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Starwood To Offer Free In-Room Internet To All SPG Members; A Roundup Of Current Starwood Elite Status Benefits And How To Earn Status

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.

Effective 02/02/15 all SPG members will receive free WiFi in their Starwood hotel rooms.

Non-elite members will get standard level internet access for free, while SPG Gold and Platinum members will get premium level internet access for free.  Delta and Emirates elites will also get premium level internet access for free via Crossover rewards.

Only stays booked via SPG.com will qualify for free internet access.

Currently Fairmont and IHG give all members free in-room internet access and Marriott will as well as of 01/15/15.

So what are the benefits of each Starwood elite status level?

1. Starwood Preferred (base) members get free standard internet. Anyone can signup free on SPG.com

2. Starwood Preferred Plus status is an unpublished elite status level that is given for free to anyone with a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. It’s also offered to AAA and AARP members.

Preferred Plus members get 4pm confirmed late checkout and room upgrades when available.

3. Starwood Gold status is given for free if you have Platinum Card® from American Express or if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year on the Starwood AMEX or if you spend 25 paid or award nights or have 10 stays in Starwood hotels in a calendar year. You can get lifetime gold status by accumulating 5 years of Starwood elite status and 250 nights in Starwood hotels.  Some people have been able to get free Gold status for a year by calling up and telling a rep that they want to start staying in more Starwood hotels, but YMMV on that one.

Gold members get free premium level internet access, a 250 Starpoint amenity on paid and award stays, 4pm confirmed late checkout, and room upgrades when available. They also get 3 Starpoints per dollar spent on paid stays and 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on Delta flights.

4. Starwood Platinum requires 50 paid or award nights or 25 stays in Starwood hotels in a calendar year. Having the Starwood credit card gives you 5 nights and 2 stays towards meeting that and having 2 Starwood credit cards gives you 10 nights and 4 stays towards meeting that. You can get lifetime Platinum status by accumulating 10 years of Starwood Platinum elite status and 500 nights in Starwood hotels.

Platinum members get free premium level internet access, a 500 Starpoint amenity on paid and award stays, 4pm confirmed late checkout, and suite upgrades when available. They also get 3 Starpoints per dollar spent on paid stays, 1 Starpoint per dollar spent on Delta flights, and Priority Check-in, Priority Boarding, Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades, and first checked bag free when flying Delta.

Platinums who stay 50 nights also get 10 confirmed suite upgrade awards. Platinums who stay 75 nights get 4 Starpoints per dollar spent on paid stays and the ability to stay for a full 24 hours in a hotel room regardless of when they checkin.

HT: chucksterace, via DDF

Update Your SPG.com Stay Preferences And Get 500 Free Starpoints

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Update: Today is the final day to register for this promotion!  Once registered you’ll have until 12/15 to update your stay preferences.

I updated my preferences on 11/10 and the points posted for my birthday on 11/26.

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Originally posted on 11/10:

Register for Starwood’s latest promotion (double or triple points on paid stays) here and you’ll also be registered for 500 free Starpoints just for updating your stay preferences.

After registering, just click here to update any of your stay preferences.

Starwood points officially expire after 12 months of inactivity, though it’s actually only enforced after 18 months. So 500 points will extend the validity of your account for 18 months.  Though Starwood is one of the best about reactivating expired points when you ask nicely (British Airways is surprisingly nice as well).

HT: Marco Polo, via DDF

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!

SPG Spin To Win Game

Friday, September 13th, 2013

SPG Spin To Win Game

This has been around for a couple weeks but I never got around to posting it.

You can play daily through 10/10.

I’ve played many times and have yet to win a thing but DDF members have reported winning 500 Starpoints, 1,000 Starpoints, 5,000 Starpoints, and even a free night at any (excluding category 7) Starwood hotel. One DDF member notes that he has successfully employed the multiple browser method to get even more daily spins but that’s more effort than it’s worth considering my luck so far.

By playing you’ll also be entered to win 250K Starpoints (which can transferred into 312.5K airline miles) though that will come with a tax bill of course as it’s worth more than $600.

Post a comment if you get anything!

HT: Feivish, via DDF

Starwood Advertises Just How Bad A Deal SPG Flights Is

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Back in 2008 Starwood made a big deal about the introduction of SPG Flights.  I panned it as a poor value.

Apparently not everyone got the memo though.  SPG is bragging how someone spent a whopping 870,000 Starwood points to fly from Los Angeles to Rome in business class.

With that many Starpoints he could have transferred them into nearly 1.1 million airline miles on dozens of different airlines.  A business class ticket to Europe using Flying Blue starts at 50,000 miles, using USAirways miles starts at 60,000 miles, or using AAdvantage miles is 100,000 miles.  A first class ticket to Europe using AAdvantage miles is 125,000 miles.  Or a round-the-world first class award on American or any OneWorld partners that allows for 16 flights runs between 180K-330K miles. Heck you can fly to Dubai in an A380 suite on Emirates with your own shower onboard for 217,500 miles, so he could have booked 5 such tickets with 870K Starpoints.

Or you can get even better deals at Starwood hotels.  It’s very easy to get a value of 2.5 cents per Starpoint with hotel redemptions, in fact you can even get a value of 10 times that.

Instead someone burned it all on 2 business class tickets.  What a shame.

HT: Chaikel, via DDF

SPG Hot Shows: Use Your Starpoints For Premium Seats To Hot Concerts!

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Update: Round 2 starts at 11am eastern today (07/08)! You must be a Starwood AMEX cardholder or a Starwood Platinum member to book tickets!

Originally posted on 06/29:

Related: Starwood AMEX Linky

www.spg.com/hotshows

Offer Details Linky

Redeem 5,000 or 10,000 Starpoints for a pair of premium concert seats.

The sale starts at noon 11am eastern.

Why do I get the feeling that ebay is going to see a whole bunch of new concert listings later today?

SPG You Choose Promo!

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Related: The Starwood AMEX easily gives the best reward value and bang for each buck of purchases made out of any credit card out there today. It also comes with tons of nice benefits and a sweet (and valuable) 10,000 Starpoint signup bonus for free for each card that you get. Between a myriad of incredible mileage transfer options and unbeatable blackout-free hotel redemption options you should have no problem getting over 5 cents value out of every Starpoint that you have!

Starwood Consumer AMEX
Starwood Business AMEX



www.spg.com/youchoose

-Starwood’s Q4 promo is now up and there are a lot of options to choose from,but you can only pick one!
-Registration is required by 11/15. Valid for stays in any Starwood hotel between 10/01/08-12/31/08
-Important: All rewards are retroactive except the double stays toward elite status. So you can wait until 11/15 to decide which reward suits you best before registering and being locked to your decision as long as you dont want to go for the elite status reward.

Available rewards:
-Double stay credits towards Starwood Elite status. (No limit)
-Double Starpoints on all stays. (No limit)
-Every 2 stays=2,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 10,000 bonus Starpoints)
-Every 2 stays=$25 Amazon GC. (Limit $125 in free Amazon GC’s)
-Every 4 nights=2,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 10,000 bonus Starpoints)
-Every 4 nights=$25 Amazon GC. (Limit $125 in free Amazon GC’s)
-Every 4 stays=free weekend night. (Limit 2 free weekend nights at up to a Category 5 hotel)
-Every 6 stays=9,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 36,000 bonus Starpoints)
-Every 8 nights=free weekend night. (Limit 2 free weekend nights at up to a Category 5 hotel)
-Every 10 stays=25,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 100,000 bonus Starpoints)
-Every 12 nights=9,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 36,000 bonus Starpoints)
-Every 20 nights=25,000 bonus Starpoints. (Limit 100,000 bonus Starpoints)

Curious to see what other people are picking? Just click on the question mark by each reward to find out what percentage of people picked that promo!

Get 250 Starpoints For Telling Starwood What You Think Of SPG Flights!

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Survey Linky

SPG Flights: Yawwwwn…

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

www.spgflights.com

So the big news this week is that Starwood has added a 7th primary method of using Starpoints: SPG flights.

The problem is that Starpoints are already so valuable due to the other 6 methods that SPG flights is simply unattractive.

The premise of SPG flights is that you can search for any flight directly from spgflights.com and book it with Starpoints. Starwood then pays the airline for the flight and therefore you will earn miles for the flight.

Sample award prices:

Ticket Price Starpoints
up to $150 10,000
$150-$215 15,000
$215-$280 20,000
$280-$345 25,000
$345-$410 30,000
$410-$475 35,000
$475-$540 40,000
$540-$605 45,000
$605-$670 50,000
$670-$735 55,000
$735-$800 60,000
$800-$865 65,000
$865-$930 70,000
$930-$995 75,000
$995-$1060 80,000
Higher prices (examples)
$2,880-$3,140 235,000
$4,960-$5,220 395,000
$9,900-$10,160 775,000



Fatal flaw? SPG flights values starpoints between 1.2-1.5 cents.
Using the other primary Starpoint redemption methods (Unrestricted Hotel Stays, Restricted Cash And Points Hotel Stays, Hotel Room Upgrades, Nights and Flights, 5th Night Free, and of course transferring Starpoints into miles on dozens of airlines with a with an unbeatable 25%-250% bonus) you should be able to do far better than that.

Launching Friday: A Revamped SPG.com!

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Starwood is revamping their website, and if all goes well it will go live on Friday!

I have confirmed that the new website will integrate the new Cash & Points option!

American Express PRG And Delta Downgrades; A Possible Delta Workaround?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Update: Delta has wisely decided that they will not implement a limit on points transfers from any program into Delta miles.

There’s no longer going to be a need to resort to the various workarounds described in this post :D

Now if only they would do an about-face on their decision to no longer award miles for the distance of flights flown next year…

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Originally posted on 10/01:

American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.

1. Effective 01/01/15 the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card will no longer give a 15K point bonus for spending $30,000 in a year.  It will still give 3 points per dollar spent on airfare and 2 points per dollar spent on gas and groceries.

Annual spend threshold bonuses seem to be a dying breed.  One of the few remaining cards that have an annual spend threshold bonus is the Chase United Explorer card which gives a 10K point bonus for spending $25K in a year.

2. Effective 01/01/15 you will only be able to receive 250K Delta Skymiles per Delta account from Membership Rewards per calendar year.

Additionally you will only be able to spend out 250K points per Membership Rewards account to any number of Delta accounts.

This is a Delta imposed limitation.

In AMEX’s words,

“Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014″
Workaround?  You are able to request that different American Express cards accumulate points in their own Membership Rewards account. It seems like that should function as a workaround to transferring out more points to Delta as AMEX clearly states that the 250K limit is just from a single Membership Rewards account.
You can also freely transfer points between each of your Membership Rewards accounts so that each of your Membership Rewards eligible cards can transfer 250K points to Delta annually.

While your personal Delta account would only be able to receive 250K points per year, you can add a spouse or child as an additional user for example and transfer points to their Delta accounts. From there you can book award travel for anyone.

Delta is the only major US airline in the Membership Rewards program, so this is definitely a downgrade.  It’s worth noting that Delta will allow one-way awards starting 01/01/15, so that will help things a bit.

Either way Delta is one of the weaker partners in the Membership Rewards program and their miles are far less valuable than American or United miles.  Plus Membership Rewards charges a fee to transfer points to domestic programs like Delta.

Other international Membership Rewards partners offer a better value. For example:

-Air France can book one-way travel on Delta today and their rates are often less.  A round-trip to Israel is just 50K Air France miles and if you find Delta saver availability there are no fuel surcharges.

-A round-trip to Israel using Alitalia miles is just 80K in business class and fuel surcharges are relatively mild at about $300.

-British Airways Avios offers free travel starting at just 4,500 Avios.  Flights to Europe or Hawaii start at just 12.5K Avios each way with no fuel surcharges on select airlines.

-Air Canada has several award sweet spots. You need just 45K miles to fly to Europe each way in business class and many airlines have no fuel surcharges.

-El Al will soon be the only good way to book travel on El Al starting 11/01.

-ANA offers 38K round-trip tickets from NYC to London and 60K round-trip tickets to Israel with no fuel surcharges on United.  Or fly from NYC to the Caribbean or Central America for just 22K miles with no fuel surcharges.

-Singapore offers a private suite from JFK to Europe for just 57K miles. They also offer good rates to other destinations that United flies to with no fuel surcharges.

So there are plenty of other good options.  Frankly the move is a bit surprising.  AMEX pays cold hard cash for mileage transfers to Delta. A couple of years ago when AMEX points used to transfer to Continental, Delta ran significant point transfer bonuses to get people to send their points to Delta over Continental.

However this isn’t the first chink in the AMEX-Delta relationship.  Earlier this year Delta stopped allowing people who have the Platinum Card® from American Express to bring guests into their lounges. AMEX is responding to harsher airline lounge rules by opening their own network of premium airport Centurion lounges with free access for Platinum cardholders and their family/guests. Those currently can be found domestically in Dallas, Las Vegas, and NYC/LaGuardia. International locations include Buenes Aires, Delhi, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Sao Paulo.  Centurion lounges in Miami, San Francisco, and other domestic airports will open soon. Plus you can bring in your family/guests for free into Airspace lounges which can be found in Baltimore, Cleveland, NYC/JFK, and San Diego. The card also gives a Priorty Club lounge membership, a $200 annual airline fee credit, and SPG Gold status.

Of course you can still earn unlimited amounts of Delta miles on a card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. which is what Delta wants you to do (though I’m not sure why you would want to). However you would earn 25% more miles by spending on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and transferring points to Delta.  Unless a limit on Starwood transfers is in the cards as well?

Cards like The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express and The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express offer the ability to earn 20% or 50% more miles everywhere in addition to up to 450% more miles in selected categories. And they can also each be assigned their own Membership Rewards account number, which should work to transfer more points out to Delta.  Note that the Everyday cards are credit cards and AMEX limits you to 4 credit cards per person.  Card like the Gold and Platinum are charge cards which don’t count towards that limit.

HT: miles, via DDF and Gary.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

LAN: Los Angeles, Miami, Or NYC To Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil From $423 Round-Trip

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Update 2: This is alive again from JFK and Miami between January and March. It is not available from Los Angeles this time:

Sample valid $480 dates from JFK-IGU:
01/17-01/25, 01/21-01/25, 01/24-01/29, 02/01-02/08, 02/04-02/08, 02/25-03/08, 03/04-03/08, 03/18-03/22, 03/25-03/29

Sample valid dates from Miami-IGU:
$480 dates: 03/08-03/12, 03/08-03/15, 03/22-03/29. $580 dates: 01/28-02/05, 02/03-02/08.

Use Google’s ITA Matrix to find other dates.  See this post for a demonstration.

Originally posted on 12/02:

Update: DEAD!
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-Bookable on Orbitz. Orbitz tickets are refundable until 10pm CT the day after purchase. Earn 2.14 points per dollar with Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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Iguaçu Falls (also spelled Iguazú or Iguassu Falls) is one of the most stunning places in the world. My own amateur pictures can’t possible capture even a fraction of its grandeur, it’s truly awe-inspiring to experience in person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said “Poor Niagara” upon seeing it. Instead of being in middle of a concrete jungle it’s in middle of beautiful rainforest with wonderfully fresh air. It’s much bigger and far grander than Niagara Falls.

You can see it up close and personal from the Argentine side and you can view the majesty of it from the Brazilian side. Both sides have their own airport, IGU on the Brazilian and IGR on the Argentine side.  Unfortunately both Argentina and Brazil charge a $160 reciprocity fee for Americans to visit, though the visas do last for a decade.

A ticket to either airport from the US is typically well over $1,000 but can be had now for under $500.  Miles can be credited to OneWorld airlines like American and British Airways.

You’ll need a day on each side just to see the sights and more than that to get into the myriad of adventures available. There is an SPG category 5 Sheraton in the Argentine side in the national park with a view of the falls.

Search for flights into IGU on the Brazilian side for this deal.

You can use 7,500 Avios to fly from IGR to Buenos Aires/AEP on LAN, a haven for kosher food. 4,500 Avios is enough to fly on TAM from IGU to the largest city in the western Hemisphere, Sao Paulo. 7,500 Avios is enough to fly on TAM from IGU to stunning Rio de Janeiro.  Flights to AEP will need to be booked over the phone with British Airways. No fuel surcharges apply.

You can also use 25,000 Delta miles for 2 flights within Brazil or Argentina on partners Gol or Aerolineas Argentinas.  Or 12,500 United miles is enough for an intra-Brazil flight on Azul, an airline founded by David Neeleman of JetBlue fame who obviously has a favorite color.

Flights are available from JFK in January-March, from Miami in January-May, or from Los Angeles from January-July.

Sample valid dates:
-Los Angeles-IGU from 01/22-01/26 for $423
-JFK-IGU from 01/21-01/25 for $480
-Miami-IGU from 01/18-01/25 for $480

You can use Orbitz +/-3 day flex search option to help find valid dates.

You can also view lots of other valid departure dates on DDF.

HT: Ya’alili, via DDF

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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Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Update: Games through February 2015 can now be purchased for Starpoints.

Originally posted on 09/15:

Related:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 10,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $1 plus 15,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 which will leave you with 30,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000!
-Using Miles For Sports Experiences
-Starwood auctions
-United auctions
-Delta auctions

American Express is a DansDeals.com advertiser.
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Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

FAQ Page

Starwood has an event level courtside suite at Madison Square Gardens and you can experience it as a VIP with your Starpoints!

Tickets just became available for events from now through 11/30.  I’ll update this post when tickets become available past that date, just follow @DansDeals on Twitter and you’ll be the first to know.

You will get 2 seats in the Event Level Suite seating section tickets with access to the SPG Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden.
In the suite you will get complimentary food and beverages.
You can request kosher food as well! Just include that in the “Other notes” section when redeeming for tickets.  Kosher food is available catered from Abigael’s or from the Carlos and Gabby’s stands.

2 tickets to Knicks or Rangers preseason games can be had for 20,000 Starpoints 2 tickets for regular season games can be had for 45,000 Starpoints.  That includes 2 excellent event level seats and kosher meals in the SPG suite!

There are also college games and other events available from 5,000 Starpoints for 2 tickets.

These are “buy-it-now” rates, not auction rates and they’re first come, first served.

Did you attend a game last season? Share your experience in the comments!

Delta Clarifies New Partner Transfer Limits, Workarounds Exist For Starwood And Membership Rewards Transfers

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Earlier today I covered a couple of American Express downgrades. 

Here are some clarifications from Delta:

1. The change is being made by Delta. “We are increasing the value of miles and reducing the demand for Award Tickets. This in turn will increase the number of lower-priced Awards available to Delta SkyMiles members, especially for our most loyal members who earn the majority of their miles through the SkyMiles program.”

2. The change will apply to all Delta transfer partners. That includes the big 2, Starwood and AMEX Membership Rewards. For Starwood the limit will actually be 200K Starpoints as 200K Starpoints converts into 250K Skymiles.

3. You will be able to receive up to 250K per calendar year from each Delta partner.

4. The 250K limit goes into effect 01/01/15 for all partners. While the original transfer date is used, don’t wait until 12/31 to make a transfer in case they get counted in 2015.

5. The partner loyalty account can only transfer 250K miles per year to Delta, period. It doesn’t matter whether you transfer to one or multiple Delta accounts, the 250K total limit applies.

6. Limits don’t apply to Delta AMEX cards.

As I said in the last post, I still see several workarounds here.

-For Starwood you can transfer Starpoints to other Starwood accounts located in your household. They don’t need a Starwood credit card, anyone can open a free account on SPG.com. While your personal Delta account would only be able to receive 250K points per year, you can transfer Starpoints from your account to a household member’s account and from there to their Delta account. From their Delta account you can book award travel for anyone.

-For Membership Rewards you can have multiple eligible credit cards and you can request that different American Express cards accumulate points in their own Membership Rewards account. You can also freely transfer points between each of your Membership Rewards accounts so that each of your Membership Rewards eligible cards can transfer 250K points to Delta annually. While your personal Delta account would only be able to receive 250K points per year, you can add a spouse or child as an additional user on your credit card account and transfer points to their Delta accounts. From their Delta account you can book award travel for anyone.

The Dollars And Cents Behind A Hotel Award Stay

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

The hotel points business works a lot differently than the airline mileage business.

Airlines offer distressed inventory at rock-bottom pricing.  When they see that they won’t sell a seat, they offer it for saver mileage rates.  Mileage junkies can get an amazing deal (especially on a last minute, one-way, or premium class award) and the airline gets to recognize revenue against a seat that would have otherwise made them nothing.  The airlines get paid cold hard cash from credit card companies for their miles and many airlines wouldn’t be profitable if not for their mileage sales.  In fact without the mileage programs some airlines like United may have never made it out of bankruptcy last decade.

When you redeem United miles for a seat on a partner airline in business or first class you have to use more miles than when you fly on a United plane.  Which makes sense because United has to pay out of pocket to book you a ticket on another airline. Though United is paying just pennies on the dollar for that distressed inventory.

That’s how British Airways can afford to put someone on a $600 last minute flight for just 4,500 Avios.  They are paying American literally just pennies on the dollar for that seat that would otherwise fly empty.  That’s the reason it’s sustainable.

Now hotels are a very different story. Most hotels are not corporate owned, so the corporate run hotel programs need to compensate the individual hotel for guests using points.

It used to be that hotel awards were capacity controlled, just as awards are in the airline industry.  Starwood introduced hotel award nights without capacity controls for standard rooms and most other hotel programs matched that.

Of course there’s a real cost to that. Hotels with capacity controls can ensure that they only give away rooms that would otherwise have gone unsold.  However that meant that during special events or high season rooms were impossible to find.

Without capacity controls hotel points became far more lucrative.  When rates are high, the amount of points required doesn’t skyrocket to correspond to the price increase.

Most hotels have 2 types of awards, free nights, which are not capacity controlled.  And cash and points which are capacity controlled.

Hotels are divided into categories based roughly on what their average daily rate.  When a hotel is nearly full the corporate hotel point program will reimburse a hotel at the average daily rate for paid rooms.  But when a hotel is not full they get far less, as the cost of servicing that room doesn’t come at a real cost of a lost paying guest.  However that only applies for regular free nights.  As hotels control the cash and points nights they don’t get full reimbursement for those even if they are full.

Le Parker Meridien has hotels in NYC and Palm Springs and a whistle-blower told SPG that they were falsifying records to make it look like they were full so that they would get reimbursed for award nights at their average daily rate rate instead of a far lower rate.  From that lawsuit we learned that the magic number is 95% occupancy.  If an SPG hotel is 95% full then they get full reimbursement for points using guests.  Otherwise they only get a smaller reimbursement based on their hotel category.

Once in a while hotels goof and write what the reimbursement is on your folio.

-Mimi and I stayed in a Holiday Inn Tiberias Israel in 2009 using a 5,000 point PointBreaks award and on the folio it showed that IHG was going to pay them $30 for the night.  The hotel still gave us a great room, 2 bottles of kosher l’mehadrin wine, cookies, and bottles water.

-In 2010 we stayed in the Le Meridien Khao Lak Thailand using 2,800 Starpoints plus $45 per night.  The hotel offers upgrade to a totally private walled in villa without an outdoor shower and pool for 12,000 Starpoints or $300 per night.  I opted for the Starpoints upgrade and noticed on a folio that Starwood would only reimburse the hotel $162.50 for the points.   That’s just 1.35 cents per Starpoint, far less than what they’re really worth.

For reasons I didn’t understand the hotel wouldn’t allow me to pay $162.50 instead of the 12,000 Starpoints though in the end the upgrade points were all refunded as the hotel had issues with hot water and ants while we were there.

-Last month we had 2 rooms at the Park Hyatt Toronto. 1 room was paid for with Hyatt Points+Cash.  Points+Cash is a great award value and it can only be booked over the phone.  Hyatt considers points+cash awards like paid nights, so we got back points and stay credit and we were able to use a suite upgrade and got bumped all the way up to a luxury one bedroom suite.  The awards aren’t a great value for category 1 and 7 properties, but it’s a great value for category 2-6 hotels.

The Park Hyatt Toronto is a category 4 property, so it costs 7,500 points plus $100 per night.  On my folio was the amount that Hyatt corporate paid the hotel for the points, just $51.72 plus tax per night.  That’s under 0.7 cents per point, so in that case the Hyatt Gold Passport program pays a fraction of what their points are worth. Direct bill is the amount the hotel is billing Hyatt Gold Passport:

hyattyyz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our 2nd room was occupied by 2 of my brothers and was paid for using credit card anniversary nights.  Those nights are not capacity controlled and function just like regular award nights, which in a category 4 property would run 15,000 points per night.

The hotel was sold out the first night of our stay, so it’s not surprising that Hyatt Gold Passport paid the hotel $224.77 plus tax. That’s likely right about the hotel’s average daily rate. It also comes out to about 1.5 cents per point for the same night, which is right about in line for the minimum value you should strive for when using Hyatt points:

hyattyyz2

 

 

 

The last 2 nights were not sold out, though the charge to Hyatt corporate didn’t show up for those nights.  If I had to take a guess though it would probably come in around 0.7 cents per point, so Hyatt Gold Passport would likely cough up $105 per night to the hotel for those nights.

Ever find the corporate reimbursement level stated on one of your hotel folios? Hit the comments!

Lenovo 15.6″ Core i7 Laptop For $589 Shipped

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Lenovo 15.6″ Laptop For $589 Shipped

Use the following code in your cart for an additional $40 off (Exp: 300 uses): USPG5790821

Specs:
Windows 8.1 64
4th Generation Intel Core i7-4510U Processor + Intel® HD Graphics 4400
15.6″ HD LED Glossy with integrated camera
8.0GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM 1600 MHz
Hybrid 500GB 5400 RPM+8GB SSHD Hard Drive
DVD Recordable (Dual Layer)
Lenovo BGN Wireless
One year warranty

Save 35% On Select Starwood Resort Award Redemptions!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Starwood is running a promotion that is discounting select resorts by 35%.

You can book these rates all the way until 03/03/15 and you can stay anytime.

Eligible SPG resorts:
-W Retreat, Koh Samui, Thailand. Normally 40K/night. Now 26K/night or 20,800/night if you stay for 5 nights.
-Vana Belle, Koh Samui, Thailand. Normally 40K/night. Now 26K/night or 20,800/night if you stay for 5 nights.
-Pine Cliffs Residence, Albufeira, Portugal. Normally 40K/night. Now 26K/night or 20,800/night if you stay for 5 nights.
-Al Maha, Dubai, UAE. Normally 60K/night. Now 39K/night or 31,200/night if you stay for 5 nights.
-Le Meridien Bora Bora. Normally 60K/night. Now 39K/night or 31,200/night if you stay for 5 nights.
-W Retreat and Spa Maldives. Normally 90K/night. Now 58,500/night or 46,800/night if you stay for 5 nights.

It’s difficult to book these resorts online, so you’ll need to call SPG or use their click to chat option when logged in on SPG.com to book them.

You can read more about the overwater bungalow at the absolutely incredible W Retreat Maldives in my trip report here.

Bear in mind that the discounted rates are for the base room only, you’ll have to call/email the hotel directly if you want to arrange a confirmed upgrade to an overwater bungalow in places like Bora Bora or the Maldives.

When I last checked the prices for a confirmed upgrade to an overwater bungalow with a private plunge pool the W Maldives wanted $180/night.

The Le Meridien Bora Bora wanted $220 when I last checked the price of a confirmed upgrade to an overwater bungalow. However they also said via email that as a Platinum member if there were any overwater bungalows for sale on the day of checkin they would refund the entire confirmed upgrade fee!

Bear in mind that the Park Hyatt Maldives can always be attained for just 25,000 Chase or Hyatt points per night or 12,500 points plus $150 per night without any promotion. They charge $350/night to confirm an upgrade to an overwater bungalow in advance.  Unfortunately their overwater bungalows don’t have a private pool though like the ones at the W Retreat do, though it’s also a phenomenal 5 star resort with top-notch Park Hyatt luxury service.

HT: maayanky, via DDF

20,000 Starpoints Transfers Into 30,000 USAirways Miles This Month; Where Should You Transfer?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

-USAirways Offer Linky
-SPG-US Transfer Linky

Yesterday I wrote about the promotion for transferring Starpoints into American miles.  Turns out there’s also a promotion for turning Starpoints into USAirways miles through July 31st with the same rules I wrote about yesterday for the American promo.

Sure, in 2015 the American and USAirways programs will be combined. But in the meantime there are several differences:

1. You can transfer Starpoints into anyone’s USAirways account, the names don’t have to match (though this can change at any time). Transfers into American require matching names.

2. USAirways requires round-trip award travel while American sells one-way award travel.

3. USAirways allows for a free stopover while American doesn’t (with the exception of when 2 awards price out lower than 1 award like US-Europe-Israel off-peak)

4. American allows free date changes on award tickets. USAirways charges $150 for that.  American charges $150 to cancel a ticket but just $25 to cancel additional awards at the same time. USAirways charges a flat $150 per ticket. American charges a phone fee for tickets that can’t be booked online while USAirways waives the phone fee, however USAirways charges a $25-$50 award processing fee which applies even for tickets made online.

5. American has very strict routing rules. You can’t fly to Australia via Asia for example. USAirways has much more lenient routing rules.  American also requires a “paid published routing” on awards, USAirways does not.  American’s system prices awards correctly. USAirways has booked several 40K awards to Israel and South Africa for DD readers like this one among several other “bugs” I’ve heard of.

6. American can book travel on El Al, USAirways can’t.

7. USAirways charges 50,000 miles for domestic first awards on 3 class planes, such as JFK-Los Angeles, JFK-S. Francisco, and Miami-Los Angeles on American as well as JFK-Vancouver on Cathay Pacific.  That rate goes up to 65,000 if you book after July 31st which is the same rate American charges.

8. USAirways charges just 120,000 miles to fly first class to Asia on Cathay Pacific, the biggest bargain in the entire mileage game. People have even been able to book the 110K business class ticket to Asia with a stopover in Israel along the way.

9. If you have a Barclays US Airways Premier World MasterCard you can get a 5,000 mile discount on USAirways awards (besides for free checked bags and pre-boarding). That means round-trip domestic awards are just 20,000 miles, off-peak coach awards to the Caribbean for cardholders are just 20,000 miles round-trip, and off-peak awards to Europe or South America are just 30,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways. Off peak First Class/Envoy awards to the Carribean are just 45,000 miles and to South America are just 55,000 miles round-trip if you fly on USAirways.

10. Round-trip coach to Israel is 80K, business to Israel is 120K, and first class to Israel is 180K. With the card USAirways flights to Israel are 75K in coach and 115K in business.  On American round-trip coach nonstop to Israel is 90K coach, 135K business, 180K first.

HT: Freddie, via DDF

20,000 Starpoints Transfers Into 30,000 American AAdvantage Miles This Month

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

-AA Offer Linky
-SPG-AA Transfer Linky

From now through July 31st you’ll earn 30,000 AA miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. Normally you would earn 25,000 miles for a 20,000 Starpoint transfer.

You can transfer up to 60K Starpoints per day to maximize the bonus (which would earn 90K AA miles per day).

No, this isn’t like 2010 when 20K Starpoints became 33,750 AA miles and those miles counted towards lifetime AA elite status. And AA still allowed free stopovers and had a killer OneWorld round-the-world award chart.  No, those days are long gone and are never coming back.  But take what you can get.

Note that AA is notorious in zealously shutting people’s account down if there’s even a suspicion that miles in it were sold or bartered.  They also shut down people’s account without warning or appeal for manufacturing signup bonus threshold spend on their credit cards by dabbling in refundable tickets like some unscrupulous brokers are known to do to unsuspecting prey.

American’s award chart is by far the most generous out there, and it will be hit with a major devaluation in early 2015 when their program is merged with USAirways.

In the meantime there are some great values to be had, like 55K in business or 67.5K in first on Cathay Pacific one-way to/from Hong Kong.
-You can fly nonstop on El Al to Israel for 45K coach or 67.5K business.
-Between 10/15-05/15 you can fly to Israel with a free stopover in Europe for 40K in coach.
-Between 10/15-05/15 you can fly to Europe for just 20K in coach each way.
-Between 03/01-05/31 and 08/16-11/30 you can fly to South America for just 20K in coach.
-Between 01/12-03/08 and 08/22-12/15 you can fly to Hawaii for just 17.5K in coach.
-Between 10/01-04/30 you can fly to Japan or Korea for just 25K in coach.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and the Maldives is just 17.5K coach, 25K business, 35K first.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and Thailand or Hong Kong is just 22.5K coach, 30K business, 40K first.
-A flight between Tel Aviv and Australia is just 30K coach, 45K business, 60K first.

There are only major fuel surcharges for flying on British Airways, but there are plenty of other partners to choose from to avoid them.

HT: AJK, via DDF

It’s Back: 30,000 Starpoints Signup Bonus On Both The Starwood Consumer And Business AMEX Cards

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Update: DEAD!

-Starwood AMEX Consumer Linky
New AMEX Consumer Terms: “This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”

-Starwood AMEX Business Linky
AMEX Business Terms: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months.”

This offer expires 06/30.

With this offer you will get 10,000 bonus points for spending $1 and 20,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 within 6 months. So spend $5,000 within 6 months and you’ll have 35,000 Starwood points.
The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Key benefits:
-The card doesn’t have bonus spending categories except in SPG hotels, but you get a 25% bonus when you transfer points into miles. Note that SPG point transfers can take from 2 days to 2 weeks to complete.
-Starwood has gutted the cash and points program, but the regular hotel redemption rate can still be a bargain in some hotels. Starwood charges insane amounts of points at their high end hotels though. While the Park Hyatt Maldives is 25,000 Hyatt/Chase points or 12,500 points+$150 per night, the W Maldives would run at least 90,000 Starpoints per night. Room rates at either resort are more than $1,000 per night.
-AMEX benefits like return protection, warranty protection, etc.
-Promotions like Twitter savings and Small Business Saturday that work on primary and secondary cards.
-The business card gets open savings cash rebates.
-Just by having a Starwood card you earn Preferred Plus status. This status earns you the right to checkout at 4pm at Starwood hotels.
-If you spend $30,000 in a year on either Starwood card you earn SPG Gold status.
-Cardholders get 2 elite qualifying stays and 5 elite qualifying nights towards earning Gold or Platinum status.

LAN: Los Angeles, Miami, Or NYC To Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil For $449 Round-Trip

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

 -Bookable on Orbitz. Orbitz tickets are refundable until 10pm CT the day after purchase. Priceline gives until 11:30pm ET the day after purchase. Earn 2.14 points per dollar with Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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Iguaçu Falls (also spelled Iguazú or Iguassu Falls) is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. I’ll let Google Images do the talking even though it’s so much more awe-inspiring in person than a picture can possibly do.

Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said “Poor Niagara” upon seeing it. Instead of being in middle of a concrete jungle it’s in middle of beautiful rainforest with wonderfully fresh air. It’s much bigger and grander than Niagara Falls.

You can see it up close and personal from the Argentine side and you can view the majesty of it from the Brazilian side. Both sides have their own airport, IGU on the Brazilian and IGR on the Argentine side.  Unfortunately both Argentina and Brazil charge a $160 reciprocity fee for Americans to visit, though the visas do last for a decade.

A ticket to either airport from the US is typically well over $1,000 but can be had now for just $500.  Miles can be credited to OneWorld airlines like American and British Airways.

It takes at least a full day on each side to explore. There is an SPG category 5 Sheraton in the Argentine side in the national park.

You can use 7,500 Avios to fly from IGR to Buenos Aires/AEP on LAN, 4,500 Avios to fly from IGU to Sao Paulo on TAM, or 7,500 Avios to fly from IGU to Rio de Janeiro on TAM.  Those tickets will likely need to be booked over the phone with British Airways. No fuel surcharges apply.

This fare is valid on select dates between September and December. This fare can’t be found on ITA.
Sample valid dates for JFK-IGU:
$449: 10/21-10/27
$514: 10/12-10/19, 10/19-10/26, 11/02-11/09, 11/09-11/16, 11/16-11/23.

You can use Orbitz +/-3 day flex search option to help find valid dates.

HT: jmansour, via TFD

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.

Prepaid Starwood Hotel Deals From Just $10/Night…For November 2015

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Lots of great prepaid rates available in November 2015 bookable on SPG.com.
Earn double points with a Starwood Consumer AMEX or Starwood Business AMEX

In some properties you can also get really great deals on suites as well.

Here are some sample deals:
-The Westin Waltham Boston, 11/02/15-11/03/15: $10 ($10 rates available for most of November 2015).
-Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta, 11/13/15-11/15/15: $30/night
-Sheraton Universal, CA, 11/11/15-11/13/15: $10/night

-S. Regis Washington DC, 11/02/15-11/03/15: $20 ($30 rates available for most of November 2015). DEAD!
-Westin Diplomat Hollywood, FL, 11/11/15-11/13/15: $10/night DEAD!
-W Hollywood, CA, 11/12/15-11/13/15: $40 DEAD!
-Westin Chicago Northwest, 11/11/15-11/13/15: $10/night DEAD!
-Sheraton Dallas Hotel, 11/09/15-11/10/15: $10/night DEAD!
-The Westin Tysons Corner, VA, 11/11/15-11/13/15: $30/night DEAD!

Find other deals? Post a comment!

HT: lucky and dealvr via DDF

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Join the 36,300+ people who follow @DansDeals on twitter and you’ll get a tweet when a deal is posted on DansDeals.com!
You can even have Twitter send you a text message whenever a new deal is posted.

HURRY! Redeem Just 500 Starpoints For 2 WNBA Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden, Kosher Food And Beverages Included; Cubs Suite Redemptions Also Come With Kosher Food!

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Update: The WNBA deal is now sold out!

Join the 34,600+ people who follow @DansDeals on twitter and you’ll get a tweet when a deal is posted on DansDeals.com!
You can even have Twitter send you a text message whenever a new deal is posted.

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Related:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 10,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $1 plus 15,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 which will leave you with 30,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000!
-Using Miles For Sports Experiences
-Starwood auctions
-United auctions
-Delta auctions

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Generally speaking airline miles are great for flights and hotel points are great for hotel stays.  Rarely is it smart to use them for other redemptions where the value you get isn’t nearly the same.

However last May I burned miles for non-travel for the first time for an experience I’ll never forget. I got to run out onto the field in middle of an Indians game and literally walk off with 2nd base, which is sitting in my office today.  That inspired someone else to burn miles to buy a Bar Mitzvah present for their son that he’ll never forget-throwing out the first pitch at a Dodger’s game.

At any rate, Starwood has some incredible deals now for WNBA games.  You get 2 seats with access to the SPG suite at Madison Square Garden for just 500 Starpoints! (Each package comes with 2 seats)

Food and beverages are included and you can request kosher food, which will be catered from Abigael’s, free of charge!

Even if you don’t care to watch a WNBA game, kosher dinner for 250 points each is a steal :D  If you value your Starpoints at 2 cents each that’s just $5!

Available dates that are not on Shabbos or Yom Tov include:
-07/06 (12 seats remain)
-07/16 (12 seats remain)
-07/29 (10 seats remain, this is during the 9 days, so I imagine Abigael’s will cater this with fish)
-08/10 (8 seats remain)
-08/17 (12 seats remain)

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Cubbies fan? Starwood has some incredible deals for you as well.
Redeem points for club box seats, the SPG luxury suite, or for your kid to run onto the field during player introductions.

If you redeem for the luxury suite you can have it catered with kosher food as well!

Coming soon SPG will also offer Cubs fans the chance to bid in an auction using their Starpoints for some once-in-a-lifetime experiences including:

-Throw Out the Ceremonial First Pitch Before a Cubs Game
-Announce “Play Ball” before the game from the public address booth
-Kid’s Honorary Cubs Manager Role at Wrigley Field
-Enjoy Your Own Private Luxury Suite at Wrigley Field (Just last week a DansDeals Forum member won an entire suite with 16 seats for the Yankees at Cubs all catered with kosher food and beverages for 90,000 Starpoints!)

Keep checking that link for the auction start dates and start racking up more Starpoints!

HAS Advantage Points No Longer Transfer To El Al

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I have never been a fan of the HAS Advantage card.

I’ve spoken at seminars and written why many times over the years.  I write exactly why whenever I post a code to join El Al’s Matmid program for free. The El Al program is just not a good place for your points.  Just yesterday I actually had an argument with a commenter who didn’t like me calling out the HAS card and favoring the SPG card.

Or as I wrote in this post,

The Starwood card is much better than other cards (Like HAS advantage) for going to Israel. With HAS you are stuck with just the availability on El Al. Plus El Al charges hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on award tickets.
With Starwood you have thousands of routing possibilities for free flights to Israel for less points than with HAS. And even if you want to only go to Israel on El Al you can just transfer Starwood points to AA and they will book you on El Al without any fuel surcharges!


At any rate, here is the awful news from HAS,

HAS Advantage is unable to process point transfers to El Al. Unfortunately a business dispute has arisen between HAS and El Al. At this time we can’t provide additional information about this dispute and while we are trying to resolve it, we are not very hopeful it will be resolved.

If you planned on using your points to fly El Al we recommend that you make other travel arrangements. We are extremely sorry about this sudden development. As a HAS cardholder we truly appreciate your support and you deserve better.

If you have a pending transfer, the points will be placed back into your HAS account.


Unlike AMEX, Chase, and Starwood which each have lots of transfer options in case a dispute were ever to arise, HAS only had El Al.

This news has no effect on AMEX points, which continue to transfer El Al.

At this point you should wait and see if they can get it restored somehow, but it seems likely that the best option will be to just take the 1% cash back that they are offering (sure beats the Blue Fringe CD redemption value ;)). Which really, really stinks considering cards like the Barclay Arrival card give 2.22% cash back on everything.

There’s no longer any reason to keep using the card, that’s for sure.

Much better cards to get you to Israel include the:

-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (25% bonus for transferring blocks of 20K points into miles.)
More on lots of ways of using Starpoints to Israel (from 20K round-trip) in this post.

-Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard (40K signup points plus 2.22% cash back on everything to use towards any travel related charge.)

-Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Signature (40K signup points, 5K points for adding a free additional user, up to 3.21 points per dollar spent, points transfer to United for Air Canada or United flights for 85K miles with no fuel surcharges or to BA for Air Berlin or USAirways flights for 60K Avios round-trip with no fuel surcharges).

-Chase Ink Plus Business Card and Chase Ink Bold Business Card (50K signup points each, up to 5 points per dollar spent, points transfers to the same places as Sapphire Preferred including BA, Korean, United, Virgin Atlantic, etc.).

-American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card (25K bonus points, triple points on airfare, double points on gas and groceries, 15K bonus points every year you spend $30K, points transfer to Air Canada, Alitalia (80K miles in business class round-trip!), BA, Delta, El Al, Flying Blue (as low as 25K miles round-trip), Singapore (fly in a private suite) etc)

-Chase Freedom Visa (No annual fee, 10K signup points plus 2.5K points for adding a free additional user, up to 5 points per dollar spent or 5.5 points per dollar spent if you also have a Chase checking account, point transfers require that you or your spouse have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card.)

-Chase British Airways Visa Signature (50K signup bonus, 1.25 points per dollar spent, Air Berlin or USAirways flights are 60K Avios with no fuel surcharges)

-Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card (30K signup bonus plus 5K points for adding an additional user, 10K bonus points every year that you spend $25K, 85K miles with no fuel surcharges to Israel)

20% Off $100+ Orders Of Select Clothes From Amazon

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

First-time subscribers to Amazon Fashion email can get a 20% off code for this and all other clothes, shoes, jewelry, handbags, and watches.

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20% Off $100+ Orders Of Select Clothes From Amazon

Use code (Exp: 04/14): APR2OSPG

Like with the Ecco deal, odds are that you can stack both 20% off codes by chatting with Amazon.

Getting To Israel Using Starwood Starpoints

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Related: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express gives 10,000 points after your first purchase and a 15,000 point bonus for spending $5,000 within 6 months besides for the 5,000 points you’ll get from base spending.
You can also use your Starpoints to stay free at the the highly rated Sheraton Tel Aviv and next year at the W Tel Aviv – Jaffa
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As you probably know already, the Starwood card is one of the best cards out there for general spending. You can use just a couple thousand points for free hotel stays or transfer points into miles with dozens of airlines at favorable ratios. If you are transferring points you may also want to consider Starwood’s Nights & Flights option where you can save 8,000 points on a mileage transfer and any future 5 night stay in a category 3 or 4 hotel.

To make a mileage transfer just login to your Starwood account at SPG.com. If you have never made an account at SPG.com you may need to set one up. Locate your SPG number on the Starwood AMEX statement where it lists how many points you earned in the past month and for the year. Then you can setup for SPG.com account. Click here to transfer Starpoints into airline miles. Transfers don’t happen instantly. They can take between 1-20 days. On average figure on about 2-7 days though.

The rates in this chart are for flights from NYC to Tel Aviv. Rates from other North American cities should be similar, but may differ depending on the airline. Remember to try to do your own research online when searching for award flights. With enough time and effort you should be able to easily book something over the phone. Remember the phone agents just want to get you off the phone as quickly as possible and aren’t likely to want to try to find any creative routings to get you your free flight.
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Summary:

Rates listed in this post are for round-trip travel and are assuming that you maximize the 25% point bonus for transferring Starpoints in blocks of 20,000 points (which you may or may not be able to do depending on the number of passengers so you may have leftover miles)

Before you transfer try to find availability to see which transfer you should do!

Star Alliance:
-For United travel, transfer points (from 48K) to ANA (no fuel surcharges)
-For Star Alliance travel on airlines besides United, transfer points (from 48K) to ANA (fuel surcharges apply)
-For Star Alliance travel with lap children or on select carriers, transfer points (from 64K) to Air Canada (fuel surcharges on select carriers)
-For travel on Singapore, transfer points (from 60K) to Singapore (fuel surcharges apply)
-For travel on Lufthansa or Swiss, transfer points (from 48K) to Lufthansa (fuel surcharges apply)

OneWorld/El Al:
-For USAirways travel, transfer points (from 40K) to JAL (no fuel surcharges)
-For OneWorld travel, transfer points (from 40K) to JAL (fuel surcharges apply)
-For Air Berlin and USAirways travel, transfer points (from 48K) to BA (no fuel surcharges)
-For BA travel, transfer points (from 52K) to BA (fuel surcharges apply)
-For OneWorld or El Al travel besides for BA travel, transfer points (from 64K) to AA (no fuel surcharges)
-For OneWorld travel on airlines besides Air Berlin and USAirways, transfer points (from 64K) (no fuel surcharges)

Skyteam:
-For Delta travel transfer points (from 40K) to Flying Blue (no fuel surcharges)
-For Skyteam travel on airlines besides Delta transfer points (from 40K) to Flying Blue (fuel surcharges apply)
-For Skyteam travel on airlines besides Delta, transfer points (From 68K) to Delta (no fuel surcharges)
-For Air France/KLM travel during a promo period (Such as this one), transfer points (From 20K) to Flying Blue (fuel surcharges apply)
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Tips for finding saver award availability:

Award tickets to Israel are always tough, though that’s a function of it being an expensive route to fly compared to the distance of the flight.
1. Check availability at least daily as award seats can come and go quickly.
2. Be willing to connect in Europe for much better availability. Flights on low cost carriers from Europe to Israel can also be dirt cheap and it can make sense to use miles to get to Europe and then buy a flight to Israel from there.
3. If you are ready to fly on a whim airlines often open up saver awards the day of or the day before a flight. Otherwise a couple months in advance is a typical sweet spot.
4. Realize that not all partners will be displayed online and you need to do your own research on partner sites and/or call to find partner availability.
5. Airline search engines are only so powerful. Use free stopovers and open-jaws to your advantage. If you are flying from somewhere besides NYC just search from NYC-Tel Aviv instead of from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. You can always piece together an award by searching for Los Angeles-NYC separately then NYC-Tel Aviv, especially if you are willing to have a long connection, change airports in NYC, or are willing to stay overnight in NYC.
6. The same goes for tickets from NYC. Search from other gateways like Toronto and Philadelphia and piece together the flights to get there afterward. Consider searching from NYC to European cities and piece together an award from Europe to Israel. You may find availability from NYC to London and then from Paris to Tel Aviv but a computer would never put that open jaw ticket together. Instead you can check out London and Paris on the way to Tel Aviv. Maybe you’ll even get to check out Venice and Rome on the way home. Sometimes you can even save miles by doing that!
7. Don’t forget to book a free domestic trailing flight anytime in the year after you arrive back to your destination. Delta, United, and USAirways will allow you to fly NYC-Tel Aviv-NYC and then stopover in NYC for up to a year before continuing on to say, Los Angeles, for no extra miles.
8. Find award availability before transferring miles. Once they’re transferred they can’t be reversed!
9. Need help? You can post your travel dates and which miles you have in this DDF thread and ask for help. Consider offering a monetary or mileage reward to the forum member that can come up with the best award ticket to meet your needs and you may find that suggestions will come flooding in!
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Airlines that fly nonstop from North America to Israel:
-Air Canada from Toronto (bookable via Star Alliance miles)
-United from Newark (bookable via Star Alliance miles)
-Delta from JFK (bookable via Skyteam miles)
-El Al from JFK, Los Angeles, Newark, and Toronto. (bookable via AA, connections to Eilat for the same mileage available)
-USAirways from Philadelphia (bookable via OneWorld miles)
None of these carriers offer First Class seating to Israel for miles on nonstop flights. (El Al does offer First Class, but you can only use AA miles to redeem for Coach or Business Class on El Al).

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Star Alliance:
Nonstop flights from North America include Air Canada from Toronto and United from Newark. These flights all have lie-flat business class seating and have no first class. In July the Air Canada flight will switch to a 787, offering what will likely be the best business class between North America and Israer.

Star Alliance offers the best availability for flights to Israel by leaps and bounds. Besides for the nonstop flights from North America there are many options via Europe in coach, business, and first class worth looking into including Swiss via Zurich, Lufthansa via Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich, Brussels via Brussels, Austrian via Vienna, Turkish via Istanbul, SAS via Copenhagen, Singapore via Frankfurt, Aegean via Athens, LOT via Warsaw, or a mix of carriers like United from Newark to one of dozens of European cities and a European carrier to Tel Aviv.
By utilizing free stopovers and open jaws the possibilities are endless if you take the time to research your options leg by leg.

You can search for Star Alliance award availability on sites like United.com and Aeroplan.com. ANA also offers a powerful Star Alliance search tool though you’ll need to have 100 miles in your account to use their Star Alliance search. Though if you perform an ANA-only search on a route they serve (like JFK-Tokyo) the site will then allow you to search Star Alliance airlines on different routes as well (just remember to click on connecting flights to expand the selection).

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Using ANA miles, from 48,000 Starpoints.
-Miles required: 60K coach, 90K business, 140K first.
-Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 ANA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 48,000 Starpoints in coach, 72,000 Starpoints in business, or 112,000 Starpoints in first.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio.
-Fuel surcharges: None on United awards.
-Mileage expiration: 3 years after they are earned regardless of activity.
-One-way awards: Officially not allowed but there are “workarounds.”
-Stopovers: ANA allows for 4 stopovers, though each additional flight will add to the fuel surcharges.
-Changes/Cancellation: ANA allows free date changes, but other changes or cancellation results in a 3,000 mile penalty.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.

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Using Air Canada Aeroplan miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-Miles required: 80K coach, 165K business, 230K first.
-Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Aeroplan miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means the equivalent of 64,000 Starpoints in coach, 132,000 Starpoints in business, or 184,000 Starpoints in first.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio.
-Fuel surcharges: If you fly on these carriers you will pay a fuel surcharge: Adria, Air Canada, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and THAI.
If you fly on these carriers you will not pay a fuel surcharge: Aegean, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca/TACA, Brussels, Copa, Croatia, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, SAS, Singapore, South African, Swiss, TAM, Turkish, and United.
-Mileage expiration: Air Canada miles require activity every 12 months to keep them active.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: Air Canada generously allows for 2 free stopovers, so you can check out 2 American or European cities in addition to Tel Aviv for the same amount of miles!
-Changes/Cancellation: There is a $90 charge to change or cancel an award ticket and an effective $180 charge to cancel within 21 days of departure.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: Flat fee of just $50 in coach, $100 in business, and $125 in first.

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Using Singapore miles, from 60,000 Starpoints.

-Miles required: 75K coach, 115K business, 150K first.
-Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Porringer miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means the equivalent of 60,000 Starpoints in coach, 92,000 Starpoints in business, or 120,000 Starpoints in first.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio.
-Fuel surcharges: None on United.
-Mileage expiration: 3 years after they are earned regardless of activity.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: 1 free stopover
-Changes/Cancellation: $20 change fee, $30 cancellation fee.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
-With Singapore miles you can fly on Singapore from NYC to Tel Aviv on Singapore to Frankfurt in business or first class and then to Tel Aviv on Lufthansa which you can’t do with other miles.

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-Miles & More Group (Adria, Austrian, Brussels, Croatia, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, and Swiss): For departures from the USA nonstop to Tel Aviv: 80K coach, 135K business. For departures from the USA to Tel Aviv via Europe: 100K coach, 185K business, 290K first. For departures from Israel to the USA nonstop or via Europe for Miles & More accounts with an Israeli address on file: 60K coach, 105K business, 170K first.
-Transfer partners: Starwood transfer partner at a 20K:25K ratio.
-Fuel surcharges: Apply on all airlines except LOT.
-Mileage expiration: Miles expire 36 months after they are earned regardless of activity.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: 2 free stopovers.
-Changes/Cancellation: There is a $60 charge to change or cancel an award ticket.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: None except for airport departure taxes.
-Children ages 2-11: Receive a 25% discount on the mileage requirement on Miles & More flights.
-Expanded award availability on Lufthansa and Swiss business and first class.

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OneWorld:
Oneworld finally has a nonstop option between North America and Israel thanks to USAirways flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. Other flights to Israel include Air Berlin via Berlin and Dusseldorf, BA via London, Iberia via Madrid, and Royal Jordanian via Amman. BA availability is good, but has high fuel surcharges.

El Al is not part of OneWorld (and therefore can’t be booked with miles from other airlines like BA) but they are non-alliance partners with AA. It’s more advantageous to book El Al travel with AA miles than it is with El Al miles (the miles received from the HAS Advantage card, a terrible card for your spending) because El Al adds fuel surcharges onto their own tickets, but you do not pay any fuel surcharges for booking El Al tickets with AA miles. However you can only book coach or business on El Al when using AA miles, first class must be booked with El Al points. El Al has nonstop flights from JFK, Newark, Los Angeles, and Toronto to Tel Aviv.
You can check OneWorld availability on flawed sites such as AA.com, BA.com, and Qantas.com. (BA or Qantas frequent flyer account required) You can check El Al availability on elal.com (Matmid account required). You can also check availability by calling AA.

Using USAirways miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-Miles required: 80K coach, 120K business, 180K first.
-Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 USAirways miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means the equivalent of 64,000 Starpoints in coach, 96,000 Starpoints in business, or 144,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel surcharges: Apply for flights on partners British Airways (very high) and Iberia (nominal). There is a $50 award ticketing fee.
-Mileage expiration: USAirways miles require activity every 18 months.
-One-way awards: Not allowed.
-Stopovers: USAirways allows for 1 free stopover OR 1 free Open jaw.
-Changes/Cancellation: There is a $150 charge to change or cancel an award ticket
USAirways is draconian in not allowing any changes to partner award tickets once travel has begun.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: $75 within 21 days
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
-Partner airline awards must be booked over the phone.
-5,000 mile discount on USAirways flights with a USAirways credit card.

spgc

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Using American miles, from 64,000 Starpoints.
-Miles required: 80K coach off-peak (10/15-05/15 annually) via Europe, 90K coach on El Al flights from North America or peak via Europe, 135K business on El Al flights from North America or via Europe, 180K first via Europe.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 AA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 64,000 or 72,000 Starpoints in coach, 108,000 Starpoints in business, or 144,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel surcharges: Apply for flights on partners British Airways (very high) and Iberia (nominal).
-Mileage expiration: AA miles require activity every 18 months.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: Allowed at the North American gateway city.
-Changes/Cancellation: AA allows free date and routing changes, but changes to the origin or destination city or cancellation costs $150 for non-elites.  If you cancel more than 1 ticket at a time the fee is just $25 after the $150 fee for the first ticket.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: $75 within 21 days for non-elites.
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
-Some partner airline awards must be booked over the phone.
-USAirways flight has no fuel surcharges.  Otherwise the best shot at availability without paying fuel surcharges would be to take AA to London or anywhere else in Europe and then El Al from London or anywhere else in Europe to Tel Aviv. This routing would be 80,000 miles between October 15-May 15 or the same 90,000 miles as the nonstop El Al flight from the US during the summer.
You need to call American to book travel on El Al. You should do your research first by opening a Matmid account and searching for awards on elal.com. Remember to search for flights from all of El Al’s cities in North America and in Europe as you can use other American and partner flights to reach those El Al cities.

The image below shows a business class award found on El Al’s site which is the same as the availability that American can access. While El Al charges 3,000 points (150,000 AMEX MR) + $350 for fuel surcharges American would charge 135,000 miles (~108K Starwood) and no fuel surcharges for the same flight.

spge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using BA Avios, from 48,000 Starpoints
-Avios required: 60K coach on Air Berlin and on USAirways, 65K coach on other carriers, 100K business on Air Berlin, 120K business on USAirways, 130K business on other carriers, 195K first.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio, Chase Ultimate Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 BA miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 48,000 Starpoints in coach, 80,000 Starpoints in business, or 156,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel surcharges: Apply for all Trans-Atlantic flights except on Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, and USAirways.
You can drastically reduce fuel surcharges for travel on Iberia via Madrid by transferring your BA Avios into Iberia Avios. You must have your Iberia account open for 3 months before you can do such a transfer.
-Mileage expiration: BA miles require activity every 36 months.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: Each leg costs additional mileage, but you can stopover at any connection city for as long as you want.
-Changes/Cancellation: $40.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None
-Infant fees: Instead of cash, BA charges just 10% of the adult mileage required on international segments.
-Some partner airline awards must be booked over the phone.

ba

 

spgf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using JAL miles, from 40,000 Starpoints
-Miles required: 50K coach, 80K business, 115K first.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 JAL miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 40,000 Starpoints in coach, 64,000 Starpoints in business, or 92,000 Starpoints in first.
-Fuel surcharges: Applies to most travel, none of USAirways.
-Mileage expiration: 3 years after they are earned regardless of activity.
-One-way awards: Not allowed.
-Stopovers: JAL allows for 2 stopovers, though each additional flight will add to the fuel surcharges.
-Changes/Cancellation: JAL allows free date changes, but other changes or cancellation results in a 3,000 mile penalty.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
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Skyteam:
Skyteam generally has the worst award availability. You can try searching some Skyteam availability on Delta.com and AirFrance.com. Options to Israel besides Delta’s nonstop JFK flight are on Czech via Prague, KLM via Amsterdam, Air France via Nice or Paris, Aeroflot via Moscow, and Alitalia via Rome.

Using Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) miles, from 20,000 Starpoints
-Miles Required: 25K coach during a promo period, 50K coach otherwise, 62.5K business during a promo period, 125K business otherwise.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Flying Blue miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 20,000 Starpoints in coach or 50,000 Starpoints in business for a promo award. For regular tickets and partner ticket 40,000 Starpoints per ticket in coach or 100,000 Starpoints per ticket in business.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio
-Fuel surcharges: Apply on all airlines except Delta.
-Mileage expiration: Flying Blue miles expire 20 months unless you credit a Skyteam flight to Flying Blue.
-One-way awards: Allowed for half the amount of a round-trip.
-Stopovers: Flying Blue allows for 1 free stopover.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
spga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using Delta miles, from 68,000 Starpoints.
-Miles Required: 85K-170K coach, 140K-350K business.
Transfer Ratio: 20,000 Starpoints=25,000 Delta miles. At a 1:1.25 ratio this means 68,000-136,000 Starpoints in coach or 112,000-280,000 Starpoints in business.
-Other transfer partners: AMEX Membership Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio
-Fuel surcharges: Apply on select partners but generally won’t apply to/from Israel.
-Mileage expiration: None.
-One-way awards: Not allowed.
-Stopovers: Delta allows for 1 free stopover OR 1 free Open jaw.
-Changes/Cancellation: There is a $150 charge to change or cancel an award ticket. No changes or cancellations are allowed within 3 days of the flight.
-Expedite/Close-in fee: None.
-Infant fees: 10% of full fare.
-It can be brutal trying to find Delta low award availability and Delta’s terrible website only makes it more difficult. Plus Delta used to be a good option for booking Air France/KLM but now availability when booking those direct with Flying Blue is much better than when booking with Delta.

dla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find a mistake or better method of getting to Israel with Starpoints? Hit the comments!

David Dead Sea Resort & Spa (Formerly Le Meridien Dead Sea) From Just $29.19 Per Night With Free Breakfast!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Update, 6:30pm: DEAD!

Missed the deal? Join the 33,800+ people who follow @DansDeals on twitter and you’ll get a tweet when a deal is posted on DansDeals.com!
You can even have Twitter send you a text message whenever a new deal is posted.

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Bookable on Orbitz

Search for hotels at the Dead Sea and use the following promo code for 20% off: DISCOVER
The promo code is good for nights booked by 04/01 and completed by 12/31.

Most dates have free cancellation until 2 days prior to checkin.  Breakfast is included in these rates!

Deluxe Sea View: $29.19 with tax. Mesada Suite: $45.29 with tax.
Valid nights: 10/01-10/08. 10/08-10/15.

Deluxe Sea View: $34.77 with tax. Mesada Suite: $50.87 with tax.
Valid nights: 03/30-04/02, 04/05-04/07, 04/08-04/10, 04/12-04/14, 06/08-06/12, 06/18-06/25, 06/25-07/02, 07/02-07/09, 07/09-07/16, 07/16-07/23, 07/23-07/30, 07/30-08/06, 08/06-08/13, 08/13-08/20, 08/20-09/01, 12/01-12/08, 12/08-12/15, 12/15-12/22, 12/22-12/31.

Deluxe Sea View: $42.08 with tax. Mesada Suite: $58.17 with tax.
Valid nights: 04/22-04/28, 04/30-05/06, 05/08-05/15, 05/15-05/22, 05/22-06/01. 09/01-09/11, 09/14-09/21, 09/21-09/30, 10/17-10/24, 11/02-11/09, 11/09-11/16, 11/16-11/23, 11/23-11/30.

Most nights can be booked individually though some nights may require a 2 or 3 night minimum stay.

Remember when those rooms went for $500 on SPG.com :D

Sheraton Brooklyn For Just $48.78 On May 11th

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Update 2: DEAD!

Update: You can also book a prepaid, fully refundable Club Room with lounge access and 1,000 bonus Starpoints for just $59.73 on SPG.com:

spg5

 

Seemingly the only valid night for this deal is Sunday, May 11th.

You can book the Sheraton Brooklyn via Booking.com for $48.78 including all taxes. This rate allows for free cancellation.

You can also book it direct on SPG.com with SPG benefits for $59.73 including all taxes. The SPG.com rate is prepaid (and is therefore more likely to be honored).

HT: nbnuti via EHD

Starwood 2014 Annual Category Changes

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Update: Tomorrow is the last day to book hotels that are getting more expensive at the current lower rate.  Remember that hotels change local time, so if you want to book the S. Regis Rome you would have to lock that in before 6pm EST.
Don’t forget to call back on the 4th to get back points if you have booked a hotel that is getting cheaper.

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Originally posted on 02/20:

Related:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express:
Earn 10,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and another 15,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 within 6 months for a total of 30,000 earned Starpoints with $5,000 of spending.

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Starwood 2014 Complete List Of Annual Category Changes

Book stays before 03/04 local hotel time to lock in current rates for future stays.  Almost all hotel stays are cancellable for free until a certain amount of time before the stay (read the fine print).

Just over 20% of SPG hotels are changing category, of these 56% are moving down and 44% are moving up.

Most hotels chains reorganize their categories yearly to keep them current with the average rates that they charge.  The beauty of hotel points is that there are no blackout dates or capacity controls, if there is a room you can use points for it.  So even if a major event is in town and rates are quadruple what they normally are you can still use the regular amount of points as long as the hotel is not sold out of standard rooms.

This list is subject to change and other hotels can still be added to it.

Starwood’s standard award chart will not change:
If you stay 5 nights with points the 5th night is free.
Category 1 = 2,000 (weekend), 3,000 (weekday).
Category 2 = 3,000 (weekend), 4,000 (weekday).
Category 3 = 7,000
Category 4 = 10,000
Category 5 = 12,000 (Low Season), 16,000 (High Season).
Category 6 = 20,000 (Low Season), 25,000 (High Season).
Category 7 = 30,000 (Low Season), 35,000 (High Season).

The capacity controlled cash and points chart doesn’t change either:

 

Point transfers to airlines with a 25% bonus for 20K transfers remains unchanged as well.

Sample hotels going more expensive:
S. Regis Rome, was 6, now 7.
Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, was 5, now 6.
Sheraton Maui, was 5, now 6.
Westin Maui, was 5, now 6.
W Westwood Los Angeles, was 5, now 6.
W S. Francisco, was 5, now 6.
W Austin, was 5, now 6.
S. Regis Atlanta, was 5, now 6.
Four Points by Sheraton Miami Beach, was 4, now 5.
The Nines, Luxury Collection, Portland, OR, was 4, now 5.
Hotel Ivy, Luxury Collection, Minneapolis, was 4, now 5.
Westin Hilton Head, SC, was 4, now 5.
Sheraton Suites Cuyahoga Falls, OH, was 3, now 4.
Sheraton Anchorage, was 3, now 4.
Westin Baltimore Airport, was 3, now 4.
Sheraton Edison, NJ, was 2, now 3.
Sheraton Garden Grove, Anaheim, CA, was 2, now 3.
Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport, was 2, now 3.
Aloft Chicago O Hare, was 2, now 3.
Sheraton Baltimore Airport, was 2, now 4.
Aloft Baltimore Airport, was 2, now 3.
Four Points by Sheraton Detroit Airport, was 1, now 2.

Sample hotels getting cheaper:
Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs, was 6, now 5.
W Minneapolis, was 5, now 4.
Aloft Arundel Mills Hanover Baltimore, was 3, now 2.
Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Airport, was 3, now 2.
Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls, NY, was 3, now 2.
Sheraton at the Falls, Niagara Falls, NY, was 3, now 2.
Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Orlando Resort, was 3, now 2.
Four Points by Sheraton Orlando Studio City, was 2, now 1.

S. Regis Beijing, was 6, now 5.
S. Regis Shenzhen, was 6, now 5.
Westin Tokyo, was 6, now 5.
Westin Panama, was 5, now 4.
Westin Bund Shanghai, was 5, now 4.
The Laguna, Luxury Collection, Bali, was 5, now 4.
Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, was 5, now 4.
Westin Puerto Vallarta Resort, was 3, now 2.
Four Points by Sheraton Punta Cana, was 2, now 1.

HT: chucksterace, via DDF

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…)

Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Update: Tickets have now been released for the rest of the season!

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Originally posted on 10/22:

Related:
-Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: 10,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $1 plus 15,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 which will leave you with 30,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000!
-Using Miles For Sports Experiences
-Starwood auctions
-United auctions
-Delta auctions
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Redeem Starpoints For Courtside Suite Tickets At Madison Square Garden

FAQ Page

Starwood has an event level courtside suite at Madison Square Gardens and you can experience it as a VIP with your Starpoints!

The best games are quickly selling out, so grab this while it lasts! DDF guys have gobbled up tickets to the Heat game among others.

You will get 2 seats in the Event Level Suite seating section tickets with access to the SPG Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden.
In the suite you will get complimentary food and beverages.
You can request kosher food as well! Just include that in the “Other notes” section when redeeming for tickets.  Kosher food is available catered from Abigael’s or the Carlos and Gabby’s stands.

2 tickets to Rangers games can be had for 25,000 Starpoints.  That includes 2 of the best seats in the house and kosher meals!

2 tickets to Knicks games can be had for 35,000 Starpoints.  Premium games may go for an extra 10K points.

These are “buy-it-now” rates, not auction rates and they’re first come, first served.

There are other sporting and music events as well and they start at just 5,000 Starpoints for 2 tickets including kosher food if requested!

HT: damaxer91, via DDF

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler. Part 4: Kauai And Other General Tips.

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Per request I’ve added some pictures to this roundup.  Your feedback is always appreciated! Have another city you’d like to see covered like this? Hit the comments!

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler:
Part 1: General Info And The Island Of Oahu
Part 2: The Big Island of Hawaii
Part 3: Maui
Part 4: Kauai

Related posts:
-Which Miles To Use To Fly To Hawaii?
-DansMeals: Los Angeles For The Kosher Traveler

Previous trip reports with pictures:
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Oahu (2009)
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Kauai (2009)
-
The Hawaiian Islands (2011)
-Traveling To Hawaii…With A 5 Month Old (2011)
And one of these days I really ought to write up a trip report on Maui and The Big Island.

DDF forum threads:
-Hawaii Master Thread: General Questions And Which Island To Visit?
-Big Island Of Hawaii Master Thread
-Kauai Master Thread
-Maui Master Thread
-Oahu Master Thread
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The 2nd most popular destination that people booked with the Delta glitch was Hawaii. More details can be found via the trip reports above, but this will give a quick overview of the options.

If you’re flying to Hawaii in coach on the Delta glitch with your family you should look into the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express which gets a free checked bag (a $50 round-trip value per person per trip) for up to 9 people on an itinerary with the primary cardholder!

The revealed series of books are absolutely required reading if you are going to Hawaii. They read like a novel and are unlike any other guidebook you’ve seen before. They have great recommendations for everything there is to do on the islands, from private beaches to the best hikes. It’ll be the best money you spend on your entire trip:
-Oahu Revealed
-Big Island of Hawaii Revealed
-Maui Revealed
-Kauai Revealed

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Some other general tips:

-If you’re going to a beach with an infant invest in something like this pop-up tent where you’ll be able to keep them out of the sun.

If you still don’t know which islands to hit up:

-Oahu for a plethora of museums, aquariums, water parks, nightlife, and Pearl Harbor.  Oahu is very kid-friendly.  It’s also the only island with a daily minyan and a shabbos minyan within walking distance of tons of hotels.  Plus kosher food is readily available.

-Maui‘s nickname is Maui No Ka Oi, or Maui is the best. It definitely has a nice mix of things to do for everyone and is a good balance between Oahu and Kauai. Great snorkeling, a plethora of water activities everywhere, lots of shopping, the best whale watching boats, and it’s not overly touristy like Oahu and not as remote as Kauai. And the road to Hana is the stuff dreams are made of.  There is a Monday and Thursday minyan, but nothing for shabbos.  Shabbos food can be ordered locally though and the Hyatt Regency stocks kosher food.

-The Big Island of Hawaii has incredible snorkeling, diving, and beaches on the west, stunning beauty and waterfalls in Waipio Valley, sunsets you’ll never forget up Mauna Kea, raw beauty on the south coast, and volcanoes erupting in the southeast along with volcanically heated hot springs.  There is usually a shabbos minyan and locally make kosher food.

-Kauai is just stunning, perhaps there are less activities than can be found on Maui and Oahu and the greenery makes up for it.  You may be able to get a minyan if you stay in Princeville up north.  The Grand Hyatt stocks food from Oahu Kosher though it may be cheaper to just order it yourself from Oahu.

There’s incredible hiking on every island.

Of course there’s also Molokai and Lanai. Molokai is preserved as Hawaii was before tourists changed it. You’ll want to rent a condo here. Lanai is nearly entirely owned by Larry Ellison and he’d be more than happy to put you up at one of the two Four Seasons hotels on his island.

Most hotels will have an Inncom thermostat. These have motion sensors if you open or close a balcony, so unless you block the motion sensor you can’t open and close a balcony door on shabbos.
If you do leave the balcony open for shabbos you won’t have A/C in the room, as that turns off when the balcony is open., even if the balcony is just slightly cracked open.
VIP mode allows A/C to get colder than normally allowed and it runs even if the balcony is open.
-While you are holding “display”
-Press “off”, then
-Press “Up” arrow
-Then release “display”

Please read Part 1/Oahu for tips on interisland flights, how much time to spend on an island, bringing kosher food from home, ordering kosher food from Oahu, gear that you’ll want in Hawaii, and whether you may have to keep 2 days of shabbos. See Part 2/Big Island of Hawaii for more kosher food options for Kauai as well.

Having your own snorkeling gear and Tabi’s is really great, more on that in part 1 as well.
————————————————————————————–

Kauai: A stunningly beautiful island that’s less touristy than Maui and Oahu.

Kosher traveler info:

-Chabad of Kauai has just recently started having Shabbos morning prayers at the Princeville community Center at 4334 Emmalani Drive Princeville, HI 96722. While most weeks there is not yet a minyan, recently more tourists have been staying nearby so hopefully in the near future there will be a more consistent minyan.
On some weeks there are communal meals available, email them at jewishkauai@gmail.com for more info.

-The Grand Hyatt Kauai has a kosher menu with food supplied from Oahu Kosher that you can order from their restaurants or from room service with advance notice.

-Costco (Lihue), WalMart (Lihue), Times (Lihue), and Safeway (Kapaa) have kosher groceries.
See Chabad of Kauai’s site for more detailed info.

Cars:

There are some places on Kauai where having a 4WD can come in handy such as in Waimea Canyon and Polihale.  While a 4WD isn’t needed, it can definitely be worth renting for a day. Besides for that, if you can fit into a convertible that is definitely the car of choice.

Chabad of Hawaii has passed on a corporate rate for rentals at Enterprise or National in Hawaii that provides better rates, waives underage fees, and waives different location drop-off fees.
The company name is Hawaii Kosher Weddings. The contract number is XZ36016 and the pin is HAW

You can also bid for car rentals on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

Buy gas at Costco where it’s cheaper than at most stations on the islands.

Hotels:

The north side of Kauai (Princeville area) is lush and beautiful but that comes at a cost: it’s also rainier and buggier.  Usually the rain is brief and shouldn’t disturb your trip. The south side (Poipu area) is less lush and drier and closer to Waimea Canyon.  If you’re driving down to the Poipu resort area you’ll go through a tree tunnel that is pretty neat.

There’s no road that circumnavigates Kauai. Polihale Beach on the west coast and Ke’e Beach on the north coast may only be several miles apart, but you’ll need to drive across the entire island to go from one to the other.

kauai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re traveling with a family in Hawaii it’s definitely worth looking into renting a private home or condo from sites like VRBO , Home Away , or airbnb.
Before I was married I got $150 tickets for my family to go to Hawaii and we stayed at a great condo in Poipu found on VRBO.

You can also bid for hotels on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

-The S. Regis Princeville Resort is an SPG category 7 property (30-35K Starpoints per night or 24-28K points per night on a 5 night redemption). This is by far the most luxurious hotel on the island and the views from the rooms are simply  unparalleled. Beware that most rooms have no balconies. The setting however is breathtaking with the ocean crashing on the cliffs below and the waterfall-filled mountains in the background. There are several hot tubs and pools and butler service on the beach as well as in the suites.  They even give kids free S. Regis branded plush animal upon checkin! Chabad is 1.2-2 miles away depending on how you walk there.

S. Regis view from the room:

S. Regis lobby:

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-The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is an SPG category 6 property (20-25K Starpoints per night or 16K-20K points per night on a 5 night redemption). The villas come with full kitchens and other nice amenities not found in normal hotels. Chabad is just 0.6 miles away.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 10K bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and 15K bonus Starpoints for $5,000 in 6 months which would give you a total of 30,000 Starpoints.

-The Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu is a category 6 hotel (25K Hyatt or Chase points/night or 12.5K points+$150 per night).  This is an excellent south shore property with countless pools, beautiful grounds, and exotic birds.  It’s a great place to be if you never plan on leaving the hotel grounds, but that would be absolutely criminal.

Grand Hyatt Kauai:

IMG_0108a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-The Sheraton Kauai Resort in Poipu is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation).

-The Marriott Kauai Lagoons in Lihue is a Marriott category 7 property (35K Chase or Marriott points per night or 28K per night on a 5 night reservation).

-The Kaua’i Marriott Resort in Poipu is a Marriott category 7 property (35K Chase or Marriott points per night or 28K per night on a 5 night reservation).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 40,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points for spending $3,000 plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user.  It offers 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and has no foreign exchange fees. The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold each earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months, offer up to 5 points per dollar spent, have no foreign exchange fees, and come with free lounge passes. Chase points can transfer into Hyatt or Marriott points instantly at a 1:1 ratio if you or your spouse holds a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Card card.  Chase also has a Hyatt card which gives 2 free nights for spending $1,000 though the bonus categories on the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards like Sapphire, Freedom, and Ink are generally much more lucrative than the Hyatt card.  Bear in mind that Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire and are transferable while the Hyatt nights must be completed within 1 year and are officially non-transferrable.

Activities:
-Drive north. The scenic drive past Hanalei Valley on one lane bridges is just stunning. Don’t miss the wet and the dry caves along the way, regardless of whether Puff the Magic Dragon is around.
-Take a helicopter ride. They’re not cheap, but it will be the highlight of your trip. The interior of Kauai is stunning but it’s extremely remote. The only way to see places like Waialeale, the rainiest place on this planet, is from the air. A helicopter ride will take you over the “Jurassic Park” falls and the jaw-dropping Na Pali coast. Some helicopter tours even land at Jurassic Park falls and allow you to hike into them. Other tours will whisk you away to the forbidden island of Niihau.
I’ve flown on Blue Hawaiian twice, once before marriage and again on our honeymoon. The first time it was raining but that made the waterfalls and Waialeale really look incredible. The second time it was dry which made for better lines of sight, but less impressive waterfalls. You can’t go wrong either way but definitely try to get seats in the front row.
-Waimea Canyon is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, drive up slowly and take in the beautiful and changing scenery with the canyon on one side, and the sheer cliffs of Na Pali on the other. Come here early in the day before the clouds set in and block the views. Bring a sweater!
-The hiking up in Waimea Canyon is second to none. Stop in the visitors center for hike suggestions and maps. If you’re up for an all day hike that is a real treat try the Nu’alolo/Awa’awapuhi grand loop hike for indelible views of Na Pali that you will always reminisce about.
Note that it is much warmer at the lower Na Pali side of this hike than it is at the beginning of the hike due to the change in elevation.
The scenery from this hike is way too unbelievable to describe, but the hike is 11 miles long and has to be started before 10am to finish it before 5pm.  I’m not crazy about La Britue meals, but it was really cool to have a hot lunch hours away from civilization while overlooking Na Pali.

You may have to hang tight for some parts of the Nu’alolo/Awa’awapuhi grand loop hike:

But the views will stay with you for a lifetime:


Not too worry, there are plenty of shorter and easier hikes up here and all around Kauai, see Kauai revealed for more!
-If you have a 4WD vehicle with 4-low and are feeling brave then don’t miss Miloli Ridge Road which will open up to the a truly stunning view of Na Pali. You can also take the paved Makaha Ridge road in any car, but the end is blocked off by a government building. Just before the building though we found a place to pull over and take in a partial view of Na Pali.
With a 4WD in Kauai you can also access several other trailheads inaccessible with other cars and you can drive on the sand dunes of Polihale.
-Kayak to Fern Grotto and hike to Secret Falls. You can rent a kayak from Kamokila Hawaiian Village across from Opaekaa Falls.

Kayak, hike, and head right on into the falls:

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-Polihale Beach: The waves make it dangerous for swimming (though Queen’s Pond offers a respite) but the west coast of Kauai has miles and miles of empty beaches.  Calmer beaches to swim in can be found elsewhere.

The sunset from anywhere on the west coast of Kauai is sure to be awesome:


-You can drive right up to Wailua Falls.
-Queen’s Bath in Princeville is supposed to be stunning, though I haven’t made it there yet.
-Snorkeling and diving are must-dos in Hawaii.
-We went on a boat tour of Na Pali that left from the South shore in the winter time. The entire boat was covered in vomit. The good news was that I paid with my Starwood AMEX and won the chargeback on a trip that never should have happened. Stick to summertime tours that leave from the north shore. Or see Na Pali from the air or on foot.
-Other activity ideas: ATV, zipline, horseback riding, powered hang-gliding, golf, etc.
-Find a local fruit stand or farmers market and skip the grocery stores.  The fruit in Hawaii is just amazing, don’t leave without trying locally grown Maui Gold Pineapple, passion fruit, papaya, mango, lychee, mangosteen, rambutan, etc.  They just taste so much better in Hawaii and they’re much cheaper at farmers markets.  Beware that you can’t bring any fruit home with you besides for Pineapple or Coconut.
-Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the most famous and scenic hike in the Hawaiian Islands, Kalalau Trail. You can hike the first couple miles as a day trip, but you need camping permits to do the whole trail. Allow a couple nights and be sure that you’re prepared for the hike of a lifetime!  It’s definitely on my bucket list, though I think I should have crossed this one off before having kids…

And don’t forget to relax too ;)

Have more tips? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler. Part 3: Maui

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler:
Part 1: General Info And The Island Of Oahu
Part 2: The Big Island of Hawaii
Part 3: Maui
Part 4: Kauai (Upcoming)

Related posts:
-Which Miles To Use To Fly To Hawaii?
-DansMeals: Los Angeles For The Kosher Traveler

Previous trip reports with pictures:
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Oahu (2009)
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Kauai (2009)
-Traveling To Hawaii…With A 5 Month Old (2011)
-
The Hawaiian Islands (2011)
And one of these days I really ought to write up a trip report on Maui and The Big Island.

DDF forum threads:
-Hawaii Master Thread: General Questions And Which Island To Visit?
-Big Island Of Hawaii Master Thread
-Kauai Master Thread
-Maui Master Thread
-Oahu Master Thread
—————————
The 2nd most popular destination that people booked with the Delta glitch was Hawaii. More details can be found via the trip reports above, but this will give a quick overview of the options.

If you’re flying to Hawaii in coach on the Delta glitch with your family you should look into the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express which gets a free checked bag (a $50 round-trip value per person per trip) for up to 9 people on an itinerary with the primary cardholder!

The revealed series of books are absolutely required reading if you are going to Hawaii. They read like a novel and are unlike any other guidebook you’ve seen before.  They have great recommendations for everything there is to do on the islands, from private beaches to the best hikes. It’ll be the best money you spend on your entire trip:
-Oahu Revealed
-Big Island of Hawaii Revealed
-Maui Revealed
-Kauai Revealed

————————————————————————————–

Maui: A beautiful island with lots of activities that’s less touristy than Oahu. Ferry service available to Molokai and Lanai islands.

Kosher traveler info:

Please read Part 1/Oahu for tips on interisland flights, how much time to spend on an island, bringing kosher food from home, ordering kosher food from Oahu, gear that you’ll want in Hawaii, and whether you may have to keep 2 days of shabbos. See Part 2/Big Island of Hawaii for more kosher food options for Maui as well.

-Chabad of Maui can provide homemade shabbos meals with 2 weeks advance notice. There is no shabbos minyan on Maui but they do attempt to have a minyan on Monday, Thursdays, and when someone needs to say kaddish.  If you want a minyan for shabbos look at the previous posts on Oahu and The Big Island.

-The Hyatt Regency Maui has a kosher menu that you can order from their restaurants or from room service with advance notice.  Click here to download the kosher menu. In the past I was able to get kosher breakfast comped as a Diamond member…go for the blintzes (they are cholov yisroel) over the eggs.  The beef corn dogs are a great deal as you get the whole package of 5 S’Better corn dogs for just $9 and you can request to have them served in one of the hotel restaurants or brought to your room.  The box of corn dogs costs more uncooked from my local grocery store…go figure!

-Costco (Kahului), Safeway (Kahului, Kihei and Lahaina), Whole Foods (Kahului), Mana Foods (Paia), and Lahaina Farms (Lahaina) all carry kosher foods. Mana Foods is my personal favorite of the bunch thanks to their large selection and relatively low prices.

Cars:

On Maui there is no need for 4WD.  If you can fit into a convertible that is definitely the car of choice.

Chabad of Hawaii has passed on a corporate rate for rentals at Enterprise or National in Hawaii that provides better rates, waives underage fees, and waives different location drop-off fees.
The company name is Hawaii Kosher Weddings. The contract number is XZ36016 and the pin is HAW

You can also bid for car rentals on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

Buy gas at Costco where’s it’s cheaper than at most stations on the islands.

Hotels:

Hotels can be found in North Maui (Ka’anapali) and South Maui (Wailea), both are on the sunny west coast.

If you’re traveling with a family in Hawaii it’s definitely worth looking into renting a private home or condo from sites like VRBO , Home Away , or airbnb.
Before I was married I nabbed $150 tickets for my family to go to Hawaii and we stayed at a great condo in Kihei found on VRBO. There are definitely many pluses and minuses of a private condo/house versus a hotel.

You can also bid for hotels on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

-The Sheraton Maui Resort is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation) in North Maui.  There is great snorkeling by Black Rock in front of the hotel.

-The Westin Maui Resort is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation) right next door to the Sheraton.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 10K bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and 15K bonus Starpoints for $5,000 in 6 months which would give you a total of 30,000 Starpoints.

-The Hyatt Regency Maui is category 5 hotel (20K Hyatt or Chase points per night or just 10K points+$125 per night). Very nice grounds, pools, and even parrots and swans. But you’ll want to walk up the path to the Sheraton for a better beach. Kosher dining menu is available. Service can be mixed though.

-The Hyatt Andaz Wailea is a category 6 hotel (25K points/night or 12.5K points+$150 per night). It opened a few months ago and has no kosher menu. They also charge a whopping $25 per meal per person just to heat up your food while other hotels do it for a fraction of that or even for free…not cool!

-The Grand Wailea costs anywhere from 54K-90K Hilton points per night (20K Starpoints transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points. 25K AMEX points with the current Hilton transfer bonus or 25K Chase or AMEX points transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points)

-The Ritz Carlton Kapalua is a Marriott/Ritz Carlton Tier 3 property (50K Chase or Marriott points per night or 40K per night on a 5 night reservation).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 40,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points for spending $3,000 plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user.  It offers 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and has no foreign exchange fees. The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold each earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months, offer up to 5 points per dollar spent, have no foreign exchange fees, and come with free lounge passes. Chase points can transfer into Hyatt or Marriott points instantly at a 1:1 ratio if you or your spouse holds a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Card card.  Chase also has a Hyatt card which gives 2 free nights for spending $1,000 though the bonus categories on the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards like Sapphire, Freedom, and Ink are generally much more lucrative than the Hyatt card.  Bear in mind that Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire and are transferable while the Hyatt nights must be completed within 1 year and are officially non-transferrable.

Activities:

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-The Road to Hana is an epic drive that offers impossibly lush scenery, dozens of waterfalls, black sand beaches, and more.  Kids prone to motion sickness may not appreciate the curvy drive cut through the side of the mountain…bring a bag!

Start this road early, try to leave your hotel by 7 in the morning so that you have time to make frequent stops to gawk at waterfalls, go on amazing hikes, and make it back so that you’re not driving on the road after dark. A convertible is perfect for this drive. Remember that the point of this drive isn’t to get to Hana, there’s nothing there!  So don’t tailgate the car ahead of you and let the car behind you pass so you can drive slow and take in the heavenly scenery.

Don’t miss the 3 bears waterfall (and hike closer!), Wailua Iki waterfall hike, rainbow trees, the Nahiku road turn-off to the ocean, black-sand beach, venus pool, etc. Take a picture of you with the road cutting into the side of the mountain behind you. The Seven sacred pools are part of Haleakala National Park, so save your receipt to go up to the top of Haleakala for free over the following 3 days.
Don’t turn around, even a regular car can complete the entire loop and it gives you an entirely different perspective with amazing windswept views instead of seeing the same stuff again. The drive does get a bit more difficult on the loop around, but it’s nothing too bad.
-In North Maui don’t miss the Dragon’s Teeth, Nakalele blowhole, and the Olivine Pools. It takes a hike to get to both the blowhole and the olivine pools, but they’re both awesome and you’re sure to get amazing pictures!
-Whale watching boatride can be awesome if a whale breaches near your boat.
-Haleakala: Catch an amazing sunrise or sunset and go on amazing hikes in the park. Bring a sweater!
-Downtown Lahaina is fun to walk around, especially at night. The Warren and Annabelle’s magic show in Lahaina gets rave reviews.
-The Iao Needle is good enough for a picture though you don’t need to do it.
-Maui has incredible snorkeling and diving. It’s criminal to not try snorkeling at least once. There are great places to snorkel south of Wailea or at Black Rock by the Sheraton in North Maui.
-You can also take a snorkeling boatride out to Molokini where the snorkeling is legendary and the visibility and water clarity is incredible. Go very early in the morning.
-Ferry service and flights are available to Molokai and Lanai. Those islands are said to feel like the Hawaii of old though I haven’t yet made it out there.
-Jetski, snorkel, dive, kayak, stand-up-paddling, surf, kite-board, parasail, windsurf, you name it, you can do it in the waters off Maui.
-Other activity ideas: ATV, zipline, helicopter tour, hang-gliding (powered and traditional), golf, etc.
-Find a local fruit stand or farmers market and skip the grocery stores.  The fruit in Hawaii is just amazing, don’t leave without trying locally grown Maui Gold Pineapple, passion fruit, papaya, mango, lychee, mangosteen, rambutan, etc.  They just taste so much better in Hawaii and they’re much cheaper at farmers markets.  Beware that you can’t bring any fruit home with you besides for Pineapple or Coconut.

And don’t forget to relax too ;)

When we were in Maui last time with Rafi we took a sunset picture session on the beach with Wailea Photography.  The pictures were stunning and many hang in our house today.  If you mention DansDeals then you’ll also save $50 off the prices listed on the site. This isn’t a paid ad, I just really loved the pictures we got.  We’ve taken photo shoots in Buenos Aires and Banff as well and I find that taking a photo shoot from a vacation spot is far better than any other silly souvenir from the trip.

Have more tips? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler. Part 2: The Big Island of Hawaii

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler:
Part 1: General Info And The Island Of Oahu
Part 2: The Big Island of Hawaii
Part 3: Maui (Upcoming)
Part 4: Kauai (Upcoming)

Related posts:
-Which Miles To Use To Fly To Hawaii?
-DansMeals: Los Angeles For The Kosher Traveler

Previous trip reports with pictures:
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Oahu (2009)
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Kauai (2009)
-Traveling To Hawaii…With A 5 Month Old (2011)
-
The Hawaiian Islands (2011)
And one of these days I really ought to write up a trip report on Maui and The Big Island.

DDF forum threads:
-Hawaii Master Thread: General Questions And Which Island To Visit?
-Big Island Of Hawaii Master Thread
-Kauai Master Thread
-Maui Master Thread
-Oahu Master Thread

———————————————————————–
The 2nd most popular destination that people booked with the Delta glitch was Hawaii. More details can be found via the trip reports above, but this will give a quick overview of the options.

If you’re flying to Hawaii in coach on the Delta glitch with your family you should look into the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express which gets a free checked bag (a $50 round-trip value per person per trip) for up to 9 people on an itinerary with the primary cardholder!

The revealed series of books are absolutely required reading if you are going to Hawaii. They read like a novel and are unlike any other guidebook you’ve seen before. It’ll be the best money you spend on your entire trip:
-Oahu Revealed
-Big Island of Hawaii Revealed
-Maui Revealed
-Kauai Revealed

Cars:

On the Big Island you’ll definitely want something with 4WD if possible.

Chabad of Hawaii has passed on a corporate rate for rentals at Enterprise or National in Hawaii that provides better rates, waives underage fees, and waives different location drop-off fees.
The company name is Hawaii Kosher Weddings. The contract number is XZ36016 and the pin is HAW

You can also bid for car rentals on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

Buy gas at Costco where’s it’s cheaper than at most stations on the islands.

Please read part 1 for tips on interisland flights, how much time to spend on an island, bringing kosher food from home, ordering kosher food from Oahu, gear that you’ll want in Hawaii, and whether you may have to keep 2 days of shabbos.

—————————————————————————————————————

The Big Island of Hawaii: BIG! All of the other islands can fit inside of it!
The Kohala coast has famous stretches of sunny beaches.  The Hilo east coast is very rainy, but is home to active volcanoes and hot springs.  The Big Island is raw, lava filled, and not touristy like Oahu and Maui.  It may not be quite as lush as the other islands but there is enough to do here to keep anyone occupied for weeks.

There are 2 commercial airports, KOA for the Kona side and ITO for the Hilo side of the island.  They are 2 hours apart via Saddle Road.

IMG_0807a

A sunset on Mauna Kea isn’t something you’ll quickly forget.

Kosher traveler info:

-Chabad of The Big Island is located at 75-5995 Kuakini Hwy #323, in Kailua Kona on the windward (west) coast.
There is no daily minyan but they do get a minyan shabbos night and day roughly 90% of the time. You can join communal meals on Friday night and Shabbos day. The cost for both meals is $54 for adults and $36 for kids and reservations should be made beforehand.

-Chabad of the Big Island sells prepared kosher meals (see menu) made fresh daily and they’re pleased to extend a 10% discount for DansDeals readers for a limited time only with code: DANS10 Once the promo is over you’ll still be able to save 5% with code: DANS5
They can deliver meals to your hotel double wrapped so that you can call in room dining for your food and the hotel staff will bring it up.  The cost for delivery to Kona area hotels is normally $25 and the cost for Waikoloa area hotels is $60.  However if you mentions DansDeals there will be a 20% discount available for delivery as well.
Alternatively you can pickup the food freshly made in Kona for free! Pickup in Honolulu on the island of Oahu is also available for no charge!
Shipping via refrigerated cargo is also available to Maui or Kauai for $75.

You can also find kosher food on the Kona side of the island at Costco, Kmart, Safeway, and Walmart. On the Hilo side you have Safeway and Walmart.

Hotels:

Almost all hotels are located on the sunnier and warmer Kona side, though the very rainy Hilo side has more to do. When we honeymooned in Hawaii we rented a treehouse near the volcano using VRBO…it was awesome and is definitely the way to go if you want to stay on the Hilo/Volcano side as the hotels around Hilo are few and pitiful.

If you have the time it’s definitely ideal to spend some nights on the Kona side and some nights on the Hilo side as it’s quite far to keep driving back and forth.

If you’re traveling with a family in Hawaii it’s definitely worth looking into renting a private home or condo from sites like VRBO , Home Away , or airbnb.

-Chabad is located 0.6 miles away from the Royal Kona Resort You can call Chabad directly for specially discounted rates there at 808-499-4573 or email them at chabadbigisland@gmail.com Chabad can also get discounts at other hotels like the Fairmont Orchid.

-Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is a Marriott category 5 property (25K Chase or Marriott points per night or 20K per night on a 5 night reservation). Chabad is 1.5 miles away.

-The Sheraton Kailua-Kona is an SPG category 4 property (10K Starpoints per night or 8K per night on a 5 night reservation). Chabad is 6 miles away.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 10K bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and 15K bonus Starpoints for $5,000 in 6 months which would give you a total of 30,000 Starpoints.

-The Hilton Waikoloa Village is a mega-resort that costs about 50K Hilton points per night (20K Starpoints transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points. 25K AMEX points with the current Hilton transfer bonus or 25K Chase or AMEX points transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points) Chabad is 27 miles away.

-Volcano House puts you smack in the middle of Volcanoes National Park. Chabad is 96 miles away.

You can also bid for hotels on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 40,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points for spending $3,000 plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user. It offers 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and has no foreign exchange fees. The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold each earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months, offer up to 5 points per dollar spent, have no foreign exchange fees, and come with free lounge passes. Chase points can transfer into Hyatt or Marriott points instantly at a 1:1 ratio if you or your spouse holds a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Card card.

Activities:
-See the current eruption. You can do this in the evening on the coast of Kalapana at the end of highway 130. You can also view eruptions at the Jaggar Museum overlook in the Volcanoes national park which are also better at night.
-Helicopter tours can show you eruptions from the sky. Or find a bootleg guide to take you on foot to the real eruption sights, but you’ll have to search online or locally to find someone like that ;)
-In the national park you can also walk and crawl through lava tubes and go on incredible hikes like the Kilauea Iki hike. Start at the Kilauea Iki Overlook to go through beautiful forest and then into the crater where lava devastated the lush forest. You can even have a picnic in the crater! Roads like Hilina Pali Road, off of Chain or Craters road in the park, will offer spectacular lookouts.
-Waipio Valley is like stepping into another world. But only a 4WD vehicle can make it down the steep grade to the paradise of lush valleys and waterfalls that meander on forever. Otherwise it will take a brutal walk to get there and back.  You can also hire a tour guide with 4WD from the top of the mountain.  You can also take a horseback tour through the valley though you will be on their schedule and you won’t have time to explore waterfalls and peer into the valley.  Beware that there are homeless people who live in the valley and they’re best left undisturbed.  There’s no cell phone service down in the valley either.
-Hot springs around Hilo are volcanically heated and are awesome. The ones that can be easily accessed, like Ahalanui will be more crowded than ones like Champagne Pond that require a 4WD drive to get to. We had Champagne pond to ourselves!
-Hilo’s farmers market offers exotic fruit and local wares. Wednesday is the big market day here. A beautiful glass blue wave caught my eye and although the listed price was high, just remember that you can definitely bargain here!  The fruit in Hawaii is just amazing, don’t leave without trying locally grown Maui Gold Pineapple, passion fruit, papaya, mango, lychee, mangosteen, rambutan, etc.  They just taste so much better in Hawaii and they’re much cheaper at farmers markets.  Beware that you can’t bring any fruit home with you besides for Pineapple or Coconut.
-Don’t be scared to drive Saddle Road connecting the Kona side with the Hilo side with the road up to Mauna Kea in the middle. It used to be bad but now it’s a fine drive.
-Mauna Kea offers the most stunning sunsets you’ll ever see. The volcano is taller than Everest from its base and you can drive up to the top and watch the sun set on the clouds below you. Bring a sweater, there will be snow at the top!
We did this drive in a convertible but a 4WD would have probably made things easier as the top half past the visitors center isn’t paved. Not for the faint of heart or those with respiratory issues. In fact those with respiratory issues should probably avoid the Big Island altogether.
Stay until after sunset and then watch the star show at the visitors center where you’re sure to see more stars than ever before.
Again, you can do this drive without 4WD, just take it nice and slow and use a low gear going down so that you don’t ride your breaks out.
If you do have a 4WD there are some other cool roads up here that you can drive on-see The Big Island Revealed for maps and details.
-Snorkeling by Captain Cook is among the best in the state.  There are tons of other water activities on the Kona side.
-Diving options are plentiful, including diving with Manta Rays at night!
-South Island sites like South Point where you can see crazy people (or join them, just be sure to send me the YouTube link!) diving off a 40 foot cliff into waters that don’t hit landmass until Antarctica.  If you have a 4WD you can drive from there to green sand beach or take the road to the sea to a private black sand beach.
-Whale watching boatride.
-Place of Refuge was where you went if you broke the Hawaiian law and were subject to execution. This place was a safe haven and if you made it here your life would be spared. No word on if you were able to leave once the big kahuna passed away…
-Kona Coffee is world famous and there are plantations like Greenwell and Bayview that offer tours and tastings.

And don’t forget to relax too ;)

Have more tips? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler. Part 1: General Info And The Island Of Oahu

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

DansMeals: Hawaii For The Kosher Traveler:
Part 1: General Info And The Island Of Oahu
Part 2: The Big Island of Hawaii
Part 3: Maui
Part 4: Kauai

Related posts:
-Which Miles To Use To Fly To Hawaii?
-DansMeals: Los Angeles For The Kosher Traveler

Previous trip reports with pictures:
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Oahu (2009)
-Hawaii Trip Notes: Kauai (2009)
-Traveling To Hawaii…With A 5 Month Old (2011)
-
The Hawaiian Islands (2011)
And one of these days I really ought to write up a trip report on Maui and The Big Island.

DDF forum threads:
-Hawaii Master Thread: General Questions And Which Island To Visit?
-Big Island Of Hawaii Master Thread
-Kauai Master Thread
-Maui Master Thread
-Oahu Master Thread

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The 2nd most popular destination that people booked with the Delta glitch was Hawaii.  There’s more detail that can be found via the trip reports above, but this will give a quick overview of the options.

If you’re flying to Hawaii in coach on Delta glitch with your family you should look into the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express which gets a free checked bag (a $50 round-trip value per person per trip) for up to 9 people on an itinerary with the primary cardholder!

There are 4 major Hawaiian islands. I’ll cover them each separately. Hawaii is paradise defined and one of my favorite places in the world.

It’s not just the pretty beaches and incredible snorkeling, it’s the refreshingly pure air, hiking, waterfalls, volcanoes…ahh. Just be sure to also leave some time to relax!

Best of all, as a US state, you have all of the conveniences of being back home, though it can take a long time to fly there from the east coast.  Your phone works without any roaming fees.

I’ve been lucky enough to make it to Hawaii 5 times:
-In March 2006 I flew to Oahu for 2 days as part of a glitch that included flights and hotels for $87.
-In January 2008 I got $150 United tickets for the family to Hawaii. We spent a week on Maui and a week in Kauai. My parents rented condos in both places for the family.
-In December 2008 Mimi and I spent nearly a month in Hawaii with a week on each island before topping it off with a Shabbos in LA on the way home. We nabbed the Sheraton Waikiki for dirt cheap on Priceline, stayed at the Hyatt Regency Maui and Grand Hyatt Kauai on faster free nights, and had a treehouse on the Big Island via VRBO.
-In December 2009 we went back for 2 nights at the Westin Moana Surfrider Waikiki, a week at the Hyatt Regency Maui, and a week at the Grand Hyatt Kauai on faster free nights once again. This time Hyatt was actually paying me thousands of miles for every free stay.
-In December 2011 we flew with 5 month old Rafi and stayed for a week at the S. Regis Princeville thanks to Starwood free resort nights and a week at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui thanks to lifetime Platinum free suites.
For the last 3 trips we flew Continental BusinessFirst using miles.

Fair warning: The Huffington Post (Disclaimer: This article has non-tznius pictures) says that Hawaii will ruin your life . They’re not far off, it’s kind of like how flying internationally in business or first will class will do the same to you!

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The revealed series of books are absolutely required reading if you are going to Hawaii. They read like a novel and are unlike any other guidebook you’ve seen before. It’ll be the best money you spend on your entire trip:
-Oahu Revealed
-Big Island of Hawaii Revealed
-Maui Revealed
-Kauai Revealed

Interisland Flights:

You can use miles to island-hop. United charges 5,000 for a one-way flight on Hawaiian or IslandAir.  They even allow a free stopover on a round-trip so you can fly Oahu-Kauai-Maui-Oahu for just 10,000 miles.

There is a DansDeals corporate account for Hawaiian Airlines that allows you to take 2 free bags per person, a $34 value per flight. It also gives free standby on earlier flights. You can email jj@dansdeals.com with the exact flights, dates, and time that you want, passengers names and dates of birth, and the price you found on hawaiianair.com to make a booking. A $6 per person per leg fee applies.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to change terminals in Honolulu and beware that you may have to recheck your luggage in Honolulu. Though, always ask your originating airline to check your bags through to your final destination. Bring a copy of your interisland itinerary to allow them to attempt to do so.

How long should you spend on a single island? The bare minimum is 4 days on the ground. A week is ideal.

Bringing kosher food:

Food that is in a deep-freeze will remain frozen upon arrival in Hawaii.  Mimi cooked a month’s worth of food in about 2 days for our honeymoon and we brought it all frozen.  We had each hotel freeze the food for the next islands.  Or save the time and buy ready made double sealed travel meals from places like Pomegranate.

You can even bring a double sealed meal onto the plane and have a flight attendant heat it up for you.

Call your hotel beforehand to arrange for an extra fridge and to place extra food in their freezers.
Hotels can heat up double-wrapped food for varying fees. Or bring along your own burner or buy a cheap toaster oven or grill on the island to do it yourself.

Shelf stable La Briute meals may not be great but they’re nice to have a pinch on a long outing like on the Road to Hana on Maui or during an all-day hike.

Gear:

WalMart sells inexpensive Tabi shoes which are shoes that have a grippy bottom that are great for hiking in stream and waterfalls. They also sell snorkeling gear if the idea of renting old gear grosses you out.

You will sunburn much faster in Hawaii due to its southern location than back home, buy and apply plenty of sunscreen.

If you have a mustache then you’ll want vaseline to stop your snorkel mask from leaking.

Cars:

You’ll definitely want a car on any island to explore its beauty. There’s no need for a 4WD on Oahu and Maui, the ideal car there is a convertible.

On the Big Island you’ll definitely want something with 4WD, more on that in the next installment.

Most of Kauai can be explored in a regular car though a 4WD may be helpful, more on that later as well.

Chabad of Hawaii has passed on a corporate rate for rentals at Enterprise or National in Hawaii that provides better rates, waives underage fees, and waives different location drop-off fees.
The company name is Hawaii Kosher Weddings. The contract number is XZ36016 and the pin is HAW

You can also bid for car rentals on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune!

Buy gas at Costco where’s it’s cheaper than at most stations on the islands.

Shabbos:

Some Rabbinical authorities hold that you must keep 2 days of Shabbos in Hawaii as the exact location of the halachic international dateline is a matter of debate. Be sure to discuss this with your Rabbi before traveling to Hawaii. If you will keep 2 days remember to discuss all potential ramifications regarding candlelighting, warming up food, etc.
The local communities on each island only keep shabbos on Saturday. Consider yourself lucky if you are able to hear the pilpul from Rabbi Aharon Dovid Gancz on the subject, a truly fascinating topic.

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Oahu: Home to Hawaii’s only major city, Honolulu.
Oahu gets a bad rep from people who stay in concrete Honolulu the whole time. The key is leaving the city behind!

Kosher traveler info:

-Chabad of Honolulu is located at 410 Atkinson Drive, adjacent to the Ala Moana Hotel. It has the only daily minyan in all of the Hawaiian islands. There is daily shacharis at 8:30 and mincha/maariv can be arranged for someone who needs to say kaddish. There is a minyan every shabbos and you can join communal meals on Friday night and Shabbos day. The cost for both meals is $70 for adults and $45 for kids and reservations should be made beforehand.

-Yudi Weinbaum lives on Oahu and runs Oahu Kosher, a delivery food service. Orders for Oahu deliveries must be made the day before and orders for other island must be made 48 hours in advance.
Deliveries to Waikiki are $10. Deliveries to Honolulu airport are $30. Shipments via refrigerated cargo for pickup at other Hawaiian airports is about $75 for a box of 10 meals.

-Grocery stores carry the same kosher items you find back home. In Honoulu there is Safeway, Whole Foods, Costco, WalMart, and Sam’s Club. Costco in Hawaii Kai has kosher cold cuts, frozen salmon, empire chicken, etc. Costco prices are very close to prices back home though prices at other stores can be double what it is on the mainland.

-Chabad of Honolulu sells Hawaiian kipot for $8, a neat gift.  If you wear it in Hawaii everyone will want to know where you got it from.

Hotels:

-Most hotels are located in Waikiki. If you’re traveling with a family in Hawaii it’s definitely worth looking into renting a private home or condo from sites like VRBO , Home Away , or airbnb.

-Chabad is located adjacent to the Ala Moana hotel, call Chabad directly for specially discounted rates there at 808-735-8161 or email them at info@chabadofhawaii.com

You can also request the Chabad rate when calling the Hawaii Prince or at the Modern Honolulu. Both are located within half a mile of Chabad.

You can also bid for hotels on Hotwire or Priceline that can save you a fortune.

-The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort costs about 50K Hilton points per night (20K Starpoints transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points. 25K AMEX points with the current Hilton transfer bonus or 25K Chase or AMEX points transfers into 25K Virgin Atlantic which transfers into 50K Hilton points) Chabad is 0.7 miles away.

-The Sheraton Waikiki is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation). Chabad is 1.2 miles away. Beware for shabbos that most stairwells here had motion activated lights, though when we stayed here 5 years ago there was one service stairwell that didn’t.

-The Royal Hawaiian is neighbors with the Sheraton and is part of the SPG luxury collection and is a category 6 property (20-25K Starpoints per night or 16K-20K points per night on a 5 night redemption). It’s a highly regarded hotel also known as the pink palace of the Pacific. Chabad is 1.2 miles away. People who have stayed here did not have shabbos issues.

-The Westin Moana Surfrider is an SPG category 6 property (20-25K Starpoints per night or 16K-20K points per night on a 5 night redemption). Chabad is 1.4 miles away. Beware for shabbos that stairwells here have motion activated lights. There are a few rooms that can be accessed from interior stairwells, so make those arrangements in advance if needed. This hotel did give us an absolutely incredible suite upgrade when we stayed here several years ago.

-The Hyatt Place Waikiki is a category 3 hotel (12K Hyatt or Chase points or 6K points+$75 per night). Chabad is 1.8 miles away.

-The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort is a category 5 hotel (18K Hyatt or Chase points per night if you lock it in by 01/06, otherwise 20K points/night or 10K points+$125 per night). Chabad is 1.5 miles away.

-Turtle Bay Resort is a North Shore hotel far away from the city hustle and bustle.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 10K bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and 15K bonus Starpoints for $5,000 in 6 months which would give you a total of 30,000 Starpoints.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 40,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points for spending $3,000 plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user.  It offers 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and has no foreign exchange fees. The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold each earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months, offer up to 5 points per dollar spent, have no foreign exchange fees, and come with free lounge passes. Chase points can transfer into Hyatt points instantly at a 1:1 ratio if you or your spouse holds a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Card card.  Chase also has a Hyatt card which gives 2 free nights for spending $1,000 though the bonus categories on the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards like Sapphire, Freedom, and Ink are generally much more lucrative than the Hyatt card.  Bear in mind that Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire and are transferable while the Hyatt nights must be completed within 1 year and are officially non-transferrable.

Activities:
-Venture out of touristy and overcrowded Honolulu, there are plenty of stunning views, private beaches, and fantastic hikes on Oahu but you need to leave the city behind and explore.
-Hike Diamond Head, Manoa Falls, or dozens of other hikes that you can read about in Oahu Revealed.
-Snorkel at crowded but beautiful Hanauma Bay or find your own secluded spot.
-Drive the stunning H3.
-Watch surfers wipeout on the Banzai Pipeline.
-Kayaking to a “sunken island” off the leeward (east) coast is very neat (See Oahu revealed for full info on this and many other activities)
-Jetskiing up north on wild waves is a real treat.
-If you go to Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial, go early. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Be there at 8am and you won’t have to wait around for hours. Also don’t bring any bags with you.
-Kids may enjoy the Dole Plantation.
-Count how many ABC stores are in Waikiki :D
-Helicopter tours are breathtaking, but they are better taken on other islands if possible.

Have more tips? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

DansMeals: Los Angeles For The Kosher Traveler

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Previous trip reports with pictures:
-Trip Notes: Pesach in Palm Springs (2010)
-Trip Notes: Our SoCal Quasi-Mileage Run (2011) (Also includes Orange County and San Diego)
-Trip Notes: SoCal Luscious Spring (2012) (Includes Palm Springs)
-Trip Notes: Los Angeles (2013)
-And I still owe you guys a trip report from my trip last week…stay tuned :)

DDF forum threads:
-Los Angeles Master Thread (With Wiki)
-San Diego Master Thread (With Wiki)
-California Coast/PCH Master Thread
-San Francisco/No Cal Master Thread (With Wiki)
-Palm Springs, CA Master Thread (With Wiki)
—————————————————-
The number one destination that people booked with the Delta glitch was Los Angeles.  If people enjoy this post I can make similar quick guides to other places that people bought tickets to as well.  There’s more detail that can be found via the trip reports above, but this will give a quick overview of the options.

If you’re flying to LA on Delta glitch with your family you should look into the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express which gets a free checked bag (a $50 round-trip value per person per trip) for up to 9 people on an itinerary with the primary cardholder!

Here are some quick facts about LA for kosher travelers:

The LA jewish community has 2 main areas in the city itself, the Pico/Robertson neighborhood and the Beverly/La Brea neighborhood.  Traffic between the 2 can be heavy at times-it can take 5 minutes without traffic but up to 25 minutes with traffic.  Then there are tons of other communities spread throughout the Valley and beyond.

-Where to eat, LA kosher edition:
Meat:
-Tierra Sur At Herzog Winery (Oxnard): It’s well worth the shlep out to the finest kosher dining experience in North America.  The menu is constantly changing but just about everything they concoct will rock your world.  Buy this $40 Groupon and you’ll also get free wine tasting for 2.  While you’re out in Oxnard look into water activities or dive into retail therapy at the gargantuan Camarillo Premium Outlets (and don’t forget to signup here for a coupon for a free VIP coupon book).  You can take the 101 out here or drive up the ocean-hugging PCH for great views. If you take the PCH you can stop by the Getty Villa and Fish Grill along with hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains.
-La Gondola is an LA classic that lives up to the hype. It would be criminal to go without getting the Avocado Eggrolls. Duck eggrolls are also very good. The lunch special is a great deal for a Gondola Burger topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions or Steak Wrap with a soup or pasta included. Otherwise the ribs and Chai steak are famous as well.
-Beverly Hills Thai has lots of unique food that you won’t find elsewhere.
-Jeff’s has a cult following for their relatively inexpensive high quality fast food like a homemade polish dog, the off-menu wild western burger, and their delicious onion rings.
-Mexikosher is another relatively inexpensive eatery with a cult following. Definitely worth a try, flavors that you’ll either love or hate.
-PKD (Pico Kosher Deli) has a classic deli menu with a hot pastrami and cole slaw that’s worthwhile for any deli fan.  The onion rings here are great as well.
-Shiloh’s and Pat’s are upscale steakhouses with mixed reviews, some people love ‘em, others hate ‘em.  At any rate the bread pudding dessert at Pat’s is famous.
-Ditmas is brand new from the chef of La Seine. I was there on opening night so I’m hesitant to judge it based on the chaos of that night, but expect small portions and good flavors. Will review it further in my upcoming trip report.
-26 has converted over to a meat restaurant with a menu inspired by Todd Aarons of Tierra Sur fame. Decor is phenomenal but I was unimpressed by the food, full review to follow.
-Got Kosher? has got a mouth-watering Memphis style pulled BBQ beef sandwich that may just rock your world, full review to follow.

Milk/Parve:
-Fish Grill is a classic and has locations on the main jewish drags of Beverly and Pico and as far out as picturesque Mailbu. My go to dish is the Grilled Salmon with Angel Hair Pasta and fries.
-Milky Way is run by Steven Spielberg’s mother. They make a great mix of food from mexican dishes like chimichangas and classic kosher foods like incredible homemade cheese blintzes. The restaurant hasn’t changed in decades. Luckily neither has their pricing which is now a bargain. Steven can often be found dining here and his mom loves to chat with everyone and show off his movie posters in back.
-Pizza Mayven has great plain pizza, the best in LA.
-Pizza Nosh is out in Agoura Hills, you can stop here for lunch when going out to Oxnard. Very good pizza and pasta dishes.
-Holy Cow is a new dairy place with ice cream sandwiched between delicious homemade cookies, onion soup in a bread bowl, and excellent paninis. More on this place when I write up a trip report from last week.
-Nagila Pizza has good stuffed-crust pizza.
-Meshuga for Sushi: Sushi has never been LA’s strong spot, only short-lived La Seine really excelled at it. It’s decent here but can’t compare to the goodies that can be found in Chicago, Miami, or Montreal.
-Trattoria Natalie has the old menu from the dairy 26. I haven’t made it here yet, but reviews seem promising.

Breakfast/Bakery:
-Cafe Elite: Crumb ring cake donuts: ‘Nuff said.
-Schwartz Bakery/Circa NY: Don’t miss the crumb cheese danishes and try a personal sized caramel cake. The Circa location on Pico serves breakfast.
-Delice Bakery: French pastry heaven.
-La Brea Bagel has the best bagels in town.
-Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s only Cholov Yisroel location in the world is on Beverly. The Iced Vanilla Espresso is something to behold.

Shabbos Food:
-Abba’s on LaBrea offers good heimish shabbos food.
-PKD has decent shabbos take-out as well.
-Ralph’s supermarket on La Brea and 3rd has a massive kosher section with ready made food for sale like incredible succulent ribs you can buy over the counter. Wine is sold here as well.  (Ralph’s down south in La Jolla also has an amazing kosher setup)
-The new Western Kosher on Pico near La Brea has a shabbos menu that you can even order from online.
-Schwartz Bakery has lots of great varieties of Challah, from plain to chocolate chip to pretzel dough.
-La Break Bakery sells good challah as well.

Hotels:

-The SLS Beverly Hills is an SPG category 6 hotel (20-25K Starpoints per night or 16K-20K points per night on a 5 night redemption) and is fantastic with modern rooms and a rooftop pool. It’s within walking distance of shuls and is perfectly located within a few minutes drive to all of the kosher restaurants in Los Angeles.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns 10K bonus Starpoints for spending $1 and 15K bonus Starpoints for $5,000 in 6 months which would give you a total of 30,000 Starpoints.

-The Hyatt Andaz West Hollywood is currently a category 4 hotel (15K Hyatt or Chase points per night) if you book it by 01/06. Category 4 hotels can be had on the cheap thanks to anniversary nights. On 01/07 it shifts to category 5 and will cost 20K points/night or 10K points+$125 per night. It’s a hike to get to a shul though it’s just a short drive to them and kosher restaurants.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 40,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points for spending $3,000 plus 5,000 points for adding a free additional user.  It offers 2.14 points per dollar on all travel and dining expenses and has no foreign exchange fees. The Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold each earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months, offer up to 5 points per dollar spent, have no foreign exchange fees, and come with free lounge passes . The Chase Freedom earns 20,000 points for spending $500 though that bonus will end very soon and go back down to 10,000.  It offers 5 point rotating categories and 10% more points if you also have a Chase checking account.  The Ink Cash card earns 20,000 points for spending $3,000.  Chase points can transfer into Hyatt points instantly at a 1:1 ratio if you or your spouse holds a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Card card.  Chase also has a Hyatt card which gives 2 free nights for spending $1,000 though the bonus categories on the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards like Sapphire, Freedom, and Ink are generally much more lucrative than the Hyatt card.  Bear in mind that Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire and are transferable while the Hyatt nights must be completed within 1 year and are officially non-transferrable.

-The Sheraton Gateway LAX is a better than average airport hotel and is an SPG category 3 property (7K Starpoints per night or 5.6K per night on a 5 night reservation). Figure on a 20 to 30 minute drive to most shuls and kosher restaurants. Nice perk: You can often find free street parking behind the hotel on 98th street.
-The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza is a category 5 hotel (18K Hyatt or Chase points per night if you lock it in by 01/06, otherwise 20K points/night or 10K points+$125 per night) It’s walkable to the Westwood Kehilla shul and a short drive to kosher restaurants.
-The W Westwood is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation). It’s walkable to Chabad of Westwood and is a short drive to kosher restaurants.
-The W Hollywood is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation). It’s a hike to get to a shul though it’s just a short drive to them and kosher restaurants.
-Other hotels near shuls and kosher restaurants include Mr. C , Residence Inn by Marriott , Crowne Plaza, Best Western Plus Carlyle Inn, and Intercontinental Century City.
-The Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica is an SPG category 5 property (12K-16K Starpoints per night or 9.6K-12.8K per night on a 5 night reservation). It’s located near the beach and Santa Monica activities. It’s also walkable to Chabad of Simcha Monica. Without traffic it’s not too bad to kosher eateries though with traffic it can be a shlep.
-You can always use Hotwire or Priceline to bid on hotels in areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, or the airport.  I’ve nabbed the Sheraton Gateway LAX, Westin LAX, and Crowne Plaza LAX for $50 or less in the past.

Activities:
-Theme parks (Universal Studios, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, etc)
-The Grove is a fantastic outdoor mall with great shopping, celebrity spotting, and a train ride that runs through it. Parking is free for an hour even if you don’t buy anything or for 2 hours with FlashPark.
-The Beverly Center is an indoor shopping mall located next to the SLS Hotel.
-Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade, the pier offers ocean-front rides, arcades, and walking paths. The Promenade offers pedestrian only streets of shopping.
-Hollywood & Highland is LA’s answer to Times Square. Doesn’t quite compare but you’ll bump into lots of characters and be able to follow the stars on the street.
-The Getty Center offers grand views of LA even if you’re not an art buff.
-The Getty Villa is equally impressive in its grandeur and architecture.
-There are lots of TV show filmings that you can be a part of, check out www.tvtix.com
-Beaches (Not really my thing in LA, but via the DDF Wiki: Malibu and Santa Monica are very popular, Hermosa and Manhattan are the prettiest, Marina del Rey is the emptiest as it’s in a residential area.  Further south are great beaches in Orange county like Laguna Beach among many others).
-There are a plethora of hikes and drives you can take up the mountain for stunning views of the city.
-There are lots of Sporting events to attend even though LA has no NFL team. The Clippers, Lakers, and Kings all play in the Staples Center downtown. Have a Platinum Card® from American Express? You can even get free lounge access at a game!
-Taking the PCH down from San Francisco to LA is recommended because you get to hug the coast, but it’s still an amazing experience to drive up as well. Or you can use just 4,500 BA Avios to fly one-way from LA to San Francisco and drive down one-way. There are hotels like the highly regarded category 6 Hyatt Carmel Highlands that you can stay in along the way.

Of course you don’t have to stay in smog-filled LA:
-Serene Palm Springs is 2 hours east.  Breathtaking mountains surround you and Joshua Tree national park is nearby.  The Hyatt Palm Springs is just a category 3 hotel and the Hyatt Indian Wells Resort is a category 5 property. The Westin Mission Hills Resort is an SPG category 5 hotel. Every Thursday night is a lively street fair.  There are also lots of fantastic homes with amazing pools for rent that can be found on sites like VRBO.com If you’re staying for shabbos stay in the Twin Palms or Deepwell sections of Palm Springs and you’ll be able to walk to the local Chabad house.
-The Hyatt Huntington Beach drops from a category 6 to category 5 on 01/07 and is on the beach in Orange County an hour south of LA.
-Further south is the category 5 Park Hyatt Aviara about 2 hours of LA and 30 minutes north of San Diego.
-San Diego is about 2 hours south of LA and has tons of hotels, SeaWorld, LegoLand, their famous zoo, and have a couple kosher options as well.
-Santa Barbara is about 2 hours north of LA.
-Big Bear skiing is 2 hours east.
-Las Vegas is a 4 hour drive.
-Santa Catalina and the Channel Islands can be reached by ferry.

With thanks to Yehoshua for his contributions to the DDF Wiki on LA.

Have more tips? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

Ubud Hanging Gardens Bali On Sale At Jetsetter

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Ubud Hanging Gardens Bali On Sale At Jetsetter

If you don’t yet have a Jetsetter account I’d love if you would sign up via this referral link.

Jetsetter is a hotel discounted and their flash sales can be very good.

With this flash sale you’ll get your own villa with a private pool at a highly-rated hotel on a beautiful island for just $220/night.  Pretty awesome!

Pool Villa:

Airlines that fly to Bali with one stop from NYC include Asiana (SPG transfer option and partner with United/USAirways), Cathay Pacific (AMEX MR and SPG transfer option and partner with AA/BA), China Eastern (SPG transfer option and partner with Delta), EVA (partners with United/USAirways), Korean (Chase UR transfer option and partner with Delta), and Singapore (AMEX MR and SPG partners with United/USAirways).

Business or first class with any of those Asian carriers using your miles will be an awesome way to get there.

Singapore A380 First Class Suite (from our quick jaunt to Paris last December):

 

Cathay Pacific First Class (From my Vancouver trip notes which include a comparison of Cathay business and first class):

Korean First Class (From my Singapore trip notes).

 

HT: damaxer91, via DDF

Le Meridien Dead Sea Leaving Starwood 01/01/14

Monday, October 7th, 2013

I went with 2 of my 5 brothers to Israel in 2007 and we traveled from Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan Heights down to Eilat and everywhere in between for a month.  We lived it up at Starwood properties thanks to Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.

According to my research notes from that trip there were at least 13 Starwood properties in Israel.  There was the category 1 Le Meridien Haifa, Le Meridien Dead Sea, Sheraton Tiberias, Sheraton Eilat, and the Sheraton Dead Sea.  There was a category 2 Sheraton Tel Aviv.  And there was the category 3 Herod’s Eilat, Sheraton Towers Tel Aviv, Sheraton Ramat Gan, Le Meridien Eilat, Sheraton Eilat, and of course the Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem located just minutes from the old city.  There was also the awesome category 3 Herod’s Vitalis Spa in Eilat where for 2,800 points and $45 as a lowly SPG Gold member we were upgraded to an incredible ocean suite with 3 balconies and relaxed under their hot and cold waterfall massage fountains.  We never could have traveled like that if was had to pay hundreds of dollars per room per night, but I had no problem swinging for a few thousand points a night.

Today that trip would probably never have happened as they are nearly all gone from SPG and are mostly under Fattal management.

Between the hotels on that trip and flying in Continental’s BusinessFirst we really lived it up.  Of course it helped that Continental.com (which is identical to today’s United.com) upgraded all 3 of us from coach to BusinessFirst in both directions by typing in a simple $100 coupon code that I had from purchasing a Continental Privilege Pack. Definitely one of the more rewarding aspects of spending too much time playing around with an airline website. I even have a video recording of exactly what I did to get that to work though it’s got too much personal info in it to upload.

At any rate as of 01/01/14 the Le Meridien Dead Sea will be leaving SPG.  That leaves just the category 4 Le Meridien Eilat and the category 5 Sheraton Tel Aviv as the remaining Starwood properties in Israel.  The Le Meridien Eilat will also eventually leave Starwood as well once its SPG contract runs out though that date has yet to be announced.

On the good news side, Starwood is planning on opening the W Tel Aviv-Jaffa in 2015 with 125 rooms/suites and 38 private residences.

The Le Meridien Dead Sea is a complete anomaly within the Starwood system.  It has $500 room rates which should make it a category 5, 6, or 7 property and yet it is priced as a bargain category 1.

Those with good memories will recall that we have been down this road before.  In 2011 there was a similar announcement made and SPG.com even showed that they would be leaving.  However they had a change of heart and decided to renew their SPG contract, apparently for 2 more years through 01/01/14.  This time there is going to be a much larger management shakeup and such a change of heart seems unlikely.

At least you can still travel to Israel for free by transferring Starpoints to airlines like AA for travel on El Al, to ANA for dirt-cheap surcharge free travel on United and USAirways, to USAirways for travel on any Star Alliance carriers, or to Air France/KLM Flying Blue for cheap Delta and Skyteam travel.

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