As we near the end of 2023, we two wanderers look back on yet another active year of travel.
Alaska Airlines will credit us with close to 110,000 miles flown on it and its partners by the end of the year. We have therefore re-qualified for Alaska’s top-tier status, MVP Gold 100K. We’re also closing in on lifetime Hilton Diamond status.
We started the year with a Caribbean cruise and ended it with a Mediterranean cruise, both on Oceania’s Riviera, a cruise line for foodies. We’ve achieved Platinum status on Oceania, which provides us with some pleasing and profitable perks.
In 2023 we spent time in France, London, Bali, Indonesia (a new country for us), and Australia. We also overnighted in Iceland twice and stopped in a variety of ports of various countries during our two cruises. We traveled domestically, although not as much as we would have liked. One of our favorite trips this year was one of the shortest in distance, to southern Colorado with some of our family members to visit the remote Tres Piedras Ranch in which Kathy’s family has an interest.
We’ve been traveling fairly intensively since 2001, the year we took early retirement from public education. Back then we were in our mid-50s (here we are in Egypt in 2007), and now we’re… just a little older. In the course of flying over 1.6 million miles on United and its partners, another quarter of a million miles on Alaska and its partners, and visiting more than 75 sovereign countries (fun fact: the country we’ve visited with the lowest per-capita birthrate is Vatican City – think about it), we like to consider ourselves a little wiser too.
As Brian has been known to say (Kathy: “incessantly”), we suffer from jet lag even if we stay home, so why not travel? We’ll continue to explore the world as long as we can, with a few added considerations.
First, we derive both pleasure and peace of mind by planning our trips in great detail. We use the TripIt website and app to outline every detail of our itinerary, including not only the transportation and accommodation, but the information required, for example, to get from the airport to the hotel.
Along with that, we utilize a variety of free and paid websites and travel blogs to find the most cost-effective flights and accommodation. We check back regularly on our flight and accommodation rates, and have saved a lot of money over the years by rebooking right up to the day of travel. For anyone who wants further details, we’re just an email away for subscribers, or a query in the comments section.
Kathy uses a variety of websites to book European train travel, including foreign language sites, and we try to book far enough ahead that we ordinarily travel in the modestly superior first or business class carriages for a cheaper price than a second-class ticket purchased closer to the travel date.
We continue to use a packing list that we check religiously
before departing home. By the way, we continue to carry lots of paper with us, i.e. printouts of reservations, tickets, etc., rather than simply relying on what we store on our phone. We've been able to point out discrepancies in rates to more than one hotel front desk employee when checking out.
As the years go by, we also strive to take into account our physical reserves. For example, earlier this week, we flew one evening from Naples to London, with a short overnight in the LHR Holiday Inn Express. Very early the following morning we arose (earlier than we needed to) to fly from LHR to Dalles-Fort Worth and, after a several-hour layover, onward to Seattle.
That was already too much flying for us, as Brian confirmed by literally falling asleep in the middle of eating ice cream somewhere over Montana, thereby creating a rather spectacular mess that the flight attendant and a couple of other passengers helped to clean up (Thanks, new subscriber Daz!). We did overnight at the Seattle Airport Hilton Garden Inn, rather than taking a flight that would have landed us at Bellingham around Midnight, but next time we’d add another overnight along the way.
Second, we take health and security seriously. Our Medicare
insurance supplement covers emergency hospitalization when we’re abroad, and we’re
limiting the length of our future visits to third-world countries. We want nearby access to
first-rate medical care if we need it. We register the itineraries of our trips with the US State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
We walk more slowly than we used to, often arm-in-arm to maintain balance. We notice that more and more people offer us seats on buses and trains, or offer to help us hoist our carry-ons into the overhead compartments. While that’s sweet, it also means we look old, dammit! We’re obvious potential victims for pickpockets and muggers, so we keep a special eye on our surroundings. No more romantic evening strolls along deserted streets for us.
After Brian’s wallet was pickpocketed out of his front pocket on the Paris Metro last year, he invested in pants from Clothing Arts that feature secret zippered pockets, and a hoodie from SCOTTeVEST with another set of secret pockets. We’ve both worn the original SCOTTIEeVESTS for many years. Brian also carries a dummy wallet containing some cash and expired credit cards, and we each carry our own credit and ATM cards, with contact phone numbers recorded in our phones in the event of theft or loss. For that matter, we also store in our phones photos of our passport ID pages and our carry-on suitcases.
Our cellular provider is T-Mobile, which for a bargain monthly rate gives us virtually free phone calls and data in almost every country in the world and free WiFi on Alaska and other airlines. This gives us further peace of mind. If we used another provider, we’d spend the money required - $10 daily or whatever - to give us coverage.
Finally, we’re not ashamed of spoiling ourselves. In fact, we call it being realistic rather than selfish. If that means we take fewer trips because each trip costs more, so be it. We won’t fly domestic redeyes, even in First Class, and we will only fly Business Class on overnight international flights. Long gone are our days of “mileage runs” in Economy to reach destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong.
We consider taxis or car transfers between one spot and another, as opposed to
climbing on a bus, then catching a subway, then walking a kilometer to
reach our hotel.
Traveling with congenial companions can provide both shared enjoyment and mutual support. Some of our favorite trips over the years, including the one just concluded, have been with adult relatives, including Brian’s brother and sister-in-law and Kathy’s brothers and sisters-in-law. Showing Europe to our grandchildren starting about 10 years ago has kept us feeling young, and we’re looking forward to taking our eighth and youngest grandchild on his special trip in March 2024.
We quote Robert Louis Stevenson on our main page: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”
We hope to keep moving for some time to come.
Happy travels to all!