Aug 27

Carry On Luggage Weight

Have you ever been asked to weight your carry on when you were checking in or checking luggage for a flight?  I’ve had it happen to me twice.

I get nervous when this happens because I’m usually traveling with a laptop and camera, both of which make your carry on heavy quickly.  Most people don’t realize that airlines have a weight limit for your carry on.  Limits range from 13 to 22 pounds, not a lot of weight if you carry things like a laptop and camera equipment.

The first time my carry on was weighted (I can’t remember which, but it was a European Airline) the weight was close enough that they didn’t bother me.  The second time was on Kalula Air in South Africa. I was asked if I had a laptop and when I said yes, they said it was ok and let me go.  I do know a couple people who also had their carry on randomly weighed and just took the camera out, put it around their neck and were fine. With loose rules like this, it makes you wonder why they bother having these rules.  Though, I’m sure they don’t want to be responsible for a lot of electronic (cameras and laptops) equipment that is checked either.

Have you ever had your carry on weighed and was it a problem?

Aug 13

British Airways – Business vs First Class

I know your first thought was, Ummm, of course First Class! And yes, absolutely, British Airways First Class is better than their Business class any day of the week!  But, I wanted to write about whether the benefits of First Class over Business Class make it worth it for the extra money/miles.  My short answer is that for most people, BA Business Class is all that you need. So, what are the differences?

Here are my flight details:
BA0174 JFK to LHR 747 – First Class
BA0045 LHR to CPT – Business Class Cabin

Configuration

First Class had 14 seats. The configuration was window seats in rows 1-5, rows 4 and 5 had a pair of seats in the middle of the plane. The middle seats would be ideal for a couple traveling together. The first class seats are angled; in the case of the window seats they are angled towards the window, which makes them feel very private. 

First Class Cabin

Business Class has roughly 70 seats, the configuration is two seats by the windows, 4 seats in the middle and seats alternate facing forward and backward.  This configuration is nice if you’re traveling with someone, but is a little awkward if you’re seated next to a stranger (experienced this on another trip). There is a divider that goes up during the flight, which does give A LOT of privacy, particularly if you are at the window. However, during takeoff and landing, i’s a little weird. The middle of the middle seats both face backward and provide quite a bit of privacy for couples. These would be great for a couple or a parent/child. If you are in a window or middle seats you may have to climb over someone’s legs to get out. There are a few seats where you do not have to, I suggest looking for them on Seatguru.com, but it seemed the last seats in a section were the lucky ones.

Business Cabin

While a book can distract you from practically staring at your seat neighbor in Business Class, for privacy as a solo flyer, First Class far outweighs the privacy of Business class.  This is less of a concern if you’re traveling with someone. But the real benefit for the privacy would be for a famous person. A max of 14 people and most of them may never even see you. Those are the people who are paying cash for First Class.  And just plain old rich people too.

Comfort

The advantage of the First Class cabin over the Business cabin in terms of seat comfort is: Both have lie flat seats, the first class seats are softer and the Flight Attendants will make the bed with a light mattress pad. The comforter is also nicer.  But I’ll be honest, the mattress pad got all messed up from me moving around and so did nothing for me in terms of additional comfort. The softer seat was nicer. But since I sleep ok on a plane I did not think this feature was worth many more miles or dollars. 

First Class Windows

Amenities

First Class came with Pajama’s, slippers and a nicer amenity kit.  The Pajamas were pretty nice and I’ve used my slippers several times on different trips.  None of it is fancy, but when you’re traveling overnight or on long trips, a change of clothes is nice.  And well, slippers come in handy when you need to use the bathroom midflight. Maybe I’ll appreciate the rest of the stuff in the amenity kit when I’m older, but I’m ok with one good quality moisturizer and then skip the eye cream.

Business Amenity Kit

Food

Food in both cabins is head and shoulders above coach with a wider variety and better quality. I had dinner in the lounge, so I skipped dinner on the plane for my flight in First Class.  But I did have a nice breakfast on both flights and certainly it was better than in business class, but with a selection of breads, drinks, hot foods in Business Class there was a wide enough variety for anyone to put together a good sized breakfast.

 

Business Class Breakfast

First Class Breakfast Fruit

Bathrooms

The bathrooms were the same in Business and First Class. I’ll be honest, this was the most disappointing aspect of First Class, the bathroom really wasn’t much better than in Coach.

Service

In First Class I was served my slippers on a silver platter.  So yes, service in First Class was amazing.  But do I need things served to be on a silver platter?  No, this was way over the top, though it was fun to experience.

Staff was very friendly and helpful in both cabins. With a smaller cabin in First, service was quicker. But then it probably didn’t help that I was in the last seat of Business Class (which was a good seat).

Lounge

I visited the Galleries at JFK and the Concorde Room at both JFK and LHR.  Galleries was much quieter, less crowded and they served very nice hot  meals, quickly.  The only down side was that the spa and showers were located at the Concorde Room which was a little hike from Galleries.  I did find the staff in JFK MUCH friendlier than the staff at LHR, not matter what lounge you were visiting. 

Concorde Lounge LHR

Galleries Lounge JFK

Crissy

 

Aug 01

The Lady Hamilton Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

This was my first hotel and my second interaction with South Africans and although the hotel was a bit old, it had everything I needed and the staff was super friendly at the Lady Hamilton Hotel. The room was a little tired, but overall did the job and the best thing about it was that there were all sorts of different plugs and lots of them. Have a European plug, no problem! UK, North American, it’s all-good! I had to actually look for the South African plug in the room.

The room had two beds (which were comfortable), a safe, desk, chair and a heater/air conditioner. The hotel included breakfast (and the omelet maker was one of the best I’ve ever encountered) and drinks in the lobby all day. The hotel does offer Wi-Fi, but only in the lobby. You do need to take a Wi-Fi code from the desk that gave 500mb of data. However, they did not monitor how much data you used or how many codes you took, essentially giving unlimited Wi-Fi.

The staff there was very helpful in booking tours, or helping you find whatever you needed. Although the hotel isn’t in the best area of the city, it’s not in a bad area and there are shops and restaurants a block away.

If I were to offer two areas of improvement they would be in the dinner and the bathrooms. The dinner was just average, nothing exciting or anything that would suck you into dining there; I thought there were better options about 2 blocks away. The bathroom is the area where the hotel seemed the oldest. They could stand to have better ventilation and a counter or two in them. Otherwise the toilet, shower and sink all worked fine.

 

The hotel certainly isn’t a 5 star hotel, but it offered all the basic necessities and more. If you’re on a budget and looking for a nice, clean place to stay, this is a great option.

Jul 30

Visit Cape Point, South Africa

I think a lot of people were skeptical about South Africa as a destination, even after I returned home and said how much I loved it.  But I knew I had changed opinions when my mother saw my pictures from Cape Point and was shocked at the beauty there.

Cape Point is basically (as in not scientifically) the bottom of the African Continent.  The Cape of Good Hope is the most Southwestern point on the African Continent and is with Cape Point.  There are a few things to see at Cape Point – Animals, the lighthouse, and the Cape of Good Hope.

I visited Cape Point twice during my trip, once on a group tour and once as part of my photography tour.

Animals

There is quite a bit of wildlife at Cape Point, the most infamous is the Baboon.  Baboons might look like cute monkey like animals, but looks can be deceiving.  They are mean creates that will steal your shit! I don’t blame them, I blame the people over the years who have fed them and made them expect food from people. Tips – keep your windows closed and don’t taunt them and you’ll probably be ok.

Next up are Ostrich, they are pretty cool animals and since I got some great shots of them and they didn’t attack us (I don’t think they do), I’m a fan!

Cape Mountain Zebra – nearing extinction with only 400 of them in existence (which is actually up from the last few decades). They are rare to see and I only saw them one of my two days I was there.  But, a Zebra of any kind is cool to see for a New Yorker, the ones at The Bronx Zoo don’t walk across the street.

There are some other birds, but I’m not a bird person.

The Lighthouse

On my first tour our guided recommended against taking the funicular to the light house; however, on my second trip I did take the funicular and thought it was worth the time. His reasoning is that Cape of Good Hope is better.  I think both are great; but, the views from the lighthouse area are better in my opinion. Though both areas have different views so it’s a matter of opinion. Either way, the lighthouse area where the funicular takes you has some really great dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. I know some people will tell you that this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but it’s not exactly here, and where they meet will vary based on tides. You can tell where they meet though because the water will be different colors for each ocean.

Cape of Good Hope

So named by Portugal’s King John II this area has captured the imagination of European sailors such as Dias who first named it the Cape of Storms in 1488 and later in 1580 Sir Francis Drake who called it the “The Fairest Cape in all the World”.

Now that I kind of just knocked the Cape of Good Hope, I’ll talk it up too.  This area has a rocky coastal view and importantly, a sign to take a picture with.  I know these pictures are tourist cheesy, but if you’re a tourist, embrace it and get your picture taken.  This area is just a quick drive away from the high point with the funicular, so if you have the time, it’s worth it to do both.

Cape Point is a MUST see if you’re in Cape Town, whether you take a tour or go on your own. There’s some interesting wildlife and great views. Just watch out for the Baboons, they’re not your friends.

Jul 25

Flight Diary and Flying

Not too long ago I became aware of a site called Flight Diary.  On this site you can input all of your flights you have or are going to take. It’s a neat way of documenting and commemorating different trips and flights you have taken.fd-logo

The first day I signed up I added all my planned flights for the year and will be going back to add some older flights, I’ll probably start with the more interesting ones first.  My only issue with the site is that it takes quite a bit of time to set it up, you need to add in the flight number, airline, departure and arrival times. I wish it could at least pull the times from the airlines after you enter the date, airline and flight number – that would make it much easier.  But this just means that the site has room to grow.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 9.42.15 AMAfter setting that up I became aware of an App that does a similar thing, Flying. The app is currently in Beta, but does a similar thing as Flight Diary, with one distinct advantage, it syncs with the TripIt App. If you don’t have or have never used TripIt, it’s not an advantage. But, if you do – all you have to do is sync the two apps and all of your flights that are in TripIt will be imported to Flying.  Within minutes I had badges for flying across the Pacific, Atlantic, Equator…  I do want to add a few flights to it from before I had TripIt, but this was an easier start for me.  Either way, both apps/sites are a great way to commemorate your travel.