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!

My experience with Delta’s new facial recognition boarding process

When I was flying from Atlanta to the Cayman Islands last month, I was in for a surprise – there was a sign at the gate saying that I’d be boarding using Delta’s new biometric boarding process.

Prior to seeing the sign, I actually had no idea that this was even a thing (and, in fact, already had a boarding pass ready to go on my phone). Before boarding began, the gate agent made an announcement telling passengers how it would work – basically that instead of handing over a ticket to board, we’d need to stand in front of a machine that would scan our faces, recognize us, and print out our ticket.

I think the process actually took a little longer than actually handing over tickets, but it may have been because there were a few families in front of me with small children that the parents needed to lift off the ground so that they were high enough to have their faces scanned. When it was my turn to go, it took about 2-3 seconds for my face to be scanned and for the boarding pass to be issued, which was pretty cool.

As cool as it was to try out biometric boarding, it definitely made me uncomfortable that Delta had enough information that it could recognize my face without me ever consenting to it. That said, like most Americans, I’m usually ready to trade a bit of privacy for convenience.

Have you tried Delta’s biometric boarding yet? What were your thoughts?

Traveling to my 50th country

As I write this blog post, I’m waiting at airport about to accomplish something that I never thought I would – traveling to my 50th country.

Although I’m traveling what feels like all the time now – and almost always internationally – I didn’t get my first passport until the end of 2007. I came from a very modest background, and so it wasn’t until after my first year of law school, after completing a lucrative summer associate position, that I was able to afford one.

Even though I wasn’t able to travel much before then, I was always obsessed with travel. As a kid, I would memorize the Sunday travel section in the Philadelphia Inquirer (my local paper) and recite the prices of flights to my annoyed parents. I would spend time on most weekends checking out the latest brochures at the travel agency down the street and would order every free vacation video that I could (you used to be able to call Disney World and request VHS promotional videos).

My parents picked up on this, and they got me a subscription to Condé Nast Traveler for my 10th birthday. My aesthetic was always warm, tropical places. There was no place that I wanted to go more than the Turks and Caicos (something I accomplished in 2016!), though there was no place that I didn’t want to visit.

Turks.JPG
Picture taken in Turks and Caicos with a tropical storm off the coast (the storm largely stayed off the coast and I got some amazing shots!)

When I first got my passport, I went to some pretty typical destinations for Americans – Jamaica, Amsterdam, Paris, and Brussels were my first trips. I was based in Philadelphia at the time, so I went to Europe and the Caribbean the most, although I also went to Morocco (which was way outside of my bubble at the time).

After law school, I moved to Guam, and that opened up a whole new set of destinations for me. All of a sudden, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and more were all in easy reach. I definitely took advantage of this, which helped add to my country count.

When I moved to San Francisco, I still had the travel bug, but didn’t have as much free time as I was working at law firms (I was still able to hit up a few new countries, including Bosnia, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Chile, and Norway), but it was over the course of a few years. In fact, there was even a year where I went without taking an international flight.

Things changed dramatically when, in February 2016, I decided to pursue my own law firm full-time. Before that, I was running my law firm as a side-hustle, with a full-time (albeit, remote) job in-house at a startup.

One of the founding principals of my firm was that I wanted it to be entirely remote. Because of this, even though I was a litigator, I gave up that part of my practice since it would require me to show up in-person to court.

El Nido
El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines

Around that same time, I got a pretty bad infection in my leg and had a pretty serious health scare. I was told that if the infection spread that I would need to go to the hospital, and that in an extreme worst-case scenario, the infection could sometimes lead to amputation (luckily, it never got that far – the antibiotics I was given cleared it up after about a week of bed-rest).

This health scare made me realize that I needed to take advantage of my freedom and good health, because either could be taken away from me at any time. So, I decided to have a goal of visiting one amazing location every month and, with exceptions,I’ve kept that promise to myself until now.

So, with that as a background, I wanted to post a list of the countries I’ve so far visit. Note that my definition of country may be a little loose — there are some selections on here that some readers my disagree with (such as Turks and Caicos, which is a British overseas territory). But for my purposes, I considered places with different passport stamps and cultures to be separate countries.

For my list, I’ve also included these symbols: an asterisk (*) means that I’ve visited a country twice and two asterisks (**) means that visited a country more than twice.

  1. U.S.**
  2. Mexico**
  3. Canada*
  4. Bermuda
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Jamaica
  7. Aruba
  8. Barbados
  9. Dominica
  10. St. Lucia
  11. Antigua
  12. St. Kitts
  13. Honduras
  14. Belize*
  15. Costa Rica
  16. Chile*
  17. Argentina
  18. Morocco
  19. France*
  20. England*
  21. Spain**
  22. Switzerland*
  23. Belgium
  24. The Netherlands**
  25. Italy
  26. Austria*
  27. Germany**
  28. Denmark
  29. Norway
  30. Croatia
  31. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  32. The Philippines**
  33. Singapore
  34. Thailand
  35. Australia**
  36. Japan*
  37. Korea
  38. Fiji
  39. Hong Kong**
  40. Indonesia*
  41. Colombia**
  42. Turks and Caicos
  43. Portugal
  44. Vietnam
  45. South Africa
  46. French Polynesia
  47. New Zealand
  48. Hungary
  49. Czech Republic
  50. Cayman Islands

Close calls: Peru (slept in the airport for 1 night), Liechtenstein (train ride through)

I’m thrilled with what I’ve seen so far, and can’t wait to see more. In fact, I already have 3 new countries that I’ll be visiting by April 2020 – Qatar, the Maldives, and United Arab Emirates.

Also, I do realize it’s a little faux pas to count countries — many in the travel community think that counting countries discounts the actual value of travel; that by trying to “collect” countries, you are missing the actual experiences. I do understand this mindset and subscribe in part, but part of my goal is to see as much as possible and that involves going to different countries with entirely different cultures (and it’s fun for me to keep tabs!).

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the Cayman Islands and the big 5-0!

Japan Airlines introduces seat map that tells you if you’re sitting next to an infant

With this announcement, Japan Airlines may now be my favorite airline in the world.

In a move that is sure to please almost every passenger, Japan Airlines has announced that they will now include an icon showing whether your seat is next to a child aged 8 days to 2 years old. The icon looks like this:

Baby

This benefits passengers who don’t want to sit next to a screaming a child and parents who don’t want to bother noise-sensitive travelers.

In a statement released on its website, Japan Airlines (JAL) said:

“Passengers traveling with children between 8 days and 2 years old who select their seats on the JAL website will have a child icon displayed on their seats on the seat selection screen.”

The only downside seems to be that the baby icon won’t appear for those who book their travel outside the JAL website (such as through the Chase platform or with partner award miles). That said, I think this is a great offering and hope other airlines follow suit!

How I scored an $18,425 Emirates First Class Suite for 85,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Well, this will probably go down in history as my best travel deal ever.

Earlier this week, after finding out that Emirates was added as a Chase transfer partner, I was able to score a First Class Suite (actually, two – more about that in a minute) on Emirates for an insane rewards redemption of 85,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points (and $192.60 in fees).

If you don’t know about the Emirates First Class Suite, it’s supposed to best product out there. In addition to having a door that closes with a “Do Not Disturb” sign, you have access to 2 bars on the plane, free caviar and Dom Pérignon (and other fancy alcohol and food) during the flight, and you even have access to a shower with spa products that you can reserve for 30-minutes at a time.

Emirates has a number of “fifth freedom” flights (routes that do not connect in the airlines hub) around the world that have the world-renowned Emirates First Class Suite. Two of these flights are based in the U.S. — a direct flight from JFK to Milan and a direct flight from Newark to Athens.

Emirates Suite
Soon to be me (credit: Emirates)

Emirates usually charges 120,000 Skywards miles (when you find availability) for direct First Class service between JFK and Dubai.  For the U.S.-based fifth freedom flights, Emirates charges 85,000 Skywards miles.

Emirates Flight 1

The flight from JFK to Milan is 7 hours and 55 minutes and, even though the First Class Suite looks amazing, I wasn’t really interested in this deal since it’s a red-eye flight and I wouldn’t have really had a chance to enjoy the amenities (aside from the amazing seat).

But while reading my favorite travel blog, BoardingArea (and sorry, I don’t remember the exact blog post I was reading!), I was able to find that for some select dates you could book JFK to Dubai to Milan for the same 85,000 Skywards miles rate.

I found availability on April 2, 2020 for 2 tickets and immediately created an Emirates Skywards account. I decided to sleep on it, though, because it involved a lot of travel — flying from SFO to JFK, then 12.5 hours to Dubai, approximately 8 hours to spend exploring the city and the lounge, and then a 6.5 hour flight from Dubai to Milan.

Emirates Flight
Confirmed flights for a First Flex Plus ticket
Emirates Receipt
Screenshot showing the cost of the First Class Suite between JFK and Dubai on April 2, 2020. Note that my ticket is Flex Plus, including free cancellation and changes, so I used that price for this blog post.

The next morning, after talking with friends, I realized I would be super upset if the ticket was taken, so I decided to book. I added my Emirates Skywards to my Chase Ultimate Rewards account and the points were transferred immediately.

Now, here’s when things got a little scary. After my points were in my account, I went on the Emirates.com website and was told that I had “Insufficient Miles” to book the flight (despite clearly having 85,000 miles show up in my account). My heart dropped and I called an agent, who let me know that the flight on April 2nd was no longer available.

When I kept insisting it was on my end, I pulled the “can I speak to your manager?” card, hoping that I didn’t just throw 85,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points down the drain. The manager was incredibly helpful, and while she said she couldn’t find the flight on her end she asked me to take a screenshot of the flights that I was seeing on my end and gave me her direct work e-mail address (I have *never* had an American-based airline give me a direct e-mail address to contact them at).

It turns out the confusion was that I wanted a transfer in Dubai and the agents were only looking at direct flights. The agent kept clarifying that I was fine with the very long flight times and layover, considering they did have a direct option, and I kept assuring her that I was — that was the point of this trip, after all.

During the hold times, I downloaded the Emirates app and found out the flight was bookable through it. If you are going to book an Emirates reward, I recommend using the app, and not the website. Nevertheless, the Emirates agent had put my reservation on hold, so I decided to work with her to finalize the booking.

The fee of $192 is a deal as well — Emirates actually is known for charging high fees for business class (around $500-600/ticket), but for some reason, the First Class Suite has the same fee as an economy ticket.

After booking the ticket and receiving confirmation, I messaged a friend of mine who I knew would have enough Chase or AMEX points to book the flight as well, and she booked it with me (and because there was only suite left, she booked her husband in business class using 65,000 Skywards points + $500-$600).

Although early April is a gamble with weather in Europe, I am so excited for this trip! I’ll be trying out the Qatar QSuite in November (which I got from Chicago to the Maldives for 70,0000 miles through American Airlines), so I will get to compare the two — something I never thought I’d have the chance to do.

I’m beyond excited for this flight and still can’t believe I was able to land such a good deal!