Trip Reports

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Trip Report: Delta Economy GDL-ATL-LGA

View of mountains in Guadalajara from GDL

View of mountains in Guadalajara from GDL

I’m on a roll on this GDL-ATL flight, and can see Texas below me. This flight was exactly what I’ve come to expect from Delta: solid, reliable, easy.

Just sat down on Delta's GDL-ATL flight

Just sat down on Delta’s GDL-ATL flight

Only bone: they had me in Zone 3 boarding. Really, Delta? I’ve got the card and everything. But other than that, this flight has brought back warm and fuzzy memories after being on United and Aeromexico the past couple of days.

Also, this flight really solidifies Delta Vs. American for me. I like them both equally. Dust, please settle.

Lots of people on here have cute Southern accents and it reminds me of home. Flying out of GDL was gorgeous. Guadalajara looks cute from above, and the mountains and canyons beyond the city were stunning. I wish I could’ve spent more time there.

Over Mexico

Over Mexico

Oh! I should give thanks to Amex because I’m using some of my $200 airline credit this year to buy myself a margarita.

I have an evil plan for when I get to ATL. I want to get bumped, get a voucher and put on a flight that instead arrives at JFK. I hate flying into EWR. HATE it. I checked on the Fly Delta app, and my chances are 70/30 at this point that I’ll get bumped. So fingers are crossed.

Will report more from ATL SkyClub, which will be my first time there! Let’s keep this buzz goin’, Deltoid.

Another stamp on the ol' passport

Another stamp on the ol’ passport

 

So I’m safe at sound now and wanted to update on the final flight, ATL-LGA. It was supposed to be to EWR, but I despise that airport and asked the agent the agent at the SkyClub if I could fly into LGA instead. Since the flight to EWR was delayed anyway, the agent was able to put me on the next flight to LGA. Score. Cheaper taxi ride!

Since the flight was in a different terminal, I headed over there to imbibe a drink instead. The SkyClub in Terminal A was HUGE, but man was it packed. I tried to go to the bathroom, and there was a line. The little bathroom only had two stalls, yet the SkyClub is built to accomodate about 200. Stupid. I left and went to the bathroom in the airport, which was actually emptier and had no line, then went to the SkyClub in Terminal T.

A vast improvement. Ample seating and much less crowded. I promptly grabbed a rum and coke and chilled for a sec.

When I fly for over 24 hours then have a drink

When I fly for over 24 hours then have a drink

It was really nice. I left soon after to go board. The boarding process was easy enough, and I got all settled into seat 29F. After everyone was on, the pilot announced that we’d have to deplane to change aircraft. The whole point of changing my flight was to get to New York sooner, not later. Anyway, after we boarded again, we sat on the tarmac for a while before we departed. Then, a couple of hours later, I was finally home after a long and crazy run out to GDL. The flight was quick, lots of turbulence, and I nodded off a lot. I felt so gross and tired when we finally landed, and hopped right into a taxi.

Back in the snow

Back in the snow

I did notice that when I got put onto the LGA flight that the agent knocked off the GDL-ATL segment, so I anticipate having to call about the missing miles and MQMs in a few days. The weather has sucked lately, Mercury is in retrograde, and pretty much all of my flights were delayed. But, I’m back in the NYC and looking forward to my next trip, wherever it may be.

 

Trip Report: United Economy EWR-DEN-LAX

March 6

March 6th started off with a call from Charlie, my boss at the courier company. When I can, I work as an air courier, which has helped me explore many different airlines, airports, aircraft, classes of service, and all sorts of other travel-related minutia.

Charlie’s a lady. She called me at 7:30 – I was off work that day and still asleep. “Can you go to Guadalajara today about 2pm?” she asked. “I’d love to.”

The client was supposed to get back to us my 10am about the 2pm departure, but they didn’t get back to us until 12:30. The next flight to GDL was at 5:10pm on United with a LGA-IAH-GDL itinerary.

Enter Winter Storm Saturn. United decided to cancel the aircraft coming in from IAH that was supposed to take us back, so Charlie had to work her magic to get me to GDL, and ASAP.

She found a EWR-IAH-GDL itinerary out of Newark at 5:30. So, cargo in hand, I drove west in my Hertz rental car toward New Jersey. Due to traffic, the air train, and the freaking Holland Tunnel, I didn’t get to the airport checkin desk until 5:06. I tried every trick in the book. And I do mean every trick.

“Can I upgrade to first?”
“Can I check it at the gate?”
“Is there anything I can do to get on that flight?”

No, no, no said United’s version of a Red Coat. “You are late. The flight is closed.”

I pushed my cart into a corner and called Charlie. I don’t know how the hell she did it, but I am writing this on United flight 270 bound for Denver.

So far, the service has been fine. I was highly unimpressed with the unwillingness of United’s phone and desk agents to do anything about the canceled LGA-IAH trip. The offered to put me on the next flight out, but it would’ve caused me to miss the last flight out of IAH to GDL. I would’ve had to stay overnight. The EWR idea was a good one, but it was half-baked. Getting from LGA to EWR is a project. Driving through Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Holland Tunnel (deserves its own mention), and down to Newark was brutal, mostly because of the traffic and the wind kicked up by the storm.

The baggage concierge lady was the nicest of the bunch. Security at EWR was surprisingly easy. As soon as I was out, I was literally 50 feet from my gate.

So now I’m on the first flight. Service is what you’d expect from an economy flight – and it’s a very full one too. Very quiet. No babies, thank gods. The seats are narrow and the legroom is wanting, but what can one expect? Charlie usually gets me into biz class, but everything was sold out today, probably due to the domino effect from the storm’s delays.

The connection in DEN is tight, and it’ll be my first time there. I hope my shipment gets checked through alright. The last leg is on Aeromexico and they interline checked the shipment… I know Delta was stopped doing this, but apparently United still does it.

I wonder if I’ll have to change terminals at LAX. Probably, right?

I’m looking forward to seeing what Aeromexico is like. The feeling I got from United today was ill-prepared and very unhelpful. I’m sorry to say, but that’s the overall impression I get from their unempowered employees.

Still, I’m basically on a mileage run to GDL, and will get a nice batch of MileagePlus miles (from the United flights), and a few SkyMiles (from the Aeromexico leg).

Eff it, I’m buying a Heineken. It’s been a long day of driving through Long Island, delays, setbacks, and finally, flights.

Above Denver

Above Denver

 

March 7

I’m writing this GDL-ATL. Wanted to update about DEN-LAX flight.

EMPTY. I got a whole row to myself. Still had a bit of that slimy United feeling that I generally dislike. There was also a screaming baby who was so loud I didn’t know babies could even be that loud. Also lots of trashy LA people, of course. Despite the loud babies (yes, plural), I managed to get to the REM cycle. I found myself wanting another round of the cycle. But alas, the time to touch down at LAX came much too soon.

Luckily, the gate to LAX when I got out at DEN was just two down. I grabbed a bottle of water and a sandwich, and before I knew it was boarding again.

First thing I did when I got to LAX: cringed. That West Coast vibe just doesn’t do this New Yorker good.

Dying

Dying

Next up: LAX-GDL on Aeromexico.

Trip Report: Madrid 2013

I went to Madrid February 1-4, 2013.

Booking Madrid

The ticket was only $281 R/T in economy thanks to an awesome deal described in this post from The Points Guy. I was actually in the middle of putting together The Points Game guide, so this was a real opportunity to put some of the things I’d learned from the blogs into practice.

The currency conversion came to $281

The currency conversion came to $281

I bought the ticket for a number of reasons:

  • As a Silver Medallion on Delta, I was entitled to a 25% RDM bonus
  • The itinerary was JFK-FCO-MAD-FCO-JFK – over 10K MQMs and nearly 13K RDMs
  • The end result was 2 cents/mile – a screaming deal

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 7.28.18 PM

 

Multiply this times two

Multiply this times two – I credited the flights to Delta’s SkyMiles program

 

I paid for the ticket with a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card (my Amex Platinum Card) since I had a credit with them after bitching for a solid week in September.

And I’d always wanted to visit Spain. You can’t beat a $281 R/T ticket that comes with ~13K RDMs. It would also be my first chance to utilize my Global Entry (coming back to JFK) that I got through the Amex Platinum Card.

Departure

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Trip Report: Hawaii 2013

Also see:

When Jay and I were in Iceland late June/early July of 2012, I discovered I’d finally accumulated enough miles via my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to book our dream trip to Hawaii. We were effectively on one vacation and planning another.

Our excitement was through the roof. I booked us from JFK-SFO-OGG on January 10 and HNL-LAX-JFK on January 20th.

Ten days in Hawaii. Total out-of-pocket cost: $15. To book the award ticket was just $7.50 a person.

There was only a little drama. I ended up redepositing the miles and outright buying a flight from SFO-LAX-HNL on Delta because it was so cheap that I was no longer getting my .02 per mile – pretty much the only policy I hold when it comes to redemption values. But we kept the JFK-SFO leg on United.

The big day finally rolled around. It was balmy in New York, but certainly not beach weather. We woke up early to take the A train to Howard Beach, then the AirTrain to the terminal at JFK. It was one of those moments where the plane was boarding, the door would soon be closed, and we were still in the security line. It was the first time I ran through the airport in my socks. We found our seats on the plane, which was surprisingly empty. Economy seats we had. There were plenty of business and first seats available, but we had to suck it up and sit in the back of the plane. But we didn’t care. We were embarking on the first leg of our trip to Hawaii.

Flying over Colorado

Flying over Colorado? Wyoming?

When we got to SFO, we had to change terminals, which was actually pretty easy. The only thing that sucked was having to grab our bags and recheck them. There was no SkyClub in SFO (!) but we only had time to grab a quick sandwich and then it was time to board our Delta flight to LAX.

Thanks, Deltoid

Thanks, Deltoid

Once at LAX, we had a few hours to kill, so we hung out in the SkyClub, where I concocted a brilliant new drink: ginger ale and rum with a splash of grenadine. I had two. NOM!

Impromptu mixology

Impromptu mixology

I worked on my laptop and watched the sunset over the ocean from inside the terminal.

Sunset at LAX

Sunset at LAX

LAX-OGG was our third flight that day. The two before were nothing special. Economy, standard service, no food, alright seats. Small regional jet from SFO-LAX. The plane to OGG was huge though, and completely full. It always breaks my heart to watch the boarding process of a large aircraft. Oh my fuck, people are so stupid.

I chose Delta as my airline of choice for my $200 airline credit benefit with my American Express Platinum card, so treated myself and Jay to some drinks and food for purchase. We were obviously on a flight that held many attendants of a destination wedding. People were getting plastered and were so loud. Since it was a late flight, people finally konked out after about 90 minutes.

I managed to get a wink or two, and when I woke up, we were a little over an hour from OGG. I was beyond thrilled. When I saw the first flickers of lights on the ground, I knew we were close. Flying over the ocean at night is terribly boring. But the long day of flights was finally over. We were in Maui. The flight attendants made an announcement wishing everyone a pleasant wedding. We did not get lei’d.

MAUI

It was 11pm when we landed. We dashed off the plane, stretched our legs, and went to grab our bags. I was immediately struck that the airport was all open-air (they all are in Hawaii, I found out). The light jacket I was wearing was too much. It was WARM. YES.

Love that shirt!

Love that shirt!

We went out to find a taxi and were immediately scolded for jaywalking. Um, this definitely wasn’t New York. It was actually really hard to find someone who would accept a credit card as payment. Again, very NOT New York. Also, there were a lot of women taxi drivers. We finally found a lady who would accept cards. I want my Ultimate Rewards points! By this time, we were halfway delirious and wanted to be in our room ASAP.

She drove us the twenty minutes to our hotel, the Aston Maui Li in Kihei, HI that I booked using ~47,000 United miles. We got our bags, and wanted to leave tip on the credit card. She demanded the tip in cash. Jay gave her all he had, which was about $6 (still a good tip for a $20 cab ride). She glared at us as we wheeled our bags away. It was so weird. But whatever.

We went to the checkin desk where the front desk employee was EXTREMELY thorough about the property. We were both so tired that we nodded off a bit during his spiel. I perked up when he said he’d upgraded us to an Ocean View room for free. The words “free upgrade” could pull me out of a deep REM cycle, I swear.

The room was basic, but we could indeed see the ocean. It was night, we were exhausted, and we looked forward to seeing Hawaii in the morning sunshine.

The next day we got the full effect. The property, the palm trees and beaches, the ocean… it was all perfect. We spent four days lying on the beaches to recover and reenergize. Maui was amazing. The beaches were wonderful, and we got quite a nice base tan.

Right outside our room

Right outside our room

Aston Maui Lu

Our beach on Maui

Hang loose

Hang loose

There were lots of handgliders during the day on the beach. In the mornings, we had breakfast at a cafe down the street, and in the evenings we explored a few different restaurants including the most amazing taco place I’ve ever been to in my life. The fish tacos were so flavorful and fresh. YUM.

We heard of a couple of gay places on Maui. First, the Sunseeker Resort is a gay owned and operated facility, and is apparently clothing optional. We walked by on the way to a sushi place, but didn’t see any nudity. :p

Then, there is a gay nude beach called Little Beach. It is only accessible by car. Since we didn’t rent one for this leg of the trip, we missed out on the chance to get some sun on our blindingly white backsides.

Let's face it, I went to Hawaii for the Mai Tais

Let’s face it, I went to Hawaii for the Mai Tais

What I wore to the luau

What I wore to the luau

Sunset over Maui

Sunset over Maui

Then, on January 14th, we flew to Hilo. We took a different car service to the Maui airport.

HAWAII (THE BIG ISLAND)

The big island was all Airbnb and Pointshound finds. We got some great deals, averaging about $60/night. We picked up a rental car from National, booked through Ultimate Rewards for only $167 for three days, and drove to our first Airbnb in Pahoa, HI.

Black sand beach on Hawaii

Black sand beach on Hawaii

Waves crashing over black lava beaches

Waves crashing over black lava beaches

I was immediately struck by vast change in geology. The black sand beaches were rugged, and breathtaking.

Our Airbnb host was charming and kind, but we only stayed in each place for one evening. The next day, we drove north on the Hawaii Belt Road, all the way to Kona. The plan was to completely circumnavigate the island. Along the way, we saw Akaka Falls, more stunning beaches, and so much lush vegetation. We also grabbed a delicious lunch at a bakery/cafe and stopped to stretch our legs, and visit a few scenic points.

Hawaii

Hawaii

Very rugged

Very rugged. Uh oh!

Northern tip of the Big Island

Northern tip of the Big Island – it looks like Wisconsin

The change is geography was dramatic. In the higher altitudes, it was extremely foggy, and sometimes rainy. By the time we made it to Kona, it was sunny and gorgeous again. The western side of the island is very rocky and rugged, with lots of lava fields. We did make it to one coffee plantation near Kona, though.

Coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii

Coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii

That night, we tried to sample Kona’s gay scene, but me and Jay ended up at a bar with one other guy and a very eager bartender. Not so great. Maybe we didn’t hit up the right place(s). We were exhausted anyway, and went to sleep in our gorgeous Airbnb rental with a view of the ocean beyond the city of Kona.

The next day, we drove to Volcano to see some of the hot magma and even more lava. What we saw, I will never forget for the rest of my life. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was a complete sensory experience. I could not only see it, but hear the crackle and force, smell the sulphur, and feel the vibration of the earth. Completely stunning.

I highly recommend a visit to Volcano if you are at all interested in geography/geology, or just want to experience the power of the earth.

Pele was raging

Pele was raging

Mist and fog filled the air all around the volcano

Mist and fog filled the air all around the volcano

We stayed that night at a creepy BnB we found on Pointshound. The woman was very religious, and the decorations were horrible. It was called End of Road Bed and Breakfast. Yeah, um… if you’re a fellow gay traveler, AVOID. We did have a fantastic dinner with lovely cocktails at the main lodge in Volcano. We wished we’d opted to stay there instead. Live and learn!

The next day, we returned the car and flew to Oahu.

OAHU

We were supposed to stay with one of my college friends on Oahu, but she screwed us over so we had to make last-minute Airbnb accomodations. Luckily, they were fine. We booked another car rental for pickup at HNL, this time with Budget. It was only $125 for three days.

We were most looking forward to our stay at the Hilton Waikiki Village. In the meantime, we partied with the gays in Honolulu, stayed out till four in the morning, and got drunk for $15 at a great little bar called Bacchus. Honolulu was very gay-friendly.

Dramz in Honolulu

Dramz in Honolulu

The next day, we explored Honoruru.

Honoruru

Honoruru

We went to check into the Hilton, which I booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. It offered me a whole slew of upgrades, including early checkin, late checkout, room upgrade, free breakfast, and a $100 food and beverage credit to use in the resort.

When we finally found the checkin desk which took forever as the place is very poorly signed, I heard those magical words again. “Free upgrade.” But this time, we snagged ourselves an Ocean View Suite. It had a separate sitting area, a huge king sized bed, and a large bathroom filled with sweet-smelling coconut- and pineapple-based products. We were shown to our room by the Concierge, who made us feel very welcomed. He brought along a kit detailing all of our amenities.

Our suite

Our suite

View from the balcony

View of the Pacific from the balcony

Thanks, Hilton and Amex!

We definitely used our food and beverage credit!

We definitely used our food and beverage credit!

Kissing penguins at the Hilton

Kissing penguins at the Hilton

The next day, we laid on next to the beach until about 3pm and sipped Mai Tais. Then, we came in, showered, and packed up our things. The Hilton was wonderful! Five out of five stars.

Then, for our last day/evening in Hawaii, we had lunch at a little cafe downtown and dinner at an Italian restaurant further east, and drove around Oahu. We went down to Diamondhead and hiked down to the beach. There was supposed to be a gay beach down there, but all we could see was families with small children. We gave up and laid out to get a few last rays of sun.

Last day on Oahu

Last day on Oahu

All-in-all, a wonderful trip. A few observations:

  • Hawaii was way more religious than I expected. There were churches EVERYWHERE
  • The weather was perfect (that might warrant a DUH)
  • I felt very comfortable the entire time. Everyone was kind
  • Hawaiians LOVE Spam
  • It was no more expensive than anything in NYC
  • I would totally go back again. I think Maui was my fave! (Then the Big Island, then Oahu.)
They love it

They love it!

Bottom line

Couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Read this post to find out how I made this dream a reality. We only paid $100 per day between the two of us for hotels, car rentals, food, gas, souvenirs, AND R/T flights from New York.

This trip was my first points redemption. Safe to say I’m completely hooked!

Doesn't have to be!

Doesn’t have to be!

Hot dogs at HNL - back to NYC

Hot dogs at HNL – back to NYC

The flights back to New York were standard. We hung out in the nice SkyClub at HNL and had a couple of beers. When we got to LAX, we saw all members of the Boy Band 98 Degrees at the SkyClub. They were in business, of course. Jay and I were upgraded to Economy Comfort, which was a nice gesture. I sat right next to the door, and was the first person off the plane.

Fenwick was VERY happy to see us when we got back home to Brooklyn. I slept for a solid 12 hours to recoup from a long day of travel. A few days later, it snowed and was blisteringly cold, but I still had Hawaii on my mind as I geared up for my next trip to Madrid.

Hawaii: 10 Days and 3 Islands for $100 a Day

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card was my first premium credit card.

Before that, my credit history was full of collections, defaults, and charge-offs. My credit score was in the low 500s.

In early 2012, I resolved to finally get my credit under control. I used my tax return (in conjunction with my full-time job at the time) to pay down my credit cards to $0. I started making big payments at the end of January.

By late February, my credit score shot up to 702! Pretty amazing – but was I ready to apply for a premium card?

My relationship helped

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