Alternatives for travelers putting off trips to Asia due to coronavirus

In my latest article for NerdWallet, I wrote about how I’m considering cancelling an upcoming trip that I have to Taipei due to concerns about the coronavirus. Right now, after discussing it with my doctor, I’m still planning to go to Taiwan (although I will keep monitoring the news and may change plans if the situation deteriorates).

That said, concerns for the coronavirus has travelers around the world re-thinking their Asia travel. While I do not think it makes sense to avoid Asia entirely, I wanted to compile a list of alternative destinations you could travel to if you were considering postponing your Asia trips.

Instead of Singapore, go to Dubai.

Both Singapore and Dubai share a passion of futuristic design, safety (at the cost of personal freedoms, but that’s for another post), skyscrapers, and cleanliness.

Dubai2

While Dubai is technically still in Asia, it’s much closer to Africa and even Europe than where the coronavirus outbreak is occurring, which is why I’ve included it on this list.

Instead of Ho Chi Minh City, go to Istanbul.

Looking for a bustling city on a river that is full of culture? Well, if you’re travel is going to take you away from Ho Chi Minh City, a good alternative would be Istanbul.

Istanbul2

Located on the Bosporus River and straddling Europe and Asia (but again, far enough away from the outbreak to make this list!), Istanbul is an affordable city with great food, wonderful people, and a rich history that makes the city worth discovering.

Instead of Koh Samui, go to Mallorca.

Thailand is one of my favorite places on the planet but, luckily, so is Mallorca. If you were planning on going to Koh Samui and are looking for crystal-clear blue water, beaches galore, warm weather, and a fun experience for either solo travelers or families, you should consider going to Mallorca instead.

Mallorca

I’d recommend getting out outside of Palma and traveling to the beach downs of either Port de Sóller or Port de Pollença.

Instead of Beijing, go to Mexico City.

If you’re looking for a sprawling metropolis with impressive man-man architecture just outside the city, you may want to consider swapping Beijing for Mexico City.

Mexico City

Mexico City is home to just about 9 million residents and just outside of the city you can find Teotihuacán, a complex of temples is known for its two massive pyramids, Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon)

Instead of Hong Kong, go to Rio.

There is perhaps no skyline in the world as beautiful as Hong Kong… except, maybe, Rio. I’ll just post the picture below and you’ll be able to see why Rio may be a good alternative to those looking to enjoy the city lights of Hong Kong.

Rio

At the end of the day, I’d recommend speaking with your doctor before rescheduling any travel to Asia. That said, for those who have already decide to cancel a trip or are too hesitant to book one, the cities listed above provide great alternatives for your Asia travel.

Alaska Airlines joining oneworld alliance

In breaking travel news, Alaska Airlines will be joining the oneworld alliance sometime in summer 2021.

This news is both huge and surprising, as Alaska has been cutting ties in recent years with former partner American Airlines. I’m sure the news is especially well-received among oneworld members, as they recently lost LATAM (which was a significant loss, since it was their only Latin American-based carrier).

My thoughts: I’m a bit uneasy about this change, as my fear is that the following will be (negatively) affected:

  • How you earn status on Alaska (currently, pretty easy and based on the actual miles you fly regardless of how much you spend on your tickets)
  • Redemption rates for Alaska partners (an example of a redemption rate that I don’t want to lose is that you can redeem 55,000 Alaska miles for business class to New Zealand or Australia on Qantas)
  • Alaska partners (currently Alaska has a hodgepodge of great airline partners and they may lose some, like Emirates and Singapore, by joining oneworld)

That said, as a San Francisco-based traveler, this makes the prospect of status on Alaska makes a lot more since it’s hubbed in SFO and I can fly American Airlines for my international trips with oneworld status.

What are your thoughts on Alaska joining oneworld? Let me know in the comments!

Why Jardín is the perfect side-trip for Medellín, Colombia tourists

Since discovering Medellín, Colombia in June 2016, it has become my favorite remote work destination. There are many reasons for this, including the perfect weather (the city’s nickname is the “Land of Eternal Spring”), the low prices for food and housing, the convenient time zones for those working U.S. hours, and the beautiful scenery.

On my latest trip to Medellín, I decided to pair it with a weekend trip to Jardin – a picturesque, coffee-producing town in the Andes located about a 4-hour drive away. I was really glad that I did and would recommend it as an excursion for anyone spending more than 4/5 days in the region.

The drive down is beautiful, although takes you through some winding, bumpy roads (so, if you get carsick easily, it may not be the best trip for you). Note that they are currently building a massive highway between Medellín and Jardín that will cut commute time and make the drive much smoother, which will make getting to Jardín even easier in the next few years.

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View of Jardín from a hike right outside of the city.

Although you won’t find 4-star hotels in Jardín, I stayed at a gorgeous Airbnb on a coffee farm with an incredible view. The host, Fanny, owns the coffee farm next door and can cook you breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which you can eat on her balcony. You can also take a tour of her coffee farm.

While the view was stunning and the hospitality was amazing, being out in the Colombian countryside means that you need to give up some luxuries you have in the city. For one, the Airbnb didn’t have hot water (although it was warm enough for a quick shower). Also, there are bugs all around and you need to sleep with a mosquito net and, even with the net, you’re still likely to get bitten (my feet are currently itching like crazy!).

At the center of Jardín is a beautiful town square with a church as the focal point and plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops all around. The town is definitely affordable, and dinner at a nice restaurant without alcohol will cost you around $5-$6.

In terms of things to do, there are numerous hikes that you can take (many involve seeing waterfalls but all involve amazing views). It’s also a perfect base for paragliding, and you’ll paragliders taking advantage of the views and wind currents throughout your stay.

Overall, if you’re going to visit Medellín for more than a few days, you should definitely look into a trip to Jardín. Although the drive means that a day trip would be pushing it, I felt 2 nights was perfect and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys amazing views and coffee.

My 2020 travel goals

A tradition of mine is to write out my travel goals for the upcoming year, both to help manifest those trips into reality and to remind me of all the places that I want to go.

Back when I started writing this blog, I would only book travel out a few months in advance (my business was just getting off the ground and I wasn’t sure if I’d still be running it more than 3-4 months down the line). Now, I’m luckily able to book travel a bit further in advance, which means some of the trips below are already booked.

That said, without further ado, my goals for 2020 are below:

Laos

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Southeast Asia is a favorite destination of mine, having visited (almost) annually for the past decade. Although I regularly return to Bali and the Philippines, I’m hoping that this year I’ll get outside of my comfort zone and visit Laos, where I’m particularly interested in visiting the mountain town Vang Vieng.

Taipei

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I’ve wanted to go to Taipei for years, but can generally only go to Asia once or twice each year due to time zones (my clients are mostly in California) and so have generally been using that time to go to Hong Kong and/or Southeast Asia. That said, with the help from a friend who had a United upgrade to spare, I’ll be traveling to Taipei in March on Polaris business class and flying back in business on China Airlines.

Although I’m very excited about the flights, I’m more excited for the views and the food and can’t wait to visit.

Dubai

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My best travel deal of 2019, and perhaps ever, was landing a $18,425 First Class ticket on Emirates for 85,000 Chase points. I’ll be flying from JFK to Dubai to Milan and will have about 10 hours to spend in Dubai, which I’m very excited about.

While I know that there are ethical issues about traveling to this part of the world, I really loved my time in Doha and am looking forward to exploring.

Alaska

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This has been on my dream destination list since I first started publishing these annual posts. Truth be told, Alaska might actually be my most cancelled destination, as I’ve had 3 trips planned there in the last 3 years that I’ve canceled either last minute or within the 24-hour cancellation period that airlines allow (I just had a trip to Alaska purchased in February to see the Northern Lights, but chickened out because of the weather).

With increased non-stop service from San Francisco to both Anchorage and Fairbanks this year, I’m hoping I can finally make this a reality.

Costa Rica

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I’ve been to Costa Rica once before and it was a magical experience where I fell in love with the people, the scenery, and the weather. A dream of mine is to head back there for 5-7 days of surf camp, which I feel would be very good for my soul and body.

Where are you hoping to visit in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Only 5 cities in the world have more than 1 mega airport

With Beijing opening up a new airport last month, the city is taking steps to join a list of cities that have multiple airports handling 50 million or more airline seats in a year. Although it’s not uncommon for cities to have more than 1 airport, there are only 5 cities in the world that have 2 mega airports.

They are (listed in order of routes operated).

  • New York (JFK, EWR)
  • London (LHR, LGW)
  • Bangkok (BKK, DMK)
  • Shanghai (PVG, SHA)
  • Tokyo (HND, NRT)

I had actually entirely forgotten about Bangkok’s second airport, even though I’ve flown out of it before. Also, although initially I didn’t think it was fair to count Newark since it’s technically in another state, EWR is actually only half the distance away from NYC as compared to how far Narita is from downtown Tokyo.

There are a few cities that are close to joining this list, including:

  • Chicago (ORD, MDW)
  • Paris (CDG, ORY)
  • Istanbul (IST, SAW)
  • Seoul (ICN, GMP)

Generally speaking, larger airports tend to have the flagship routes and lounges, although secondary airports can be quieter and easier to navigate. I’d probably prefer the larger airports, although I’m excited to check out ORY for the first time in April

My favorite Airbnbs in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of my favorite cities in the world for three reasons: the people, the weather, and the scenery.

As much as I love the city (and I guess, as a San Francisco resident, I’m not supposed to!), staying in Los Angeles is never cheap, particularly if you want to stay in a hotel. Because of this, I actually can’t even remember the last that I stayed in a hotel in the city. While I usually have friends to crash with, I wanted to share my favorite Airbnbs in Los Angeles.

Secluded, Contemporary Bungalow in the Heart of Hollywood

My first favorite Airbnb is this gorgeous, newly renovated bungalow in the heart of Hollywood.

Bungalow2

As someone who barely drives, my favorite thing about this Airbnb is the location. It’s walking distance to a ton of great, local restaurants (as well as some guilty pleasures like In-N-Out!), a short Uber to Runyon Canyon, and even close to L.A.’s train system. There’s also an airport shuttle bus nearby, which makes the commute into and out of the city a breeze.

The apartment is set up beautifully and perfect for solo travelers, couples, or even small families. On top of that, the host is amazing and incredibly responsive, making this Airbnb a great option for anyone looking to book a stay in Hollywood.

Spacious Spanish Home

Spanish Home

If you need more space, you should definitely consider booking this spacious Spanish home that boasts 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and a beautiful balcony for roughly the same price as a nice hotel room.

The house is in a central location, located close to the Beverly Center, and is beautifully furnished in a way that will make you feel right at home. The home also has a 4.98 rating on Airbnb (with 53 reviews as of writing this post!), so I’m clearly not the only one who is a fan of this listing.

What are your favorite Airbnbs in Los Angeles? Let me know in the comments!

Earn 5,000 Hilton Honors points (valued at $30) for a 5-15 minute call

Hilton is one of my favorite programs because they make it so easy to earn Hilton Honors points (which are valued at roughly $0.006 per point).

In the latest promotion, Hilton is offering 5,000 Hilton Honors points if you call and listed to a quick timeshare information session over the phone, which can be done at your leisure. You already need a Hilton Honors account to receive the points and just need to call 1-800-984-4482 and mention the 5,000 promotion (here’s a link to it).

I just called and it took exactly 8 minutes from beginning to end. I’ve been told it will take 6-8 weeks to get the points, though I’m hoping they post sooner.

Be sure to take advantage of this promotion if you have some free time!