed me whatever policy he was going off of. I told him I just got off the phone with one world (not true) and they told me I should have no issue getting into the lounge. He agreed to look further into it and after 10 minutes he told me that I can go bring my family and they will let me in. He apologized for the confusion and said that because my inbound flight was “American airways” and my second leg was Qatar Airways they were having an issue looking it up. I didn’t care to ask any more questions and came back with my family to enjoy the lounge to get the tour.

The lounge was beautiful and massive:



Behind these curtains you can see the runway with several aircrafts.


Stairs lead to the sit down Restauraunt which I didn’t even bother going upstairs to see.


Restauraunt is on the second floor (seen in this picture)


They took us straight to the family area. On the way there you see several different lounging areas:









As well as other type of rooms like a “Parent’s room” which at first looks just like a play area


But, behind the brown doors you have like a 2 bedroom small Appartment with a mini cold kitchen!






Near there you have a game room which looked pretty boring:



Whereas the game room in the business center part of the lounge looked more exciting (thinking emoji)



There seems to be 3 options if you’re trying to take a nap:

Sleep pods (self explanatory):




The quiet area rooms, which is smaller than the family room and not as nice.





Family area room. Which is the biggest of all and the nicest IMO.







As I am writing this while in the family room. The plan is to just stay here until departure or maybe an hour or so before and we’ll walk around the airport with the baby as there seems to be some kid play areas. Internet in the lounge seems to be the same internet you can get for free outside the lounge. It wasn’t great.


Although we had some hiccups to start with. The 16 hour flight was amazing and hopefully the rest will be smooth sailing!

2
Just Shmooze / What card did you just get approved for?
« on: August 20, 2018, 08:54:22 PM »
Thought I’d start a thread similar to the “where are you posting from” or “what award itinerary did you just book” threads that is geared more towards CC apps.

I’ll start:
Hilton Aspire
CIP 100k (BRM)

3
Up In The Air / LAX-JFK RT 11k DL for Sept-Oct
« on: August 13, 2018, 01:29:03 PM »
Seems DL is running a sale where roundtrip tickets are pricing out to be 11k + $11.20 in YQ.




4
Although this trip was not 'technically' a RTW trip or a honeymoon (as we have been on several 'honeymoon' trips before and after this trip) the title seemed fitting. Like most people a trip to the Maldives or Bora Bora was always high on my bucket list. Having recently getting married and with the sale that was going on, I thought what better excuse to make a trip to the Maldives! When beginning to plan I noticed that most of the TR’s I read were lacking some information either intentionally or not. Therefore, I will try to make this TR as transparent and detailed filled as I can! I will try to include prices for everything I remember as well as any information I uncovered from my countless pages of reading. Thank you to all those who contributed, whether I read your TR or not it really does help others a when planning.

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

Breakdown of Costs:

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

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

Breakdown by Currency:

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

TOTAL POINTS/MILES USED: 936,066

FLIGHT ROUTE:



TRIP PLANNING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5
Amazon & Walmart Deals / $5 of Bubly Sparkling Water
« on: April 04, 2018, 02:48:43 PM »
Use code GETBUBLY to get $5 off Bubly products at amazon.com/bubly. There are 9.99 options as well as $7 options that can easily be seen through this link .

6
Trip Reports / Wizmanison's MAUI TR 2018
« on: March 25, 2018, 03:09:18 PM »
Trip Report Maui

For anyone interested in the free downloadable PDF version of Maui Revealed, after extensively searching online I found this! It truly came in handy.


   Since it is not as easy to vacation during the week for us, it is when we have long weekends that we like to take advantage. After visiting Kauai for memorial day weekend in September of 2017 (TR Here) we loved it so much that we planned to visit all the islands, something that is not as hard to do when living in LA.

   Booking our flights about 2 weeks in advance we had a tough time finding availability through KE for their cheap 45k first class flights. When they also didn’t have availability for Y we looked through all our other options before we used MR. Since I have a ton of those and still have 50% back till end of March it made it an easy decision. I booked our way there LAX-OGG on AA for 11,750 each (after the 50% back) and then a hidden city flight, OGG-LAX-SAN, with UA for 9,310 (after the 50% back). So total for the flights were 21,060 a person.

   While booking flights there seemed to be no availability for any of the hotels recommended in the Maui master thread, and it seemed that our only option at the time was the Ritz Carlton. Although, it wouldn’t have been the worst option considering I have several free nights there it seemed that people advised to stay away from that part of the island. Therefore, I set up alerts on hotelroomalerts.com for the Andazz, Marriot, Hilton, Hyatt regency, as well as others. A couple days later I happened to wake up in the middle of the night and for some reason thought it was a good idea to check the Hyatt app for availability. I saw that single days were available for most of our stay at the Hyatt Regency and I booked it! For the days that were missing I adjusted my hotel room alert and a couple days later the rest opened up. The Andaz only had one night available and although I wanted to stay there it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle to have to pack up all the stuff and stay there for such a short time. The Hyatt Regency was 20k UR a night for 4 nights. Totaling to 80k for the hotel stay.

   Now that flights and hotels were booked we looked into renting a car. Having Presidents Circle has been great in terms of upgrades and by sheer luck on our Kauai trip a SS Camaro happened to pull in when we were set to pick up our “corolla”. We didn’t want to take the chance this time so I booked with my friends Hertz Platinum status he earned through the black card and with the help of @davidrotts63 we got a great deal at $22.50 a day for a Corolla. Since we were traveling with my brother in law, Sister, and their newborn baby we decided we would chose the Wrangler over the Camaro for our upgrade. Without using Plat status the Wrangler would have been $1,100 for those 4 days while the Camaro was going for $315.
 
   Timing worked perfectly for this flight as a Grubhub promotion came out a week before our flight which allowed one to get $20 off $20. Although I had seen it when every blogger posted about it, I was so busy that I just set it aside for later and almost forgot about it when @davidrotts63 messaged me asking me about my experience with the promotion. Within 10 or so minutes, I had me, my wife, and my brother in law, get approximately 250 codes to use over the next two weeks before they expire. So for the days leading up to the flight I was ordering SO MUCH food for me, my family, friends (even though I had sent this deal out to them, with a dumbed down explanation explaining how to get unlimited codes, they only get like max 5-10  ::) ), and randoms in need. This deal was truly amazing because I was ably to try all these foods from restaurants around Los Angeles that I typically hesitated to try and would have never actually paid for. While still being able to enjoy massive meals every day, as well as stocking up our house in Snapples, we ordered take out food from restaurants all around LA to freeze the food and pack it in the polar bear cooler to reheat in Maui.

   Of course, something dramatic just HAD to happen. The night before the flight, we packed all our food and, thankfully, it was stored with my brother-in-law. Our bags and everything we needed was also packed and our alarm was set for 5AM, so I can do some work before our 8 AM flight, as well as every 10-20 minutes after that till 6:20, just incase. Apparently, I had put my phone into the wrong charger, which happened to not be plugged in, something that has never happened to me before, and my phone died in the middle of the night. Therefore, rendering my alarms useless and leaving me dead asleep till 6:58 when my wife woke me up shocked at the time. I typically wake up before my alarm but I guess we went to sleep late that night and were exhausted. My sister and brother in law, parents, and in laws all tried calling but my wife’s phone was on vibrate and I guess it was not enough to wake us up. Neither was the constant banging and knock on doors from my sister who came to try to wake us up. I guess, the way our home is positioned, the bedroom is all the way in the back and when our door is closed you would not be able to hear someone knocking. After giving up and thinking maybe we had already gone to the airport they left, luckily they had the food bag and were able to check it in. Within minutes of our 7AM wake up we were dressed and almost out the door when we noticed a knock on our door. My Mother in Law was asked to check on us and although we ordered an Uber we cancelled it and had her rush drive us to the airport. We, somehow, made it with 10-15 minutes to spare and boarded the plane!

   I attempted to take advantage of the several hundred dollars I got from the Groundlink promo but seems as though I could not get through the last part of the booking stage even though my account was active and credits were in the account. When calling in they were not even able to pull up my account… Then, after spending 15 minutes trying to get an Uber from the airport to the hotel, wanting to use some of the thousands of dollars I racked up from the VLO’s, no one accepted our drive request. So, we negotiated with a taxi driver to take us for the hour or so drive to the Hyatt Regency Maui for $80 with a CC. Traffic was pretty bad but we made it.
   
   We decided to reserve the car at the Hertz location at the Regency because it was substantially cheaper, but they did have much less options to choose from. ( I would highly advise one to look into if they will offer complimentary pickup from the airport. We did not know to ask for such a service but I vaguely remember hearing that they do this) We got to the hotel at around 1:30 and the room was not available until 4:00. They took down my number and texted me when it was available and gave me 4 complimentary drink coupons for the inconvenience. They were at 98.2% occupancy, so they couldn’t give me a suite, but they upgraded us to the highest floor with ocean and mountain balcony views.

 While waiting we picked up our car a couple hours early. They automatically upgraded our corolla to a Chrysler 300 but we asked for a Jeep and they gave it to us. They only had a two door jeep available and it did not seem to be a newer version of the car. Overall, it was just not the most ideal car for 4 people and a baby so as we were driving towards Costco to restock on some stuff and purchase a toaster oven (probably best to avoid this more expensive option as it only stays on for like 2 hours before shutting off) we went to the airport Hertz and said the car was having problems and we didn’t feel comfortable driving it, they took the car not asking us to pay for any gas, and although they did not have much available to give (since it was a busy weekend) they traded the Jeep for the Infiniti Q70. This car was much more comfortable, roomy, and was just overall great! With a new car, a new tank of gas, and everyone not feeling cramped, we drove back to the hotel to settle in.

   The hotel itself was really nice. Here are some day drone pics and here are some sunset shots of the hotel and areas surrounding it! And here are the, not so well taken, room pics.It seemed like a condensed and not as nice version of the GH Kaui but I thought the pools and beaches were better. There were talking birds, Penguins, Swans, Flamingos, and some other stunning animals and garden areas. The hotel was nice enough to give us a crib, microwave, and an extra fridge for no charge. We went to sleep relatively early after touring the hotel at night. They had a laundry room, macy's, and other shops.

   The next day we spent some time by the pool and with a couple hours before shabbat we stopped by some of the West side, of the island, sites. Here are the few we visited as well as some sites that we were advised to visit:
 
   Olivine Pools - Was like a 5 minute hike to get to the really nice lookout. As it was a bit cold and windy outside we did not venture down to swim in the pools but, nonetheless, glad we came out to see it. Surrounding the olivine pools, and pretty much most of Maui, there was beautiful views of the mountain sides and ocean. Sent out my drone and got pictures of the lovely heart shaped pool.

         Nakalele Blowhole- We stopped off at a lookout because we needed to do something and happened to be we could see the blowhole from there. For us, at least, we didn’t think it was anything special that we needed to stop and hike down to see it up close.

   Honokohau Bay- Not entirely sure why people advised to stop here as it was a beach with rocks leading up to it. Stayed there for a max of 5 minutes before we decided to leave. So definitely skip-able.

   Honolua Bay/Park- This was a really nice visit and definitely a must see if you are on this side. We parked at what seemed like the main entrance of Honolua Park and walked through a pathway with lots of beautiful trees for about 10 minutes till you get to the beach. While walking on the path,  about halfway to your left, you’ll notice a a vine that has been knotted and looks as if its sole purpose is for you to swing on it like Tarzan. We spent like 10 minutes just having fun on that before getting to the beach. Since it rained, heavily the day and morning before our arrival the water was murky and we truly could not see any fish. But, if coming here when it has not rained during or prior to your stay I would highly recommend a visit as it is known as a good snorkeling spot.

   Kapalua Bay Beach- This was on our list, but shabbat was nearing in so we decided to skip it. From the pictures it just seemed like another beach stretched across several hotels. We decided to skip it this time but it does not look like, from the pictures at least, as if we missed anything special.

   After returning from what must have been close to a 2-3 hours of driving through scenic roads and stopping at these sites we returned to the hotel and handed the car to valet. Valet was actually super convenient and complimentary (although I’ am not sure if thats standard). Without it I would have had to self park (which you also have to pay for, I believe, and is a short, but not so short for the lazy, walk to the hotel.) The rest of the night we relaxed and enjoyed the free GrubHub food. We prepared for shabbat with our toaster oven and loads of free GrubHub food.

   We slept in Saturday morning as we planned to be at the resort all day. We walked along the boardwalk and visited the other hotels. But, returned to the Hyatt Regency. Towards sunset we saw several whales jumping out the water very close by! That night we went out to downtown Lahaina which was a nice thing to do as opposed to sitting in a hotel room. Its simply local shops and restaurants stretched over several blocks.

   Sunday was our Road to Hana day. We woke up at 6:30 and left by 7:30. We stopped at Krispy Kreme and Costco for gas and then entered from Paia. In order are the stops we made:

Hana Sites in order:

Eucalyptus Trees-

If memory serves me right, in the first 15-30 Mins of really getting on the RTH you will see on your left massive rainbow eucalyptus trees. I thought I added it to my itinerary, so perhaps I would stop at another one like this later, but apparently I added the one in Kona so it did not register in my map and I didn’t realize till it was too late.

Here is the Google Maps Location based off my picture from my phone I took while driving past.

Lower Puohokamoa Falls Trail-

I accidentally drove right past this one by accident but after looking online it seems this might have been fenced off to the public anyways.

Twin Falls Maui Waterfall-

This was our first stop. It was like a 5 minute walk to see the waterfalls. It was pretty nice and there were several people jumping from the waterfall and swimming at the bottom but nothing breathtaking so to say...

Ching’s Pond-

We walked right past this site and ventured into some pathway we thought was Ching’s pond. We walked for about 15 minutes before giving up on this trail and walked back. As we walked by to the car we heard someone jumping off a ledge into a pond. Which turned out to be Ching’s pond which was only a minute away from where our car was! Either way it looked to crazy of a jump for us to do so we drove onward. But for those who are interested, its simply the ledge on the turn of the RTH.

Upper Waikani Falls-

Was really nice and was able to take cool drone shots and photos!

West Wailua Iki Falls-

I seemed to have only seen this site by slowly driving by the bridge that it was running under. Seeing the pictures now online I probably should have stopped at this seemingly beautiful waterfall.

Makapipi Falls-

Drove right past this one as well :/.

Nahiku Rd-   

Driving down Nahiku Rd. was really bumpy and besides for myself everyone in my car was urging me to turn around. It only got worse when I apparently made a right turn and not left (as the left was closed off) and I drove into narrower and bumpier roads. Only figured on the way back that I took the wrong turn!

Wainapanapa State Park/ Pa’lloa Bay/ Black Sand Beach-

All names for Black Sand Beach. We started walking down the stairs and entered a cool little cave. Upon exiting it suddenly started pouring heavy rain! We waited for it to slow a little and we took some pictures at the beach and took some sand as a souvenir. Rain got even harder and we ran back to the car all soaking wet!

Kaihlulu Beach (Red Sand Beach)-

This trail was not so long but a bit dangerous. But, I likely only feel that way because I had to do it barefoot since I did not bring proper hiking shoes and my other shoes were all muddy and had me slipping from the rain. So, as you can imagine, my feet were in pain walking on jagged rocks, narrow wet pathways, and such... But, it was worth it to see the beautiful Red Sand Beach. We were there for only a short time but it was very cool to see.

Wailua Falls-

 Was a really pretty and massive waterfall with space to pull over to the side to get a nice view and picture.

Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o-

I believe we passed by this beautiful site and saw it while driving but the rest of the car did not want to make any more stops or walk any more trails as they were drained. This was quite unfortunate for me as these ‘pools’ looked quite stunning!

Falls of Makahiku-

There seemed to be a trail to go see this site, which looks really nice from this google photo! But, I did not have the pleasure of visiting it.

Completing the rest of the RTH-

The rest of the RTH was so beautiful in its own way. With amazing views of mountains, animals, and endless fields as well as ocean views this ending to the RTH truly made it all come together so perfectly. Some pics, a panorama, and drone pics.


Some pics and drone pics taken of the scenic drive through Hana

Since we were driving by the airport and the car was making a bit of noise in one of the tires, so I made the decision to stop by Hertz and see what they can upgrade us to this time. As expected, they gave us the Escalade Extended Edition! The car was super nice, new, and simply massive! It had all the newest technology like the arm rest console was a wireless charger for my iPhone, it had a projector for directions and speedometer, and countless other unnecessary things. What was great is that we got a completely clean car with a new full tank of gas for free ( after our previous Infiniti was dirty from the days trip and depleted of gas) as well as an extended drop off time till Monday at midnight ( our original return was 4:00) and they allowed us to return the car to the airport as opposed to returning it at the hotel, where we picked it up! This saved us a costly drive from the hotel to the airport. We drove back to the hotel, happy as ever, with a smooth and comfortable ride.

That night, everyone was pretty exhausted, so we just hung out and ate in the room before calling it a night.

I wanted to wake up early morning and make the trip to the Haleakala Crater but no one wanted to wake up that early and I didn’t want to make the trip alone :(. So for the rest of Monday we didn’t really plan anything but to enjoy the resort and beach. We did just that and snorkeled at the beach of the Hyatt Regency. Earlier in the day I found a turtle and followed it quite deep until I lost it. But, no one else had the pleasure of seeing the turtle. Therefore, around sunset time when we saw several turtle heads popping out in the shallow waters of the beach there was no hesitation from anyone to jump into the now colder waters! We swam with a couple really big turtles (excuse the crappy pictures!) around us and it was amazing! As for the other fish you see when snorkeling, there was nothing that amazing but that might be because I only had just came back from snorkeling at places like Maldives, Thailand, and Bali… (Trip report coming soon!).

We also spent a good chunk of our last day at the Westin resort (about a 10 minute walk down the boardwalk from the Hyatt Regency). They also have nice pools and a really fun adult slide!

Running out of GrubHub food we made a trip to Walmart before our 12:00am flight. We bought several kosher items (mostly junk food) and sat down at one of the tables and ate there. After that we went to Hertz, waived our platinum status booklet they gave us and instructed us to do upon arrival, and someone drove us, with the Escalade, to the airport to drop us off.

With no PP lounges we hung out for about an hour before the flight at the gate awaiting our return flight to Los Angeles! 

Points breakdown:
Flights: 21,060 MR each Roundtrip LAX-->OGG
Hotel: 20k (Category 5) each night at Hyatt Regency Maui for a total of 4 nights
Car Rental: $115 for 5 days with originally booking a Corolla then switching from Jeep to Infiniti Q70 to Escalade.

7
Last month, City National Bank updated the benefits of their Crystal Visa card to include a $30 credit to GroundLink. I decided to figure out how this all worked, and in doing so, I stumbled across these links:

GroundLink Visa Signature
GroundLink Visa Infinite

Once you enter your Visa Signature/Infinite card details into the corresponding link above, you then log into your GroundLink account, and the respective credit ($20 or $30 depending on card type) will be added to your balance. What I figured out but did not expect is that you can do this for every Visa Signature/Infinite card you have and load them all into the same account. I was able to do this 25 times before I ran out of credit cards and now have over $500 of GroundLink credit. All of my personal Visa Signature and Infinite cards worked (i.e. not business). All authorized user cards worked as long as they had unique card numbers. It did not matter that their cardholder names did not match the name on my GroundLink account.

GroundLink does have a referral program by which both the referrer and referee receive a $25 credit, so you will want to do this too.

$25 referral link: https://goo.gl/HJ8wP4

The terms for these credits seem to indicate various restrictions such as not being to combine credits, having to use the specific credit card that the credit came from, etc., but as far as I can tell, none of this is actually enforced, and I have a single combined GroundLink credit in my account. I tried a test booking of over $100 on the website, and it allowed me to pay for my entire reservation with my credit balance.

For completeness’ sake, here is the full list of credit cards that I was able to confirm do work, but I’d be fairly surprised if anyone finds a personal Visa Signature/Infinite card that doesn’t:

Alliant Cashback
Bank of America Premium Rewards
Bank of America Travel Rewards
CapitalOne VentureOne Rewards
Chase Hyatt
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Citi Costco Anywhere
City National Crystal
Club Carlson Premier Rewards
Fidelity Rewards
Merrill+
Priceline.com Rewards
U.S. Bank Cash+
I tried three business cards that did not work: Chase Ink Cash, Chase Ink Plus, and Club Carlson Business Rewards.

Originally Posted by http://milesbriefs.com/ and basically C&P for your benefit :)

9
Trip Reports / Wizmanison's Kauai TR 2017
« on: October 31, 2017, 11:43:54 AM »
If anyone is interested in my TR for Kauai:

Found myself booking a last minute, 5 night, Labor Day weekend trip to Hawaii.

Stayed 5 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort. This hotel is absolutely stunning right from the entrance with several pools, a lazy river, a man made beach, as well as access to their private beach, tennis courts, spa and gym, as well as several other amenities.
Here are some pics of the above mentioned areas

A drone pic I took of the resort

Because I took advantage of the Hyatt to MLife back to Hyatt match I was able to get the Explorist benefits. They were very nice upgrading us to an ocean room, complementary valet, free kosher breakfast buffet (which was truly terrible), and so on...

As for the rental car, since I took part in that glitch several months ago with the Nordic Hertz Presidents Circle, I got upgraded to a beautiful SS Camaro Fifty edition convertible for the price of an economy car and could not be happier!
 Car Pics and heres a drone shot of us driving

As for flights... I booked through Korean Air with Delta for First class (only flight available since I booked last minute). After reading online about the aircraft Delta would be using I was not so excited as it was just a standard recliner and read that it would be a drop down entertainment system but was shocked to see the first class cabin look somewhat new, with a built in TV, and of course very comfortable. My wife's seat would not recline, her TV was glitchy, and they forgot our meal so I tweeted Delta and they offered 25k miles each or $200 voucher. Ended up getting 90k back in DL points by complaining via twitter and then sending in a complaint form online through their portal for both my wife and I.

Here are pics of the cabin

We spent the Friday & Saturday at the resort the whole time and Sunday through the rest of the trip, is when we explored the the wonderful Island and ended up barely spending any time at the resort! We rented snorkeling gear and stopped at several of the beaches as we drove throughout the Island over the course of the next few days:
 
Poipu Beach- Beautiful beach right by the resort that has a wonderful array of fish and is suitable for beginner snorkels

Waileu Beach- Great place for beginner snorkels as well. Crowded but very fun and a good place to bring kids.

Lawai Beach- Definitely felt as though this beach was for someone who has at least gone snorkeling a couple of times.  The waves were a bit stronger here but this where we sighted several massive sized turtles.

Ka’e Beach- Beautiful beach all the way at one of the ends of the island. Stunning views of the mountain side and ocean. Difficult to get a parking spot.

Polihale beach- was fine to drive with the Camaro... A bit annoying and bumpy but definitely doable. Besides that, it was an amazing sunset view and definitely a place to drive out to.

We of course visited the Queens Bath, Waimea canyon(absolutely stunning), Wailua River Water Falls, and other attractions throughout the island.

As for kosher food we brought from western kosher in LA, purchased a toaster oven from costco, and the typical groceries from the stores in the area.

Points breakdown:
Flights: 45k each Roundtrip with Delta First Class LAX-->LIH
Hotel: 25k (Category 6) each night at Grand Hyatt Kauai for a total of 5 nights
Car Rental: $125 for 3 days with a convertible class car

Minus the 90k I received from Delta and the 25k points from Hyatt for tweeting them a picture of a roach in our room.

P.S. First time writing one of these so sorry about any misformating or any other mistakes :) Also, I am in no way a photographer so keep that in mind (especially when you see the stills I attempted to take from the drone videos)!

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