Trip Reports

Category Archives for Trip Reports.

My first vacation during coronavirus was really weird

I had to get out. My last trip was to Cabo San Lucas in early March. So for the July 4 “holiday weekend,” I met my mom and stepdad in Heber Springs, AR. It’s a cute mountain town ~45 minutes north of Little Rock.

We booked two nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Heber Springs. I had plenty of IHG points – and they’re the only pet-friendly place in town for a road trip with the pup.

After being home for 4 months and only leaving to get groceries, I was ready to be anywhere.

my first coronavirus vacation

What a unique name for a sandy beach

I started out by taking photos of the hotel room as if I was going to do a review and trip report like old times. Well that lasted about two seconds before I realized traveling during this pandemic is just a really weird experience.

From what I saw, about half were taking the virus seriously. And the other half were carrying on like nothing was happening. It was a really strange vibe to reconcile in my mind.

Now that I struck out and traveled, I don’t think I can enjoy trips the way I used to. It wasn’t the same. Maybe I’m not ready for the new normal?

Heber Springs, AR: The site of my first coronavirus vacation

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Review of My $100 Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Writing this now is so weird because my last trip was exactly a month go today. In early March, I headed to Cabo San Lucas to enjoy a 4-night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. Read about how I booked it for $100 per person – including flights – for what would’ve been a $2,600 trip.

And now I’m reminiscing because I don’t know when my next trip will be, which would’ve seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago. I have FinCon set up in Long Beach in early October. Sure hope I can still get to that. But no jet-setting or hopping around the globe for a while. I’m craving a nice long trip to Europe. ✈️🇪🇺

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

Cabo was my last trip in a pre-virus world. Here I am a month ago at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

So I’ll take my time writing this one. While we were in Cabo, word was already starting to circulate about this mysterious new virus. But it wasn’t in full effect yet.

Because of the constant news cycles and information, I feel like this trip was years ago instead of four weeks. 😝

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

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Mexico City Trip Report: Teotihuacan Ruins, Xochimilco Canals, & Frida Kahlo’s Blue House

This time a month ago, I was headed to Mexico City for Round Two, after a pretty terrible time there in November 2018. I’m happy it turned out to be the quintessential visit, including:

  • Amazing food
  • Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan
  • A boat ride in Xochimilco
  • Frida Kahlo’s studio home
  • A walk through Chapultepec Park
  • Shopping at one of the sprawling street markets

Mexico City is vibrant, welcoming, safe… and brimming with attractions. There are museums galore, amazing restaurants, tons of green spaces, architecture, historical sites, nightlife, and so much more to enjoy. And, it’s easy to get around, considering everything is a ~$10 Uber ride away (Lyft isn’t there as of August 2019). We didn’t even bother with the subways.

I could’ve spent a month there and it wouldn’t have been enough. Considering it’s only a ~2-hour flight from Dallas, I can see myself returning for a quick weekend visit. Plus, temps are in the 70s (with lows in the 50s/60s) all year, because it’s set in the temperate basin of a mountain valley. So coming from Texas, I got a mid-summer cool-down. 🤠

Mexico City Trip Report

Here I am with a shirt and bag from the street market, trying pulque for the first time in Mexico City

I’ll share the trip highlights!

Mexico City trip report 2019

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Trip Report: Endless Ice, Incredible Nature, & Traditions in Qaqortoq, Greenland

Whew! In the 6 days since I’ve been back from Greenland, I moved all my stuff from Austin to Dallas, unpacked, and am now getting ready to head to Mexico City tomorrow for Round Two.

As soon as I arrived to Greenland, I sensed it’s a special and magical place on Earth. And immediately knew I had to go back.

Because it’s the largest island in the world that’s not a continent. The stats are vast. Greenland:

  • Is 21 times the size of Iceland
  • Has an ice sheet three times larger than the size of Texas
  • Is covered in 80% ice, which is over a mile thick in some spots
  • Has over 27,000 miles of coastline (!!!)

And yet, only 56,000 people live there. At this scale, it would take years to explore the entire country. Though I saw the tiniest sliver, it’s an incredible and challenging environment to explore.

I dare say it’s the most remote place I’ve ever visited.

visit greenland

Yours truly became an Arctic explorer at the base of the massive Greenland ice sheet

Here’s a glimpse of my time there.

Visit Greenland 2019 – Holy wow

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Trip Report: An Amazing Repeat Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

This time last week, I was at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta – almost 1 year to the day after my February 2018 stay. I originally wanted to try a different Ziva, like Los Cabos, or perhaps return to the Zilara in Cancun – and found tons of award flights from Dallas to all three.

But flights from Chicago to fly down an old friend were scarce. So for whatever reason, the availability lined up and sent us to the Ziva Puerto Vallarta again.

I was open to it, returning to the known. Also curious to see if it had changed – and I knew it would be a sure bet for max relax. We even thought about trying the Hilton all-inclusive there.  But in the end, we settled on a right proper fly n’ flop.

It’s a huge, gorgeous property with:

  • 5 restaurants
  • 5 bars
  • Coffee shop/self-serve deli
  • 4 pools
  • Kids club
  • Tennis club, spa, gym, hot tubs, and swim-up rooms
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review

When your hotel room looks like a magazine

Here are my 1-year-later impressions.

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review – 2019 version

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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

Also see: 

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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