My last cup of coffee in the US, Flying during the start of the pandemic

 

It’s a humid early morning in Miami where the birds and sound of traffic are both equally loud and aggressive & that Florida odor of morning dew and polluted water.  I am flying to Toronto today with a stop in Newark during a not so early 9 am departure on delta, it is the start to what should have been the beginning of a streak of lots and lots of amazing trips.

That morning I was sitting in this run down IHOP, happy and excited, eating a big heavy American breakfast that should come with a surgeon’s general warning on the menu about death and heart failure.  My Costa Rica trip booked the night before and meeting new clients the next morning I was motivated to keep focused on work and new things coming. The unpleasant taste of this coffee and the wonderful strong smell of coffee in the air had my senses at odds with each other as my body begged for more of the warm dark delivery system of caffeine.

It was a nice moment and in hindsight, I would have savored it more, enjoyed the stupid things the waitress said to me.

“In life as in history, the unexpected lies waiting, grinning from around corners. Only with hindsight are we wise about cause and effect.” – Penelope Lively

The flight to Newark was completely calm and normal, people crammed into a full MD90 with a smooth and wonderful flight. I was in the lounge in Newark answering emails and sorting through some more travel arrangments when I got a phone call canceling out a trip to Las Vegas due in part to the team being focused on avoiding international travel for everyone as the news was all about the virus issues in new york and all I could do was watch the aircraft outside the window.

When I landed in Toronto I was walking through the airport reading the news the US had just closed the border with Europe, and at this point, I spot my the first person wearing a mask and the sinking feeling of dread had come over me as I later walked up to a customs officer wearing a big white mask. Everything was about to change.

That was my last cup of coffee in the US.

 

 

 

Where to spend Christmas? Inspiration for last minute Christmas ideas.



People generally go home for Christmas, but if you are anything like me you shy away from the confines that are the norms of society. Sometimes a Christmas skype with the family lets you avoid the drama and awkward moments that are the Christmas dinner with that extended family or maybe it is just the weather you are avoiding. Whatever the reason is, here is some inspiration for this Holiday season.

For the purpose of this post, we are looking at realistically budgeted trips out of large North American airports, expecting to spend under $1000 round trip for a ticket. This is a quick guide to get you thinking about places to visit and opportunities out there.

Puerto Rico has cheaper flights out of Toronto and NYC then most of the date ranges for Mexico destinations, in 2010 I was able to book a direct vacation experience with an all-inclusive tour operator for cheaper then a few nights stay in a nice hotel and got an amazing experience in Mexico. Mexican Christmas is unlike anything else you will ever experience; these people know how to hold a Christmas party, just google Christmas in Mexico for the food alone. But I noted that Mexico has increased in price so I suggest you take a good look at Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico boasts having the longest holiday season in the world, from thanksgiving to mid-January the Navidad season is worth every penny. Puerto Rico’s Navidad season not only celebrates the birth of Jesus but it seems like the entire biblical story is apart of Navidad. Christmas Eve or Nochebuena is more like Christmas Day. This is the night where family, friends, and strangers gather for some amazing food, exchange gifts, go out on parrandas (Christmas Carols), or take a walk to enjoy decorations around town. Misa de Gallo, The commemoration of the birth of Jesus; Some churches even reenact the Nativity scene. Take a good look at Airbnb experiences available from locals to immerse you in the culture, so find a local to guide you. I could pull off this trip for $600 round trip airfare and spend another $1000 in expenses. A budget traveler could do this for under $1000 all in.

Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. The colonial architecture gives it a distinctly European feel but you are not quite there with this distinctly Canadian feel that greets you as you walk down Old town streets filled with some amazing bistros, coffee shops and is all merrily decorated for the holidays. If you want snow and to feel like you are in Charles Dickens a Christmas carol this is the place for you. I noticed there are a fair bit of cheap flights available to Quebec City and a quick search shows me a lot of hotel options for around $100 a night still. If you are a budget-savvy person there is a number of hostels in Oldtown and might be a great experience and still, there is some wonderful resort-style hotel property’s also available.

Dublin Ireland, I have never actually been honestly but I had noticed last year a number of people posting a festive Christmas pub-crawl from Dublin and well I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than with an Ireland pub-crawl. Well, you are in luck as it turns out there is this thing called the 12 Pubs of Christmas, This popular celebration in Ireland to mark the end of the year with a good pint involves 12 pubs, a group of friends you met at the hostel maybe, lots to drink, and a set of rules like being forced to sing naughty Christmas songs. Right now flights that bring you back after the new year will set you back about a grand and check out The Generator Hostel that has private rooms also for a budget spend around $90 a night. Honorable mention here to the Christmas market in Bath, England It is worth checking out.

Philadelphia, Can’t go too far but want to spend some time away and huge Christmas Light displays are your thing? Go to Philly. Dilworth Park, Peddler’s Village, Franklin Square, and Fashion District has some amazing light shows. Being there during the holidays a few years ago I was really surprised how much stuff there was to do, like an eggnog tasting event complete with eggnog & booze. $150 spirit airline flight is all it takes really.

Las Vegas, If you want to skip the crowds in Las Vegas go during Christmas and Leave before New Year’s eve. Most of the shows run during Christmas even on Christmas day. Hotels are cheaper and almost no one is there during Christmas at all making this an excellent opportunity to visit Las Vegas.

A few things you must consider, to optimize everything better don’t travel with the pack. Christmas especially, Everyone normally is leaving Las Vegas to visit family and friends for Christmas so flights into LAS are cheaper, then if you leave just before New Years the return flight should also be cheap as everyone is coming into Vegas for New Year’s stuff. The same Principle can be used for New York as it is a destination for Ringing in the new year.  Don’t travel on Christmas day and keep an eye on the weather, it seems silly but you might not think that it always seems to snow during Christmas eve and staffing at most airports are minimal during Christmas day.

Avoid the retirement community’s like Arizona and Florida instead try something completely different. But most of all go have fun. Google Flights can be your friend here, just explore destinations and find what works for you. But above all else just go!

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The picture is from a Christmas market in Mexico somewhere.

Pick a airline already or is airline elite status worth it anyway?

If you fly 25 times a year you need to start thinking about picking an airline.

I have to admit to my readers I have only had brief encounters with airline status.

The Air Canada Altitude was a brief, useless and frustrating acquisition for me despite having collected a substantial amount of Aeroplan points in the last 4 years. Air Canada does offer some nicer perks to there top tier elites like a special phone number for customer service or better upgrades but leaves the lower tiers almost useless.

So my flights in the last few years have been split between numerous carriers selecting the cheapest revenue flights advertised. I would use Google, Expedia and countless hours mastering the ITA Matrix in search of the cheaper flights available and not getting any sort of mileage in any one airline.

Well, that’s all about to change.

In comes delta’s Ed Bastian, someone I have been following since his 2016 jump to CEO  at the time a troubled airline. Flights with the airline who did a disappearing magic trick with my luggage 7 years earlier seem different today. Delta was not always the friendliest to its frequent flyer friends, the award devaluation was one of the hardest pills for its loyal community to swallow. But at the beginning of this year, I was flying delta between Vegas to Orlando, it was a counter agent who finally made me rethink everything, her attitude about the company made sure I noticed delta.

So 8 months later I now have a measly silver and soon to be gold status and I can tell you my experience with Delta has been worth it so far and as soon as all of my benefits kick-in I will write more about my experiences.

So this got me asking the question when is airline status worth it?

A good friend of mine has been flying American and Oneworld for longer then I have been out of high school and at the beginning of this year during a 6-hour layover in DFW, we had an honest conversation about his breakup with American Airlines over a pint of some slightly drinkable amber beer his language was clear, it was just not worth it.

It is worth talking about some of the reasons he’s leaving American and the resemblance to why I have given up on Air Canada’s Altitude program.  The chances of getting an upgrade on American seemed to have become more confusing to him as a user and IT related issues seem to also plage his user experience trying to get on an upgrade. If you almost never get upgraded the value of the status is diminished; if you get upgraded and that flight gets delayed or canceled finding yourself on an economy seat to another airport after being upgraded you don’t see the point in status. Standby and upgrade lists seem to always jump numbers having the avid flyer confused why he was not upgraded. Coupled with general upset feelings over American’s new policy of let’s make the seats in the economy side so uncomfortable no one ever flys us again and when there is an issue customer service seems to be trained in only one thing, the word NO.

This brings me to the concept I think most airlines need to understand, frequent flyers who are loyal to the alliance are more in a deep long relationship, it is apart of their identity more than just a frequent mileage number. My friend has paid 40% more for his flight just to fly with his airline, made mileage runs and has now lost faith in his marriage with the airline.  So when is it worth the insanity? It is all personal!

Flight upgrades, baggage fees, priority boarding, seating preference, and lounge access is what we are talking about. Award flights are also worth discussing here and how quickly you earn them is effected sometimes by the airline status. But I think Award Flights deserve there own post and I promise to do more posts before the end of the year.

If you fly 25 times a year; you need to start thinking about picking an airline. But if you don’t, this is not worth your time honestly.

The main financial reason to pick an airline is the upgrades, just forget about all the other reasons for now.

Let us be honest here, flying coach for 10 hours before a business meeting is not a great idea. Buying a main cabin ticket and upgrading directly to the next tier 35% of the flights will make this worth every penny.  Let’s look at the costs directly if you were purchasing these from Delta airlines.

Let’s say you purchased DL41 in the Main Cabin round trip and got an upgrade to Delta One 5 times a year. let’s say only 2 of the upgrades are worth $6,000 and the others are worth only $500 each.  That would be $13,500 in free upgrades available making the entire endeavor seem more worth the time and extra work.

So pick an alliance already?

Basically, the main benefit of status is the upgrades. If you pick an alliance, make sure you understand how upgrades apply to you. Star Alliance, One World, and SkyTeam is the choices available it really is up to the 3 big ones to make it worth your time.

Also, look at how one alliance services your airport, simple google flights search can help you see who is normally the cheapest to fly out of your airport. In my case, a Toronto to Sydney flight search using a number of different dates ranges returned SkyTeam as the cheapest ticket more often then star alliance or American’s one world. This helped solidify my choice with delta and furthermore WestJet.

But let’s look at another one here, Toronto to LaGuardia the American flight got cheaper but it is only a $19 dollar difference. In this case, I would book the Delta flight over the American flight before considering my personal experiences with  AA.

Now let’s use the ITA matrix for a minute to illustrate this again with a Toronto flight to Salt lake city.  Using the matrix the graphic on the top of the search shows me delta is cheaper here also.

But let’s look at a flight from Love’s field in Dallas, Here is a place the only carrier that is competing here is delta and Alaska. This is a great place to show you when maybe not to pick the airline you have status with. In this case, I like Alaska and almost never fly with them and at this price, I will take that Alaska flight saving $280 dollars on a short trip. If this was a longer flight with a large mileage haul the $280 would not make me switch away from Delta.

 

Something else to consider is how you value your time, Preboarding can or does sometimes save you stress. Paying for a comfort upgraded flight might be worth it but someone who budget travels a ton might not care about any of these things. You should always track how much you are spending with an airline to feel out what works best; if the financial cost is too high you should have a metric to monitor how much you have spent with an airline and if this is working for you directly. Build a spreadsheet and make sure this fits with your style of travel.

For me, I am pushing my spending with delta right now but in the future, if delta loses sight of taking care of its frequent traveling customers it will be time to talk about a new strategy.

Why are we talking only about upgrades? Because if you are an american the credit card options for free bags and lounge access is a better bet for your value if you don’t care about upgrades. Free bags and award flights are better with an airline credit card.

So if you are willing to make an effort to stick with an airline and fly a ton and don’t have status I would love to hear from you and offer any help I can.

email me   Jonathan  – – nomadicjonathan.com

 

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The picture is from an Air Canada flight to Miami I got upgraded on to premium but not first class.

 

2019 moving forward, updates and old questions from readers

Updates from the field of life.

2019 should be everyone’s year to travel more, to move forward with Ernest towards goals of progress, momentum and to push life forward; this is not a time to stand still or look back to the past. Remove politics, distractions, and noise from your life and hold tight to a new path.

The world is poised for growth in specialized fields, new energy, driverless cars and new global economic connections that’s never been seen before.  The political noise is only designed to distract the stupid and hold back the weak minded. Climate change is here, immigration and global trade will always win over protectionism. Innovation will always drive economies forward. You only hold back your potential when you dwell on the noise of politics and fight a fight of pointless noise.

This week I met a flight attendant who after 12 years has quit her job and moved to build her own business in Australia. She sees a world where inflation is much more rampant then we see at first glance and just making a salary will do nothing for her future; a world where millionaires are the middle class is the future she sees and I can’t disagree.

As we look into 2019 everyone should consider there will be some serious changes and disruptive technologies brewing around the corner for us all. Trucking as an example will see more testing of driverless vehicles, Tesla will be pushing their 500-mile batteries and rates should rise for logistics in North America for the coming year as fuel prices trend upwards again.

Cryptocurrency will still be here and I expect the downturn in prices to stay here awhile before any upward momentum, but the idea and technology will stay. The World needs this. Master-nodes are better investments than just holding currency or mining right now and I think this will continue for years to come.

Inflation is going to be a bigger issue then we think, it is by far been the next generation that is unprepared for larger inflationary moves than any other generation and by that token Millennials earn 20% less than Boomers did at the same stage of life adjusted to inflation. That said I expect growth to stagnate in the world economy somewhat and don’t invest in wild ideas of stocks and investments growing past this point.

I have been busy with building a new brand for my own technical services and pushing myself forward, working with some new clients and trying to be more healthy. I have gotten a number of emails from my nomadic friends and wanted to post again as I know its been too long. The same questions keep getting posed…

 

Where are you?  Toronto currently and will be here for a while.

Why have we not heard from you? I am busy, I just don’t always have time and ideas to blog about anymore. 

Are you just a business traveler these days? This is a complicated thing to answer really, I don’t travel just for pleasure as much as I used to. But I always find ways to grow my list of experiences and sometimes an event ends and I make sure to stay an extra day. 

Are you still travel hacking? Of course, I am; but as a Canadian, there is less and less available these days for really good travel hacks. There is still some good opportunity available in the US market but keep in mind that the airlines are cutting down on travel rewards as an industry. We should keep in mind that there are good investments to be made into cheaper revenue options for travel then non-revenue tickets. Also, credit card rewards are at an all-time low. 

I remember the days of you posting pictures of different places every month? What happened? Privacy concerns actually have been a large degree of the motivation to the shift or change in my social media posting. It’s not an anti-facebook rant or a broken sense of trust of the companies that I post on nor is it something that changing my viewpoints from past issues. I never had trust or felt something was private on these sites. We live in a world of crazy people, an example is someone researching you & finding your clients and going after them or border guards interpreting your facebook as something else other than the reality. People also see something that’s not reality when they follow you on Facebook or Instagram. 

Can you still help with hotel reviews and experience audits? Yes, but the clients have changed and it is something I am not focused on anymore. 

What keeps you busy? Event Coordination and working on logistics for these events.

Politics?  I hate the state of our politics in North America. It’s broken and trumpism just shows it. It is not something I can fix nor is it worth my time. Wanting to be fiscally conservative and socially responsible is harder then you would think in a world of negative liberal and republican rhetoric. This economist’s perspective is simple what is good for the few is never good for the many, what is good for the many is never good for the individual.  Be careful of Russian and Chinese troll farms this Canadian election cycle and the conservative and oil fear-mongering.  

Trips to war-torn areas? I honestly can’t answer these questions and you should stop asking me. But here is my generic answer, it’s a bad idea. On this note, rich men and wannabe journalists pay large sums of money to visit war-zones and this has some seriously negative effects. Touring war-zones is stupid and harmful to locals. But there is more to any story and you should take the time to personally do your research and reach out to local knowledge. When someplace has had something happen to detract tourism it’s always worth a quick look. If your location is on an ICAO list of conflict zones you should reconsider.  If you must go, communicate with the consulate in the area as its the best place to start if you run into trouble and gain information from them. 

I am searching for an affordable short term apartment rental in NYC? Honestly, so is everyone else. Find a furnished apartment agency or try staynovo.com. airbnb in NYC is a bad idea and I have had really bad experiences.  Paying to Housesit is another option. 

Tea or coffee? Ahem…  Coffee always. 

What’s been your weirdest moment? I was in South America and had an altercation with some obviously fake policía and I called them on it. I am still not sure why I am still alive actually but my aggressive attitude pushed them to back off. I am not invincible and it could have ended badly.  A local also joined in and the fakes dashed away.  Be careful with any third world law-enforcement.  We did a tour to Nicaragua just before the issues that there having there now. The tour operator got to the border and started passing a line up of people and flashed some cash to the guards. They stamped everyone’s passport at once and sent us on our way. He said it is the way things work out here. 

Favorite hotel chain? I don’t have one, but Fairfield by Marriot has been great to me. 

What’s your top travel tip? Mindset. Have fun, too many people find traveling is a pain and out of there comfort zone; honestly. Enjoy the time that is now and the journey ahead. Fear of flying is also a big deal and makes people not enjoy the journey.  Travel light and spend money wisely. But honestly have fun!  Also, be careful what you eat. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you have lodging in place, too many people don’t book these things in advance.

 

I promise to blog more this year. I know.. I know.. You have heard this before.

 

####Picture from a trip this year where I had rental car trouble, I had decided to enjoy the historic donuts I have passed by about a million times.  3 hours later my car was towed away leaving me carless in L.A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia finally found

I have followed this story for so many years as TIGHAR had searched and searched. Reading  Ric Gillespie’s book Finding Amelia….Watching as the evidence built up…

Its heartbreaking thinking of all the radio transmissions that had been received and documented.

We now know almost conclusively that the bones found in 1940 by the British are Amelia’s. She died a castaway on an island that should have been searched and was only flown over once.

The Navy fliers saw no airplane but did see “signs of recent habitation.” They thought that all the islands in the area were inhabited so they moved on. In fact, no one had lived on Gardner since 1892.

We know that a broken antenna on Amelia’s plane and failure to communicate issues before hand by USCGC Itasca contributed to the flights demise along with sexism and lack of faith in her abroad the Itasca. We know that Amelia herself was not as qualified with radio transmission as she should have been and this is ultimately a factor. The USCGC Itasca not communicating frequency issues and direction finding equipment that was out of service would have scraped the flight.

Also, the searchers themselves constantly made humor of the media circus that surrounded them. Like the search was for the benefit of the “newsman only”.

We know the chances of the bones found on Nikumaroro not being Amelia’s is statistically not probable.

 

This is a big day, its almost certain now what happened to Amelia, The radio broadcasts from her are real and this story has no happy ending.

Search report -https://tighar.org/…/Arch…/Documents/Lambrecht’s_Report.html

What went wrong – https://tighar.org/wiki/Failure_to_communicate

Findings of bone data- http://journals.upress.ufl.edu/fa/article/view/525

The Search – https://tighar.org/…/Earh…/Archives/Forum/FAQs/searchers.htm

 

##The picture is Amelia Earhart standing in front of the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in July 1937 and is public domain via NASA.

If you can, please donate to TIGHAR, There work is amazing.

tighar.org/donate.html