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Trip Report: 103rd Street to 72nd Street (Free Stopover at Bowling Green!)

All of my readers know how crazy I am, exploiting loopholes in airlines award rules, flying via out-of-the-way places and optimizing stopovers to the most out of my award tickets. So when I had to make a trip this weekend from 103rd Street to 72nd Street, I wanted to make the most of the opportunities provided by the MTA’s generous subway stopover rules.

Sure, I could’ve just hopped on a nonstop train from 103rd Street and gotten off at 72nd Street, and turned around an hour or so later and taken the 1 Train back uptown, but that’s not why you read this blog. There are few subway lines I hadn’t tried yet (I’ve knocked off the 1,2,3,4,6,7,a,b,c,d,e,g,j,l,n,q,r,s (42nd Street), and W trains) but I thought this would be a great opportunity to try the service on the 5 Train.

So I turned to my readers and asked them where they wanted me to stop – Allerton Avenue? Bronx Park East? Freeman Street? Newkirk Avenue? But after sifting though the 172 Comments in that post of people dying to see what kind of soda they serve on the 5 Train, I decided I’d head to Bowling Green Station.

I got on the phone with the MTA and the first agent I called thought that Bowling Green was in Kentucky, so I hung up and tried again. The next agent thought I was referring to Bowling Green University near Toledo. I hung up. The third told me that Saudi Arabian Airlines wasn’t part of the MTA. Finally, the 4th agent asked me why I was calling because you can’t reserve a seat on the subway.

I headed down to the 103rd Street station to purchase my ticket. The $2.25 ticket allows for one transfer (to bus) and one stopover (if you head back on the bus) or unlimited transfers within the subway system. Those unlimited transfers will come in handy when I change trains at 42nd Street, spend some time in the first class lounge there, then take the Shuttle across to Grand Central and, after getting a massage in the lounge there, head downtown on the 5 Train.

I paid for the $2.25 ticket with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card because it looks cool. Also because it earns double miles for travel purchases, so I was 2 miles closer to getting to the Maldives, which I can do whenever I want because I have no children and my job gives me 13 weeks vacation. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, you may remember, was on my Top 10 List of Credit Cards in September 2012, October 2012, November 2012, December 2012, January 2013, February 2013, April 2013, May 2013, May Special Memorial Day Weekend Top Credit Cards for Your BBQ, June 2013, July 2013, August 2013, 10 Best Credit Cards for Back to School, September 2013, Top 10 Credit Cards for Simchas Torah, and, I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s probably on my October 2013 list. You’ll have to wait to find out.

Security line was short

Security line was short

Because I have status on the subway I breezed through the security line and I arrived at the station earlier than I needed to. Luckily because I have the American Express Business Platinum card I had access to the beautiful lounge at the station.

Business Class Lounge

Business Class Lounge

There were plenty of seats available, so I sat down to get some work done.

Soon enough, though, the train arrived. I was really disappointed when the conductor did not address me by name. Back in the 70s every passenger was addressed by name (formally! Good morning, Mr. Blank…) when they got on the train. Nothing like it is today!

Because I have status with the subway, I’m guaranteed an open seat next to me. Unfortunately this particular subway car had the old version of the seats and there was no way to really get comfortable. I settled in watching a movie and waiting for meal service.

Elites get an empty seat

Elites get an empty seat

Meal service came quickly and by the time we arrived one station later, they had passed out bananas to everyone on the train – I know that people complain about the bananas they give out on the subway, but this banana was as good as any banana I had ever had in any restaurant anywhere in the world ever in all my years going to restaurants around the world on miles.

Yes, that is a banana in my pocket.

Yes, that is a banana in my pocket.

We arrived at 42nd Street 17 minutes early, so I had plenty of time to take advantage of the stairs they provide to walk over to the Shuttle to Grand Central Station. If you’re going to spend $2.25 on a ticket using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get double miles so you can get a first class trip with your wife for free, you should always take advantage of as many stopovers as possible.

My wife's feet on vacation - Look how happy we are!

My wife’s feet in the Maldives – Look how happy we are!

The Shuttle service was quick and efficient and no food was passed out, but they did have Krug available for anyone who wanted it. Sorry – not Krug champagne, they had picture of Torey Krug the hockey player for the Boston Bruins.

I disembarked first from the Shuttle because I had first-car access as an elite, and I waited for the Porsche to drive me over to the platform for the 5 Train. Something must have happened to the car, because after 45 minutes I realized it was not coming and I walked over to the 5 Train platform myself. I had mis-connected at that point, but since trains come every 4 minutes I hopped aboard and arrived down at Bowling Green a bit jet-lagged, but otherwise fine.

I didn’t bother seeing anything in Lower Manhattan, so I just used my free subway-to-bus transfer and hopped on the M5 and 97 minutes later, arrived at my destination at 72nd and Broadway.

Tomorrow I have to go from 103rd Street down to 28th Street – What trains would my readers like me to take?

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  1. Food Wine and Miles


  2. This is great.

  3. I was at that lounge a couple weeks ago!

  4. hilarious :grin:

  5. This is great work.

  6. The MTA is getting very crowded these days. You bloggers are ruining things for everyone.

  7. You’ve once again earned a spot on my “top 10” list. Reading other bloggers, you’d assume no one else in this hobby has a sense of humor.

  8. Don’t forget the most important rule of booking an award – search segment by segment.

    It’s easy to get positioning trains within each borough, so first you should try to find availability for the over-water (or under-water) segment

    • Good point! On a one-day pass you can go over the Manhattan Bridge to go to Brooklyn and return via the L Train tunnel. Or go to brooklyn over the Manhattan bridge, walk all the way around the world, then take the PATH from Hoboken back to Manhattan.

      • If you can get short direct segments, make sure to use Avios. They only charge 100 Avios for segments between 0-25 miles. And as long as you avoid the Broadway or 7th Avenue lines, there shouldn’t be any fuel surcharges

        • Thanks! Do you have any links to the British Airways credit card?

          • Absolutely

            You wouldn’t happen to know if there are any other credit cards out there that allow you to transfer to Avios 1:1 (or even… gasp…. 1:1.25) by any chance? If so, can you link to all of them?

  9. Great work Jared! I can’t wait to see the worthless photos from your next hotel stay too.

  10. really Jared? you didn’t take a transfer on the A at times square so you can go to the Far Rockaways? all the hippest hipsters are trying that refreshed hard product. come on already.

  11. What, no pics of the homeless guy’s hot nuts? :grin:

    This was brilliant.

  12. *Golf clap*

    Well played sir.

  13. Brilliant work. Although I somehow feel I should be offended by such frivilous and irreverant treatment of such sacred subjects. But rest assured, i know you were not mocking that nirvana of all places sacred and worshipped: “The Maldives” (uttered in a hushed and reverent manner) For if I thought you were mocking that place whose name we shall only utter sparingly, I would immediately report you to the Holy Fathers of Miles Blogs and have you excommunicated quicker than you can say “I pity the little people who actually consent to enduring angled flat business seats.”
    Just be careful. You’re treading a fine line here. (But you’re doing it brilliantly)
    A little advice? More haiku’s!

  14. What! No mention of the non-affiliate Wage Works pre-tax transportation card in favor of the affiliate Chase Sapphire Preferred card! So typical :).

  15. Solid work. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone comes out with a how to do this routing with a family of 4 though…

  16. Andy Shuman @ Lazy Travelers

    I expected so much more from this research. I was waiting for you to rip MTA a new one for ignoring and neglecting strongly emerging markets of Staten Island. Instead, you’ve chosen to glorify them by embarking on the same beaten path of easy around-the-island award travel. It appears, MTA has finally gotten to you with their cheap fares, free bananas, and fabulous lounges. Sad!

  17. bravo! even your comments are just as funny.

  18. Thank you for this.

    You forgot a few things: hyperlinks to every reference of the Sapphire as well as “key links” at the top and bottom of the page. You also forgot pictures of the rubber ducks from the lounge.

  19. Too funny! Simchas Torah indeed.

    I have a question: Is the MTA in any alliance? Or perhaps it has reciprocal arrangements with other transit systems? Because I have a tram card with 12 Turkish liras left on it from my last visit to Istanbul. Can I use it in NYC?

    And do they still give out swag like the four color subway maps I used to use to cover my textbooks back in the 60s? Now that was when subway travel was really something….

  20. Where are the affiliate links?

    I think I need a new MTA “credit card” (well, at least a prepaid AirTrain 10-ride ticket). You should be able to make a buck off me.

  21. Jared, any relation to Mitch and Adolph?
    I shared this on my FB page. Flyertalkers are all over this. It’s LOL funny.


  22. come on. dansdeals is a good site. and he does have kids!

  23. Thank you. I was literally laughing out loud through most of that. Brilliant. :) :) :) :) :)

  24. Love your wife’s feet! The correct caption would be “My wife wore sandals,” though.

  25. That was soooooo funny and clever. I loved it. Thanks. You are so spot on.

  26. Best.Trip.Report.Ever.

  27. Can you write some trip reports from other carriers in exotic places – like boston?

  28. Do you know if there’s any potential for free one-ways if I redeem an award on this route? I think if I keep stops under 24 minutes I can hit 4 stations, go home for an hour and a half then use my bus transfer for a second trip! As long as my stopover is at an MTA hub of course.

  29. This is brilliant.

    For an encore, you should take the kids on the Staten Island Ferry. Make sure you have a bribe for passport control in scenic St. George. A carton of cigarettes usually speeds your way.

  30. This is one of the best and most fascinating trip reports I’ve read in a while!

  31. October Favorites—OTR made me laugh, the Queen and TS made me cry - Travelthusiast - pingback on October 31, 2013 at 3:06 pm

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  • October Favorites—OTR made me laugh, the Queen and TS made me cry - Travelthusiast - Pingback on 2013/10/31/ 15:06