Chicago, Seattle, and Phoenix, December 2021

During the month of December, I flew around the country to see three football games with friends and family. These mini-vacations were planned before the Omicron wave of Covid hit and before Fitz suffered paralysis requiring surgery at the end of November. Given those things, I seriously considered calling off the short trips. After consulting with Angela, however, I decided to keep them in place.

Chicago

I finally made it a priority to meet a group of guys that I chat with almost every single day and we decided to come together in Chicago to see the Chicago Bears take on the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

In terms of bookings, I tried to keep things as simple as possible and minimize my out of pocket costs after buying the tickets to the game. I booked the tickets first:

  • 166.00USD per person + 28.57USD per person in fees (plus taxes)

    • Section 439, Row 13, Seats 7-11

The air itineraries were simple:

  • Nicholas

    • 470.40USD per person (cash fare, booked with United Travel Credit)
      • LAS-ORD on UA J
    • 22,000 British Airways Avios + 5.60USD per person
      • ORD-LAS on AA J

Finally came lodging:

Angela spent the entire day before my trip baking five types of cookies for delivery to my friends and packed them up for me to take with. As such, I set off with an important package in hand and very specific instructions not to lose it.

After Angela dropped me off at LAS, I briefly visited the incredibly crowded Centurion Lounge before departing for the gate and enjoying the surprisingly long flight to Chicago. It is easy to forget how large the United States is at times and these flights are always a good reminder.

Upon landing at ORD, I walked to the CTA station and hopped on the Blue Line. After forty minutes, I transferred to the Green Line at Clark & Lake before eventually disembarking at Cermak and walking to my hotel.

Upon arriving at the property, I was informed I was upgraded to the Conference Suite, which was huge.

After a couple of hours, I walked over to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place where half of the traveling party was staying. Once there, we ordered some deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s and dived into the cookies that Angela had sent before walking over to the game.

Once inside the stadium, I snapped a picture of the George Halas tribute, one of my favorite parts of the venue.

The view from our seats was quite good, with all the action easily discernible. Soldier Field has very few bad seats, even in the upper levels.

The game wasn’t exactly thrilling, as neither Chicago nor Minnesota fielded a great team this past season and the Bears went down in defeat in spite of a garbage time touchdown. That being said, I enjoyed the experience and was particularly delighted to finally meet up with the best group of guys I know. Here’s Paul, Noah, Nathan, David, and myself – I’ll let you guess who is who.

On the way back to the hotel, I snapped a picture of Soldier Field that I thought captured the beauty of the night.

The next morning, I mooched breakfast from Nathan as we milked his Globalist benefits before we took an Uber to ORD for our return flights. The flight home was uneventful and I was glad to arrive safely about 30 hours after my initial departure.

Seattle

My mother informed me that she was going to visit my brother, James, in Seattle over Christmas and that they intended to go see the Chicago Bears play the Seattle Seahawks. After hearing this, I decided to invite myself up to spend the day with them and go see the game.

Again, I tried to keep things as simple as possible and minimize my out of pocket costs after buying the tickets to the game. I booked the tickets first:

  • 257.00USD per person + 62.66USD per person in fees (plus taxes)

    • Section 309, Row Z, Seats 16-18

The air itineraries were simple:

  • Nicholas

    • 16,500 British Airways Avios + 5.60USD per person
      • LAS-SEA on AS J
    • 16,500 British Airways Avios + 5.60USD per person
      • SEA-LAS on AS J

Finally came lodging:

I departed Las Vegas on Christmas Day and arrived at SEA in the late afternoon. My brother and mother picked me up from the airport and I was astonished at how frigidly cold it was when I arrived. I immediately unpacked my hat, gloves, and scarf.

James dropped me off at my hotel, a perfectly serviceable property at the right price point in the middle of the city. The room was relatively small but well-appointed with a comfortable bed and nicely decorated bathroom.

After checking in and getting situated, I met the two of them at Dough Zone Dumpling House a few blocks from my lodging and enjoyed some delicious xiao long bao, among other items.

After dinner, we visited James’s apartment and hung out for a few hours chatting while I played with Bentley, my brother’s pit bull mix.

James dropped me off at my hotel and I let him know I’d come to his place the next morning so we could all head to the game together. In the morning, I woke up to a winter wonderland.

I packed up and checked out and took the light rail in the direction of my brother’s apartment before walking up the hill leading to it. It was already snowing hard and sticking, resulting in hard pack on the sidewalks and streets.

Eventually, I made it to the apartment and, after a delicious pancake breakfast, we were off to the game. After a treacherous walk downhill, we made it to the train and headed towards the stadium.

I purchased upper level tickets right on the fifty yard line and our seats were just as good as I had hoped. We could see everything and, given the bird’s eye view of the action, it was easy to analyze what was happening on any given play.

Luckily, this game turned out much better for the Chicago Bears with them winning in the last minute after scoring on a two-point conversion. It was 20F and snowing when the game started and only got colder from there. That being said, the memories we made that day will last a lifetime.

I accompanied my brother and mother back to his apartment, we ate some frozen pizza, and I departed for my hotel near the airport given my extremely early flight the next day.

The property was exactly what I expected from an airport hotel. I’d never go out of my way to stay there, but the service was reasonably friendly and the bed was comfortable enough.

After a short night’s sleep, I woke up at 0400 to pack and walk over for my departure. Unfortunately, I received a text stating my flight was cancelled and that I couldn’t be automatically rebooked. I called Alaska Airlines and they were able to put me on a flight the next day at 2000, a full 40 hours later. The hotel I was staying at was completely booked thanks to all the flight cancellations, so I booked the Renaissance Seattle Hotel on short notice and took the train back to the city. Luckily, travel insurance paid for the lodging and all transport and meals due to the weather related cancellation.

After checking in, I met my family for dinner at Japonessa Sushi Cocina. It was absolutely phenomenal and I highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, while I was eating dinner, I received a text informing me that I’d been a close contact of someone who tested positive for Covid. As such, I said my goodbyes and isolated myself until I departed for home the next day as I was unable to procure a test in the meantime. I ended up being Covid negative when I tested at home, but it was important for me to be cautious given my mother’s somewhat precarious health.

The journey home was straightforward and, while the trip ended up being a couple of days longer than anticipated, I was very happy to have spent the few days after Christmas in Seattle.

Phoenix

Angela and I have made a tradition of attending the Fiesta Bowl, buying tickets early in the season in advance of the teams participating being announced. Unfortunately, Angela and I were not able to attend together this year because of Fitz’s recovery so I invited my brother to attend along with my friend and his wife.

Again, I tried to keep things as simple as possible and minimize my out of pocket costs after buying the tickets to the game. I booked the tickets first (and the matchup we eventually saw was Notre Dame versus Oklahoma State):

  • 265.00USD per person + 8.00USD per person in fees

    • Section 442-L, Row B, Seats 9-12

The air itineraries were simple:

  • Nicholas

    • 15,000 British Airways Avios + 5.60USD per person
      • LAS-PHX on AA J
    • 15,000 British Airways Avios + 5.60USD per person
      • PHX-LAS on AA J
  • James

    • 20,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan + 5.60USD per person
      • SEA-PHX on AS Y
    • 623.40USD per person (Fairwinds travel credit)

      • PHX-SEA on DL J

Finally came lodging:

Unfortunately, James’s original itinerary was cancelled about 24 hours in advance of his travel and I had to jump in and rebook him on another flight. It all worked out in the end and he arrived on New Year’s Eve in time to chat for a couple of hours and attend the game the next day.

My flight to Phoenix was uneventful and short, the best kind of flight. Once I arrived at PHX, I took an Uber to the property which was nice and, more importantly, very close to State Farm Stadium. Paul and his wife, Alyssa, arrived a few hours later and we grabbed some grub from Opa Life Greek Cafe that we took back to the hotel to eat.

After eating and chatting for a few hours, I retired to my room to await James’s arrival. Once he made it to the property, I provided him with his room key and we sat around and talked for a bit before we both hit the hay.

Breakfast the next day was standard buffet fare. Unfortunately, the property was woefully understaffed given the occupancy rate for the night. We didn’t let that bother us, though, as Paul and I gave James a crash course on the economics of churning.

After breakfast, it was off to the stadium where we witnessed an absolutely thrilling game. What initially looked like a Notre Dame walkover ended as an Oklahoma State victory after they caught fire in the second half.

After the game, James and I said goodbye to Paul and Alyssa and headed to the airport for our flights. Both journeys were unventful and I soon found myself back at home with my family.

Overall, my December was an absolute whirlwind. A few years ago, there’s no way I would have contemplated taking three 1-2 day trips that required flights in the course of two weeks, but after the travel deprivation because of the pandemic, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I got to meet my friends in person for the first time and see my family twice – what a success!

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