A bucket list flight: upgraded to first class on Virgin America, SF to DC

From my limited experience as a low-level elite status holder on Alaska and United Airlines for the past year, I thought upgrades to first class were practically impossible on transcontinental flights.

Then I got this alert in the middle of the night, 18 hours before my redeye, transcon flight on Alaska Airlines: Continue reading

Flight review: a $400 round trip to Auckland on Air New Zealand

It was late on a chilly night, a few days after Thanksgiving last year, when the flight deal alerts started going out on Twitter — flights from almost anywhere in the U.S. to New Zealand were on sale for around $400 round trip on United.com.

Here is what I tweeted.

Considering that round trips to New Zealand typically start at around $1k, this was a superb price.

Was it an intentional Cyber Monday deal, or a mistake fare? The question remains.

Because New Zealand was at the top of my bucket list, this was the sale I’d been waiting for.

I booked two tickets for early June. Continue reading

Here’s a quick warning about driving a car on your visit to New Zealand

I wish someone had warned me.

I typically drive at or right around the speed limit, and I’d never gotten a speeding ticket before.

That is until a moment during my recent visit to New Zealand, when I went 38.5 MPH in a 31 MPH zone (62km/h in a 50 km/h zone), oblivious to the camera on a pole catching me in the act.

Back home about a month later, I got the surprise 80 NZD souvenir in the mail.

The ticket noted that I could email the police department for a photo of the infraction, so I did that and got this a few days later: Continue reading

Ranking the 4 major points hotels on NZ’s North Island

Outside of Best Western and Choice Hotels, New Zealand doesn’t have a ton of points options for chain hotels.

Why stay at a chain hotel though?

Loyalty status can get you free meals and upgraded rooms, and using points can make those rooms free.

Sure, you could always use bank points such as Chase UR points to book almost any hotel you want using those points, but this post is looking at four hotels you can book with hotel points.

Which hotels?

InterContinental Wellington, Hilton Auckland, Crowne Plaza Auckland, and Hilton Lake Taupo.

You might be surprised at what ended up being my least favorite of the four: Continue reading

Lyft is finally paying out that $27M lawsuit settlement to California drivers

Almost two years after agreeing to pay $27M to California Lyft drivers in a class-action lawsuit settlement, and one year after a judge gave final approval of the settlement, Lyft is finally paying up.

I posted about this settlement previously trying to explain how drivers could know what kind of money they might make on the settlement, but basically: the more you drove during the applicable time period, the bigger your share of the settlement could be.

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Email from settlement administrators sent today.

How much did I make? Continue reading

Skiplagged now lets you book Southwest flights?

I’m on Skiplagged constantly because these two tools make it my fave spot for tracking flight prices:

1. How early should you buy a flight? Skiplagged gives you an idea by showing how far out fares on your route start to skyrocket. Here I can see that fares on a sample route don’t start to rise drastically in price until you’re 8-12 days out from a given departure date:

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2. If you want to make an educated guess on whether your flight could drop in price, check out the data Skiplagged provides next to each flight in your search:


Because of the price history I guessed that the flight above would drop in price, since it was more than a month out from the flight, and I snagged the flight when it dropped into one of its $197 valleys.

Get to the news plz.

So this week I noticed Southwest Airlines flights appearing in Skiplagged searches. I don’t know how long this has been active, but I just noticed it. Continue reading

Hotel review: new TownePlace Suites is one of SF Bay Area’s most affordable points options

Finding affordable lodging in the SF Bay Area is a challenge, whether you’re looking for a hotel to stay in while visiting, or looking for a place to live.

For visitors with a stash of Marriott or SPG points (points from either program can be transferred to the other), there’s a relatively affordable new option.


At 25k Marriott points per night, hotels on the peninsula side of the Bay don’t get much more affordable than the TownePlace Suites San Mateo Foster City. Continue reading

3 Chase UR travel portal glitches & how to get around them

In just a couple of hours of searching for flights last night using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, I ran into three different glitches.

Here they are:

1. Want to do a search with results from all fare classes? Select the “All Classes” option in your search, and there’s a good chance you won’t in fact get all classes as results.

I was searching for a red-eye flight, and I wasn’t getting many options in the points-price range I was hoping for.

Fix: I tried searching under “Premium Economy,” and suddenly there were some Delta Comfort+ (premium economy) flights that were not there when I searched under “All Classes.” Continue reading