If you are a travel junkie like myself, but aren’t loyal to a single hotel chain, or airline brand, you still can rack up elite or loyalty status pretty easily if you already have status at a partner program. This is done through the lesser-known “status matching” or “challenge” as these elite programs wish to gain the loyalty of other travelers who are already loyal to the other brands. This guide will show you the easiest methods to get a certain level of status if you start with status elsewhere already.
Caesars Rewards and Wyndham
The top-tier casino brand and business hotel brand have been partners for quite sometime now and it is possible to match status with one another. The best thing is that Caesars rewards has a lot of upfront value if you can match to Diamond at Caesars. Also, as of the time of this post, there is a “loophole” which exists in that you can get unlimited matching back and forth between Caesars Rewards and Wyndham, which means theoretically unlimited status until their partnership ends. Caesars Rewards Status expires end of January and Wyndham Rewards ends at the end of the year so you have a month window to match back over once it expires.
How To Do It
The status matching can be done online easily and will take 1-2 weeks to process, and in some cases, instantly. To get Wyndham Status first, you can status match from a number of hotel programs such as Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott.
If you have Wyndham Elite Status, click here: https://www.caesars.com/total-rewards/tr-partners/wyndham_resorts
If you have Caesars Rewards Status, click here: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/wyndham-rewards/caesars-rewards/status-match
Notable Perks and Benefits
- Caesars Diamond Level
- $100 Celebration Dinner yearly credit (I used it on Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen in Las Vegas this year)
- Two Free Show Tickets per month
- Waived resort fee (usually $30+ per night)
- Dedicated lines at buffets and restaurants (Bacchanal Buffet is a must in Caesars Palace Las Vegas)
- 2 Free Nights at Caesars Bluewater Resort Dubai
- Wyndham Rewards
- Suite Upgrades
- Early / Late Check-In / Check-Out
- Avis / Budget Free Upgrades
Caesars Rewards List of Benefits: https://www.caesars.com/total-rewards/benefits-overview
Wyndham Benefits: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/wyndham-rewards/member-levels?variant=us&WID=IN:WR-US:20171109:CET:MEMBERLEVELS
MLife and World of Hyatt Hotels and Hilton Honors Program
These two casino / hotel chains have been partners for quite some time now and there are easy ways online to quickly match the status of each other. Hyatt is seen as the premium hotel chain and its status (especially Explorist and Globalist) shows all the awesome perks you can get. On the other hand, if you want to indulge in the casino city of Las Vegas, you can gain free parking, priority taxi lines, dedicated buffet and restaurant lines and more with MLife status. World of Hyatt is highly regarded so you can use that status to match with many other hotel chains to gain elite status.
Side Note: If you are a cruiser, MLife will match with the Crown and Anchor Society for Royal Carribean Cruises and you can get at least $125 On-Board Cruise Credit as well as a myriad of other perks such as priority check-in lines and departure day lounges.
MLife will also temporarily match with Hilton Honors program for a number of awesome status. Click here to find out more from Hilton Honors.
How To Do It
If you are a World of Hyatt Member: https://world.hyatt.com/content/gp/en/rewards/other-partnerships.html
If you have MLife Status: https://www.mgmresorts.com/en/mlife-rewards-program/preferred-partners/hyatt-hotels.html
Notable Perks and Benefits
World of Hyatt
- Room and Suite Upgrades
- Early Check-In and Late Check-Out
- Free Breakfast Vouchers
- Club Access Awards
- Bonus Points per stay
- Complimentary Daily Water Bottles
- Dedicated Buffet Lines (The Buffet at The Bellagio in Las Vegas is worth a detour)
- VIP Line Access to select nightclubs
- Taxi and Valet Service
- Discounts on Royal Carribean Cruises
Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and Radisson Hotels
These mega-hotel chains usually won’t match tier status from another program, however they will allow you to complete status challenges (X number of bookings in 90 days). Below are links to how you can obtain a challenge from the loyalty program.
Hilton Honors: https://statusmatch.hiltonhonors.com/
Marriott Bonvoy: Inquire Status Challenge via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Radisson: Inquire about a Status Match via Email: StatusMatch@radissonhotels.com
Other hotel chains that are not covered here?
Don’t see your hotel or airline above? Check out StatusMatcher for more user generated data points for your specific hotel or airline.
After trying out countless number of carry-on luggage, I finally have landed on the best carry-on hardshell spinner I’ve used ever from a fairly new company called Away. Co-founded by two former Warby Parker employees, they set out to come up with a modern solution for the everyday traveler. Although it is not the cheapest carry-on out there ($225 for the regular carry-on, $20 OFF link here), it is packed with many features that can’t be found in other luggages today including a lifetime warranty which will cover damage to the shell, wheels, handles or zippers.
I’ve been using my Bigger Carry-On Away luggage for almost two years now and have loved every single moment I’ve traveled with it.
Ejectable Battery for charging devices
Included with every Away luggage is an ejectable 10,000mAh battery which is slim enough to fit in your pocket, but with enough juice to charge your iPhone at least 3 full times before quitting on you. The ejectable feature is also nice in the rare instances that you need to gate-check your luggage, as airlines are all aware of this smart bag and have rules restricting placing rechargeable batteries into the cargo hold. By having the battery in your luggage, it removes one less item out of your backpack that you have to carry.
Scratch-resistant hard polycarbonate shell
The exterior look and feel of the Away luggage is what makes this carry-on shine. It has a stylish look to it, unlike some of the dated designs of Delsey or Samsonite luggages. Even though it is a hard shell, the luggage is extremely lightweight, clocking in at only 7.8lbs. The exterior of this luggage measures out to 22.7″ tall x 14.7″ high x 9.6″ deep which will fit in most U.S. domestic airplanes storage above. Even when you need to check this luggage in, the case can withstand a good amount of resistance and no scratches have been found in almost two years of use.
Interior compression pad
Inside the luggage, you will find plenty of space with a capacity of 47.9 liters to fit over a week’s worth of clothes. With the right climate, I was able to squeeze 10 days of clothes in this carry-on by rolling my clothes to achieve the best packing efficiency. On one side of the luggage, there is an interior compression pad in which you can further condense your clothes into a smaller spot. The other side of the luggage features a zippable compartment to fit your other necessities such as your shoes, belt and toiletries.
TSA-approved lock with combination
A built-in combination lock will allow for easy locking and unlocking of your luggage to ensure no one can get inside, except the TSA security guys when needed.
Removable laundry bag
Tucked on the bottom of the bag inside a zipper compartment is a removable laundry bag that is useful to keep your smellies away from the fresh laundry. I actually did not know that this existed until a few months into using the luggage as it was hidden neatly away from the compartment.
360-degree Hinomoto spinner wheels
I did not have an appreciation for luggage wheels until I pushed this Away luggage around effortlessly through all sorts of terrain. On the airport floor, it glided effortlessly wherever my hand went and never resisted to my movements. On a recent trip to Germany, I had booked an AirBNB that was a half mile walk away from the train station and the luggage easily maneuvered without struggle across asphalt, gravel and sidewalk pavement.
Where to Buy?
You can only find Away luggage from their official website. Get $20 off any luggage if you use our referral link to help our site keep the lights on 🙂
Dotonbori Food Street Guide – Osaka, Japan
Nestled deep in the Kansai region of Japan is a city called Osaka often under appreciated about its foodie culture. Sometimes known as Japan’s Kitchen, restaurants and food stands in Osaka can serve up some of the freshest seafood because the city is by the coast as well as some of the finest cuts of beef due to the proximity of the region. One of the main food attractions as well as one of the top tourist sites is called Dotonbori Street, which can sometimes be called The Bright Heart of Osaka. A straight canal cuts through the brightly lit billboards and advertisements at night which create a wonderful mashup of loud, flashing lights which illuminates the street vendors and store fronts of all the amazing restaurants filled with people chowing down on some of the best foods in Japan. If you were to pick up Times Square in New York City and replace the English advertisements with Japanese writing and drop it in the middle of Osaka, you have Dotonbori Street. Enough with describing the setting, let’s talk about what is good to eat here.
Ichiran Ramen is nestled in one of the side streets of the Dotonbori where all the restaurants are smaller ramen shops. The piping hot Tonkotsu broth which can be flavored to your liking (light to ultra rich) combined with a customized noodles texture (extra soft to extra firm) is served right through a “magic ramen window”. Seating is bar style with high walls on each side of you, cubby style, which brings back memories of sealing your social life and cramming in countless hours of studying at the library during hell week in college.
You first line up to order your meal at a vending machine where you will select what kind of extras, such as the premium pork, you want in your ramen (they only serve one kind of ramen). Insert your Japanese Yen and then out comes an order ticket. The workers will then hand you a meal ticket where you can circle your ramen preferences while you continue standing in line, waiting for an open seat. This is definitely an experience as most other ramen shops don’t allow you to customize your meal to this extent. You can choose your Flavor Strength, Richness, Garlic Levels, Amount of Green Onions, Yes or No Sliced Pork (who picks no?), the spicy level (up to 20x) and the noodle’s texture (whether you like them al dente or on the softer side). By the time you finish deciding back and forth between ultra rich and a medium broth flavor, its seating time. Red and green lights on a wall turn on corresponding to which bar seat is open, similar to those smart parking garages that have green indicators above empty parking spots. When you sit down, you are flanked by some paper towels, a water tap and a discreet button which you will press to hand the completed meal ticket over. The curtain rises and a hand pops in to grab the ticket and the fun wait begins. Right before your perfectly prepared bowl of ramen is ready to be served, you will hear a pleasant sounding chime, similar to the arrival tone that plays on the Shinkansen. The curtain draws up once more, and this time the mysterious individual who you never see their face presents the bowl of piping hot soup in front of you along with an uncracked soft boiled egg and leaves, allowing you to slurp in peace.
Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M Dotonbori
My brother’s birthday just happened to be during the same week we were in Osaka so knowing that he lives and breathes for a good piece of steak, especially Wagyu (Japanese cattle), we booked a teppanyaki place in the Dotonbori. This place was top rated on TripAdvisor so we had to check it out. Considering we got lucky and booked a last minute reservation for 9 people, we saved our stomachs that morning at Kuromon Market and darted over for lunch at Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M Dotonbori.
Kobe beef is known in America because it is a heavily marketed cattle breed. It is one of the few breeds that can be exported out of Japan, however due to Japan’s strict export rules, other great Wagyu brands such as Matsusaka or Ohmi never make it overseas, meaning you have to go to Japan to get the best cuts.
At Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M Dotonbori, we opted for a set menu for 6 people which promised 6 different cuts of the finest Matsusaka beef including sirloin steak, rib eye, ohtoro karubi, kyukyoku, short rib and a leaner cut. As it was my first time having any meat with this supreme marbling, I allowed my brother, who was a veteran at eating Wagyu to cook the meats for me. I asked for my cut to be medium rare, per usual standard American steak, however he said it wouldn’t taste good that rare. Because the beef is so fatty with its perfect shiny marbling, eating a rare piece of Matsusaka beef will be chewy. Instead, he along with the waiters insisted that we cook the meat a bit more well so that allows the fat to render and burn a little bit.
The first bite into my inaugural Wagyu cut was heaven. The meat was extremely crispy on the outside, thanks to the layer of fat and tender like a slice of salmon sashimi. The unique properties of Wagyu allows for this when cooked at a environment which included our hot gas grill. The next 5 cuts of meat disappeared as quickly as the 1.5 hours that we spent eating as we savored each and every bite.
Which cut of meat was my favorite? Ohtoro karubi by far. Worth a detour and a visit to have some of the rarest cuts of meat out there.
Melonpan Bun Ice Cream Truck
After a savory bowl of spicy ramen at Ichiran (see above), we wanted to cool our tongues and our bodies (it was a warm, humid night) with some ice cream. We had walked past the green food truck earlier in the day however decided against it because there was no one in line, however the warm, buttery smell of the bread drew me back in later that evening. The line was at least 50 people deep but that didn’t stop us from waiting 30 mins to experience what everyone around us were having.
The name of the dessert is a Melonpan Bun, however it is quite misleading since there actually is no melon in the bread, it only resembles one. The bread itself is circular with raised puffy squares that isn’t as sweet as you’d think. The piping hot bun is cut open in half and a paddle of ice cream is shoveled into the center. Unifying hot and cold flavors are one of the most amazing things you can do to a dessert and each square that you bite down on puffs a hot steam of warm buttery goodness while the ice cream melts slowly in your mouth at the same time. The entire ice cream sandwich was devoured in less than 7 minutes. My only regret that day was not having it after lunch as well.
Takoyaki Octopus Ball Stands
These ball shaped Japanese snacks are made with flour, then cooked in a circular pan and cooked to a crispy perfection. Inside these round, savory doughy goodness are little small pieces of octopus (shrimp is available too for the less adventurous). On the outside, it is typically sprinkled with some green onion, tenkasu (tempura scraps), pickled ginger and a good helping of Japanese mayo. Takoyaki can be found all throughout Dotonbori Street and they usually are served in bunches of 6 on top of a bamboo leaf plate. Be careful about this delicious snack, because the dough inside is as hot as the sun and will burn every crevice of your mouth.
Okonomiyaki Savory Pancake
I first had Okonomiyaki fairly recently in the United States at one of the local Japanese restaurants and I thought it was an interesting mash up of flavors. Resembling a Japanese “pizza” or pancake, many ingredients are mixed onto a flat iron grill and cooked to perfect crispness. The batter is made of a similar flour to Takoyaki however the ingredients usually have shredded cabbage, green onion, pork belly, shrimp, squid and egg. All the food is mixed together, grilled and topped with some mayo art whipped across the pancake. Because Okonomiyaki is fairly dense, you wouldn’t want to eat much after chowing down on this. Although I don’t have a specific restaurant recommendation, many places in Dotonbori Street serves a build your own Okonomiyaki pancake along with an awesome chef experience of watching them cook your masterpiece.
Other Notable Foods
Conveyor Belt Sushi (Kaiten-zushi)
King Crab Stand
So you just picked up a Japan Rail Pass and now you are wondering how to use it and its limitations? Let’s first discuss what a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is, define when and where you can use it as well as what it gives access to.
The Japan Rail Pass allows you the opportunity to travel freely around Japan with unlimited use, and at no extra cost (some runs will have an extra charge), provided you stay on the JR lines. They also allow you to use the JR Bus and JR Ferry lines as well. Although it is a pretty hefty cost for a 7 day pass ($255 USD at the time of this writing), it costs about the same as a Tokyo – Kyoto round trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train). This is why it is such a widely used train pass for foreigners who visit Japan. Japanese nationals and locals are not eligible for the JR Pass as it was created by Japan Railways for tourists only.
There are 7, 14, and 21 day versions of this pass (prices as of 8/7/18)
7 Day Pass
- Standard Class
14 Day Pass
- Standard Class
21 Day Pass
- Standard Class
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|Pass Valid||Pass Valid||Pass Valid||Pass Valid||Pass Valid||Pass Valid
Do I need to use the JR Pass immediately after I exchange my voucher?
The common misconception with the JR Pass is that you need to use it immediately once you have exchanged it at either the airport or one of the locations around Japan. This is not true as you can set an activation date within 30 days of exchanging the pass. This means that you can arrive at Narita Airport on July 1st, exchange your voucher for a JR Pass, and set an activation date of anytime within 30 days.
In May 2018, I went to Japan for 10 days. Because I wanted to have the JR Pass valid for the tail end of my trip, when I arrived in Osaka, I exchanged my voucher for the JR Pass, but set an activation date for 3 days later. This way, it expired right on my last day in Japan.
The JR Pass does not fit in the ticket turnstiles, how can I enter the boarding area?
You will never insert your JR Pass into the ticket turnstyles, those are only used for the single, multi-day or monthly passes. Instead, there is always a guard at the sides of the entrance where you will flash your JR Pass along with your Passport and he will allow you to enter. You will do the same when you exit the train station. Note that there is only one way in and out of the train station and you will always present the pass at the manned ticket gates.
Do I need seat reservations or can I sit in the non-reserved seats of a train?
Seat reservations are not always necessary as most JR trains will have reserved and non-reserved train cars. Seat reservations are advised during the peak travel seasons or if you will be traveling on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line (bullet train that connects Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka).
Most other trains that you will be traveling on will be inner-city subways in which there are no reserved seats at all (first come first serve).
Some trains, such as the Narita Express (N’EX) that connects from Narita Airport to Tokyo will require seat reservations.
You can make seat reservations at any JR Pass ticket station or Nippon Travel Agencies located inside the train station.
Which trains can I use the JR Pass on?
General rule of thumb for the types of trains you can use the JR Pass on:
- Train station name starts with JR (ex. JR Namba)
- Train line name starts with JR (ex. JR Yamanote Line or JR Chuo-Sobu Line)
- All Shinkansen (except the ‘Nozomi’ and ‘Mizuho’ lines)
- Tokyo Monorail (to Haneda Airport)
- Narita Express (N’EX – to Narita Airport)
You can’t use the JR Pass on:
- Private rail lines such as (Tokyo Metro, Toei Subways, Tsukuba Express, Tobu Railway, etc…)
- Just keep in mind that if it does not say JR in front, you won’t be able to use the JR Pass.
Get a Japan Travel App for Train Timetables – Don’t rely on Google Maps!!!
If you have a Travel SIM or a Travel WiFi device, you can install the Japan Official Travel App or Hyperdia to get the most up to date train timetables and routes. It was extremely helpful for me since I was able to travel anywhere on any train system in Japan with the Japan Official Travel App. The app even allows you to prioritize JR Pass routes to minimize your costs. I found Google Maps always routed me incorrectly or the train routes were outright wrong. Trust me, don’t use Google Maps and stick with one of the two suggestions above.
Last Summer 2017, I was fortunate enough to travel with 9 of my other closest friends to experience a once in a life time sailing trip around the Adriatic Sea. This isn’t a typical sailing trip that ends at sunset, however, this epic, non-stop party atmosphere with an equal dose of both men and women from all around the world in their 20s and 30s that lasts for 7 days. That’s right, a full week. On a boat in Croatia. And rightly so, this amazing trip is called The Yacht Week.
The 10 of sailed on the Croatia Black route alongside an armada of 30 other boats, hopping from various islands, bars, beaches and parties. Now if you just booked this awesome adventure, you might be wondering, what do I need to pack? Well apparel wise, for us men, I can tell you that you don’t need much other than cycling through your favorite retro-shirt, pineapple swim trunks, and loud bro tank. I don’t need to tell you what clothes to pack, as you should know that. I will tell you what other essentials you should bring to make your trip more enjoyable.
Keep in mind that space in the boat is very limited so please, leave the hard sided suitcases at home and carry a foldable rolling duffle bag, or something similar that can collapse into one of the boats’ small closets. We sailed on a Bavaria 50 foot cruiser, which was one of the larger boats in the fleet and we still felt cramped with the 10 of us plus the skipper and hostess due to all the booze, food and water we stockpiled in every nook and cranny instead.
The Men’s Packing List
You will want to overpack then not pack enough goodies and regret not having all the things you wanted in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. Below are a list of things I brought with me on The Yacht Week.
This 35in rolling duffle bag carries a lot of heft while being extremely lightweight and can easily be packed down into a small form factor. It is my go to bag for when I go on trips that last 7-10 days long. This bag was perfect for The Yacht Week as I was able to unpack most of my clothes for the entire week and put them in the closets while folding this into the boat storage. I didn’t need it again until it was time to disembark.
Everyone on Yacht Week has a bright party floaty. Without one, you will feel left out during the epic circle raft party or the tunnel raft party that happens toward the end of the trip. I opted for the bright watermelon floaty as it was the perfect size to fit into my duffle bag while remaining small enough for me to blow up with my own lungs. Just keep in mind that these all have to be inflated on the boat so make friends with a friendly yacht who sports a nifty electric inflatable pump or show off your mega lung capacity to your lady friends.
This is a must buy if you want to keep Instagramming or Snapchating your day on the boat. Grab a slim 10,000mah like this one and it will be able to charge your iPhone or Android device nearly 3 times. The only power ports on the boat are down in the living room area and there are usually none up on the main deck where everyone hangs out at. This Anker charger is also great for those long day trips away from the yacht so you can be sure your GoPro and smartphone will always be charged.
The Yacht Week boats provide a towel for you however that should be reserved as your shower towel. You will want a travel towel for the beach and ocean water that packs very small but also dries quickly for those multi-session dips into the water. This towel worked amazingly for me and even though it has a different texture that is unlike any normal bath towel, it dried amazingly well and I was able to roll it up very tightly to fit into my duffle bag.
Again, another must have for the yacht. You will be around water, beer, liquor and other fluids everywhere. How much would it suck if your phone died because it got wet or if it accidentally dropped into the ocean? Grab one of these and take plenty of pictures and video during the circle raft party!
Every boat on The Yacht Week will be flying flags on the mast. Multiple flags actually. Make sure you bring your countries flag and any other flags to easily identify your boat out of the 50 that are docked on the marina. Just remember to take it down before you disembark and not forget like we did 🙂
Boat decks are notoriously slippery when wet and many will not get away with just wearing flip flops. Ensure your feet are extra protected by getting yourself a pair of boat shoes, that way you can ensure you won’t accidentally kick your toe on an anchor.
Your boat will be the best looking yacht at night if you have these hung around the railings. Not to mention, they will help you attract people for the after parties after the clubs close out. At night, the boats are extremely dark and you can make it easier to help identify your boat by having these solar powered lights.
9. GoPro with Floating Selfie-Stick
You will want to be able to capture the best memories during this trip and many of them will be in the water. You don’t want to lose your expensive GoPro to the ocean, so ensure you pick up a selfie stick that can float like this one.
While you will have glassware and cups on the boat, you will want to stay extremely hydrated in the strong Adriatic sun. I brought my HydroFlask with me and it kept my water ice cold, which was extremely refreshing after taking a dip in the ocean in the 90 degree Croatian waters.
If you are ever caught at a Yacht Week themed party without a sweet costume, you 1) won’t be let in, 2) feel left out 3) regret you didn’t get that awesome outfit for this epic party. Make sure you read up on the themes and prepare accordingly. I wore this shirt during the Fort George party and I blended right in 🙂
Because I was traveling through Europe for a week prior to The Yacht Week, I purchased two of these 7 day SIM cards which were loaded with 10GB of 4G LTE data. I wanted to have data throughout the entire trip so I could navigate the foreign cities and subway systems intelligently. Your boat will come with WiFi however my experience with it is that it comes with extremely limited data that is shared amongst 12 other individuals which will eventually slow down to a crawl. Don’t let your Instagram followers down by not posting real time to your story! This SIM worked so well that I was even able to live stream to Facebook. These SIM cards will work if your phone is unlocked from your carrier, which was the case for my Verizon iPhone 7. Normal international data pricing from Verizon would have costed me $10 a day and only limited to 500MB of data, so grabbing this SIM card was a no brainer.
S.O.S. was a well known term on our boat which stood for Sh!t On Shore. Usually, these yachts don’t have the proper plumbing or sewage system to properly dispose of the goods, but there may be times of emergency where you can’t wait to do the deed at one of the marina bathrooms. If you really need to, you’ll want to save the embarrassing smells and spray the toilet down with this magical potion before you go.
14. Travel Hammock
This is a must bring for the yacht as it will attract friends over to lay in and hang out. Actually, bring two, because someone from your ship will be jealous and want to kick you off of it. You will have room on the bow of the boat to hang these up and don’t be surprised if you pass out on one of these each night like I did. Besides, who likes to sleep indoor in the hot rooms when you can doze off outside in the starry night of the Adriatic Sea? We wished we brought ours from home since we paid a premium at one of the local Croatian sport shops for two of these.