So are you one of those people that always read about great offers, but the caveat is that they are targeted and you didn’t get the Golden Ticket email?  Me too.  Until today.

AA Status

AA Status 2

I just got an offer from AA for a no sweat-off-my-brow upgrade to Platinum status AND 20 500 mile upgrade certificates.  No fly x number of miles by a certain date or spend x dollars, just “here you go”.  There are a lot of other offers out there that are the more typical earn status for a reduced number of miles/ dollars.  See Miles-to-Memories or The Unaccompanied Flyer.  Note that in these offers, I would need to spend $2000 and fly 12,500 EQM to earn Platinum.

Although I do fly AA, I always try to credit my flights to Alaska since the status there is so much better.  I did earn about 7,000 EQM last year only because I got stuck on an Iberian Air flight coming back from Morocco and AA or BA was all I could credit it to.  Got plenty of hard to use BA miles, but can always use AA miles for flying my daughter around.

So I immediately signed up just in case they made an error on this gift from heaven.  Sure enough, Platinum already and those upgrade certificates are supposed to post within 20 days.  Kind of bizarre how they decided it was good for 3 1/2 months.  I guess the incentive is supposed to be to switch your flying to AA and get hooked on it so you want to keep flying the rest of the year and keep your status?

AA Status 3They’ll have to offer me more than this to make me switch from Alaska.  But I’ll fly and enjoy those upgrades and status while I can.

Better to be lucky than good I always say!

Anyone else out there get this fantastic offer?

Posted by glenn | 2 Comments

The International Market was an institution of Waikiki for many, many years.  Originally developed by Donn Beach who created the Don the Beachcomber chain of restaurants, in the 1940s.  With its iconic Banyan Tree around which the second story restaurant was built, it contained cheap hula shows and trinkets for the visitors to Waikiki and became a “must stop” to thousands of visitors.  By the 2000’s, the restaurant had closed and it was mostly the place to acquire cheap Asian-made trinkets, fast food, and clothing.  It was still interesting to poke around and we really liked going to Hula Dog whenever we were down there, but it REALLY needed a makeover.  That happened with the purchase of the property which saw all the tenants kicked out in 2013 and the whole property gutted and rebuilt.  It took a while but the wait looks to be worthwhile.

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They smartly included an “anchor store” in the form of Sax Fifth Avenue which is all the way in the back along Kuhio which means you need to go through the whole mall to reach it and see everything along the way – smart!

The first thing that you will notice when entering is the iconic banyan tree.  You will immediately notice the homage they have made to Don the Beachcomber by constructing a little room amongst the tree branches.  Inside your will find the history of the International Market and Donn Beach.  Really interesting.

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The area around the circle surrounding the tree contains interesting photos and narratives about the history of the International Market.  They have a photo booth thing set up to record oral histories of anyone who wants to contribute their stories of the International Market over the last 70 years.

The International Market is essential a three story outdoor mall.  The first two floors are upscale shops and the entire third floor is all restaurants.

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They’ve done a great job of integrating the trees and nature into the structures.  The rocking chairs look over a large open green in the back part of the mall.  This is where you used to be able to catch a cheap hula or magic show.  They have incorporated the stage, although there was nothing going on when we were there.  Lot’s of kids playing in the fountain and open green space.  A good place to park the husband and kids while you get some shopping done ladies.

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The shops are all very nice and places to keep your wife out of, especially Sax Fifth in the back.

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The third floor is full of very nice, but fairly affordable restaurants.

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So this really is the latest and greatest attraction in Waikiki.  Check it out next time you are there and report back if you see something great.



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My wife and I lived in Honolulu from 2010-13 and like to go back about once a year.  It has been fun to see the developments that have taken place over time.  On this recent trip, I noted a number of improvements around Waikiki that you might want to check out for yourself on an upcoming trip.

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The biggest news in my view is completion of the International Market which had been undergoing a complete renovation for the last three years.  I’ll write a whole post on this tomorrow, but you should definitely make a visit to shop or dine here on your next visit.

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The Ritz-Carlson’s Residences finally opened the first tower with more to come.  Looks pretty classy from the outside, but still  lot of work to do to finish the whole project.

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You can see in the last photo that they are working on the second tower.  Expect some construction noise if you stay here.  I thought of staying here to check it out since I have those three free nights from the Ritz-Carlton credit card.  Looking at the Marriot website, you can see it is a pretty expensive property and would be a great value for those free nights.

Ritz Reservation

But get this caveat:

Ritz Caveats

So no-go on certs, points or any way other than cash to get a room here.  Plus you won’t earn anything!

Another new hotel option may be this one that is under construction on the backside of the International Market.  The little sign at the corner lends me to believe that this will be an expansion of the Holiday Inn Resort that is currently on the main drag, Kalakaua.  Could be a good option when it is done in about three months or so.

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Another new item is the opening of an upscale market called Coco Café on Kalakaua near the Holiday Inn.  This is definitely a step above the ubiquitous ABC stores.  My tip to lower your cost of staying in Waikiki is to get some of your meals at this store since they have quality sushi, sandwiches, and other fresh food items.  There are other stores like this in Honolulu, but none as convenient a location of this store.

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Of course, we still endorse going to Food Pantry on Kuhio for a great steak meal for only $12.99.

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So here are a few new things for you to look for and hopefully make your stay a little better next time you are in Waikiki.

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In 2015 we stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki using the two free nights from the Hyatt Credit Card.  Keeping the credit card is a no brainer since the annual fee is offset by a free night, but only up to Tier 4.  That meant that the Hyatt Regency was just out of reach, but the Hyatt Place was only Tier 3 and eligible so we thought we would try it for our three nights there.

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For those of you familiar with Waikiki, Hyatt Place is located at the far end of the strip.  It is on the east side of the back half of the Marriott.  Access is easier along Kuhio than Kalakaua.  The desk clerk was nice and greeted me as a Hyatt Platinum and informed me of the free breakfast that was on the third floor every morning.

The room was pretty small even by Waikiki standards, but is had almost everything in it.  I say almost because it was missing one critical thing as far as I was concerned – a desk.  I had to balance my laptop on the bureau and sit on the bed to do any computer work.  Here are some photos.

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The view was alright.  A good shot between the Marriott towers at the Catholic church and a spot of the water that happened to be exactly where most of the surfers were.  It let me reminisce about surfing as a teenager in L.A. – those were the days!

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Breakfast was on the pool deck on the third floor.  It was continental, but did have Asian fare such as steamed rice and kimchi which my wife really liked.  The bagels, granola, yogurt, etc. was the typical hotel fare, but the pineapple was outstanding.  Well, what else would you expect in Hawaii?

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I’ll be the first to admit that I much prefer to fly in First Class, but when that upgrade doesn’t come through I want my ride in economy to be the best it can be.  Usually, we get seats in the Exit Row and then hope for the upgrade.  However, Alaska has a new scheme to make the first 3-5 rows in economy a new class of service known as Premium Economy.  Alaska’s version (several airlines have started a similar class of service) comes with four more inches of legroom, a snack box and a free drink.  How did Alaska get all that extra legroom?  By eliminating the fourth row of First Class.  They also used this space to add four more inches to each First Class seat which I am not convinced they needed.

On our recent mileage run, my wife was upgraded on all seven legs and I almost did as well (six legs), but just missed the cut on our first leg, DCA-LAX, and got to try this new class of service.  I was very curious how it would turn out so wasn’t that disappointed on not getting upgraded – at least for one flight.  Here are photos showing the difference in leg room.  Keep in mind that I am six feet tall so extra legroom is always a good thing.

From these shots, I think how you can see the first  few rows are further apart.  The other shot shows the Premium Economy row across from me.  I think you can really see the extra legroom there.

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Here is a comparison of legroom showing regular economy first, then Premium Economy and finally First Class.

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And if you think the legroom in First Class is huge you are absolutely right.  Frankly, more space than anyone needs.

Here is a shot of my wife in the first row.  She used to be able to reach the bulkhead with her feet, but not any more.

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What about that snack box and drink?  Well, as an MVPGold I have always had a benefit of a free drink, but I was looking forward to the snack box.  I was pretty surprised to receive what I am sure is the world’ smallest snack box.  I opened it up to show it had almonds, Craisins, and a square of dark chocolate.  OK, better than a poke in the eye, but really disappointing that this is all the snack box amounts to.

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I was next on the list for an upgrade, so if Alaska still had four rows of First, I would have been sitting in a comfy seat with a decent meal instead of what you see above.  However, it looks like a good deal if you are the lowest tier elite and rarely make the cut off list for an upgrade.  This was you get some extra legroom and other benefits.  Let me know if you get a chance to experience this and what you think of airlines inventing this new class of service.

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First stop on our winter mileage run was San Diego.  I worried about all the rain I had heard about in California, but it turned out cloudy and dry.  San Diego is a great town and we looked forward to spending a couple of days there.  I looked forward to checking out the new Hilton Bayfront which was under construction the last time we were there in 2014.  It is located at the end of the San Diego Convention Center opposite from the Marriott.  This is a great location from which you can walk to the Gaslamp District, stroll along the waterfront and visit the Midway, or catch the hop-on, hop-off tour bus to see the rest of San Diego.

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I was a little surprised how small the room was, but I probably was too used to getting an upgrade as a Hilton Diamond.  There was a large convention at the hotel that weekend so I wasn’t upset that we had no upgrade (unlike my wife).  The room was fine and did have a nice view of the convention center and waterfront.

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The hotel is at the far end of the hotel row along the waterfront, but it is still a reasonable walk to everything.  Had a view of Petco Park and this visit was just a couple days after the Chargers announced they were moving to L.A.  A lot of angst in San Diego about that!

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The hotel owner had paid for a neat little footbridge to cross from the hotel into east downtown which was a nice shortcut to the Gaslamp District.

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One disappointment was that there was no lounge in this new hotel.  At check-in, we were given free continental breakfast coupons at the Vela restaurant downstairs with an option to use them at Starbucks instead.  We tried using them at Vela and found the placed so packed that we had to wait ten minutes just to get seated.  The hostess was trying to upsell everyone to take the full breakfast for an extra $10 and it seemed to me that those people got preferential seating which I thought was inappropriate.  At least the food was worth the wait, better than what I typically get at a lounge.

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Last mention is for the workout center which is collocated with their spa.  Had a great workout and there were plenty of machines available.

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On the whole, I found the hotel to be average, but in a great location.  I still feel it is better than the old Hilton which is across the street from the Hyatt/ Marriott at the other end of the convention center.

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Part of the addiction dedication to frequent flying is seeing those mileage counters roll over to zero on New Year’s Day and knowing you have to figure out a way to fly a bunch more flights so you can keep your status for the following year.  OF course, ideally you would get your employer to pay for all the flights needed or have those miles already paart of a family vacation.  However, that’s not always enough so you need to grab a bunch more to put you over the hump.

While some writers claim that the mileage run is dead, I am going to show you how to make one and get a great payout from it on Alaska.  More and more flyers should be looking at this program now with AS buying Virgin America which greatly expands their long haul routes.  AS’ Mileage Plan has really worked well for my wife and I ever since we moved to Anchorage in 2002 and discovered how great this program really is.  It is so great that we have continued with it despite living in D.C. for the last four years.  What makes it great?  Well, great service from the people, like the pilot who came out on our pre-flight today to brief the First Class passengers on the flight plan and answer any questions.  Always, always the great Flight Attendants.  Valuable miles that are a great currency to use domestically, but especially internationally on Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Iceland Air and several others.  Mileage earning is still based on distance flown, not price.  Lastly, the huge number of times we are upgraded to First Class.  My wife is a MVPGold75K and was upgraded 33 out of 36 flights in 2016.  I am merely an MVPGold and was upgraded 19 out of 20 flights last year.  Can’t match that experience on any other airline.  I am a Million Miler on UA and don’t get any where near that much love.

One of the best times to rack up cheap mileage run flights is from right after New Year’s to right before Spring Break – so basically mid-Jan. to mid-Mar.  By definition, you want as long a journey as possible.  So I look for as far away a spot from D.C. as possible and then try to find interesting side trips to get there.  ANC, any of the Hawaiian location, and Costa Rica are all great choices.  Of course, if you are West Coast based, you have a ton of East Coast destinations even without adding in those Virgin routes.  AS just keeps quietly expanding their offerings.  It would appear way too small on this screen, so here is a link to AS’ latest route map.

We usually pick one of the Hawaiian islands to visit every year and my wife chose Oahu for 2017.  With the end point settled, I started planning various stops or detours.  Also, I examined flights to those points that had wacky routings that added up the miles flown.  I’ll let you in on the main secret that makes mileage running viable with AS and that is the Companion Fare that come with their B of A credit card.  For only $99 (+$22 in taxes) more than a regular coach flight, I can fly my wife with me while she collects EQM and RDM also.  Other airlines with companion fares do not offer this so it makes mileage running very lucrative as I will illustrate below.

We broke up a week’s trip by making it two days in SAN, three days in HNL, and two days in SJC.  Purists will argue that this is not a true mileage run since we actually leave the airport and enjoy the town we visit.  OK, you win, but to me it is still a mileage run that we also turn into a vacation.  Here is what we finally ended up with:

DCA-LAX-PDX-SAN (two days) – HNL (three days) – SJC (two days) – SEA-DCA

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All for a fare of $859 including the companion fare cost.  So that essentially mean that we paid half that or $430 each to fly 12,132 miles.  That earns us that many EQMs each, but also much more RDM due to the bonuses for Gold and Gold 75K.  While I get a 100% bonus for being a Gold (used to get that as a Gold on UA, but now only 50% from them) and the wife gets an incredible 125% bonus for being a 75K.  She will also get a bonus 50,000 RDM once she re-qualifies for Gold75K, but let’s leave that part for later.  Lets do a quick calculation of the RDM earned and the value of those miles.  I will earn 24,264 RDM, so essentially a free ticket, and the wife will get 27,297 RDM meaning we get 51,561 RDM.  Most bloggers value AS miles at 2 cents each.  Doing the math, means that those miles are worth $1,031.22.  Pretty good return on investment there!  Get miles worth more than the flight cost and a good chunk of EQM to get to do it another year.  Not to mention flying most of that in First Class.  As I write this from Waikiki, my wife was upgraded on all four flights and myself on three so far.  First Class is a great way to earn this investment…


Posted by glenn | One Comment

A couple of winners from the previous contest came back and couldn’t use their upgrades from Michael and now reader Joe has volunteered a couple of more.  They expire and must be flown (not just booked) by 31 Jan.  More importantly, they can only be used on a W fare or higher.

MP_Upgrade2_120x120Photo courtesy

There are also some other ways to use them, like on Lufthansa, so refer to United’s webpage on upgrades if you have specific questions. So any takers out there?  Reply with a comment to this post.


Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

I am not a big fan of booking at a hotel brand that I have never heard of.  While sometimes a surprise can be pleasant, just as often it turns into a disappointment.  I would much rather count on the consistency of a name brand such as Hilton when booking.  At a recent conference in Europe I chose to stay at the Frankfurt Airport Hilton and was very pleased with what the hotel has to offer and didn’t mind the trade-off of not being right next to the conference location.

As you would expect, you can reach the hotel by walking from the terminal, although we chose to pick up our rental car and drive.  Driving to the hotel is not the easiest to figure out and involves a lot of looping around between the airport and the adjacent autobahn, but a good GPS can figure it out.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have one of those and it took us the better part of an hour to get to the hotel parking.  The building is massive and situated right along the autobahn, but the noise levels never bothered me and the building looks pretty cool.


That turned out to be the most trouble we had (other than figuring out the right direction to go on the autobahn) and the rest of the stay was great.  There are actually two hotels on the property, a full Hilton and a Hilton Garden Inn (to the left in the picture).  While I was able to stay at the Hilton at the Per Diem rate, if you are on vacation, you might be able to stay cheaper at the Garden Inn.


The hotel is very modern with nice architecture.  You come up from the parking garage right into the check-in lobby which has a very nice bar across from the front desk.  I took the front desk photo from the skybridge leading to my room.  This place has a massive atrium!


The glass elevator take you up to your floor and the place is full of automatically opening glass doors, I kind of got the Star Trek vibe.  The room itself was not large, but they did a great job with the space available.  Wasn’t a fan of the bed, a little too hard for my tastes, but the bathroom and the working desk were excellent.


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As a Hilton Diamond, I had access to the lounge and the cocktail hour and free breakfast there.  Missed the cocktail hour as there were better things to do at night, but the breakfast was nice even if it was just continental.

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Outside the hotel is a small mall filled with the usual traveler’s shops, restaurants, etc.  In the middle of it was the walkway to get to the terminals.  Pretty nice way to get there in inclement weather.  This would definitely be a good alternative if you got weathered in at the airport.

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Altogether, I give this hotel very high marks.  Something else to note is that it is about 15 minutes to downtown Frankfurt or 15 minutes in the other direction to get to Wiesbaden.  Overall, a good experience in a god location.


Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

Thanks to everyone who commented trying to win one of four United GPUs.  As I mentioned, these come courtesy of Michael there is more to that story.  Michael has written a travel book and I wanted to publish the links so that all of you can check it out as well.  Titled “The Millennial’s Guide to Business Travel”, you should definitely take a look.

Michael Puldy has a passion for travel and has flown close to 3 million air miles. He has visited over 40 countries and all United States. Learn the ropes of business travel from a seasoned road warrior, and read crazy travel stories from Michael and a few of his friends.

Find his book at: htttp:// or on Facebook:

And now to the winners:

Simon Kuo

the dood



I’ll be emailing each of the winners so they can provide their names and Record Locator to Michael for the upgrades.  Thanks again Michael!

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Traveling creates experiences and memories that you will remember for the rest of your life. These moments are what make life more meaningful, especially if spent with your loved ones. It’s not all a walk in the park though. Aside from the cost of travel that you need to consider, there’s also the common problem of many travelers, which is the preparation of the things to bring.

This is one of the most stressful parts because you need to make sure that you got everything you need, including your documents, cards, cash, clothes, shoes, etc. However, there are ways on how to resolve these concerns, making your travel preparation a more convenient one. To avoid missing anything, take note of all the items you need to bring several days or even weeks before your travel.

Do the packing days before, instead of the night before. With this, you will not feel pressured because of the time crunch. Plus, this will give you more time to search for the items you need or purchase them if you don’t have them at home.

You don’t want to lose your way on your destination. So, save Google maps for offline access. With this, you can still use it and find your away around even if there’s no Internet connection.

We have created an infographic that shows more practical tips to make not just your travel hassle free, but the preparation as well.

Check out the amazing image below and get everything ready for your trip like a pro:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Do visit us at for more interesting finds about different careers and salaries, work productivity, as well as those about budgeting and finances.
Hope all of you enjoyed this guest post by Sarah. Please visit her site if you liked it.

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