Hawaii Vacation 2016

July 2016 was full of traveling for Ashley and me.  4 States (OK, TX, CA, HI), 10 cities, 2 islands, 6 flights, and nearly 10,000 total miles traveled.  We began our trip visiting family and friends in Texas and California, but the majority of our time was spent in Hawaii.  A few months ago I wrote a post on How to Fly First Class to Hawaii for $16.80.  Well, this was the trip I was referring to.

 

 

Living it up in Hawaii with @apojezny #beachlife #lanikaibeach #neverwanttoleave #hawaii

A photo posted by Kevin Pojezny (@kevinpojezny) on

 

We went to Hawaii for the first time 5 years ago on our honeymoon and had such a great time. On that trip we visited Oahu and Maui.  This time around we stayed on Oahu and the Big Island.  On first stop was a week on the North Shore of Oahu.  It was incredible, we stayed at Turtle Bay Resort and used that as our hub to start our adventures each day.  Swimming with sharks, turtles, visiting Pearl Harbor and the Battleship Missouri, snorkeling, and checking out several beaches kept us pretty busy.

 

 

It doesn’t get much better than this. #hawaii #sunset #nakedhawaii

A photo posted by Kevin Pojezny (@kevinpojezny) on

 

From there we flew over to the east side of the Big Island and stayed in a cliffside cottage we found online.  The view was amazing. And even though I’m not a morning person, I got up before 6am everyday to witness the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, because it was incredible.  While on the east side of the Big Island, we checked out waterfalls, ziplined, visited Volcano National Park, hiked in a volcano crater on the Kilauea Iki Trail, and did a few helicopter tours.  It was truly an awesome experience.

 

 

My view for the next few days off the cliff. #hilo #hawaii #hottubtime #paradise

A photo posted by Kevin Pojezny (@kevinpojezny) on

 

Our next adventure was driving from the east side of the Big Island over to Kona on the west side.  We witnessed more breathtaking views and scenery, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, swimming with dolphins and turtles, and survived our first Tropical Storm together.  If I were to go into detail describing everything it would take up a whole book, I made a short video of our trip found below.

 

How to Fly First Class to Hawaii for $16.80

Hawaii is a dream travel destination for many people. Ashley and I spent our honeymoon there and couldn’t wait to go back.  We even talked about living there at some point in our lives.  When most people start looking into vacations and they see how much flights to Hawaii cost, they look to travel somewhere else.  When we went on our honeymoon, our flights cost over $2000 all together…and that was in economy seating (which was miserable on the way back). 

But there is hope.  As the title implies, I recently booked us First Class tickets to and from Hawaii for $16.80 per person.  These tickets normally cost $5155 together.  Saving $5k on flights means we can extend our vacation to over 2 weeks.  So how did I do it?  Simply by following these 10 steps below:

Overview:

1. Sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (CSP) x2 or CSP & Chase Ink Business+
2. Meet minimum spend requirements
3. Sign up for Korean Skypass and Delta Skymiles awards programs
4. Add family members to Family Plan on Skypass
5. Locate Availability to Hawaii on Delta (or ExpertFlyer)
6. Call Korean Air to Reserve tickets
7. Fill out Skypass Award Application
8. Transfer Miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Skypass
9. Pay taxes (~$16 per person) and receive tickets
10. Visit Delta Skymiles website to select seats

Pretty easy, right? It is definitely worth it to save $5k.  Okay, so I’ll break it down step by step:

 

1. Sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (CSP) x2 or CSP & Chase Ink Business+

Most everyone has heard of Airlines giving out frequent flyer miles or points.  However, if you aren’t a frequent traveler, your points might expire before you ever have enough to actually use them.  The solution: Get more points, and get them fast.  Credit card issuers like Chase, Citi, American Express etc. offer cardholders the ability to earn points that can be redeemed for travel either by directly purchasing tickets through Chase, or by transferring points to travel partner airline rewards programs.

Everyone has seen the commercials for the many different credit cards offering 1 or 2% cash back…sometimes even up to 5% cash back in certain categories.  Some of them even let you redeem your cash back for travel.  These cards are nice, and I used them all the time to get Amazon credit before I discovered real travel credit cards.  The problem is, you’re leaving lots of money on the table by using these cards.  Using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will stretch your points and miles 5x as far in many cases.

However, one of the biggest reasons to sign up for the CSP, is the 50,000 point bonus you get after meeting the minimum spending requirements (more on that in step 2). Similarly, Chase offerers a business credit card, the Ink Business + which has a sign up bonus of 60,000 points after minimum spend has been met.  However, in order to be approved for this card, you must have some type of business (sole proprietorships do count though).

To fly roundtrip to Hawaii you will only need 25,000 points per passenger for economy, or 45,000 points per person for first class.  So by signing up for 1 CSP credit card, you have enough points to get 2 people to Hawaii & back in economy.  If you want to fly first class, or take more people, you can have your spouse sign up and get another 50,000 points.  Then use the CSP for everyday spending and you will earn 1 point on all purchases and 2 points on all restaurant and travel purchases.  With the Ink Plus card, you can earn 5x points at office supply stores (which sell tons of gift cards, think Amazon), and 2x points on gas, plus 1 point for all other purchases.  Your points will start to add up quickly. In just 1 year, Ashley and I had earned over 330,000 points with 3 credit cards (2 CSP & 1 Ink+).

 

2. Meet minimum spend requirements

The next steps after you are approved and receive your card(s) is to meet the minimum spending requirements in order to receive the sign-up bonus.  For the CSP, you’ll need to spend $4,000 within 3 months. For the Ink Plus, you’ll need to spend $5,000 within 3 months.  This might sound like a lot, but don’t be intimidated, you have 3 months from the date you are approved to meet these requirements.  Plus there are some easy ways to reach the minimum spend.  

A few of them are:

  • Buy Gift Cards for future use (grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, even Visa gift cards if you need to)
  • Use new cards for planned big purchases
  • Pay Bills with your CC….some like insurance can be paid in advance (and you might receive a discount)
  • Micro-lending via Kiva.org (Do this! Help break the cycle of poverty for entrepreneurs around the world)
  • Tithe in advance
  • Pay Mortgage or Car Payment with Tio
  • Buy Money Order with your card at smaller grocery stores, then deposit it into your bank

Just make sure you complete the minimum spending requirements within the given time period and you’ll get your huge sign up bonus.

 

3. Sign up for Korean Skypass and Delta Skymiles awards programs. (Free)

Okay so now that you’ve received your sign up bonus(es), its time to sign up for the 2 rewards programs.

The first one is Korean Air Skypass.

The second is Delta SkyMiles.

These two programs are part of the Skyteam Alliance, which means your can book award flights on Delta with Korean Air Points. So for example: Delta flies from the mainland US to Hawaii.  You can use your Korean Air Skypass points to book award flights on Delta.  Korean Air Skypass is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.  

So it looks like this: Earn Ultimate Reward points via your CSP or Ink+ credit card > Transfer those points to Korean Air Skypass> Book Award Flights on Delta via Korean Air Skypass.

 

4. Add family members to Family Plan on Skypass

If you will be traveling with family, then you will need each traveler to sign up for their own Skypass account. Once they are all signed up, you will have to connect all the accounts into a Family Plan on the Skypass website dashboard (requires proof of relationship -marriage license for spouse / birth certificate for children).  Note: With Korean Air, you can only book award tickets for family members.

 

5. Locate Availability to Hawaii on Delta (or ExpertFlyer)

Since you will be flying on Delta to Hawaii, login to your account at the Delta website and locate the flights you want. Make sure you Click “Show Price in Miles” when searching. Also, you’ll want to only show flights operated by Delta, not Delta & Partner Airlines.

The easiest way to search is using the advanced search on Delta’s website.

delta search

delta calendar

You are looking for Saver award availability- Which is currently 22,500 pts one way in economy (or 45,000 round trip) and 40,000 one way in First Class (80,000 round trip). Remember, these are just Delta’s prices for award tickets – Korean air only charges 45,000 pts round trip in first class and 25,000 pts round trip in economy for the exact same flight on the same airplane. Generally speaking, there is usually a lot more availability in Economy compared to First Class.

So for example, lets say you see that January 31st has an 80,000 RT First Class Fare.  The next step is to verify the availability on the website ExpertFlyer.  This is a premium website, but you can get a 5 day free trial and access everything you need to search for availability.  If your trial expires, just sign up and its like $9.99 a month and you can cancel online after your first month.

So in Expert Flyer, you’ll want to search in the Award and Upgrade Availability Search as seen below:

expert flyer

 

Be sure to enter the correct dates and quantity of tickets.  Lastly, make sure you select which Class of tickets you want to search for.  In this case, I selected all three to see all the availability.  Here is the search results from DFW to Honolulu on 1/31/17:

The important thing to look for is the far right column labeled “Seats.”  If you see “Yes” then there is award seat availability for the quantity you searched.

To HNL

 

If you want to make things more interesting, you can add a “Stopover” or “Open Jaw” to your flight plan.  A stopover is simply a layover that is longer than 4 hours…. Meaning, instead of just flying from DFW > LAX > HNL all in one day, you could leave DFW on one day, stay a few nights in LA, then fly to Hawaii after that.

An open jaw is where you fly into one city at your destination, but fly out of a different one.  For example: Say you wanted to visit more than 1 island while you are in Hawaii.  Your flight plan could look like this:

To Hawaii:
DFW > LAX (stay a few nights) > HNL

Return Flight:
KOA (one of the Big Island Airports) > LAX > DFW

**The only caveat with Open Jaws are that you are responsible for getting from HNL to KOA (which is easy to book via inter-island flights).

 

6. Call Korean Air to Reserve tickets

Once you have organized your flight info (I use a spreadsheet) its time to call Korean Air to reserve your tickets.  This step requires some patience, but the end result is worth it.  Their number is (800) 438-5000. When you first call, you might be told there are longer than normal wait times and they will request to call you back. If this is the case, go ahead and give them your number to call you back, but then hang up and call again.  Once you finally get connected you will be speaking with a reservation agent. Tell them you would like to book an “Award Bonus Ticket” on Skypass with Delta Airlines.  They will request your flight information for your departure and return.  Make sure you explain everything in detail with the flight numbers, exact dates, and be clear about which fare class you would like to book in (economy or first class – they might refer to first class as business class).

At this point, once they have all the information from you, they will set up a call back from a Skypass agent.  They say they will contact you within 24 hours. Skypass agents are only in the office from 10:30AM CT to 7:30PM CT – so be aware of that.  When the Skypass agent calls you back, they will say they have searched for availability on your flights and either found it, or there is no availability.  If they found availability, great! If not, make sure they have the exact dates, flight #s, times, etc. and ask them to check again (they have to manually search for award availability on delta flights).  If they still say there is nothing, ask them to check different dates.  If still nothing, then thank them and hang up and try again with a different Skypass agent (this will require setting up another call back).  Make sure your flight plan meets there routing rules – You are only allowed 1 stopover and 1 open jaw during your trip.

To save some time, it might be a good idea to write down 2-3 different travel dates.  Once they call back, run through the same process and if they’ve found availability, then request that they reserve the award for you and whoever is traveling with you.  Ask for a Korean Air Booking Reference # (to be used in step 7)  as well as a Delta Booking Reference # (so you can pick your seats on Delta’s website). At this point, they will confirm the flight information and instruct you to fill out a form (see step 7). 

 

7. Fill out Skypass Award Application

Now it is time to fill out the Award Application for each passenger. The form is pretty straightforward. The only section I wasn’t sure about was the “Portion” section.  This is just asking for the route. The proper way to fill this out is like this:

DFW – LAX – HNL – LAX – DFW  If you are flying roundtrip from DFW to HNL via LAX. 

Also, when filling out the Mileage Redemption Detail section, I would go ahead and list all of the passengers and their Skypass numbers on each form. Then put a Zero next to everyone else on the Mileage to Redeem section, but on yours put the number for that passenger. So if you are flying Economy you would put 25,000 on each separate form next to your name (45,000 if first class).

Once you have completed forms for all passengers, then email them along with a copy of your passport to: engskypass@koreanair.com

I recommend putting your booking reference number somewhere in the subject line.  After sending the email, call Korean Air again and tell them you just emailed the Skypass Award Application and you want to confirm they received it and pay the taxes for your flight.  Now they will either transfer you to a Skypass agent directly (not likely) or set up a call back.  Before you get off the phone, confirm that everything is set up and booked correctly for your award ticket. Then hang up and move on to step 8.

 

8. Transfer Miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Skypass

Now its time to transfer the points to Skypass from your Chase Ultimate Rewards dashboard.  Login to your account on Chase and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards section, then go to Use Points > Transfer to Travel Partners. Select Korean Air Skypass and transfer the exact total number of points needed for you and other traveling with you. Your points will transfer instantly to your Skypass account.

**NOTE: You can only transfer points 1 time in a 24 hour period.

chase

 

9. Pay taxes (~$16 per person) and receive tickets

After your points have been transferred you can either wait for Korean Air to call you back, or you can call them (I recommend calling them back).  Tell them you would like to pay your taxes on an award ticket. They will collect your credit card info (TIP: use your CSP card and earn 2x points and avoid foreign transaction fees). The Skypass agent will then email you the e-ticket and receipt. Ask them to stay on the phone until you receive the email.  You can also login to your Skypass account and click on My Trips on the upper right corner of the website. There you should see your e-tickets for you and your family.  Print the e-tickets and receipt for your records.

 

10. Visit Delta Skymiles website to select seats

You can login to delta and enter the Trip Confirmation of Booking # that they Korean Air Skypass agent gave you on the phone. Once you are logged in you can select the seats for all passengers. Now you are all finished and you get to save thousands of dollars and fly to Hawaii (in first class if you prefer).

 

Bottom Line:

HoneymoonFlying to Hawaii doesn’t have to be expensive, even in first class.  While calling Korean Air a few times might seem frustrating, it is so worth it. You’ll save tons of money and points by booking Delta via Korean Air.  

I mean, who would have ever thought you could fly 2 people in first class roundtrip to Hawaii for just $16.80 each? This is just the beginning on what is possible in the travel hacking world.  

 

The Most Amazing Race 2015

Like most couples, Ashley has her TV shows that she likes to watch, and I have mine.  And because we like each other, I will “watch” Dancing with the Stars with her, and she will “watch” Shark Tank with me.  Every once in a while there are shows that both of us enjoy watching. This is the Sweet Spot.  One of those shows is The Amazing Race.  Since both of us love traveling and we are very competitive by nature, we always thought it would be awesome to be on The Amazing Race and travel the world and participate in a competition at the same time.  

So back in April I was driving down the road and heard an advertisement on the radio for The Most Amazing Race Tulsa, a scavenger hunt-adventure style race patterned after the CBS reality show “The Most Amazing Race.” Teams of two people compete for prizes by completing challenges at popular spots in Downtown Tulsa.  Best of all, the event was a a fundraiser for The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope, the largest homeless shelter in Northeast Oklahoma.  So this was a perfect opportunity for Ashley and I to test our skills and teamwork together in a fun way that also supports a great cause at the same time.

As part of the competition, teams were required to raise at least $250 to be eligible to compete.  But there were additional incentives to raise more (ex: If you raised over $500 you got a 5 minute head start, $750 – you could skip a challenge, $1000 you could U-Turn a team to make them compete an additional challenge).  Overall the event was a huge success. The total amount raised was over $20,000.

At the finish line with some friends.

At the finish line with some friends.  We could barely stand up after the race was over.

Ashley and I had a great time.  Even though we didn’t win, we worked really well as a team.  We also learned about our strengths and weaknesses when competing together in a fast pace, endurance style competition.  Some of the challenges included the following:

  • Climbing a rock wall and after returning to the ground you had to immediately play a game of “Operation” – the children’s game where you remove plastic pieces (organs) from the game tray with tweezers.  If you touched the sides of the opening, you would get buzzed, and then you had to go climb the rock wall again and try the game again.  Fortunately I only had to climb the wall twice.
  • One team member had to memorize the Miranda Rights word for word and recite them to a Tulsa Police officer perfectly.  Ashley nailed this one.  She has a great memory and this was a perfect competition for her.
Ashley Reciting Miranda Rights to Police Officer

Ashley Reciting Miranda Rights to a Tulsa Police Officer.

  • Team members had to bowl 3 strikes (which is a lot harder after running all over Downtown Tulsa for a few hours)
  • One team member was taught how to perform a magic trick and then had to perform it to there partner without them figuring out how it was done.  Naturally, as an amateur illusion aficionado, I was all over this challenge.
  • We had to search through an art museum and find artists and paintings based on clues. This one took so long.
Mid-race, we had to take a quick selfie in front of this statue for part of a challenge.

Mid-race, we had to take a quick pic in front of this statue for part of a challenge.

Overall, this was a blast. We had a lot of fun and are excited to participate in the 2016 Race.  For more information visit The Most Amazing Race website

 

Safari in Masai Mara

In March of 2015, Ashley and I went on a Safari to Masai Mara in Kenya.  It was better than we could have imagined.  We stayed at the Fairmont Safari Club and were treated like Royalty.  We had a private guide who took us on game drives and taught us so much about all the animals. Here are a few pics from our safari.

IMG_0245 IMG_0102 IMG_3067 IMG_0174 IMG_0050 IMG_3148 IMG_0545 IMG_3172 IMG_0427 IMG_3020 IMG_0317 IMG_0162 IMG_0156 IMG_01582 IMG_0336 IMG_0111 IMG_0440 IMG_0041 

African Adventures – Part 1

Ashley and I have been in Kapsowar, Kenya for a little over a week now.  We will be spending about a month here in Kenya.  Ashley is working at the local hospital here in Kapsowar as part of her residency training for family practice.  There are a lot of interesting things to write about, so I’ll break it down by category.  I also plan to add more pictures once we have a better internet connection (we are in rural Kenya – so as you can imagine, the internet is very slow).

 

About Kapsowar

Kapsowar is a small village within the Marakwet District of the North Rift Valley Province.  It overlooks the Kerio Valley, and is at an altitude of about 7800 feet.  The town has a number of small shops and a local market which sells a fairly wide selection of local produce as well as basic cooking ingredients.  Most of the population of Kapsowar are the Marakwet, a Kalenjin sub tribe.  The total population is 9,000 – 10,000.  The people living around Kapsowar are primarily subsistence farmers.  Many are poor but may still have basic needs available.  Maize is the primary crop and people keep cows and sheep.

Travel En Route to Kapsowar

We flew from DFW to London, then after a 3 hour layover, London to Nairobi via British Airways.  Both flights were about 8 hours or so.  We arrived in Nairobi around 10:00pm and by the time we picked up our luggage, went through customs and headed to the guest house it was about 12:00am.  We had to get up at 4:00am to head to the airport for our short flight from Nairobi to Eldoret.  

IMG_2790

Flight path from airplane lcd screen

After arriving in Eldoret, we waited at the airport for our ride.  We were greeted by Laura Rhodes (Dr. Bill Rhodes’ wife) along with the driver – Jonathan, who is also a nurse at the hospital and a few others.  After running a few errands, we began the 2-3 hour drive back to Kapsowar on bumpy dirt/rock roads.

 

Housing

In Kapsowar and the surrounding areas most homes are built with either sod walls and dome style roofs that are thatched together, or concrete walls and sheet metal roofs.  Across the road from the hospital there is a section (station) of housing where many of the doctors, nurses and other hospital workers live (both American and Kenyan).  We are staying in a recently remodeled duplex in this section.  It has a refrigerator/freezer, microwave, oven, and a great view from the back porch. 

Our view from the back porch

Our view from the back porch

 

Electricity

The duplex does have electricity – some of the time.  It isn’t uncommon for the power to be out 2 or 3 times a week – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few days.  When the power goes out, someone will call to let someone know and the response they always get is, “A tree fell” – this has become a running joke around the station.  No electricity isn’t really that bad since we have a gas stove, and because of the elevation, no need for air conditioning in Kapsowar.  The only downside is after the sun goes down, no light makes you want to go to bed at 7 or 8pm.

 

Water

The water source in Kapsowar is a river that runs through the valley.  During the dry season (~September – March) it is common for your water tank to run out of water, until they can get it filled back up, which can sometimes take a few days.  The water isn’t safe for drinking from the tap.  We put the water in bottles and leave them out in the sun all day to let the UV rays kill the bacteria.  Then after running it through a filter, it is safe to drink. 

Our Water Tank - it would usually last a week with conservative use.

Our Water Tank – would usually last a week w/ conservative use.

 

Food

Kapsowar does have places where you can purchase fresh produce, bread, eggs, milk, flour, cornmeal, rice and meat (lamb).  However, most of our food purchases were made in Eldoret at a grocery store – Nakumatt (similar to a small Walmart).  This store had pretty much everything we needed/wanted, they even had Betty Crocker brownie mixes.  Since, Ashley and I don’t cook everyday back in the states, this was quite a change.  There definitely isn’t a Chick-fil-a 5 minutes down the road.  But this has been a good test for us… we know we can cook if we have to : )  The first few days we pretty much exclusively had PB&Js and hotdogs, but since then, we’ve ventured out to actually cooking – and it has turned out pretty good considering there is no real way to control the temperature in the oven.  We’ve also discovered there is a small shop in Kapsowar where you can purchase bottles of Coke, Fanta or Sprite.  For around 500-600 KSH ($6.00) you get 24 bottles. 

Hibachi Style Fried Rice & Veggies

Hibachi Style Fried Rice & Veggies

 

Phone & Internet

In Eldoret we purchase a local SIM card from Orange for my old iPhone.  I had to unlock my phone from the AT&T network before leaving the states.  With the SIM installed, I just needed to purchase minutes/data to access the Internet.  I also purchased a USB modem stick from Orange to plug into my computer to connect online, but when trying to get it setup I realized it didn’t support the latest version of my computers operating system.  But since I had my iPhone, I could use it as a hotspot and connect my computer to the internet that way.  The internet is very slow here.  Basically it operates at 2g speeds, or the Edge network.  For comparison, the speed is the same that was featured in the first iPhone in 2007.  But I can’t complain, slow internet is better than no internet. Its also very interesting, it seems like everyone has a cell phone here.  It is very cheap (I think a SIM card in Kapsowar is 50-70 KSH (~$0.50 – $0.70).

 

More to follow… 

We have met a lot of really great people here.  Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.  In another post, we will share more about Ashley’s work in the hospital and my work in the community along with stories and pictures.  Thank you everyone for all your support.

Click Here for Part 2