I wanted to run a marathon in another state and also go on vacation with my wife. I chose southern California as the weather would be nice around Christmas and there was a nice marathon there.
The marathon I ran was the Operation Jack Marathon, right on the beach behind LAX. The first year was a “success” so they were putting it on for a second year. There were about 70 finishers the first year and the field seemed bigger this year. There were also a few MM running the race.
I kept looking for cheap fares out to LA over Christmas break and couldn’t find any. I decided to use the “new” AA Dynamic Air Awards. This is only available for AA elite status members and as I was GLD at the time, I decided to try it out.
AA Dynamic Air Awards is only for domestic award flights and the award price usually lies somewhere between MilesAAver and AAnytime Awards. The cost depends on the price of the ticket so the more expensive it is, the closer it would be to an AAnytime award. There are more restrictions on a dynamic award.
These awards were much more restrictive than the milesaaver awards. I did get the JFK-LAX tickets for 44k roundtrip each, so I saved 6k per person. I also got the 10% rebate from having the Citi AA card.
At the last minute in early December, I decided to qualify for SPG Gold as I had a 30 day work trip in Shanghai so I wanted to really take advantage of the elite status for additional points and also other benefits. I decided to use this trip to qualify for GLD based on stays. I only needed 4 more stays to meet the 10 stay requirement for Gold. We were on a road trip so I made sure to spread my nights over different hotels. I managed to find a few Category 2 hotels for only 3k points. It only cost me 12k points for all the different stays. At the time, I did the calculation wrong on cash and points so I didn’t take advantage of them. There were multiple hotels offering cash and points.
Hyatt Free Nights via Chase Credit Card
We were there for 9 nights, so we needed hotel stays for the other 5 nights. Four of them were from the 2 free nights from the Chase Hyatt card. Both my wife and I had one so that was four nights. We used 2 for Andaz West Hollywood and another two for the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach.
The last night was booked on a free night I had with hotels.com at Four Points LAX the morning before our flight.
Pre-Road Trip Trip (Baltimore and DC)
My wife was down in Philadelphia a few days before our trip so we decided to have a small road trip on the East Coast before going to the West Coast. She drove from Boston to Philly and then she meet me at BWI to meet a few friends for dinner. We ended up staying at the Hilton right across the street from the Camden Yards. You can see part of the field from the gym on the top floor. They had a great gym at this hotel, with a large 20-25m pool and a large cardio room. As this was close to Christmas, this hotel was almost empty. After a quick swim and workout that morning, we walked down and toured the outside of the park.
We also stopped in the sports shop that was there and also a small sports museum there. We then drove down to DC to see some other friends. Our short trip in DC will be in another post.
The following day we drove back to NY where our family is from. We parked the car at my home for two weeks and had my parents drive us to the airport for our flight. We also had them pick us up. I love it that both of our families lives in Brooklyn, about a 30 minute drive away from JFK.
I realized last minute I forgot to book a rental car. I managed to book a car while I was in DC online. Unfortunately, the rates were high as I would be picking up the car only two days after I made the booking. The rental was about $600 for the 10 days around Christmas and New Years Eve, more than I paid for anything else on our trip. Everything else was on points or miles.
Here is a short summary of our trip:
Introduction (LA, Los Olivos, Marathon, San Diego)
Pre-Trip Road Trip to DC: John Kerry at Senate Visit
LA, Sideways Wine Trail, Santa Barbara
Hollywood, Daikokuya Ramen, Universal Studios
Operation Jack Marathon, WB Studio Tour, and Socal Beaches
San Diego Zoo and Seaworld
Hollywood Sign, Rose Parade Floats, and More Ramen
San Diego Model Railroad Museum