It really is hard to believe that it’s already 2015. It seems just like yesterday that I woke up to the first day of 2014, preparing for the drive down to Houston on a cool, cloudy day to catch a set of Qatar Airways flights to Chennai, India. Alas, 2014 flew by (no pun intended) too quickly, just as it seems every year preceding it did, with far more items added to my to-do list than I was able to get through. That being said, it was an exciting year for the Road More Traveled blog, and here’s a few selected highlights from the year and what to look forward to in 2015.
The Birth of the Road More Traveled Blog
Of course, the biggest news of the year was the start of this blog itself, with the first post going live on June 13th. I owe all of the credit to Rohan and Mike, who discovered my initial attempt at a travel blog on Blogger and graciously invited me to join UPGRD (and a special shout-out to James for convincing me to enter the 21st century and join Instagram). Since that day, I’ve put up a total of 56 posts, covering a variety of topics. 15 posts covered road trips or driving, in keeping with the title of this blog, but as you’ve seen, even this road geek’s travails involve more than just getting behind the wheel; I’ve also frequently covered two other areas not typically featured on UPGRD, cruise vacations (7 posts) and restaurant reviews (8 posts), along with the more standard hotel and flight reviews. And I’m assuming I’m attracting at least some readership, as Mike hasn’t asked me to leave yet…
A Bountiful Year of Personal Travel
As many of you already know, I traded in a high-flying job in a Big 4 accounting firm for a much more sedate life in a family office in 2013, so pretty much all of my travel is of the personal variety, and on my own dime. Nevertheless, my wife and I consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to still be able to travel relatively frequently, by land, air, and sea.
- Total miles flown: 38,536 38,567
- Segments: 29 31 30
- Carriers flown: 7 (QR, 6E, BA, WN, AA, DL, VX)
- New carriers: QR, VX
- New airports: 4 (DOH, SAT, PBI, SMF)
(Update, 1/3/15 – boy, for an accountant, I have some real problems with basic math. While posting my year-end data for the Cranky Flier’s year-end summary, I realized that I had both forgotten that one trip was a connecting flight instead of a nonstop, and miscounted the number of segments in total, twice. Both the figures and the map have now been corrected.)
I was a bit surprised to see that I’d flown so many miles, though more than half (20,206) were attributable to that one trip to India. Now, I ended the year approximately 4,300 EQMs short of qualifying for AAdvantage Gold, but before you burn me in effigy, I should point out that several of my trips this year involved either uncertain schedules where I couldn’t risk a $200 change fee, or where we needed to check bags, and therefore, Southwest worked out cheaper in the end. Such is life when you’re funding your own travel and don’t have access to Mark Cuban’s bank account. I did the math, and even if I added the two trips where I made no changes and checked no bags, I still would have been about 1,000 miles short, and IMHO, a mileage run just to get Gold isn’t worth the money.
As far as highlights, the biggest was the trip to India, featuring a surprisingly good experience in coach on Qatar Airways on the inbound, and a surprise upgrade to BA Club World on the return. I also – by sheer coincidence – was able to experience both the before and after of AA’s revised domestic first class meals on the weekend of the changeover.
- Total miles: 7,722 (approximate)
- States visited: 14
Suffice it to say, I did a lot of driving this year, with my best mileage total since 2011. The total included a handful of smaller journeys, such as the aforementioned trip to Houston before flying to India, a trip to Memphis to visit my sister, and a trip to Southwest Florida and back to transport my mom and her cat to my other sister’s place, but the big road trip was my trip to Boston in May to catch our cruise to Bermuda, which included driving the historic National Road from start to finish.
2014 featured two boat rides, one from Boston to Bermuda on the Norwegian Dawn in May, and the other from Port Canaveral to Nassau on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas in October, for a total of approximately 1,944 nautical miles at sea. Bermuda and the Bahamas also marked my 38th and 39th countries visited, respectively.
This blog is about more than just trip reports. With the luxury of living in the United States’ fourth largest metropolitan area, home to both a world-class international airport (DFW) and two of the country’s major domestic airlines (AA and Southwest), there are a ton of things going on in the broader aviation industry of interest to travel geeks. 2014 was an especially monumental year in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, as DFW airport celebrated its 40th year of official service in January, followed by the repeal of the Wright Amendment in October, permitting unrestricted nonstop flights nationwide for the first time since the days of Braniff International. Internationally, India’s SpiceJet suffered a near-death experience in December, a crisis I suspect we’re going to be hearing more about this year, and not in a good way.
A Look Ahead to 2015
I do have one significant trip already lined up, a family cruise from Istanbul to Rome in June with all of the siblings and nephews. Tentatively, this trip will feature a ton of exciting highlights, from a visit to Stonehenge, to visiting my 40th country when we dock in Greece on June 29th, to a flight on a BA A380 from London to Dulles courtesy of a cache of unused AAdvantage miles. We are also toying with the idea of a road trip for our anniversary in October, possibly for our first visit to California’s Napa Valley. Other than that, when you don’t get to travel for work, trips are largely spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways when you can find cheap flights – which are thankfully in ample supply right now thanks to ongoing fare wars between Southwest and Virgin America from Love Field. Cheap gas (currently down to $1.82 in my hometown of Plano, Texas) will also undoubtedly mean a long weekend or two in the car, especially after the weather warms up. Additionally, while cleaning up the house a couple of months ago, I came upon an old laptop with a treasure trove of vacation photos dating back all the way to 2005 that I was able to recover. As time allows, I’ll try to piece together trip reports from these, though with time for only one, perhaps two posts a week (see below), this is a project that will likely be measured in years to completion.
The new year also promises to be a fun one for the aviation industry in general. WN and VX will continue their service ramp-ups out of Love Field, with the promise of more fireworks in the ongoing war between the city and United over the use of their two gates if they don’t expand service soon. On the other side of town, AA will continue its merger integration process with US Airways, while also implementing their hub rebanking strategy at DFW. Low oil prices pose interesting questions for the industry. Will the US carriers be enticed into giving up the price and capacity discipline they have exhibited over the last couple of years and start fare wars? Will we see a new start-up(s) try to stimulate the market? Will the Middle Eastern carriers be forced to dial back on their aggressive growth and pricing strategies? Will the aggressive frequent flier program devaluations finally stop? All questions and events that promise to provide plenty of fodder for travel bloggers.
One thing, however, is not likely to change. Much like Matthew, I would love to be able to post more frequently. However, with a full-time day job to attend to, blogging remains a fun hobby relegated to evenings and weekends. As Matthew suggested in his post this morning, trip reports and reviews, especially, are a lot more difficult to write than it may seem, as I find myself writing and re-writing them over a period of days to both convey useful information and keep it interesting for the reader. To that end, my standard Saturday A.M. posting schedule will remain, though as time permits, I will post additional items during the week.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the support of you, the reader that took the time to read these posts. Thank you for following along, I hope you enjoyed the ride, and here’s to more adventures in 2015!