This past weekend, I had the privilege to speak at Dia’s 3rd Family Travel for Real Life #FT4RL conference.
Hipmunk did an interesting study on which US Cities and States are most pet friendly. Its interesting that at the top level, only 41% of US hotels are pet friendly. That’s actually higher than I expected, until I did some more digging of my own. In fact, I was quite surprised with how many big hotel chains are dog friendly. Here’s something of a roundup, for those of you, that like me, want to bring Fido (or in my case, Indy) on your next domestic trip.
The first place that I think of when I think of pet friendly hotels, is Hyatt, they have a pretty nice program. For Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt, and Grand Hyatts, you would receive some special treatment, including a dog welcome letter and door hanger at check-in; this way Fido will get to experience your Hyatt Diamond status, because, it’s just not the same without the welcome letter. Additionally, Hyatt will provide a dog bed, bowl, ID tag, and a welcome amenity in the guest room — I can see it now: paw’s off the wine, Fido!
For Hyatt Place and Hyatt Houses, you can also bring Fido, but won’t get the Diamond experience. I will note, for all Hyatt’s, there will be a non-refundable cleaning fee which may vary by the hotel — I’ve seen anywhere between $75-100.
Unfortunately, not every Four Seasons embraces Fido as we would like. They do offer some nice amenities (see the above link for an example, courtesy of St. Louis), including beds and water bowls. Not really that Diamond experience that Hyatt boasts, but, still nice.. It’s also important to note that generally they are only accepting of smaller dogs (under 25 pounds), and unlike Hyatt, don’t charge a fee.
Ok, so I had to google this one (I’ve never stayed at a La Quinta hotel personally), apparently they are welcoming of pets, but, this is more your economy approach. It’s not clear that they provide pet beds or bowls, but, its also not clear that they assess an additional clean-up fee.
Kimpton’s perhaps the most generous that I’ve seen. If your pet can fit through the door, he or she is in. So if Fido is a Great Dane, then you are in luck with Kimpton! Some hotels even have Directors of Pet Relations! They provide plus pet beds, food and water bowls, door hangers, and here Fido can get his paws on the wine, as pets are welcome to join the nightly complimentary wine reception!
Not a big chain, but, Lowes Hotels and Resorts even have in-house Pet Chefs… So Fido will eat like the Dog American Prince (or Princess) (DAP) that they are.
Marriott has only 1411 pet friendly hotels in the US. Unfortunately, beyond that, and vague references to additional fees that vary by location, there isn’t a whole lot. You might want to bring Fido’s food and water bowls, just in case, if you’ll be staying at a Marriott.
I can’t seem to find any overarching policy for Hilton, just hotel specific ones. I did however find a 5 year old post reviewing Hilton’s pet friendliness, but all the links seem to be gone. It is not clear to me, whether this is an about face in Hilton’s policy, or a casualty of ever changing websites.
You may need to create a cribsheet for Starwood. Rather than trying to summarize it, I’m just going to paste it in below, because it’s kind’ve complicated:
In order to determine the Pet Policy for an individual hotel, please visit the Customer Assistance Center and enter the Hotel Name or City in the search field. Pet Policy will be listed under the ‘Contact Us’ topic in ‘Announcements’.
Aloft accepts dogs up to 40 lbs. If your dog weighs more than 40 pounds, please contact the hotel directly to discuss a waiver.
Four Points by Sheraton does not have a standard policy regarding pets for our hotels. If you would like to have your pet join you, please let us know when making your reservation so that we can confirm the policy of the hotel where you will be staying.
Element accepts dogs up to 40 lbs and owners must sign a waiver upon check-in and are liable for costs related to any damage or extra cleaning needed..
Le Méridien does not have a standard policy regarding pets. If you would like to have your pet join you, please let us know when making your reservation so that we can confirm the policy of the hotel where you will be staying.
Luxury Collection does not have a standard policy regarding pets for our hotels. If you would like to have your pet join you, please let us know when making your reservation so that we can confirm the policy of the hotel where you will be staying.
Almost all Sheraton Hotels & Resorts welcome dogs as guests into their hotels, in accordance with local health codes. Some hotels may require an extra per night charge and/or a deposit. There is a weight limit of 80 pounds though dogs exceeding the weight limit and pets other than dogs may be accepted into the hotel at the General Manager’s discretion and should be confirmed before arrival. Pet owners will be responsible for their canine companions and for any excessive damage they may cause and you will be required to sign a pet waiver upon check in. Dogs may not be left in guest rooms unattended at any time for the duration of their stay. Individual hotels may also have additional restrictions. If you would like to have your pet join you, please let us know when making your reservation so that we can confirm the policy of the hotel where you will be staying.
St. Regis Hotels & Resorts do not have a standard policy regarding pets. If you would like to have your pet join you, please let us know when making your reservation so that we can confirm the policy of the hotel where you will be staying.
W pampers pooches and, in some cases, other furry friends as well. The room rate with a pet will include an additional fee above the room charge plus a non-refundable cleaning fee. We allow only one pet per room at no more than 40lbs. However, dogs exceeding the weight limit and pets other than dogs may be accepted into the hotel at the Hotel Management’s discretion. Pet owners will be responsible for their canine companions and for any excessive damage they may cause. You will be required to sign a pet waiver upon check in. Additional restrictions may apply and full hotel details are available upon request.
Almost all Westin Hotels & Resorts, within North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific welcome dogs as guests into their hotels, in accordance with local health codes. Some hotels may require an extra per night charge and/or a deposit. There is a weight limit of 80 pounds (40 pounds at Westin). However, dogs exceeding the weight limit and pets other than dogs may be accepted into the hotel at the Hotel Management’s discretion. Pet owners will be responsible for their canine companions and for any excessive damage they may cause. You will be required to sign a pet waiver upon check in. Additional restrictions may apply and full hotel details are available upon request.
Fairmont has a great link that outlines what their pet policy by property. It looks like there are varying fees, but not all hotels even have fees. In fact, the Fairmont hotels in Washington DC have a Very Important Dog (VID) program, where Fido will be greeted with healthy treats made by the Executive Pastry Chef, as well as bottled water (because drinking out of the toilet bowl is so drawl), and will even donate 5% of the room rate to the Washington Animal Rescue League. Other hotels vary, but suffice it to say, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are pretty pet friendly.
Best Western has more pet friendly properties than Marriott, in fact, more than 1600 of them. There may be a fee of up to $20 per day, or $100 per week, and it isn’t clear to me what additional amenities Best Western provides. Fido may not be feeling as enjoy cherished as he would at some of the other hotels identified above.
IHG Hotels have policies for a bunch of countries, however, it isn’t entirely clear to me what the corporate level policy is. If you go to the links I’ve included here, it looks like it just continually drills down to the hotel, and things may vary by property.
Suffice it to say, when I started working this post, I didn’t think there would be as many pet friendly hotel chains as there ultimately ended up being.
Have you taken along your pet on a trip? Do you plan to in the future?
H/T to Elaine
On an idle Saturday, I happened to be scanning twitter, and I saw this from @AirlineReporter:
From the Idaho Statesman – and believe me, the title of their article is poorly done, but here it is –
Passengers evacuate plane at Boise Airport after fuel leak sparks fire fear
It appears that the reason they decided to have a party on the wing, was due to a fuel leak that looked like it might be vaporous (this the “spark” comment in the title). Apparently many felt it was better to be out, standing on the wing, in the event the fuel spill turned into something, rather than in the aircraft. I don’t see the fuel spill, bu the fact that the fuel truck is in the background doesn’t make me feel like that was good idea.
Oh, and check out how many bags are on that wing… looks like there is in fact room for a rollerboard on the wing, because, why not?
When I first saw @CanadianKMs tweet this a few weeks ago, I thought it was great.
Canadians and Americans now get Visa-Free access to Indonesia! Yay! http://t.co/VTdRDx4RZs
— Jeff (@canadiankms) March 17, 2015
Well, it turns out, its not so great. I received a tweet from 2 Global Nomads today, alerting me to things not looking so bright.
— 2 Global Nomads (@paivisanteri) April 15, 2015
Well, as it turns out, even though the Indonesian government said it would waive the visa requirement for 30 countries (including the US, Canada, and the UK), it’s putting that on hold. I had to dig deep for a supporting FlyerTalk thread (because, after all, someone has to have experienced a rude surprise of having to pay the Visa fee!) If you’re curious, here’s the whole list of folks that probably got excited, only to be let down:
Why backstep on the visa-free policy?
It seems that the answer is that:
The Immigration Law No. 6/2011 stipulates that the only foreigners who are allowed to enter Indonesia without visas are citizens of countries that similarly don’t require Indonesians to get tourist visas. – See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/03/23/free-visas-30-nations-violates-law-may-not-fly.html#sthash.vGiNhudD.dpuf
In order to waive the visa requirements, or provide them free, Indonesia would have to find some way around Immigration Law No. 6/2011. This is not good for the tourism industry, which likely saw this as a way to make Indonesia more attractive as a vacation destination.
What does that mean for all of us heading there with trips planned?
Not a whole lot. If I had to guess, most folks probably figured they’d have to pay for a Visa anyway. The last time I went to Bali, the Visa on Arrival cost was $25 USD, per person. Looking now to the US State Department’s Travel page, it’s now $35 USD. I sincerely hope that no one would cancel their trip for $35 USD per person, but I could totally see how it would hurt a family of 4, at a price of $140.
This past weekend, my wife and I embarked on our most ambitious mileage run ever. We flew from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Doha, Qatar (DOH) to Cairo, Egypt (CAI), and back, with the least amount of time on the ground possible. You can see the play by play via twitter by searching #90minturninCAI
By the numbers
- ~16,415 Butt in Seat Miles
- 24,622 Elite Qualifying Points
- 4 segments
- 2 itineraries
- 43 hours wheels up to wheels down at home airport
9080 minute connection
- 6-8″ of snow for the drive home
In all fairness – we flew in premium cabins the entire itinerary, but really the core stress point was the originally planned 90 minute turnaround in Cairo. Of course, there were more stress points. I thought it might be interesting to use those as a way to offer the highlights of our international mileage run.
The stress points
First stress point: was self-induced. We got out of the house a couple minutes later than anticipated, about 8 minutes into the drive to the airport, ADT called to tell us there was an alarm at the house. Being so close, I decided to turn around and investigate for myself. It turned out to be a false alarm, one of many I’ve had with ADT. That delayed us in total just under a half hour. We still made it to the airport in time, even having enough time to grab a burger in the Virgin Atlantic lounge.
- Brief comment about that: It screams irony that Qatar Airways partners with Virgin Atlantic for the use of their lounge at Washington-Dulles. This even though British Airways (competitor to Virgin Atlantic) is a fellow OneWorld member. Add to it that Qatar Airways recently bought a 10% stake in IAG, the company that owns British Airways. All said, Virgin Atlantic’s lounge was our second favorite at Dulles, but a very close second to Etihad’s lounge. Server service, a la carte (aka you order what you want, but still gratis) menu.
Second stress point: was trying to get boarding passes for our flights ex-Cairo, which, was on a separate itinerary. When we landed in Doha, we figured that the lounge had a cadre of folks that could help, so we skipped the transfer desk, went through “transfer security” and made a bee-line for the lounge (after a picture of the big yellow teddy bear).
- Big mistake: The staff in the lounge was unable to help, and advised that we go to the transfer desk. So we grabbed a bite to eat in the lounge, and made our way back down.
It’s a lot harder leaving the “security zone” than entering. To leave (aka get to the transfer desk) we were directed to an unused security checkpoint, but when we started walking through and we were told to turn around. We did as told and were met by a large woman, as well as a guy in a uniform, telling us to go back (the way we were trying to go), so we could “re-enter” via one of the operational security checkpoints, we complied. Once “out” of the security zone, we went to the transfer desk, who was surprisingly efficient in providing our boarding passes. Then it was back through security, which, again, was easier getting in, than out.
Third stress point: This was the key stress point leading up to the trip – the
90 80 minute turnaround. In reality, the turnaround was supposed to be 105 minutes, but I handicapped it to 90 minutes because I wanted to be safe. It turned out that we left Doha late, then in Cairo we taxied forever—heck, we might’ve landed in Alexandria and taxied to Cairo! When we finally got off the plane, it was 80 minutes before our scheduled departure.
We hustled down the stairs (Cairo uses remote gates, unless you’re flying Star Alliance), onto the bus, and waited impatiently for the ground staff to release the bus. Luckily the first bus is reserved just for First Class, and left as soon as all first class passengers were on board.
Once off the bus, the fun really began. We hustled to the Transfer area (so fast that I neglected to get a photo), and provided our next flights’ boarding passes to the transfer agent. The conversation went a little like this:
Cairo Immigration Officer: Where did you just fly from?
Cairo Immigration Officer: Where are you flying to?
Cairo Immigration Officer: Ok, where did you just fly from?
Cairo Immigration Officer: But your boarding pass says you’re flying Cairo to Doha.
Cairo Immigration Officer: Why are you flying to Doha if you just came from there?
Me: We’re on a mileage run.
Cairo Immigration Officer: Oh.
A couple minutes later, another gentleman came, took our passports from the Immigration officer, and said he’d return in 5 minutes. He disappeared into the terminal, and a colleague of his returned about 4 minutes later. He asked if we’d like to go to the lounge, to which my response was that we would much appreciate it. As he walked over to fill out some paperwork with the immigration officer, he asked if my wife was pregnant. That one threw me for a loop. Had I been anywhere else, I would’ve responded: “Would that make this process faster?” instead I said no (the honest answer—no surprises here), and he just nodded.
A few more minutes of waiting, he returned to us and escorted us to the VIP lounge. And when I say VIP lounge, I mean the only lounge in the airport. Imagine unsecured wifi, a bunch of seating, food that you probably wouldn’t want to eat, and plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Oh and smoking in Cairo airport general seems to be fully permitted. I wasn’t complaining. Heck, I almost wanted to hug the guy, until he said he had to take our passports to check us in. Be back in 10 minutes he says.
Now, I’m usually easy-going. Ok, fine, more often than not, I’m uptight. You disappear with my passport a second time in the span of 10 minutes, I’m really uptight. But I’ve got to play the confident captain role—as I’ve started joking about, since, I am a licensed sea captain, and you’ve got to appear confident, even if you might not be—so here I am, checking e-mail on my phone, counting down the minutes. I think I tweeted:
One of the most powerless feelings in the world for a traveler is not having your passport. Minutes feel like hours. #90minturninCAI
— Trevor (@tmount) February 20, 2015
When the gentleman re-appeared, roughly 11 minutes after he disappeared—and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here, because he was waiting for the elevator a good 60 seconds just to get down—and now I thought my wife was going to give him a hug. We finally had our passports. He directed us to the gate, and casually escorted us to the gate. In fact, he talked a different immigration officer through waving us by to get onto the bus back to our plane.
After having a celebratory glass of rose champagne, I considered the mileage run a success. But we still had another flight to go, with a winter storm warning back home.
Fourth stress point: Despite headwinds, and probably not departing Doha on time, we landed on time, on a rather snowy runway.
Of course, while I’m sure it took significant skill to land safely at Washington-Dulles, there was yet more to come. In what was perhaps the most surprising positive thing of the trip, our people mover to Customs wasn’t delayed, nor was it packed full. We were through customs in no time. We would’ve been to the car faster, except that the walkway to the Daily Lot 2 was not fully plowed and I was walking in dress shoes (my wife was smart enough to have worn sneakers). Before long we were in the car and on our way on the snowpacked roadways of Dulles International Airport. We live roughly 50 miles from Dulles, although the route we ended up taking was probably more than 75 miles. The routing is probably immaterial, but I’ll just say – we actively decided that we would take the safer, less congested, and more circuitous route, rather than getting stuck with the most direct, congested path (like this):
Roads were horrible, as one might expect when snow is coming down at 1-2″ per hour. Just look at the weather map:
Another heavier snow band moving through DC area from west to east pic.twitter.com/rJhS9odmiz
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) February 21, 2015
I don’t want to belabor the point – but slow and steady wins the race. Even if you’re driving a Mini Cooper in snow. It just becomes a bit more difficult to win the race when your plowing snow with your splitter/front fender, because that is how poorly the roads have been cleared.
I’m writing this Saturday night, but after 43 hours from Washington-Dulles to Washington-Dulles, plus travel time to and from (perhaps magnified on the travel time from), I feel rather strongly, this was the best mileage run I’ve ever done, either alone, or with my wife. It beats the heck out of my last mileage run of 2014, as well as my wife and my mileage run to SFO. I won’t mince words. Mileage running is somewhat painful on the body, and it takes time. But if you’re going to do it. This is the way I recommend.
This is part of our Thanksgiving Round the World trip, you can find my initial thoughts / intro here, Flying All Nippon Airways Square Class, Flying All Nippon Airways Business Class, The Grand Hyatt Tokyo review, Touring the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan, Dueling Alliance Lounges at Tokyo-Haneda Airport, Visiting the Great Wall, The Grand Hyatt Beijing, and the Hyatt Regency Mainz.
I had “fought” with United to add an extended layover (23 hours) in Frankfurt on the way home (and learned some important lessons). I had been wanting to visit the Christmas Markets for at least a year, since I saw Wandering Aramean’s post on his visit, and thought this to be the best opportunity to make it happen this year. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Mainz, which we enjoyed as well. From our limited experience, it felt like a small European town, which was really refreshing after Tokyo and Beijing.
Strolling along the Rhine
One of the beauties of Mainz is that it is on the Rhine River. Even though it was fairly cold for our only day there, we enjoyed a relaxing walk along a park that parallels Rheinstraβe and the Rhine River. There were also a handful of sculptures in the park that added to the quaintness.
The Christmas Markets
The markets are in the center of town, around the old Cathedral of St. Martin.
It looked small from our approach but it was actually pretty sizeable, just check the layout below.
Of course the best part was the glühwein (mulled wine)…
….and the food
Something that struck me though, was that as darkness took over, it became more and more clear – this wasn’t tourists coming, this felt more like locals meeting out in the (increasingly) cold evening to enjoy each others company and some glühwein. That’s perhaps my lasting memory of our short visit, and why I very much want to go back.
This is part of our Thanksgiving Round the World trip, you can find my initial thoughts / intro here, Flying All Nippon Airways Square Class, Flying All Nippon Airways Business Class, The Grand Hyatt Tokyo review, Touring the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan, Dueling Alliance Lounges at Tokyo-Haneda Airport, The Grand Hyatt Beijing, and the Hyatt Regency Mainz.
Starting off, I’m not sure it’s a fair duel. I’m in seat 1K on a JAL 787, my wife and mother in-law are in seats 2A and 2B on an ANA 777. I was surprised to see what appeared to be a longer line for Business Class than Economy. Boarding the 787, the purser stood outside the door welcoming everyone, and for me, it was a short walk left of door 2L to my seat.
The load is light today, only 6 of us in the forward cabin.
In fact, there were so few passengers in business, that as we leveled off, I, being just excited to be on the plane, got up, figuring I might take a photo of Mount Fuji from the lav or door 2L. Instead one of the flight attendants pointed me toward the last seat of business—which was empty—for some amazing shots of Mount Fuji. Well, you be the judge:
At this point, I was giddy as a school girl (I hope that’s the only time I ever write those words, but, no guarantees). I had gotten some great photos of Mount Fuji, I was on a JAL 787, and the menu came out. I was trying to decide between one dish or another, only to be told that you either choose the Japanese meal or the Western meal. The Japanese meal was heavy on the fish, and while I’m happy to have found out that I’m not allergic to fish, I just don’t get as much enjoyment from it as I do land roaming beasts (yes, I’m talking about the duck). As I ordered, I asked what sake the flight attendant (who I think was the purser) recommended. She offered Rice Sake or Sochu, which was from barley or buckwheat (I’m not an expert). I chose the rice sake. Out she comes a few minutes later with two sakes for me to taste and decide. Mark this, my second Sake Tasting of the trip.
Gosh I like Sake. I really liked both sakes I was offered. In fact, had I not been feeling the effects, I probably would’ve kept drinking until they were out, but alas I chose to move to a Vodka and Sprite. I did have a VSOP at some point in the meal, primarily because I had asked for another piece of bread. They heard brandy, I got both, I think we were all very happy with the conclusion.
Here’s the meal, but I would be hardpressed to identify each dish.
In Flight Entertainment
For the 787, IFE for me in 1K required me to raise a monitor. I searched around a bit, then a bit more for the plug for the headphones. As a Public Service Announcement, I’m including a photo here, because I’ve never seen a plug here before.
ANA 777 (My wife and mother in law’s flight)
We got to the gate early as we wanted to make sure my mom had enough time to board the flight without much concern. One great thing with ANA they helped her up the stairs to the plane and took her carry-on bag for her. We were at a remote gate so we go the experience of taking a bus to the plane. Similar to the buses used by Qatar from their old premium terminal to the planes but not a nice and more passengers.
Our send off Team:
Once we got airborne, I was starting to think the pilot had a thing for Disney:
While we were in the second row and the hard product was old we still had a great view of Mount Fuji.
It is your call on which photo is better but we did have a slight advantage due to having the better camera. The pilot took us over Tokyo and flew us so close to Mount Fuji that we could make out the small villages at the base of the mountain.
Once we took off, they offered us drinks and took our order. I ended up ordering champagne and figured that it would be just a glass but no they brought out a mini bottle that they opened up.
My mom and I both chose the Japanese menu, as both had only options of fish. It came out in two bento like boxes. I couldn’t tell you what everything was but most of it was very good or at least interesting.
The seat itself was just okay but sufficient for the short flight. My mom’s feet still couldn’t touch the ground though once she was sitting in the seat. While we did not get pillows I’m sure if we ask they would have been happy to provide as they were in the over head bin. The blanket was nice though.
The In Flight Entertainment (IFE) was similar to the JAL flight where you had to pull it out and put it away prior to landing. The options were the same as the ANA flight from ORD to NRT. It makes sense though was a bit disappointing given the small size of the screen. For comparison sake the location of the outlets were a bit easier to find on ANA.
Japan Airlines 787
Overall, I think the hard and soft products of Japan Airlines is phenomenal. I think the 787 makes the flight more comfortable. While I didn’t get any photos, looking out the port side windows, from the far starboard side, was amazing. I mean, we’re talking movie theater type experience. I would’ve gotten a photo, but there was an older Japanese man looking out intently, almost like the little kid I was, looking out my window (and his).
While it didn’t fit anywhere else in this review, the Duty Free folks (who came through the business cabin twice), didn’t have a 1/200 scale model of a JAL 787. I’m not sure if they felt bad or did it because of my excitement for the 787 we were flying on, but they brought me what I think is probably a 1/600 or 1/1000 scale model. I didn’t really have words, but I am sure I said “domo arigoto” a dozen or so times. The crew in general was amazing.
Overall the flights best quality was the amazing views of Mount Fuji. The staff was great in helping my mom get on the plane with her bag. The hard product was good for a short haul flight but not worth taking as a long haul flight. The soft product was okay though they did forget about the second bottle of champagne and a few other items.
Usually we make it a point to conclude after the conclusion, but being that this was a Dueling Planes of similar carriers of All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, we (My wife, my mother in law and I) wanted to make sure we offered our thoughts succinctly in a sentence or two per flight:
Japan Airlines 787
Having only flown one previous flight on ANA, and this being my first flight on JAL, I’m hard pressed to identify any other sub-4 hour flight where I have enjoyed so much, aside from a Thai A380 flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. The hard product was more than acceptable. An angle lay flat seat (although I understand that JAL is adding fully layflat products in First and Business to their longest haul 787s, such as those to JFK). I think the angled layflat wouldn’t suck on a long haul flight, but, I would general side with a fully layflat. But for a 4-8 hour flight within Asia, I’m really thinking JAL. I’ve had debates with others that anything more than 6 hours, it’s gotta be a full layflat. But with the soft product aka service of JAL, I think I could easily go 8 hours in JAL Business angled layflat. This crew was phenomenal, irrespective of the aircraft. Oh, and if you think ANA is the only plane in the sky with a bidet, you will be surprised to know that the JAL 787 also has a bidet.
I share the signage, but I cannot honestly say that I have tested it myself.
All Nippon Airways 777
While the crew made up for the lacking in the hard product it isn’t a plane or flight I would want to take for more than a couple of hours. The seat was an old angled lay flat that had seen better days though still comfortable enough for a short flight. Can’t comment on the lav as I had not needed to use it for such a short flight. The ANA 777’s crew stood out but not to the same extent that the crew did on the transpacific flight we took a few days before.
Not too long ago, Trevor and I were asked our opinions on purchasing travel insurance before going abroad. Considering how travelers are asked about purchasing a policy several times before booking travel through airlines and online travel agencies, it’s a very relevant question. Does it make sense to purchase travel insurance before flying?
As with many things in life, a unilateral answer is rather difficult to provide. While travel insurance can assist in the most unfortunate situations, a policy may not always the best purchase. Before you add that extra charge to the travel bill, here are some points about what travel insurance covers, when you should purchase a policy, and how award tickets are affected by travel insurance.
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is defined as a special short-term insurance policy specifically written to cover extraordinary situations while away from home. More specifically, travel insurance covers a number of inconveniences travelers may face either while in transit or while at a destination.
What are these “out-of-the-ordinary” situations? If a trip delay goes beyond eight to twelve hours (depending on the policy), a travel insurance policy can pay for incidental expenses incurred. This can include hotel rooms and meals required from the trip delay. And if an outside force (like a car accident) requires a traveler to cancel their trip, a travel insurance policy can reimburse any money lost from canceling that trip.
But more importantly, many travel insurance policies include medical benefits for the international traveler. When going abroad, many countries will not accept health insurance policies from the United States. Moreover, some health insurance policies will not cover insureds outside the United States. A travel insurance policy can not only cover travelers’ medical expenses while in another country, but also guarantee payment to the hospital or care provider. This ensures access to care in the event of an emergency illness or injury.
When should I purchase Travel Insurance?
Depending on how you purchased your travel, you may already have travel insurance attached to your itinerary! Many major credit cards already have a number of benefits built in, so long as you make the entire purchase on your credit card in one purchase. Benefits provided by credit card travel insurance include trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage loss.
However, you may not be completely covered with the travel insurance attached to your credit card – especially if you booked some or all of your adventure on points and miles (but we’ll talk more about that later). If you are looking for an additional layer of protection, then you may want to consider purchasing a third-party travel insurance policy.
As a general rule, travelers are best served purchasing travel insurance at the same time as their first booking or deposit. By purchasing travel insurance early, travelers can receive all the benefits of a policy, including a pre-existing condition waiver, and coverage for “known events” like hurricanes or volcano eruptions. However, if a trip interruption from a storm or recurrence of a pre-existing condition are a lesser concern, then purchasing travel insurance can be a last minute decision. Many policies can be purchased up to 24 hours before a trip – or even later, depending on the policy and level of coverage.
Where should I purchase my Travel Insurance?
Repeat after me: under no circumstances should you purchase travel insurance from your carrier. Why do I say that? Because those travel insurance policies are often written to benefit the carrier or provider instead of the traveler. If you decide to purchase a travel insurance policy, go to a third party travel insurance provider that specializes in these policies.
In order to find the right policy for your needs, I recommend going through a group that offers multiple policies at different levels of coverage. I’ve had a great experience working with Squaremouth.com (on both sides of the business) and they offer travel insurance policies from multiple companies, including TravelGuard, APRIL, and Allianz.
A note about Travel Insurance and Award Bookings
Something very important to note is how travel insurance is affected by award bookings. Although arguments have been made over the value of points and miles, insurance companies do not hold a direct value between travel and miles. Therefore, your travel made on award bookings may not be completely covered by a travel insurance policy.
So what does that mean for your travels? If you’re forced to cancel your trip, don’t expect your travel insurance provider to pay for the retail value of your award ticket. However, other expenses involved in trip cancellation, like mile redeposit fees, can be covered by travel insurance. In addition, all other travel insurance benefits, like trip delay and baggage loss, all remain in effect – regardless of how you paid for your trip.
In regards to credit card travel insurance: even though you may have earned the miles or points from your card, the travel insurance from your credit card may not apply on an award booking. Many credit cards require travelers to purchase their entire itinerary on the credit card. If a trip is paid for partially by points and partially on a credit card, the credit card travel insurance policy may not apply to the itinerary.
Travel insurance can be a great asset for international trips – but only when you understand how it affects your travel. By knowing what travel insurance is and how it can protect travel, every modern-day adventurer can make an educated decision about whether or not a policy adds up for their travelers.
What questions do you have about travel insurance? How can we help you learn more about policies? Let us know in the comments below!
I’m finding myself traveling to the Middle East, or more accurately, through the Middle East a whole lot more than I used to. I’m noticing others flying to or via the Middle East as well. So far as I can tell, here are a few reasons:
- The three major airlines – Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways are putting out very nice, largely new products, such as the A350, 787-9, 787-8, a380, and I’d also put the 777-300ER in that group.
- The three major hubs in the Middle East are ~10-16 hour flights to/from the US, which allows enough time to eat, sleep, and relax when traveling in a premium cabin. Even the shorter flights to Europe or Asia still allow enough time to enjoy the flight.
- Its a whole lot easier to connect with fewer hassles than I can in Europe (I’m looking at you, London-Heathrow!). Generally, you can make a single stop trip.
- You generally still get a nice product for your onward connection, unlike if you fly to Heathrow then on to Rome, or Hong Kong to Phuket (although I think Dragonair has layflat seats).
- More fifth freedom routes mean that you can often fly on the same carrier further (as if the more single flight connections wasn’t enough).
Looking at the airlines and three distinct strategies:
Emirates is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is most known for their A380’s, they kind’re kind’ve keeping Airbus’ production going (barely). Having flown on the A380 not once, but twice, its really a great product. Emirates also has a number of partnerships, most notably with Qantas.
Etihad Airways, based just up the road in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, created (and continues to grow it seems) its own Etihad Partners Group, through partnering and equity purchases. They also recently surpassed all other A380 operators, with their new A380. Lucky was on the inaugural, he’s probably got the best report of it so far.
Qatar Airways, based in Doha, Qatar (duh!), joined the Oneworld Airline Alliance, aligning it with American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay and Qantas among others.
Looking at the way commercial aircraft (or at least airline purchases) are moving:
The latest clean sheet aircraft (and perhaps the last ones for quite a while) were the 787 and the A350. Both wide-body, fuel efficient, and reasonably long range aircraft. So far with the 787, we’ve seen airlines announce long thin routes, like British Airways’ London-Heathrow (LHR) to Austin (AUS), and United’s San Francisco (SFO) to Chengdu, China (CTU). Great Circle Mapper had a great graphic of the upcoming 777-8X’s range which paints another reason for why the Middle East is a logical connection point for long haul travel:
We’ve also see talk of Airbus slowing or eventually stopping A380 production, and Boeing continues to slow its production rate of the 747-8.
It’ll be interesting to watch the big three Middle East carriers adapt. Just last week at the A350 unveiling, Airways News reported that Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker stated he wants to aggressively replace aircraft. Emirates’ CEO Tim Clark continues to be supportive of the A380, and I’m not really sure about Etihad, but based on their Fast Facts and Figures (page 4), it looks like they’ll be adding a ton of aircraft through 2025, primarily more fuel efficient widebodies.
So long story short, the big three Middle East carriers are making it much more comfortable, if not convenient to fly long distances, through their products, their partnerships, and their aircraft.
One of the best pieces of advice about finding award space that I could offer is – find the most difficult leg of the itinerary, and work from there. There are a lot of tools available online that can help in finding award space, but not all of them are robust enough to think of weird permutations – like flying to Tokyo via Frankfurt from the US (a perfectly enjoyable route, just a little longer). One of the tools I use for this, I actually picked up from a Million Mile Secrets post I saw more than two years ago. That tool is OpenFlights.org. Essentially, the tool identifies airline routes that connect the particular airport you’re looking for.
About the Tool
I primarily use OpenFlights.org when I’m looking for airline linkages to a particular place I’d like to visit. The starting display gives you a world map, and some sorting functionality on the side (more on that in a bit).
To use a short example, lets say I want to go to the Seychelles – here’s what I get when I put in SEZ – the airport code for Mahe, The Seychelles.
You can also export the routes to Great Circle Mapper (gcmap):
Now, if I wanted to, I could start using the filter for the carriers, however, it doesn’t really give you the option to narrow it down by airline alliances. Instead, what I like to do is get the next level of data, which you can get by selecting the airport, then selecting “List Routes” – This is what you get at the bottom of your screen:
In this case, its pretty easy to tell that some of the flights are codeshares, you can export the info to excel, but for these purposes, its kind’ve overkill. For example, of the first three between SEZ and Abu Dhabi (AUH), you can tell the first two (Alitalia and Etihad Airways) are the same aircraft ([A]320), whereas the third, Air Seychelles has two – [A]320 and [A]332. So if you wanted to fly from AUH, you’d have to do a bit of research – not to go too far on a tangent, but you can attempt to correlate this information with Wikipedia:
There are some inconsistencies between the data, and candidly, I trust OpenFlights.org more. From some further research, I know that Qatar Airways suspended their flight in June 2013.
Back to getting the Seychelles
Ok, so hopefully we agree, you won’t be flying Alitalia to the Seychelles (for now at least). Boiling it down to the “commonly available” award redemptions, I’d limit it to: Etihad Airways (via American Airlines miles), Sri Lankan (via Oneworld), Emirates (via Alaska Airlines miles), South African Airways (via Star Alliance), Kenya Airways (via Sky Team).
For popular destinations, its probably not necessary to use OpenFlights.org, unless you’re looking for Fifth Freedom flights or if you’re looking to fly a particular airline (in which case you’d search for your origin). That said, the tool is really helpful for some of the more remote or exotic destinations that are not served by as many airports.
Have you used OpenFlights.org? Or are there destinations on your bucket list where this would be helpful?