Author Topic: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai  (Read 17118 times)

Offline AJK

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A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« on: March 20, 2015, 12:19:24 AM »
Introduction:

A couple of months ago, when we noticed the stars would align and that our schedules would permit a quick getaway, I began planning.  After a bit of back and forth, we settled on the 50th state due to many things, not the least of which was its lush beauty, domestic nature, and… routing rules.

Considering I was in the middle of planning an international business-class round-trip using UA miles, I knew I had a “free-one way” to play with, either at the beginning or at the end, and not wanting to leave an ounce of free travel on the table, especially in lie-flat business, I decided to tack on a leg from HNL to EWR, stopover in NYC and continue on our main trip 6 months later. 

So, I booked segment in lie-flat business, HNL-EWR, traversing more than 5000 miles—for free—to begin an award which actually begins in September. Gosh, I love this game.

A few hours later, I decided that of all the islands, Kauai was going to be our island of choice, and for 6K UA, I added a quick hop from LIH (Kauai) to HNL to begin the free one-way.



With that done, I managed over the next several weeks to snag 6 nights of cash and points award availability at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, and applied a Diamond Suite Upgrade to give us a bit more room.  Paying 12.5K + $150/night for a Garden Suite that would otherwise go for $1,000+/night is yet another reason I love this game.



Now that I had a place to stay, and a way back, I looked at booking the outbound.  Reviewing availability trends and loads, I decided that the likelihood of a business class award opening on the EWR-HNL flight on the day we needed was slim. Yet, there was saver award availability. Perfect opportunity for Plan-B.

I spent a few minutes setting that up, and waited, hoping against hope that my upgrade would clear in advance of check-in.  Finally, I finished the booking with a HNL-LIH segment for 7500 HA miles.

With some last minute prep—including ordering a bunch of POM meals, we were set.

Tuesday:

Alas, my upgrade did not clear in advance of check-in, but with some help, I was able to get PR-1 status on the upgrade list and steeled myself for the battleground.

Wednesday:

We arrived at EWR by about 7 AM for our 9:10 flight, and despite some hiccups,* were able to through-check our bags all the way to LIH, saving us $30 in bag fees on Hawaiian Airlines, and also saved $50 in baggage fees on our initial UA flight to HNL by using my A3 *G status for both of us, even though UA had split the PNR when they stuck us on the upgrade list.
 
*It’s truly unfortunate when you encounter someone in a consumer-facing role who grumbles when asked to do something that falls directly in his or her job description.  I mean, I know it’s an extra step to through check the bags, but that’s what you there for! And I know it’s an extra step to waive the baggage fee for my companion due to my status, but, again, those are the rules, and that’s what you’re employed to do. Ugh. All is well that ends well, I suppose.

We headed to the lounge, and while there, I shmoozed with the lounge rep about Plan-B (and posted my findings in that thread).  A couple of minutes later, checked the UA app and discovered we had gotten the golden ticket! Mrs. AJK was given 1B and I was given a seat in Row 2. With some onboard seat-juggling, we were ensconced in 1 A/B for our journey to HNL.

Business Class on UA 767-400 ER by ajkddf, on Flickr







Hour for hour this flight is a massive bargain.  With a blocked flight time of 11 hours, this 40K one-way redemption comes out to be 3,600 miles per hour in lie-flat business.  As a point of comparison, a flight from EWR to LHR in the same seat cost, costs more than double, at 8,200 miles per hour.

Once seated, I whipped out my laptop and did some last minute work, knowing that it may not be as last minute as I thought, as this flight more often than not is delayed. Sure enough, for reasons unknown, we didn’t take off until an hour later, at 10:10.



I watched a couple episodes of Better Call Saul (all you breaking bad fans better check that out; it’s great so far), and concluded our trip planning by finishing Kauai Revealed (shout-out to Something Fishy for lending me the book in my time of need).  After a couple-hour nap, I began writing this TR with just under 3 hours to go to HNL.

After writing for a bit, I finished up the flight watching Gone Girl--I still have about 30 mins to go, so no spoilers--but so far it’s fantastic.

We had steep descent (both of our ears hurt for the first time in the last 200,000 miles) and landed at HNL, where we connected for a couple of hours.

Route Map by ajkddf, on Flickr

What I believe are C-17s and an F-18 by ajkddf, on Flickr

Our ride: 767-400 ER by ajkddf, on Flickr

I must admit, it felt like we landed in another country, but it was a joy to have cell service immediately where everyone spoke the same language as me, and there were no customs/visa issues. Lovely.

I caught up on some work using my TMO tether. (Incidentally, I am enamored with TMO since switching from Sprint. $50/mo for unlimited talk/text/data and 5GB/mo tethering. And the speeds are faaast.) 

Not too long later, we boarded Hawaiian airlines flight to LIH.

DSC02408 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02409 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02410 by ajkddf, on Flickr

The whole flight wasn’t even long enough to write a couple paragraphs of this TR. So away my laptop goes! Next stop, Avis LIH.

United 767-400 ER by ajkddf, on Flickr

We were quickly in our Mustang Convertible.

DSC02550 by ajkddf, on Flickr

And then we headed to Wal-Mart, where my trip paid for itself:



Not too long after, we pulled up to the beautiful Grand Hyatt Kauai.

DSC02567 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02570 by ajkddf, on Flickr

We were quickly checked into our Garden Suite, which I ended really enjoying (due largely to the fact that we could walk directly outside to the beach), and our frozen POM meals were taken to the freezer.

DSC02416 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02417 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02418 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02420 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02421 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02422 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02425 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02426 by ajkddf, on Flickr

[As an aside, this was seriously the most wonderful toilet I've ever had the distinct pleasure of being able to use. Not to be to vulgar, but I almost bought laxatives just to be able to visit more often. Heated, comfortable, and had all the bells and whistles one could want. I miss it just writing about it.]

Anyway, from the room, we ordered one of our meals to be heated and delivered.  Upon arrival, they charged a $10 flat fee for delivery/room service.  While I had known about the fee beforehand, it didn’t make me any happier when being charged.  I just found it nickel and diming in a resort  that charges $1,000+ for an entry level suite. And in all my travels, including half a dozen other Hyatt’s I had never been charged such a fee.

Anyway, when I got to the room and saw they had a microwave and a fridge, I simply asked them to drop off 5 or 6 meals which I then heated up on my own in the microwave with supplies from Wal-Mart. No way was I paying another $100 in delivery fees for something I could do on my own, more effectively and more on my schedule.

A note on POM meals:

They’re undoubtedly a wonderful addition to a trip where one would otherwise be relegated to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but it really pays to order right.

For instance, the sino steak, boneless spare ribs, southwestern spicy chicken cutlets were truly excellent mains.  The same can be said for the grilled white asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and quinoa. Eating this way opens up an entire world to those people who wouldn’t dare vacation in a place like the UAE where [gasp] there is no Kosher restaurants.

Unfortunately, things go very wrong when you order wrong.  The “hemishe brisket” was a total miss, dry and tasteless, as was the carne asada (same issue) and the garlic green beans, the latter of which tasted like soap.  The chicken nuggets also were a miss.

Order right, and you’ll never vacation without POM in the future. Order wrong, and well, you’ll go back to only vacationing in Florida or eating PB+J.

Shortly after eating, we crashed in our beds after a long travel day.

[Note to all the naysayers: this TR is basically completed, so I hope to have it done within a week. Enjoy!]
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 02:00:14 AM by AJK »
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Yaalili

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2015, 12:34:25 AM »
Excellent plan b success story.

Online Something Fishy

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 12:40:06 AM »
Sweet. Looking forward to the rest. And the pics!
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline voldemort

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 12:40:21 AM »
A scintillating read as always!

Offline Matovu

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 12:45:50 AM »
Naysayers ? For this ?

Online Joe4007

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 12:52:37 AM »
Awesome! Ah, the memories...

Offline Nitantnel

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2015, 12:54:16 AM »
Very nice report, thanks!

Offline shauly

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2015, 01:09:28 AM »
Wow amazing, hopefully I'm going to be copying you in the near future.

How much was the car rental?

Can't wait to see the rest!

Offline Mech

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 01:24:18 AM »
Wow Wow Wow!

Offline AI-TRAVEL

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2015, 01:31:16 AM »
Wow! Your making me miss it!!!

Offline AJK

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2015, 01:50:25 AM »
Thursday:

The next morning, we woke up and got to check out the resort grounds a bit further. Wow, the grounds of this resort are probably the prettiest we’ve seen.

Fastidiously manicured and ornately designed, the grounds seem to go on for days, and one could seriously stay in the resort for a week and do nothing further.

DSC02433 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02449 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02434 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02441 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02429 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02450 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02452 by ajkddf, on Flickr

Afterwards, we went to grab breakfast. After a leisurely breakfast of bagels, lox and cream cheese, cereal and coffee, it was close to 11 AM.  [Note: Diamonds, don't make the same rookie mistake I did. I assumed breakfast was free in the hotel restuarant, Ilima Terrace, when in fact the complimentary breakfast is only in the club lounge.  I didn't figure that out until like our fourth day, but after some pushing, was able to have them take off the $300 they wanted to charge us...]



With half the day already gone, we decided to jump in the car and drive to Wailua to see if we could join a Kayaking trip on the Wailua River.

On our way out the door, we were greeted with delicious fruit water, the base fruit of which was changed daily. Really refreshing stuff and nice touch on the part of the GHK.



We got there around 12:30 PM, and their last trip of the day at 1PM was not only fully booked, but overbooked, so there went that. But it actually wouldn’t have made a difference because the 1PM trip would not have gotten us back in time for the thing I really wanted to do: Sunset at Polihale beach.

It being only about 1PM and as we had a few hours until sunset, we decided to do some topless driving (no, not that kind of topless) around Wailua and check out a couple of waterfalls:

‘Opaeka’a Falls:

DSC02458 by ajkddf, on Flickr

Wailua Falls:

DSC02469 by ajkddf, on Flickr

Kauai Revealed labels both of “not to be missed,” but in IMHO, the Wailua Falls is the only one that deserves that award. That being said, at ‘Opaeka’a Falls was the first time (of many) that we saw roosters. All. over. the. place.  Something about a hurricane or something...

DSC02468 by ajkddf, on Flickr

While at Wailua Falls, we bought a green-leaf bowl from some local guy for $5 or $10, fulfilling our “local momento” quota which we try to do from each destination we visit.

As we passed another local on the way back to our car, we stopped to admire his green-leaf top hat. When he noticed us, he said, “Don’t just look! Put it on and take pictures!” As we thanked him and turned to leave, he says: “Hey, wan’ a coconut?”

Mrs. AJK and I looked at each other not knowing if he meant to buy or what, but we both blurted out, “Sure.”

With that, he proceeded to hack us open a coconut, gave it to us and said, “Bless you, have a great day!” And that was that. One of the more memorable moments of our trip, as it turned out.

DSC02481 by ajkddf, on Flickr

From the falls, we drove 90 minutes from the east side of to the most western part accessible by car to a beautiful beach and a pretty sunset at Polihale Beach.



Some of the pictures we got:

DSC02531 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02508 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02497 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02534 by ajkddf, on Flickr

DSC02542 by ajkddf, on Flickr
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline srf60

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2015, 02:08:59 AM »
Wow beautiful pics, and great TR as always

Offline Emkay

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2015, 05:55:39 AM »
Beautiful pics and really enjoy the TR layout. Which camera do you use and did you arrange with the hotel for kosher food?

Offline GTR

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2015, 07:12:21 AM »
Amazing trip (and TR).  Like the flight info, I'm taking the EWR->HNL in a couple weeks (booked on UA via SQ) and glad to be getting good value.  Amazing and helpful pics.

Offline lunatic

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Re: A Quick Getaway to the 50th State: AJK's Trip to Kauai
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2015, 07:18:02 AM »
Awesome