DFW

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

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. 

uber vs lyft

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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Vipassana Part 2: My Experience on the Path of Dhamma

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OR,

Learning Through My Legs

OR,

Busting Through Samkaras

OR,

Vipassana: A Magic Cushion Ride

Note: This post is text-heavy and has nothing to do with points and miles. I’m writing about it here for the same reason I write Trip Reports – to share a new experience. That’s what travel is really about anyway!

In you haven’t yet, be sure to read Vipassana Part 1 to get some background info on an experience like this.

During my time at the Dhamma Siri Meditation Center in Kaufman, TX, the weather actually perfectly mirrored the entire experience. It was uncanny how perfect it was.

Days begin at 4am:

Vipassana Timetable

Vipassana Timetable

You’ll hear the loud gong of a bell at 4am. Then again at 4:20am – your signal to head to the Meditation Hall.

At the Center I attended, they have the light switch next to the bed. That first morning, I flicked the switch – and had no idea what I was really in for.

I got up, one foot in front of the other, and shortly before 4:30am, headed to the Meditation Hall for the first time.

Days 1-3: Going Inward (Rainy AF)

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Vipassana Part 1: Getting There and About the Course

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Last week, I completed my first 10-day Vipassana course at the Southwest Vipassana Meditation Center in Kaufman, Texas.

Now I’m back in New York and beginning to process the whole experience.

The Wheel of Dhamma

The Wheel of Dhamma

There were so many intangible things. It’s nearly impossible to describe the tactile and transformative qualities. After speaking with a few others about the impacts, I’m realizing how radically different everyone reacts to a course like this.

So I’ll outline my experience. Yours might be similar in some ways, but totally opposite in other ways.

I’ll start with some background and info about Vipassana and the Center I attended. Then, in a second post, talk about the coursework.

And also like, wow.

What’s Vipassana?

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Next Week: Heading to Vipassana to Meditate for Ten Days

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Tomorrow, I’m heading down to Dallas again. I’ll work from there for a few days, and then head to Kaufman, Texas, to begin an experience unlike any I’ve ever had.

I signed up for a Vipassana 10-day meditation session.

During that time, there will be no phone, no internet, no computer, no texting or FaceTime or checking the news. And no talking. Days begin at 4am and run through 9pm. The focus is each day is… nothing.

To think of nothing.

2016-03-05_11-01-20I am excited and terrified. But so looking forward to it.

About Vipassana

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Forget AAdvantage! I’m Switching to Alaska MileagePlan This Year

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The beginning of the year is an excellent time to set new travel goals.

Especially when you’re looking at this:

ada

Ruh roh!

I already broke down the numbers of qualifying for top-tier status on American and Alaska, and found that Alaska MVP Gold 75K status is easier to earn with less flying. And you end up with more miles than AAdvantage Executive Platinum status when you start from zero and hit the top tier – 36,250 miles to be exact.

And now it’s even more attractive in light of American’s upcoming devalued award chart.

But… what about Dallas?

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Hotel Review: Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

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After staying at the Hyatt Place in “Austin”, I headed to Dallas to do some house-hunting.

Picking up the rental car was a nightmare, but once on the road, I was at the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown in about 25 minutes.

The parking garage is beyond a gate where you have to swipe your room key, and there are maybe 4 parking spots outside the hotel, as it’s located off a major thoroughfare (Harry Hines Boulevard), which, if there are more than a few people checking in, creates a huge, annoying queue.

Thankfully, I got a spot, grabbed my wallet, and headed to checkin/get a room key within a couple of minutes.

Checkin and arrival

After flying and driving, it hit me that I was super thirsty once I saw the water for sale near the checkin desk.

The desk agent greeted me warmly, and quickly found my reservation.

He acknowledge my Hyatt Platinum elite status, which is completely useless except for random scenarios like this checkin.

I didn’t know parking was an extra $14 a day, and had a 3-night stay… an extra $42.

For some reason, I thought it would be included as the hotel isn’t in downtown Dallas or in a particularly clogged area. Whatever, I asked if he could add it to my Chase Hyatt card along with… abottleofwaterI’msothirsty.

He validated my parking, gave me a room key, and said there would be no charge for the parking, and to enjoy the water. In fact, he gave me another bottle to take to the room!

I was bowled over by the gesture after getting through a flight and driving and parking and finding the place. It was very kind, and I was grateful. It really is the little things.

So, checkin could not have not any smoother. And the gracious service from checkin continued through the entire stay.

 

Hallways of the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

Hallways of the Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown

Everyone, from the cleaning staff to the bartenders to the other desk agents were attentive and professional the entire time.

The room

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Come in Houston, er, Dallas: Buying a House and a Move Toward FIRE

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Alternate titles for this post: Airbnb helped me buy a house in Dallas.

Most of y’all know I run a few Airbnb properties here in NYC.

Well, I’ve been ferreting away the earnings for a long while.

I’ve been using my Fidelity Cash Management account as a defacto business checking account, and my Aspiration Summit account to save up a down payment (and an AMEX personal savings account to pay Uncle Sam) because it has a sweet 1% interest rate.

My new empire state?

My new empire state?

I haven’t posted my Dallas hotel reviews yet, and I haven’t meant to be not as chirpy as usual, but here’s what’s been up.

Way back in August, I flew down to Austin (and actually posted my review of my Austin hotel, go me) for a work meeting. On the way back, I tacked on a few days in Dallas and started shopping for a place in Oak Lawn/Uptown.

Why?

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A Completely Gratuitous Review of the Centurion Lounge @ DFW

Gratuitous? Like this lounge needs another review: 

They all have pictures, describe the space, tell you where it is, what services are offered, the food selections, access requirements, and so on. And they all echo the same sentiment: this is quite possibly the best lounge in the United States. Even Yelp says so – it has 42 reviews, ALL of which are 5 stars. WOW.

(My original pics are below but look just like everyone else’s.)

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Trip Report: AA Main Cabin Extra LGA-DFW-ANC

I originally found this trip on The Flight Deal for $352 a person from NYC all the way to ANC. I’d just gotten the Citi AAdvantage Select American Express and it came with a $150 statement credit after buying my first American flight. I got two tickets, which came to $704, then was reduced to $554, or about 3 cents per mile – not only would I get to see Alaska for the first time, but that price was positively mileage run-worthy. Not to mention that I’d accrue nearly 20K AAdvantage miles in the process since I get a 100% mileage bonus for being Platinum, which I value at around $400. Schweeet!

I  held out hope that some twist of fate would land me an upgrade. But the day before, I checked out the first class cabin, and all the seats were already taken. Well.

Getting to La Guardia was easy enough via taxi, and once there, I breezed through security thanks to Pre-Check. GOD I love Pre-Check! There was no one in the line and it took literally 20 seconds. Right beyond security was the Admirals Club, and a few gates down was D6, our departure gate. We headed up to the Admirals Club using my American Express Platinum Card, had a few drinks and snacks, and I played a little Scrabble (my newest addiction). I didn’t take pictures. It was nearly empty and seating was easy to find. We got an entire huge room all to ourselves with a view of American planes on the tarmac. With that view, a rum & coke, and a game of Scrabble in front of me, I was in heaven.

When boarding rolled around, we went to the gate and I boarded with the other Platinums. It was one of the new planes in the livery, a 737-800 with the controversial new paint job. The first class cabin had 16 seats, but they really were all taken. I guess LGA-DFW (both American hubs) is a popular route. I had seat 8A, at the front – a Main Cabin ExtrAA seat. They advertise it as having more legroom and being more comfortable somehow, but I really didn’t see what the big deal was. I liked being closer to the door… I thought it came with a free premium beverage or something. Nope. They charged me for my white wine and I got one of their “hand made” sandwiches, which was actually pretty good, if a bit messy. They need to work on their packaging/presentation for that. And throw in a free drink to assuage the shame after walking through first class.

Anyway, we sat down and waited to take off. And waited. And then the A/C had to be fixed. Uh oh. TripIt Pro (which I got for free with my Barclay Arrivalcard) sent me an alert that we wouldn’t arrive to Dallas until 3:35. My flight to ANC was at 3:25. Fuck. I immediately researched alternate routes from DFW-LAX-ANC and DFW-PDX-ANC. There was hope, but I’d be getting in several hours late. So…

I tweeted to @AmericanAir.

 

Tweets from @AmericanAir

Tweets from @AmericanAir

 

I told them in advance that I was worried about missing my connection. Before I left LGA, while still on the plane, they wrote me back and said they’d monitor my flight and have me rebooked on the next flights heading to ANC by the time I landed. At that point I was already blown away. Anxious to leave, but soothed knowing I had options. And that’s what really felt the best. Knowing that it would be taken care of.

 

Goosenecks over Texas

Goosenecks over Texas

 

But then, the maintenance guys were able to quickly fix the problem and we pushed off. Even still, the connection would be tight at just 23 minutes. I feared I’d have to run all the way through Terminal C from gate 36 to 2.

 

Landing at DFW

Landing at DFW

 

The flight was nice enough. Pretty quick, smooth. Thoughts about “Main Cabin Extra” are above. We got to the gate and I leapt out like a gazelle ready to run. Someone called my name as soon as I walked off the jetway. It was a lady from American, standing in front of a cart. WHAT?! She hugged me, and told me to hop in and DROVE US TO THE GATE. I was blown away by this level of service. She said she recognized me from my Twitter picture and had been contacted about the tight connection. If we missed it, she had backup flights ready to go. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

We pulled up to C2 just as boarding began. Even with no upgrades, I was stunned at the level of service and professionalism American showed me today. Me, a lowly Platinum!

So now I’m on flight 279 to ANC on an old Boeing 757. Man, you can really tell this plane has seen better days. It’s got the old first class cabin, but I’ve got a great seat with tons of legroom – seat 10F – again, in Main Cabin Extra. And we’re flying over the Rockies right now. It’s gorgeous. And my birthday is in just a few days. Maybe I can convince American to upgrade me on the flight home. 🙂 I must say, I do like the new planes a lot better than the older ones.

 

Ample legroom in Main Cabin ExtrAA

Ample legroom in Main Cabin ExtrAA

 

But wow. I am just so very impressed with American right now. Would Delta have done this? That’s what I keep asking myself. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m resolved to keep flying American. I want to be a Million Miler and everything. And EXP next year. This trip to ANC puts me about 10K closer. Now if I could only repeat it nine more times.

Big kudos and thanks to American. They transformed a potentially stressful trip into a great customer service experience. As I heard EXPs being thanked, I wanted to be one of them. Soon enough. Wish I’d gotten in on that promo they had up for a few hours. With my upcoming trip to Santiago and Mexico City, I would’ve been a shoe-in. But that was a fluke. Small moves, small moves.