Category: Top List

Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

In the middle of January 2014, planning for this trip started taking place. I usually plan my travels well in advance, mainly due to cost benefits and the time to plan most trip components to the T. Travel planning is something, which I thoroughly enjoy, and this was going to be no different.

The only difference going to be however was tagging along my parents and convincing them. My mom is relatively easy and I won’t even try to delve on “How I convinced my Dad for this vacation”. I’ll save that for a self-help book later.

Anyways, once all that was finalised, it was time for me to decide on the destinations. I had gone to Switzerland with my friends in 2005 and since then always thought that my parents would love the Swiss sights. So the first city was decided as Zürich, where we made our base for 5 days to explore the neighbouring areas. Next up, I decided to venture up slightly north to Hamburg for 3 days, mainly because of the Airbus Factory Tour. For the remaining 8 days my long pending dream of exploring parts of Scandinavia was realised as Copenhagen and Stockholm were chosen as the last two cities. and That’s where the name of this trip came about to be.

After a through deliberation, I booked Turkish Airlines for our trip. Mom & Dad were booked upfront in the Business Class, and I resigned myself to Economy. Turkish is known for their flat beds in Business and the fantastic cuisine catered by Do & Co, although both my parents don’t drink and are vegetarian, I suspected they would still enjoy the hard product. Plus the opportunity to experience Turkish CIP Lounge at Istanbul was too good to pass.

The Intra-Europe routing was made with the help going through “Man in Seat Sixty-One” extensively (Highly recommended for train travel, especially European). The traveler in me was stoked by trying out three completely different trains, while keeping in mind it would be more comfortable for my parents as well, compared to taking short flights. Train travel in Europe is comfortable, scenic and expensive but if you book out 91 days in advance (62 days for some train companies), advance deals are great value for money.

and if your routing is good enough, you might just get your Train placed on a Ferry too 😉

 

Following was the final routing for the trip

12/07 TK717 New Delhi to Istanbul departing 0605 hrs arriving 1025 hrs

12/07 TK1913 Istanbul to Zurich departing 1145 hrs arriving 1340 hrs

16/07 Deutsche Bahn CNL 478 (City Night Line) Zurich HB to Hamburg Hbf departing 2042 hrs arriving 0828 hrs (+1 day)

19/07 Deutsche Bahn ICE 37 Hamburg Hbf to Copenhagen departing 1528 hrs arriving 2014 hrs

23/07 SJ2000, Train 530 Copenhagen to Stockholm Central departing 0828 hrs arriving 1339 hrs

27/07 TK1794 Stockholm to Istanbul departing 1145 hrs arriving 1615 hrs

27/07 TK 716 Istanbul to New Delhi departing 1955 hrs arriving 0420 hrs (+1 day)

Trip Map

Trip Map

This allowed us to check out the following

 

Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class

I had flown Turkish few years back to Paris, and had liked their service in Economy. However, during this trip I was keen to see how they will serve my parents traveling in Business Class. I was in economy but secured bulkhead seats on both A330 routes. Who minds extra legroom, right?

Turkish Airlines A330-300 - Business Class and Economy

Turkish Airlines A330-300 – Business Class and Economy

 

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul and SAS Lounge, Arlanda – Stockholm

Let’s admit it, each & every self-respecting aviation geek out there knows about the legendary Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul and has read plenty of reviews terming it one of the best Star Alliance Lounge in the world. Therefore, I decided completely skip reviewing this lounge and instead focus on SAS Star Alliance Lounge at Arlanda International. PS: Turkish CIP Lounge is indeed fantastic.

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

 

Swissotel Zürich 

Last time I was in Zürich, I was staying in a Hostel. I figured with family in tow, I had to look at something way more comfortable and convenient. Swissotel Zürich is right next door to Zürich Oerlikon station, has a great breakfast spread, plus every stay at the property gets you 500 JP Miles.

Swissotel Zurich

Swissotel Zürich

 

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

At Hamburg I wanted a hotel close to the main Hauptbahnhof station as we were using trains for both arrival and departure into the city. The city centre is also close-by and after extensive research I chose Arcotel Rubin. In fact, while other hotels were finalized more than two months in advance, I confirmed Arcotel Rubin only two weeks out.

Arcotel Rubin Hamburg

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

 

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

This was my first visit to Denmark, let alone Copenhagen so I was looking for something striking, modern without breaking the bank. Bella Sky Comwell was perfect in all departments. Apart from being a stunning design hotel from the outside, there were plenty of great details inside which I appreciated. While checking-in, I got a great deal on a paid-upgrade to the top 23rd floor and the views from the room more than paid for it.

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

 

Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel

To end the trip I figured it would be best to do it with some added luxury and I chose Hilton Slussen over Sheraton Stockholm. Besides getting a great deal, I also stood a chance for free breakfast, room upgrades (which happened second day into the stay) and other amenities due to my Hilton Gold status. The views from the room, the proximity to main attractions & the executive lounge access made last four days of our trip memorable.

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

 

This trip turned out to be exactly as I imagined it to be and beyond. Liechtenstein, Denmark and Sweden became #29, #30 and #31 in my countries visited list. I also visited two new lounges, three new train services, thirteen different beers, got my Burger King fix for the year and of course visited the Airbus Plant in Hamburg. I’m excited to share my experience in detail with all of you in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions.

 

Related Trip Posts:  Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

 

 

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Train on a Ferry!

During my travels last month in Scandinavia, one the more interesting experience was something I had never experienced before.

(The background of this trip and more information can be found here – Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction)

Basically, our ICE train from Hamburg HBF to Kobenhavn (Copenhagen) got inside (YES!) a ferry to cross into Denmark from Germany. This happened at Puttgarten to Rodby ferry, one of the few remaining routes in Europe where trains go onto ferries. Never knew that!

This crossing over the Baltic Sea took us about 45 minutes and we were required to leave the train and our luggage, to go up into the ferry whilst it is at sea. The ferry had many cruise ship like facilities: Bars, Restaurants, and Duty free shops (liquor is very expensive in Nordic countries).

I was able to capture my experience and video graph the various parts of it, and put it together,  from going in to coming out of the ferry, in 2 minutes and 16 seconds.

This is certainly something off my bucket list which I never knew existed, and that’s what makes it even more special.

Have a look and tell me what you think?

Picture courtesy: Tiexano

Picture courtesy: Tiexano

 

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Arun Rajagopal

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

“I’m crazy about planes. And mad about trains”. That’s how Arun Rajagopal explains himself as simple as possible. I have been in touch with Arun on twitter for as long as I remember and have had some fascinating conversations with him both online and offline.

Arun has been a top-notch marketer for over 8 years now and for the past 16 months or so he has been at Emirates, carving and executing their social media strategy and loving his dream job, where the worlds of marketing and aviation meet.

Inviting Arun to be a part of the GlobeTrotter series was one of the easiest decisions I have made, partly because he is a passionate globetrotter for real and partly because I selfishly wanted to understand his mindset about travelling. Arun has been on the pages of this blog in the past, we had a great conversation for this series and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well:

777 fanboy to the dough

777 fanboy to the dough

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel? I vividly remember reading one of your tweets few weeks back where you couldn’t hop on a BOM flight but you still flew, albeit on some other flight. That is astounding enthusiasm. Tell me your motivation for that?

Arun – I love the sheer joy that comes with getting on a plane. I belong to the school of thought that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more important than the destination. In this particular instance, I was supposed to fly to Mumbai, but I couldn’t get on my flight. As I walked out of the airport, I realised that it was not me to not get on a plane when I had made my mind to do so. As luck would have it, I just remembered that there was a flight to Ahmedabad, which was leaving 10 minutes later. I walked back, got myself on that plane and eventually reached Mumbai. When I want to get on a plane, I always manage to get on it because I really, really want to. It’s also a mix of karma, luck and persistence.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the hundreds of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Arun – I love the flying part more. I have two very memorable experiences topping the list. One is the Emirates inaugural flight to Seattle in March 2012. I’m a huge Boeing 777 fan (Vishal’s note: See the cake in the picture above) and it was a dream come true

for me to be on that first flight (a 77W) to the home of Boeing. I bit the bullet one day before the trip, deciding that the high-fares wouldn’t stand in my way. The dream turned even better when I got to see A6-EGO, the 1000th 777 with its paint coat fresh on a Boeing factory tour, right before its delivery ceremony.

A6-EGO

Emirates A6-EGO, Photo credit: Mark Harky

The other one has to be celebrating my 30th on an A380 upper deck, which was another big dream come true. On the B-day, all Emirates A380 flights were full, but I scored a seat to Hong Kong, and then did a turn-around to Dubai via Bangkok. My flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi exactly when the clock struck midnight and I got my first birthday call. The crew even had a special birthday surprise for me. I was away for 30 hours, most of them spent on a plane. I’ll take that day with me to the grave.

  • Which is your favourite airport and airline? And why? (Barring DXB and Emirates)

Arun – My favourite airport has to be Muscat International. I grew up in Muscat and I flew out of MCT for a good part of my life. It’s a not a huge airport, but I’ve some very special memories.

My favourite airline is a very tough question, because I love most airlines out there and some even more such as Emirates. Any airline that makes flying more personal and special always gets my vote.

  • Nicely played there Arun, Tell us about your favourite city, and any memorable experience you had there?

Arun – So many cities, many visited and many more yet to visit. Again hard to pick one, so I will go with New York, Seattle, London and Bangkok. As to a memorable experience, seeing snow for the first time in my life in Seattle was super special. I only had to wait 29 years for it to happen.

  • High five, I haven’t seen a snowfall ever myself. When you travel, is there a particular website, guidebook etc. you consult before making plans? What’s your research like?

Arun – I’m not a Lonely Planet guidebook toting kind of person. Where I stay is massively important for me – so I do my hotel research via TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or Booking.com. I talk to people who have been there before and once I’m at the destination, I try to get local insights. But the most magical moments are spontaneous and happen when you are not expecting them. In many of the cities I travel to, I try to connect with friends or acquaintances I have there, which adds a whole new personal experience to my journey.

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul                     Photo credit: Wikipedia

  • Talking bit more about the journey part, Is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Arun – Airports play a huge role in enriching your travel experience. I wish more airports had showers. Also, airports are often the first point of contact between a tourist and a foreign country – so smiling; friendly immigration officials would always be welcome. Muscat and Jakarta get my votes there. San Antonio has some amazing rocking chairs where you can lounge on and watch planes. One of my favourite airport experiences has been pausing for a minute to watch a musician perform at Atlanta, in the midst of milling crowds. Give me anything in an airport that makes the travel experience more relaxing and welcoming. I hear Seoul Incheon is amazing and I look forward to a trip soon, only to check out the airport.

  • Spoke like a true #AvGeek there. You have a successful career, what advice would you give to all those who might not be financially sound but still harbour dreams of traveling the world?

Arun – I firmly believe that one can make things happen when you are passionate about something and you give 100% to pursuing your dreams. I was not financially sound when I decided to become a globetrotter. As long as you put your goals ahead of you and work towards them, you can make it even to space.

  • We know you’re a social media expert, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Arun – Social media has not only enabled travel brands to connect better with their customers, but has also fuelled a massive appetite for travel and made the world a smaller place. There is a very active aviation community on Twitter, sharing common passions, interests, knowledge and information.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your three favourite twitter user accounts to follow?

Arun – Very hard to pick 3, but I’m going to run with

@JonOstrower, @Simpliflying and @RunwayGirl. They, amongst so many others, have made me love aviation more.

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Heather Poole

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2 

Since this series is as much about Aviation, as it is about travel, Its only fitting that Heather Poole, one of the most recognized #AvGeek on twitter, makes an appearance. Besides being the first lady, she will also be the first airline employee of the series, giving us a first hand inside look into the industry from her perspective.

Heather Poole has been working for a major US airline for over 18 years as Cabin crew and is a regular globetrotter. Her list of accomplishments also include a NY Times bestseller called “Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet”. Apart from that she also writes regularly for Gadling.com with her column called “Galley Gossip” and runs a pretty interesting blog too.

Excerpts from our chat below:Heather Poole - GlobeTrotters on Twitter

  • First things first, what motivated you to travel, and become a flight attendant?

Heather – When I finally realised life was about amazing moments and new experiences, I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve been a flight attendant for almost 18 years now.

  • As a flight attendant you often have a first hand view of people traveling to and back from their trips. What has been some of your most memorable travel and flight experiences?

Heather – My favourite trips tend to be the ones that were totally unplanned. I’ll never forget deciding at the last minute to hit the road with a colleague from work on a Friday afternoon. This was almost twenty years ago when I worked a regular 9-5 job on the ground. We drove from McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico for the weekend. We ate goat (a first), listened to guitar music under the stars, spent the night in a cottage on a mountain, and woke up early the next morning in the clouds. As a flight attendant, the nicest and most memorable layovers for me have more to do more with the people I meet than anything else. Once we landed late Christmas Eve in Bermuda. The man who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hotel every week invited the entire crew over to his house on Christmas day for dinner. It was such a nice thing to do. This after having spent many Christmas dinners stuck at an overpriced hotel buffet.

  • We know you work for a major American airline, do you have a favourite airline, if you’re allowed to answer this question 😉

Heather – Can I say my airline? I mean come on, they hired me! (After our competition didn’t.) I can’t tell you which carrier I work for because I’d like to keep my job, but it’s one of the big ones. And with that I’d like to thank all the frequent fliers who’ve helped me keep my secret. It’s got to be the worst best-kept secret in the world.

Also, I hear Cathay is pretty freakin nice. One day I’ll fly on them.

  • Any preferred airport? 

Heather – My favourite airport is Miami.  Not to be confused with my favourite route!  Because the NY-Miami is my least favourite route in the system. But as far as good food and people watching goes, you can’t beat Miami.

  • And what about your favourite aircraft type? I bet it will be a Boeing 😉

Heather – Yep, I’m going to be sad to see the 767 go.  I’ve worked that aircraft more than any of our other wide-body airplanes. I guess you could say I feel most at home on it.

  • And I have read in one of your other interviews, that you’re fond of 777s as well. In all your worldwide travels, which has been your favourite city to travel to?

Heather – Anywhere we have a long layover that’s not at an airport hotel.  All kidding aside, in the US I love spending time in San Francisco and Seattle. I’m based in NY, one of my favourite cities in the world and I live in LA, another pretty good place to be, so I’ve got those two cities covered.  Right now I mostly fly domestic trips. My son is still pretty young so I don’t like to be away from home for too long.

  • What advice would you give to budding travellers; those who are enamoured by it but still feel slightly befuddled with the idea of venturing into alien cultures.

Heather – My advice is to get out of your comfort zone, even if that means driving to a neighbouring city and checking out a new restaurant, park or museum.  It doesn’t matter how far you go, as long as you go.  You don’t have to jump on a plane and fly thousands of miles and spend a ton of money to experience something new.

  • How do you like to prepare for your travel? Do you have a guide that you always turn to?

    English: Part of Positano, Italy.

    Positano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heather – Frommer’s might be my favourite travel guide.  But I spend WAY more time doing research online and getting advice from friends.  One of my best vacations was a trip to Italy. I met a flight attendant on our flight to Rome who drew me a map of all her favourite places to go after I mentioned we would be staying in Positano.  I visited every place she mentioned and it ended up being a spectacular trip.  So don’t be afraid to talk to the flight crew.  We like to talk.  Plus we’re like cops; we know all the best places – that are cheap and good.

  • What role do you think twitter has played in propagating travel at large?

Heather – I can’t imagine a world without twitter, and I mean that!  You’ve got breaking news, travel advice, travel deals, and millions of people who can answer a question at the last minute about pretty much anything.

  • And Finally, tell us couple of your must follow twitter accounts.

Heather – @PlaneBusiness for airline news

and, @FakeUnitedJeff for fun.

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Scott Mayerowitz

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

With a twitter handle like @GlobeTrotScott, it was almost impossible to leave Scott Mayerowitz out of this list. And not just the apt twitter handle, his extensive experience and expertise as a long time travel and airline writer meant that I had to somehow find a way to convince him, to answer my curiosities.

As it turned out Scott is all round nice guy and few twitter DM’s between us did the trick. Apt again, considering twitter is a very important part of this little initiative called “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”. Get the hint?

Scott is based in the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest news agencies, writing long form enterprise and investigative stories about the airline and travel industries, and covering all aspects of aviation. Prior to his arrival at the AP, Scott covered travel for ABC News and oversaw the network’s online travel section. He’s also been associated with ABC in the past.

#AvGeek Drill?

#AvGeek Drill?

This series has had aviation and travel maestros of various kinds, from marketing specialists, to world renowned bloggers, perpetual non-stop travellers to well respected frequent flyers, Having someone now from journalistic background who’s a self confessed #AvGeek excited me immensely, and I hope all of you enjoy our chat as well.

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel Scott, and what do you think about air travel?

Scott – I just love to explore. Even when I walk around New York, where I live, I try to pick a different block and see something new. Traveling to the other end of the country – or another continent – is just an expansion of that desire to appease my curiosity. Trains and ferries are fun, but nothing beats flying high above the globe at nearly the speed of sound. I’m happy spending my flight pressed against the window watching small towns, rivers and highways pass below. Even the clouds can be fun to watch.

  • I know you consider yourself an #AvGeek, what do you think makes flights memorable? Do you have a flight memory to share?

Scott – Flying is a great tool for quickly exploring faraway lands but it is ultimately just a means for getting from one place to another. That said it could be a lot of fun. Too often, I am buried in my laptop on a flight. But when I don’t have work to do, I’m like a five-year-old boy again, watching the world outside the window. The complex operations of an airport are also fun to watch. My most memorable flight isn’t one where I’ve been pampered in first class – though those are nice too – but a short hop at low elevation across the Caribbean. I was mesmerized by the view of the Shallow Ocean and countless tiny islands below.

Statues dancing Hula kahiko at Kona I...

Statues dancing Hula kahiko at Kona International Airport (KON), Photo: Wikipedia

  • Do you have a preferred airport?

Scott – It’s hard to pick just one. Napa Farms Market at San Francisco’s Terminal 2 has great, quick food. I love the look of the Rafael Viñoly-designed terminal in Montevideo. Hong Kong’s sprawling airport is easy to navigate and you can’t beat the express train into the city. The huts at Kona airport in Hawaii make me smile.

  • I know you cover the airline industry, but I’m still going to try and ask you your favourite airline.

Scott – I can’t exactly pick favourites in my job. Sure one of the Asian carriers might have the best seats or service, but that doesn’t mean it is the best value for everybody or fits my travel needs. And an airline that I might prefer for domestic travel isn’t necessarily going to fly me to Africa or South America. The one that gets me there safely, on time, at a reasonable cost and with some degree of comfort wins.

  • What about your favourite aircraft type?

Scott – I like the promise of the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. If they live up to the hype, they can cut the cost of travel and the toll that flying takes on the environment. That said, I still find the Boeing 777 to be one of the most graceful and simplistic planes. Sure it doesn’t have the distinctive hump of the 747 or the A380’s double deck but it has two giant engines that are able to take hundreds of people around the globe without stopping for fuel. I’ve been lucky enough to see those engines up close and, well, it puts everything into perspective.

  • And while globe hopping on those 777s, have you come across a city where you love traveling to? Recall an interesting travel moment.
Budapest Parliament Building on the Danube

Budapest Parliament Building on the Danube (Photo : Wikipedia)

Scott – One of my favourite travel memories was an early-morning run along the Danube when visiting Budapest. The city was just coming to life. Most tourists were still in bed. The sun was beaming down on these amazing historical buildings. And I just experienced a sense of being part of it all. It’s one of the most beautiful cities and – at the time – was just far enough off the tourist agenda that it wasn’t overrun with crowds. Besides, who can’t love a city that has 500-year-old Turkish baths with amazing architecture?

  • Do you consult a website or a guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Scott – When in Europe, I rely on Rick Steve’s for advice on what to see and which neighbourhoods to stroll through. Otherwise, I check Frommer’s and Fodor’s for the basics. These days, I’m finding myself turning more and more to Twitter. I’m fortunate enough to have many loyal followers who give me tips and connect me with locals they know for even better tips. We all know to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame when visiting Paris. But what about that great, new cafe in Le Marais? That’s where Twitter has surprisingly helped me.

  • How would you like to see airports improve?

Scott – Airports, particularly in the U.S., need to do a better job of being accessible by mass transit. Cities should follow the lead of Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Denver, which have built (or are still building) light rail lines to the airport. It’s stressful enough to worry about getting through check-in lines and security. Nobody should have to also fret over a traffic jam. Living in New York, I frequently take our clunky and often confusing mass transit to the airport. It might take longer – and is far from the best system – but I know exactly how long the trip will take.

  • What tips you would like to give to new travellers, afraid of breaking their bank in order to travel. 

Scott – Some of my best travel experiences have come on a shoestring budget. I still have cravings for this incredible dinner I had in Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighbourhood; we had steak, wine and pasta for less than the cost of some New York lunches. Thanks to some wise use of credit cards and frequent flier miles, I was able to fly for free. Many public transit lines – especially in Europe – offer great sightseeing tours at a fraction of the cost of those hop-on, hop-off buses. Museums are often free one night or day during the week. Think like a local and do some research. You won’t just save money but have a better experience.

  • You may have slightly answered this question already but briefly describe what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating travel among common folks?

Scott – Social media has allowed the common traveler to communicate directly with airlines, hotels, zoos, museums and other attractions. It has taken some of the stress out of travel but providing detailed answers to custom questions that guidebooks often can’t answer. Does the cafe at the museum cater to people with peanut allergies? I’m traveling for my honeymoon, any chance of an upgrade? Twitter allows all travellers to get answers to questions that might have never easily received.

  • Right! Finally as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, which are your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Scott – @DavidJBarger – It’s nice to see an airline CEO Tweet and actually have fun things to say.

@NYCAviation – These guys are plugged into the air traffic and plane spotting communities.

@AP – Sure I work here, but it always amazes me how many interesting stories from all corners of the globe there are.

 

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Rick Ingersoll (Frugal Travel Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Rick Ingersoll, the founder of FrugalTravelGuy explains the mission of the blog quite simply as “helping regular folks see the world at prices one can afford”. And at that very moment I knew that I had to speak to this retired mortgage banker turned global frequent flyer and pick his brains.

Since founding the blog in 2007, Rick and his entire FTG team have helped out regular folks to travel the world upfront and in style. He has also authored a handbook aptly titled “The Frugal Guy Travel Handbook”. Rick and his wife Katy have been on two “Around the World” Rick Ingersoll - The Frugal Travel Guyitineraries in either J (Business) or F (First) class, using points, miles or vouchers. He has collected over five million frequent flyer miles and currently has over 1.5 million of them. The Frugal Travel Guy blog has also been awarded the best budget travel blog over 3  years, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 by tripbase.com.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Rick, why do you travel?

Rick – The people. We have been blessed to visit over 60 countries and met amazing people. They have made our experiences and shared their world with us. Getting on planes is a requirement to see the world. As long as we have a comfortable seat and can safely get to our destination we’re happy to get on the plane.

  • I know you enjoy and encourage people to travel in style, in the front of the aircraft. Any interesting instances while flying?

Rick – The journey is part of the experience, but our eye is on the prize at the end, the destination. Our memorable experiences have most always been at our destination. I’ve met several readers of the blog on at the airport or on a flight which is always fun. Meeting fellow travellers leads to great conversation. A few years ago I met Dave Winfield in an airport terminal and spoke about travel and our experiences. We’ve kept in touch; he’s a great guy.

  • Do you have a favourite airport?

Rick – Hilton Head and Savannah are our current home airports. Easy in and easy out makes it a plus for us.

  • Talking about airports, what addition/s you would like to see them adopt? (besides Wi-Fi)  

Rick – More quiet spaces. Airport lounges are a fantastic place to relax but in places where there are none, quiet places to read are relaxing

  • Do you have a preferred airline and a favourite aircraft?

Rick – The airline that gets me to my destination safely and comfortably. American has treated me well in the past few years, but I’ve flown just about all of them.

As far as favourite aircraft is concerned, as a big guy every bit of space helps. For those long haul flights any plane with a flat seat so I can sleep is a winner in my book

Kauai 03 007

Kauai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Which is your destination of choice?

Rick – We love the island of Kauai.  Perfect weather, beautiful scenery and wonderful people. I like to call it FTG west headquarters. Our time with family and friends that we’ve been able to share has been some of the best.

  • This is going to be right up your alley. I know how much you love to help out folks with their travel, what advise would you give to all those who want to travel the world frugally?

Rick – Write down your goals and priorities, and make them tangible. Make sure you hit one of your goals within a year. If you have good credit, use that excess good credit to make it affordable. It has worked for us for years and anyone can do this.

  • Which website, guide book etc. you refer before and while your traveling? What’s your study for a country/city like?

Rick – I talk to my friends and family that may know about the destination and always look through the forums on flyertalk. The US State department has a great site for information on foreign countries as well which I recommend

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Rick – I think it has done some fantastic things for customer service with almost immediate access to people empowered to help solve problems.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on Twitter, which are your three must follow accounts on twitter

Rick – @GlobeTrotScott, @DeltaAssist, and of course @FlyerTalk

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

When I asked Devesh what led him to start Bangalore Aviation, his answer was simply because his friends and family increasingly started coming to him for all aviation related advice and discussions, he noticed the absence of an India specific aviation blog, thus the idea of Bangalore Aviation was germinated. When your a global frequent flier with over 4 million miles against your name, all that is naturally supposed to happen.

Devesh posing Inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

Devesh posing inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

My personal view, knowing him for few years now, is that and more. I think it’s a cocktail of what he describes as well as what he doesn’t. You see Devesh loves to share his wealth of knowledge, and those who know him would describe him as a larger than life, social and jovial man who loves his food and flights. Through a blog he found just the right outlet to vent out. Other parts of the puzzle just fit in their places perfectly.

Bangalore Aviation is described by him as “By aviation enthusiasts, for aviation enthusiasts”, started on March 14, 2008, with the intent of being a “no-spin” zone of Indian aviation media.

Like many leading bloggers, managing Bangalore Aviation is not Devesh’s day job.  He is a technology product management expert and has been awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010.

Devesh also has been recognized as one of the must follow aviation pros on twitter in Mashable for good measure.

Enjoy this conversation:

  • Devesh, what has been your personal motivation to travel and to fly?  

Devesh – From childhood I have loved planes, the magic of flight, the physics of flying. I also have a pair of glider pilot wings, and I just love to fly. I still remember my first flight as an eight year old boarding Air India Boeing 747 Emperor Ashoka. It is fascinating that we can travel to countries on the other side of the earth in less than 24 hours, a feat that was fraught with danger less than 60 years ago. It is a pity that air travel over the years has become less glamorous and there are many airlines in the world today, which treat passengers as “self-loading cargo”, but thankfully there are also those that do not.

  • So your not a fan of Ryan Air, I’m actually yet to meet someone who is. I believe you would be the sorts to enjoy your plane ride. Any memorable experience?

    Air hostesses for Singapore Airlines. January ...

    Singapore Girls: Also known as Devesh’s perpetual saviours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devesh –  I was on the inaugural Los Angeles-Singapore non-stop A340-500 Singapore Airline flight. The inbound flight from Singapore was four hours early due to favourable winds, which meant the winds would be against us while going back. The pilots decided to take an equatorial route, which was longer than the polar route but had less opposing winds and were nearer to major airports should we need to land to re-fuel.

During another of my SIA flights between Frankfurt and JFK. About 25% of the business class seats stopped working, two passengers fell ill midway, and one in fact died from a heart attack. All this while the crew was being audited and inspected by an in-flight quality control auditor. Hats off to that crew for their performance. They were on their feet for the full eight hours and running back and forth the entire length of the B744 and not skipping a beat on their very high service levels while still attending to the passenger emergencies and seat failures.

These are just two of my long list of experiences, by Indian newspaper standards I have had more “miraculous escapes” than the proverbial cat.

  • All that makes my next question redundant, I was going to ask your favourite airline…

Devesh – Yes, it’s Singapore Airlines. The service level is simply unmatched. On a Singapore to JFK flight, my nine year old son spilt a full glass of coke on himself. My wife had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for him. The crew brought a Givenchy pajama suit they give to first class passengers, and altered the pajamas by hand stitching to fit the young boy!!!!! I have never heard of such an experience on any other airline. To top this off, my wife and children were flying, without me, and on an award business class ticket. So no FFP or revenue influences.

English: Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V...

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V-SPP) in Star Alliance livery at Singapore Changi Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • That actually sounds quite incredible, which would be your preferred airport?

Devesh – It’s Singapore Changi of course, due to their hyper-efficient immigration, baggage delivery, and customs. Even with checked baggage, you are out of the airport within 15 minutes.

  • All right Singapore fan boy (just kidding!!), tell me about your all time favourite aircraft.

Devesh – Without a doubt, Concorde. I was very sad to see her being retired. For the first time in history we went backward in technology as there is even till today no replacement aircraft for her, and none appears to be for the next 20 years.

(Vishal’s note: Read my flashback story on the Concorde, as well as Devesh’s great piece on it.)

  • Let’s get slightly more specific now; which airline according to you has the best economy, premium economy, business and first class products?

Devesh – Best Economy – Singapore Airlines

Best Premium Economy – Cathay Pacific

Best Business Class – 1-2-1 configured Singapore Airlines beats most first class. Also the Upper Class of Virgin Atlantic and their fantastic Club House, and those ladies in red.

Best First Class – The old Pan Am Boeing 747s with the upper deck lounge. Currently, I think Emirates A380 takes the crown. Their seats are narrow compared to other airlines, but any airline that has a shower spa on board and serves Hennessy Paradis cognac (about $850 a 750ml bottle) has to take the “Over the top” crown.

  • Lets come back to airports for a second, is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Devesh – Restaurants serving real food, not the fast food fried or ready made nonsense. I think with growing travel, appreciation for good food, and airline’s cutting back, a fine dining restaurant at airports will do well.

  • You have a successful career and run a successful website, what advise would you give to those who want to travel the world without breaking their bank balance?

Devesh – The travel itself is not expensive. Depending on where you travel the boarding and lodging is. For most I would recommend using a tour package from one of the reputable companies.

  • Is there a go-to website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Devesh – Apart from BangaloreAviation.com? :), I go through Lonely Planet, Frommers, but my first choice is my business colleagues and friends in the destination country/city.

  • That was a clever plug Devesh 🙂, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Devesh – Social media has brought more world cultures to the attention of more people, and hence the desire to travel to what, ten years ago, would have been an unknown place for someone. Same goes with meeting people. Personally I have met some great people, initially online, but then also in person. You are one person where our virtual friendship has transformed in to a real one. Other friends include Shashank Nigam (Simpliflying), and others.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 must follow twitter user accounts?

Devesh – @mashable for all things social media and gadgets

@avweekrupa, @apexmary, @simpliflying – people with great insight and thoughtful tweets

@breakingnews – global developments

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Brian Kelly is a perfect case of perfection passion and popularity converting a Wall Street road warrior to a Miles and Points guy, more so as “The Points Guy”.Brian Kelly - The Points Guy

Before catching up with him, it was fascinating to read how a 13 year old Brian figured out to use his father’s points to take the whole family for a vacation to Grand Cayman. Equally fascinating was his transformation from a Wall Street HR Manager with a cushy job, to a Full time blogger after frequent hounding up by his family and friends first and later by the readers of his then part-time blog to help them out with their points. Boy, has that turned out well or what?

Brian’s website, ThePointsGuy turned full time in mid 2011 and now gets more than 4,00,000 unique visitors every month. Besides his own, Brian has also contributed to The New York Times, Conde’ Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Independent. He is often invited for major travel conferences and consults regularly with top airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Brian, what attracts you to travelling?

Brian – The main thing I love about travel is meeting new people, exploring new cities and trying different foods – all while accruing miles doing so.

  • Do you fancy airplanes or does the destination hold greater excitement for you?

Brian – For me travel is the destination, if I could teleport I absolutely would. That being said, because I’m able to fly a lot of great Business and First Class products I don’t dread getting on the plane but if I could avoid it I would. I’ve met a lot of good friends on planes including one of my best friends and business manager, and sat next to countless celebrities but the most interesting people I find are fellow frequent flyers.

  • I suspect catching up with Madonna would rank right up there for you. Which airline you fancy most for flying?

    Cathay Pacific First Class

    Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian – My favourite airline is Cathay Pacific because of their First class product, which has to be the most comfortable product I’ve ever flown. Emirates first is on my to do list and I hope to experience that within the next year or so.

  • And your preferred airport would be?

Brian – Most US airports are overcrowded and uninspired but I really like the new Sky Deck at JFK that is my favourite lounge to visit in US. Internationally I love the Concord lounge at Heathrow T5 because it’s perfect for plane watching.

  • If you could improve one area at airports what would it be? (Besides wifi)

Brian – More sky lounges for plane watchers! I would also love to see more pet relief areas within the terminal since most are outside in parking garages, which doesn’t help when connecting.

  • Which is your favourite aircraft to fly on? 

Brian – I’m old school – I love the Boeing 747, I’m an upper deck kind of guy and I like the enclosed quaint feel it has.

Flying Lufthansa First Class last summer with the lie flat bed and spacious seat was definitely a highlight for me. I still haven’t tried out the 747-8 but its on my to do list.

  • From a wall street  road warrior to a professional frequent flyer (if I may say so), what tips would you give to people at large who want to travel without spending too much?

Brian – Right off the bat you should sign up for point earning credit cards and charge every expense possible on them so you can maximise the points you earn. You should also get credit cards that have bonus categories for the things you spend the most on whether it be dining, travel, groceries, etc. I recommend signing up for the the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives 2x points on travel and dining and there is a current sign up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • All though most of your credit card tips are not applicable for the Indian market,  I still keep reading them for kicks and I remember your British Airways card tip, where 50000 miles was an upfront bonus and then you can cut up the card few months later. That was a pretty awesome offer.

            That reminds me; tell me your recommended economy, premium economy, business and first class products in the world?

Brian – Economy – I don’t know I’m 6’7 and don’t fly economy often enough to judge but I’ve heard that Emirates is pretty good

English: EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin

EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Premium Economy – I’ve only flown KLM Economy Comfort and really enjoyed it. Nice touch was that it was free for Delta Platinum/Diamond Medallions

Business Class – I would have to go with EVA airways because its comfortable and they serve Dom Perignon champagne

First Class – Emirates takes the cake for my First class choice. Besides the roomy seat that extends to a comfortable bed that I can actually fit in, you can take a shower on their A380.

  • Do you have a favorite city to travel?

Brian – Madrid is the place I visit the most since my best friend lives there. I love the energy, culture, food, and nightlife there – I can never get enough. I also studied abroad there in college, which is when my love for the city began.

  • Do you consult any website, guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Brian – Whenever I’m taking a trip to an obscure destination I like to ask my readers for recommendations because they are well traveled and I trust their opinions. I also check FlyerTalk to see if there are any relevant threads.

  • You have a huge social media presence, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel, and specifically award travel?

Brian – Social media/Twitter has greatly increased airline’s customer service and allowed them to be more proactive and responsive to customer complaints. In the past, customers had to submit complaints and wait weeks for a response. Now you can tweet airlines while in the airport and get issues resolved as they are happening.

(Vishal’s note:  Read this quick piece on Delta’s fantastic social media customer service effort).

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Brian – @skift – for travel industry news

@theflightdeal – for cheap flights

@NYCaviation – for breaking aviation news

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Arndt (Everything-Everywhere)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Almost six and half years back, In the early spring of 2007, Gary Arndt decided to let go of everything that he owned and set off on a journey which would inspire not just him, but hundreds of thousands across the world to Travel.

He sold off his house, his furniture, and appliances…. Almost everything he owns and decides to pursue his passion. And thus Everything Everywhere, one of the longest running personal travel blog is born.

In between his undying love for Travel, Pro Wrestling (His headshot actually reminded me of Stone Cold Steve Austin in a way) and Writing for the blog, Gary also finds time to co-host a fantastic travel podcast with Chris Christensen every week called This Week in Travel, speak at conferences around the world and shoot thousands of brilliant photographs every month.

Gary wears his patented "traveller facemask"

Gary wears his patented “Traveller Face mask”, you don’t wanna know more!

Gary also writes/shoots regularly for leading publications like The Atlantic, The Huffington Post and The Four Hour Work Week. He has won the Lowell Thomas Award and his blog was named one of the 25 best blogs on the Internet by Time Magazine in 2010.

And here’s the most stunning part: Gary has Globetrotted over 140 countries and 7 continents in the last 6 years, besides covering over 250 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

With an ever increasing massive following on twitter (1,22,889 followers, as of pressing publish) and his unmatched Globetrotting skills, needless to say I was more than excited for my chat with Gary.

  • What is it about traveling that made you left everything behind? What is your greatest motivation to travel?

Gary – I enjoy the freedom that travel offers and I enjoy learning about new things everywhere I go.

  • Do you enjoy the flying portion of your trips?  Would you count yourself as an enthusiast?

Gary – Honestly, I don’t. I prefer almost every other mode of transportation to flying. The process isn’t pleasant, but it is something you just have to do if you travel internationally. Memorable flights are usually not good flights, so I’m thankful to say I haven’t really had any memorable experiences.

  • No special memories from your flight time. What about airlines, do you have any favored airline?

Gary – My favorite airline is Singapore Airlines because they have such great customer service.

  • Would that make SIA’s hub at Changi your desired airport as well?

Gary – Yes, Indeed. They have lots of great things to do if you are on a layover and the facility is well designed.

  • I know you have hesitated before about naming your most favourite destination, and compared it to a mother choosing between her children, but I’m going to give it one more shot.

Gary  * SILENCE *

  • All right, with that insightful answer, can you share your most unforgettable travel experience?

    English: A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau.

    A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gary – My most unforgettable experience is either swimming with Jellyfish in Palau or being on shore with 100,000 penguins in South Georgia Island.

  • As a habitual traveler, if I may use that word, where would you like to see Airports improve?

Gary – I would like to see accessible and ample power outlets. Too many airports either hide them or make them inaccessible.

  • True. While researching for our interaction I stumbled on to one of your other interviews, where you mentioned Monster Cable Travel Power Strip as one of the most important parts of your tech gear. I also read that you’re a part owner of Packers, which would make you quite well off. What advice would you give to all those who might not be as financially sound, an average guy, but who still wants to travel the world?

Gary – That confuses a lot of people. The Green Bay Packers are the smallest community in North America to have a professional sports team and they are the only North American sports team, which is owned by the community. There is no billionaire owner. I own 1 share of stock that I purchased for $200 🙂

Travel is cheaper than people think it is. It all depends on where you go and how you do it. If you travel to Switzerland or Norway, you will spend a lot of money. If you go to SE Asia or Central American, you can spend very little. Likewise, if you avoid the big chain hotels and stay at hostels and guesthouses you can save a lot of money as well.  

  • So much for my extensive research. Ha! Let me try to put you in the pickle again: Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Gary – I never use guidebooks and I don’t do that much research. I travel so much I usually just land and figure things out. If it is a place I’ve never been before I might get 1 or 2 nights booked in advance, but that is about it. Everything I get from asking people on the ground, Google searches and from my readers.

  • That should encourage a lot of people out there to just travel. And in the end, in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” tell me your 3 must follow twitter users

Gary –  @PVPonline

@JohnnyJet

@Petapixel

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

The first bookmark in my aviation essential reading folder is CrankyFlier.com, and I’m certain to be one of the many enthusiasts who open the site every day to read new content (although on an average, a new article pops up on the site every second day).

Brett Snyder, the President and (as he likes to call himself) the Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Flier is the ‘been there, done that’ man of the aviation industry. Fascination with airplanes started at a very young age and by the age of 12, he had become a travel agent. His fascination with the industry only grew with job stints at USAir, America West, United and PriceGrabber.com.Brett Snyder - Cranky Flier on Air NZ

He’s been a full time blogger for few years now, along with his own air travel assistance service, known as Cranky Concierge, for which he has been named as a “Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler for multiple times now.

Brett has also won multiple awards for “The Cranky Flier”, and also writes for CNTraveler.com and Intuit Small Business Blog.

Before we begin our chat, bit of trivia about the name: Brett was given the name “Cranky Pants” by his friend and that stuck as CrankyFlier, as the name seemed neutral to Brett himself.

 

  • What makes you travel Brett?

Brett – Sadly most of my travel lately is about the process itself and not about being in a location.  That’s too bad, because the real motivation for travel should be what’s on the other end of the flight.  It’s almost always worth it, even though it is exhausting.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part more of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Brett – I enjoy both, but I don’t have a lot of sightseeing opportunities on my trips lately.  Regarding flights, I have had so many great experiences.  But I think if there’s one that stands out, it’s the time I had the pleasure of flying Concorde from London to New York.  That was just surreal. (Vishal’s note:  Must read related trip report of Concorde here).

  • I know that Boeing 747 is your favourite aircraft, what about your preferred airport and why? 

Brett – I don’t have a single airport or airline that I like best.  It’s different depending upon the situation.  For example, I love my hometown airport, Long Beach, but that’s because you can get through it very easily and the facility is excellent.  But it’s not where I’d want to spend a long connection.

  • And your Favorite airline will be?

Brett – For airlines, I might choose one airline to go in business class to Europe whereas a short hop to San Francisco might be something else.  I really don’t have a top choice.

  • What about your preferred city for a break?

Brett – I’d have to say London.  For whatever reason, I just love going there.  One of my favourite experiences there involved a visit to some friends on a surprisingly warm and sunny spring day.  We started up on Baker Street and wandered the streets until we ended up down in South Kensington for dinner.  We just wandered aimlessly for hours and took advantage of the city’s lack of an open container law.  I find that the best experiences are when I know someone locally.  It just changes the way you see a city.

  • Leaving aside Wi-Fi, which is being implemented by majority of airports, what other changes you want to see at the airports?

Brett – I would love to see more day rooms.  Fortunately, we’re seeing that happen more and more.

  • You run a successful website/business. What would you tell as advise to the average Joe, missing deep pockets but still harboring the will to travel the world?

Brett – There are great ways to travel the world without spending a ton of money.  In particular, if you can qualify for a credit card, you can earn a lot of miles and turn that into free travel around the world.  Or you can look for a job that requires a lot of travel.  Travel within regions can be very inexpensive, and you can always say in hostels to save money.  So the key is just funding the long haul travel.

  • Do you have a go-to guide before you travel?

Brett – I don’t have a go-to guide.  I use friends as much as possible, but for internet research I usually just start with Google and work my way around from there.

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Brett – I think social media has helped bring experiences to people in real time.  It used to be you could watch a slideshow of someone’s trip after they returned.  Now you can live through it with them including photos, videos and more.  It can all be shared as it happens, so it makes it more real for people at home.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favorite twitter user accounts?

Brett – three favourites?  Hmm, maybe @FakeUnitedJeff@NYCAviation,

and since you didn’t say it had to be travel-related, @Dbacks.  (Yep, I’m a big baseball fan.)

 

 

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