Oct 192019
 


So, a bit of background is necessary to understand this trip. No, I’m not talking about the fact that I have a few screws loose when it comes to traveling; that part is a given.

I’m talking more about Lufthansa’s gimmick of the “first class duck.” I’m not quite sure where this tradition started, but as I understand it Lufthansa many years ago started offering souvenir ducks to passengers taking a bath in their first class lounges and first class terminals.

Then, one day, someone had the novel idea to make a “special” thematic duck for spring, or summer, or some such reason. This caught on, and more and more Lufthansa started to offer other special ducks.

By this point, people had started to collect them, and they were no longer just for people taking baths. People came up with all kinds of reasons to stop by a get one. Seriously. One of the first phrases I ever learned in German was “Kann ich zwei Enten für meine Kinder haben?”

Yeah, there was a bit of embarrassment and shame and made up children involved in getting the ducks. I know I’m not the only one. (In all fairness, I’m much less shameful now and just ask for one….unless it’s a special one…and then the made-up children may come on board to justify needing two.)

Right, so over the years, I may have amassed quite a few of them. I know this is less than half of the ones that are out there, but thankfully my “problem” isn’t so bad that I’ve taken to eBay or such, but I may have engaged in a few trades. So, yes, my problem:

Yup. We have “Euro Duck” and then there’s “Dirndl Duck” and don’t forget “Corporate Wanker in the First Class Lounge with his Bluetooth Headset Duck.” Ok, maybe it’s not called that, but you get the drift.

So, you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with anything?

See, a week or so before my birthday (yes, if you’re keeping track this is about a week after being home from so much back to back travel this summer and looking forward to a solid month at home) I learned there was a special duck out there…one you could only get on your birthday…the elusive “Birthday Duck.

Of course, this led to planning out trips…maybe even going to Frankfurt just for a few hours as an excuse to get it. But see, unfortunately, my birthday was on a Thursday this year, and that makes things a bit difficult for work. It also turned out I had a big “can’t miss” meeting I had wisely scheduled on my birthday at 9am in DC, (3pm in Germany – pay attention – this is important) so given flights arrive from the US in the morning it meant it just wouldn’t work out this year. There would be no Lufthansa love for me.

Fast forward to Wednesday, the day before my birthday. I woke up with an inspiration: what if I could find a way to fly to fly to Frankfurt today, spend the day in the lounge, and fly out after 5pm? Surely there would be a way to chair my meeting from the lounge, right?

All I needed was a flight after 5pm. The meeting would last 90 minutes putting me done at 4:30pm German time, and Lufthansa generally drives you from the First Class Terminal to the plane around 30 minutes before departure, so I just needed to find a flight from Frankfurt that left after 5pm – there has to be something back to North America, right? (Oh, and I should probably check to make sure DC to Frankfurt isn’t sold out in First tonight, right? Though I suppose I could fly business into Frankfurt if needed.

After spending my entire commute into the office searching, there was nothing. I was crushed.

But wait, why turn right back around and go home? Johannesburg leaves from Frankfurt around 10pm, that would work! Ugh, completely sold out…search, search, search. Whoah, Shanghai! Leaves Germany at 5:10pm which would be perfect. Without a second thought I pulled the trigger. Sent a note I would be taking a half day and working remotely on Thursday, and two hours after getting to the office headed back home to throw things in a bag.

Ok, great, no time to plan…gotta get to airport. Packing is both harder and easier when you don’t how how long you’ll be gone. I would leave DC on Wednesday (birthday eve) and arrive in Shanghai on Friday night, so I figured I should be home on Sunday hopefully? Ok, that’s enough to plan to pack for roughly four days away.

Off to Dulles mid-afternoon (remember, this whole plan was only hatched about five hours prior) and all the way I was searching for ways to get home. Try as I might, I wasn’t finding anything interesting. If I was going to be in China, I figured I should go all out and make it a true round-the-world and come back over the Pacific, right?

After a couple hours of searching, I found it: Tokyo Haneda to Los Angeles on ANA All Nippon Airlines in first class! Score!

Now….there was the matter of getting from Shanghai to Tokyo, but I wasn’t worried about that. There are plenty of flights and not too expensive, so that was the least important piece.

A bit more searching, and I found an Air Canada 777 with proper business class from LA to Toronto (because why fly LA to DC direct when you can connect in Toronto and get a proper product?) and with a little more searching I found a perfectly-timed Shanghai to Tokyo Haneda flight with Japan Airlines.

Now, all I needed was a ticket from Toronto to DC. That would be easy…all sorted and purchased right as I was arriving at Dulles.

Amazing what I’d pulled off in under eight hours of planning, and just in time to relax and enjoy the experience a bit. The final route would be DC – Frankfurt (9 hours) – Shanghai (30 hours) – Tokyo (3.5 hours) – LA (4.5 hours) – Toronto (2 hours) – DC.

Whew. I’m tired just typing that. I couldn’t imagine how tired I’d be in 86 hours when it was all over. Oh well, I can sleep when I’m dead. Time to enjoy the adventure!!!

All this, just for a duck….

Aug 252019
 


So, yeah, I’ve been sort of missing in action for a couple of months. Rest assured, I haven’t fallen off a cliff, been eaten by a pack of wild weasels, or left to become a Hare Krishna. No, like usual, it’s the simplest explanation that’s to blame for my complete absence: travel.

…and not just a little travel either. In just under 10 weeks I’ve:

Gone to Australia on vacation. But of course, I can’t do that the easy way….I went via London / Paris / Tunis / Dubai / Singapore. Because…why not…and half the fun is the voyage! The way back got messed up by the strike at EVA Air, so I ended up having to take United home…not exactly the most exciting way to end an AvGeek trip….but I’m going to get started on posting this trip asap!

I was only back from vacation for three days, and had to head off to Switzerland for what is possibly the longest work trip I’ve ever done: 24 days. At least I was mostly able to take the weekends off and see a bit of Switzerland, so I’ll write that one up next!

Back from Switzerland for…all of three days again, and then it was off to South Africa for work. I probably just should have gone straight from Switzerland, but a combo of cost and time made me want to come home…even if it was for just three days!

Then, back from South Africa (because the change fee was exorbitant) for all of 24 hours, before flying off to India for work. Yeah, insane…and I was completely trashed by the end of it. But now I’m home – in theory for over three weeks – and I plan to do some catching up! But, to put it in perspective:

Just under 78,000 miles in 10 weeks. The mileage itself isn’t crazy by many standards, but all the back and forth definitely did a number on me! So, here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks:

  • DC to NYC with Amtrak Acela First Class
  • JFK to LGW with Norwegian Premier, op by Evelop!
  • London to Paris on Eurostar Business Premier
  • Paris to Tunis with TunisAir A330 op by GetJet
  • Tunis to Dubai in Emirates First Class
  • Dubai to Singapore in Emirates A380 First Class
  • Singapore to Sydney in Qantas First Class
  • Sydney to Perth in Qantas Business Class
  • Perth to Melbourne in Qantas Business Class
  • Melbourne to Sydney in Qantas Business Class
  • Three nights in Sydney
  • Sydney to Bangkok in Thai First Class
  • Bangkok to Singapore with Cathay Pacific on the A350-1000
  • Singapore to Hong Kong on the Singapore A380
  • Hong Kong to DCA via Newark with United
  • DCA to Zurich with Air Canada
  • Switzerland Part 1
  • Switzerland Part 2
  • Switzerland Part 3
  • Zurich to IAD on United
  • IAD to Johannesburg with United/SWISS…including a surprise!
  • South Africa
  • Johannesburg to IAD with Lufthansa…including some first class love
  • IAD to Delhi with United/Lufthansa…and the Munich First Lounge
  • India
  • Delhi to IAD via Frankfurt with Lufthansa

Wow…apparently I’ve got a bit of work on my hands! As long as I crank out one entry a day I should be able to get this done before my next trip. With that….I’ll wrap this one up…and start writing!!

May 082018
 


If that title didn’t grab the attention of my long-time readers, I don’t know what will! Don’t worry, I certainly haven’t done it yet…but I’m definitely considering it!

So, the background. I just returned from three weeks in Southern Africa (I promise I’ll get updates going soon), and of course, as always, that leads me to feeling like I need something on the books. Sure, I’m off to Easter Island in eight weeks, but that feels so far away. I certainly need something in the meantime.

Given I have at least a four day weekend over Memorial Day, and possibly as much as nine days, I figure I have the time for something not too complex, and certainly not something that would require visas or something. I toyed with a trip through the Canadian north, but after seeing some of the airfares in Nunavut I backed off. Yes, I know you can get them with Aeroplan miles with a bit of planning, but since this trip would be only three weeks away I need it to come together in a hurry.

That got me thinking: back in January I was wondering if I had become too soft to fly coach. Nah, I figured I could definitely do it under the right circumstances. Some of the keys I came up with are:

  • Ability to pre-assign seats, preferably exit rows or extra legroom seats…even if it means paying for it
  • Daytime flights so as not to have to sleep on the plane
  • Westbound flights preferred, as it maximizes daytime on longer flights, so you arrive tired and ready for proper hotel sleep

Really, that’s about it. Wait, sleep? Why am I so worried about sleep? Well, maybe it’s because I decided to REALLY prove that I could do it and that I haven’t gone soft…I should plow through a round-the-world ticket…in economy! Yup, I’m going to do it.

Rough plan put together, and right now, this is what it looks like:

map

Some of this route was dictated by low fares (yup, I’m not just doing economy, going to try and do low-cost carriers where I can) and some more of it by the chance to fly new airlines that might be “exotic” for me. What I would love your feedback on is if you’ve flown any of these routes/airlines, what are your tips to make it tolerable? I’m going to book this in the next day or two, so looking forward to hearing it!

Baltimore to Oakland on Spirit: I debated if buying the “big” seat counts as coach, but since they sell it as airfare + extra fee for legroom I decided it’s ok. Plus, gotta ease into things.

Oakland to Kona on Alaska: how bad can it be? I’ll make sure to get an aisle seat, and it’s only five hours to paradise. I need some sort of status so I can get an exit row…. Suggestions? I don’t think they let you pay outright for them, do they?

Kona to Honolulu on Hawaiian: it’s less than an hour – I can tolerate anything for that long

Honolulu to Osaka on Scoot: Seriously. There’s an airline called Scoot. For only 9 hours, and an extra $40 or so you can get an “infinite legroom” 787 exit row aisle seat. That and a full iPad should make this one pretty easy.

Osaka to Hong Kong on Peach: I admit, I’m really only doing this because the airline is named Peach. It’s only about three hours, and I assume since they’re a low cost airline they’ll let me buy an exit row seat.

Hong Kong to Bangkok on Thai Air Asia: Again, I know they sell the exit row, so I can manage this. It’s only just over two hours anyways, and most people in Asia are normal sized, so it won’t be too uncomfortable.

Bangkok to Almaty to Moscow on Air Astana: broken up with an overnight in Almaty this shouldn’t be too terrible. I don’t know how to go about getting an exit row though…I’m also considering other options from Bangkok to Oslo. I’m not wedded to Moscow and Almaty…might be fun to do something really weird like Kuwait and Georgia….open to routings….

Moscow to Oslo on Aeroflot: short flight, no worries…this I’m also not completely wedded to. I just wanted to get to Oslo for:

Oslo to Reykjavik on Norwegian: they sell the exit row, I’ll be fine…plus, it’s barely a two hour flight

Reykjavik to Baltimore on WOW: again, I could always buy the “super WOW” seats in the front row, but they actually charge like $250 extra for them…that feels like upgrading as opposed to Spirit where it’s like $49. I might have to “deal” with an exit row aisle, which should be easy for the six hour home stretch.

So what do you think? Especially Bangkok back to DC. I’m very open to routings, just need to keep it to three overnights on the way home between Bangkok and DC.

Dec 142017
 


Bonus points if you get the reference in the post title…

So, it all started innocently enough. I wanted to fly the newish Delta A350, and an opportunity arose that made sense to take a long weekend and go to Seoul.

Then, due to an early 2018 work trip being moved, a one-way ticket to Europe I’ve been holding for around 10 months already will have to be used just one or two weeks later since I can’t get away in February as planned.

So the problem is, I have a one-way to Seoul, and a one-way to Europe. Unfortunately, these are both trips AWAY from home. I started by looking at two one-way tickets to complete them. Long weekend in Seoul, full week in Europe. but that’s boring. I kept thinking about them as separate trips. That just wasn’t doing it for me.

The first trip was limited on time, since I’ll have six days max to pull it off. The second trip I can span two weekends, so I should be able to get 10-11 days out of it.

Then…I found it…the ticket that pulls it all together. A great Seoul-Europe-Seoul fare that will get me almost all the way home on “Trip One” and then get me from Europe back to Seoul on “Trip Two.” Oh, wait, I still would need to one way tickets to complete this. Plus…not sure where the adventure is.

Without pulling the trigger yet, it’s currently looking like the trip may be:

First Trip would essentially be:

  • DeltaOne A350 to Seoul
  • Two nights in Korea
  • Finnair A350 to Helsinki
  • Overnight in Helsinki
  • Finnair to Berlin
  • ICE first class train Berlin to Frankfurt
  • Overnight in Frankfurt
  • DeltaOne from Frankfurt to DC

Second Trip gets much more complicated since I have longer:

  • Lufthansa First to Frankfurt/Munich
  • ICE first class train to Leipzig for a night
  • Train to Dresden for a night
  • Train to Berlin for two nights
  • Finnair A350 to Seoul
  • Aeroflot to Vladivostok for two nights
  • Aeroflot business class to Petorpavlovsk-Kamchatky for two nights
  • S7 business class to Seoul
  • China Eastern business class to Shanghai for a night
  • DeltaOne from Shanghai to DC

Is it insane? Absolutely! I haven’t had insane New Years trips in several years. I somewhat miss the days when it always meant ticking off a new country:

2003: started small – Czech Republic (17 countries visited)
2004: little more adventurous: Poland and Hungary (26 countries visited – 9 new)
2005: Taipei, Australia, New Zealand via Malaysian Airlines First Class – now we’re talking! (32 countries – 6 new)
2006: Australia again in Malaysian Airlines First Class – plus New Caledonia and Vanuatu (35 countries – 3 new)
2007: Rio, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Iguazu – I’m addicted. (45 countries – 10 new)
2008: Belarus, Baltics (60 countries – 15 new)
2009: Turkey and Jordan (66 countries – 6 new)
2010: Iraq – full on crazy now! (73 countries – 7 new)
2011: UAE, Iran, Afghanistan (82 countries – 9 new)
2012: Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti… (108 countries – 26 new)
2013: Libya…then to Myanmar and Hong Kong on a whim! (131 countries – 23 new)
2014: Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, DR Congo, Angola…yup, crazy! (154 countries – 23 new)
2015: Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar (177 countries – 23 new)
2016: Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone…and no Ebola! (190 countries – 13 new)
2017: Nothing! Every Country Complete and I want a rest.
2018: Back to the Crazy…Maybe!

So, time to jump back on the wagon! Your encouragement welcome!

One great thing about this post – people ask me all the time when I “decided” I would visit every country. It was definitely before 2005 because I remember when the DPRK opened up to Americans for the first time, I knew I “had” to go in case it might be my only chance since I wanted to visit every country. However, 2011 looks to be the year I decided to “go for it – adding 23-26 new countries a year over the next four years.

So, looks like I have over 39,000 miles to fly in the next month. Fasten those seatbelts, this will be a long one!