Oof, I have been terribly remiss in keeping up with this website. Thanks to a change in vacation policy, I found myself burning a lot of saved hours in December. This was a welcome change from being on the road nearly continuously leading up to the holidays. As much as I love traveling, I didn’t realize how exhausted I was.
With the new year, we welcomed a new addition to our fur-family: a second rescue dog that we’ve named Guinness! Between this change and playing catch-up on everything I missed over the holidays at work, I’ve had my hands full.
A lot of my remaining free time has been split between a few shows, books, and Destiny 2 (if you have it on the PS4, let me know!)
With the slew of negative changes coming to the Citi Prestige (in addition to a higher annual fee), I opted to downgrade my card to the Premier. While it doesn’t have an airfare credit, it offers faster points earning for day-to-day purchases and has a substantially lower annual fee. The retention specialist I spoke to was very understanding about the change and was actually apologetic. I suspect they were dealing with a high number of similar conversions.
Finally, while nothing has been set in stone, there has been discussion of a short trip to New Orleans which should be exciting. I do plan on leveraging my AmEx Platinum [referral link] card to help offset the travel cost when we do head down.
When browsing various travel-related sites, it is not uncommon to see terms like “stopover” and “open-jaw” thrown around. Along with the term “layover” all three express different levels of flexibility in travel, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of them. I also mention some more uncommon airline acronyms that are frequently used at sites like FlyerTalk.
We’re all familiar with the infamous layover – also referred to as a connection, among other things. As the name implies, it is when you route through another city to reach your destination. Usually these are short stops, but it is a good idea to check flight histories on FlightAware to make sure you have enough time to deplane and get to the next gate on time. I like to give myself an hour and a half to account for stretching as well as potential delays, to be safe.
A stopover is essence a longer layover, and it is often easier to book them as two separate flights. These offer travelers the flexibility to leave the confines of the airport and explore their connecting city. If you have the ability to use multi-segment booking with the airline of your choice, it is advisable to use that feature as if your inbound flight experiences problems, you will be rebooked on subsequent flights seamlessly (usually!). Some airlines will let you add notes between Passenger Name Records (PNRs) to allow an agent to be aware that one trip is linked to the other.
An Open-Jaw ticket is one where you fly to one city and return from a different one. This allows you the flexibility to arrange the intermediary travel however is most convenient to you. These are particularly popular for within the European Union given the ease of transit between countries and the inexpensive use of British Airlines Avios as it is distance based.
One example is to book a flight from Boston to Paris, and the return from Rome to Boston. You would then book the travel between Paris and Rome separately – maybe by train, plane, renting a car, and so on. This is popular with international travel given the range of prices that you might encounter when flying to and from certain cities, and the ease of travel once within a country.
FlyerTalk has a wonderful glossary that they have maintained over the years, but I’ve listed some important terms to keep in mind (specifically for interruptions) below.
IROPS / IRROPS: Irregular Operations – see OSO
OSI: Other Supplementary Information- PNR field, can hold a TCP note
OSO: Off Schedule Operations – flight changes and schedule disruptions
PNR: This is commonly referred to as your confirmation number. Airlines use a 6 character combination of letters and numbers as a shortcut to your itinerary. Other information can be tied to your PNR, such as special service requests. A full list of fields can be found here.
TCP: To Complete Party – a note indicating passenger is traveling with another, etc., but on two separate PNRs
I am generally not one to randomly bash what other people do on their vacations, I came across a very disturbing post today on Million Miler Secrets regarding a trip to India and an elephant ride. To properly understand my problem with this, it’s first important to understand some things about elephant anatomy.
The spine of an elephant has evolved over time to support weight that is suspended downward, not placed above onto it. Additionally the soles of their feet are not shod in any form, as you would a horse, leading to severe damage over time. This also leads to grinding against the bones on their feet.
That said, there are many ethical experiences available to you if you want to spend time with these marvelous creatures. Tiffany, over at OneMileAtATime posted of one such sanctuary in Thailand — Elephant’s World. For roughly 70 USD per day, per person, you can spend time taking care of elephants that have been rescued.
Alas, all trips must eventually come to an end, and we realized that 5 days really isn’t enough time to see even one island of Hawaii — some follow-up trips are clearly in order! The airport is very easy to navigate, thankfully, and there are many lounge options available.
Since I had access to Priority Pass lounges through my Citi Prestige[non-affiliate link] card (with two guests, no less!), I took Carrie to the IASS Lounge on the garden level. Though there were no alcoholic beverages available, they had interesting drink options — guava juice, for example!
Other lounges available at HNL include a Delta SkyClub, KoreanAir Lounge, JAL Sakura Lounge, United Club, Hawaiian Airlines Lounge, and Quantas Lounge. Quite a few options!
HNL → JFK
The return flight was on a Boeing 767-300ER and though we were not able to sit in DeltaOne seats, we were in the Comfort Plus cabin. Unfortunately Delta does not allow complimentary upgrades to DeltaOne even within the US. This made for a somewhat difficult flight back as the lavs in the middle were nonfunctional and the lights over the left third of the plane (where we were sitting) were also nonfunctional.
The flight was a whopping 9 and a half hours, from boarding to deplaning, after a 45 minute delay on leaving Honolulu, so Carrie and I were all kinds of stiff. It didn’t help that the couple in front of us were discourteous in reclining their seats completely only to give us nasty looks if we so much as bumped them.
Given the length of the flight, we were given a rest-kits including earplugs, an eye mask, and a toothbrush with toothpaste. Definitely practical!
After our second snack service, two of the cabin crew walked down the aisles handing out chocolate to the passengers, which was as nice touch and certainly appreciated after the flight.
JFK → RDU
Oof… here is where the fun began… our flight from JFK to RDU was delayed by three hours according to the Delta app, so I made my way to a counter to inquire to the nature of the delay. I knew the plane was there already thanks to FlightAware, and it turns out one of the pilots was delayed on an earlier connection.
The agent suggested we fly out of LaGuardia instead and provided a taxi voucher. Unfortunately, as our bags were checked we had to hope they would eventually make it home that night.
Thankfully, due to our status, we were able to upgrade to first class on the return leg (even if it was on a CRJ 700), and the SkyClub attendant was nice enough to allow my girlfriend in for free. Honestly, it is their customer service that makes me keep returning to Delta over other airlines.
Their website, however, is ridiculously buggy and would not allow us to track our bags after we filed our delayed baggage claim, so we weren’t able to stay abreast of the situation without calling periodically. The truly frustrating thing is that each time I called, I received a different answer from the representative. The bags finally made their way to us at 1 AM the following day, so everything wrapped up okay in the end, albeit a little stiff from that first flight!
Though we were unable to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center on Christmas day, there were seats available the following day. The bus ride was just over an hour and a half each way, but the interior was air conditioned and the seats were comfortable.
We were lucky that our driver also worked with the agency that ran circle island tours of Oahu, so he made sure to point out all the sights on our way to the center. He showed us shooting locations for various well known films including The Karate Kid Part 2, Jurassic Park, and others.
As we purchased Ambassador tickets, we were able to skip quite a few lines and even received shell leis! The tour started with a canoe ride through the canals in the middle of the center that explained the way it was laid out as well as how to navigate it.
After exploring a little with the tour group, we were directed back to the canal area for a canoe parade. Each canoe was manned by individuals representing the indigenous people of the various islands, and they showed off their native dances on the water.
Following the parade, we resumed the tour and explored the islands of Tonga and Samoa, having visited Aotearoa at the start of the day. Finally, we wrapped up our day with a traditional lu’au experience (complete with fire dancing and poi) and then the presentation of “Ha: The Breath of Life”. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed during this, either. I strongly recommend the Ambassador package as it is an amazing value (lunch, dinner, leis, better seating for “Ha”, and dessert) and a significant improvement to the experience as you have shorter lines for everything.
With the help of the hotel concierge, Carrie and I booked a submarine excursion with Atlantis Adventures. They conveniently dock their ferry at the pier at the Hilton Grand Vacation village, a short walk from the Doubletree that we were staying at.
The Hilton village is a series of towers with a large shopping area in the middle (more on that later!), and with some delightful animals spread throughout the grounds. We saw some massive koi, which appear to have been conditioned to beg for food from passerbys, as well as macaws!
Upon reaching the pier, we were allowed onto the ferry vessel which took us to our submarine — there were three submarines available, two of which seated 48 passengers, and the third holding 64. Carrie and I were on one of the 48-passenger vessels, where the individuals were seated in two rows.
Though we did not see too many forms of wildlife we did make a friend which followed us throughout the duration of the tour.
Upon returning to the surface, we made our way back to the pier and began exploring the Rainbow Bazaar — the stores and restaurants located in the middle of the Hilton village. After picking up some whole-bean Kona coffee, we noticed the time and decided some fresh fish was in order!
We happily discovered a Japanese sushi restaurant, Hatsuhana, which had extremely reasonably priced sashimi and excellent presentation. Lunch was a bit of an exploration as well as neither Carrie or I had eaten Sea Urchin or Butterfish. Both were excellent!
Magic of Polynesia
After lunch, we made our way back to our hotel to rest before dinner and a magic show. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted at the venue, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that it was quite the experience!
Carrie and I opted to upgrade our breakfasts to the “full American breakfast” and had custom omelets made while we had some fresh fruit and coffee. The pineapple in particular was spectacular!
We talked to the hotel concierge and arranged to get a rental car from a local agency. We didn’t realize that the cars were all SmartCars, though, which was an adventure in and of itself. Our entire drive only took a gallon and a half of gas. After making arrangements for the rest of the stay, we went to get our car.
The first step on our exploration was the Dole Plantation. It was only an hour drive from Waikiki, which was not bad at all. Though the car lacked Bluetooth, the rental agency provided GPS devices with all their vehicles.
The plantation offered a guided train tour, the Pineapple Express, as well as a self-guided garden tour. The train tour was very informative and offered a brief history of the plantation as well as pineapple production in general. Unfortunately, they had recently picked the last crop so we weren’t able to see any ripe fruit in the plantation itself.
The last stop for the day was the Haleiwa on the north shore of Hawaii. The beach here was wonderful, and though it was in the low 80s, the breeze coming from the ocean made it feel much cooler.