Author Topic: A Day in Twin Cities, MN  (Read 1603 times)

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A Day in Twin Cities, MN
« on: October 30, 2023, 07:13:54 PM »
Six years ago, a regular-priced mileage ticket I had booked on Singapore Air became available in Saver Award, resulting in a mileage refund. Over the years I managed to use most of the refunded miles but was left with 14k miles that were now set to expire, after expiration extensions for a period of three years due to the covid pandemic. Since we were only traveling to prevent the heartache of forfeiting miles, I committed to booking everything with points, so as not to spend any (or as little as possible) dollars out of pocket.

I was keen on doing this trip on Chol Hamoed Sukkos, and after researching and scrapping tens of plans, we settled on Minnesota, mostly because we decided to go with a destination that would be feasible without spending the night, which meant that 1) it had to be within 3 hours flying of NYC, and 2) it had to be a rather “boring” place as we did not want to feel the need to cram too much, or head back there in the future. There were several other choices that would have worked well, but the flight times for a day trip did not line up as well as the MSP options. While flights from NYC to MSP were available at our preferred times, the departing flight was out of LGA, while the return was at EWR, which posed a transportation issue. After some creative thought we came up with the following idea. We would drop one of our cars at a lot near Newark the night before so that it was waiting for us when we landed, and we would park the other car near LGA. Since there is street parking in LGA’s vicinity, and ASP would not be an issue since we were only traveling for the day, we would only have to pay for the EWR parking, while parking at LGA would be free.

Parking and Airport: As planned, we both set out for ARB Parking Newark on the evening prior to our trip, so that we could drop one car off at the lot. We had pre-booked a 48-hour spot here online via a third-party booking site for $26 (we needed to reserve two days since we were dropping it off a few hours before our flight was scheduled to land the next day). They provided us with a link that we should click as soon as we landed back in Newark, which would notify the shuttle driver that we were ready for pickup. The next morning, we headed to LGA and found a parking spot easily on Ditmars and 102nd street and walked to Terminal C via the 102nd St pedestrian walkway. I was confident that we had more than enough time to make our flight in time, since I have Clear and TSA Precheck. There were long lines at security that morning, and disappointingly Clear in conjunction with TSA Precheck took the longest. If I had used just Clear or just TSA precheck, I would have cleared security about 10 minutes faster. I was also chosen for a random security check which meant that I had to dig out my photo ID, and while normally not a big deal, it was annoying after standing in line with no time to spare. I had hoped to check out the Delta SkyClub in Terminal C, but we made it to the gate with just minutes to spare.

Flight to MSP: Our flight was with Delta, and while I had originally planned on booking it using 15k FlyingBlue miles per passenger, which would have been just 11.5k miles per passenger with the Amex UR 25% bonus transfer that was active at the time, the flight was not showing up on Air France and KLM, even though there were plenty of open seats on Delta and it was available for 15k miles with Delta. I then checked the cash price and realized that it was just $180, which meant that I could book it for the same 11.5k points per person via CSR’s travel portal. The Flying Blue redemption would have cost 11.5k miles pp + ~$10 in fees (although I would have had to transfer 24k points since points must be transferred in 1k increments), while the CSR ticket cost 11.5k points + $7.40 (I adjusted the points slider to 11.5k so that I could keep the pricing uniform across platforms, hence the additional cash fee).

Car Rental and Insurance: Upon landing at MSP airport, we proceeded to Hertz Car Rental. I had booked the rental using 950 Hertz points which were scheduled to expire in three months, and so I felt the redemption was justified, even though cash rates were not crazy expensive at $100 or so for a basic sedan (I do have Presidents Circle via Amex Platinum so there would have been an upgrade). I originally tried completing the redemption booking online but kept on getting an error that redemptions were unavailable for my dates and location. I proceeded to reach out to Hertz via chat, and the agent was able to get the booking done in minutes with no issues. I had originally expected the booking to cost double the points as it was on a peak day, but the agent was able to get it done for the off-peak pricing. Additionally, they informed me that I could choose any sedan, including luxury sedans for this price (SUV’s, including luxury SUV’s, would have been double the points), so of course I went with the luxury choice. Being that I was paying for the base rental using Hertz points, I was worried that my Amex Platinum collision coverage would not kick in, and indeed when reaching out to them they informed me that rentals were only covered if the base fare was charged to the card as well. Hertz was offering a collision waiver for $35/day, so I decided to go with Amex Premium Protection for $19.95 per rental which covers cars even if just a small portion is charged to the Platinum card. Additionally, premium protection offers primary coverage instead of secondary coverage, and has an option to cover luxury vehicles which are often not covered under standard credit card collision protection (this ended up not being relevant to us, since our car was not of this caliber). Amex never ended up billing me the $19.95 for this rental even though I enrolled and had the taxes and fees charged to my card- hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite me… The base rental was 950 Hertz points and $7, and we paid for an additional driver which was another $16 after tax. There was no line at the rental counter, and we were assigned a pre-reserved spot to get our car, which turned out to be a Cadillac XT4. I was expecting something more than this, but I was happy that we didn’t get a sedan even if it would have been a more luxurious vehicle (I hate sedans more than I like luxury…)

Activities: About a week before our trip, when I started to put together an itinerary, I noticed that it was likely to be raining during our travels, so we put together a list of things to do if we had to be indoors and a list of things to do if we could spend time outdoors. Thankfully it ended up not raining so we stuck to our outdoor activities list, all of which were free.

Our first stop was to Pike Island, which is part of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area- note that the recreation area is not one location, but rather made up of many local parks and sights. We hiked the full trail which loops around Pike Island- this is a flat easy trail, and the hike was serene and quiet.

Next, we walked the short Minnehaha Falls Lower Glen Trail

to Minnehaha Falls.

Our next stop was at Stone Arch Bridge and Mill Ruins Park. We walked Stone Arch Bridge across the river and completed the St Anthony's Heritages Trail loop.

At Mill Ruins Park we explored the various ruins on the waterfront. The park is historically significant to Minneapolis’ history.

Our last attraction of the day was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, with its eclectic sculptures.

For dinner we headed to Sato Sushi & American Fusion, where they had a small sukkah of sorts set up on their front porch. We ordered miso soup (don’t recommend), the Gray Goose roll (highly recommend!), and a burger (recommend). For dessert we had tempura Oreos which were delicious as well.

We then headed back to MSP airport for our flight to EWR. Once again, the Clear + TSA precheck line was long, but this time instead of sticking around I switched over to the TSA precheck lane without Clear, which was empty with no wait. The TSA agent glanced at my photo ID and asked me if I knew Boro Park well  :o. We made a quick stop at the Escape Lounge, which is a Centurion Studio partner, but it was small and fairly crowded- definitely not of Centurion caliber.

Flight to EWR: Since the main purpose of this trip was to burn my 14k expiring Singapore miles, our flight back was with United, as they are both part of Star Alliance. I booked one flight via Singapore Air for 14k miles + $5.60, and the second flight via Lifemiles. Lifemiles charges 10k miles for the MSP to EWR route, but since Amex UR was running a 15% transfer bonus at the time, and I had some Lifemiles in my account from a previous transfer bonus, I only had to transfer 8k Amex UR points to Lifemiles to book this ticket, plus $20.60 for taxes and fees. This flight was available directly through United for 11.5k miles.

Thankfully our flight home was uneventful, and as soon as we landed, we clicked on the link provided to us by the parking attendant at ARB Parking Newark, and by the time we exited the airport the shuttle was already waiting for us!

We then drove back to LGA to retrieve my car, which was waiting for me safe and sound.

Even though it was a long and exhausting day we had an amazing time, and I would definitely do more day trips if the itinerary allowed for it.

Rainy Day Activities: The following activities were on our potential itinerary in case the weather wasn’t cooperative: Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota History Center, State Capitol, Foshay Museum and Observations Deck, and Mall of America.

Seasonal Activities: The following activities caught my eye but were not open during our trip, as they mostly operate in summer: Historic Fort Snelling, St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center, James J. Hill House, and Mill City Museum.

I hope you enjoyed!

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Re: A Day in Twin Cities, MN
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2023, 10:11:53 PM »
Sounds like you had the TSA agent @Something Fishy had in Alaska.