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Topics - Aaaron

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Wondering if anyone had any insight on this.  Have an EU passport, planning on flying from the US-AMS-MLA.  MLA states that you can come from any EU country as long as you've been there for 14 days.  Can they tell how long I've been in the EU if it's not an official connecting flight?

Will be doing a rapid test the morning of the flight and continuing to ZAG instead if MLA doesn't work.

General Discussion / Morgan Stanley Reserved
« on: January 17, 2018, 03:14:45 PM »
Does anyone have any experience with this status?  I kept getting emails so I finally signed up and got a great deal on a hotel through their hotelengine portal.

Trip Reports / Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« on: January 14, 2018, 12:05:14 PM »
I'll begin this TR while I have another 25 min at a lounge here in ARN.

A bit of background, about two years ago I made a commitment to myself to visit 30 countries by my 30th birthday.  I had been to about 6 at the time, maybe fewer.  Fast forward nearly two years, and I was 3 months shy of my birthday and sitting pretty at 23 countries.  I always said I would just rail around Europe if I ran out of time, so I planned a quick trip to Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague.  That din't happen for a few reasons so I switched to Scandinavia, as seeing the Northern Lights has been my top bucket list item for 20+ years.

I did a bit of research and found that none of the northern cities in Norway, Sweden, or Finland have flights to each other.  For example, if you want to fly from Tromso in northern Norway to Kittila in northern Finland, you fly down to OSL, over to HEL, then up to Kittila.  So I looked into a one way car rental.  Nope... drop off fees cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

At the same time I heard about the original IceHotel out side of Kiruna, Sweden, and decided I needed to do it for the story.  Shortly thereafter a popular FB video ( caught my eye about a hotel called the Northern Lights Ranch in northern Finland.  Google maps said it was about a 3.5-4 hour drive from Kiruna.  Booked.

The city of Narvik in Norway was about a 2.5 hour drive, so Kiruna became my hub to visit all three countries.  After reading up a bit, I booked a rental car, the hotels, and moved to the flights.

I booked EWR-ARN-KRN in J on SAS for 70k UA exactly 22 days out, but in retrospect I should have used AC.  Oh well.  I wasn't sure how I was getting home, but was trying to fly through MUC to visit Dachau.  That didn't happen and at the last minute a seat on the LH flight from FRA to IAD on the Queen opened in F, and I grabbed it (70k AC) with a connection from ARN on LH as well.  The connecting flight from KRN wasn't at a good time, so I booked a Norwegian flight Rev from KRN down to ARN.

Now to the actual trip.  Last Wednesday I hopped on a train from Baltimore to EWR, and hopped on the direct flight to ARN.  I only had a 50 hour layover, which was shortened to 35 due to a late arrival, but made in to the next terminal and through passport control and security in about 10-15 minutes.  ARN is beautiful, btw.

Landed in KRN in the morning and picked up my car, which was obviously outfitted in studded snow tires.  I splurged on an automatic with AWD to make myself a bit more comfortable with the amount of driving I was doing.

I need to go catch my flight to FRA, but here are some teaser pics of the first hotel, the Northern Lights Ranch.

Up In The Air / American Airlines Points Sale - ~1.6ccp?
« on: August 02, 2017, 03:39:53 PM »,US_BUY_20170802

Unless my math is wrong, a few examples:

75k+40k+~4k (for using a Citi AA card) =~119k for $1,991.25 or 1.67ccp
100k+55k+~5k =~160k for $2,655 or 1.69ccp
150k+85k+~8k=~243 for $3,982.50 or 1.64cpp

Deals/Deal Requests / 20-30% off SPG hotels in the ME, plus benefits
« on: June 09, 2016, 10:35:36 AM »
They're running a promotion with Emirates:

Some hotels are also including late checkout, upgraded rooms, deals on spa, and free breakfast.  Many of which aren't that special if you're gold or plat.

On The Road / Marriott Waitlist/Reservation Question
« on: November 23, 2015, 06:35:32 PM »
My law partner is booked to attend a seminar in Orlando in January and was waitlisted for a room at the Marriott where the conference is being hosted.  Then she got the following email:

Indicating that the room was reserved?  Is that normal?  Because the next day she got the following.

What's going on?  Is there anyway to push through for a confirmation?

Deals/Deal Requests / Last Ever Joseph A. Bank Buy 1 get 3 free
« on: October 22, 2015, 02:24:01 PM »
Suits, sportcoats, and blazers.  At least until the next time they offer it.

Trip Reports / Aaaron's UAE TR
« on: September 10, 2015, 07:19:01 AM »
A Quick Jaunt to the UAE

(I don't think this'll be big enough for a trip report, so I'll post the Dubai part here and the AD part in the respective Master Thread.  Dan or a mod can move it if they feel it's appropriate.)

The idea for this trip began on Christmas Day, 2014 at 4am, when I received the following text from Mordy1987:  "Dan just posted a glitch to Abu Dhabi, let's go Labor Day"
I sleepily responded: "ok"


We both got up and booked outbound from JFK-AUD for 10:30 Saturday night, September 5, returning at 2:55am, Wednesday the 9th.  He was nice enough to invite me for Shabbos so we could go straight to the airport.  We'd have 2+ days in the UAE; it would be quick, but the wives and our respective Roshei Kollel were OK with it, especially with the impending YK to absolve us of our sins.

Shortly thereafter, we realized that ~14 hours in coach isn't worth it, not even for $350, and 2 days would be too short, so we booked the return (AA redemption) in J and F for Thursday morning, 10:55am to IAD.  We still anticipated flying to AUH on our revenue tickets.  That lasted until August, with the flight approaching.  I was really apprehensive about even 12 hours in coach, so the week prior to the flight we accumulated some AS miles and booked J and F outbound, but on the EK A380 to DXB.  What started out as a budget trip was now something very different. 

Emirates Chauffeur Drive gave us a ride to our hotel.

We anticipated spending 2+ days in DXB, with a short stop in AUH to see the Mosque and catch our return flight.  Mordy really wanted to stay on the Palm Jumeirah, so that ruled out SPG properties (which there are a ton of in DXB) and we chose the Fairmont for the first three nights (Sun, Mon, and Tues) for about $650.

The hotel is a little left-of-center in that picture.  The Atlantis (which has a great water park) is visible at the top of the "tree."

Beautiful property, although the lobby has an overbearing scent, kind of like a Middle Eastern A&F.  They couldn't find my upgrade certificates in the system, so they gave us a basic city-view room.  I was concerned about noise from supercars flying up and down the palm all night, especially since we were on a low floor.  I called Fairmont and they put my certificates in my account immediately; we went back to reception and they gave us a nice sea-view room on the 8th floor.

The views from the beach in front of the hotel, looking out to the Dubai Marina area, and from our balcony:

The hotel at night, from the beach:


This was going to be a mostly move, move, move vacation, try to see and experience as much as we could over 3 days.  Being procrastinators, neither of us really planned an itinerary ahead.  We really wanted to skydive over the Palm, but that's the one thing we couldn't as it was booked for the entire month.

The first day I wanted to see the desert/Arabic side of Dubai, and Mordy wanted to go skiing in the Mall of the Emirates, so we booked a dune bashing, camel riding, see the desert type tour for the afternoon/evening and headed out to the mall.  [There a dozens of such tours and they're all about the same price.  It includes a buffet dinner and some shows, but we obviously can't report on the food.]

The skiing was ok.  It's an experience skiing (I snowboarded) indoors, but there are only two slopes that converge to one, and it got boring pretty fast.  We paid 200 AED (about $55) for 2 hours, including all gear, pants, jackets, socks, etc.  You have to buy your own gloves which were a reasonable 25 AED for a fleece pair.  We had a good time, and it was pretty empty so no line for the lift.  But we got bored and left after about an hour and a half.  Walking around the mall was pretty cool as well. 

We then went back to the hotel and relaxed until the Desert Tour operators were to pick us up between 3:30 and 4.  We made our way to the lobby and met a Welsh couple that would be on the tour with us.  A few minutes later a Land Cruiser pulls up, we load in, and we were off.  There was a German couple already in the vehicle.
After 40 minutes of driving he pulls over at a local tourist shop where they push the Arabic dress stuff on you.  We haggled and bought some souvenirs before heading out to the desert.  10 more minutes of driving and they pull off the road (which was coated with sand anyway).  Dozens of Land Cruisers are parked and letting air out of the tires.  Our driver, Akhmed, was one of the nuttier ones, racing and trying to overtake all the other.  I absolutely loved the dune bashing.  The couple in the back row kept getting thrown from their seats and hitting the roof.  This wasn’t timid driving over the dunes.  It was full out flying and getting air on many of the jumps.  Pics don’t do it justice.  After 30 minutes he pulls over so we could all get some picture for 10 minutes, then we continue on to the camp where they have camels, ATVs, a flacon to hold, henna tattoos, and the meal.  During the meal they have a “dude in a dress” show, and a belly dance show (not tznius at all).  We were back at the hotel by about 9:45.

The Whirling Dervish, started out lame but was pretty cool (it’s a dude):

The next day we decided to start with a water park.  It was a tough call between the one at the Atlantis, and Wild Wadi, which is at Jumeirah Beach right across from the Burj Al-Arab.  We chose the latter, for no real reason.  Our hotel concierge had 30 AED coupons, bringing the price down to 255 AED.  We had a fantastic time, and there are some crazy rides, many of which have a view of the Burj.  Notably, they have a huge series of “water blasters,” where you sit in a tube and you get shot up slopes that bounce around.

Taken from the stairs up to a 110foot water slide:

We then rented a car from Hertz in the Marina [returning at the airport in AUH], and went to see old Dubai, including the Spice and Gold Markets and the old port area.  Pretty sketchy area, but plenty of tourists.  In the Spice Market the shopkeepers ALL try way too hard to get you in their shop, very similar to the Straw Market in the Bahamas.  I found it very annoying.  The God Market was more enjoyable.

Then we headed over to the Dubai Mall, a huge mall (one of the biggest in the world?) which is adjacent to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  They have an attraction called “At the Top,” which is an observation deck on the 124th floor.  “At the Top Sky” is at the 148th floor, the highest observation deck in the world.  We splurged on the higher one, for the heck of it.  It was truly incredible, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra dough.  Mordy thinks it was.  It also includes a tour and some other VIP treatments.  It was about 6pm and our tickets were for 7:30.  We went out to watch the Bellagio-style fountains and get some pics.  The timing was great as the fountains had been off for the prior 3 days as a show of solidarity with 4 UAE soldiers who dies in Yemen.  We got to see the Burj in daylight and at night, and it was truly incredible.  IMO, the Bellagio show is cooler.

Looking up from the 148th floor:

The fountain show from the top of the world:

That was pretty much the end of Dubai for us.  We chilled the following morning before checking out and heading to Abu Dhabi.  I’ll post that part in the AD master thread.

In summation:  Dubai is truly incredible; I’ve never seen anything like it.  There are hundreds of skyscrapers, all built very recently.  It feels truly amazing there.  The roads are wide with lush landscaping, true opulence everywhere.  We really enjoyed, and had zero negative experiences.  I like Dubai much more than AD, but Mordy liked AD more.  In Dubai, the foreigners seem to outnumber the Emiratis, with local dress being the minority.  There are just so many expats and tourists there.

Feel free to ask any questions or request any specific pictures, we have loads.

Sigh, 10 hours left in the air.

Thought this would be appreciated here, since travel and photography seem to be two major hobbies on DDF.

General Discussion / Fund an IRA with a CC?
« on: April 10, 2014, 08:35:26 PM »
It's that time of year.  Anyone know of any banks/brokerages/etc. that will let you fund an IRA with a CC?  It would be a great way to hit my 2nd Citi AA threshold.

Just Shmooze / What would you do? (Problem with B&H)
« on: April 03, 2014, 09:54:50 PM »
This is a pretty long story, so bear with me. 

Purchased a Panasonic Projector from them on 12/2 (black Friday/cyber Monday weekend).  $2,349 - $550 Manufacturer MIR.
They tell me they have it in stock and I would have it shortly.
Turns out it was out of stock and I would get it the following week.
(MIR had to be mailed within 30 days of purchase)
The following week they tell me their shipment was delayed, but I would get it the following week.
Same thing the following week.  I ask for some sort of compensation for all the delays, and they're cutting it really close for the relatively large MIR.
They tell me they'll reduce it $200.
They email me new invoice reflecting the credit.

You know where this is going...
I get the item on 12/23 or 12/24 and immediately cut off the UPC and submit the rebate.
A few days later I notice 2 charges from B&H.  They charged me that $200 separate from the $2,149.
I call and they pretty much tell me too bad; dispute the charge.
So I do, and I include all the emails, etc.  The rep on the phone told me it should be quick and easy.
I then get an email from B&H with an RMA to return the item.  I call to confirm that I can since I removed the UPC.  They said I can't.
I lost the dispute.
They told AmEx that the $200 was for a manufacturer rebate and I should've returned the item.
I reopen the dispute.
Just got a letter today that I lost again.
At this point I'm pretty miffed and thinking about suing them in local small claims just to piss them off. 

Am I overeacting?  Should I let it go?  Try with AmEx again?

Credit Cards And Finance / Odd credit limit
« on: March 19, 2014, 06:37:25 PM »
I just noticed that one of my Citi cards has a limit of $xx,675.76.

Never noticed that before, nor have I ever requested an increase.  Is it normal to have such a strange number?

General Discussion / Best auto loan?
« on: February 19, 2014, 03:59:20 PM »
Looking for the best option for a refinance auto loan (cash out a lien-free vehicle).  Preferably 60 months, or even 72 if I can get the same rate.

So far I have PenFed at 1.99% for 60 months.
Alliant FCU for 1.75% for 60 months + they give you $100 (they'll do that rate for 72 months if the vehicle is within the past 3 model years.)

Any other good options?

Goods For Sale/Trade / Used car for sale - 2008 Lexus IS350
« on: December 03, 2013, 09:15:24 PM »
Probably not a car for most DDers, but Ill give it a shot.

Selling my car, coming up on 56,000 miles. 
Baltimore, MD area
Black Sapphire Pearl (dark blue) over Black Leather
Graphite Wheels
Luxury Package
Parking Sensors
I'm the second owner, bought in 2/2010 with ~33,000 miles.
New tires recently, Kumho Ecsta LE Sport.

Asking $20,500.

Clean Carfax.

Let me know if you have any questions!

I have not received a confirmation email or anything from them.  I used Dan's link and got instant approval.  Should I be concerned?  I regret not printing the approval page which stated I'll get the card by mail within 2 weeks.

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