Itinerary

To the Islands: Guam, Palau, Tokyo – the Non-Survivor Edition, 29 Jan – 07 Feb 2017

Palau

I’ve actually never watched Survivor, but Palau is on my list, because it’s a miles&points redemption dream. It’s one of those places that’s so close (~2000 miles from Singapore as the crow flies), yet so expensive (over 1000 USD) and hard to get to (multiple stops).

Enter United miles. Palau is in the same region as Japan and Korea, making it a cheap redemption (12,500 miles one way for economy saver). It’s not often that one can get over 500 usd for a 12,500 mile redemption. Ok, in reality I paid 50,000 United miles because while waiting for my friend to confirm, economy saver availability went away, and I ended up taking business class saver one way, and economy standard the other way.

Anyway, here goes my island-hopping itinerary!

29 January 2017: Singapore to Haneda (on Japan Airlines Business Class redeye for 25,000 Alaska Miles)

30 January 2017: Narita to Guam (on United Airlines Business class, priced as a free stopover, 25,000 miles)

31 January 2017: Guam

01 February 2017: Guam to Palau (on United Airlines Business class)

02 February 2017: Palau

03 February 2017: Palau

04 February 2017: Palau to Narita (redeye, United Airlines)

05 February 2017: Tokyo

06 February 2017: Tokyo

07 February 2017: Tokyo – Singapore (Delta, I paid for it, and got 5,000 Alaska miles from the flight)

Categories: Itinerary, Japan, Miles&Points, Palau, Premium Travel, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, 06-08 August 2016

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Introduction

Back in June 2015, I signed up for Citi’s Hilton Reserve, which gives 2 weekend nights in any Hilton property anywhere in the world after spending $3000 in 3 months. This set the wheels in motion. Where could I go that I’d never pay for? Maldives.

Maldives has always struck me as this expensive, couples/honeymoon place. Almost everyone I know went there for their honeymoon and shelled out a 5 figure sum. I like beaches, climate change and rising sea-levels are winning against places like the Maldives, so I sure as hell was not going to depend on finding someone before mother nature wins!

The Conrad Maldives retails from $500 to $900 for their regular rooms (and up), so this was a perfect candidate for me to blow my two free nights, and not shell out a lot of money. I also get to check another country off my list. Travel hacking for the win!

Trans-Maldivian Airlines

Getting to and from Male and Rangali

At this point, I moved back to Singapore, so getting to Male wasn’t difficult. I did make a bit of a mistake, because I actually booked a one way mileage ticket on Singapore Airlines. That cost me 15,725 Krisflyer miles, and more importantly, 139 USD. I could have done things differently, because the taxes on the award is almost the same price as a one-way on the budget airline, Tigerair, which also flies direct to Male. It has a less-than-ideal timing, but I could have just paid more, and saved some Krisflyer miles. But as luck would have it, things worked out in my favour, because the Singapore Airlines flight I took was full so I did a voluntary bump, and got 250 SGD in cash, getting there a couple of hours later. For my trip back, I simply booked a Tigerair one-way flight for 220 USD. It could have been a lot cheaper if I didn’t book it at the last minute.

The real big expense, is getting from Male to your resort. As long as you are on one of the standalone resort-islands, you have to take a seaplane, and there’s no way to avoid the 500 USD per person round trip charge, so that was a big one for me.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Pre-Departure Communications with Conrad

Despite my stay being an award stay, I’d say that their communications were excellent. A week or so before my stay, I got an e-mail from their pre-booking coordinator, asking for details of my flights, so they could arrange my seaplane transfer to Rangali.

Additionally, I was very interested in dining in Ithaa, their underwater restaurant, so they were also able to secure a reservation for me as well.

Even as a Hilton Diamond, I wasn’t expecting any upgrades on the property from their (already humongous) beach villa, which is the standard room, but I did ask if they would assign me a room on the sunset side of the island, which they did!

What was impressive, was when I threw a monkey wrench in their plans with my voluntary bump. Right after the bump, I shot them an e-mail, and their team actually arranged alternative plans, and managed to still get me to Rangali with very little downtime.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Arrival/Departure in Male – Conrad Lounge

Upon arrival, I was met at airport by a staff of Conrad, who then handled all the details of my seaplane transfer. Shortly after that, I was put on a coach, and driven to the Conrad Lounge. The Conrad has a special lounge for its guests waiting for the seaplane, and it was excellent.

There are several comfortable lie-flat couches in the lounge, for those looking to take a nap after a long flight, or just stretch out their legs. There’s also a complimentary 15-min massage for guests. There’s also a buffet station for those who want to grab some food before or after their flights. There are also showers for those who wish to freshen up as well.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Check In/Check Out

Very painless process. I was introduced to my concierge, who’s in charge of my stay, and he gave me a set of brochures for reference. There is also a small waiting room after check out, where you can get refreshments while waiting for the seaplane.

The reception area is also covered in sand, which enhanced the whole island feeling of the resort, and puts you in the mood for a vacation right away.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Room

I got a standard beach villa, which is a massive 150 sq m/1614 sq ft. My room was a renovated villa. Previously, there was a water fountain in the villa, which created a lot of dead space, but that has since been replaced by incorporating that space into the room, putting skylights and a daybed.

Broadly, the villa has three areas. There’s the outdoor shower, which comes with a soaking tub. Enclosed within the room, are double vanities. If you so desire, there’s also a clothes line near the door, so you can dry your swim wear after a fun day at the beach. The walk-in closet is also in this area.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

In the middle section of the room, there’s the day bed with a coffee table. There are curtains, so if you have a small child, or a third adult, you can always sleep the extra person here, and still get some level of privacy. These curtains are thin though. Close to the daybed is the toilet and one more sink.

The bed/sleeping area takes up majority of the space in the room. There is a king sized bed facing the TV, and a sofa by the foot of the bed, if you want to watch some TV. There’s also a desk by the corner, and opposite the desk, there was the fridge with the Nespresso and an electric kettle. Guests are supplied with water, and if you want ice, just call housekeeping for ice.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Each beach villa also has offers beach access. Just outside the room, there are a couple of chairs and loungers if you wish to spend time outdoors, but still shaded. This leads directly to the beach. And by your personal strip of beach, there are also loungers, along with beach towels.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

The set-up is simply amazing.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Hilton Diamond Amenities

As a Hilton Diamond, there’s complimentary breakfast in the two restaurants that offer breakfast on the island. It’s a buffet with an excellent selection. I particularly loved their smoothies. If you eat late enough in the day, you probably can turn it into a brunch and simply eat dinner, saving some money. This represents some serious cost savings, because everything in the resort is expensive.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

In addition to breakfast, there is also a complimentary tea break at Mandhoo Restaurant, featuring finger sandwiches, and coffee/tea. Think of it as a dainty high tea. Also, they offer a cocktail hour at the Vilu restaurant as well for diamonds, should you wish to obtain a complimentary alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. I went with a mocktail, which was tasty.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

My room was also stocked with diamond amenities. There was a sparkling wine, a bowl of fruit, and some chocolates.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Dining 

Dining is expensive. I’ve heard of stories of people who basically pack a lot of instant noodles, and cook it in their room to cut costs. That’s always an option. I did, however, dine at the resort when I was there.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

I really wanted to try their Ithaa Undersea restaurant, since it’s a unique feature. To cut costs, I went with their lunch service, which was a prix fixe at ~200 USD. It was pretty cool, and the food was pretty decent (I guess you are paying for the atmosphere), but as a lunch service, it was definitely not romantic or anything. There was a family with some unruly kids, and the parental units didn’t feel compelled to rein in their wildlings. The servers actually had to tactfully escort the kids back to their table, and there was only temporary respite for the other diners, as the wildlings were back to their disruptive behavior (one of them tried to jump on me).

Conrad Rangali Maldives

For my two dinners, I ate at the Rangali Bar, which is one of the more affordable options. Even then, a Wagyu burger with a soda set me back ~50 USD after tips. The Chicken Tikka that I had the next evening cost about the same price. In short, if you are going to pay for food, there’s really no escape from paying ~50 per entree.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

Activities

Many people do cruises or diving, but I was on a very short trip, so I just wanted to swim/lounge around.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Snorkeling equipment rental is available for free at the dive shop. I checked out a set on my second day there, and went snorkeling around the house reef. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was a very calming experience.

Conrad Maldives Rangali

I spent most of my time swimming. I swam at the sea in front of my beach villa, and on my last day there, I actually swam between the islands. I also spent my time lounging. My personal favorite was the adult-only infinity pool on the island with the overwater villas.

Service

This is probably the defining factor for the Conrad Maldives – top-notch service. Everything was perfect. One day, I was at the infinity pool. I spotted a pair of flip flops under one of the lounge chairs. An attendant asked for my room number before bringing some towels. Some 30 mins after I returned to my room, my personal concierge asked if I left my flip flops at infinity pool.

Conrad Rangali Maldives

Overall

I never quite got the hype of the Maldives, but I must say, this was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had. Just walking around the various sandy paths between the islands and swimming and lounging in the clear blue sea. It was an incredibly calming experience, which was topped off by impeccable service. I actually found myself researching other options for Maldives vacations right after returning from this trip!

Miles & Points

Well, I didn’t get this vacation for free, but I did do it for ~1000 USD, which is still pricey for a weekend.

Accommodations:

2 Nights Hotel Stay: Citi Hilton Reserve (free) – at least 1000 usd saved

Flights:

Singapore – Male: 120 USD + 15000 KF points on Singapore Airlines

Male – Singapore: 220 USD on Tigerair

Seaplane in Maldives: 500 USD

Food:

300 USD

Hilton Gold status, which comes with the credit card, would have given you free breakfast at the Conrad, so the credit card itself would have effectively reduced your food costs.

I saved about 1100 USD on this trip with miles and points. This trip probably can be done with about 700 USD (seaplanes and budget airlines), if you’re willing to eat instant noodles for your trip.

Categories: Hilton, Itinerary, Lodgings, Maldives | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Another South America Run, 05 – 28 July 2016

Avenida Paulista

I’m cashing in on my bounty of Miles and Points, and also rewarding myself for finishing my PhD. So I decided to do a graduation trip before starting a new job in Singapore. I hope my Spanish improves rapidly! *yikes*

05 July: Seattle – San Diego – Dallas Fort Worth – Sao Paulo (nobody said award flights are direct, but at least I’m flying First/Business class)

06 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

07 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

08 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

09 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil – Buenos Aires, Argentina

10 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

11 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina – Montevideo Uruguay

12 July: Montevideo, Uruguay

13 July: Montevideo – Colonia, Uruguay

14 July: Colonia, Uruguay – Buenos Aires, Argentina

15 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

16 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

17 July: Buenos Aires – Rosario, Argentina

18 July: Rosario, Argentina

19 July: Rosario – Cordoba, Argentina

20 July: Cordoba, Argentina

21 July: Cordoba – Mendoza, Argentina

22 July: Mendoza, Argentina

23 July: Mendoza, Argentina

24 July: Mendoza, Argentina – Santiago, Chile

25 July: Santiago, Chile

26 July: Santiago – Valparaiso – Santiago, Chile

27 July: Santiago, Chile – Sao Paulo, Brazil

28 July: Sau Paulo, Brazil – Singapore (a long, 25 hr flight in SQ First)

Categories: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Itinerary, Uncategorized, Uruguay | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Itinerary: That’s a Lot of Baseball, 17 – 27 March 2016

Thanks to two credit card sign-ups with Southwest, my US baseball plan will be funded by my stash of Southwest points. Beyond that, I also earned the very lucrative Southwest Companion Pass on 02 February, giving me the privilege of taking someone with me for free (well, just the $5.60 security fee and international taxes) from 2016 – 2017.

I have a rather weird itinerary for this trip, because my partner wants to visit his grandparents in El Centro, and he wants to watch the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in his hometown of Mexicali.

17 Mar: Seattle – San Diego – El Centro

18 Mar: El Centro – Mexicali – El Centro

19 Mar: El Centro – San Diego

20 Mar: San Diego – Houston – San Jose, Costa Rica

21 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica

22 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica

23 Mar: San Jose, Costa Rica – Houston – Albuquerque

24 Mar: Albuquerque

25 Mar: Albuquerque – Phoenix

26 Mar: Phoenix

27 Mar: Phoenix – Seattle

Categories: Baseball, Costa Rica, Itinerary, Mexico, Sports, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USA: NOLA, LA, 08 – 09 Jan 2016

We’re getting close to the end of the year, and it’s time to plan travel for next year. Aside from visiting as many new countries as possible, I do have some new goals this year: Re-qualify for AAdvantage status. Due to the upcoming devaluation, I’d obviously prefer to stick with Alaska Airlines, but unfortunately, OneWorld benefits will be more useful to me in my future plans. So, AAdvantage it is!

I have always wanted to visit New Orleans. I’ll be stacking a bunch of deals to make this trip affordable, while hitting a bunch of travel goals. Alaska Airlines is now offering quite a deal ($118 one-way on select days), combined with the SPG Amex Keyless promotion, and some leftover Citi ThankYou points, and I’m looking at an affordable trip to a city I’ve always wanted to visit and a fairly decent haul of miles and points.

And of course, I’m looking forward to some amazing Jazz, and Creole cuisine.

Costs & Miles & Points Breakdown

Costs

Airfare: 27 USD (used 8850 Citi TY points for AA flight SEA-DFW-MSY, got a 75 USD discount code + 10 USD Alaska Air Wallet funds to discount 118 USD MSY-SEA flight on Alaska Air)

Hotel: 102 USD (SPG – I have other options to waive this, but the 2500 bonus meant I decided to pay for this out-of-pocket)

Total: 129 USD

Miles & Points

AAdvantage Miles: 4720 RDM (crediting my Alaska flight to AAdvantage, and 25% AAdvantage Gold bonus) / 2096 EQM – I’m not too worried about re-qualifying through EQM, but just really needed the 4-segment minimum

SPG points: 2676 Starwood points (I also needed to make my 1 eligible stay, so I can earn SPG points for using Uber this year)

Using The Points Guy’s valuations, I actually come up on top a bit:

Total earned: 146 USD (4720 AA x 0.017 + 2676 SPG x 0.025)

 

Categories: Alaska Air, American Airlines, Itinerary, USA | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Hello Iberian Peninsula: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, 23 – 31 December 2015

I got in on the British Airways premium fare sale last week (transatlantic business class for ~1000 USD, without Avios discounts), and while I actually had no plans of flying again this year, this mileage running opportunity (more on that later) was a bit too good to pass up.

23 Dec: Madrid, Spain

24 Dec: Madrid, Spain – Lisbon, Portugal

25 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal

26 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal – Madrid, Spain – Rabat, Morocco

27 Dec: Rabat, Morocco – Casablanca, Morocco

28 Dec: Casablanca, Morocco – Marrakesh, Morocco

29 Dec: Marrakesh, Morocco – Madrid, Spain

30 Dec: Madrid, Spain

31 Dec: Madrid, Spain

While others with bountiful British Avios managed to get their out-of-pocket costs down to around ~300 USD for a transcontinental Business class flight, I don’t have any Avios. Nevertheless, this trip makes a lot of sense to me. I get to fly to Europe in Business class comfort at Economy class fares (Seattle is generally not a great market for fare sales to Europe), and in addition to that, because of a OneWorld deal, flying transatlantic in business or first class will give me 25,000 bonus miles in AAdvantage. As a result of this ~$1000 trip, not only will I get to visit three countries I haven’t been, but I will get around 45,000 miles, which is good for either an economy round trip to Central America, or a one-way business class ticket to South America.

Categories: Itinerary, Miles&Points, Morocco, Portugal, Spain | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Itinerary: Hello Again, Big Apple!, 29 – 31 October 2015

IMG_9326

I am currently on the Asian side of the Pacific, but happened to be awake, when Jetblue had their Halloween fare sale (a lot of flights were going for $31, with taxes all-in). Seattle has direct flights on JetBlue to three cities: Long Beach CA, Boston MA, and New York City NY. I was debating between a same day turn at Long Beach (impossible on JetBlue from Seattle) to visit a friend who moved to SoCal, or short weekend getaway to Boston or NYC. In the end, I settled on NYC. With the amount of traffic they got, it did take a while for me to finally book a flight from NYC to Seattle, but I did it, eventually!

Jetblue

Same day turns to NYC aren’t exactly possible from Seattle, so challenge #2: finding a ticket from Seattle to NYC. This quarter, I got lucky, and have a pretty light and flexible schedule, so, I can leave by Wednesday evening. I plugged in a couple of dates on Google Flights (if you have never used Google Flights, you really should start using it – it’s awesome), and voila! The cheapest is American Airlines at $135, but I do vaguely recall Alaska Airlines having a double miles promotion for its new route to JFK. With some luck, it ends on 28 October – the evening I am planning on departing! While it is slightly more pricey than American Airlines at $159, I still have $58 left in my Alaska wallet, so this brings my out-of-pocket cost down to $100.

So, for $131 USD, I will be flying round trip from Seattle to NYC for a Halloween weekend, and catching up with my dear friend, who I haven’t seen in more than two years!

NYC hotels are incredibly spendy. So far, I have used my IHG points to make redemptions to keep out-of-pocket expenses to $70 for two nights in Times Square hotels. But if anyone has any suggestions on how else to cut costs and saves some points, let me know!

Miles & Points

Accrual

JetBlue is a KrisFlyer partner. While I do have TrueBlue account, JetBlue uses a revenue system, so at $31, I won’t be getting a lot of frequent flyer miles out of this. From what I understand, KrisFlyer will credit 50% of the mileage flown, so getting 1204 miles for $31 seems like better than nothing (and definitely multiples above 186 miles). I am not sure if this is what I will really be getting, but at $31, it is hard to complain.

I recently signed up for Alaska Airlines’ MileagePlan, and credited my SEA-TPA trip to it. With the Double Miles promotion, my MileagePlan will get a nice bump with 4816 miles.

Total:

Krisflyer: 1204 miles

MileagePlan: 4816 miles

Cost: $131 (+ $58 in my Alaska wallet)

Expenditure

I am still trying to make my peace with using up 60000 IHG points, but am slowly coming round to it, after researching on various hotel websites, and checking out Airbnb. There are few ways I can get a better deal. So, what did I redeem with 60000 IHG points?

First night:

I’m looking for rooms with two beds, because my friend is rolling down from Peekskill to join me. This was quite a challenge, and I split up the search into two individual nights. I had success getting an IHG property with two beds for night #1, and was quite amazed by the value I got:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.19.51 AM

This is how much the hotel would have cost – $451.03!!! I just redeemed it with 35000 IHG points.

Second night:

The search for a room with two beds was rather futile, so I decided to see what is the best value that I can get for a King bed. I was happy to find an IHG at a great location, and they offer their view rooms (as opposed to standard rooms) at standard redemption rates. A girl can always do with a view! I also got pretty good value out of it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.24.44 AM

Cost: $375.29. I shelled out 25000 IHG points, and $70.

The cheapest place I could find in NYC was $100 per night, at Flushing YMCA. My brother stayed there for a month when he worked in NYC, and said it was dreadful. I am getting about 2 hotel nights worth $825 for 60000 IHG points and $70. I think I’ll live.

Categories: Itinerary, Miles&Points, USA | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tampa FL, USA: Flying into TPA for some Rays baseball, 18 – 20 September 2015

It’s one of my close friend’s birthday, and as a treat, I decided to use my Delta Skymiles to fly us to Tampa, so he can attend games for his favorite MLB team – Tampa Bay Rays.

18 September 2015: Seattle, WA – Tampa, FL (direct on Alaska, redeemed with 12500 Delta Skymiles

19 September 2015: Tampa, FL

20 September 2015: Tampa, FL – Seattle, WA (direct on Alaska, redeemed with 12500 Delta Skymiles)

This isn’t a spectacular redemption or anything, but I am happy with it, because I got him a direct flight from Seattle to Tampa, on one of the best domestic carriers – Alaska, as opposed to my epic, multiple connection redemption to Panama City (SIX different airports! SIX!!!!).

I bought a ticket on Alaska separately for this trip ($385 initially), and used the $100 airline fee credit gift card trick from my AMEX PRG sign-up to offset some of the cost. After learning about the Alaska Airlines Lowest Price guarantee from this informative blogpost, I watched the airfare on Google Flights, and managed to get back $58 in Alaska credits, bringing the actual cost of this flight to ~$227 USD. That’s not too shabby for a 5 hr non-stop flight!

Categories: Events, Itinerary, Miles&Points, Sports, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hola!: Cuba, Colombia, Panama, 26 Aug – 09 Sep 2015

I’ve been hoarding my miles for some time now, and given the constant devaluation of miles, it appears that my dream of a round-the-world reward ticket is out the window. Never fear – that just means I’ll be exploring my neighbors! As a poor graduate student, I’ve also recently jumped onto the sweet bandwagon that’s called miles and points, and putting all my monthly expenditure (yes, that includes rent!) into my credit cards to get some sign-up bonuses. This is definitely paying for quite a bit of my trip! Well, because it’s an award flight, the itinerary is quite sucky. But hey, I get to travel for (almost) free – can’t complain!

26-27 August: Seattle – Los Angeles – Mexico City – Panama City

27 August: Panama City- Havana

28 August: Havana, Cuba

29 August: Havana, Cuba

30 August: Havana, Cuba

31 August: Havana – Panama City – Bogota

01 September: Bogota, Colombia

02 September: Bogota, Colombia

03 September: Bogota, Colombia

04 September: Bogota – Panama City

05 September: Panama City, Panama

06 September: Panama City, Panama

07 September: Panama City, Panama

08 September: Panama City, Panama

09 September: Panama City – Atlanta – San Francisco – Seattle

Categories: Colombia, Cuba, Itinerary, Panama | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Australia – Melbourne, 16 – 20 November 2012

16 Nov: Singapore – Melbourne (a sleep on the plane day)

17 Nov: Queen Victoria Market, general city sightseeing

18 Nov: St. Kilda

19 Nov: Phillip Island

20 Nov: Melbourne

Frankly, I don’t have a real plan. But the idea of seeing another former British colony’s civic centre for its architecture does seem appealing.

Categories: Australia, Itinerary | Tags: | 1 Comment

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