You Know You’re Flying Too Much When…

I typically travel well over 400,000 miles per year, which to most people probably seems like a lot. I suppose it’s all relative, because to me that’s normal, so flying at a pace of ~35,000-45,000 miles per month isn’t especially exhausting to me.

However, the past 12 days have been insane, even by my crazy standards:

Too-Much-Flying

That’s roughly 45,000 miles of flying over 12 days. The first two trips were strictly to review new products (I would have liked to spend more time on the ground, but couldn’t make it work timewise), while the trip to Colombia is an actual “vacation,” to sightsee on the ground there.

But my gosh am I tired! Perhaps the ultimate example of my exhaustion and just how over the top travel the past 12 days has been can be summed up by my experience with Canadian immigration yesterday.

As I handed the agent my customs form, he said “where are you coming from?”

And I totally blanked. It wasn’t just a split second of confusion and I blurted it out, but rather I actually couldn’t figure out where I was coming from. Was I just in Changsha? Bangkok? Muscat? Frankfurt? Paris? After standing there silent for about five seconds I recalled that I just got off an Air France flight, and said “Paris.”

Air-France-Business-Class

Understandably that was probably quite suspicious, and I got selected for additional screening, which is the first time in forever that has happened to me. The experience was painless and only took a couple of minutes (and overall was still more pleasant than a lot of the other experiences I’ve had with Canadian immigration).

Bottom line

I’m excited to be spending a week on the ground away from planes. I love flying and have absolutely loved the new airlines and products I’ve been able to review. But you can also bet I’ll be hibernating for a couple of weeks. I sleep very little when constantly changing timezones, which is probably the aspect of flying which takes the greatest toll on me.

I guess the moral of the story here is to always remember what flight you got off when approaching immigration.

What’s your limit for flying — how much is too much?

Comments

  1. Over 3 weeks starting mid-January I had 15 flights, was in 15 separate airports across Australia & New Zealand (Some more than once). The longest legs were LAX-SYD and SYD-SFO. I got home almost 2 weeks ago and I still haven’t fully recovered, thanks in part to the exhaustion exposing me to getting sick easier.

    That was too much for me. Maybe if I did that as regularly as you do, it wouldn’t have phased me. I’m too old for this now 🙂

  2. Ford, let me introduce you to Ben. 😉

    Welcome home! Thanks for all the great stories of your recent travels.

  3. Australian immigration gave me a hard time when they saw I was only there for 6.5 days back in January, coming from Miami. They couldn’t believe I’d come all that way for such a short trip (seeing a passport stamp from Nicaragua didn’t help either). After about 10 minutes of questioning, she finally let me go.

  4. Wow. FCQ and and I came back on Monday from 29,000 miles in 10 days, and I am just now feeling half-way normal again. Off on a flight tonight! 🙂

  5. Should have just have said “pardon” or “sorry” in German to stall, then in English, “Ah, where from? I came from Paris.”

  6. I understand

    Over an 18 day period in January, I flew LAX-SYD 2nts SYD-NRT 1nt NRT-DFW 2nts DFW-LHR 5nts LHR-DXB 3nts DXB-BKK 4nts. By the time I got to Dallas I was in wonderland. In the UK I was leaving my body, and by Bangkok I was just out of it completely…and that was just the half way point.

    I’ve now learned just to stay awake for Asia to US flight, I’ll go into flat mode without having the bed made for a 2 hour nap, but thats it…then sleep that evening upon arrival. Helps with the jet lag.

    @Andrew – I had the same thing when I arrived in Sydney. I just said 3 days…they couldn’t believe we were only coming there for such little time. After they asked what I did for a living, we chatted about films and actors for 5 mins and then I had enough and was off.

    @Simon – Yes, perfect!!

  7. You’ve got to do this when you’re young, because as you get older, your body won’t bounce back so quickly (plus, there’s always the health risks of flying which become more apparent as you get older – things like DVT)

  8. I enjoy your blog, but had not stopped to consider the environmental impact until you mentioned flying 400k miles per year, most of it in First or Business Class.

    Based on some rough calculations, flying from NY to SF emits ~2.2 tons of CO2 in Economy, which increases to ~5.5 tons of CO2 in First/Business Class (due to occupying more space on the plane). Extrapolate those numbers to 400,000 miles, and you’re single-handedly responsible for approx. 293 tons of CO2 emissions annually from air travel. That’s roughly the equivalent of driving 27 Hummer H2s for 15,000 miles every year (not to mention the fact that you still use ground transportation in addition to flying – all those First Class limo transfers). However, air travel carbon emissions are actually much, much worse than driving around in 27 Hummers, as the pollutants are deposited directly into the upper atmosphere at 30,000+ feet.

    Per capita in the US, the average person is responsible for 16 tons of carbon emissions (through all sources, including cars, planes, and meat products), which makes your air travel alone account for about 18 very wasteful Americans (again, ignoring your own ground transport, meat eating, and other activities). I’d say that likely puts you in the very top few percentiles of consumer carbon emitters (although certainly behind those who fly around in private planes all the time, such as the climate-change denier Donald J.).

    I’ve particularly enjoyed your thought pieces relating to whether or not to fly on an airline like Qatar, where the government is not so secretly anti-gay (and pro-human suffering in the construction of WC stadiums with slave labor). It’s obvious you are conflicted on the issue. Would you please consider an article in a similar manner addressing your own “outlier” level carbon emissions? Have you considered any activities, such as not eating meat or donating any of the quite substantial income stream derived from your blog to a carbon offset charity? For example, it looks like around $3k would offset around 288 carbon tons.

    Resources:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/sep/09/carbon-emissions-planes-shipping
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/sunday-review/the-biggest-carbon-sin-air-travel.html?_r=0
    https://www.carbonfund.org/individuals

    Much appreciated.

  9. Hi Ben,

    Why don’t you have NEXUS, given you have Global Entry? While the fee is not covered by credit cards, it is cheaper than GE and it makes Canadian Immigration go so much faster without any conversations.

  10. That is around 40,000 miles! Its totally crazy to clock in around 3300 miles per day! I know its your job, but do get some rest and freshen up Ben. We can’t afford to lose out on your reviews! Have a great time in Colombia.

    Btw just curious to know, have you ever considered vlogging? Maybe a YouTube channel? Either ways its fine, but if no.. why?!

    Take care. 🙂

  11. Really, Mad Scientist
    The planes would have taken off without him. The fuel differential is inconsequential.
    Would be better if Ben donated to a homeless shelter than the carbon offset ripoffs.
    And I get 42mpg in my car to save fuel, not for carbon reasons.

  12. I am already over 65K EQM on AA this year, 33 segments, in a month and a half. All domestic except two trips to LHR. Needless to say I am front loading before mid year RDM changes.

  13. Eh- who cares. You didn’t even spend Valentine’s Day with your boyfriend. At some point you’ll realize what’s really important in life, and it’s not flying to China for two days.
    Hopefully you stay healthy.

  14. @Mad Scientist – carbon offsets? Really? Maybe you are not aware, but when you buy carbon offsets, you do not actually decrease CO2 by planting trees for example. Instead, you are paying large polluters, via an intermediary, for an “offset” that only virtually exists because of an obscure accounting exercise. You are not helping an environment by buying a carbon offset. Also, as others noted, the plane would fly regardless, so Lucky’s contribution to fuel use increase is immaterial.

  15. Well, I’m almost getting “there” 🙂

    Right now I’m at the new Admirals Club in São Paulo (GRU) and for the next 10 days, this is what my route will look like:

    SJP-GRU-JFK-DXB-SIN-BOM-AUH-JFK-YVR-JFK-LAX-GRU | CGH-SJP

    It’s roughly 40.000 miles 😛

    I will cover:

    TAM
    American Airlines
    Emirates
    Singapore
    Etihad
    Cathay Pacific

  16. @Mad Scientist excellent point. I’d love to see a Lucky think piece on this one.

    Anyone buying offsets should be careful, some are gree than other. I would recommend gold standard certified offsets and even then look at the projects they are funding.

    @Michael Simons

    Although the ‘planes would have taken off without’ lucky, Lucky, personally and through his blog increases the aggregate demand for air travel, in fact he probably has a disproportionate affect give the popularity of this blog. I’m sure we all enjoy flying and enjoy lucky’s flying but we all must take responsibility for the immense risk we pose to the climate and to the sustainability of life on earth.

    Anyway @Lucky over to you.

  17. Get yourself a Mast shoe franchise and a sample case and sell a few pair everywhere you go. A gifted accountant could turn it into the mother lode.

  18. What throws immigration officers even more is when you can’t remember where you live.

    Back in the 1980’s I was living in three different countries and had two different passports. I would sometimes get confused between the nation of the passport I was using, the nation I was living in at the time and where I was flying to or from.

    I got pulled over a few times on that.

  19. I did a same-day turn in Aguadilla on a mileage run recently. Same crew in and out, at 3 AM. But the airport was bustling. I stopped at the duty free shop to buy some gin, which is roughly 50% cheaper there than in Seattle.

    When the crew saw me getting back on board, they mentioned something about such a short stay. I held up the bottle and said “grocery shopping.”

  20. I’d be worried if a) you didn’t like the film Up In The Air and b) you don’t wear compression socks when you fly. Other than that, how can one ever have too many miles, or not want to maintain top tier status? Keep going for, er, platinum!

  21. Most arrival forms/cards require you to fill in where you boarded the flight, and usually the flight number. Are things more relaxed in Canada?

  22. So Scottrick gets my Best Post of the Day prize on account of the actual writing expertise evident in the comment. It’s not everyday you see that kind of professional flourish in a mere blog comment. Really, just about never.

  23. It’s funny when stupid liberals chastise other stupid liberals for stupid liberal ideas they don’t like.

    Tons of CO2… give me a break.

    And for the record, i’m not a stupid conservative.

    I’m a libertarian.

  24. This blog bores me these days. I fly weekly (CONUS) for business and vacation several times per year (most recently Tokyo for 10 days). It seems as if I can relate to a maximum of about 20% of the content of the blog these days. I used to glean some valuable information, but these days it seems as if the topics covered are well beyond my means or I can find the info myself easily with a simple search. I can’t travel business class every time I fly, nor can I frequent first class lounges at airports, first class suites international? …yeah right). I am a working father of four who used to leverage info found in this blog to help maximize my travel experiences. I’m sure you have an audience, but I am no longer in the demo for your content. Good luck to you…unsubscribe.

  25. @scott, if you are a working father who travels for work every week and you can’t leverage info on this blog, you must have poor reading comprehension skills.

  26. I really tested my limits with this in the space of two weeks:

    LHR – JFK – LAX – NRT – CTS – HND – LHR – SIN – PVG – SIN – FRA – LHR

    Thankfully the long hauls (including the transcon) were all either in F or SQ J. I stuck to my melatonin, drank plenty of water and jumped straight into my regular routine after returning home.

    The worst I’ve ever had was probably :
    LHR – HND – HKG – CGK – SRG – DPS – CGK – NRT/HND – HKG – LHR – HEL – LHR

    That took place over 3 weeks, again all in F and J (thankfully). The real turning point for me was arriving back into London after the switch to daylight savings time. Then just as I felt I’d adjusted, I headed to Helsinki, 2 time zones back towards Asia and so far North that it started getting dark at 4pm, their time. As soon as darkness fell, I felt like I was on the swaying deck of an ocean galleon.

    I struggled to make it back to the hotel in one piece. It genuinely felt as though the whole earth was rocking back and forth. The feeling subsided after a power nap but man, things got very weird for a while…

  27. I think I probably fly more or about the same as Ben and many of you posted here. To me, flying in first and business class on some of the best airlines is nothing comparing to fly economy covering short distances on multiple flights within the same time periods.

  28. This year is the worst for me – 97k miles through 41 (or 42 depending on political views) countries since Jan 29th following a 28 night expedition to Denali at the start of the year. Totally knackered and looking forward to a month long leisure trip to Argentina…

    Keep up the good work

  29. Funny, this almost exact scenario happened to me in ORD. I flew CEB-ICN-IST-ORD-FLL, with an 18 hour layover in Seoul to see the city, and an 8 hour layover in Istanbul to see the city. By the time I got to ORD immigration I could barely see in front of me. The immigration officer asked me where I was coming from, I was so tired and so exhausted I just paused for a minute, blurted out “uhhhh… that’s a good question.” This obviously caught his attention, but then I explained to him why I flew the way I did, and what I had done, and why I was so tired. He got it, and let me go on my way.

  30. I have no limits. I did 525,000 one year. Yup, that was insane!

    I’ve slowed now and do about 220,000 annually.

    And I’ve been there where I can’t remember from whence I just came.

    Enjoy it Ben!

  31. By the way, does anyone else find they sweat a ton when they do longhaul travel and your body clock is all messed up? The lounge attendant cutting my hair in the EY lounge made a comment and asked if I was alright because I was sweating so profusely. This always seems to happen to me when I’m changing timezones, and I’m awake doing things when I should be asleep.

    Anyone else have this problem?

  32. Talk to me after you’ve stacked 2x GRU-DFW-PEK-DFW-GRU back to back in 10 days. 😀

    48k EQM in 1.5 weeks (not counting the extra 12k miles for positioning from LA).

    This was only slightly less grueling than the 3x back to back MAD-DFW-GRU I did last year. 60k EQM in two weeks. o.O

  33. Canadian immigration gave me a hard time when I was moving to Vancouver from Delhi. I had chosen to be in Hong Kong for a day instead of 7 hours and the thought that was suspicious. I couldn’t tell them why I was there cause I was there to hook up with this girl I found on tinder the other day but they let me go after half an hour lol.

  34. I only do this part-time, but I know exactly what you mean. I sometimes forget where I am too. Due to a family incident, my recent/current itinerary is FRA-DXB-SIN-MEL-SIN-LHR-SNN-(bus)-ORK-BHX-CPH-MUC-SPU-(car)-ZAG-(train)-Bavaria-(car)-BHX-CDG-NRT//HND-SYD-MEL-WLG-(car)-AKL-MEL-HKG-ICN-CDG-AMS-BHX, then by car home to Bavaria.
    Granted, I have taken more time over this, but with the exception of two short J sectors MEL-WLG & HKG-ICN, it’s all in economy.
    I am now in MEL (I think!). When I flew to WLG, I sat in the Qantas Club at some unearthly hour of the morning, staring at the list of flights on the screen thinking “Where the **** am I going today?” I can’t imagine what confusion you have, Lucky!
    BTW I copped a grilling at YYZ too last year. They just couldn’t get why a German resident with an Australian passport had flown from MAN via KEF to YYZ for 3 days in the middle of winter, carrying 14 different currencies, only to turn around back to LHR! (FI error fare).

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