About Mike

Mike has a two year old, a four year old and an insatiable appetite for travel. Thankfully, miles and points help make family adventures much more affordable. When he’s not obsessing over his points balances, Mike is playing with his kids, enjoying the Arizona sunshine or watching hockey and football.

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Introduction: A Week Of Rest And Relaxation In Cabo

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Our family was looking for a relaxing week on the beach and that’s exactly what we got at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. We really enjoyed our stay and plan to return. There are some areas where they have room for improvement, which I’ll highlight as well.

This will be broken up similar to the typical trip reports here at OMAAT. I know that’s a little different since this is all on one property. After spending a week at an all-inclusive resort there is just too much information to handle this any other way.

I’ve already covered the process that led us to book this trip to Cabo and the various iterations of our itinerary it took to get all four of us booked on the same flights.

The four of us paid a total of 60,000 Avios and $340 in taxes & fees for our non-stop roundtrip flights from Phoenix. That’s certainly more than the $5.60 per ticket I’m used to paying on domestic Avios bookings. But it still beats the $500+ price per ticket that American charges for the non-stop flights between PHX and SJD.

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Buy Tickets To See Adele At The O2 With SPG Moments

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If you’re interested in seeing Adele at the O2, SPG Moments has some tickets available.

You have the choice of Level 1 seats or tickets in the SPG Suite. This is a pretty great opportunity to grab tickets to the otherwise sold out shows in London.

I really enjoyed the Paul McCartney show I attended at the O2. And I know Ben and Tiffany enjoyed the One Direction show.

My wife and I are going to use this as an excuse to go to London for a show.

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Ask Siri To Identify Overhead Flights

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Have you ever heard or seen a plane overhead but couldn’t quite make out the livery? There is an easy way for iPhone owners to find out exactly which flight is above you… just ask Siri.

The prompt “Ask Wolfram what flights are overhead” should pull up the data seen in the screen grabs below.

As you can see, the information from Wolfram includes the:

— airline
— flight number
— altitude
— angle from the horizon
— plane type
— distance

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AMEX Proactively Notated My Account For An Upcoming Trip Abroad

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My family is headed to Mexico soon. We’re looking forward to a week of hanging out on the beach and relaxing.

Apparently AMEX wants to make sure we have a fun, worry-free trip as well. Just the other day, I received the email below indicating recent transactions on my account indicate I’ll be traveling soon. As a result, American Express proactively notated my account and told me not to worry about letting them know I’ll be out of town.

It’s interesting because I’ve never called a credit card company to notify them I’ll be traveling. And I’ve never had an issue while using a credit card abroad. So, this didn’t exactly save me any time. But, I don’t mind AMEX working to make sure my card works while I’m in Mexico.

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Should Kids Miss School To Travel?

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I’m currently working on our family’s travel plans for the rest of 2016 and have a new challenge to deal with… school schedules.

My oldest daughter is currently in preschool. Thankfully her teacher has a great attitude and uses student travel as a teaching opportunity. So, we send a postcard or email pictures from anywhere we’ve gone and the class gets out the globe to learn more about the destination.

For the next school year, however, my oldest will start kindergarten and we aren’t sure about her new teacher’s outlook on missing class for travel. Her new school district categorizes travel as an unexcused absence unless the trip is deemed to have “educational value approved by the principal in advance.”

I personally think all travel has educational value. But, we obviously have to wait and see what the school’s standard is.

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Why I Reported My Driver to Lyft

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As I briefly mentioned in my previous post about using Lyft at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, I had a bad experience with my driver on the way back to the airport.

It started as soon as I got in the car. A woman was crossing the street in front of us and the driver kept talking about how he couldn’t wait to check out her ass. Sadly for him (I guess), she had a jacket that was long enough to cover her backside. Then I got to hear about all of the wonderful sexual harassment he yelled out to the female pedestrians of Las Vegas.

I have two young girls and a wife who I admire for not taking any crap like this. And in almost any other situation I would have immediately called the guy on being a pig. But, when you’re a passenger in a stranger’s car, it’s hard to know what to do or how they’ll respond.

Our next fun adventure was when he decided to race a cab driver who was two lanes over. The cab driver was unaware we were in a race. But, that didn’t stop my Lyft driver from weaving in traffic and driving at unsafe speeds.

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Starwood’s New Family Programs At Westin And Le Meridien Properties

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Starwood recently announced new a family program at more than 300 Le Méridien and Westin properties around the world.

My initial reaction was quite skeptical because the Le Méridien properties I’ve stayed at did not strike me as “family” hotels.

I was emailing with Ben about the new program and thought he summed it up well:

“Yeah, LM never really struck me as specifically targeting families, but that might explain why they’re doing this campaign. Now that I think about it, I’m not actually sure who LM has been trying to target. They are clearly going for some French branding (at least based on the name), but in practice there’s really nothing unique about the chain.”

The full press release has more information about the new programs which include kids clubs, welcome gifts, free food for kids and discounts on additional rooms at Westin and Le Méridien hotels. It’s clear this new campaign represents a big investment from both brands.

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The One Travel Souvenir I Love to Buy

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There are a lot of things I love about traveling. Shopping for souvenirs is NOT one of them. At home, I generally try to avoid crowds. I hate going into busy stores. And most of what I buy is delivered by a UPS driver.

Going into a gift shop while traveling feels like wasted time and the decision to buy seems forced. I really don’t like the pressure to grab a lame t-shirt, random knickknack or a “genuine fake watch.”

The one exception to all of this is shopping for Christmas ornaments. It’s odd because my family didn’t celebrate much at Christmas when I was a kid. In fact, we rarely had a Christmas tree.

But, Christmas is a huge deal in my wife’s family and she started our tradition of buying ornaments wherever we go. The first time she did it, I thought she was nuts. Flying home with fragile items in our suitcases seemed like the worst idea ever.

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Using Amazon Prime Video’s Download Feature While Traveling

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Amazon Prime Video recently added the option to download some of their video catalog using the Amazon Video App on iOS and Android devices. Apparently this has been available to owners of Kindle Fire tablets for awhile. But, it’s new to iOS and Android.

This is a great new development for anyone trying to avoid the airlines’ unreliable, limited, or nonexistent in-flight entertainment. I recently loaded my iPad with episodes of Amazon’s new show “The Man in the High Castle” before my quick trip to Vegas last week.

After using the download feature, my overall impression is positive but I think there is some room for improvement on Amazon’s part.

One big limitation for this new download feature is you can only have 25 titles at any given time. It’s important to note this limit is per account not per device.

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Reminder: Only Days Left To Transfer Chase Points To Amtrak

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If you’ve been on the fence about taking a trip on Amtrak using Ultimate Rewards points, now is the time to make a decision.

As Travis covered earlier this year, Amtrak is making big changes to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

The major changes include:

— Amtrak will switch from a zone-based award chart to revenue redemptions
— Chase will no longer be issuing the co-branded Amtrak credit card

With the co-branded credit card moving from Chase to Bank of America, Chase will lose Amtrak as an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Back in October Amtrak announced that the last day to transfer points is December 7, 2015.

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What To Do With That New Hyatt Status

Hyatt Diamond Twitter Confirmation

Hyatt’s recent status match opportunity has been well documented here on OMAAT. Ben’s initial post about the match prompted me to status match to Diamond before Hyatt retooled the match criteria.

Ben recently asked what was Hyatt thinking with the match. Even as someone who clearly benefited from the match, I’m surprised by how generous the initial terms were. Mid-tier status (SPG Gold) for top-tier status (Hyatt Diamond) was enough to make me act immediately when I saw the offer.

Clearly I wasn’t alone since Hyatt received more than 10,000 status match requests.

Hyatt has since revised the offer to be more reasonable. Based on recent reports, mid-tier status at SPG, Marriott, Hilton and IHG all match to Hyatt Platinum instead of Diamond. Top tiers can still match to Diamond.

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Using Lyft At Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

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After a few starts and stops, rideshare companies finally began operating legally in Las Vegas a couple of months ago.

Permission to operate at the airport took a little longer for Lyft, who started last last month. Uber still doesn’t have a permit to operate there.

I needed to be in Vegas for a few hours on Monday, so I figured it was a good excuse to test out the rideshare situation at the airport.

Before this, I’d only ever used Uber. So, I needed to signup for a Lyft account. Similar to Uber, Lyft offers new members a signup bonus. Currently the offer is 5 free rides (up to $10) for new members.

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My Experience Matching SPG Gold to Hyatt Diamond

Hyatt Diamond Match Twitter 1

As Ben posted last night, Hyatt is using the Starwood and Marriott merger as a marketing opportunity to pick up elites. They are offering Hyatt Diamond status matches via Twitter. If matched, the Diamond status lasts through February, 2017.

I have SPG Gold status and figured this was a great opportunity to bump my Hyatt status up from Platinum to Diamond.

I reached out to @HyattConcierge on Twitter via direct message to confirm they were offering matches.

After waiting a little while for a reply, I saw their Twitter feed was full of people requesting a match. I figured they were pretty busy responding and I’d just proactively send in the information they need.

They want to see your status and at least one stay at the chain you are matching from.

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Review: The Boulders (Curio – Hilton)

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Last weekend my wife and I stayed the night at The Boulders in Carefree, AZ to celebrate our ninth anniversary.

The property has a special place in our hearts because it’s where we were married. We’ve done a few anniversary dinners at the Boulders, but this is the first time since our wedding that we’ve stayed the night.

We booked the room using a free weekend night from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card. Rates are surprisingly reasonable right now ($199 for some nights). I think the cheaper rates are related to the construction that will finish in the next few weeks.

Given the cheaper rates, this probably wasn’t the best use of the award. But, the free night was expiring and our anniversary seemed like a good excuse to use it.

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