Category Archive for 'Trip Notes'

DDF Adventure Photo DO Trip Notes Part 1: Heading For Svalbard And The Far North

Sunday, July 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 me on the road and at home on Instagram @DansDeals


The flights booked by the 5 DDF members on the DDF Adventure Photo DO:

 

 

 

Another perspective of just my own flights that I booked shows just how far north we would travel. Longyearbyen, located in the Svalbard Islands, is the closest city in the world to the North Pole:

 

The DansDeals Forums, much like DansDeals.com, started as a fluke. Before I started blogging I used to post deals to a forum for bochurim (Hebrew for guys or bachelors). I started blogging about miles and bargains in 2004, when I spent a year teaching in Brazil as part of the Chabad bochur shlichus program, on the decidedly non-user friendly URL of ctownbochur.blogspot.com. Eventually it became ctownbochur.com and then ctowndeals.com.

In 2006, I tried launching ctownforums.com, but there wasn’t enough site traffic to sustain a forum at that time.

I always had my eye on DansDeals.com. Dan was a high school nickname that I despised at the time. But you have to admit, it is a much catchier site name than DanielsDeals.com. I paid GoDaddy to contact the site owner’s on my behalf to buy the domain name, but never received a response. But I marked the day that it was expiring on my Palm OS calendar and grabbed it for just $8 when it did in 2007.

In 2008, the comments flooding the site with off-topic questions got out of hand. I made several discussion posts, but it was not a very good format for questions and answers.The aptly named Eli Webster offered to make a DansDeals Forums in the comments on one of those discussion posts. The forums got a nice gathering, but due to time constraints in 2008 between getting married and finishing my MBA I didn’t go onto the forums for several months. But a funny thing happened, people kept on posting and a community was born. Today thousands of people post strategies, plan trips, and much more on DDF.

In 2011, we had our first DDF DO, or meetup, in NYC at Clubhouse Cafe and Le Marais. I flew in from Cleveland, another poster flew in from Antwerp, and there were many locals as well. It was incredible to meetup with the people that you interact with all day long. Since then, there have been hundreds of DOs in cities around the world.

With a group of avid travelers, it was inevitable that the dinner DO would evolve. We’ve had DOs such as this one where several DDF’ers flew to Chicago for dinner to break a fast, to catch a ballgame, and more.

DDF member Something Fishy is a brilliant photographer and teacher and has led Photo DOs in several locales. He even flew with a few guys to Cleveland to make a Photo DO in my neck of the woods. Last year, he ran Photo DOs in Cuba and Iceland, but my schedule didn’t permit me to attend. However, I was full of regret when I saw the pictures that they took on the trips.

His strategy for Photo DOs is to check off bucket list items that his wife doesn’t have a desire to do. I started to get more serious with my own bucket list when my friend, Nadiv Kehaty, passed away last year at the age of 30.

I booked and flew on the Island Hopper to Palau with AJK shortly after that happened. Mimi had zero interest in taking over a dozen flights across the Pacific, but thanks to DDF I was able to find someone to travel with so that I wouldn’t fly solo while checking something off my bucket list. For that trip report AJK added his own notes, but for this trip report the other guys plan to eventually write a full trip report from their own perspective on the DDF Trip Reports board.

The Kalalau Trail has always been a bucket-lister for me and I tried to convince Something Fishy to have a Photo DO there. But he wasn’t about to fly off to Hawaii sans his better half.

Instead, Something Fishy convinced me and several other DansDeals Forum members (including ChAiM’l, moish, and whYME) to have a Photo DO in Norway, where we would have a chance to capture the Northern Lights. Seeing the Aurora Borealis has long been on my bucket list, so I didn’t need much convincing.

He wanted to visit Norway’s picturesque Lofoten Islands and then fly to Svalbard for Shabbos, which is as close as you can fly to the North Pole.

I found saver business class award space from Newark to Oslo, but unfortunately there were no award flights to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. While we discussed what to do, the business class award to Oslo disappeared, bringing us back to square one.

Should we spend Shabbos in Paris at the Park Hyatt? Or maybe Helsinki, which is supposed to be beautiful and would make for a great trip report title “A Week In The Arctic And A Shabbos In HEL”

24 hours later the award space came back and we booked travel to Lofoten from Monday to Friday and to Molde from Friday to Sunday. Molde is home to the Atlantic Ocean Road, one of the most epic drives in Europe.

There was award space back from Paris to Newark in United business class on Tuesday, and though it took a few tries, I did eventually find a United agent willing to book me to a destination and 2 stopovers on the same award. Anything is possible with some HUCA (hang up, call again). The total award cost was 127,500 United miles.

We also had to book paid flights on Widerøe from Bodø to Leknes in the Lofoten Islands. Wideroe is famous in the US for their CEO leaking the news that you could book travel on United via the Wideroe website without paying fuel surcharges, leading to some incredible bargains.

We found great Airbnb bargains thanks to the AMEX Airbnb promotion and negotiating substantial discounts on top of that. We found large houses near the Atlantic Ocean Road in Molde and in Reine in the Lofoten Islands. Both owners were a true pleasure to deal with.

The only tricky part is that rural Norway lacks addresses, so it was difficult figuring out where things were. Luckily, we had super-sleuth whYME on the trip and he quickly identified the exact coordinates of each house. Let’s just say we shocked the owner of one of the houses when we asked him if we had guessed the house’s GPS coordinates correctly,

Perfect hit! I hope you don’t work for the US Air Force!”

View the rest of the trip report after the jump:

 

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Trip Notes: The Redemption, The Comeback, The Renaissance, The Chasedown, The Block, The Shot Part 2, The Tearjerker; Call It What You Want But This Was A Night To Remember

Tuesday, June 21st, 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


Related news articles:
The Promise Keeper: LeBron realizes his dream with a title for Cleveland
‘Finally, we did it!’: Cavs’ title ends 52 years of Cleveland sports agony
Cavaliers give us The Redemption, beat Golden State in Game 7
Cleveland Cavaliers allow all Northeast Ohio sports fans to finally exhale … it’s over!!!
Cleveland Cavaliers make fans proud winning a title for the ages
-Titles and Tears.
-In Cleveland, Love Beats Heartbreak

The Arc of the LeBron James Story Reaches Its Climax


Related sports posts:
-Can The Cavs End Cleveland’s Curse?
Better Than Any First Class Suite…Taking My Son To His First Ballgame
Trip Notes: Hall Of Fame Trifecta And Fenway Park In 72 Hours
-Trip Notes: A Father & Son Day Trip To Chicago For A Ballgame And A DO
Stealing 2nd Base: My Coolest Use Of Miles Ever?
My First Non-Travel Mileage Redemption
Take Me Out To The Ballgame…Buy Me Some Kosher Chili And Ribs.
Manny Being Manny…


I grew up listening to stories of Cleveland sports glory from my maternal grandfather. Nobody else could really talk about it as it has been generations since Cleveland has won a major league level championship.

But as I wrote on Friday, the last several generations of Clevelanders have come up with plenty of names for our sports failures. Our sports teams seemed to excel in coming Oh. So. Close. From Elway’s 98 yard The Drive, to Byner’s The Fumble, to Jordan’s last second The Shot, to Willie Mays’ The Catch, to Jose Mesa’s World Series game 7 blown save in the bottom of the 9th, to the Indians losing to Boston after being up 3 games to 1 in the 2007 championship series, the list goes on forever. It sure seemed like only a curse could manage to allow the Browns, Indians, and Cavs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in so many creative ways.

And yet, Cleveland remains a die-hard sports town. Even when locals move away from the easy-going lifestyle of the midwest to far pricier pastures, they still remain devoted to the local sports teams through the thick and thin of it all. It’s hard to kill hope.

Back on May 8th when the Cavs swept the Hawks, I booked saver award tickets on United to fly nonstop from Cleveland to San Francisco on June 19th for a day trip with my grandfather in anticipation of a game 7 there. If there was going to be a championship in my lifetime I was going to see it in person with my own 2 eyes and have a ticket stub to prove it. And what better way than to bring my grandfather, the man responsible for my love of sports, along for the ride.

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Trip Notes Brazil Part 4: Rio de Janeiro

Sunday, May 1st, 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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-Continued from
-Trip Notes Brazil Part 1: 10 Years Of Travel And Deal Blogging And A Return To Where It All Began (Published 11/23/14)

-Trip Notes Brazil Part 2: Flying “Private” To Sao Paulo With Miles (Published 2/7/16)
-Trip Notes Brazil Part 3: Iguaçu Falls (Published 4/17/16)

-This trip occurred in October 2014, better late than never, right? I posted that Brazil was waiving their $160 Visa fee for Americans that arrive between June 1-September 18, so that was the impetus to continue writing these trip notes. Argentina is now also waiving their $160 reciprocity fee for US citizens, making this an amazing time to visit both countries thanks to $320 in reciprocity savings and hassles! Read the CDC travel notice about Zika here before booking travel to Latin America. 

I explored Rio in 2005 at the end of a year of teaching in Brazil, and was stunned by the beauty of the city.

Landing in Rio, circa my 2005 trip:

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And it was in Rio as a 20 year old that I took an exhilarating leap of faith on a hang-glider…

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…and ran off of this ramp, full speed ahead:

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It felt totally surreal, but it was a truly unforgettable experience.

9 years later on a Tuesday evening I flew with my wife and 2 kids on an uneventful GOL flight nonstop from Foz do Iguaçu to Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão airport. The flight from Sao Paulo to Iguaçu and Iguaçu to Rio was pricing out at $720, so I happily paid 25K Delta miles for the flights. The kids both flew free due to a promotion that GOL was running on their Portuguese language site only. It often has specials not found on their English language site.

View from Rio’s Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf Mountain:

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Read more about the Cidade Maravilhosa after the jump:

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Trip Notes Brazil Part 3: Iguaçu Falls

Sunday, April 17th, 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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-Continued from
-Trip Notes Brazil Part 1: 10 Years Of Travel And Deal Blogging And A Return To Where It All Began (Published 11/23/14)

-Trip Notes Brazil Part 2: Flying “Private” To Sao Paulo With Miles (Published 2/7/16)

-This trip occurred in October 2014, better late than never, right? I posted that Brazil was waiving their $160 Visa fee for Americans that arrive between June 1-September 18, so that was the impetus to continue writing these trip notes. Argentina is now also waiving their $160 reciprocity fee for US citizens, making this an amazing time to visit Iguaçu Falls thanks to $320 in reciprocity savings and hassles! Read the CDC travel notice about Zika here before booking travel to Latin America. 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about the trip after the jump:

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On The Topic Of KSMLs; Not Having A Reserved Kosher Meal Costs Lufthansa How Much?!?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I always preorder a kosher meal when it’s available. More often than not it seems like KSMLs (that’s airline speak for kosher meals) are reheated dog or cat food at best, or completely unfit for human consumption at other times. But I do enjoy taking pictures of just how bad the food can be.

Stogel long-life kosher meal served in USAirways business class from Paris to Philadelphia in December 2012:

 

 

 

The rock-hard frozen gefilte fish is always worth a chuckle. I mean, who is eating this stuff??

Weiss kosher meal served in SAS business class from Newark to Oslo in March 2016:

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Sometimes the food is good though. Hermolis meals are usually decent enough.

Hermolis sliced lamb stew kosher meal served in Cathay Pacific first class from Hong Kong to Toronto in January 2011:

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My favorite kosher meals have been from even more exotic locales. The KSML on Singapore from the Maldives catered by Sydney based Lewis caterers and the KSML on United from Honolulu catered by Oahu Kosher stand out the most.

 

Oahu Kosher supplies fresh salmon, ribeye steak, and chicken for their kosher meals on United. This delicious salmon was served in business class from Honolulu to Newark, February 2016:

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JetBlue Mint class KSMLs between JFK and LAX or SFO also get decent reviews.

JetBlue Mint class kosher meal. Photo credit: Daniel T Allen

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More often than not though, I don’t eat the KSML. I use it as leverage to get a flight attendant to heat up my BYOK, as in, Bring Your Own Kosher meal (double wrapped) so that it can be warmed up onboard.

Most flight attendants will warm up your own wrapped meals, but some flight attendants are hesitant to so. The strictest airline by far is Cathay Pacific, but once I showed a flight attendant the lousy KSML served from Vancouver they were happy to warm up the divine Maple BBQ Chipotle burger and onion rings that I had bought at Maple Grill earlier that day.

Most airlines are pretty easygoing, but it isn’t always that way. The USAirways flight attendant from Paris was hesitant, but when I asked if she would serve that KSML to her pet, she became more than happy to warm up the felafel I brought from L’as du Felafel in Paris.

 

TAM First Class was amazing:

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Their KSML that they served us in October 2014 from Miami to Sao Paulo…not so much:

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But they had no problem warming up my BYOK:

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When we flew to Israel last year USAirways moved us to United. Connecting in Newark meant getting delicious Sesame Chicken with free delivery from New Kosher Special. The flight attendant was more than happy to warm some up on the plane as we didn’t have kosher meals because of the flight switch.

There are times when the kosher meal doesn’t show up at all. Some people will say that I shouldn’t complain about that, but if it’s something that’s included in the ticket I don’t see why it shouldn’t be brought up. If nothing else, it also helps the airline correct procedures for the future.

When United forgot my kosher meal when flying from Newark to Honolulu before the Island Hopper last May they compensated me with 10,000 miles, which is my general preference over frozen gefilte fish 😉 Besides, the flight attendants had no problem heating up the Pomegranate travel meal that I brought along. The Pomegranate meals are tailor-made for BYOK, if only an airline would contract with them to supply their kosher meals!

Getting some miles or a travel voucher is typical, though some airlines won’t give you anything.

Isaac Kopfler booked a Lufthansa ticket from Zurich to Sao Paulo on a codeshare flight operated by Swiss.
When you request kosher meals from a partner airline it often gets lost in translation, if you actually want the meal you should confirm it directly with the operating carrier, not from the airline that sold you the ticket. And that’s probably what happened in his case and why he didn’t get a kosher meal on the flight.

He sued Lufthansa for $5,000, saying that he fasted for 14 hours due to the lack of a kosher meal.
I think that’s beyond the pale.
Do Observant Jews really travel relying on the kosher meal served on an airline? Was there no fruit on the plane? And is that really something that merits litigation?

At any rate, the Brazilian court ordered Lufthansa to pay him $1,400 for “moral damage” and Lufthansa has committed to paying him. The airline also says they will offer him further compensation in miles.

$1,400 and bonus miles for a kosher meal gone missing? That’s a whole lot of gefilte fish!

What are your best and worst KSML experiences?
Do you rely on kosher meals from the airline or do you bring your own food?
Have you tried my BYOK method to get a flight attendant to warm up your own double-wrapped kosher meal from home or from a restaurant?
Hit the comments!

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Choose My Own Adventure…

Monday, March 14th, 2016

As a kid I loved to read the “Choose your own adventure” books, so why not pose the question to my readers?

I’m currently posting from the RoissyBus in Paris where I’m capping off an amazing week-long DDF adventure. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing the trip report soon, but I’m running about 3 years behind on those…so you may want to just look at the sneak peak that I offer on Instagram.

My 127.5K United business class award included 24+ hour stops in 3 destinations over 11 flight segments in SAS and United business class, so I’d say it was a very good value.

I’m scheduled to fly home in United business class on an ex-Continental 777-200 with a 2-2-2 business class configuration, but I have the middle bulkhead seat, so I’ll have extra legroom and nobody climbing over me, though that’s at the expense of a window. In fact at this point the cabin is half empty and nobody is even sitting next to me. I have a 2 hour connection in Newark and then fly home in first class on a United 737-900. All told it’s a 12 hour journey from gate to gate.

AJK, whom you may remember from our Island Hopper adventure, tells me that I’m crazy. He says I have lost my mind if I’m considering flying United Business over Lufthansa First.

Lufthansa First would come with the works. The first class terminal in Frankfurt with kosher food and fine spirits followed by a ride in a Porsche onto the plane. It would cost an extra 52.5K miles, not cheap, but hardly the end of the world.

However it would require leaving Paris half an hour earlier than the United flight, and it would require taking a flight from Paris to Frankfurt in Euro business class which is really just coach. I would get 3 hours and 20 minutes to enjoy the first class terminal before spending nearly 9 hours in the front row in the nose of the 747-8. But then I’d have an over 4 hour connection in Newark with a terminal change as the last flight home would be out of Newark’s decrepit Terminal A regional jet facility, and topped off with a flight home in coach. In total the Lufthansa option would add 7 hours to my travel time.

AJK still stands by the Lufthansa option, after all, it’s relatively rare for me to travel alone and have the opportunity to do this without bothering the wife and kids. Then again I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over a week myself and paying to make a 12 hour journey into a 19 hour journey seems pretty silly to me.

Had I never flown Lufthansa First I’d probably do it in a heartbeat, but I have flown it before and have experienced the first class terminal, though granted it was 6 years ago in a much older 747 first class product (though at the time it was in the awesome upper deck, alas sans the extra bed that came afterward and has now gone the way of the Dodo).

Care to choose my own adventure?

Stick with the 12 hour United Business class? Or pay 52.5K extra miles to fly Lufthansa First and go to the First Class Terminal again, but add 2 coach flight segments and 7 hours to the journey?

Vote now 😀

Should I Stick With The United Itinerary Or Switch To The Lufthansa Itinerary?

View Results

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Trip Notes: 4 Consecutive Transoceanic Itineraries With IRROPS, Here’s How We Handled Them

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

-Find dozens of trip reports 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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IRROPS is industry jargon for irregular operations, when delays or cancellations force you to be accommodated on another flight.

We’ve had a string of IRROPS flights running back to our last 4 transoceanic itineraries. Some would call that bad luck, but I’m definitely of the attitude that everything happens for a good reason. Some of them worked out better than can be imagined, others are still in the works, but here’s how we handled the IRROPS.

1. Monday, March 2, 2015, USAirways CLE-PHL-TLV:
When USAirways migrated their fare classes to match American’s it released award seats on routes that almost never had awards available. I quickly nabbed 4 business class awards to spend Purim in Israel.

On the day of the flight I always use the airline’s website or flightaware.com to track the inbound segments of flights I’m going to take. Our Cleveland to Philadelphia flight was coming from Charlotte and Louisville before that. In the morning, those were showing on time, but about 5 hours before the flight, the flight from Charlotte to Louisville was delayed for mechanical reasons. I called USAirways, but as they didn’t post a delay yet for the Cleveland to Philadelphia flight there was nothing they could do.

Rather than play the waiting game at home we all packed into the car 4.5 hours before the flight to try our luck at the airport. On the way to the airport I got the automated phone call that the Cleveland to Philadelphia flight would be delayed. We called several USAirways and American agents, but they all said the same thing. As it was a mileage ticket the only thing they were allowed to offer was coach class on another airline or the next available USAirways flight to Tel Aviv in 6 days.

Airport agents always have more power than phone agents, so that’s what we were banking on.

Alas at the airport, the agent repeated the same thing, since we were on award tickets she was only able to rebook us on another airline in coach. Then the agent proceeded to tell me that the flight would be leaving Louisville for Charlotte shortly and would be able to get us to Philadelphia on time. The agent next to her overheard her say that and laughed, saying that there was no way that we would make our connection in Philadelphia.

Time to charm her.

“But we’ve been saving up these miles to fly in business class to Israel for years.”

OK, so it didn’t take me years to earn the miles, but for many years I had indeed been saving and waiting to use the miles to fly USAirways business class to Israel as it was the best seating option from the US to Israel, and I had already flown on Delta and United to Israel in business class. Finding enough business class seats on this flight for the whole family is extremely rare.

After going on a charm offensive she was ready to fight for us. She called her help desk who repeated the same story, but she went to bat for us. They wanted her to find another OneWorld option, but there was nothing that would work out of Cleveland that night. So finally they agreed to move the 4 of us to United. Luckily, we arrived at the airport early as that allowed us to catch United’s flight to Newark.

It’s actually pretty rare for United to have 4 empty business class seats to Tel Aviv just hours before the flight, but luckily for us one of the United flights to Tel Aviv the day before was cancelled, so they operated 3 flights to Tel Aviv on March 2nd. We were in coach to Newark, but got the all aisle access middle business class seats in rows 8 and 9 which were great.

Of course we didn’t have kosher meals, but New Kosher Special delivers $40+ orders to Newark airport free of charge, and they make some of the best Sesame and General Tso chicken around. I double wrapped some in tinfoil and the United flight attendants were more than happy to warm it up for us. BYOK FTW!

United actually found a kosher meal for us for breakfast.

We had some friends booked on our flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv and they had plenty of kosher meals due to us not making that flight 😀

We were booked in the middle of row 2 and 3 and they told us there was actually a large dog in row 1 in the middle. At the time Rafi was terrified of dogs, so the United flight actually worked out for the best.

OK, it really worked out for the best as we were booked into paid business class and each earned a boatload of miles:

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And I did get to try the USAirways configuration a week later on the return. Much better for solo travelers, but not significantly better for couples. And United’s service was better than USAirways. All a moot point now as American has discontinued that flight for mysterious reasons.

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2. Monday, April 27, 2015, United: HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-ROR

No need to rehash this one, you can read all about it here. An undocumented dog was brought onto the Island Hopper flight, causing a delay that made us misconnect in Guam.

At first we declared the trip in vain and were rebooked to go home early the next morning in order to get back to our families before Shabbos, as originally planned. But that night I made a phone call to my amazing wife who forbade me from coming home without snorkeling in Palau’s otherworldly Jellyfish Lake, and AJK refused to allow me to experience that without him. After some cajoling, United rebooked us to Palau and allowed a bonus 2 night stopover in Tokyo before flying home on Sunday.

With 25 hours in Guam I got in some great snorkeling at Ypao Beach, with a day in Palau we had the time of our life, and then we spent an amazing Shabbos in Tokyo and a night at the awesome Park Hyatt Tokyo.

United gave us 10K compensation miles and a couple hundred dollars in vouchers for the inconvenience, plus AJK also made out like a bandit with tens of thousands of Aegean miles due to being rebooked in revenue classes. Alas I tried crediting my ANA revenue first class flight to United and wound up with nothing…lesson learned!

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3. Wednesday, November 11, 2015, American: CLE-JFK-LHR

The worst flying experience of my life as told here.

I thought we had booked the bargain of the century, $446+30K Avios for business class tickets with 37K Avios rebated after the flight.

Instead it was just a nightmare.

We ran around the airport, from gate to gate, from club to club, and making phone calls trying to get re-accommodated after our American flight was delayed for mechanical reasons, but only Delta had 4 business class seats available that night and American refused to rebook on Delta due to the termination of their interline agreement.

When the lounge agent told us that our best shot at getting to London was running to another American flight and flying in coach, we did just that. Only to learn that first we had to personally go to baggage claim to recheck our bags as American’s policy was that their baggage agents couldn’t do that. The flight doors were closing, so there was no time to do that and we weren’t about to fly to London knowingly leaving our clothes, stroller, diapers, wipes, kids toys, and everything behind.

Back at the lounge the agents told us they confirmed with baggage that they reloaded our bags onto our original flight that was still awaiting a part being flown into LGA and then driven to JFK.

After waiting from 3 pm until after midnight our flight was cancelled. We accepted tickets on British Airways early in morning and turned down hotel vouchers. No point in shlepping to a hotel for a few hours with kids, we’d just get our bags and hang out at the gate. The lounge agents confirmed that our bags would be waiting for us.

They weren’t anywhere to be found.

American’s Twitter team promised me several times that an agent would come help us, but nobody ever showed up. After camping out the night in JFK agents arrived, but they still had no clue where our bags were. Rather than travel to London and arrive before Shabbos with no bags or stroller we opted to declare the trip in vain. American refused to book us on Delta from JFK, so we had to go to LGA to catch a flight home.

Our bags were discovered in Chicago 3 days later and returned to us. I still have no idea why they were sent to Chicago and why that information wasn’t scanned into their system. American reimbursed us for $147 of incidentals spent in the meantime.

An automated email apologized to all of the passengers on the cancelled flight and offered 20K miles each in compensation.

For reasons I don’t understand, we all got credit as if we flew the British Airways flight, despite the AA agent cancelling that ticket. That also triggered half of the transatlantic bonus, meaning we each got another 20K miles.

In the mess, Rafi left his tablet at the gate. Miraculously AA found it and I asked and was promised that it would be sent via Ground. AA sent it custom critical express and I wound up being charged $100 by Fedex. AA refused to reimburse that charge, but promised 10K miles to make up for it, though they have yet to post those miles.

AA refused to allow us to rebook the trip. I filed a DoT complaint but the DoT has been silent.

AAs Twitter team did have a customer service executive reach out to me, but she hasn’t fixed much.

They won’t compensate for anything more than the original 20K miles that all passengers on the flight automatically received. They won’t rebook the trip.

They did promise to work with BA so that I’d get a refund. 3 months later and I haven’t received a refund of the 30K Avios per person used for the tickets. They refunded $1,100 of the $1,784 used for the tickets, though I have no idea why they refunded that amount.

I nag AA’s Twitter team once a week for an update, and all they ever say is that it’s being worked on. Everyone seems completely unempowered to fix a thing.

Over 3 months after the incident I’m no longer holding my breath.

There’s a good reason American captured last place in the Wall Street Journal’s ranking of the airlines. They’ve managed to take the worst of USAirways and American to become a truly bumbling airline, worst overall, worst in cancelled flights, worst in mishandled baggage, a complete embarrassment:

 

 

 

 

Still trying to find the positive in this one, but I’m sure our families were happy to have us safe at home. The Paris terrorist massacre occurred on the weekend we were supposed to be in Europe.

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4. Monday, January 25, 2016, United: CLE-EWR-HNL-LIH:

I nabbed lie-flat business class seats from Newark to Honolulu and back months ago. It’s a bargain award at just 30K Singapore miles or 40K United miles for a flight that’s nearly as long as Newark-Tel Aviv.

Then along came Jonas. I knew it would be bad, I just didn’t know how bad.

But I wasn’t taking any chances. As soon as the monster predictions started coming in I nabbed 4 United Global First class saver award seats from Chicago to Honolulu on Thursday (These are 40K miles via Singapore or 50K miles via United). When I had previously searched this route it was operated with lame recliner seats in business class, but it had been switched to a 3 class international plane with lie-flat first and business classes. The same plane that will operated transcontinental flights over the next few months.

 

Newark-Honolulu didn’t have 4 seats available for another week after our flight, but I grabbed those as well.

And sure enough, United cancelled our Monday morning flight from Cleveland to Newark. The next available flight they were able to offer in business class was 1.5 weeks later.

Instead, I just had United cancel the flight and I used the backup that I booked. The agent was more than happy to open up award space back to Newark 2 days after our originally booked return flight due to the cancelled flight.

We had flown in Global First to Hawaii 2 years ago with carseats. Unfortunately, United installed shoulder seat belts in Global First in the meantime and the flight attendants would not let us use our carseats with them and downgraded us to business class while making 4 business class passengers very happy. That worked out OK though. United’s business class is an antiquated 2-4-2 configuration with alternate rows facing backwards and forwards. 4 seats aren’t ideal for most people, but it worked out well for our family of 4, probably even better than first class would have been for us. Plus, United refunded the extra 40K miles used for the difference between business and first class and awarded us with 35K miles and $600 in travel vouchers as compensation for being downgraded.

Overall, we were blown away by the service from United and by their excellent new kosher meals that they now serve from Hawaii. But more on that in the trip report…

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Have an IRROPS story? Share it in the comments!

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Trip Notes Brazil Part 2: Flying “Private” To Sao Paulo With Miles, And A Quick Stop In Miami

Sunday, February 7th, 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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-Continued from Trip Notes Brazil Part 1: 10 Years Of Travel And Deal Blogging And A Return To Where It All Began (11/23/14)

-This trip occurred in October 2014, better late than never, right? I recently posted that Brazil was waiving their $160 Visa fee for Americans that arrive between June 1-September 18, so that was the impetus to continue writing these trip notes. However it’s worth noting that pregnant women and women that are currently trying to become pregnant should postpone travel to most of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean according to the CDC.

I thought I’d never return to Brazil after my 2007 incident, but in the end I loved the language, I loved the people, and we decided to make a family trip of it.

A 10 year anniversary trip to my old stomping grounds. I owe a lot to Brazil. It took incredible divine providence to wind up there and it led me to what I do today for a living, and ultimately it led me to find my wife, but that’s a long story for another time.

Brazilian carrier TAM used to be notoriously stingy with premium class awards. But early in 2014 they started opening their entire first class cabin for award travel. TAM only had 4 seats in the first class, but you were able to use miles for all of them. Then they announced that first class would be eliminated altogether and I knew it was time for a trip. After all, when would be the next chance I’d have to redeem miles to have an entire cabin just just for my family?

So I burned 500,000 USAirways miles for 4 round-trip first class awards on TAM and booked up the entire first class cabin in both directions for myself, my wife Mimi, my son Rafi, and daughter Talia.

 

Our private first class cabin from Miami-Sao Paulo:

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Read more about the trip after the jump:

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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.
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 2: It’s Time To Hop!
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 3: Koror, Palau
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 4: Tokyo, Japan And Back Home In ANA First Class

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:

(more…)

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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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United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 2: It’s Time To Hop!
United Island Hopper Trip Notes Part 3: Koror, Palau

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

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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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:
-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 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

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.

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:

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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

-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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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…
(more…)

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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.

More on the trip after the jump…
(more…)

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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!

More on the contests after the jump…
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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…
(more…)

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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…
(more…)

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A DDF DO Extravaganza In Chicago

Thursday, July 4th, 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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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.

More on the DO after the jump…
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Trip Notes: Chicago Seminar Edition

Saturday, June 8th, 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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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…
(more…)

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Trip Notes: Hall Of Fame Trifecta And Fenway Park In 72 Hours

Monday, May 27th, 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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-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

 

More after the jump…
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Trip Notes: 2 Nights In Singapore And Back Home On A Korean A380

Sunday, April 14th, 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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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.

 

More after the jump…
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Now Open: Airspace Lounge Cleveland

Wednesday, April 3rd, 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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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!)

More after the jump…
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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.

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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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