web Musings of The Global Traveller

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fly every domestic route

Earlier this week I blogged about some crazy travel goals I have, one of which was to fly every domestic route of the 3 main airlines in a country. I've mapped the routes below (as straight lines rather than attempting to plot flight paths). Even omitting several other domestic routes flown on other airlines, it covers a reasonable proportion of the country from the air. For those who follow my blog in a reader, here is a direct link to the map.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Changes to visa rules (2)

Yesterday I blogged about some changes to China visa rules as advised by The Practical Nomad. His response follows.

I wrote that *I* had never been asked this question before, which is

I'm very much aware that the USA routinely asks all arriving foreigners
whether they have any criminal record, ever, anywhere, and has done so for

But US authorities don't ask this question of US citizens entering the US.
Since I'm a US citizen, I have never been asked this question entering the
US. (US citizens don't have to complete the green I-94 form shown in your

And I had never been asked this in any of the other countries I had
visited, or on prior visits to China (as a foreigner, travelling on a US

Edward Hasbrouck

The Practical Nomad

Fair enough. I have come across a few odd questions on immigration and customs forms over the years - some simply lost in translation, but others are more intrusive.

One thing I have found curious is that some countries require every single box to be filled in (eg visiting USA an address must be given even if only in international transit), while others (eg Australia) have some boxes that are optional and the voluntary nature is not even mentioned on the form in some cases.

On the subject of immigration and forms, look out for an upcoming blog entry about changes for USA visa waiver visitors (ESTA).

Crazy travel idea

Some people know I've been working on a crazy travel idea (okay more than one but I'm only sharing a few ideas today) the past few years.

Flying to every current destination of a major airline.
I first achieved last year and have maintained with 2 additional destinations this year - all 52 destinations flown to on the airline.

Flying every current domestic route of each of the 3 main airlines in a country.
I achieved this earlier in the month - all 62 combinations of route and airline.

Flying on every current route of a major airline.
I'm not there yet, the airline has 107 current routes, but I'm getting closer. Scheduling these around other commitments has proved to be quite a challenge for me.

I thought I was very close to finishing the last one, until someone pointed out I'd overlooked a summer-only seasonal route. So I still have 5 routes to fly at time of writing, not the 4 I thought I had.

Oh yes, I truly love to travel and am always thinking about more travel ahead.

I'm not the only person to have crazy travel ideas. Someone with a more inspirational crazy travel idea is Chris Guillebeau. More on his idea (and my other crazy travel ideas) in a later blog entry.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Changes to China visa rules

I'd seen reports of changes in China's visa requirements made before the Olympics but had not paid much attention, having already secured my Chinese visa before the changes occurred. The Practical Nomad has brought me up to speed with his latest entry. For casual travellers like me who spurn tours, travel independently, and make changes to their travels on the fly, the changes are a major inconvenience.

As well as seemingly abandoning the most flexible visa options, there are more hoops to jump through to get a visitor visa. The most significant of which, in my view, is visas must be issued at the embassy or consulate in the country of residency or citizenship (presumably exemptions for those from countries that have no Chinese embassy or consulate). So if you're in the middle of a trip and decide you want to visit China, you need to go back home first to get a visa.

Another change which might impact me (I haven't checked it out yet) is the requirement to arrange the visa in person. I use a specialist visa company for my visa requirements - one reason being that for many countries their nearest embassy/consulate is in another city or even another country. That company couriers the documents to the relevant city and has a local representative deal with the application - does that meet the requirements? Maybe.

One point I was surprised to read was this remark relating to a new question on the visa application form.

"Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?"

I'd never been asked this question before, in more than 50
countries including previous visits to China, but it seems to be becoming more
common. I'll have more about this question in a separate forthcoming article.

Perhaps The Practical Nomad is unaware, or perhaps he has forgotten, but anyone who enters USA under either the visa waiver program or with a visa gets a similar question (see sample I94W form).

Monday, August 25, 2008

2 years of liquids rules, some funny slogans

The Cranky Flier recently ran a 6-word contest to mark the 2 year anniversary of the liquids restrictions. The winning entries have now been posted - congratulations to all. My entry "security has dry sense of humor" won an honorary mention. To check out lots more great slogans entered, click here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More weather woes

Lately my travel pattern seems to be coinciding with the worst of winter weather. In the past few weeks my flights have been affected by more thunderstorms than I can count, hail, snow, excessive winds, heavy rain, frost/ice. Today looks like it will be no different. 2 prop flights. Wind 80 mph. Thunderstorms. Hail. Heavy rain. Weak tornadoes possible. Not a good mix.

So once again, I'm preparing back-up plans. But this time won't be easy as I'm flying somewhere remote and have further connecting travel tomorrow. A flight cancellation will be problematic.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Waiting out weather situation

Once again I'm sitting in an airport lounge waiting out an unfolding weather situation. There are a number of possibilities for my trip today.

1) Flights are delayed (currently 90 minutes delay for the first of my 4 flights and lengthening) but I fly as planned.
2) I fly part of the trip as booked and then switch to other flights/airlines - perhaps unlikely as I have no status on this particular airline.
3) I fly part of the trip and then get stuck overnight - possible depending on whether the snow and ice at transit and destination airports clears.
4) The trip gets cancelled.

Fortunately I have some tools to help me. As I noticed yesterday that the weather forecast was not great for today (although it actually is worse than forecast currently), I brought more stuff with me than I normally would - just in case I get stuck somewhere. However, I just noticed my cell phone is running low on battery. I should have brought my charger with me - doh.

Despite not having status on the airline I'm flying, I have access to lounges at a couple of the airports I will (I hope) visit today, thanks to status I have with the airline running those lounges. I'm making good use of the lounge by checking my options on the computer and working out various contingencies.

I'm checking out several websites for information. The airline website has arrival and departure information, as well as schedules. This information is partly updated but flow on delays are not being recorded. From the schedules I can work this out myself by figuring out where each aircraft goes next. The websites of the airports - the one I'm currently at, the transit airport and destination airport - help me by showing general delays and will give the first warning if the airport actually closes. Two of these airport websites are not very good at updating, so I am also checking out flightstats and using the airport and flight status tools. I also have an official weather website up which is updated hourly with weather conditions including radar - this helps me predict impacts for later in the day. Lastly, I have a page that links to various online weather stations for current conditions updated more frequently than the official weather website.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sleeping in airports

For the first time in years I recently slept at 2 different airports. I'd forgotten what it was like and I ended up paying the penalty. I was lulled into a false sense by my dodgy memories and also a quick review of the sleeping in airports website.

The first one was at Auckland when a schedule change meant I had 3 hours in the wee hours of the morning between international flights. Factoring in immigration both ways, customs, and a cab ride to & from the nearest hotel I reckoned I'd get 30 minutes sleep if I was lucky. I didn't need a hotel to access a shower - having the option of the free airside international terminal shower (bring your own towel and soap) or the shower in the 2 lounges I had access to after a couple of hours of waiting for them to open. So I cleared security (requiring a phone call to summons an officer) and settled in one of the comfy chairs on the upper level. While good for lying down it was soon apparent that some fellow transitting passengers were going to talk noisily all night (and some also playing football) thus making it difficult to sleep. I found some of the gate lounge areas were overlooked by passengers wandering aimlessly and thus a quiet respite. I managed an hour or so of sleep. The shower in the lounge, when it opened at 4am, was a godsend.

The second one was at Hamilton. This time I had 4 1/2 hours between international flights. Factoring in immigration, customs and check in time I figured I'd get a maximum of 2 1/2 hours sleep at the nearby airport hotel. I found a comfy chair on the upper level. Even though the terminal was locked up once the last passenger on my flight had cleared customs, I was allowed to remain inside. However, I was kept awake by the heavy rain drumming on the roof, and then an hour later by the cafe staff preparing to open up for the day (lights on, and an automated announcement every 10 minutes or so about security and keep your bags with you at all times). I gave up trying to sleep having had less than 30 minutes sleep. The airport has no showers, so I had to wait until my next destination to shower. In hindsight I would have been better off with the airport hotel (despite the relatively high cost).

The other option for such short overnight transits is to not try to sleep at all. I've done that before, but that is easier said than done when the body clock wants sleep and there are no stimulants coffee or cola on hand. What do you do in these situations?