Category Archive for 'Trip Notes'

Trip Notes: A Father & Son Day Trip To Chicago For A Ballgame And A DO

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
-Follow my travels on Instagram @DansDeals
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I’m a bit of a baseball nut. My parents can’t stand spectator sports, but both of my grandfathers are sports nuts, so apparently it managed to skip a generation.

 

Rafi, plane-spotting, from the Airspace Lounge CLE before our flight to Chicago on 9/7/15:

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Read more about the trip after the jump:

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Trip Notes: A Quick Weekend Trip To Miami-December 2015

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

This post has been updated with reviews and prices for each dish where available.

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Related posts:
-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011)
Trip Notes: Miami 2012.
Trip Notes: Miami 2014.
-Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami
-Trip Notes: Miami Kosher Food Scene Heats Up, Silvercar, And AMEX Centurion Lounge Report (2015)
-Follow my travels on Instagram @DansDeals
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OK, so this is getting a bit repetitive, I know. I’d rather be writing another trip report on a place like Palau rather than Miami, trust me.

But I’ve gotten dozens of emails from folks asking for Miami trip notes for their Yeshiva Week trips when NYC invades South Florida and reservations at kosher restaurants become essential.

You can find trip notes here, and in the related links at the top of this post you’ll find links to 5 Miami reports along dozens of kosher restaurant reviews and great activities that we’ve done like Vizcaya, boat rentals, Lion Country Safari, the Everglades, amphibious ducky tours, and more. So before you ask why I didn’t review XYZ restaurant or activity, read through those trip reports first.

And here goes yet another Miami trip report.

Read more about the trip after the jump:

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Trip Notes: Our 24 Hour Flight To Nowhere ThAAnks To AA Or AA’s Revenge?

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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The past day has been…rough. Definitely the worst travel experience I’ve had in my life.

Forgive me if I ramble, I haven’t slept in 2 days.

Less than a month ago I posted a great business class sale from the US to London for just $1,083 because the sale stacked with an AARP discount and a Chase card discount.

The deal got even hotter because you were able to use 30K Avios to bring the cost down to just $446 per person AND you could earn some 36K Avios back thanks to business class promotions.

Pay 30K Avios plus $446 for business class to London (including the usurious APD fee and fuel surcharges) and get back 36K Avios? How could I turn an offer like that down?

Read the entire ordeal after jump:

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United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 4: Tokyo, Japan And Back Home In ANA First Class

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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These trip notes are continued from:
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 1: Honolulu
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 2: It’s Time To Hop!
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 3: Koror, Palau
Please read those installments first for background information!

 

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Read my trip notes from Tokyo and the way home in ANA First Class after the jump:

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Trip Notes: Miami Kosher Food Scene Heats Up, Silvercar, And AMEX Centurion Lounge Report

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Related posts:
Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011)
Trip Notes: Miami 2012.
Trip Notes: Miami 2014.

-Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami
-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.
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Last month I flew to Miami for the bris of JJ’s firstborn son.

I flew without my wife and kids, so activities weren’t high on the agenda, but I did get to try out a few new eateries that are finally putting Miami’s kosher food scene on the map.

 

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Read more about the trip after the jump:

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United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 3: Koror, Palau And Jellyfish Lake

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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These trip notes are continued from:
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 1: Honolulu
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 2: It’s Time To Hop!
Please read those installments first for background information!

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AJK chilling with the Jellyfish:

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“The opportunity to Kayak and Snorkel in Palau, you will see things that you won’t see anywhere else in the world:”

 

 

Not an opportunity that should be passed up…

Select 1080p under settings to view in HD:

Read my trip notes and video of Jellyfish Lake, snorkeling, and kayaking on Palau after the jump:

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Trip Notes: Eating Our Way Through Montreal

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

I was last in Montreal over 5 years ago for my brother Dovid’s wedding. I was impressed with Montreal’s kosher scene and made a mental note to return during a less hectic time, and preferably when it wasn’t snowing outside :)

So we planned a trip this year over Canada Day (July 1st) to take advantage of the numerous festivals that occur then.

We’ve spent a summer vacation in Canada over each of the past 4 years.

-Vancouver (click here for trip notes from 2012) is a beautiful city with a nice vibe and a small but quality kosher food scene.  We didn’t make it to nearby Whistler, but hope to one day.

-Banff (click here for trip notes from 2013) is one of the most stunning places in the world. No kosher food, but truly a must-see for everyone.  I definitely plan on returning when the kids are older and can appreciate the amazing hikes and lakes there.

-Niagara Falls (click here for trip notes from 2014) is a bit touristy for me, though I’ve been spoiled by Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls. Toronto is a very clean city with a large kosher scene, though none of the food stands out as exceptional.  There are lots of activities in the area though, including an excellent safari.

Montreal has by far and away the best kosher scene food in the country and can hold up its own against anywhere in the world. The activity scene itself is somewhat limited, but the festivals make up for it, if you time the trip right.  If you have the time to venture out to the Laurentians or Quebec City you’ll probably find more to do. The Francophone flavor adds a bit of intrigue to the city, but for the good and the bad, Montreal is no Paris.

 

Lamb Poutine from Mediterraneo:

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Read more about the trip after the jump:

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United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 2: It’s Time To Hop!

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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These trip notes are continued from Part 1. Please read that installment first for background information.

For the 2nd day in a row, it was off to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. We knew it would be a long and exhausting day before ending in stunning Palau, but we had no idea how long it would become.

Or that a 50 minute connection in Guam would allow for some pretty cool snorkeling (Be sure to change the quality up to 1080p HD and don’t miss the school of fish dispersing at 0:46) After a decade of snorkeling my only regret is not investing in a GoPro earlier!

 

My kids favorite stuffed animals, “Da” and “Nordy,” getting ready in Honolulu’s United Club for a wild ride to the Far East:

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Flying over Kwajalein:

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The 2 schools of thought on how I pick my next flight destination…

 

 

 

 

The United Island Hopper:

 

 

 

Read my trip notes on the Island Hopper after the jump:

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United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 1: Honolulu

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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After writing these trip notes I sent them to AJK for his thoughts.  He’s added some annotations in the red italics.

Ever since I read about the Continental Island Hopper some 10 years ago I’ve wanted to experience it. It flies on a “milk run.” In a bygone era a plane would fly from say LA to NYC with several stops before getting to the destination:

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Continental Micronesia launched the island hopper nearly 50 years ago, and aside from some changes in the airports, it’s pretty much the same milk run that existed in the 1960s:

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70s:

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Into the 90s:

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And the 2000s:

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And somehow after the merger, Jeff Smisek hasn’t yet axed the Guam hub that the hopper feeds into, though United’s employees in Guam are nervous that they will be next on the chopping block.

If you’re not an aviation geek with a love of flying there’s no way I can explain the appeal of this flight. [AJK: And trust me, I’ve tried. “So then we went to Guam, but first we stopped on these five islands.” “Five islands? How long did you stay on each?” “Oh, about 30 mins.” “30 minutes?! So, why did you stop?” If it has to be explained, no explanation will do!]. And while my better half puts up with most of my mishigas, the island hopper is admittedly well beyond my normal levels of craziness.

So I went to the DDF Adventure DO thread and sought out a traveling buddy.  Others have done the same and it worked out well, so I figured it was worth seeing if anyone else had the island hopper on their bucket list. And sure enough there were several other crazy interested folks. In the end the timing didn’t work out for most guys, but DDF member AJK committed to making the trip happen and it was off to the planning stages. You know you’re about to embark on something crazy when the only traveling companion you can find is someone who flew for 36 hours to Brazil and never left the airport.

More people than ever have heard of the island hopper as United featured it last month in their pre-flight video:

 

 

 

Read more about the trip after the jump:

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Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 2: Cancun And The Riviera Maya

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

-Continued from Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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There are a plethora of warm weather destinations you can fly to from Miami on the cheap with British Airways Avios.

The decision on where to go was made easy thanks to having lifetime Fairmont Platinum status. The Fairmont Riviera Maya has been calling my name for some time now.

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We flew from Miami nonstop to Cancun from Sunday morning through Thursday afternoon in the last week of January. We got 4.5K Avios awards for myself, my wife, and our 2 kids. That’s a total of 36K Avios (about 25K AMEX points during the 40% bonus that was going on then) for the 4 round-trip tickets that would have cost upwards of $1,500 otherwise, an incredible use of miles.

Read more about the trip after the jump:

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Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Related:
Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 2: Cancun And The Riviera Maya
Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011)
Trip Notes: Miami 2012.
Trip Notes: Miami 2014.

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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A few weeks ago we took a trip to South Florida and Cancun.

Here are some notes from that trip.

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Read more about the trip after the jump:

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5 Hours On The Ground In Chicago Shows Just How Cool Miles Can Be

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Related:
-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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The DansDeals Forums is a messy community of 15,000. Newbies find it hard to navigate, but once you get the hang of it, it’s downright rewarding.

The discussions of breaking deals are rewarding, reading unique trip reports is very rewarding, but most of all the DOs or get-togethers are rewarding. That’s when names are matched to faces and when real friendships are created.

Earlier this week I suggested a DO in Chicago at Shallot’s to break yesterday’s fast day. I didn’t expect anyone besides the locals to actually want to travel to Chicago for a dinner DO, but in the end 10 people came to the DO including 7 who flew in just for dinner.  It was a crowd that ran the gamut from Modern Orthodox to Chabad, from Chasidish to Yeshivish to Roman Catholic. Because nothing unites people like miles and awesome food!

Nobody booked a ticket before yesterday afternoon.  Then the ball started rolling.

And that’s the great thing about a mileage forum. While paid tickets for a last-minute same-day turn would have run $500-$1,000, everybody used their miles of course.

My flight from Cleveland ran 9,000 Avios round-trip. That’s under 7,000 AMEX points with the current transfer promo. I mean for gosh sakes, I made many times that in just a few minutes at Target thanks to REDcard before the trip.

I mean I could have also used 100,000 Capital One points…but I’ll stick with the real airline miles thank you very much 😉

I was even able to upgrade my award to first class both directions and had the entire first class cabin to myself.

Left my home at 3:10pm EST, landed in Chicago at 4:45pm CST and Uber’d to Shallots by 5:10pm.

We spent the next 4 hours talking about our passions, miles, deals, travel, some sports talk, and good food. Doesn’t hurt that Shallot’s has some of the very best sushi in the world:

The Dynamite roll is pure sushi bliss:
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Shallot’s sushi is expensive, but it’s like flying international first class on an airline like Cathay Pacific or Singapore. Once you fly first you’ll find it hard to fly coach again. And once you experience a few Shallot’s rolls you’ll never again appreciate any other sushi (save for Montreal’s Yakimono) in the world.  At least we can use miles for the flights :)

 

Rice Crackers are just sublime:

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Tempura Asparagus is a must-have:

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The steaks are top-notch as well.  I had the chimichurri churrasco which was excellent. Though not quite as good as the Wagyu or Delmonico options.

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AJK, Hershelsdeals, and Rots5 went splitsies on a $270 monstrosity of lamb, veal, steaks, and sides loaded on the biggest food platter that I’ve ever seen. Pictures do it no justice whatsoever, only seeing 2 waiters struggle with it can possibly tell the story.  They were not able to finish it all…

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Passion Fruit cocktail hits the spot:

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The best strawberry shortcake you’ll ever try.  Chucksterace liked it so much he even ate his flower 😀

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After stuffing ourselves silly, hearing about travels from New Zealand to Iran(!), and arguing about the best kosher restaurants in the world, the time flew by and it was time to rush back to the airport. We left Shallot’s less than 50 minutes before my departure time but I made my 9:55pm return flight with ease.

Of course a trip to Chicago isn’t complete without a Milt’s run. Except there was no time for that. So AJK and I had Uber bring Milt’s to Shallot’s. Probably the first time that’s ever been done 😀

Milt’s Rib Sandwich (special order only), Brisket Chili, and Burger (loaded with brisket chili, bacon, and crispy onions) are the best in the world. And their Fred Flintstone like slab of ribs is actually best when brought home, smothered in Milt’s BBQ sauce or garlic aioli, and then cooked for another day. (Find pictures of Milt’s food in previous Chicago trip notes).

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Perhaps AJK summed it up the best on this DDF in this posting from aboard his return flight,

“Every time I think I should sit a DO out–because is it really worth flying for four hours (even in business), to eat for three–I am very pleasantly surprised.

Had an awesome time once again, and had the opportunity to meet some cool new people and greet some familiar ones once again.

Kudos to all who made the effort to show up, thanks to Chuck and CM for the rides, thanks to super helpful Walmart associate for helping me unload just under $10k, thanks to Chuck for the cohiba, thanks to Shallots for the food, thanks to an anonymous donor for the barter, and thanks to Mrs. AJK for not leaving me while I was gone.

I am so stuffed.

#stepsoffsoapbox”

It’s quite an addicting game we play, but I sure don’t know of any more rewarding hobby out there. If only it lasts forever.

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Trip Notes Brazil Part 1: 10 Years Of Travel And Deal Blogging And A Return To Where It All Began

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Related:
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I started blogging on pretty much a daily basis on November 26, 2004 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. Hard to believe I’m turning 30 in a few days,

DansDeals is a bit of an eclectic blog, but it consists of things I like and am passionate about. As a kid I collected baseball cards and sold the good ones at shows like the National Sports Collectors Convention. As a 12 year old, I was flipping $5 beanie babies on eBay for $300 the week after buying them, once they were “retired.” In 2002, I was studying in yeshiva in LA and negotiated the price of a large group flight down from $350 to $180 round-trip, and got to put all the charges on my credit card for the miles plus I got a free ticket for every 40 tickets I sold. I opened an 18 line corporate Sprint account and rented out the lines to my fellow students at rates far below the regular rate for a single line.

Later that year, I manufactured a million Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for free through the now defunct eBay Anything Points program.

I became a hopeless mileage addict, opening up hundreds of credit cards and racking up tens of millions of miles via every method I could.  I rarely spent them, I looked at them as a way to fund travel once I would have a family of my own.  Sure the devaluations sting, but thanks to the years of savings we can fly anywhere today in first class without batting an eyelash.

More reminiscing on 10 years of fun after the jump:

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Trip Notes: Niagara Falls And Toronto

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

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Per feedback, I’ve included star ratings for the dishes we ate on this trip. Your tips on how to further improve trip notes is always appreciated!
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This past Tuesday I drove to Canada with my wife, my son Rafi (3 years old), daughter Talia (11 months), and 2 of my 5 brothers, Mendy and Akiva (19 and 15).

Let me tell ya’, keeping a group with ages like that entertained is no easy task. We didn’t do nearly the amount of things I had on our list, but that’s just fine. We kept everyone entertained every day and there’s no shame in leaving things to do for next time.

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More after the jump:

Click here to keep reading this post!

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Trip Notes: Miami 2014. Food, Food, And More Food.

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Related:
-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011).
Trip Notes: Miami 2012

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In June, I got to dance at my brother JJ’s wedding in Miami, here are some notes from that trip.

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More after the jump:

Click here to keep reading this post!

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Trip Notes Hodgepodge: United Upgrade Quirks, Infant Travel Drama, Farewell CLE D, Wrigley SPG Suite, And Chicago BBQ Competition

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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I flew to Kansas City once and to Chicago twice in the past 3 weeks, here are some of my trip notes:

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More after the jump:

Click here to keep reading this post!

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Join Me In The Windy City

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Last week a DDF member invited me (and several other guys) to join him in an SPG suite at the Yankees/Cubs game in Wrigley Field that he won in a Starpoints auction.

I’m way behind in writing trip reports, but I’ll give the gist of this one quickly. I burned some miles (gotta love short-haul Avios awards!) and took a day trip to Chicago for my first visit to The Friendly Confines.  Had breakfast with my grandparents in Northbrook and then it was off to meetup with several other mileage fanatics that had flown in for the day from Miami, NYC, and Toronto.

Milt’s is less than a mile from Wrigley Field and we got to dine with Jeff Aeder, Chicagoan of the year, and owner of Milt’s.  Great guy and he’s got his hand in a million different projects at once, but still has time to enjoy an afternoon Cubbies game. Love that!

At that point I’m already involved in 3 of my passions, travel, kosher food, and baseball.  Jeff is involved with a project  called Milt’s Night Out where people can donate tickets to sports games, shows, or concerts, get a tax-deductible receipt, and a family going through any kind of hardship gets a free meal as well as the tickets.

In fact all of the profits from Milt’s are donated to charity, the only kosher restaurant in the world that operates like that as far as I know.

Anyway we got into discussing kosher food (of course) and we talked about Mendel Segal, who (makes a killer BBQ sauce that I hope to be sold on Amazon shortly,) runs the Kansas City Vaad and the annual KC Kosher BBQ competition there that I’ve judged in 2012 and in 2013.

Long story short, Milt’s is hosting the 1st annual Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival (with advisory help from Mendel) and I’ll be one of the judges.

It will be from 11:30am-4pm this Sunday at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago. If the KC BBQ contests are any indication, this one will be lots of fun for all as well.

My taste buds can’t wait.  If you see a bearded 29 year old fellow looking like a stuffed turkey from having judged dozens of plates of smoked chicken, ribs, and brisket come and say hello 😉

And ask me about my flight yesterday from Kansas City to Cleveland where I made a complete fool of myself. You’d think after having flown on 70 some flights with my kids over the past couple years that I’d know every airline regulation down pat.  But a little humility is always a good thing as I learned a new brand new one on that flight.

Guess I’ll just have to write up a trip report triple-header once I get back from Chicago next week.

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Better Than Any First Class Suite…Taking My Son To His First Ballgame

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Parking in downtown CLE: Free
Glatt Kosher Dog: $5.75
Front row seats: $25 (Well, being 2, Rafi’s seat was free).
Taking Rafi to his first ballgame (Tribe win!) earlier this afternoon: Priceless

I went to my first baseball game in the old Municipal Stadium on 06/28/92, got a free kids batting helmet giveaway, and saw the Indians beat the Blue Jays 7-6.  22 years later I got to pass that onto my own son on a sun-kissed day at the Jake.

It’s funny how baseball brings out such powerful memories.  I’ll never forget the trip I got to take last year with my grandfather (one of the few Clevelanders who was there during the last Indians parade) to all 3 sports hall of fames, capped off with seats on top of the Green Monster to see the Indians beat up the Red Sox.

As a 10 year old I was such a fan that I sent in hundreds of handwritten postcards to win tickets to the ’95 World Series and got to attend 2 of the home games.  Earlier that year we had stayed at the Westin Harbour Castle Toronto where the Indians stay when playing the Blue Jays and got nearly (Albert Belle was of course the mean holdout, though I’ll never forget his ’95 walk-off grand slam game I attended) the entire team’s autographs.  Plus when the guy who called out to hold the hotel elevator for him turned out to be Manny Ramirez we got free box seats to that night’s game as well :D

I’ve flown around the world in first class suites, but my coolest use of miles was for the opportunity to run out and literally steal second base during an Indians game.

Sure, it would be awesome to fly in a first class suite with your own private living room, bedroom, and shower. But $24K for 7 fleeting hours? That’s 33% more expensive than my car!  I’m far more proud of the numerous DDF fundraisers such as $24K raised on DDF to help a fellow DDF’er in need and the thousands of dollars raised as a scholarship fund for Jewda’s daughter.

Wake me up when I can use a reasonable amount of miles and I’ll be happy to compare it to the 57K miles I used for a Singapore suite.

Sure, the Indians may never again win it all unless baseball institutes a salary cap. But that doesn’t mean they can’t inspire memories.

2 months to go until his first haircut 😀

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So, do you remember your first baseball game?

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Trip Notes: Maui No Ka ‘Oi

Friday, April 4th, 2014

-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

This is a long trip report but my philosophy on trip reports is to write everything on a destination in one shot as opposed to dragging it out into dozens of annoying installments. I’m always open to suggestions though, so sound off in the comments!
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Continued from Trip Notes Kauai: Heaven On Earth

Preface:

It’s not much of a secret that I have a bit of a love affair with the Hawaiian islands.

$87 was the cost for my hotel and airfare on my first trip in 2006. I’ve been back 5 times since.

In this post I’ve included activities and pictures from 5 trips to Maui.

Why go back to the same place so many times? I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many far-flung corners of the world but there’s no place where I’m in as good of a place of mind as Hawaii.  The air is fresh, the people friendly, the water warm, the scenery extraordinary, and last but not least as a US state it has nearly all of the creature comforts of being back home.  You can really appreciate our wondrous world when in Hawaii.

I’m a big Kauai fan. My wife is a Maui girl. It’s arguments like this that are easy to solve, we go to both!  We got back from Kauai and Maui in February, it was our first big trip since Talia was born. Talia was 4.5 months at the start of this trip and Rafi was 2.5 years old.

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More on the trip after the jump…

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A Quick Jaunt To NYC

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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This past Sunday I flew with my brother JJ my parents from Cleveland to NYC. JJs fiance’s side of the family flew in from Fort Lauderdale. Chabad tradition is to pray by the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, before officially getting engaged. Of course it was bound to happen that at least one of the flights would be delayed and indeed their Delta flight to JFK was delayed by several hours.

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More on food, food, and more food after the jump…
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Trip Notes Kauai: Heaven On Earth

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

This is a long trip report but my philosophy on trip reports is to write everything on a destination in one shot as opposed to dragging it out into dozens of annoying installments. I’m always open to suggestions and criticisms though, so sound off in the comments. Posts like these take days to write so your feedback is appreciated!   
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It’s not much of a secret that I have a bit of a love affair with the Hawaiian islands.

$87 was the cost for my hotel and airfare on my first trip in 2006. I’ve been back 5 times since.

In this post I’ve included activities and pictures from 5 trips to Kauai.

Why go back to the same place so many times? I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many far-flung corners of the world but there’s no place where I’m in as good of a place of mind as Hawaii.  The air is fresh, the people friendly, the water warm, the scenery extraordinary, and last but not least as a US state it has nearly all of the creature comforts of being back home.  You can really appreciate our wondrous world when in Hawaii.

We got back from Kauai and Maui 2 weeks ago, it was our first big trip since Talia was born. Talia was 4.5 months at the start of this trip and Rafi was 2.5 years old.

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More on the trip after the jump…
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The DansDeals Hawaiian Toaster Oven Chain…

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Update: You can now make arrangements to get the toaster oven in this DDF thread.

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You may have noticed the relatively light posting the past 2 weeks while my family and I have been making up for our Vitamin D deficiencies in sunny Kauai and Maui.

Traveling for Orthodox Jews is nothing like it is for anybody else due to our kosher dietary restrictions.  That means bringing our own food or making our own prior arrangements for food when we travel to anywhere where there isn’t a large Orthodox Jewish population.

Over on the DansDeals Forums I got a private message from a member asking if we wanted to split the cost of a large toaster oven and I happily agreed.  Having a toaster oven has proven invaluable on the trip.  He left Kauai 2 days before I arrived but he left it at the front desk of the Grand Hyatt and they had it for me at checkin.

I’ve gotten to meet several couples on this trip who flew here in first class on sub-$100 airfares who nabbed them thanks to following @DansDeals on Twitter.

At any rate I posted yesterday on DDF asking if anyone wanted the oven.  A couple staying at the Westin in West Maui just came to pick it up from us at the Andaz in South Maui.  They also flew in first class for under $100 thanks to the DansDeals notification text 😀

Irony of the story?  The wife works for Eli Webster, the man who prodded me into making a forums and who built them from scratch!

They leave paradise on Sunday.  Want to pick the oven up from them and continue the chain?  Post a comment with your email address and we’ll see how long this lasts 😀

I’ll be back home tomorrow night and will continue regular posting after that.

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Trip Notes: NYC Seminars And Restaurants

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

-Find 72 trip reports like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.  Those tabs can help you quickly find popular articles that I’ve written on miles and credit cards as well.

Pictures in this trip report can be enlarged by just clicking on them!

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I woke up 4am Tuesday morning shivering from the cold.  Which was odd as we keep our house pretty toasty in the winter.  It was negative 12 degrees in Cleveland (which shattered the previous record low temperature set in 1884) and the power had gone out in the middle of the night.

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From BBQ Cholent To BBQ Ribs, I’ll Judge Them All

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Related:
-Trip Notes Kansas City: Ribs And Fiber Edition.

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
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Yesterday Young Israel of Greater Cleveland held a cholent contest.  I was invited to come taste and preview the cholents before the masses.

A couple months ago I was invited to be a judge at the 2nd annual Kansas City Kosher BBQ Competition & Festival. Alongside an Iron Chef judge and Kansas City BBQ Society certified judges I might lack the credentials but I’m no less of a hopeless foodie.

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Hardware to be won in Kansas!

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Trip Notes: Banff

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

-Find 70 trip reports like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.  Those tabs can help you quickly find popular articles that I’ve written on miles and credit cards as well.

Pictures in this trip report can be enlarged by just clicking on them!
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2 weeks ago I went to Banff, Canada with Mimi, Rafi, and JJ, one of my 5 siblings.

Banff is truly a stunning place, albeit overrun by tourists during the peak summer travel season.  Luckily it’s not too hard to escape the crowds and traffic.

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View of Bow River from our suite in the Fairmont Banff Springs

Lake Bow

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Lake Louise

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Moraine Lake

 

More on the trip, traveling with a toddler, the ridiculously good restaurant quality food that we feasted on twice daily, and much more after the jump…
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Trip Notes: Los Angeles 2013

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

-Find over 60 articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.  Those tabs can help you quickly find popular articles that I’ve written on miles and credit cards as well.
I’ve also written trip notes on LA in 2011 and in 2012 that you can check out.
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Back in March a good friend of my wife got married at the Hyatt Huntington Beach. Here are some notes from the trip along with my list of must-eat restaurants..

Trips to LA are always all about the food and these trip notes are no exception, if you don’t care to read about and see lots of pictures of food then you can skip this one! I really ought to just start calling trip notes on LA and Miami “food notes.”

More on the trip, hotels, and my roundup of awesome kosher eateries in LA after the jump…
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A DDF DO Extravaganza In Chicago

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

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I’ve written extensively about a couple of these DOs including the United MegaDO+DDF DO last November and about the fun of some 2 dozen DDF guys attending the wedding of a fellow long-time DDF poster.

I’m a foodie. I’m a sports fan (If you read this article on my coolest use of miles or this one of the Hall of Fame trifecta trip you just may have figured that out already ;)). And I’ve got a boatload of Avios which make nonstop short-hops pretty much free and easy.

Every now and then I like to meet up with fellow community members who participate in the DansDeals Forums, also known as a “DO” (pronounced like the word due).  They’ve happened from LA to NYC to Jerusalem.

So last week I posted in the Chicago DDF DO thread:

This Sunday?
8:10am: AA3249
11am: Sushi at Shallot’s
1pm: Indians@White Sox
5pm: Milt’s
9:55pm: AA2868.

Am I nuts?

Apparently not completely, as 8 members, including several from outside of Chicago, expressed an interest in attending.

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Trip Notes: Chicago Seminar Edition

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

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I headed out for Chicago with my wife and son late this past Tuesday. At less than 7,000 AMEX points per round-trip thanks to BA Avios and the transfer bonus it was a real bargain.

More on the trip, Chicago’s hot kosher food scene, and the seminar after the jump…
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Trip Notes: Hall Of Fame Trifecta And Fenway Park In 72 Hours

Monday, May 27th, 2013

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-3 day, one-way car rental from Cleveland to Boston: $100

-1 night in the Holiday Inn Express Cooperstown: $70

-1 night in the Sheraton Springfield: $90

-1 night in a suite at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston including a bottle of Oban Single Malt Scotch and Valet Parking: $0

-Tickets atop the Green Monstah’: $60

-A flight home on Airtran: $100

-Spending 4 days on the most unforgettable sports themed road trip with my grandfather and one of my 5 brothers: Priceless.

 

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View from the Green Monster

 

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Trip Notes: 2 Nights In Singapore And Back Home On A Korean A380

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

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Continued from: Trip Notes Maldives: The Longest Flight In The World And 2 Nights In Paradise.

We arrived in Singapore from the Maldives on Friday morning.  Thanks to the ghetto upgrade (lie-flat seating in coach thanks to an empty row of 4 seats in the middle of the Singapore A330) we were ready and raring to go.

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Living on the edge.

 

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Now Open: Airspace Lounge Cleveland

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

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I just arrived home from a 10 day stint in Kansas City with the in-laws for Pesach.

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Airspace Lounge CLE, free with your Platinum card (Coming soon…JFK T5!)

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A DDF Day For The Books And The Joys Of HUCA, Take 2

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Update, 11am: Got home thanks to United and the kind AA phone agent.  One unlucky guy on the plane came up to me and thanked me for the $490 Delta deal nonstop to Israel that he was just coming back from.  Why poor sap? He used miles to fly on the American flight and when he went to checkin learned that all of their nonstop flights were cancelled.  They refused to accommodate him on United so he shelled out some $500 that United wanted for the one-way, more than his round-trip from NYC to Israel!
Don’t worry, I chastised him for not having 10K United miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards points that would’ve saved him the $500…

Side note: How awesome is this story on United!?!
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Related:The Joys Of HUCA

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As any of the 6,300+ members of DDF can tell you, HUCA means to Hang Up and Call Again. It’s pretty good advice for anything. Most phone reps are incompetent or not willing to help, so it can take many phone calls to find someone helpful.

If you’ll click on the related post link above you can read some of the examples I gave for it last time.

I’ll share another great example of it that I just encountered, but first the background story.

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I flew yesterday from Cleveland to NYC for 9,000 Avios. American wanted $1,176 for the round-trip as they require a 3 night minimum stay for a discounted fare, so not a bad use of miles.  This is why I love Avios.  It fills the gap that other miles have.  I feel guilty using American or United miles on a domestic trip as those so valuable internationally.  BA Avios aren’t great for most long-haul international flights (though there are a few notable exceptions) but they are oh so awesome on domestic short-hauls.

I’ll be flying into or out of the Cleveland airport for 3 days in a row. There should be a prize for this stuff 😉

When I landed in NYC I headed straight for Pizza Da Solo, the first authentic Neapolitan kosher pizzeria in the world.  But I didn’t go just for the food, I got to meetup with several members of my DDF family and trade stories and tips for a couple of hours.

As far as the food goes, the pizza was very good and unique, the calzone may have been even better. My calzone had ricotta, homemade mozzarella, eggplant, basil, caramelized onions, and garlic with sauce on the side.
2 of the guys ordered the $38 Truffle Pizza. The Pie didn’t look it had any $100/ounce truffle shavings on it, but one person speculated that it must have been really fine shavings that they missed! When I went back to get some sauce for my calzone I mentioned that the triffle pizza disappointed as they were not even visible. Turns out they forgot to add the truffle shavings to their pie! Not something that should happen for $38, but they did get a whole new pie out of it. And it still wasn’t worth $38, but at least this time they were able to say that authoritatively. If you do get it ask for them to go light on the arugula which drowns out the truffles.

A extremely thin crust Pizza with San Marzano tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, basil, parmesan, and garlic, $9.

Invisible Truffles.

Truffles, Take 2. ($38)

Calzone ($13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just 8 strangers sharing a lunch together. But not just any guys, Guys who let the world know about offer matching, the $330 El Al tickets, and more via the DansDeals Forums. I’m easy to find here, the only one with a beard :)

Next stop was checking in at the Aloft Brooklyn. I booked it for 7,000 Starpoints though now it goes for a ridiculous 12,000 Starpoints. It’s very kitchy and not really my style.  The room is somewhat refurbished, though the HVAC unit is a real eyesore. If this is what all Alofts are like I’d stay at a Hyatt Place any day over it.

Lobby

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No enclosed shower and shampoo dispensers. Plus the water never got hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny place for a fridge.

 

I went to Avis next to the Aloft to trade in my $25/day ridiculously humongous Infiniti QX56 SUV and got a Jetta in return. No shocker here, but in Brooklyn a QX56 with 4WD is a real pain…just about impossible to park anywhere. Some upgrades to $70,000 cars just aren’t always welcome. Boy I would have loved to have that car on the Big Island of Hawaii though, could have done some serious damage in it.

 

Then the highlight of the day, dancing the night away and saying L’Chaims (which may or may not be influencing my writing style right now) at AsherO’s wedding in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. AsherO, who joined DDF the very day that it was launched, is one of the most prolific posters over at the DansDeals Forums with over 18,000 helpful posts.

The coolest part? There were at least 20 DDF members who came to dance at AsherO’s wedding, most of whom only know him via his online persona or who perhaps met him once or twice at a DDF meetup in the past.

Yet we got together to dance with the happy groom. Or as he put it, his virtual family. When a non-DDF member broke into our DDF circle AsherO called him out for it, “noobie!”:D

The camaraderie among the active DDF guys was just awesome, really something special that I can’t explain in words.  It’s just very cool to start to make new friendships via an anonymous online forum.

 

Another fun story. While waiting for the Chuppah to begin a few DDF’ers went into the local Crown Heights bookstore.  I had a $25 GC there to burn and picked up $26.50 of stuff.  When I asked if I could put the balance on my Freedom card (hey, 13 miles is 13 miles!) the cashier asked, “What is this a DansDeals thing? I’ll take cash!” We all just rolled out of the store laughing uncontrollably 😀

 

So, about that HUCA story I promised.

American cancelled all of their morning and afternoon flights from LGA to Cleveland for later today.
I called to find out my options but nothing was very good. Especially because I need to get back to catch another flight on Friday!
When I asked about being moved over to United (which still shows all flights to Cleveland as on-time) I was told:
-We can’t do that if the delay is for weather.
-We can’t do that unless we have no other flights that entire day.
-We can’t touch reservations made by British Airways.
-We can’t help you until you go to the airport.

Finally on the 6th call I got a helpful rep who moved me over to United after a nice amount of cajoling.
The ticket is even booked in full-Y class so I should earn a nice amount of elite and redeemable miles which is always fun on an award ticket.

And that was today’s excitement. Sorry for the rambling, it’s been a long day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not a sight I see every day but one that can be done with persistence.  A BA 4.5K Avios award on AA being operated by United in a fare class that will earn 150% United elite miles.  But most importantly, switched without having to fight for it in the airport and that American was pulling the “weather” card as the reason for the mass cancellations.

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Trip Notes Maldives: The Longest Flight In The World And 2 Nights In Paradise

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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Trip Planning:

I’ve long dreamed of staying in an overwater bungalow.  The main places where they can be found are in French Polynesia (Bora Bora, Moorea, etc) and the Maldives (pronounced Mahl-deeves).  Neither of which are easy to get to and both of which are among the priciest places to stay in the world with few good point options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The long road to paradise.

More after the jump…
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Good Night From The Maldives…

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

…And to think it only cost me 60K United miles and $20 tax to fly one-way from Cleveland in business class on sublime Singapore Airlines for the flights that took me to paradise.  Heck, I got 55K and $50 cash for opening a single card and spending $1,000 in my last 3BM.

My 2 nights in the Maldives are coming to an end and it’s off to Singapore tomorrow. If you’ve been there let me know the highlights of what I need to cover in less than 2 days.

 

Photos taken on my $99 Elph and are not touched up whatsoever.

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Miles And The Gift Of Spontaneity

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Airlines hate the spontaneous.  Need to fly last minute to an engagement party, for a business meeting, or even for a funeral (G-d forbid) and they’ll charge you up the wazoo.

A last minute trip nonstop between Cleveland and NYC, say from 01/09-01/10, is $1,172.  I used 9,000 BA Avios (7,000 AMEX, or 13 cents value per point) last month instead.

Sure, it’s not quite the same value as using 57,000 miles for a $10,000 suite on an airplane (17.5 cents value per mile) but both are great uses of miles.  And they both are prime examples of why I love miles and hate proprietary points programs like those from Capital One or Citibank.  Capital One would’ve wanted 111,000 points to get to NYC and a whopping 1 million points for my suite.

In short, real airline miles give me the ability to take trips I could otherwise never afford.

Last Friday at 12:30pm I told my wife about an airfare sale between Cleveland and Kansas City.  She asked if it was available for travel that day and I chuckled saying it was for February.

But she piqued my interest, so I pulled up United.com and lo and behold there was a 1:55pm flight nonstop to Kansas City.  I asked if she could pack in 10 minutes and we were at the airport by 1:09pm, just seconds before the United’s 45 minute checked luggage cutoff time at their hub airports.  The fact that the flight was so perfectly timed (10 minutes earlier or 20 minutes later and it wouldn’t have worked) seemed to be a sign from above 😀

This was Rafi’s 40th flight, so we’ve got the security thing with an infant down to a science and we were at the gate with time to spare for a diaper change before boarding.  The only shame is that in just 6 months we’ll have to start buying him his own seat, but for now he sat free in any empty seat in his awesome lightweight Cosco Scenara convertible carseat.

And just like that, by 2:40pm central we were in Kansas City, more than 2 hours before shabbos.  It felt very strange flying so late on a Friday, but if things were delayed in Cleveland we could have easily just gone home before shabbos. Plus the weather was good in both cities.  Still, it’s not something I’d try on a Friday afternoon flying to the delay prone NYC corridor airports.

A paid ticket would have been over $800.  But the round-trip flight was just 20,000 United miles.  And we were able to catch the final 3 days of Sheva Brochos with Mimi’s newly married brother and sister-in-law and give quite the surprise to my delighted in-laws.

For a city without a kosher restaurant Kansas City has always impressed me.  I wrote about the best ribs I’ve had in my life as well as insane internet speeds back in August.  This time I got to try Pizza from Johnny Brusco, a non-kosher Pizza shop that has occasional kosher days, a chinese buffet that was so well attended I can’t believe they don’t do it more often (and how many chinese buffets have you been to that come with free Glenfidich Single Malt? :) ), and mouth-watering fried chicken tenders and sushi at Hen House.

Anyway I just got home yesterday.  In the past month I’ve been in Miami, New York (twice), Paris, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City.  I’m actually looking forward to spending some time at home in good ole’ Cleveland for a little while now 😀

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Trip Notes: Singapore A380 Suites And 46 Hours In Paris

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Related: May 2010 Trip Notes, Part 2: Paris

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

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I wrote on December 20th in my credit card lineup post that, “I’ve opened over 300 cards building a nest egg of over 10 million miles and points so that I can always hop on a plane, fly in first class somewhere, and stay in a 5 star resort without having to pay for it.”

As I was writing that I got bit by the travel bug and started planning the next trip…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trip Notes: Miami 2012.

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

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Getting to Miami:

In 2011 we went to Miami in September and boy what a mistake that was.  It was miserably hot and humid, I really can’t understand how people function in South Florida between April and October.  Then again Miami folk probably think the same of people living in the cold between November and April.  I have to say I respect (perhaps even with some jealousy) the snowbirds like my grandparents who live in Cleveland for the summer and in South Florida for the winter.  They really have the best of both worlds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trip Report: United DO 2012 In Chicago

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

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I flew last week to Chicago to experience the tail end of Star MegaDo 4. Hundreds of frequent flyer enthusiasts from forums like Flyertalk and Milepoint get together and fly around the world together and meet with various airline and hotel executives. Star of course refers to Star Alliance. A DO (pronounced like the word do or due) is simply a get-together while a MegaDo is a really big get together. Space to attend these events is always quite limited and there is a cost from $1,000 up to $5,000 depending on how much of the event you want to attend (domestic or international+domestic) and what class you’ll be sitting in on the plane. Participants were treated to flying a brand new United 787 Dreamliner among many other goodies.

I was invited to attend the United portion of the DO in Chicago for free so that’s what I’ll talk about. United billed it as their “inaugural” DO, so this will likely become an annual event. I’ll also cover the hotel I stayed in, the local DDF (DansDeals Forum) DO, and a small part of the local kosher scene that I experienced.

This is not my typical vacation trip report, rather it is a long and technical trip report about United Airlines. If you slog through it I’d love to hear your feedback in a comment and whether I should cover other such events in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trip Notes: Aruba

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

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The flight:

In June I flew with my wife and son to Boston thanks to Jetblue’s first mystery coupon bonanza of the year.  When they ran it again last month I thought much bigger (let’s just say that 4BMs are now for sissies) and nabbed free tickets to Aruba for my wife, son, and my mother as well…might as well get some babysitting out of the deal as long as tickets were free!

While Aruba wasn’t our top choice for our first trip to the Caribbean, there are very few Jetblue flights to the Caribbean that leave late enough in the day from Boston or JFK to allow for connections from Pittsburgh. The other options all involved staying in NYC overnight twice, Jetblue does not time their Caribbean flights well for folks coming from connecting cities.

We flew to Aruba last Sunday and arrived into Pittsburgh late Thursday night before driving back home to Cleveland.

 

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Trip Notes: Vancouver.

Plus: A Comparison Of Cathay Pacific Business Versus First Class

Monday, September 10th, 2012

-Find more articles like this by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.

Background:
A couple weeks ago I asked for your Vancouver tips and got lots of them, so first of all thanks for your help!  The suggestions were great and anyone going to Vancouver should definitely look through them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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