Showing posts from June, 2017

Where to find TOTO Washlets outside of Japan

(last update 11/2018)

I love Washlets. I've had one in my house since my first visit to Japan more than a decade ago and I love it when my hotel room or my plane has one. And it's not just me, the NYTimes wrote about them, and several competing brands have appeared in the US in recent years.

If you want a Washlet in the sky, you don't have much of a choice – only ANA and JAL have them, and only in the premium cabins.

But what about hotels? As the spokesmodel in this commercial says, "I can't go on vacation anymore". A few of us were discussing this the other day and I said that yes, in fact, the presence of a Washlet would be a slam dunk for me when choosing a hotel. So I went poking around to find places outside of Japan that have them. Please message me if you know one that should be added to the list!

UPDATE: Of course after I made this, a Japanese friend pointed out that someone in Japan already maintains a page to help find Toto hotels. Check it out!

Double-dipping on Dining

Update Jan 2018: Yelp eliminated double-dipping with mileage dining programs
Most of the big American airlines have a mileage dining program. It's pretty simple: enroll your credit card in their program and any time you eat at a participating restaurant you earn bonus miles. Here in New York there are a few good places on their program.

Even if you never use their search engine to explicitly dine at one of them, it's good to sign up anyway because I've definitely dined at a few completely by accident (especially when traveling) and the miles were a nice surprise.

A few notes:
The mileage dining plans all seem to be run by the same company The participating restaurants are the same for all the airlines' programsIf you've never signed up for one, many have a 1000+ point signup bonusIf possible, book a reservation at the restaurant so you also earn OpenTable points Mileage Dining programs occasionally run seasonal bonuses, so staying on their email list might be valuab…

Kayak now lets you search for travel by Emojis! Vote for the next 15!

Kayak has a history of doing fun things with their travel search portal's interface. A while back they implemented a special Excel spreadsheet-style view so you could plan your vacation while still looking productive at work.

Now they're letting you search for travel by emoji! For example:

🗽 searches New York
🍣 searches for Tokyo
📱 searches for San Francisco
🎰 searches for Las Vegas

 ðŸ ☘️ 🚨 🐇 are Toronto, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Chicago (O'Hare, get it?!) respectively.

You can vote right now for the next 15 emoji-city pairs. I know it's a bit frivolous, but who doesn't want to have a say in which city gets to own the beer-moji!

And Boston is currently winning for Baseball (?!??!) and Green Bay for football

And most importantly to my NYC friends, the Pizza-moji is up for grabs too! 

San Francisco has a HUGE lead for the Pride flag

Seattle is in the running for both 🦄 and ☕️
Paris is behind in the battle for the 👠
New world vs Old world battle for the 💃

Shopping for Hotels...

I don't post a lot about hotels. When I'm traveling I'm usually out and about and I don't really want to spend much time in my room. AirBnB Now, I have friends who absolutely LOVE AirBnB, but unless I need a unique attribute of one of their properties (e.g., size, hot tub, location, or "local charm"), I HATE being an AirBnB tenant. Here's why: Key pickup: I want to get off my plane – whenever it chooses to land – saunter into the city at my own pace, and be checked into my room in 5 minutes or less when I arrive. There's nothing worse than sitting on the sidewalk in pouring rain or blazing sun waiting 40 minutes for the host to show up. Or schlepping your bags in said weather an extra 9 blocks to get to a key concierge. Or (this has happened to me TWICE), the host cancels while I'm on the plane there. Or worse, cancels on you after a 6 hour drive because they don't like your race. And AirBnB expects you accept an alternate accommodation that&…

Japan says goodbye to United's 747s

I saw over on The Points Guy today that United's 747's will no longer fly to Japan. I love the 747 even though it's smaller than the A380 and it uses too much gas. The upstairs Business Class has all the comfort of a small private plane with all of the advantages of a jumbo jet.

United is putting their new 777-300ER planes with the Polaris seats onto this route to replace the 747. While those seats will be nice in "Polaris" Class, keep in mind that in Economy, United shoved an extra seat into each row so it's now 10-abreast.

Feeling a little nostalgic for this beautiful plane slowly going away, I dug out a video from our very first trip to Tokyo on United... 30 pounds and about 5,000 grey hairs ago (i.e., 2005). Bonus: at the end Dr. K actually caught me seeing my first-ever Japanese train in real life!

Mileage dining train-wreck

Two of my favorite things in life are travel and food. Since I post a lot about earning points to do the former so you can do lots of the latter in new and exciting places, it's no surprise I've got my credit cards enrolled in mileage dining programs.

Since I'm fairly savvy on the restaurant scene in my current (NYC) and former hometowns (San Francisco and Seattle), I can tell you that when I see a place show up on the mileage dining roster, it's a good sign the place is circling the drain. I feel bad saying that but with few exceptions, every time I visit one of these places it's a train wreck... like somehow "let's join a mileage dining program" is the restaurant equivalent of "lower the lifeboats!"

(FYI the same restaurants seem to be in all airlines' programs)

Last week I saw an email from Delta mileage dining that a very hip, upscale pizza restaurant we love was "new to the program". I was wary, but the 1000-point Delta …

Trip Report: SAS Copenhagen to New York (CPH - EWR) in Business Class

Intro This is the return leg of my Newark to Berlin flight on SAS. My review of the inbound leg is here. I was expecting an A330 with the new Business Class configuration like the one I'd flown out on... But then I walked down the jetway and noticed the plane had 4 engines, not 2. Since it was still a single-decker plane, I knew we'd had an equipment swap to an A340. This also explained why they'd been making announcements at the gate about there being no Wi-Fi on today's flight. I didn't mind, since I'm a plane nerd and I hadn't been on an A340 in years.
ProsFriendly serviceGood food SAS still earns United partner miles based on distance, not dollars (net gain: 7000 miles!) ConsChaotic boarding procedureSecured gate means you're trapped inside a small area until the plane boards Our A340 didn't have upgraded interiors so we had an older plane with the previous-gen seats How I did it In early May, I was pricing out flights to Germany for this…

SAS Lounge in Oslo and SAS Intra-european Business Class

My trip to Berlin on SAS connected through Oslo on the outbound leg, and through Copenhagen on the return leg. The lounge in Oslo is one of the nicer ones I've ever encountered. It had all the bells and whistles – even a kids room! About the only thing it didn't have was showers.

Both of my short connecting flights were typical of intra-European Business Class: normal Economy seats with the middle seat blocked out, and a light meal and beverage service. Both of these meals were innovative and delicious, and the flights themselves were on-time, and blissfully uneventful.

Lounge pictures

The Oslo Airport has all kinds of tasty food options.

Connecting flight meals Oslo to Berlin Tegel (OSL to TXL, SK 4723)

Berlin Tegel to Copenhagen (TXL to CPH SK 1674)

Trip Report: SAS New York to Oslo (EWR - OSL) in Business Class

ProsNewly-remodeled interiors with great lie-flat seatsFriendly serviceGreat lounge in Oslo, decent one at NewarkEspresso machine onboard (and staff who were willing to use it)Nicely timed for a good night's sleepSAS still earns United partner miles based on distance, not dollars (net gain: 7000 miles!)Free Wi-Fi in Business ClassIFE has live plane tail- and belly-camera channelsLayover airport within Schengen zone, so no customs when flying onward to continental Europe. ConsNewark instead of JFKChaotic boarding procedures How I did it In early May, I was pricing out flights to Germany for this particular week in June and spotted this flight for $2100 USD. SAS flights still earn United miles based on the distance of the flight, not the cost of the ticket, so I earned 13,000 United miles for this flight (versus 6,000 if this ticket had been for a United-operated flight). In addition, I'll earn another 6,000 Chase points for using my Reserve card with the 3x airfare bonus. All…