Christmas Vacation! Honolulu, Day 1

Honolulu, Day 1: Arrival
Honolulu, Day 2: Dole Plantation and North Shore
Honolulu, Day 3: Submarine Tour and Magic of Polynesia
Honolulu, Day 4: Polynesian Cultural Center
Honolulu, Day 5: Return Home

This is the first post of a series so bear with me!

For Christmas this year, I wanted to do something special, so I used two of my regional upgrade certificates to fly my girlfriend and myself to Honolulu first class. These certificates are available from Delta after reaching Platinum or Diamond Medallion status as Delta Choice Benefits, and can be used on most paid fares. The tricky thing is that it does not guarantee your upgrade, but you do get a higher priority than others (including those with the Delta Reserve SkyMiles card).



The first flight on the way to Honolulu was on a Boeing 737-800, and we managed to get cleared for first class well before the day of departure. The great thing about that is that we were able to request special meals for our flight.

737-800 First Class

The omelet that came with our breakfasts was full of spinach, and the asparagus was cooked well. The only questionable part were the potatoes which were severely dehydrated.

Diabetic Meal

Though we didn’t have in-flight entertainment on our first flight (outside of Delta Studio, which doesn’t work on most Android phones), the ride was smooth and the flight attendants were excellent.


Our second flight was on one of Delta’s 737-300s using their “Hawaii” configuration. Our upgrade certificates didn’t clear us until we were about to board, so we weren’t able to request a special meal in advance, but we were surprised by Mai Tais!

757-300 First Class
757-300 First Class

The flight crew really made the trip wonderful. They were extremely attentive and made sure my girlfriend and I were always comfortable.

Getting ready!
Hawaii bound!

The meal choice was between stuffed ravioli in a red sauce or grilled chicken with cheese on a bed of rice. I went with the chicken and Carrie went with the ravioli. The chicken was surprisingly juicy for an airplane meal, but the ravioli was mediocre.

Grilled chicken with rice
Grilled chicken with rice
Stuffed ravioli
Stuffed ravioli

First class on this flight had individual screens, and we were able to watch the original Ocean’s Eleven (with the Rat Pack!) as we ate, which was a treat. The AmazonBasics tangle-free headphones [affiliate link] I always travel with was much better than the prepackaged headphones offered. It’s an added bonus that you never have to feel bad about misplacing a pair thanks to their pricing! 😉

DoubleTree Alana

Though there wasn’t a shuttle offered by the hotel, they did have an arrangement with SpeediShuttle to transport guests at a reduced rate. I checked in online prior to arrival at the DoubleTree Alana so all we had to do was pick up our keys (and cookies!).

As a Hilton Diamond, Carrie and I were given free breakfast vouchers with the option to upgrade to a full breakfast for only $8. We were also given premium internet access codes.

When checking in, I opted to upgrade for only $60/night to their one room penthouse suite. Though Hilton points are not the most valuable, if you book early enough, you can get some very nice deals! The final cost for me was 50,000 points and $60 per night for the penthouse suite.

Entry hall to room
Entry hall to room
Desk, couch, and entry to balcony
Desk, couch, and entry to balcony
Gorgeous bed!
Gorgeous bed!
Waikiki at night from the room
Waikiki at night from the room

More posts to come as I move pictures from my phone and get readjusted to home!

Flight Delays, Flight Attendants, and Planning

As we continue into the holiday season and temperatures drop (in most US cities), there are many things to keep in mind. Wintery weather brings with it delays, cancellations, and colds. Though it’s impossible to plan for every contingency, proper planning will help mitigate a great deal of travel woes.

Flight Delays and Cancellations

It’s not possible to accurately predict weather all the time, but with the technology (and crowd-sourcing) available, we can get pretty close! Keep an eye on not just your point of departure and destination, but also the projected flight path (more on that below). Pilots will do their best to avoid the nastiest chop, but sometimes there’s nothing to be done but to fly through. If motion sickness is a concern, be sure to keep some Dramamine [affiliate link] handy!

In addition to weather, there are quite a few reasons that your flight might be delayed or cancelled – anywhere from your inbound flight being delayed to equipment issues or the flight crew missing connections. Fortunately, you can keep an eye on some of that using the tools I mention below.

FlightAware Home

If you aren’t familiar with it, FlightAware is a wonderful resource for fliers. Regardless of how often you fly, it is worth keeping on your phone for handy access. It allows you to track your flights, including their inbound flights, and projected flight paths. It even overlays weather patterns to give you an idea of what you can expect on your trip.

FlightAware’s ability to identify inbound flights and their delays, combined with push alerts, and gate information makes it invaluable. It’s available for both Android and iOS, and making an account is free. While it won’t tell you if the crew for your flight will get there, you can keep an eye on the plane!

FAA Delay Map
FAA Delay Map

Next up is the FAA’s Flight Delay Information website. By default it shows the major airports in the US for various regions, but users are able to filter to a specific region or go right to the airport they are interested in, directly.

Google Flights
Know what you're getting into!
Know what you’re getting into!

Finally, we have the all-knowing Google. Google Flights is a wonderful tool for both planning and rebooking. Its interface has improved considerably over time and knowing what flight numbers you want to change to when you call your airline saves everyone a lot of time!

One of my favorite features of Google Flights is shared with FlightAware: the display of historical on-time information, particularly when a certain flight is consistently delayed.


When at all possible, fly direct! Every connection you add to your itinerary introduces the possibility of delays. This gets particularly tricky when you have multiple airports in the same region. It isn’t uncommon for flights to arrive at one airport (JFK) and leave from another (LGA). Be sure to pay attention to this when booking!

The North-East tends to get hit consistently in the Winter, so I do my best to avoid flying through airports in that region if I can. Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid airports, so try to pick larger airports where you will have multiple flights to your destination.

Another consideration when booking is what time of day the flight should be. While waking up at 4 AM for a 6 AM flight isn’t terribly appealing, earlier flights offer the most options with delays and cancellations. By taking an earlier flight, you have more time to find alternatives or reroute to reach your destination.

It is in your best interest to keep on top of the weather along your entire route when traveling so that you can reroute if needed. Note that checking your bag will limit your options considerably. Many airlines will move the bag to your new route, but there is a very good chance of it being delayed if you take a different route. If you have to check your bag, be sure to keep a carry-on with a pair or two of extra clothes so you won’t be out of luck (and smelly) when you get to your destination!

Flight Attendants

Time for the most important part… your flight attendants! These ladies and gentlemen are responsible for making sure you get from Point A to Point B safely, so treat them with the respect they deserve. Politeness and a smile goes a long way in making everyone’s day better. Don’t hesitate to bring treats for your flight attendants, especially when flying over the holidays.

Keep in mind that these folks get paid a fraction of their wage when they are on the ground, so it is in their best interest to make sure you get in the air as fast as is safe to do. They don’t want to be late any more than you do, and every minute they spend on the ground impacts their paycheck in a huge way!

What about you?

How do you handle delays and cancellations? Have any tips you’d like to share?