Travel

Deciding How To Fly From Australia Back To The US…

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Fairly soon I’ll be embarking on my journey in the Etihad Residence, which takes me from Cairo to Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

A bit over a week ago I asked you guys how I should get to Cairo, with the choices between Etihad’s new business class, Turkish business class, and Saudia first class. Based on the feedback you guys provided, I ended up booking Etihad’s 787 Business Studio, since I figured it would make an interesting comparison to Emirates’ A380 business class, which I recently reviewed.

I have separate plans to fly Saudia roundtrip from the US to the Middle East, so stay tuned for that. But for a one-way, this seemed like the most practical option.

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Tips For Going Number Two On A Plane With Grace

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I swear I’m not trying to be crass here, but I feel like this is a topic that needs to be addressed. Collectively the blogosphere shares tips for maximizing all aspects of travel, but perhaps there’s no area where some suggestions are more necessary than airplane bathroom etiquette.

I’m the last person who would typically want to discuss this stuff, but I feel like someone’s gotta do it. Last night I was waiting for the single rear lavatory on a plane, and as soon as the guy opened the door I unintentionally gave him a look of pure horror. It smelled like someone had died after an all you can eat Mexican buffet. While I heard him flush, there was still toilet paper and some “residual” excrements in the toilet bowl when I went to use it. In addition to actual chunks of you-know-what, the entire toilet bowl looked like an A380 skidded off a dirt runway during monsoon season. There’s a lesson to be learned here, so let’s get to it.

I don’t think anyone enjoys going number two on a plane, but if you’re going to, there are some basic ways to minimize the impact it has on other passengers.

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I’m So Dumb: I Accidentally Just “Downgraded” Myself Out Of An Exit Row

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This has to be one of the dumber things I’ve done on a plane. I’m flying from Toronto to New York today on an A320, which is just a short 90 minute flight gate-to-gate. I was booked in an exit row aisle seat, though was a bit scatterbrained this morning, as I often am. I’m not really an Air Canada frequent flyer (this is actually my first time flying them in economy), so when I boarded, I sat down in what I thought was seat 18C, an aisle seat in one of the exit rows.

I quickly opened my laptop as I was in the middle of finishing something prior to boarding, so I wasn’t at all aware of my surroundings. About two minutes later a lady came up to me and said “excuse me, are you in 19C?”

I noticed I wasn’t. “I’m supposed to be in 18C, I’m really sorry, I’m not paying attention.”

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Help Me Decide How To Get To Cairo: Saudia First, Etihad Business, Turkish Business, Or…?

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I’ll be flying the Etihad Residence soon, using a fare that originates in Cairo (there are consistently excellent premium cabin fares for travel originating there). I’m super excited about flying the Residence, but also about my positioning flights for this trip.

On the return I’m hoping to fly Virgin Australia’s new business class from Australia to Los Angeles. They only open up business class award space to partner airlines within a week of departure at most, so I guess I’ll have to lock that in closer to departure, and am hoping to do so with Virgin America Elevate points.

However, now I’m trying to decide how to get to Cairo, which is a bit more challenging. I’ve reviewed a lot of airlines, so there are fewer new options than in the past. 😉

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Two Very Different Ways Of Recognizing Elite Status In Economy

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Upgrades across the board are tougher than they used to be, which is probably because airlines are doing a better job of selling their first class cabins at discounted rates, and are also reducing the size of first class cabins on many planes. So airlines have been putting some effort into making the economy experience a bit better for elite members, in recognition of decreased upgrades.

For example, American offers Executive Platinum members in economy a free snack and drink. It’s a gesture that goes beyond the dollar savings — it’s nice to be recognized for your business and feel appreciated (especially since the loyalty program as such isn’t doing much nowadays to encourage people to feel that way). I’m spending more time in economy lately, and that’s perfectly fine.

At the moment I’m on an American A319 with a power outlet and an empty middle seat (which is exceedingly rare nowadays), so I’m every bit as happy as I’d be in first class.

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How To Find The Perfect Trek To Machu Picchu

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In this post I’ll share my advice and experience from my recent trip to Peru. There are a million and one different tour operators in Cusco, the base of most tourist activities in eastern Peru. They all seem to offer similar packages, but their prices can vary by hundreds, even thousands of dollars. So, how do you find the very best option that will get you to Machu Picchu safely and relatively comfortably, while still going easy on your wallet?

Let me start by saying that this post does not apply to anyone who wants to do the Inka Trail. If you’re interested in the Inka Trail, you usually have to book three or more months in advance and should expect to pay a minimum of $500-700. Average prices often exceed $1000, so it all depends on how much you value the history of that specific trail.

Every trek to Machu Picchu is stunning, so there will be no lack of good views regardless of which trek you choose. Besides the Inka Trail, there are two main trails going from Cusco to Machu Picchu: Salkantay and Lares. These usually range from 3-5 days in length and differ in difficulty. The longest possible trek I saw was 10 days, although 4-5 seems to be standard for Salkantay. Looking online, I was overwhelmed by the plethora of options and prices. Knowing close to nothing about the two treks, I decided to trek Salkantay, purely because it offered a five days/four nights option, while Lares was limited to four days/three nights.

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Traveling To The Faroe Islands

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Last summer I traveled to Longyearbyen, which is the world’s northernmost city. Going into the trip I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, though I had an incredible time. It’s definitely one of my top five destinations of all time.

I love being outdoors. No, I’m not someone who wants to take a weeklong camping trip, but there’s nothing more relaxing to me than being in a physically beautiful, secluded place, enjoying nature for a few days at a time. Longyearbyen (or perhaps Svalbard on the whole) was simply magical, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I also really loved Iceland, and Greenland is on my radar this summer. However, I now have another place in that general region that’s on my radar. It’s a place I was familiar with, but previously never really put much thought into — I’m talking about the Faroe Islands.

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BOOKED: I’m Flying The Etihad Residence To Sydney!

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Arguably the pinnacle of commercial aviation is The Residence, which debuted in December 2014, and is exclusively available on Etihad’s A380s. This is a three room suite at the very front of the upper deck, which has a living room, bedroom, and private bathroom with shower. On top of that, the suite comes with a private butler. On the surface it seems like something that’s unrivaled in commercial aviation.

The catch, of course, is that it’s expensive. Really, really expensive. While you can score a great deal by redeeming miles for the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment (which is located right behind The Residence), there’s no efficient way to redeem miles for The Residence.

When The Residence was first introduced, the pricing was obscene. A one-way ticket between Abu Dhabi and London cost ~$21,000, a one-way ticket between Abu Dhabi and Sydney cost ~$25,000, and a one-way ticket from London to Sydney via Abu Dhabi cost ~$40,000.

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How We Spent Our Time In Bhutan

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My trip reports are typically exclusively focused on hotels and airlines, though I decided to write two installments about our time in Bhutan, given how much I enjoyed visiting the country. I don’t want to do a minute-by-minute recap of what we did, but ratherw share my overall impressions, what I’d do differently next time, etc.

I already wrote about our visit to the Tiger’s Nest in the previous installment, which is how we spent the last day of our trip.

During our trip I also wrote two installments about our time there, so check out those posts if you haven’t read them yet:

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It’s Time I Fly Meridiana Business Class

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For a while I’ve been fascinated by Meridiana, which is the second largest airline based in Italy, after Alitalia. Last year, Qatar Airways even announced that they’d buy a 49% stake in the airline.

They have one of the first & business class products that I’d be most interested in reviewing. Meridiana flies seasonally to New York JFK out of both Naples and Palermo, and historically has even offered more routes from Italy to New York.

One of the things that makes them interesting is that they consistently have excellent business class fares. For example, their normal business class fare between New York and Italy seems to be ~$1,550.

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Hiking To The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan

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When I write trip reports I typically stick exclusively to reviewing flights and hotels, since ultimately that’s the focus of this site. However, I really enjoyed my time in Bhutan, so wanted to write two installments about my time there. This installment is specifically about hiking to the Tiger’s Nest, and then the next installment will be about how we spent the rest of our time in Bhutan.

The Tiger’s Nest (also known as Taktsang Palphug Monastery) is probably the most famous landmark in Bhutan. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the Wikipedia page about it, for some context. It’s about a 20 minute drive outside of Paro, and our guide took us there on our last day.

Most of our “hiking” in Bhutan was pretty simple, which is to say that we drove somewhere, then had 1-2 hours of “hiking,” and then drove somewhere else. However, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Tiger’s Nest. I had heard some people say it’s really tough, while others said it was super easy.

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The Sad State Of American’s Domestic First Class Meals

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The amount of domestic flying I do has been greatly reduced the past year or so. I do a lot more international travel, and a majority of my domestic travel consists of short hops, rather than 2-4 hour flights. I’m able to plan stuff so that I can hop around the country in a fairy logical order, rather than doing several transcons per week.

As a result, I’m not spending as much time in domestic first class as I used to.

A couple of years ago I wrote about how I mostly stopped eating on domestic flights, because the food (at least on American) was both unhealthy and unappetizing. It’s one thing for the food to be unhealthy, but at least make it taste good. Unfortunately American wasn’t doing very well on either front.

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Why My Passport Has Started Confusing Immigration Officers

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I’m fortunate enough to have dual citizenship (I have a US and German passport), which is a great privilege. Not only does it get me access to more visa-free destinations and fast track lines, but it also increases my total passport stamping capacity.

Beyond the actual usefulness of the passports, they’re also sentimental to me. They travel with me everywhere I go, and each stamp in them represents another trip. While I renewed my German passport a bit over a year, my US passport is up for renewal in 2019, so it gets a couple more years with me. I’ll be sad to turn it in, though I guess my new passport will represent a clean slate of travel. But that’s not really the point of this post.

My US passport is a mess. It has more security stickers on the back of it than a toddler with access to a pack of a thousand stickers could pile on. It has extra pages, which are affixed as if they’re done as part of an elementary school arts & crafts project. Of course there are also all kinds of stamps and visas.

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Singapore Airlines 777 Business Class In 10 Pictures

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My United 777-300ER flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong arrived at around 7PM, and then at 11:30PM I had a Singapore Airlines flight from Hong Kong back to San Francisco. I’ve reviewed Singapore Airlines Suites Class, first class, etc., though it has been years since I’ve reviewed their business class product.

I booked this ticket using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles just a couple of days before departure. The ticket cost 82,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way (after the devaluation), which is reasonable, especially when you consider how many transferable points currencies can be converted into KrisFlyer miles.

It was also my first time flying Singapore’s “new” business class product. In reality the seat has the same bones as their old business class product, though the finishes have been nicely updated.

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