experiences

When a Mini Vacation Mileage Run to Alaska Turns Into a DFW Hyatt Mattress Run and Tiff Meetup

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I was excited about last weekend. The heat index in Washington, DC was consistently over 100 degrees the preceding week, but I was headed to Alaska for a full day! It was going to be easy to forget the heat as I reveled in 70 degree weather, wild flowers, and amazing mountains since unlike last time, I was turning my mileage run for American Airlines Executive Platinum status with a mini vacation.

But at the airport on Friday it became clear all my careful planning and packing was for naught. My flights were delayed, I would misconnect, and instead of spending 23 hours in Anchorage doing a glacier cruise, I’d be spending 17 hours in Dallas. Boooo.

The silver lining? In addition to doing an airline status challenge, I’m also trying for Hyatt Diamond status, and there were cheap rooms available at the Hyatt Regency DFW (Anchorage has no Hyatts). Had I not had the unexpected Dallas stay, I’d probably have been paying for a room in DC at some point that I didn’t really need, just to hit the minimum number of stays I needed.

So I made the reservation and started looking into how much a rental car for the next morning would be. If I was going to be stuck in Dallas, I at least wanted to see something or go find good BBQ. Then I remembered Tiff lived nearby! I sent her a message and heard back soon, she was actually in town AND she had no plans for Saturday!

Ok, so this wasn’t going to be a total loss. Tiff was nice enough to pick me up the next morning and soon we were headed to the closest town for lunch, a charming little area called Grapevine. As luck would have it, they had an upscale farmers market and craft fair going on, and I have to say, there’s nothing like organic honey and infused olive oils as a balm for the soul (separately of course, not mixed together).

Grapevine Farmers Market Produce

Grapevine Farmer's Market Olive Oil

After wandering around the Main Street in the steadily increasing, we took a break from our non-stop conversation and settled on Into the Glass as our lunch spot. I was pretty excited, you have the option of doing tastes or pours by the glass, so I was able to try three different wineries I’d never heard of for the price of one nice glass. They also had chevre-scallion mashed potatoes, and what could be better than that!

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Too soon it was time for me to return to the airport and embark on what now was basically going to be a straight turn to Alaska and back. Things got worse once I got on board. My upgrade had cleared at the gate at least, but I soon discovered we had an old plane that had old school power outlets that required a special adaptor. And if that weren’t bad enough, I couldn’t even make use of the two hours of laptop power I had, because the wi-fi wasn’t working. So now I faced 6 1/2 hours of boredom, since I’d already read the one book I packed and examined all the seat back reading material. Needless to say I ate. Everything they brought.

Eventually we landed and I started to figure out what I was going to do. I’d had some great suggestions for a 4 hour layover from @visitAnchorage, but lacked a rental car for my top choices. I didn’t want to pay the $35-$40 I’d heard cabs cost, so I thought I’d see if I could catch the bus the downtown and at least walk around. Fortunately I found the $10 shuttle that was leaving immediately, and that’s when I decided to get a last minute room at the Sheraton using my Starwood points.

7,000 points seemed alot for what just be three hours of occupation, but it would give me a chance to charge all my electronics, shower, and rest looking out on beautiful scenery. Plus I remembered that their windows opened so I could take in the fresh air.

Achorage summer sunset Sheraton Anchorage hotel and spa

It was my first stay there as a Platinum, and it was the worst yet. There was no recognition of my Platinum status, the woman didn’t even know what I meant when I told her I wanted points instead of a local amenity. I’d asked for a great view if possible, and the best she could do was put me on a high floor. There was no mention of club access, so I called down to my room once I got up there and realized I couldn’t access the floor. Apparently she was supposed to have given me a special key card with instructions. Sigh.

But the club lounge, which has only basic offerings, does have an amazing view of the mountains, so I spent some time hanging out in there before taking a very brief nap.

I took the shuttle back to the airport around 11PM for my 12:40PM flight and was treated to a heartbreakingly beautiful view as I was leaving. AUGH. I resented more than ever having my day taken away from me 🙁

Anchorage at 11PM

Anchorage from a bus

The rest of the trip doesn’t bear much detail although operationally it went very smoothly. Because I was flying an Alaska Airlines flight, I got access to the Alaska Airlines Boardroom (club lounge) using my United Club card even though I was flying on my American Airlines number. Since it was an Alaska flight though, I had no chance at an upgrade.

My connection was in Los Angeles, requiring me to switch terminals. I wasn’t aware there was a shuttle between Terminal 6 and 4 (there is! find it!) so I headed outside security, opting to take the tunnel to Terminal 5 to avoid walking outside as much as possible. At the beginning of the tunnel a kind man in the one of the carts offered me a ride, saving me a good 5 minutes of trudging 🙂

Once at the gate I discovered that I was #1 on the upgrade list but that First Class had checked in full. It was a long, flight back to DC in coach, but at least it had both power and internet. And I finally got to experience the perk of being an Executive Platinum in coach — they give you one free snack item (in this case I went with the $6.99 breakfast sandwich) and an alcoholic drink. And they’re nice about it! Not too shabby.

National Airport was remarkably quiet for a Sunday afternoon — I was first in line for a cab and managed to be home only 30 minutes after deplaning. So the trip was successful, I accomplished what I needed to — I hit the 25,000 base miles in 3 months to qualify for the American Airlines status challenge, I unexpectedly netted stays towards both Hyatt and Starwood status, and I got to see Tiff. But boy do I wish I had been able to spend a day in the Alaska summer…

Note: If I had more flexibility when I could fly (I couldn’t because of my status challenge) this easily could have been a Trip in Vain and I could have asked to be rebooked for a future weekend. If your one-day trip is at risk, definitely worth trying.

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today! - Heels First Travel

  2. Jane

    August 11, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I know I’m rather late with this comment but if you are still trying to go for Hyatt status, head out to Sterling. The Hyatt House there is $65 on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the one on Ridgetop Circle, right off Rt. 7 and just before the Mall. I use to live in Sterling and go back frequently to visit friends and found this gem of a deal.

    • Keri Anderson

      August 11, 2013 at 9:37 am

      That’s actually where Jeanne & I went on Friday 🙂

  3. Pingback: What IS a Mattress Run and When Should You Do One? - Heels First Travel

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