The Trip of a Lifetime – Trip Report(s) Coming Soon!

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Marriott, Travel, United | Posted on 25-04-2010-05-2008

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I just got back from an amazing trip to India / Thailand. I had about 7 days of work that I had to do in India, and I had never even visited Asia before. I set out to try and create an itinerary that maximized my ability to use my United SWUs, see various parts of the world, burn some Marriott points, earn some Marriott points, and have some time for relaxation! I didn’t really have any control over my schedule in India. That was determined by my meetings. However, I DID have control over the beginning and end of the trip, my routing, and what I did on my free days in India.

In the end, I came up with the following itinerary:

April 7: SFO-NRT-BKK on United

April 8 – 10: One day in Bangkok!

April 10: BKK-BOM-MAA on Jet Airways

April 10 – 13: Sheraton Chola Chennai

April 13: MAA-BOM on Kingfisher Airlines

April 13 – 15: Renaissance Mumbai

April 15: BOM-MAA on Jet Airways

April 15 – 16: Courtyard Marriott Chennai

April 16: MAA-DEL on Jet Airways

April 16 – 21: Leela Kempinski Gurgaon

April 21: DEL-BKK-KBV on Jet Airways / Thai Airways

April 21 – 24: Phulay Bay, A Ritz Carlton Reserve

April 24: KBV-BKK on Thai Airways

April 24 – 25: Marriott Resort & Spa Bangkok

April 25: BKK-NRT-SFO on United Airlines

Talk about a BUSY itinerary. SO much work to do, so much sight seeing to do, and so much relaxing to do! I think I did a great job of cramming it all together. I’m pretty exhausted now, and I’ll be working to post about one trip report per day, with pictures, of the whole experience!

The United Premier Snack Mix is Not Really Much of a Mix…

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Travel, United | Posted on 22-03-2010-05-2008

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I don’t love pretzels. In fact, I somewhat dislike them. Most airlines stopped the peanuts due to the allergy craze, which seems to have come out of nowhere, and now they all serve pretzels. Lucky for me, my air carrier of choice serves a “premium snack mix.” I grabbed one at the RCC and stuffed it into my bag for a late night snack when I got to the hotel. Much to my chagrin, I opened it up and could only find pretzels! I dug through… still only pretzels! I decided to dump the bag out to see just how many pretzels were in there. Take a look at the pic below! Read the rest of this entry »

United Fails Miserably in Smoothly Rolling out Unlimited Domestic Upgrades

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Travel, United | Posted on 18-03-2010-05-2008

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Just my luck… My business travel landed me a BOS-SFO flight on March 19, 2010, the day United Airlines is set to roll out unlimited domestic upgrades. While I suspected that flights on the 19th would be completely messed up, from an IT systems perspective , I had some hope reserved that United might use the time leading up to March 19th to properly prepare their systems for this. Oh silly me! Here’s my timeline…

  • I booked the ticket a few weeks ago, and I tried to use a confirmed regional upgrade to upgrade it instantly.
  • A couple days ago, I realized it hadn’t cleared early, so I called and had them remove the confirmed regional upgrade instrument, and instead put me on the UDU waitlist. The agent on the phone was a bit confused about how that would work. She spoke to her manager and then assured me that if she put me on the e-500 list, I would be automatically moved to the UDU list upon check-in. Cool.
  • I try to check-in online this morning, hoping to either confirm or waitlist my upgrade with UDU. No cigar. It wanted me to buy e-500s. Annoying.
  • I called UA three times this afternoon, each time speaking to a different agent, and being extremely polite, to try and see if they could figure it out to me.
  • The third agent didn’t want to talk to me so she quickly transferred me to “Web Support.” This means India. They told me they had “fixed” the problem. I checked my itinerary… Apparently fixing the problem means they pulled me off the upgrade waitlist. FANTASTIC. Now I would have to call again to get re-placed on the list, and my post on the queue would be lost.
  • I called an agent and had her waitlist me for the ugprade. She did. She advised me to check in after midnight.
  • Now it’s 12:36AM, officially March 19, and I’m trying to check-in. I get the screenshot I pasted above. How retarded is it that on the day United is phasing out e-500s, they’re actually trying to sell me some? To make matters more / less funny (depending on your perspective), I get the link to buy e-500s when I click on the “Unlimited Domestic Upgrades Now Available to Elite Members” link.

So do I try to call them again? Every agent has been useless thus far. Do I really think I’ll get a helpful one this time around? I guess it can’t hurt… I’ll give a call once more. This has been an awful experience, though, and I really see no excuse for it. They knew this was coming LONG ago.

UPDATE: They almost got it working… I tried again. This time it gave me the screenshot after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

Waikiki Beach in Hawaii Before a Tsunami: Must-See Pictures + Video!

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Marriott, Travel | Posted on 04-03-2010-05-2008

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My girlfriend and I did a long weekend in Hawaii: 2 nights at the JW Ihilani and 2 nights at the Marriott Waikiki Beach. On top of it being a great weekend, we were fortunate enough to be there for the tsunami scare. I won’t recap the whole story for you. Check out here, here, and here if you need background. So while the tsunami (or lack thereof) kept us confined to our 24th floor hotel room and resulted in no result whatsoever, we got some pretty cool footage of what Waikiki Beach, one of the ten most popular beaches in the world, looks like without a a single person on the beach. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see.

I put together some video footage above, and I have a few full-size images below to download or view. Enjoy!

Virgin America Keeps their Frequent Flier Program Relevant: 18 Month Expiration After Last Activity

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Travel | Posted on 04-03-2010-05-2008

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I really like flying Virgin America. I think it’s a great in-flight experience. Frequent fliers can do much better with traditional legacy carriers, but if you don’t fly that often, I think Virgin America is a GREAT way to travel. They had one thing that really annoyed me, though. Elevate (their frequent flier) points would expire 18 months after they were given to you. That means even if you flew Virgin America like a madman for 18 months, you might still not get enough points for a single first class award ticket cross country, and the earlier points you earned would expire the next month. Once I figured that out, I stopped flying them. As of today, they’re changing their ways! I just got an e-mail from Virgin America, letting me know that my points will now expire 18 months after the last activity (just like United’s). So now every time I fly, my expiration date gets pushed out another 18 months. Nice job, Virgin America. This was a much needed change to your frequent flier program.

I just ordered my TiVo Premiere XL! ~ TiVo Gives Existing Users Good Deals

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Technology, TiVo | Posted on 03-03-2010-05-2008

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Picture courtesy of TiVo.com

I recently posted that one of my bigger disappointments of CES 2010 was TiVo’s lack of announcements. It appears that TiVo didn’t want to share the spotlight with other electronics manufacturers, and yesterday they released the TiVo Premiere and TiVo Premiere XL. I won’t go through all the details here, but you can find plenty of info here, here, here, and here. I’m a diehard TiVo snob so I ordered one right away! TiVo offers some great deals for existing users. If you have a lifetime service on one of your DVRs, you can get a $200 discount on the lifetime service from TiVo for the new box. Click “Read More” to see screenshots of what they’re offering. The new DVRs will be shipping in early April, and I’ll be SURE to post my impressions once it arrives!

Read the rest of this entry »

GoGo WiFi now $14.95 on United P.S. flights! :-(

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Travel, United | Posted on 01-03-2010-05-2008

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$15 for WiFI?! Are you kidding me? I thought $12.95 was steep, but $14.95 really stinks! I’m writing this post from UA 14 Premium Service SFO-JFK on March 1, 2010. I think they just raised their rates today, March 1. The funny thing is that I just played the GoGo game to get a free internet session here. It gave me a FREE internet session up to $12.95 value. I wonder if it will work on the $14.95 United P.S. flights. I’ll try it next time. Anyhow, I think $10 is a fair price to pay for cross-country WiFi. $12.95 seemed steep, and 14.95 really seems bad. I hope people use it less. I guess they just count on business users to not care and expense it.

Why I Jailbreak my iPhone: The Top 10 Jailbroken Utilities & Apps

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Apple, Technology | Posted on 23-02-2010-05-2008

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I’ll be the first one to admit it – the reason to jailbreak your iPhone is at an all time low. If we look back a few years, we all had iPhones with no applications except for the default set, no chance of using video streaming or VoIP applications, and we had a 10MB cap for downloading applications over the cell connection. We live in a different world now. Our phones are chock full with 3rd party applications. We can use VoIP applications and Slingplayer over 3G connections. The download cap has been raised up to 20MB for applications. Things are looking rosier and rosier. However, all is not perfect in Apple land. Read on to hear about my top ten favorite jailbroken iPhone utilities and applications. BTW, Big shout out to the iPhone Dev Team for making it all possible.

Read the rest of this entry »

FlightTrack Pro & TripIt: A Match Made in Heaven

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Apple, Technology, Travel | Posted on 21-02-2010-05-2008

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Do you travel frequently? If you’re answer is no, then you may not be interested in this post. But if you’re answer is yes, then let me rock your world :-) . When bouncing from airport to airport, sometimes on different carriers, it can be tough to keep up to date on flight delays, gate numbers, etc. FlightTrack Pro from Mobiata gives a great interface for tracking ALL of your flight information. Combine it with TripIt and you get all of your flight info automatically entered. Read on to hear how! Read the rest of this entry »

I beat Geo-Defense!

Posted by Kevin Hanson | Posted in Apple, Technology | Posted on 26-01-2010-05-2008

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Just a quick post to brag that I beat Geo-Defense! This is a really great game for the iPhone, and I bought it when it went on sale a couple weeks ago. Posted a pic of my scores for the last of the hardest levels to prove it. It was a VERY challenging game. Time to delete it and move onto the next!