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8056
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 06, 2013, 03:56:07 PM »
Very nice TR and indeed amazing pics. One thing I would have to disagree with you would be

As far as touching it up afterwards, I'd say that's probably 5-10% of the recipe.

In today's photography, to obtain pictures like that, they of course, like u said, need to have a proper composition, perspective, etc. but photoshop is an absolutely essential post processing tool in order to obtain such compelling pictures. But again, Really good jobs on the pics.

That's exactly what I said - post is an absolutely essential tool. But it's only the icing on the cake, the final touch to proper composition, lighting, etc., hence the "5-10%".

8057
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 06, 2013, 03:00:11 AM »
What % of these pictures would you say are based on the art of knowing how to take a picture vs. using an SLR instead of P&S vs. touching it up afterward?

Most of these pictures could have been made with a P&S or even a good camera phone for the most part. The main advantage by far of an SLR is not so much the image quality, but speed and control. It allows me to take the images I wanted easier and quicker, in situations where a P&S is simply too slow and cumbersome, such as in a helicopter.

The Hanalei Valley, airport lounge, and some helicopter shots are good examples where a P&S would have given you similar results (all things being equal). The image quality of today's P&S's are phenomenal.

Where an SLR shines is in more challenging situations - a fast-moving helicopter, an even-faster moving two-year old, low light, or very difficult light (like the sunset shot, which has extremely dark and extremely bright areas). Another area where you simply can't get the same look out of a P&S is shallow depth of field (like in this shot). It's simply not physically possible with their small sensors. There's of course the middle ground - mirrorless cameras give you the speed and quality of SLRs in a (large) P&S body. This picture in my Big Island TR was actually taken with a mirrorless Sony NEX.

But at the end of the day, all equipment in the world is worthless with out knowing the "art" of photography. I could shlep $8k worth of camera to Hawaii and come back with garbage. Everyone could take a 'technically correct' picture - it's taking an interesting and compelling one that's hard.

As far as touching it up afterwards, I'd say that's probably 5-10% of the recipe. None of the post work adds anything that wasn't there - it just compensates for the cameras weaknesses. Shooting through the window of a helicopter cuts down on contrast and color; you put that back in post. The camera can't capture the extreme levels of light of a sunset; you use post to blend two exposures together. It's important to remember that garbage in, garbage out - no amount of Photoshop could turn a lousy picture into a stunning one.

It comes down to this: yes, an SLR is usually the best tool for the job. But just because someone only has a P&S doesn't mean he can't get awesome shots, if he learns the proper technique. But the main thing is the "art" of photography: composition, color, perspective, etc.

8058
Wow! Wow! Thanks for the detailed TR!

Really amazing pics.

Thanks and thanks!

8059
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 06, 2013, 01:53:49 AM »
Umm...can I get a photography class from you?
Wow.

I owe this entire trip to you :D. Next time you come to NY PM me and I'll be more than happy...

8060
I finally got around to writing my "10 days in Hawaii with a 1-year old" trip report :D. Here’s Part 2 – The Big Island; you could find Part 1 – Kauai here.

- After reading Dan’s awesome Hawaiian trip reports we knew that this is the place to go. We knew that there’s no way we could afford a trip like this the ‘normal’ way. Thanks to Dan and DDF we were able to go on a trip that would have been more than $12,000 for absolutely free. I kept track of every single expense and in the end every last penny was covered by points. Final tally was 339500 points used (mainly MR and UR). More than 200K of those were sold to cover things that we couldn't use points directly for. In the end we got about 3.53cpm overall, which is great in my book and was definitely worth it.

- We finally got to Kona on the Big Island early Thursday afternoon after a crazy flight situation from Kauai (the story is in the Kauai TR linked above). We got our car (a Durrango which I really ended up liking) and drove down to Ocean View to the house we rented through HomeAway.

- Walmart in Kona off Highway 11 has some kosher food. We also found kosher baby jars there.

- We got a psak that we have to keep Shabbos on Saturday, as well as keep D’oreisas on Friday. This meant that we had just a couple of hours to get to the house, get settled, and prepare food for a two-day Shabbos. It was pretty hectic, but we knew that there’s two solid days of relaxing and klutzing ahead of us.

- Ocean View is an amazing place. There’s this stark emptiness all around. Everything is covered in crumbling lava from Mauna Loa, with the occasional wind-bent tree. The houses are few and far between – there’s absolute privacy. The ocean is visible from just about anywhere, and there’s a never ending wind. Besides for the occasional gecko chirp and the wind, it’s perfectly quiet. The Revealed book says that Ocean View is one of the largest repositories of people in the witness protection program, and it’s easy to see why. It’s also completely dark at night and is supposed to be a great place for stargazing. Unfortunately it was cloudy every night of our stay, so we didn't see any of that :(.

- We had a beautiful double Shabbos relaxing, reading, and swimming (the house had a private pool). We brought all the food from home and had regular Shabbos seudas.

Activities:

- As has been discussed a million times here, get the Revealed books. Best $14 you’ll spend on your trip.

- Sunday we spent on and around the Kilauea volcano.

- Driving up to the volcano from Ocean View takes a little more than an hour and is a very pretty drive. It alternates between stark lava fields and lush greenery. Driving on the flanks of Mauna Loa I was struck how much the landscape looks like Yellowstone, half a world away – the same rounded grassy hills with the clumps of trees. Must be something about volcanoes…

- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: We stopped in the visitor center first and spent a few minutes looking through the exhibits. Well worth it and you get a very good overview of the geology and history of the area.

- We took the “Exploring the Summit” ranger-led hike, which was very interesting. It was more of a walk than a hike, and is fully stroller accessible, which was great. You go through a rain forest and onto the edge of the main Kilauea caldera. It’s really amazing how abruptly the landscape changes from green, lush rainforest to absolute deadness. Very striking. There was a bit too much ‘getchke talk’ for my taste though – Madam Pele this and Madam Pele that. It took about an hour.

- The main road around the crater was partially closed due to high activity in the lava lake in the Halema’uma’u Crater, which was a pity. We were able to see the ash cloud from the lava lake though from the Volcano House overlook, but the view from the Jaggar Museum is much better – it’s closer and the angle is better. We tried to eat lunch by the benches outside the Jaggar Museum, but as soon as we took the food out we were surrounded by yellow jackets. We ended up eating in the car :D.

View from the Jaggar Museum:



- We then drove the entire Chain of Craters Road, and it was awesome. It takes you past all sorts of turnouts where you could see past eruptions and craters. It very interesting to see how nature is returning to normal after the devastation. Some turnouts are more interesting than others. We found Ko’oko’olau Crater, Pauahi Crater, and the Muliwai a Pele turnout further down to be the most interesting.

- Across the road from the Pauahi Crater parking area (between the two entrances) is a tiny little lava tube from the 1979 flow. It’s about 18” tall, but it’s interesting to see how it continues through the lava field. We spent an enjoyable few minutes exploring that area. Walk carefully – huge chunks of lava keep on shifting underneath you.



- The road itself is a very pleasant drive and passes through all sorts of landscapes. There are long stretches where all you see on either side is the lava field as far as the eye could see, with only the road snaking away into the distance. It’s quite the experience:



- By the time we got to the end of the road it was getting late so we decided not to walk the 15 minutes or so to see where the road got swallowed by the lava. We also skipped the Holei sea arch.

- We then headed to the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, which is about an hour away from the park towards the Hilo side. This spot is technically on the Chain of Craters Road, but on the other side of the lava flow. According the County hotline, there was visible lava flowing at the time, but no ocean entry. We got to the parking lot after dark only to find out that there’s nothing to be seen. The lady in charge told us that the hotline message hasn't been updated in months…  We decided to walk the 10 minutes to the viewing area anyway. It was absolutely pitch black and quite surreal. When we got there we could just about make out two spots of red glow on the horizon. I took some long exposure pictures and was able to see a bit more, but all in all it was pretty much a bust:



- On the way back to Ocean View we stopped at the park again and drove to back to the Jaggar Museum to see the volcano in the dark. This is not to be missed – the glow on the ash cloud is an amazing sight. It’s hard to appreciate the scale of it all – the crater is almost a mile wide and the ash cloud even taller. It's a sight you'll never forget:



- On Monday we went snorkeling in Honomalino Bay. It’s about a 20 minute hike from your car, and is a stunning walk. When we got there we couldn't believe our eyes – a beautiful crescent of black sand, coconut palms all around, and not a soul in sight. We literally had the entire beach to ourselves.

This was the first time either my wife or I ever went snorkeling, and oh is it an amazing experience. The instant you stick your head into the water by the ocean’s edge you’re in another world, with hundreds of fish swimming all around you. And then you get to the reef and it just gets better and better. I had brought along an underwater camera to Hawaii just for this, which I of course I forgot in the car (duh!). We took turns snorkeling and staying with the baby on the beach, who entertained herself by eating sand nonstop :D.

Chillin':



- We had rented the snorkel equipment from Snorkel Bob’s on Kauai, and returned it to their location in Kona on the way to the airport for no extra fee. All very convenient.

- Seeing as we went with a baby, there were many places that were in our plan but that we didn't get to in the end, such as South Point, Road-to-the-Sea Beach, and others. I was also dying to see either sunset or sunrise from the summit of Mauna Kea, but it’s officially dangerous for babies and they won't let you up. I’m not complaining, now we have a reason to go back…

- All in all we had an absolutely AWESOME vacation, all thanks to Dan and DDF. We also officially have the Hawaii bug now and plan on returning to Kauai in June IY”H (the Big Island will have to wait for another time). This time we’re leaving the baby… We hope to do and see everything we couldn't the first time around.

Thanks for reading!

8061
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 06, 2013, 01:30:03 AM »
I finally got around to writing my “10 days in Hawaii with a 1-year old” trip report :D. Here’s Part 1 – Kauai; you could find Part 2 – The Big Island here.

- After reading Dan’s awesome Hawaiian trip reports we knew that this is the place to go. We knew that there’s no way we could afford a trip like this the ‘normal’ way. Thanks to Dan and DDF we were able to go on a trip that would have been more than $12,000 for absolutely free. I kept track of every single expense and in the end every last penny was covered by points. Final tally was 339500 points used (mainly MR and UR). More than 200K of those were sold to cover things that we couldn't use points directly for. In the end we got about 3.53cpm overall, which is great in my book and was definitely worth it.

- We were pretty scared about taking our 1-year old along, but we really had no choice. We just knew that we’ll have to keep a very open schedule and that we won’t be able to see or do many of the things we wanted. Since this was going to be our first time flying with her, we decided to do a ‘dry run’ with her on a very short flight. Thanks to this deal we flew JFK-BOS for Chol Hamoed Sukkos. B”H, she behaved perfectly on both flights (even though we flew through the worst turbulence I have ever experienced). Even though we knew that this is nothing compared to the flight to Hawaii, this trip went a long way to calm our nerves.

- Finally November came along… We flew United EWR-LAX early Sunday morning. We got a free bag each with our United cards, and they thankfully didn't charge us extra even though all bags were overweight (note to self: make sure your scale is accurate BEFORE going to the airport ::)). There was a bit of confusion making sure that our bags were going to be transferred to AA for the LAX-LIH leg, but in the end another agent was able to iron it out for us. We had booked seats in rows A and C, hoping that we’ll be able to bring the car seat aboard. As soon as we got to the gate I asked the gate agent if she could do anything to keep the middle seat open, and she informed me that as soon as two people with a lap infant check in, the middle seat is automatically locked out, so we would have no issue. I guess if it had been a packed flight this wouldn't have been the case, but thankfully it wasn't and we were able to have the car seat on all flights except the return LAX-EWR leg.

- I had purposely booked a later flight out of LAX, to give us some time to klutz and for my daughter to be able to stretch and crawl around. We spent the entire 5 ½ hour layover in the Admirals Club lounge thanks to Amex Plat. This is the only lounge I've ever been to, so I really can’t compare it to anything else, but it was exactly what we needed. We got settled in a quiet corner, ate, relaxed, and chapped a nap. I just wish they had some kosher food there… Towards the end of the layover we found a great children’s playroom, which my daughter loved:



- We landed in LIH about 9 PM and went right to catch the shuttle to National. I really wanted a convertible, and knew that the Executive Aisle usually has a fair selection of them. Not wanting to risk it though, I reserved both a mid size and convertible. When we got there the manager took me to the EI, and lo and behold, not a single convertible. He apologized over and over, saying there had been a large group earlier and had taken all his convertibles. He offered to upgrade me to any car, which was very nice of him but I really wanted a convertible. Looking around desperately, I spotted a Chrysler 200 off to the side, kinda hidden behind a shed.
“What about that one?” I asked him. “Sorry, that one’s been specifically reserved and there’s no way I could give it away”. I smiled and told him to go inside and see who the one who reserved it is… A minute later he comes out of the office and hands me the keys, smiling from ear to ear, saying, “You know how to beat the system”. Of course I made sure that he actually put it on the mid size reservation ;).

- We booked a condo in Princeville though HomeAway. It took us a while to decide if we wanted to stay on the North Shore or the South Shore. Our first choice was the GHK, but a) we didn't have enough points at that point,  b) we had no status so we didn't really have much of a chance of getting upgraded to a suite, and c), we aren't really hotel people. Give us a condo any day…

In the end we decided on the North Shore in spite of the warnings about rain in the winter. From all our research we found that even when it does rain it usually doesn't last for more than a few minutes (which was takkeh the case in the end).

- The condo was great, and Princeville is awesome. Beautiful park-like setting, with the most stunning green mountains in the background. The condo complex was on a cliff over the ocean, and the view was amazing. Some of the neighbors told us that they've been seeing whales in the mornings, but unfortunately we didn't get to see any during our stay. We must have seen 30 rainbows during our stay, though.

Driving in Princeville:





- First thing Monday morning we headed to Lihue to stock up in Costco since it was closed the night before. There was a fair amount of kosher items – we stocked up on juices, snacks, and mountains of nosh. We also stocked up on diapers and baby stuff.

They didn't have everything we needed (such as kosher baby jars), so we went to Walmart down the road. There we found everything we had seen in Costco, for cheaper. Definitely a lesson learned… We were able to get baby jars and many more things.

- All the ‘real food’ we brought along. We had a suitcase full of frozen food, and another one with dry items (Meal Mart meals, crackers, tradition soup, etc). Some of the food had thawed a bit, probably during the long layover in LAX. Nothing was ruined, although the suitcase took a couple of days to dry out entirely.

Activities:

- As has been discussed a million times here, get the Revealed books. Best $14 you’ll spend on your trip.

- We were of course severely limited in what we could do considering we had a baby in tow. Another baby issue was that everything took a long time – getting ready to leave in the morning was a gantza procedure. By the time we got to where we were going, it was already time for her nap… And then feeding… :D My point is, if you’re going with a baby don’t expect to do much (but expect to get awesome pictures of them ;)).

- Based on Dan’s trip report, we brought along a cheap tent to use on the beach. We ended up getting this one, which was an absolute piece of junk but was perfect for what we needed. It gave us shade and privacy, and kept us dry during a sudden downpour. It takes just a minute or two to set it up and tear it down. We ended up throwing it away before coming back home since it just wasn't worth it to clean all the sand out of it, not to mention that once you unfold it it’ll NEVER fit back into the included bag again (we ended up keeping it in a big garbage bag). I was afraid that we’ll have an issue fitting it into our suitcase since I couldn't find the folded length mentioned anywhere, but in the end it even fit into our small suitcase. Highly recommended as long as you understand that this probably won’t last past one trip.

- Helicopter tour – 5/5, $420. Easily the most expensive activity on Kauai, and easily the best. We went with Blue Hawaiian, as recommended by just about everybody. They’re also the only ones (as far as I know) to accommodate free lap children. See this post for my pricing/overweight saga with them.

The flight was absolutely amazing. Our pilot was a retired air force helicopter trainer, so he knew a thing or two about flying  :D. You see sights that are otherwise pretty much inaccessible: the Na Pali coast, the interior of Waimea Canyon, and endless waterfalls. It hadn't been raining much on Mt. Waiʻaleʻale (which is weird, considering that it's the rainiest place on earth), so there were hardly any waterfalls in the crater. But it was still an amazing experience flying into the crater of an extinct volcano...

There’s two way communication between the pilot and passengers, so you could ask him questions if you want. Otherwise the pilot keeps up a running stream of commentary, telling you everything there is to know about what you’re seeing.

We had no issues with the baby at all. The pilot told us that she’ll be asleep ten minutes after takeoff, and boy was he right. The quiet (they have the cutest little pair of noise cancelling headphones you ever saw) and the vibrations worked wonders. She woke up the minute we landed.

We flew early morning – most of the island looks better in the morning than in the afternoon. The big exception is Na Pali – if that’s your main goal go with an afternoon flight. I personally wouldn’t recommend the middle of the day flights –the light is too harsh and there’s glare everywhere.

When you get back to their office they try to sell you a DVD of your flight for $25. Get it - it’s worth every penny. The chopper has four cameras (front, right, left, and one in the cabin), and the pilot chooses them based on what most interesting at any given moment. It records your entire flight, including the audio, so you hear all the narration, questions, etc. The actual video quality is quite lousy, but it does make for fantastic memories.

Some shots from the helicopter...

Waimea Canyon:



Na Pali Coast:









Wailua Falls:



Looking out from the crater of Mt. Waiʻaleʻale:





Never-ending waterfall:



Manawaiopuna Falls, more commonly known as Jurassic Falls:



Some tips on helicopter photography: The best pictures are undoubtedly from a doors-off flight (Jack Harter offers those). Of course that's not always practical... The right side is best; you have a much better view from there. Wear dark clothing, as that’ll reflect far less. For a point-and-shoot camera use the P mode (or whatever the non-fully-automatic setting on your camera is called). That way your flash won’t go off by mistake, which would result in a picture of a white gob on the window instead of the Na Pali coast… Also use continuous mode if your camera has it – hold down the shutter button to take a couple of pictures in a burst. That way you have a much better chance of getting a sharp picture. It’ll also help you keep the rotors out of the picture. Remember the longer you zoom out the harder it is to get a sharp picture.

If you’re shooting with a DLSR, shoot in either A or AV mode (depending on the camera brand), the largest aperture possible (2.8, 3.5, etc.), and high speed continuous. Aim for a shutter speed of 1/1000 or faster; 1/500 will do in a pinch. The newer Canons and Nikons let you customize the ISO-AUTO settings to keep to a minimum shutter speed. This is the perfect situation to use it – for example set it to 1/1000 minimum, ISO 3200 max. This means that the camera will choose the lowest ISO it can and still keep you under 1/1000. Only if it can’t get a proper exposure at ISO 3200 will it then start increasing your shutter speed.  This way you just set it once and you don’t have to worry about exposure at all.

As far as lenses go, a mid-range zoom works best. Too wide and you have the rotors in every shot; too long and you’re iffy even at 1/1000. The best option in my opinion is a 24-70 f/2.8 on both APS-C and full frame cameras. The standard 18-55 lens is also a good range. VR or IS is not necessarily gonna help you in a helicopter – those systems are meant to stabilize hand movement, not platform movement (which it the case in a chopper). Read your lens’s manual – it may be best to turn it off.

Absolutely, positively, don’t take more than lens (unless you're shooting with two bodies). You’re just gonna be busy putting them on and off and on and off and on and off. It’s not worth it – one standard zoom is all you need. There are no pictures to be had from a helicopter with 70-300 or 55-250.

A circular polarizer will go a long way on cutting down window reflections. Focus manually at infinity and tape the focus ring down; it’ll save you a headache.

- Hanalei Valley Lookout - 4/5: Right off the road, and is worth a quick stop:



A bit further down the road:



- Ke’e Beach – 5/5. This beach is at the end of the road on the north shore (the Kalalau Trail starts here). Amazing views of Na Pali with stunning sunsets. During winter there are supposed to be dangerous rip currents and surf, so we pretty much stayed out of the water. It actually looked quite calm and there were people snorkeling (there’s supposed to be amazing snorkeling here), but we just relaxed and enjoyed the sunset. It was pretty full when we got there (about an hour and a half before sunset), but we went a bit to the right and found a very quiet area. We set up the tent and were treated to a stunning sunset to the left and a full rainbow to the right. Simply an amazing place:



- Tunnels / Makua Beach – 4/5. This beach is a drop tricky to get to. It’s connected to Ha’ena Beach Park, so all the road signs point to that, not Tunnels. You could either go to Ha’ena and park in the big parking lot with full facilities and walk to the left for 10-15 minutes to get to Tunnels (which we did). Not a very easy walk in the soft sand but still very pleasant. Or you could keep your eyes peeled for the tiny sign announcing Tunnels Beach. It should be about 1 minute before the Ha’ena parking lot. There’s VERY limited parking there.

The beach surrounds a beautiful bay with stunning mountains on the left side (Makana Peak, better known as Bali Hai). The further to the right you go (but before the beach curves back around) the prettier the view. We went to watch sunrise and it was spectacular watching the mountains slowly getting lit up. The beach was pretty empty then too.

Again, there’s supposed to be amazing snorkeling here during the summer, but the water was pretty wild when we were there.

- Queens Bath is considered a death trap in the winter; we didn't bother.

- Po’ipu Beach – 2/5. This is the main beach by the GHK and is supposed be insanely amazing (I think it was even named one of the top 10 beached in the world). Quite frankly, I found it extremely meh (that’s the official scientific term  :D). It was PACKED, dirty, and generally unpleasant. There were so many people sitting there it may as well have been Coney Island. We found a spot right by the water with space for our tent, so at least we got some privacy. It didn't take us too long to figure out why that particular spot had been empty; right under the surface there were these humongous boulders and you couldn't even step into the water.

- The tree tunnel down to Po’ipu is awesome.

- Kapaa Beach Park 3/5 – We stopped here for lunch one day while driving through Kapaa. Not a very pretty beach at all (lots of garbage on the sand), but nevertheless a nice spot for a picnic if you’re in the area. Staying on the top of the bluff (off the parking on Kauwila St.) let us keep both the sunbathers and the garbage out of sight.

- The Glass Shack in Kapaa – 1/5. We stopped in after lunch at Kapaa Beach Park. You could watch them hand blow glass, but it’s marginally interesting. According to Kauai Revealed, they have “prices for the rest of us”. Dunno about that… There wasn't anything really worth buying, in any case. The most interesting part was when they found one of those 6” poisonous centipedes the Revealed books warn you about, and they made a hadlakah with it on the glass-melting torch.

On the way to Kapaa, crossing the bridge over the Kalihiwai River:



My wife did enjoy the place a bit more; she says she’d give it 2/5.

- We stopped by Snorkel Bob’s to rent fins and masks. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they stock fins in my size (18-21 shoe size depending on the brand). If you rent for four days you could keep it for a week. The best part was that we could rent it on Kauai and return on the Big Island. Final cost was $89 for the week for the two of us. We didn't end up snorkeling on Kauai, but did on the Big Island.

- Waimea Canyon, Polihale Beach, Barking Sands, Kalalau / Pu’u o Kila Lookouts, Spouting Horn, Wailua Falls: All these were on out to do list but sadly we didn't get to see them. That happens when you go with a baby – everything takes far longer, you have to stop all the time for naps, feeding, etc.

- Hiking, Kayaking, etc: Generally not possible / very hard with a baby in tow. Next time…

- Regarding Shabbos we got a psak that we have to keep Shabbos on Saturday, as well as keep D’oreisas on Friday. That meant that we booked our flights on Hawaiian to the Big Island for Thursday morning, which allowed us plenty of time for the LIH-HNL-KOA trip.

We left to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Of course, this being essentially a few hours before Shabbos for us, we got a flat on the way to the airport. I had never gotten a flat before, so I had to learn to change a tire on top of everything else. Where’s Chaveirim when you need them?

We finally made it to the airport and through security right as our plane left the gate. Now the real fun started – the next flight was booked solid, but the one after that would cause us to miss our HNL connection, and no one knew where our luggage was. None of the other carriers had any flights that would work out either. Hawaiian put us on standby (for free, thanks to Dan’s corporate booking), and luckily in the end we were able to take the next flight out.

We finally got to HNL only to find out that we missed our connection after all, and of course the next flight is also booked solid. At least they found our luggage - the agent informed us that it had made the original LIH flight, and "should be" on the way to Kona now. B”H, they were able to get us onto the next flight and we made it to Kona in time to collect our stuff (our luggage made it!) and drive down to the house we rented in Ocean View (about 3 hours from the airport).

Throughout these crazy few hours I kept on trying to reach my dayan to see if it’s possible to rely on Chabad in such a situation, so that we could take a later flight. Otherwise we were facing the very real possibility of being stuck in Honolulu for a two-day Shabbos without a speck of food or clothing. In the end everything worked out B”H… I found out later that the poor dayan and his wife were in the hospital having baby while this schlub on vacation was dreying him ah kup :D.

- In the end we had an absolutely AWESOME vacation, all thanks to Dan and DDF. We also officially have the Hawaii bug now and plan on returning to Kauai in June IY”H. This time we’re leaving the baby… We hope to do and see everything we couldn't the first time around.

Thanks for reading!

8062
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 03, 2013, 05:26:21 PM »
We requested very nicely IMO multiple times (plus used honeymoon card) and no I didn't offer a tip. But still it didnt work. Like I said, I m pretty sure it depends on how many ppl they have booked on that particular day/time frame.

FWIW, By me they had two full choppers at that time.

Maybe it has something to do with reservations vs. walk-ins? We had a confirmed reservation 3-4 months beforehand.

8063
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: February 03, 2013, 04:36:41 PM »
is there any way to ask for specific seating on blue hawaiian? also any discounts below their web pricing?

Officially it's decided by the computer, but they're very open to accommodating you IME. I'm 265 lbs. (which is overweight in their books) so the computer put me in the back middle-left seat. I told them I'd rather sit on the right (far better views on that side), and they said fine, would you like the window or the right-middle? They didn't even check or put anything into the computer.

Also remember that their policy is that if you're a couple you're guaranteed a window seat for one of you at least.

Another tip which may be useful for some is how the overweight policy works. I did some digging and found that the main issue as far as weight is concerned is not safety, but the comfort of other passengers. That's why most companies call the overweight fee a 'comfort' charge - you're essentially buying another seat (usually at 50% of cost) which remains empty. If the issue is safety and balance, I'd think that a 300 lb person on one side and an empty seat on the other would be more of a balance problem than a couple of extra pounds on one side. Knowing this I called them up and explained that my extra weight is due to my height (I'm 6' 8"), and as such don't take up more seat space than anyone else, but their online reservation system insists on charging me 50% more. They then made the reservation for me over the phone (with the web discount, of course), and noted the weight issue in the reservation. They warned me that it's still not 100% guaranteed, but that I shouldn't have any issues. In the end it was a complete non-issue, as evidenced by the fact that they even let me have the window seat (my wife ended up sitting by the window in the end, but it was fully our choice).

TD;LR: Ask nicely and they'll probably accommodate you even if the computer says otherwise. And if you're over the weight limit but not too 'wide', call them and you might get the overweight fee waived.

8064
On The Road / Re: Which States Have You Been To?
« on: January 24, 2013, 11:08:58 PM »
18 so far:

California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
New Jersey
New York
Pennsylvania
Utah
Virginia
Wyoming

Here's a cool site to keep track of all states (and countries for that matter) you've been to and plot it on a map:
http://douweosinga.com/projects/visited?region=usa

8065
Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Kauai, HI Master Thread
« on: January 04, 2013, 01:14:54 PM »
I rented snorkel equipment few me and my wife at Snorkel Bob's.  Final cost was $89 for the week. The great thing was that they let us rent on Kauai and return on the Big Island at no extra charge.

Not very cheap but worth it in my opinion - you get top of the line gear and an expert fitting.

8066
I need a car (automatic only) from BUD 2/28-3/4. Cheapest I found was approx. $450 through Autoeurope. Anyone have any ideas?

8067
Up In The Air / Re: Avianca shopping mall - 250 miles per purchase!
« on: October 14, 2012, 08:06:35 PM »
I made 5 purchases from Drugstore.com as a test. Will report if there's any news...

So far I got 5 shipping confirmations from Drugstore.com, but nothing's showing up in my Lifemiles history yet.

8068
General Discussion / Re: El Gaucho Steakhouse
« on: October 14, 2012, 11:43:44 AM »
We were there recently. Had two of the best steaks we ever had (can't remember which ones - one was called Argentinian something or other).

Prices are reasonable too. Highly reccomended.

8069
Up In The Air / Re: Avianca shopping mall - 250 miles per purchase!
« on: October 14, 2012, 06:03:23 AM »

8070
Up In The Air / Re: Avianca shopping mall - 250 miles per purchase!
« on: October 14, 2012, 03:13:16 AM »
I made 5 purchases from Drugstore.com as a test. Will report if there's any news...

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