I’ll start the New Year with a confession; I always shop around for what sometimes feel like forever for the cheapest plane tickets I can find. It’s no secret that almost everyone does it but when you’re flying from Eastern Canada, even the most basic flights usually end up more expensive so shopping around is often the only way to spend a little less on plane tickets in the hope of maximizing the budget and focusing on the trip itself instead of the getting there. I never bothered giving much attention to the prices listed as “Elite”, “First Class” or anything relating to something other than cheap seats and questionable meal choices. In reality, I would have sold my soul for a seat/bed in first class when I flew to Australia but the $8000 price tag brought me back to reality rather quickly.
When I flew to Belgium this year there were still upgrades available at the time of boarding and although my flight was only about 7 hours, I caved in and decided to splurge on an upgrade. The good thing is my original ticket was so inexpensive that, at the end of the day, the total price was still more than decent for a flight to Europe.
Now onto the upgrade itself;
Seat space is probably what I fell in love with the most. I’m not a giant but apparently 6 feet is enough to feel stuffed in regular seats on quite a few airlines. This time, I had room to spare and to be honest, I loved every extra inch of it.
Flight attendants attention is something that really stuck out to me. Don’t get me wrong, I respect cabin crew people beyond words; their work ethic and professionalism always impresses me, but I never came close to that kind of attention before. I truly command them on the work they do in general but particularly in first class, which is obviously a section with a large amount of demanding guests and even more varied services offered.
Food certainly could have been first on my list but I felt better putting it in the middle so I don’t sound like someone who paid quite a few dollars for better food. The fact of the matter is, the food was plentiful and it was so very good. There’s absolutely nothing I would say I didn’t enjoy; which is a lot more than I can usually say about airplane food! Obviously I wouldn’t upgrade just for the food but it’s certainly a perk I enjoyed.
Alcohol is always available on planes but free alcohol is so much better. I’m sure I’m not the only one but I always felt weird paying $6-8 for a tiny glass of cheap wine to go with a bland tasting meal eaten with plastic utensils.
I have to admit right now that I’m a sucker for goodies and freebies in general. I have so many things from launches and work-related evens that I could potentially do a giveaway every day for maybe 3 months and still have stuff to spare. I didn’t include this just to brag but to say that the little goodies bag with a blanket, inflatable pillow, socks (!) and more is pretty much a bag of awesome if you ask me.
So there you have it; I think that about covers all the cool things you get from an upgrade (I won’t mention priority boarding or being the first off the plane but look at them as added bonuses!) and in a way I’d say all those things make for a fun experience but you really need to weigh the price for what it gives you in the end; you might be better off saving your money to visit, eat or make purchases once you get to your destination.
Do you usually fly first class? Any reason in particular? Is it the luxury, the comfort or something else?
Before ringing in the new year tonight, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do a quick summary of how my year looked like on the travel front.
Although some of my original plans fell through this year, I still managed to visit my 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th countries in 2011. 3 out of those 4 countries, namely Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, had been in my plans since my non-trip in 2008 so I was more than happy to finally visit them. I also spent a quick week in Panama, which was, to date, my favorite experience in Central/South America.
I also roamed around Canada a fair amount and got a few more U.S. stamps in my passport but the “new countries” are definitely the highlight of my year.
I didn’t quite make it to my 5th continent but that will happen in 2012 and I’m more than satisfied with the experiences I’ve had while traveling this year.
– Bucket List
Do I keep a bucket list? Yes, ,I do. Do I plan my trips around it? No, I don’t. That being said, I still managed to cross a whopping 3 items off of it this year and also did some work on a fourth item, making 2011 a very successful year in terms of shortening the proverbial “list”.
I flew first class for the first time on my way to Belgium, which was a rather uncharacteristic splurge for me and although the flight wasn’t overly long (just over 7 hours), I absolutely enjoyed the experience. For the comfort alone, I would be more than willing to replicate the experience in the future and let’s be honest, the food and booze aren’t half bad either!
Although my visit to the Netherlands was a little short for my tastes, I managed to see Ann Frank’s house, which was definitely one of the things I didn’t want to miss out on while in Amsterdam. I had heard horror stories about the never ending lines in front of the museum but I lucked out and although pictures aren’t allowed inside the house (one of my biggest pet peeves about museums in Europe!), I was happy with the experience and glad to have included the visit in my itinerary.
In Germany, I finally managed to visit a concentration camp (I actually visited 2, considering they are plentiful in Germany), after failing to do so in 2008 and coming so close while in Belgium a few months before. While Auschwitz remains a place I desperately want to visit in the future, getting to spend a few hours in Dachau and Sachsenhausen was the highlight of my trip to Germany.
One of the long-lasting items on my bucket list is to visit 100 countries, which is obviously a work in progress but adding 4 countries in a year is a step in the right direction.
– The Road
I rarely travel with other people, both by choice and because I don’t always pick the destinations my friends are thinking of when they have time to travel, so when a friend of mine said he would like to visit the Gaspé peninsula and see Percé Rock, I was more than happy to tag along for a quick road trip. The tip of the peninsula is located at the far end of the province of Quebec and although the drive was rather dull at times, it was definitely a cool way to spend a long weekend. I had been meaning to visit the region for a long time but never quite got around to it so getting to explore that little corner of my province was something I was glad to finally do.
Although Ontario is the neighboring province, I somewhat ironically visited it more for business purposes than as part of an actual trip (layovers at Pearson excluded, of course). I had planned a few things to do while in Toronto but the schedule got a little hectic and it turned out to be all business. On the bright side, I got to see Suzie McNeil and the Barenaked Ladies perform, the Staal brothers being interviewed by TSN’s James Duthie and hear a speech by Bell Canada’s president George Cope, which made the whole event fairly cool to attend.
– So Many Ways
Blame it on my habit to travel solo or on some weird quirkiness but every once in a while, I tend to start counting random things involving travel. How many nights slept in a hotel/hostel, how many flights I was on or how many means of transportation I used are among the things I usually work with as they are somewhat easy to recall and count. Obviously, those are totally random facts and don’t have much of an impact on anything but the fact that I don’t spend months traveling each year makes it more than doable to simply sit and add up those things. They’re also a good way to pass the time when flying; which is usually the moment I choose to count those little stats.
For the record, in 2011 I;
Was on 10 flights
Used 8 different means of transportation
Spent 30 nights in a hotel or hostel
That’s it; a short (and sweet?) post about my travels in 2011.
Happy New Year & safe travels!
May 16th 2011 is the day commuters in Brussels need to start paying their fare when using the subway; at least if they need to pass through the Gare du Midi. Although everyone should have been paying already, the electronic access gates were left opened and had a notice stating that they would become active today; no doubt trusting the good nature of people, even though they obviously could go right through the gate without paying for passage.
To say that the lines were long at the various ticket booths compared to yesterday would be an understatement, especially during rush hour at the beginning and at the end of the workday.
There were also growing lines at a few gates as people seemed at a loss as to what they needed to do for the gate to open. Some section of the station only had an handicapped gate available which meant that people had to push a button to open the first door, then insert their ticket for the second door to open.
The lines at the ticket counters and the confusion to go through the entrance/exit gates probably is a very good indication that the city made the right decision and will actually benefit strongly from a working access system for the users of it’s extensive public transportation system. The added funds collected from people who were already using public transportation will probably be much greater than the amount of money collected from fines seldomly collected from those who didn’t have a valid ticket.
There were a lot of security/prevention personnel at the station throughout the day to assist people and make the transition go smoothly and although the gates are only active at the Gare du Midi for the time being, it isn’t hard to understand that now that the city’s busiest station is officially charging for passage, other stations will likely follow suit in the future in order to cover most, if not all of the city’s vast public transportation system.