January 2009


One of the things I like doing is reading travel blogs. It’s fun to see the world through other people’s eyes. But blogs written by airline crewmembers offer a rather unique perspective on travel in general and on the airline industry specifically. It has certainly given me a new appreciation for what it takes to get a plane and its passengers from point A to point B.

My favorite of the bunch is Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot” blog. His weekly commentary covers everything from recent news events to frequently asked questions to recollections from his previous trips. The fact that he has worked for several different airlines gives him a well-rounded perspective on the industry.

Gadling.com has several blogs written by people currently working in the airline industry. My favorite is “Cockpit Chronicles” written by an American Airlines first officer, Kent Wien, based out of Boston. His blog is made of mostly trip reports complete with great photos and video. In fact, he created one of my favorite flight videos that shows a typical flight from Boston to Paris. If you want to know just what crews do on layovers, this is the blog for you. He also just started a second blog called “Plane Answers” where he answers questions about airplanes and flying.

If you’re looking for a Canadian perspective, “Cockpit Conversation” has trip reports from a pilot working for a Canadian airline.

Also from Gadling is “Gallery Gossip”, a blog written by flight attendant Heather Poole who works for a major US airline. Her blog focuses on addressing typical sterotypes about flight attendants and flying. She also answers frequently-asked questions from readers.

Many of the airlines have been starting their own corporate blogs about their company. The best of the bunch is “Nuts about Southwest”. The blog has posts written by people in nearly every department and position in Southwest Airlines. The blog also details things like what goes into deciding which routes to fly;  how airplanes are deiced; and how management is trained.

Finally, while these are not blogs, AOL Travel has some interesting “Confessions Of . . . ” essays that include commentary from a ticket agent and a TSA agent, among others.

Happy flying!

Advertisements

One of the things I like doing is reading travel blogs. It’s fun to see the world through other people’s eyes. But blogs written by airline crewmembers offer a rather unique perspective on travel in general and on the airline industry specifically. It has certainly given me a new appreciation for what it takes to get a plane and its passengers from point A to point B.

My favorite of the bunch is Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot” blog. His weekly commentary covers everything from recent news events to frequently asked questions to recollections from his previous trips. The fact that he has worked for several different airlines gives him a well-rounded perspective on the industry.

Gadling.com has several blogs written by people currently working in the airline industry. My favorite is “Cockpit Chronicles” written by an American Airlines first officer, Kent Wien, based out of Boston. His blog is made of mostly trip reports complete with great photos and video. In fact, he created one of my favorite flight videos that shows a typical flight from Boston to Paris. If you want to know just what crews do on layovers, this is the blog for you. He also just started a second blog called “Plane Answers” where he answers questions about airplanes and flying.

If you’re looking for a Canadian perspective, “Cockpit Conversation” has trip reports from a pilot working for a Canadian airline.

Also from Gadling is “Gallery Gossip”, a blog written by flight attendant Heather Poole who works for a major US airline. Her blog focuses on addressing typical sterotypes about flight attendants and flying. She also answers frequently-asked questions from readers.

Many of the airlines have been starting their own corporate blogs about their company. The best of the bunch is “Nuts about Southwest”. The blog has posts written by people in nearly every department and position in Southwest Airlines. The blog also details things like what goes into deciding which routes to fly;  how airplanes are deiced; and how management is trained.

Finally, while these are not blogs, AOL Travel has some interesting “Confessions Of . . . ” essays that include commentary from a ticket agent and a TSA agent, among others.

Happy flying!

Last year, I did a bit of solo travelling- I went to Seattle, Vancouver and Philadelphia for several days on my own. To me, travelling solo was no different then travelling with friends or family- it’s a chance to spend time with myself and get to know myself a little better. But I got a lot of different reactions from friends and family. One of my friends said she could never travel alone because she would go crazy by herself. Another thought I was “brave” to go alone and wished she had the courage to do it herself. Others were a little concerned about safety issues and some just wanted to know why I’d want to go alone and not share the adventure.

What they didn’t realize is that travelling alone for vacation is an adventure all its own. I was able to go where I wanted to, when I wanted to, without having to worry about other people’s preferences. Some of my first solo trips resulted simply because I couldn’t find other people who were free at the time that I wanted to travel. But rather then not take the trip, I went anyway and haven’t regretted it yet.

Travelling solo opens up a whole new level of flexibility. If I wanted to spend an afternoon exploring the Seattle underground; walking around Vancouver’s parks;  or taking pictures inside one of the nation’s oldest prisons in Philadelphia, I could (and did). I didn’t have to worry about boring other people or rushing the experience to keep up with other people. I could enjoy things at my own pace.

I am also an introvert. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I like my own company at times and I need a break from other people occasionally to recharge my own batteries.

As for the safety issues, it’s never been a problem. Common sense, researching locations ahead of time, and letting other people know my itinerary is has worked well for me. And even if I’m alone, I still call other people to see how they are doing and to reassure my mom that I am still alive.

And even if I’m travelling alone, it’s still possible to share the experience with others through pictures, video, and even the old-fashioned postcard. One of my favorite ways nowadays to share the adventure is to use Twitter and Facebook to post updates along the way.

Of course, travelling solo does have its downsides. When I goofed up and took the wrong train in trying to get from Philadephia to Delaware one time, I had no one to blame but myself. Had I been with others, they probably would have noticed my error and I never would have been on that train. It’s also nice to discuss what I’m seeing with others and get their perspective on things. And I always feel a bit weird asking strangers to take my picture in front of things, although I’ve never been refused.

But the advantages dwarf the disadvantages. Travelling solo is something that everyone should try at least once in their lifetimes. It doesn’t even have to be a full trip- I often tack on a day to myself before or after spending a week with family or friends. It’s something to think about when you’re planning your next trip.

Last year, I did a bit of solo travelling- I went to Seattle, Vancouver and Philadelphia for several days on my own. To me, travelling solo was no different then travelling with friends or family- it’s a chance to spend time with myself and get to know myself a little better. But I got a lot of different reactions from friends and family. One of my friends said she could never travel alone because she would go crazy by herself. Another thought I was “brave” to go alone and wished she had the courage to do it herself. Others were a little concerned about safety issues and some just wanted to know why I’d want to go alone and not share the adventure.

What they didn’t realize is that travelling alone for vacation is an adventure all its own. I was able to go where I wanted to, when I wanted to, without having to worry about other people’s preferences. Some of my first solo trips resulted simply because I couldn’t find other people who were free at the time that I wanted to travel. But rather then not take the trip, I went anyway and haven’t regretted it yet.

Travelling solo opens up a whole new level of flexibility. If I wanted to spend an afternoon exploring the Seattle underground; walking around Vancouver’s parks;  or taking pictures inside one of the nation’s oldest prisons in Philadelphia, I could (and did). I didn’t have to worry about boring other people or rushing the experience to keep up with other people. I could enjoy things at my own pace.

I am also an introvert. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I like my own company at times and I need a break from other people occasionally to recharge my own batteries.

As for the safety issues, it’s never been a problem. Common sense, researching locations ahead of time, and letting other people know my itinerary is has worked well for me. And even if I’m alone, I still call other people to see how they are doing and to reassure my mom that I am still alive.

And even if I’m travelling alone, it’s still possible to share the experience with others through pictures, video, and even the old-fashioned postcard. One of my favorite ways nowadays to share the adventure is to use Twitter and Facebook to post updates along the way.

Of course, travelling solo does have its downsides. When I goofed up and took the wrong train in trying to get from Philadephia to Delaware one time, I had no one to blame but myself. Had I been with others, they probably would have noticed my error and I never would have been on that train. It’s also nice to discuss what I’m seeing with others and get their perspective on things. And I always feel a bit weird asking strangers to take my picture in front of things, although I’ve never been refused.

But the advantages dwarf the disadvantages. Travelling solo is something that everyone should try at least once in their lifetimes. It doesn’t even have to be a full trip- I often tack on a day to myself before or after spending a week with family or friends. It’s something to think about when you’re planning your next trip.

Lately, I’ve been doing some research into what other people have been putting on their life lists and how they have been accomplishing them. I’m particularly curious about what the most popular goals are. While there’s no “bucket list” organization out there that keeps track of

According to 43 Things, this is the top ten goals that their users put on their lists:

  1. lose weight 
  2. stop procrastinating 
  3. write a book
  4. fall in love 
  5. be happy
  6. get a tattoo
  7. drink more water 
  8. go on a road trip with no predetermined destination 
  9. get married
  10. travel the world

It’s a fairly diverse list, with both big goals (like getting married) to small ones (like drinking more water). Over the next few days, I will be looking at each of these goals and explaining what steps can be taken to accomplish each of them.

I was going to a bridal shower earlier this afternoon and was looking up directions to the home that it was being held at. I discovered two sets of directions- one that used a major interstate for most of the way that I commuted along frequently. The other involved a bunch of back roads, some of which I hadn’t been on before. The interstate way would be a little quicker, but not by much. So I decided to take the road less travelled by and to test my limited sense of navigation (my motto: I’ll get there sooner or later. Usually later) and go the back roads.

I was rewarded. Along the way, I got to see an old farmhouse stuck in the middle of suburbania; a skywriter plane weaving its work in the beautiful blue sky; and found a couple of new ways to get around town. I also saw lots of green spaces and undeveloped areas still left in a city that is growing and expanding.

It was nothing earthshaking, but I got to see a different side of my hometown and enjoy a nice Sunday drive just by changing the route I drove. It’s how I keep a sense of adventure and exploration in my life, even when I’m not on the road. Besides, if I can’t appreciate what’s in my own backyard, then how will I appreciate the sights of some faraway land?

In my previous post, I had calculated how far I had traveled last year. I didn’t pull those numbers out of thin air- the internet has several tools that can make tracking your travels easy to do.

My favorite tracking website is Flightmemory. This website allows you to track not only how far and where you’ve gone on flights, but other details like what seat you sat in; the registration number of the plane; whether it was a leisure or business trip; and other details. It also includes on a summary page fun facts like how many times you’ve circled the earth or how far you’ve gone to the moon or the sun. This is what my Flightmemory page looks like. The site is also available in over 30 languages and includes nearly every airport in the world.

Unfortunately for train travel, no such handy tracker exists. In the US, you can look up the mileage of a trip via the Amtrak timetables. It’s a bit unwieldy and you’ll need pencil and paper to write everything down and add it together. But at least you can get an accurate measurement of distance this way. This technique will work for non-US trains as well, since most rail companies should have timetables available.

For car trips, Mapquest is a good tool for US trips to get an approximate mileage estimate. Most cars also have a trip odometer that can be used to track mileage.

In the case of a cruise I took last year, I couldn’t find anything that listed the distance covered. So, I used Daft Logic’s Google Maps Distance Calculator to find the distances between the ports the ship sailed into. It works by putting pins in the locations you’ve been to and then measuring the distances between the pins. This is a good tool to use to get an estimate if you can’t find the info any other way but you know about where you’ve been.

For the ski-lift numbers, I kept a map of the ski resort and figured out the numbers that way. Holding onto maps and brochures is a good way to keep track of hiking, biking, mass-transit and other such distances that are hard to calculate on a normal map.

Finally, the appearence of GPS devices in things like car navigation systems and iPhones is making it easier to track your travel precisely- down to feet or meters- regardless of the mode of travel. GPS also makes it possible to track travel with more then just a map. Attaching a GPS device to a camera means that you will know the exact location that you took a particular picture. It is also easy to upload the data and share it with others. The website GPSed.com allows users to upload tracks, photos and geotagging info online to share with others or for their own personal use.

If you have a favorite tracking tool, feel free to share it in the comments.

Next Page »