As expected, Air New Zealand confirmed new non-stop service from Auckland to Chicago beginning in November of this year. The flights will be three times weekly in both directions on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Air New Zealand is a Star Alliance member so if you have miles from United, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, etc, you will be able to redeem those miles on this route. This will be the longest flight from O’Hare and if you can redeem those miles for a business class flight, your legs will thank you. If you’re heading to Australia, this would be another option as Auckland can be used as a connecting point. You can read about that on the Chicago Tribune website right here. There are rumors that Qantas is looking to initiate Sydney, Australia to Chicago service soon. If and when that comes to fruition, I’ll post the details here.
Use Google flights and you should see dates available for April and May. I found availability from April 27th-May 6th. Keep in mind, Norwegian Air is a low-cost carrier and they will charge for a checked-in bag. Another idea is to use Oslo as your hub and travel to multiple Scandinavian countries in a single swoop.
Chase has released their 5% quarterly categories for the 2nd Quarter (April-June) for the Chase Freedom credit card and there are some great opportunities to rack up the points. The categories are grocery stores, Chase Pay, and PayPal. Grocery stores are one of the most lucrative opportunities as most of them also sell gift cards for other retailers such as Amazon, department stores, and gas stations. If you happen to shop online, PayPal is now accepted at multiple websites and you can link the Chase Freedom to your PayPal account. The value of these points are further enhanced if you own the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred since you can transfer the points from Chase Freedom into either one of these cards. Make sure you activate the card prior to April and if you don’t have the card, it’s one I’d strongly recommend adding to your wallet. This card does not have an annual fee.
There have likely been more Hawaii deals over the past few months than I can ever recall and it looks like there is a price war brewing between Alaska and United from many West Coast cities. Upon doing a quick search, I saw many dates available in April and May. Here is an example itinerary from San Francisco to Maui using Google Flights:
Here is another example from San Jose, California to Maui:
This deal won’t last long so if you’re on the West Coast looking for a cheap deal to Hawaii, this is a great opportunity.
Simply put, this really sucks. I have benefitted greatly from this partnership between JetBlue and Amazon over the last 18 months or so and I am sure many of you reading this have benefitted as well. Even though I’d still get points if I make an Amazon purchase while flying and being connected to JetBlue wifi, I don’t fly JetBlue enough where I’d be able to take advantage of this frequently. If you’re based in the Midwest or a smaller airport that doesn’t have a ton of JetBlue service, you’re probably in the same boat. It’s even harsher for those who utilize the free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime frequently. I have no idea whether it was Amazon or JetBlue that called off the partnership but you have until March 27th to accumulate TruBlue points via Amazon shopping.
This deal is available from Newark to Kauai (LIH) on one of the highest rated domestic carriers, Alaska Airlines. Multiple dates are available in April and May. Here’s an example from April 18th-26th:
This is one of the cheapest deals I’ve ever seen from the East Coast to Hawaii and the fact that it’s on arguably one of the top two domestic carriers in the U.S. makes it an added bonus. I didn’t see this deal on the Chase portal using UR points so it might not last very long.
Kauai was the second island my wife and I visited during our last trip to Hawaii. We started off in Maui (you can read that itinerary here) and took a one-way flight from Maui to Kaui on Hawaiian Airlines via JetBlue miles. JetBlue miles are not difficult to accumulate if you routinely shop on Amazon and you can read my post on how to earn those miles right here. Kauai is known as the Garden Isle for its lush tropical landscape. Based on my experience, Kauai offers more seclusion than Maui and Oahu. All of the islands are special in their own way so I’d recommend experiencing all three. Here’s a rundown of what we did during our four days in Kauai.
Day 1: Arrival
My wife and I stayed at Mariott’s Kauai Beach Club Hotel during our stay in Kauai. Great property that wasn’t expensive and located right on the beach just 10 minutes from the airport. We rented a car in both Maui and Kauai and if you want to make the most of your time there, I’d recommend doing the same. We arrived in the late afternoon from Maui so we spent the evening at Kalapaki Beach, right in front of our hotel and took in the live entertainment that was offered by Marriott.
Day 2: Poipu Beach
On the second day, we spent almost the entire day at Poipu Beach. Of all the beaches I’ve been to in Oahu, Maui, and Kauai (I’ve been to many), this was my favorite in Hawaii. Plenty of space, clean, an abundance of marine wildlife, and a perfect place to snorkel. If you’re in Kauai, this beach is a must see . You also get spectacular sunsets if you decide to stick around until the late evening.
I was very fortunate to be able to swim alongside a green sea turtle. If you’re going to snorkel in Hawaiian waters, get yourself a GoPro or any underwater camera. You’ll see some really cool wildlife and it’s worth getting on video.
Day 3: Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park is another must-see place in Kauai. From our hotel near the airport, it was about 32 miles away to the entrance and took about 45 minutes. You can also take a 3.4-mile hike to the bottom of the canyon and this will take about 3 hours round-trip. The cool thing about Waimea Canyon is that the surrounding area looks like Sedona, Arizona. You’ll find red clay, orangish water, and landscape that almost seems out of place for Hawaii.
Once you’re at the main lookout point at Waimea Canyon, you’ll find local farmers selling local produce such as mangos, star-fruits, and papayas. They are delicious and if you purchase the fruits, you’ll be supporting local.
Day 4: Napali Coast State Park aka Jurassic Park
No trip to Kauai is complete without seeing Napali Coast State Park. This was the setting for Jurassic Park and the minute you get to the entrance, it will all come back to you. My wife and I were dead set on doing the hike and we did about 3/4 of it until park rangers told us we couldn’t go any further due to flooding from heavy rainfall the previous night. The hike is definitely challenging, particularly the first quarter mile where there is a lot of steep uphill climbing. If you do the hike, bring some solid hiking shoes, plenty of water, and a couple of granola bars. I saw a few people with flip-flops and they were getting killed from mud and wet rocks. Please don’t do this hike with flip-flops. I’d also bring a very light raincoat since this part of Kauai gets a lot of rain and the weather can change from hour to hour. Other options to see the cliffs are from a boat or helicopter. I have heard the helicopter takes four people and that if you’re one of the two sitting in the rear, you’re kind of blocked off from the views when compared to those sitting in the front. Just something to be aware of.
So this was Kauai in a nutshell. A special place and a beautiful island that’s home to my favorite beach amongst the ones I have visited in Hawaii. I really wish we had an extra day here and I know I’d be saying the same thing even we did. If you happen to visit Hawaii, try to include Kauai in your itinerary as well. But only if you are certain you can do the three must-see places above.