Tag Archives: JetBlue

Three Trips to Florida in Three Weeks, the debrief

I love Florida!

I love Miami Beach… specifically South Beach or SoBe for short. I like to go every opportunity I get. Last year I got incredibly lucky with some cheap $35 each way flights to Miami International with American Airlines… this year JetBlue had a similar promo flying to Fort Lauderdale in the neighboring Broward County for $39 bux so I jumped on that offer. I booked one two day round trip, followed by another a week later… and then realized that if I book one more flight on JetBlue I’d qualify for the 5,000 point bonus which they award for any 3 round trip flights booked with the airline in the calendar year (I already had 1 JetBlue flight under my belt flying to Oakland, California for the Miatas at Laguna Seca a month earlier).

The Daytona Beach road trip I wrote about a little earlier and the fiasco I got to experience with Hertz and their Black and White VW Beetle’s I was blessed with. It wasn’t a perfect trip because of a few glitches along the way, the most disappointing of them all turned out to be the weather. The seas were especially rough a week or so after Hurricane Matthew blasted through the area.

Miami Beach wasn’t that much better. The first trip was a dud… seas were super rough even when the weather was nice and sunny. I didn’t get a chance to do what I specifically came there to do: swim! Luckily second and final week in SoBe was almost perfect and I swam, and I swam, and I swam.

But there’s only so much swimming one could do in a day so I totally worked the schedule around to optimize my foodie tour opportunities and I didn’t waste any time to enjoy some of the finest cuisine US has to offer… specifically very authentic Latin cuisine from the huge Cuban community in Miami and Little Havana around Calle Ocho. Below are some pix from those visits… and recommendations along with captions:

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I used a different NYC area airport for each one of my trips. Daytona Beach flight arrived at JFK in Jamaica, Queens. The first Ft. Lauderdale flight used LaGuardia in Queens and the final Ft. Laud/Hollywood International flight used Newark Liberty in NJ. Both LaGuardia and Newark departures saw a real traffic jam of flights on departure, we were something like 10th in line to use the runway, so each flight departed about an hour late. Both of the return flights experienced close to an hour delay because of ground holds in Newark. The LaGuardia flight was especially interesting because shortly after leaving South Florida and while I was watching CNN on the JetBlue IFE system, the vice-presidential candidate’s Boeing 737 crashed at LaGuardia… the airport we were flying to. Luckily the only issue was that the plane overshot the runway, so the airport re-opened and we arrived there eventually. For a moment though it was looking pretty hairy… I was wondering where they were going to re-route us to. Upon landing it took the pilot a few attempts to negotiate the landing. I haven’t done an aborted landing before this flight yet.

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Upon arrival in SoBe the red flags were out. And much like in auto racing, red flag means no racing… or in my case no swimming! Boo…

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So on the first trip the alternative was a foodie tour of Calle Ocho in Little Havana… a short bus ride across Miami.

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The cocks are obviously very uniquely cuban “thing” and are running around on the streets pretty freely.

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Sopas at Rey de las Fritas are outstanding!

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And so are the little Cuban Hamburgers with the little fritas sprinkled in… a pretty unique taste and very filling.

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No trip to Calle Ocho could be complete without some Guarapo… or freshly squeezed sugar cane drink. I ordered a whole bucket which was a bit pricey at $7 bucks… but oh so delicious!

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A short drive down 8th Avenue is Brickell Mazda… I got off the bus to check out their ND Miata’s on the lot. While Miami looks amazing in post cards and on TV in shows like CSI Miami, the reality of it is it’s hard to maintain the exotic image, especially with a dark colored car. The mix of dust and recent rain drops made this car look a little neglected…

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Back to the beach…

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and it was still red flagged… so I continued with the foodie tour!

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One of my favorite dishes in South Florida is ceviche… and I got a real nice octopus version on Washington Ave between 2nd and 3rd. It’s a take-out only place next door to a hostel, very tasty!

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Next time give them a try… look up My Ceviche, Miami Beach

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Though I tried to organize a little mini meet with the local Miata community absolutely nothing materialized, which was disappointing especially since this little “Mazdaspeed” gem was parked outside my hostel both weeks I was there.

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So instead I went car spotting along the streets of Miami Beach, and the local PD always had something interesting parked outside their HQ… like this pink CVPI cruiser

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Or this one the next week… Police Car or Taxi?

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Lots of interesting cars driving by also… plenty of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces… the Bugatti was probably one of the few I got to see out in the wild though:

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Funny enough, plenty of exotics are available for rent, even as short as 1 hour period… saw a few beat up Ferraris, Lambos and Rolls’s:

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I went in asking if they had any Mazda Miata’s available, and the answer was NOPE!

So a Mazda Miata is a more rare car in Miami than most exotics!

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For some reason they really love Trump in Florida. kind of surprising!

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For another surprising reason I really drink a lot of Cuban coffee whenever I’m in South Florida… I don’t know what it is, I never drink coffee at home… but whenever I’m in Miami, cafe con leche is a must!

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One of my favorite places to get cafe con leche in Miami Beach is Playa Cafe on Washington Ave between 16th and Espanola Way. The other is Las Olas Cafe on Euclid and 6th Street.

Playa I visited especially frequently, trying many things on their menu:

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Most had some kind of combination of rice and beans as well as beef, pork and chicken. You really can’t go wrong, whether rice or yuca, it’s all finger licking good!

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But after a few days of Cuban I was ready for a change and sampled a few other places… like this Vietnamese on Washington called either Miss Saigon or What the Pho… depending what sign you read. The Pho was outstanding and so were the summer rolls wrapped in a thin condom-like rice pancake and lubricated by peanut sauce… Yum!

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Super delicious!

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More Trumpism!

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A french sandwich place behind a Walgreens on 14th Street was an amazing find. I had a “frenchie” sandwich with french salami and brie and all the fixings and it was a really excellent value. All the green stuff was super fresh, though the baugette was not. I should have come there earlier in the day rather than evening so it was my own fault. I would highly recommend this joint!

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One place that did disappoint me was South Beach Sushi on Washington and 17th. It was basically supermarket sushi quality even when the price was below typical SoBe prices. I was not a fan.

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The night I went for sushi it almost didn’t happen as I got caught out in a bit of a tropical rain storm… I wish I would have missed it!

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But like most rains in South Florida it went as quickly as it came after dumping a whole lot of water on unsuspecting tourists (like me). I waited it out over a coffee at a Mediterranean joint, on second thought I should have ordered a shawarma instead of going for sushi. There’s always next time!

Frequent Flyer: Falling Airfare after the Flight is Booked

Normally I like to share good flight deals I’ve taken advantage of to volunteer as a marshal. In this post I’d like to share what happens when I don’t get the best deal, and overpay for my trip somewhere.

Don’t you hate when the air fare drops after you’ve booked ¬†your flights? Don’t you just hate it when it continues dropping further?

Who doesn’t? I certainly do. And it happened to me several time this year… Boo! Hopefully by writing this down I’ll remind myself to be more patient in the future and make smarter decisions.

So first things first. I used frequent flyer miles to book both of my European trips this season. I thought I got a pretty decent deal redeeming 20k AA miles to go to Belgium via Finland to volunteer at the Nurburgring in May, and 30k AA miles to fly back home, also through Finland but this time the price hike was due to the peak season starting. I used a similar strategy for my second trip to Belgium for Spa 24h to fly via Italy on Alitalia using 30k Delta miles, and 30k AA miles on the way home, again through Finland. I wanted to use domestic miles to fly foreign carriers like Aliatalia (AZ) and Finnair (AY). Both were decent experiences for me, and I’m happy with the way I used my miles.

The two domestic trips I had to book to volunteer in Austin for WEC at Circuit of the Americas and in Atlanta for IMSA at Road Atlanta I decided to use a combination of miles and paid tickets. The reason for using the miles is that I had some 6.5k miles left over in my Avianca Life Miles account which were due to expire in October, and I didn’t foresee using them on anything else, so the decision was made to book a United flight either to or from Austin on a routing that I liked. So that’s precisely what I did. Avianca frequent flyer program allows you to purchase the necessary miles towards an award redemption when you don’t have enough. So using my available miles I only had to purchase another 6k for a standard 12.5k one way award flying their Star Alliance partner: United. I chose an early morning flight on Sunday that would get me back in Newark by 1pm so I can go back to work the same day and work the half-day shift. I thought that was a great use for those miles and the timing was perfect. In all I spent the 6.5k miles and $120 in taxes, fees and of course the additional miles I had to purchase. At the time it seemed like a great idea, though mind you that last year I went to Austin twice flying JetBlue from Boston to Austin/Houston, for $106 round-trip. Basically, I flew two round trips last year for the price of a one way ticket this year. Not that great…

With the trip home taken care of I was eager to book something on the outbound leg. The cheapest option was flying JetBlue from Westchester County Airport (HPN) to Austin via Orlando for $118. Why did I book this trip? I have no idea… totally went against my best judgement but I did. Part of me was afraid that one way air fare would either go up or stay high. The other part of me wanted to participate in the JetBlue promo where this one trip would count as two legs in their TrueBlue frequent flyer program promo, that when combined with the existing trips I’ve taken with JetBlue this year would yield an additional 5k bonus points with the airline, which could be redeemed for a one way medium range flight, like one from NYC to South Florida. Still, using the previous year’s example I paid more for a one way trip than I paid for a round trip before. In all, I spend $238 for the single round trip to Austin. Not great at all…

Now ideally, the best airfare you can get is one you are comfortable paying at the time of the booking. I was comfortable with both of my bookings, and I should have stopped checking prices after I’ve booked because neither ticket was refundable. But I didn’t. Curiosity got the best of me and I continued checking weeks and months after. And what do you know? The prices continued to drop. First I found a Southwest flight for $216 round trip outright, without using frequent flyer miles and departing directly from Newark to Austin without having to drive for an hour to Westchester on the New York Connecticut border, or having to connect through Orlando or Houston. And then the price dropped further to $188 for the same flight. I would have been better off letting the Life Miles expire and still saved $50 bux on this trip. Doh!

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At this point I just wanted to kick myself. I paid $50 bux more for a connecting flight using multiple airports that are further away than my home airport and a direct flight now available through Southwest. Boo! The lesson to be learned is I didn’t have patience. (or common sense!)

Sometimes fares come along that you must pull a trigger on because the price is the rock bottom available for that market. This example happened with my Atlanta booking for Petit Le Mans. I saw Philadelphia to Atlanta direct flight advertised for $127 round trip, thought it was a great deal given the double and triple as expensive flights that were advertised around the same time, so I jumped on it. Only to see the price drop by $10 the very next day (more than 24 hours since my booking). Calling the airline didn’t really help. They were happy to cancel and rebook my trip using the cheaper fare, but it was going to cost me $200 in penalties/rebooking fees. Not very good! A few days later the same flights dropped another $10 bux to $107 round trip. Crap!

So I’m totally having buyer’s remorse for both of my domestic bookings this year. While the damage is fairly minimal on the grand scheme of things, people get burned by airlines for far greater amounts, I’m still not too thrilled with myself for making these rookie mistakes and not having enough discipline and patience to wait for the right deal to come along. For the $70 that I overpaid I could have had a car rental for a week in Atlanta.

But on the positive note I got the flights I wanted, for the precise times I wanted to fly. And I should get from the track right back to the office so I can make some money to pay for my next trip.

What’s the best price to pay for a ticket? The answers are many!

PS. there is one more flight I’m going to need to book this season and that is for my trip to marshal Dubai 24h in January. Normally the flight is in the $800 to $1000 range round trip. My goal is to get it between $300 and $400. We’ll see how successful I am ūüôā

Foodie Tour of California

The crazy day trip to San Francisco turned out to be a great success and a much needed distraction in my life right now.

Was it worth the cheap price and all the effort? Absolutely! Let me tell you how it all went, and why I’d highly recommend doing something like this every once in a while in anyone’s¬†own busy lives.

I could not sleep at all the night before the early morning flight. But thankfully the flight was long enough (6 hours) that I managed to take a bunch of naps in the process. The weather in San Francisco was perfect. Sunny, warm and much better than the freezing cold in the Northeast. I met up with a fellow CouchSurfer visiting from Japan, and we embarked on a foodie experience of the city. The first day though we kind of failed at public transport waiting ridiculously long for an¬†F-car along Market Street to take us to Fisherman’s Wharf so we resorted to walking. And the one trip up hill on the way back towards Chinatown kicked my ass. Later we discovered it was possible to walk around the hill by following the main street diagonally away from the Pier 39 area, but the workout was great even though it was tiring. Especially since the views from the steep steps leading uphill were stunning and we saw a beautiful hummingbird along the way, pretty close.

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I did get to do In-n-Out burger animal style with a chocolate/strawberry shake at the Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco
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Duck tongues and fish hot pot at Hong Kong Hot Pot, Chinatown San Francisco
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apparently that’s how you say “ROSS” in Mandarin… I found a shorter nickname while I lived in Singapore: Da Xiong Mao ūüėČ
and that’s how you say “Laguna” in Japanese… apparently the last character out of the four is a Chinese character used in Japanese language to describe a “town” … it was nice to have a Japanese companion explaining these things
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delicious tacos in the Mission section of San Francisco, a place full of awesome Mexican joints
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the obligatory visit to Ghirardelli’s especially in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day… turns out in Japan girls give guys gifts, not the other way around

The next morning we decided to take full advantage of the $17 day pass for the Cable Cars, by far my favorite activity in SF. To our surprise though Obama was in town so they were only running the ¬†until 2pm which made us hustle a little. In reality though the California Street Cable Car stopped running closer to 11am, and the Hyde Street line stopped running even sooner because the cable went down. So instead we used other public transport to first visit the Cable Car museum, Chinatown, then head over to Ghirrardeli’s, then to Japantown and finally to Mission for some amazing Mexican food. While in Chinatown we tried my favorite Hong Kong Hot Pot, then bubble tea and I also took advantage of the opportunity to buy my nephew a cool traditional Chinese costume just in time for Chinese New Year. For the price I paid it was well worth it, cheaper than a onesie or a t-shirt I’ve bought in other parts of this country (Savannah for example). After Mission and a little walk around there that found us at a farmer’s market with a live performance by a young musician that sounded really good, we headed back to Ghirrardeli’s via the Hyde Street Cable Car that was surprisingly running, for some hot chocolate. Then back to Fisherman’s Wharf for delicious crabmeat and at that point I started worrying about making my flight. So another F-car ride down the Embarcadero we headed back towards the BART system.

The flight back to the East Coast was also uneventful. Sleeping was easier on the red-eye but instead of heading home to NYC I actually went via Fort Lauderdale. Though that visit was far less exciting than California even though I genuinely like South Florida much more. Ft. Lauderdale in the morning was freezing cold. I took public transport to Las Olas Blvd for some breakfast, but few places were open. The Floridian which seemed to be buzzing didn’t really have good customer service, or at least I could not find a table near an outlet to charge my phone and the staff was a bit rude about helping me with my request, so I walked out. A few blocks later I found an awesome cafeteria that made an exception to the rule (while serving breakfast) and made me a Cubano sandwich to go. Another short bus back to the airport and a quick trip through security saw me eating my sandwich at the gate just before take off.

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an authentic Cubano sandwich in South Florida… a must!
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wasn’t too excited to be back in snow covered New York City, but the amazing classic cars left buried in snow and ice was a random and a welcome sight to see

Back in New York I once again hopped on the Subway to Long Island City to pick up my Jeep at the transmission shop. They called to tell me it was ready while in San Francisco and in typical New York style tried to explain¬†it was going to cost more because of a bunch of parts they had to replace. $1650¬†bux lighter on the pocket I decided to hit Chinatown in New York as it was close to 5pm rush hour and I figured I’d be sitting in traffic heading back to New Jersey anyway. Before going to Pell Street to my favorite soup dumpling place I made a quick visit to a canolli shop on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, another one of my favorites. And at that moment I realized that I take NYC for granted living in NJ. The only time I get to visit is when I fly to places like San Francisco on a day trip. So my Chinese New Year resolution is to visit NYC more often! Waiting out traffic in the city didn’t really work, I was still stuck for over an hour trying to get to the tunnel, changed my mind and went for the bridge, and was stuck in gridlock again. When I got home I discovered my credit card was being used at a bunch of locations in Houston while I was in SF. So my journey ended by me cancelling my credit card. It’s amazing to see how nonchalant the credit card companies are towards fraud in this day and age, I should be considered lucky I guess, as my charges at Popeyes and Wendy’s in downtown Houston were minimal compared to what they could have been.

Anyway, the trip was great! As I said before, a much needed distraction to the problems of everyday life. Cold winter weather, hospital visits, broken cars, and other everyday bullshit. I wish I could travel more in the future… it’s one of my favorite hobbies.

Day trip to San Francisco & quick layover in Fort Lauderdale on the way back to NYC

There’s not much to be excited about these days. While 2011 in Singapore was the best time of my life, 2015 is shaping to be the most depressing, for sure. At home, my dad has lost half his weight since last year and doctors say he doesn’t have much longer to live. Ukraine – my homeland is under vicious attack from Russia. My Jeep finally broke down and an expensive repair is in progress to fix¬†the blown transmission, and to top it all off my marshal¬†license is in question because of ridiculous complaints. So how can one cope with the feeling of the world caving in?

Fly… away!

Flying is by far one of my favorite hobbies. Since I started flying frequently in 2006 I’ve logged¬†over half a million miles and 50+ days up in the air, flying around the¬†globe¬†several times (three times in 2013 alone with trips to the Australian, Singapore and Korean Grand Prix). That was cool as hell and I really miss flying¬†more often.

So when an opportunity popped up to fly to one of 32 different destination JetBlue flies for just $32 dollars each way, I jumped on it. And while a trip to Barbados, Turks and Caicos or the Cayman Islands would have been incredible for that kind of price. The dates of travel fell on the same week that I was already travelling¬†to beautiful Saint Lucia. And after discovering¬†how expensive that place was for even the most budget conscious traveler, I’m glad I booked an “In-n-Out” run to San Francisco instead.

Why “In-n-Out” run? Because initially it was supposed to be just that. I was to fly in later in the afternoon, grab a delicious burger and fries animal style and a shake, turn around and fly back home. But with the winter weather hitting the Northeast hard, I was forced to reschedule. The new flights gave me an extra day to spend exploring the Bay area, and the return flight from California introduced a new dimension: grabbing brunch in South Florida with a four to five hour layover in Fort Lauderdale (one of my favorite places on earth!)

Anyway, all this is pending my actually waking up in the morning for the very early flight, while using the NY/NJ public transport system.

Will this trip make any of my troubles go away? Probably not. But it will be an excellent distraction. I’m most looking forward to the experience of flying itself. But equally as important will be having a delicious and authentic Mexican meal in Cali, followed by a visit to In-n-Out. A little bit of sightseeing. A few more authentic Bay area meals like the sourdough chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf, and a great Cuban dish in downtown Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood Florida, depending on how much time I actually have there.

Can’t wait!

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PS. the last two times I volunteered at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I flew JetBlue with their amazing $120 round trip offer from Boston to San Franscisco. I didn’t think that deal could be beat, until now of course. It always pays to shop around for flight deals, and with crazy travel offers like this popping up, remember to book first and think about it later. Whatever you do, don’t miss out!

Frequent Flyer Miles

There isn’t a dollar that I spend that doesn’t earn me some frequent flyer miles. What’s my obsession with airline miles/points? It is my means of transportation to events far and wide to volunteer. Most people I tell have a hard time believing the fact that the last time I paid for a flight to Australia was the very first time I flew there on a working holiday. I don’t think I have ever paid outright for a flight to Asia, and over the past few years I’ve been to Singapore a number of times, typically in the luxury of the Singapore Airlines A380 to boot.

How is that possible?

Doesn’t it usually take thousands of miles to fly? And for an infrequent flyer it takes forever to earn those miles while paying for flights. Sure it does. But you don’t need to fly to earn miles. I’ve been a FlyerTalk.com and MilePoint.com evangelist for ages but most people I preach this information to simply don’t believe me. Let me say it again, you don’t need to fly to earn miles, especially if you live in the US. I take advantage of just about any promotion out there to earn miles. No matter how many miles I earn, it will all be useful at some point in time. No amount is too small or too big.

Currently, and probably for a very limited time, there is a generous promotion from American Airlines and Cadillac celebrating their partnership in offering service, giving you 7,500 FREE AAdvantage miles just for test driving a Cadillac of your choice. There are three Cadillac dealerships within 10 minute drive from my home, so you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll head over to one in a jiffy!

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Here’s the link:¬†http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/aad-cadillac-offer.jsp

Such offers are rare though. But you must keep a look out and take advantage of opportunities as they come up. Obviously, you must not wait for a killer offer to come around because they are very unpredictable. You may however participate in various promotions on things you buy and do everyday to earn miles. One such example is Dining. In the past few months I’ve accumulated nearly 20,000 miles from several dining programs by taking advantage of their promotions. This included spending some money, but like I said it is for stuff that I buy anyway, so why not get some extra miles while doing it. I am of course speaking of the AAdvantage Dining promotion of 10,000 for 10 dines at $40+ apiece. Not the cheapest thing out there, but considering you earn miles for the money you spend on food anyway, between 3 and 5 miles per $1, you actually earn enough miles from the promotion to fly one-way anywhere in the continental US that American or USAir flies. That’s a ridiculously good deal. I’ve also used a similar promo to get United Airlines miles and am currently working on getting 7,500 Delta miles.

Remember you can double and triple dip on the mileage you earn. For example, I often book a car rental using a promo code from an airline or AAA to get a discount. Pay for the car with my Delta or American Airlines credit card to earn their miles, and credit the mileage earned for the car rental itself to a third airline, like Southwest for example which has one of the more generous earning capabilities with the car rentals. Considering that you can use a significantly smaller number of Rapid Rewards points to redeem free flights on Southwest, it makes perfect sense to do this. Using airline shopping portals is a great avenue of earning more miles for things you buy anyway. Recently I got more miles for purchases at auto-parts stores to do some maintenance on my personal vehicles, for buying parts than I earned for actually flying a short hop on that airline. It is amazingly generous.

The most generous airline frequent flyer miles/points earning potential is signing up for the airline credit card. This is mostly available for people living in the US. And many factors dictate if you qualify like your credit score. But when you can, definitely go for the generous sign up bonuses. It could mean the difference between paying $1,000+ for a flight to Singapore and flying for $60 (where you only pay a portion of the tax by redeeming miles).

Do it, do it… do it! ¬†And if you need help, get in touch, I’m happy to share information about what I’ve learned so far…. Good luck!

Top photo credit: American Airlines – AA.com

How to pick the best flight deal?

I have just finished booking a flight for my last volunteering trip of this season, and because I am often asked how I manage to find good deals I would like to share a little info with you to consider for your future travels.

My goal was to fly to the Atlanta area for Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. RA is about an hour’s drive from ATL airport. It is 3 hours drive from CLT (Charlotte, North Carolina) and 4+ hours drive from a number of airports including Nashville, TN; Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.

So which option is best?

Over the past two years of volunteering at the Petit Le Mans I have learned that ATL is never the cheapest option. Most of the teams and spectators use it, and that drives the prices up not just for flights but car rentals as well. So I expanded my search to include other deals. One that stood out was JetBlue’s $64 each way to the Atlantic Coast towns of Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA (Hilton Head, SC). If all the prices are similar should you flip a coin?

No! Cheap flight is only a part of the consideration. I’ve written about cheap deals in Southeast Asia with AirAsia and Europe with easyJet or Ryanair. But when it comes to JetBlue in the US choice of airport matters, because car rental prices could and often are significantly more than the flight. So when considering Charleston, SC or Nashville, TN or even Charlotte, NC each of these places the car rental rates are typically double of what they seem to be in big touristy places like Atlanta, GA or Savannah, GA… so naturally Savannah was the optimal choice for me.

I once sold a car to a fella in Beauford, SC just miles from Hilton Head, SC and Savannah, GA. I drove my car down there and he dropped me off at the airport for my flight back. While waiting for the transaction to finish I did a little driving around the area. Savannah, Hilton Head, Tybe Island were incredibly amazing… and I’m seriously looking forward to going back there as a tourist after Petit Le Mans is over. I’ll spend a few days relaxing after the event. At such a cheap price how could I not?

JetBlue was once my favorite US low cost airline, that is until they changed their frequent flyer program to a revenue based model, and for my cheap flying adventures that program doesn’t work. But JetBlue has done a great job attracting me as a customer in recent months, considering I booked the following:

Early September: EWR-FLL $69 each way to relax in South Beach

Mid September: BOS-AUS $54 to go to WEC at COTA, HOU-BOS $54 to come back because Austin was too pricey post-race.

Early October: JFK-SAV $64 to go to Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Early November: BOS-AUS $54 to go to F1 at COTA, HOU-BOS for $54 to come back because Austin was again too pricey!

The 4+ hour drive in a rental car from SAV to Road Atlanta, or the 4+ hour bus ride from NYC to BOS to save a few hundred bux, just as 4+ hour bus ride from Austin to Houston on a cheap bus is all part of the “Road Trip” aspect of this web site, I enjoy it.

So take all things into consideration when booking flights to volunteer for motorsport. Don’t just jump on the first cheap flight you see because ultimately it may cost you more in the end than a slightly more expensive flight. And for the love of God, don’t waste airline miles on short hops when they could be better redeemed on cross-country or international travel. Contact me if you need help organizing your itinerary, I love a challenge!


UPDATE:

Of course less than 12 hours of me booking what I thought was the cheapest option possible (well not quite, the cheapest would be FREE) JetBlue announced a 24 hour sale of 20% with a promo code…. GREAT! Luckily, it pays to know that as a consumer you often have a 24 hour grace period to “change your mind!” and pretty much most airlines will allow you to call back, give your sob story of why you want to cancel, and they will inevitably cancel the reservation for you free of charge or without penalty. This is definitely only within the 24 hour grace period and not 24 hours and 1 minute, the rules are pretty strict.

So in my case I called back and pleaded my case. The nice lady on the other side of the line cancelled my original reservation and I re-booked saving another 20%

Yippie!

Grand-Am at Laguna Seca debrief

I like it when things go well, no… I love it! And this trip to Laguna Seca went exceptionally well from start to finish. So allow me to outline the successes and give encouragement to others hopefully reading this post that such a thing is possible.

This trip was one of the first events I booked upon returning from Asia Pacific… and what a hell of a deal that was. $120/round trip to fly one of my favorite airlines: JetBlue from Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA via Boston, MA. The connection times were a bit lengthy but at such a rate I would have been happy to visit downtown Boston for a bowl of clam chowder, but with JetBlue I didn’t have to – because they allowed me to go stand-by on a previous flight… twice! Because of this amazing capability I arrived San Fran at least four hours ahead of schedule, which meant I was there at a reasonable hour, and not around midnight like I had booked. So without giving it much thought I checked the car rental deals to see if I can do something about picking up the rental that was originally booked for next morning. Lo and behold I managed to get an even better rate for half an hour past my arrival. Sweeet! I didn’t have to spend the night at the airport, or have to go find a hotel in the city… I got into my car and headed out towards the Monterey Peninsula.

Once in Monterey I first went to check out Laguna Seca, thinking I could register early, but with Grand-Am in town there was very little happening… so I cruised around, checked out the beautiful ocean scenery and had some amazing food. The action on track finally started Friday, but not until late morning and almost noon-time. The support series that got to hit the track early were tame, but with decent fields it was fun to watch. Similarly for practice, qualifying and race day, the main attraction: Grand-Am did not disappoint. As I mentioned earlier I had the best seat in the house, working turn 8A at the bottom of the Corkscrew. I am amazed and honored with the trust the SF SCCA region put in me by letting me work that station alone for most of the weekend… they have figured out something other regions are still working on… when I’m busy I hardly take any pictures, haha!

So besides one little incident with a Continental Tire Challenge Camaro flying across the Corskcrew we were pretty quiet. I had a nice trip back up to SF to return the rental, and spend the next two nights in a hostel, which was a first. But it allowed for a perfect location to explore the city, which I was very much looking forward to do utilizing the Cable Car system… I think I managed to try every line! I also revisited Chinatown, and this time really really really enjoyed my meal. The secret to good food in that place is second story restaurants… and avoiding Dim Sum, which apparently I’m not a big fan of, it turns out.

The flight home was again excellent. I managed to credit the JetBlue miles to my AAdvantage account which I could later use for international flights. And once I reached Boston I again went stand-by on an earlier flight arriving home at a much more reasonable hour than I was scheduled. So that’s that. Great trip, great fun… good memories!

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AMA Superbikes at NJMP is next. Turns out my Dickies whites are only good for less than two seasons because three out of the four pairs have shredded in the crotch area, go figure! But I’m going to frankenstein a solution in time for Millville, where I’m looking forward to seeing my good friends whom I haven’t seen in a while. Singapore will follow shortly after.

Can’t believe this year is almost over!