Sep 10

Single Solo Travel

I recently read an article from Match.com about 6 Tips for single vacationers and since that’s often me, I thought I would share a bit about it.

1. The Beach isn’t always best – the claim is that you won’t meet people if your head is buried in a book. You should instead take a vacation where you’re doing activities.  I would agree with this. I think this is why I don’t meet people on planes, my head is buried in my book. But I do get out and do things once I’m in my destination.

2. Try a singles package – I haven’t done this, but I have always taken tours where you can book as a single and I do find there aren’t as many couples on these trips.

3. Reserve a room in a smaller hotel. I do find that big chain hotels are not terribly social, except for maybe the hotel bar. Pick a hostel or a smaller B&B style of hotel.

4. don’t plan your whole vacation in advance – Ok, I do this all the time. Hey, some things need to be planned in advance if you want to do them. But, I do think it’s good to have some flexibility so you can go off and do something different with new friends you meet.

5. Find other tourists to talk to – locals aren’t going to drop things to spend time with you. But tourists, they’ll do that, they have no problem altering plans to spend time with other travelers. Especially if they read #4

6. Try these easy ice-breakers – travelers have easy excuses to strike up conversations with others – whether asking direction or for travel advice. This is one thing I’ve always enjoyed about traveling by myself, I’m forced to do this and I often meet people as a result. Even if you’re not getting a date or a travel buddy, it’s a good way to break the monotony of being alone.

Do you have any tips for solo single travelers?

Sep 03

Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens

Everywhere I go people talk about these “Botanical Gardens.” I’ve never visited one since I usually don’t have a ton of time in a city and frankly, I suffer from a bit of PTSD after a tour in Hawaii with a guide who was an amateur botanist.  But I had some time on a beautiful morning in Sydney and heard it was nice there.

The view from Government House

I was there for the opening of the day and had some trouble finding it. How the heck would I know that it’s really just like a park.  I was looking for flowers!  Actually, I didn’t have that much trouble finding it, I had trouble realizing that I was in it.

Government House

But once I realized I was there, it was quite lovely and serene.  No, there weren’t that many flowers, and it was essentially a park, it had a nice setting.  It’s situated along the water in Sydney with great views of the Downtown Seattle, the Opera House, and Harbor Bridge.

View of Harbor Bridge and the Opera House

Within the grounds there is Government House, which was closed during my visit, but did offer a great garden area.  If you’re not much of a walker, there is a tour you can take from the entrance near Sydney Opera House that was just a few dollars and will tell you some of the history of the gardens

If someone wants to run or walk while on vacation, or just have a relaxing day in a nice setting with a great  view, the Sydney Botanical Gardens would be a great stop in Sydney.

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