2013 Travel in Review

2013 was a great travel year for The #hustle Blog family. We didn’t eclipse the number of miles we’ve ever traveled in a year but we did take more trips than we ever have.

All in all, together we traveled 63,179 miles in 34 segments. Not even a lot by any stretch of the imagination, but we visited a lot of great places that we’ve never been to before.

This was mostly due to some great mistake fares in 2013 and a mistake promotion that we decided to capitalize on. Here’s a short recap of how our 2013 travel went down:

2013 Domestic Travel

2013 Domestic Travel

2013 International Travel

2013 International Travel

  • Madrid
  • Vancouver
  • Austin
  • Buenos Aires
    • Mistake fare for $386. Wow what a glorious beef overload!
  • Tampa
    • Frequent Traveler University, another great meetup with fellow miles & points junkies
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
    • A nice 4-day getaway and complimentary upgrades on Delta
  • American Airlines #questforEXP
    • Hawaii
    • LAX
      • A quick 8 hour stop to hit the beach and grab some In-N-Out
    • SJC
      • Our first true mileage run where we got off the plane, grabbed a snack and got right back on 30 minutes later
    • Panama
      • Seeing the Canal & Miraflores Locks in person was awe inspiring
    • Miami
      • This final trip of 2013 capped off the AA promotion and we caught our first Miami Heat game at, appropriately enough, American Airlines Arena

Again, 2013 was a great year and we were blessed to travel as much as we did for as cheap as we did.

Here’s to another great year of health, happiness, and travel!

Maybe sprinkle in some huge credit card signup bonuses and some mistake fares and we can call it a year!

2013-travel-collage

Hawaii Mileage Run: American Airlines First Class DFW-HNL

TRIP INDEX

DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) – HNL (Honolulu)
AA 5
9/11/13
Depart (Scheduled/Actual): 1:00p/1:16p
Arrive (Scheduled/Actual): 4:00p/4:22p
First Class
Boeing 767-300
Seats 4A, 4B

Upon landing early in DFW and taking the Skylink train to Terminal A, Joann and I hit Starbucks and then the Admiral’s Club. We only had about 30 minutes before boarding would start for our flight to Oahu.

After getting on the free wifi and sending out the previous two posts, we went to Gate A24 which was right next to the Club. There was a delay in boarding; the gate agents kept calling up passengers for “recheck.”

After about 20 minutes, the gate agents finally started boarding and we were among the first to board in the front cabin.

I was happy to enter and see American’s 763 First/Business cabin with angled lie-flat seats.

As we go settled in, a flight attendant immediately greeted us with a tray of water, orange juice, and sparkling wine. We opted for the sparkling wine and continued to explore our seats that were in a 2-2-2 arrangement across the cabin.

Once we leveled off after takeoff, FAs once again came around but with Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 and Bose QuietComfort15 noise-cancelling headsets. Since these old birds don’t have personal IFE, American distributes these instead. They weren’t bad; they had a decent selection.

galaxy-tablet-bose-qc15

Once they were fully distributed, the FAs went back to the galley and came out with tablecloths and the drink cart. Saddened to see no single malt scotch option on the menu, I just ordered a Jack & Diet. They also served us the hot Hawaiian mixed nuts. They were really really good and I finished them in no time! The candied ones were definitely the best.

american airlines first class warm nuts

The service was a bit slower than what I’ve experienced in premium cabins. The starter salads took a while to come out, but I had The Hangover 3 on the Galaxy Tablet so it wasn’t a concern just yet.

The FAs came around once more to collect the ramekins and top off drinks. Meanwhile, it had been about 15 minutes and the service was at a halt.

Some 30 minutes after we had received our drinks and hot nuts, the salad course was served with a choice of either Caesar or Ginger Sesame dressing. We both opted for the Caesar. A nice touch was that salad was dressed at the cart and then served to us along with Hawaiian sweet rolls.

american airlines first class salad

Then came the main course. Most people in the cabin opted for the Macadamia Nut Chicken. It was satisfactory. The breading sure had trouble staying attached to the chicken breast.

american airlines first class hawaii macadamia nut chicken

After another 30 minutes, the cheese plate followed and then came the highlight of the meal. The ice cream sundae with all the toppings was awesome. It went well with the Bailey’s with milk on the rocks. Ice cream is definitely impossible to mess up 35,000 feet up.

american airlines first class hawaii cheese plate

Once the meal service was over and our tray tables were cleaned, it was just time for movies and sleep.

Overall, the food quality was OK but the service was painfully slow. I was falling asleep waiting for the dessert courses. I probably should have just slept, but I wanted that ice cream!

american airlines first class hawaii ice cream sundae

Ice Cream Sundae w/ Chocolate Sauce, Strawberries, & nuts and Bailey’s w/ Milk

Finally it was time to sleep! For sleeping, the seat was serviceable. It wasn’t the best but surely suitable for a few hours of shuteye. It went flat but angled downwards. I figured that this probably wouldn’t be a great seat for side sleepers. Maybe my opinion would be different if we were on a red eye where more sleep is desired, but for going west, it worked for an afternoon nap.

American Airlines 763 First Class Seat

I slept about 2 hours. It would have been longer but even with earplugs the cabin was really noisy. Those elderly vacationers can really chat!

We were only a few hours out now so I fired up the Galaxy Tablet and got another drink from the FA. When we were about 45 minutes out, the FAs came by to start collecting the IFE setups.

We were treated to some beautiful views on arrival as usual when flying into HNL – Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, and our wedding site in Ko Olina.

Ko Olina

Ko Olina

After a smooth landing, it was off through the partial open air terminal and to National Car Rental to pick up our ride for the 3 days…

Hawaii Mileage Run: American Airlines First Class LGA-DFW

TRIP INDEX

LGA-DFW
AA1121
9/11/13Depart (Scheduled/Actual): 9:10a/9:01a
Arrive (Scheduled/Actual): 12:05p/11:34a
First Class
Boeing 737-800
Seats 5E, 5F

We got up bright and early this morning at 6am to drive from our house in North Jersey to La Guardia. At best, it would be a 35 minute drive, but with the morning NYC commute, you never know.

Also, I know another reason people hate flying out of LGA. The parking options are terribly expensive! Newark & JFK have much more space and companies can offer competitive rates. They even offer plenty of Groupon-type deals to cut the cost even more. At LGA, the best rate I saw was about $20 a day. Oh well, a necessary evil since we couldn’t snag a ride.

After parking at the lot and taking a quick shuttle to Terminal B, Joann and I went straight to Concourse D security which was fairly busy.

Since we were flying First, we were able to use the Priority AAccess lane. When the TSA agent scanned our mobile boarding passes, he explained that we both got PreCheck! I was pretty happy since it would be our first time using it. No shoes off, everything remains in our bags. This was the life! Err, this is what traveling USED to be… a stark reminder of what has happened since 12 years ago TODAY.

Once through security, we made a beeline to the Admiral’s Club and presented our American Express Platinum Card for entry.

We got some lattes and some stale pastries to snack on before having breakfast on the flight. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to gain entry to this Admiral’s Club, but since it’s one of the great perks of the AmEx Platinum, might as well use it.

After finishing up, we walked to our gate about 10 minutes prior to boarding time. Of course, there were plenty of gate lice crowding the gate with no indication that boarding was starting. Eventually, the gate agents started boarding with First Class passengers so Joann and I weaved our way through the crowd.

On this 737, our seats were 5E & 5F on the right side of the plane. As we sat down, the flight attendant welcomed us aboard and asked if we wanted anything to drink. She had a tray of water & orange juice with her.

Boarding finished up quickly and we were ahead of schedule, it seemed – a much different experience from when we fly United.

The captain announced a flight time of around 3 hours, about 45 minutes shorter than the scheduled time. I was happy to hear that since we already had a short connection in DFW to our flight to Honolulu.

Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant came around taking orders. I was interested in how the the online pre-ordering of our meals would go.

She did confirm that we used the pre-order, but confirmed the wrong order. No big deal as she said it wasn’t a problem to change the order. We’ll see how the longhaul to Hawaii goes.

The Soy Bacon Quiche Lorraine was pretty good as far as airplane food goes. The FA also came by with a bread basket with biscuits or muffins. I had a biscuit and it was surprisingly light and fluffy.

Soy Bacon Quiche Lorraine

Soy Bacon Quiche Lorraine

After I finished breakfast, the FAs were quick to remove my tray which was nice because I wanted to get back to writing this trip report. I asked for a cup of black coffee and it was brought to me right away. Pretty good coffee; another big difference from the coffee on United, which I find unbearable most of the time.

I spent the rest of the flight writing this report while Joann watched movies on her Nexus 7. The in-flight entertainment on this plane was old dropdown overhead screens so watching on our personal tablets is much better.

Landing was uneventful, but we did make it to the gate 41 minutes early, just as advertised. Now we are relaxing in the Admiral’s Club waiting for our flight to Honolulu to board.

Overall, this was a great flight and a perfect start to the long trip. The flight attendants were friendly and attentive. We had a hearty breakfast which was important because we wouldn’t have enough time on the ground at DFW to grab food. I’m pleased with American Air so far and kind of wonder why I haven’t flown them in several years. I hope the next flight is just as good as this one was.

Hawaii Mileage Run: Introduction

Introduction
American Airlines First Class LGA-DFW
American Airlines First Class DFW-HNL
National Car Rental
Wyndham Waikiki Beachwalk
Sakura Lounge HNL
American Airlines Economy Class HNL-DFW & DFW-LGA
Ono Grinds
Conclusion

Because of American Air’s little promotion snafu, Joann and I decided to go on a #questforEXP. EXP being Executive Platinum, American’s top tier elite status. Usually, you have to fly 100K miles in a calendar year for that, but with this promo, we’d need to fly just 30K miles in a 4 month time span.

We started off with a trip to Honolulu. The fare was reasonable and it would earn us 10K miles, a third of the way to EXP!

As far as “mileage runs” go, this wasn’t the best rate of earning Elite Qualifying Miles, but we made it a long weekend versus a “pure” mileage run of going to a city and hopping right back on a plane and going home. I mean, it’s Hawaii so there’s really no downside to this.

To make things more interesting, I had a friend who was already EXP use her Systemwide Upgrades (SWU) to upgrade us to First Class on the way there, both LGA-DFW & DFW-HNL.

That is what I’m most excited for once we hit EXP status. We’ll each receive 8 SWUs that will upgrade a passenger to the next cabin up if there’s space available. We plan on making FULL use of those next year.

Getting back to this Hawaii trip, we were excited to go back, if only for a short time! We’ve been plenty of times but haven’t since last year when we got married there.

Stay tuned to some fairly live updates of this trip report!

The Last Time We Were In Hawaii!

The Last Time We Were In Hawaii!