Trip Reports

Category Archives for Trip Reports.

Dealing With Travel Setbacks: Faceplanting & Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico City

Visiting Mexico City for the first time was a dream come true. What happened in Mexico City… was not. To put it mildly.

I’ve traveled near and far and surely gotten colds or allergy attacks. Or tripped in the street or something. All par for the course.

But as I laid in bed the last full day of my 4-day trip, I couldn’t help but think… this isn’t how I thought it would be.

Even still, it’s been one of my favorite destinations so far.

travel setbacks

Got banged up Mexico City, dang

Also, falling in front of hundreds of people really sucks.

And, he’s down

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Visit to the Faroe Islands: Rugged Cliffs, Endless Waterfalls, & Modern Refinement

I crossed off a huge bucket list item. Last week, I spent 4 days in the wild and rugged Faroe Islands.

The country is made of 18 islands. Of those, I got to visit 3. What I saw reminded me of the ruggedness of Iceland and the brilliant green cliffs of Ireland.

But the Faroe Islands are a unique place in the world. And, it’s challenging to get there.

Based on my short time, I can already say it’s one of my favorite places on earth. And can’t wait to go back.

visit faroe islands

The Faroe Islands were unlike any place I’ve been, and crazy gorgeous

Here’s more about my visit to the Faroe Islands. And photos of the stunning landscapes that make this place so deeply special.

Visit Faroe Islands – My experience

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Review: Icelandair Saga Lounge, Keflavik (KEF)

Hello from Iceland! Specifically, the Icelandair Saga Lounge in the center of Keflavik Airport.

One reason I wanted to fly in Business Class home (instead of inbound) was access to this lounge. It’s Icelandair’s single lounge – and the only lounge in Keflavik airport.

Icelandair Saga Lounge Review

Entrance to the Icelandair Saga Lounge in Keflavik

Sitting here now, it’s one of the most spacious and calm airport lounges I’ve ever been to.

You can’t buy day passes to this lounge. But I’ll share how you can get in!

My Icelandair Saga Lounge Review

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Review: American Airlines Business Class 777-200 Dallas to Tokyo-NRT

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The day finally came to travel to Japan. I love travel days. And this one was silky smooth.

We arrived to the airport in 20 minutes flat, cleared PreCheck in I swear to gods 90 seconds, and headed to the Centurion Lounge. There was time for breakfast, a cocktail, and a free manicure. And, our departure gate was right across from the lounge.

(Perfect!)

I was relaxed and happy when boarding began. And used 54,000 American miles for this flight.

The actual cost is 60,000 American miles. But I got a 10% mileage rebate upon booking – so 6,000 miles were instantly redeposited into my account. This perk comes with most American co-branded cards (with both Citi and Barclays). It’s worth the annual fee for this alone.

american-airlines-business-class-777-200-review

Ready to fly over the Pacific (and nearly halfway around the world!) in Business Class for 54,000 American miles

Last time I flew this route in this plane was in First Class.  So I was curious to see how the new retro-fitted Business Class seats would look and feel. And off we go!

American Airlines Business Class 777-200 review

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Review: JAL Business Class Sky Suite 787-8 NRT-DFW

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Last week, before my flight from Tokyo to Dallas, I checked if seats were open on JAL. I originally booked my way home with 50,000 Alaska miles for an American Airlines Business Class ticket. But I was totally willing to pay 10,000 more miles to fly back on JAL. Especially when the cash rate was $7,300+!

JAL Business Class Sky Suite

JAL Business Class cabin

Seats were available! I called Alaska Airlines to make the switch. A few minutes and 10,000 miles later, I was booked into a JAL Sky Suite seat back home to Dallas.

I’d always wanted to fly a Japanese airline. Both times I’ve flown were with American. So I did a happy dance I was able to score this seat.

Even better, the new flight time was within 5 minutes of my old one. So I didn’t have to change any plans, other than fly home in a better seat on a new (to me) airline!

JAL Business Class Sky Suite review

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Place Colorado Springs – Garden of the Gods

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If you’ve never been to Colorado Springs, a little over an hour south of Denver, you’re missing craft breweries and the city’s centerpiece – the gorgeous Garden of the Gods.

hyatt garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods took my breath away

I stopped here during my road trip to Denver. And chose the Hyatt Place Garden of the Gods as our stopover hotel. Here’s how it went!

Hyatt Garden of the Gods Review

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PV PLZ: Review of My Free Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

Still reeling about the completely relaxing Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarata. Now that I’m back in Dallas, I can start to process it.

The 3 nights I spent here were completely free. I used 60,000 Hyatt points for a stay that retailed for $1,300+ for the dates I was there.

In fact, the whole trip only cost me $90 out-of-pocket. Here’s how I booked it.

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review

View of the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta from the beach

Back to the hotel!

PV PLZ trip report index

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review

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My Total Rewards Diamond Experience at Harrah’s New Orleans (Thanks to FoundersCard)

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This past weekend, I flew to New Orleans for a few days. I usually stay at a Hyatt (here are my reviews of the Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Centric French Quarter), but stayed at the Sheraton on Canal Street this time (for lounge access, mostly – review soon).

When I realized there was a Harrah’s only 2 blocks down Canal, I decided to pay a visit to grab some free drinks and a free $100 dinner at the steakhouse on property – thanks to my free Total Rewards Diamond elite status from FoundersCard. (Because Harrah’s uses the Total Rewards program and this one has a private lounge for elite members.)

Total Rewards Diamond

There are private lines everywhere for Diamond members

I went 2 days in a row. And between me and my guest, we had 4 drinks, 2 entrees, and a whole $100 dinner – all completely free.

The Palm Room

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Hotel Review: Granite Park Chalet, Glacier NP, Montana

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To start, Granite Park Chalet isn’t a hotel in the usual sense of the word. One review on TripAdvisor called it a “high-end hiker’s hostel” – which is apt.

There are two ways to get to the chalet: you can hike 7.6 miles on the Highline Trail, or 4 miles on the Loop Trail. The former is longer but not as steep while the latter gains 2,220 feet – so it’s pretty much climbing straight up.

Granite Park Chalet review

First approach into Granite Park Chalet

I stayed here with my friend Angie for 3 nights in July 2017.  We opted to park at Logan Pass and hike the 7.6 miles in and out (so 15.2 miles round-trip). It cost about $200 per night with the linens package. And I paid an extra $106 for 3 days’ worth of food.

This was a perfect place to spend a few days and use as a base for other shorter hikes in the area.

Arrival and check-in

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Flight Review: Brussels Airlines Business Class JFK-BRU

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Back in August 2016, I booked round-trip Business Class flights from JFK to Brussels on Brussels Airlines using ~37,000 Etihad miles (transferred 1:1 from Citi ThankYou points). That was an incredible value. Now it’s 44,000 Etihad miles each way, which is still a cheap price for Business Class to Europe. But not nearly as awesome, obvi.

I took the flights in May 2017 – a full 9 months after booking. It’s the farthest in advance I’ve ever booked a trip. So I was looking forward to it for a long time.

Brussels Airlines Business Class

Our bird to Brussels

As the date neared, I firmed up my intra-European itinerary. And booked positioning flights to and from New York.

Here’s a look at what Business Class on Brussels Airlines looks like.

Brussels Airlines Business Class seat

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Hotel Review: The Drake (Hilton), Chicago

This past week, I ventured up to Chicago to see Hamilton and hang out with some old college buddies.

I booked 5 nights at The Drake hotel Chicago, located on the Magnificent Mile/Michigan Avenue, with Hilton points. The 5th night was free on this award booking, so I paid 200,000 Hilton points (50,000 X 4) for the entire stay.

the drake hotel chicago

My eventual room would’ve cost $1,400+ out of pocket

Because I’m Diamond with Hilton, I got an upgrade to a King Bed on the Executive Floor. Similar room rates to when I stayed say this would’ve been ~$1,404 in cash. But I didn’t have to pay taxes on the award booking, which are over 17% per night (!!!).

That means my Hilton points were worth .07 cents each – and more when you count the free breakfast and free food in the evenings. That’s a good rate for Hilton points!

I took a Lyft from Midway after flying on Southwest from Dallas-Love Field. Traffic was backed up, but I made it to The Drake in about 30 minutes.

Arrival and check-in

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Bahama Breeze: Part 3 – Wanderings in Nassau

During my time in Nassau, I managed to make it into town twice. The first time was in the middle of the day on a Saturday. And the second was a Monday night, which we quickly found out was not the best time to visit.

If you stay in Nassau (maybe because of the 4 free nights at the Atlantis from FoundersCard/Total Rewards Diamond status), you will probably end up on Bay Street at some point. Wait, I made a little map:

nassau

Lay of the Nassau land (click to enlarge)

So that’s kinda what to expect.

And here’s what I did during my explorations beyond the Atlantis!

Bahama Breeze Index

Beach bummin’ in Nassau

1. Downtown/Bay Street

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