Nick’s first destinations: Lanikai Beach and Uncle Clay’s House

Late last night (for most readers) I made it to Lanikai Beach on Oahu. In a move that likely shocks you as much as finding out that the southern-style smoked beef and pork sausage sandwich on United’s in-flight menu is really just a hot dog, I used 7,500 Citi Thank You points transferred to Turkish Miles and Smiles to book a United flight to what will long be one of my favorite places on Earth, Hawaii. Once I arrived at the airport, I spent another $5.50 on an all-day pass for The Bus, Oahu’s much-heralded and very extensive bus system. My pass is good until 3am. Unfortunately, my flight got in almost an hour late. Then my first bus was late and my second bus got delayed repeatedly. I didn’t make it here in time to get all the way to the top of the Lanikai pillboxes hike, but man is the view beautiful even if you don’t make it to the top.
For what it’s worth, this wasn’t my original plan.
Since I’d written about the status-match-go-round a few months ago, I thought an awesome start to my trip would be Las Vegas. A few months back, Brian Cohen at The Gate published a post about how to walk to the Strip from the Las Vegas airport. Back in a different era, I went to Las Vegas shortly after turning 21 with $253 to my name. In that trip, I found everything free and cheap that there was to do at the time: the Bird Man of Las Vegas’s free show in the Tropicana lobby, the free Elvis Impersonator Ice Cream Social at Fitzgerald’s, the ten cent roulette at Sahara, the 99c 3/4 lb got dog at Westward Ho, the late night all-you-can-eat pancakes at Riviera for $2.99, and the many free spectacles like the pirate fight at Treasure Island, taking statutes at Caesar’s, etc. Most of the casinos I just mentioned don’t even exist anymore.
At any rate, I thought that if I could get a free night at a Caesar’s property (and on a Wednesday night in October, I thought that wouldn’t be a stretch), walk to it for free, see a free show with my Caesar’s Diamond status, try to sweet talk my way into a Diamond lounge for free, and maybe try to put twenty bucks on red to double up, it would be an epic start.
I originally wanted to fly to Las Vegas cheaply so I could take advantage of using 11,500 Singapore miles to fly Alaska to Hawaii from there. It was while researching options to get to Vegas that I stumbled on the chart showing that Turkish charged 15K round trip for a domestic United econony class award. I was pumped: I’d get to both Vegas and Hawaii for 19,000 milles (7500 from  Washington to Las Vegas and 11,500 from Las Vegas to Hawaii).
In fact, the first time I emailed Turkish Airlines, it was to see if I could book DC to Las Vegas and it would *really* price at just 7.5K miles. They told me the first itinerary I wanted, Washington to Chicago to Las Vegas, wasn’t available but confirmed that it would cost 7500 miles plus $5.60 if available. Awesome! I tried another one, connecting through Los Angeles and it worked! They put it on hold and I had 48hrs to transfer the miles and then email back to ticket it.
My plan from Hawaii was to use Turkish miles to book the United island hopper. In years past, the major Turkish sweet spot was that Hawaii was categorised in Oceania, so I expected a one-way would cost 15K miles in economy class. However, the ticket office emailed me back and quoted me 52,500 miles one way to fly to Guam. That was totally unexpected, but I quickly realized that was the price for economy class from North America to Oceania. I thought, “That’s odd since Turkish classifies Hawaii as Oceania…..” and that was the moment when I went to the region definitions and saw it: Hawaii was now in North America. I’m so thankful that the light bulb flashed moments later and before transferring miles to book my flight to Las Vegas: I realized that flights to Hawaii are domestic and if Hawaii is in the same region as the continental US, it had to price as any other domestic ticket. Unfortunately, this idea hit me on a Friday afternoon, so my email to Turkish didn’t get there in time to get an answer before the weekend. But I felt confident Uf === that this was correct that I talked about it at our FM to Go Minneapolis event that weekend, telling people that I was reasonably confident that Hawaii could be booked this way. The following Monday, I had my answer. Then it was a matter of sitting on pins and needles waiting for miles to transfer and get it paid for. I was literally on board a flight with the doors about to close as I was snapping pictures of my credit card to send to Turkish to book this. But sure enough, on July 3rd, I had my answer.
Greg and I talked about whether or not to publish it and ultimately decided that we would for two main reasons: first, it would benefit Frequent Miler readers. Second,  we expected that the 40K to Far Away challenge would inspire some of the most zealous readers to hunt for things we might try to do. Indeed, just that week a reader had written to alert me to a deal with Turkish Miles and Smiles that I hadn’t seen reported anywhere. We thought it was only a matter of time before someone found it and reported it, so we might as well give Frequent Miler readers the jump on the story.
 In recent weeks, I’ve second guessed whether I should have tried to book a flight to Alaska instead or to Northern Canada just because I knew my first leg would be so predictable. But in the end, I couldn’t pass up the allure of getting some sand between my toes and a few hours of the tropical Hawaiian sun on my skin.
A number of people have asked what the winner of this competition gets. My mental response is, “In addition to this?”

Visiting Uncle Clay’s house of Pure Aloha for the best shave ice on the island, made will real fruit isntead of sugary syrups.

Meeting with other miles enthusiasts over shave ice.

I got the chance to visit Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha with a few other miles and points enthusiasts as well!he winner gets the opportunity to fly halfway around the world and write about it as a job. Coincidentally, that’s also the consolation prize. Seems like a competition I can get behind.

So here I am, basking in the glow and natural beauty and majesty of Hawaii, winning even if I lose.

Unfortunately, the lights have gone out on a great start to the #40K to Far Away challenge, but I look forward to the rising sun tomorrow.

Last updated on October 5th, 2019

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Greg
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Greg

Great summary! Thanks Nick! I love following this!

Biggie F
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Biggie F

Wonderful pic looking back from Lanikai across MidPac golf course, Kailua Beach, Kailua Bay, Aikahi, Kaneohe Marine Corps base … hope I got that all right — doing it from memory. Had so many great family summers there — thanks for the memories (including some vertigo skirting that Pillbox Ridge). Oh yeah, and that canal — name escapes me at the moment — that runs back up to Enchanted Lake….

Could write a whole ‘nother thread about how the unreliability of TheBus has killed what used to be a wonderful public transit service… again, from memory, something like the 20 or 22 from airport into town, the 56 or 57 into Kailua, but then, whoa, walked more than a few times from Kailua Town to Lanikai, because 70 doesn’t run that often.

CaveDweller
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CaveDweller

I liked them will use again in Feb, BUT their City Buses not high end .

Nick
Vegas was still like that in 2009 ..3 nites Flamingo Air ( ORD) $305 @ 5am take off . I’ve been there 15x to costly now . POST on the local deals ..

CHEERs

Jodie
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Jodie

Ha based on the title of this post, I thought at first you were staying with your uncle to save money! 🙂

Pam
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Pam

The islands are also my fav place on earth, Nick! Getting there for $100 (equiv) is amazing – you already have my vote,Too bad they wouldn’t let you DRIVE that bus like your pics lol! Have fun & be safe, we’re all right there with you in spirit.

Gabe
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Gabe

Did Uncle Clay open a new location at the mall? I used to go to the original location and made me wonder why people frequented sugary Matsumoto when the natural, much better tasting stuff was with Uncle Clay. Such a nice guy on top of it, the man truly loves what he does (you can tell with the way he’s always smiling) and it was always great to see him interact with his customers. We didn’t go to HOPA this year on our Hawaii trip but instead went to Island Vintage Shave Ice in Waikiki, which makes an awesome shaved ice. Is this your first trip away from the family? If so, how does it feel?

Colleen
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Colleen

Uncle Clays has an outpost in Ala Moana but the original Aina Haina location is still better, IMO.

barron von stroopwaffle
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barron von stroopwaffle

what is the best flavor to order?