Osaka: Bullet Train, Food, Nightlife, Aquarium, & Wanderings

Osaka nights

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After exploring Tokyo, it was time to head to Osaka, the Japan’s second-largest city.

Bullet train

We left Tokyo via bullet train (Shinkansen) for the journey of about 500 kilometers. It took a little over 3 hours, not including getting to and from the train stations on either side. One-way tickets were ~$145 for the fare and seat reservation.

Because we departed from the Shinjuku station near where we stayed at the Hilton Tokyo, travel time was minimal (~20 minutes, if that).

We had reserved seats, though the midday train was only at about half capacity. An attendant came through every so often to offer snacks and coffee, but I noticed savvier riders unwrapping their pre-packaged meals on board.

The train was clean, the seats were comfy, and the overall experience was positive. Watching the scenery flying by was hypnotic.

On this day, the clouds gathered low to the ground. For that reason, we only got the faintest glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. But I bet on a clear day, the views would be incredible!

From Tokyo to Osaka, you’ll see Mount Fuji from the right side of the train. It’s huge. You literally can’t miss it.

The bullet train was awesome! Calming, actually. No squealing metal and sparks of fire shooting out from the wheels *cough* New York City MTA *cough*

Eating Osaka

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Hotel Review: Hilton Tokyo Shinjuku

View from the 2nd floor lounge

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To start, I wanna say, I loved this hotel! The location, ambiance, and staff were all wonderful. Getting out at the Shinjuku station and walking to the Hilton Tokyo with the lit-up neon lights is an experience I’ll never forget.

Hilton Tokyo review

Entrance of the Hilton Tokyo

But first things first.

Landing at NRT

I’ll do a review of the flight over soon.

I was nervous about flying into NRT because it’s a solid 90 minutes from Tokyo no matter which method you choose to get to the city: train, bus, or taxi.

We landed around 5pm, so I figured the train was best to avoid rush hour traffic. The airport is incredibly well-signed. But once you get to the trains, you’re bombarded with a zillion options and routes. I looked at the JR lines, the Tokyo metro, and rapid transit to another station.

To sort through it all, we entered the options into the individual machines until we found the best routing and price. All told, it took 15 minutes to price out 3 or 4 train tickets. We paid a little more to get there a little faster. From NRT, the faster you go, the more it’ll cost. But even the most expensive ticket was only ~$40.

Arrival and check-in

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Just Booked: 2 Nights at Hyatt at The Bellevue for $150 (Worth Over $900!)

Hyatt at the Bellevue

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I’ve written about the incredible value you can get with the annual free night from the Chase Hyatt card at Hyatt Category 4 hotels.

A hotel I listed as an “honorable mention” is the Hyatt at The Bellevue in Philadelphia.

For my last weekend as a New Yorker, I’ll actually be in Philly, at this Hyatt. Jay and I both recently got our free night certs and I’ve been itching to burn them.

We got a super deal on a weekend getaway.

Hyatt at the Bellevue

Hyatt at the Bellevue

This is an awesome example of how easy it is to get value from the Chase Hyatt card. The annual free night makes it well worth keeping!

By the numbers

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My FoundersCard Membership Just Paid for Itself This Year

As long as it stays good, I'm on board

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Peeps are curious about FoundersCard. The many posts I’ve written are amongst my most-Googled. And a good 1/3 of reader emails ask about a specific benefit.

So I thought I’d post an update, as I still have and use mine regularly.

In fact, I just used it to join the Equinox in Dallas – and got $29 knocked off my monthly rate thanks to FoundersCard.

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Just saved a bundle to get back into shape

Now I’m not saying “join Equinox!” Instead, I’d say FoundersCard is worth it if you have a particular benefit in mind, like:

As long as it stays good, I'm on board

As long as it stays this good, I’m on board

Any one of these benefits can make up FoundersCard’s $395 annual fee if you really maximize it. And more if you can make use of 2 or 3 (or more) of them.

For example, I save about $20 a month off my AT&T bill.

And the TripIt Pro membership I got from my Barclaycard Arrival Plus is about to expire.

Free TripIt Pro saves $49

Free TripIt Pro saves $49

I’ve grown to love the service and use the app constantly for my travel plans. Would I pay for it? Maybe. But I won’t have to think about it for another year, because the next one is free thanks to FoundersCard.

How I use FoundersCard to save

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7 Hilton Hotels Where 120,000 Hilton Points Are Worth $700+

View from the 2nd floor lounge

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You know, I think I’ll come right out and say it: I’m turning into a Hilton fanboy.

Words I thought I’d never utter (or type) have come true, almost by default.

The other major chains, Marriott and IHG, aren’t palatable for me. Some peeps love Marriott, and I can kinda see why through my Hilton-colored glasses: free breakfast, they’re everywhere, and their points are easy to redeem (once you have enough of them, same as Hilton).

All I really want

All I really want – is that so much?

Embedded in there is my raison d’etre: FREE BREAKFAST. That’s the reason why IHG can never win my heart through my stomach.

The smaller chains, Hyatt and Starwood, are great. But when Hyatt snubbed me Diamond status, Hilton gave it to me. Looking back, it was an incredibly smart marketing trick. Because look at me now, a fanboy.

As for Starwood, there’s no use gunning for status with them at this point. Unless you like Marriott. I picked up both SPG cards recently, and I might give them a few paid stays, but the SPG program will be torn end to end starting next year.

Which leaves Hilton by default. The first to devalue, Hilton became the pariah of hotel points.

But I’ve been finding them useful anyway: they’re incredibly easy to earn. I get suite upgrades with some frequency. And I love their Executive Lounges and free breakfast.

Yeah, yeah… the point is?

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Goodbye to All That: In a Month, Dallas Here I Come!

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It begins: my last month as an official New York City resident.

Movers are booked.

The date is set to wake up and start driving away, all my things loaded in my new Subaru Forester – including the pup!

Resting after a run upstate

This little guy has spent his whole life in Brooklyn!

My dog will be 6 this year, and he’s never known much outside of New York. He’s gonna shed SO MUCH in Texas.

My house is sitting there, waiting to be lived in. I even went ahead and joined a gym in Dallas (and got a sweet discount thanks to FoundersCard).

The house

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MileagePlus X App: Earn Bonus United Miles at Amazon, eBay, & More

Some of the "in-store" merchants

So I just got the Mileage Plus X app and am kicking myself, because it’s been available for points-earning potential since 2014.

But better late than never. And I’m discovering all these cool uses for it.

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Mileage Plus X – oldie but goodie

If you have the Citi AT&T Access More card, you can use it as a payment method on the app to earn a total of 5X miles on Amazon and eBay.

And, a step beyond, you can use it as a defacto shopping portal to get a better payout either in-person OR online.

I got some ‘splainin’ to do!

What’s MileagePlus X?

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Lyft: Cheaper & Better Than Uber, Now With Cashless Tipping

sad

It took me a long time to get into the whole “Uber” thing. I was always like… why not just take a taxi?

The price wasn’t that much cheaper until recently.

The few times I uber-ed, the main thing I liked was the cashless tipping. The price, all things considered, was equal to a cab (I say/write this in NYC).

Then, they slashed fares. 

Underdog extraordinaire

Underdog extraordinaire

And, I started going to Dallas a whole lot more, without a car. I grew accustomed to firing up Uber as I walked outside and getting a ride to my condo. Again, with the cashless tipping.

I love the simplicity of the bundled fare. You just get out when you arrive, and you’re on your way. The receipt comes via email seconds after the door closes.

…But now there’s no cashless tipping

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Tokyo: Cherry Blossoms, Microbars, Amazing Food, Views, & Wanderings

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo's National Park

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Back in January when I burned some American Airlines miles for a round-trip First Class award ticket to Japan, I had no idea of what to expect from the place.

The trip was my first time there (and in Asia!). I was nervous about getting around, the language barrier, navigating the huge metro system, and figuring out the basics, like ordering food and buying train tickets.

From landing at Narita, to getting to the Hilton Tokyo, to taking the bullet train to Osaka, and everything in between, it could not have been easier.

In fact, over the week I spent in Japan, I quickly fell in absolute love. The cities, the Japanese, and the country’s infrastructure… simply incredible.

Exploring Tokyo

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Pay ~$12 for $50 Worth of Mother’s Day Gifts at 1800Flowers.com With Amex Offers

Lots to choose from

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I don’t usually post “deals” but I’m feeling mushy and this is a really good one.

If you want to send your Mom (or anyone else) a gift through 1800Flowers.com, there are currently some promotions you can stack for big discounts. Here’s how it works.

Stack it up

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Review: BauBax Ultimate Travel Jacket

2016-04-12 17.32.08

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I wrote back in July 2015 about the “ultimate travel jacket” from BauBax.

I was on the fence about getting one, but Jay got it for my birthday, which was in late August.

And um, I just got it this month. So yes, flash forward 10 months and the jacket has finally arrived.

Just in time for summer when you don’t need a jacket lol.

I threw it in my bag and took it with me to Japan to start exploring its features.

But first things first…

About the BauBax ultimate travel jacket

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My Experience Getting the $650 Phone Credit With Citi AT&T Access More Card

Pick a phone, any phone

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Here’s my experience to add to the mix.

Getting the Card and Buying an iPhone

I applied for the Citi AT&T Access More card in late January, and received the card on February 2nd, 2016. That same day, I bought an iPhone.

Here’s the link Citi gives you to shop for a new phone – it won’t work unless you click through from your Citi account because it tracks your purchase, much like a shopping portal. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to turn off your ad blockers so the purchase is tracked correctly.

Pick a phone, any phone

Pick a phone, any phone

The selection of phones is the exact same as if you navigate to AT&T’s cell phone shop.

I sprang for an iPhone 6S with 128 GB of memory. The taxes for New York were ~$75. After the phone credit, that’s like paying ~$275 for a brand new phone with a lot of memory to burn through.

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Net $200 + taxes for a new 128 GB iPhone

I had an iPhone 5 with 16 GB and was tired of deleting apps/pictures/the entire phone every time it needed an update.

I sold it on eBay for ~$134.

Boo ya

Boo ya

There’s a FedEx ship center 2 blocks away. So I popped in and sent it. It took maybe 10 minutes to list and 10 minutes to ship.

Plus, the sale brought my out-of-pocket cost for the new iPhone down to ~$141 after taxes, which is a screaming good deal.

Do you HAVE TO HAVE AT&T service?

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