The world is a stressful place; the last thing you need is a stress filled vacation. Stress can’t necessarily be completely avoided, but one vacation that promises to minimize your stress is staying at an All-Inclusive resort. All-Inclusive resorts are certainly not for everybody. They are typically one of the least adventurous types of vacations you can take. In fact, when staying at an All-Inclusive resort you never even have to leave the property if you don’t want. Still, the number of US travelers who stay at an All-Inclusive resort is on the rise. According to PhoCusWright, in 2010 8% of all US travelers stayed at an All-Inclusive resort. In 2012 that number rose to 14%.
So why are All-Inclusive resorts gaining in popularity? I believe it is because people are finally starting to see past the old misconceptions. The fact is, there is an All-Inclusive resort option for every kind of traveler. And as an added bonus, with an All-Inclusive resort there is no second guessing your budget. Unless you choose to go off-site or get a spa treatment, you will know upfront exactly how much your vacation will cost. And here at Adventures With Anthony, we can easily package your resort and airfare into a single purchase, saving you even more.
All-Inclusive resort packages are cheaper than you might think
When you figure in all the various costs of any vacation, an All-Inclusive resort can become an excellent deal. When you book an All-Inclusive resort through us, the price includes round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the airport, and the resort itself. At the resort all of your meals and drinks are included, as well as a number of on-site activities. Price can vary based on location, time of year, and specific resort, but it is not unheard of for a 4 night package to be as low as $500 per person from select US cities.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to snag one of these special deals, the regular price of our packages are extremely reasonable. For example, a 6 night package in a 4 and a half star resort from Salt Lake City to Punta Cana in August is only $1,239 per person. That’s $2,478 for two people to fly internationally, spend 6 nights in a suite, and have all meals and drinks included. If you were to book this trip separately, the airfare alone would cost $1,594. That is for the same exact JetBlue flight included in the package. The resort itself, the Grand Palladium Bavaro, starts at $239.70 per night. That’s a total of $1,438.20 for the entire 6 night stay. The transfer from Punta Cana airport to the resort would normally cost an additional $20 per person. That puts the grand total of the vacation when purchased piecemeal at $3,072, almost $600 more than booking one of our packages.
Even when compared to a more traditional hotel, the value of an All-Inclusive stands out. A typical 4-star hotel will run around $100-150 per night. Lunch at a fast food restaurant for 2 can be around $20-30, and dinner for 2 can range from $60 to well over $100. Alcohol is harder to budget, depending on your personal habits, but two cocktails or glasses of wine with dinner could easily add another $25. That would mean on the low end you could spend $180 per day on food and lodging, up to $300 or more. For this same 6 night vacation, avoiding an all-inclusive would cost between $2,674 and $3,394.
You aren’t trapped at the resort
While many resorts have plenty of activities to keep you occupied, you are free to explore if you want. It will cost extra, but you can book transportation to local sights or even book an off-site excursion. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers trips to Saona Island, snorkel and scuba trips, a canopy zipline, and the famous Coco Bongo nightlife experience. Cozumel is close to 6 different Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza which was recently named as a world wonder. You can book these excursions in advance, although I would personally recommend waiting until you arrive at the resort. That way you will have a better idea of how much time, if any, you want to spend away from the resort.
There is a resort for everyone
When many people hear All-Inclusive, their mind tends to jump to a couples retreat. A romantic getaway to a Sandals or a Beaches resort. Something expensive and reserved for a very special occasion. Your honeymoon or a milestone anniversary, perhaps. That, however, is just one type of All-Inclusive resort. There are also resorts that cater more towards the hard partying Spring Break crowd. There are elegant, 5-star resorts with fine dining and private golf courses. If you are traveling with kids, there are family friendly resorts complete with an entire on-site water park. There is even a Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana, and a second one under construction in Riviera Maya.
It doesn’t matter if you want an adults only or a family friendly resort. One that has less than 100 rooms or more than 1,000. Budget or extravagant. Reach out and we will be happy to help find the perfect resort for you.
Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. We went to Honolulu ourselves in 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time on the island. It is a tropical island paradise that can compete with any destination in the Caribbean, yet finding a cruise to Hawaii is surprisingly difficult. Part of the reason for this is Hawaii’s distance from the continental United States; over 2,600 miles as the crow flies from Southern California. This comes out to about 2,250 nautical miles, which will take an average cruise ship between 100 and 120 hours to cross. That comes out to 5 full days at sea to get to Hawaii, and another 5 to return to California.
Distance is not the only problem facing cruise companies that want to visit Hawaii. For various legal, financial, and logistical reasons most cruise ships are foreign flagged vessels. This means that they are restricted by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. This law bans any vessel that isn’t built in the US and owned by a US based company from transporting passengers between two different US ports. This act also says that a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same US port must visit a foreign port, so even if a ship were to make a round trip cruise from Honolulu, it would have to visit a port outside the United States. The closest such port is Tabuaeran on the Fanning Atoll, a full 4 days away from Honolulu.
Options for Cruises to Hawaii
Despite these difficulties, many cruise lines do offer cruises to Hawaii. If you want to take one of these magical adventures, you have four main options. A world cruise, a re-positioning cruise, a multi-week California to Hawaii cruise, or a 7 night round trip Honolulu cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.
The most expensive and lengthy option for a cruise to Hawaii is a world cruise. These cruises are measured in months, not days and range from a 59 nights to 161 nights. The price of these cruises range from $22,000 to $80,000 per person. On these cruises, Hawaii is just another port, but what a way to see the islands.
Some cruises are only able to run part of the year, so cruise lines need to move their ships. Alaska cruises are one of the most popular seasonal cruises and can only sail from May through September. When Alaska gets too cold, the ships relocate, often to Asia or Australia. This path across the Pacific takes them right past Hawaii, so it is a natural stop to break up the long cruise. It takes about 6 or 7 days for a cruise to reach Hawaii from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, and another 7 or 8 days to reach the South Pacific.
These cruises can be run in one of two ways. The first option is a longer cruise, often at least 21 nights with Hawaii as a mid-point stop. The second option is to split the cruise into two separate cruises. The first cruise would end in Honolulu and the second cruise would begin there. Often at least one of these cruises would island hop to multiple cities in Hawaii.
Round Trip California Cruises to Hawaii
These cruises are offered on Princess, Holland America, Oceania, Crystal, and occasionally Celebrity. There are two main itineraries available; a 15-17 night cruise from California to Hawaii, with a stop in Mexico, or a 28+ night cruise to Hawaii, Tahiti, and the South Pacific. Most of these cruises depart from Los Angeles, while a few leave from San Francisco or San Diego. The shorter cruises stop at Ensenada, Mexico, a city known locally as La Cenicienta del Pacifico, or “The Cinderella of the Pacific”. Ensenada is not a particularly popular destination, but it does have its charms. The city is working hard to improve their offerings, and they have some of the best street food in Mexico.
Round Trip Honolulu Cruises
There is one, and only one, cruise line that offers regular round trip cruises from Hawaii. If you want to take a typical 7 night cruise from Honolulu to the other islands, Norwegian is it. In order to get around the regulations of the Passenger Vessel Service Act, NCL had to take several steps. First, they had to create a new company, NCL America, that was headquartered in the United States. Second, they had to have a ship that was US built, US flagged, and manned with US crew. Ultimately this ship became the Pride of America. Construction was finished in 2005, and she has been sailing the Hawaiian Islands for the past 13 years.
Pride of America runs the same itinerary year round, leaving Honolulu every Saturday. The cruise overnights in Kahului, Maui, then visits Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and finally overnights in Nawiliwili, Kauai. Since there is no competition, these cruises can be a little more expensive than other 7 night sailings. At the lowest end you are looking at about $2,500 for two people in an interior room. A balcony room will start at closer to $5,000 for two people.
The Best Time for a Hawaii Cruise
If you are planning on taking a re-positioning cruise to Hawaii you will be severely limited. These cruises are set based on the Alaska cruising season, so your choices are typically March/April or September/October. These months also have the benefit of being in Hawaii’s low season, so flights and hotels will typically be cheaper. If your cruise is one of the ones that ends or begins in Hawaii, this can be really helpful.
If you are planning on taking the Norwegian cruise, these months can still be a great choice. Since airfare is often cheaper in the shoulder months, the higher cost of the cruise can be offset a bit. The rest of winter can be another great choice to escape to a warm tropical paradise. January through March is Hawaii’s high season, so it may be more expensive and more crowded, but it can be a great respite from the cold.
If you’d like to plan your own adventure to Hawaii, send me a request. I’d be happy to find the perfect Hawaiian cruise for you and your family.
Occasionally companies may offer special promotions that can be a great deal for future adventures. Currently Wyndham Rewards is offering a promotion for one free night at any Wyndham hotel after staying just two separate times. Wyndham Rewards is already a great value because of their flat redemption options. With just 15,000 points you can stay for free at any hotel under the Wyndham brand. Normally, you earn 10 points per dollar spent at a Wyndham property, with a minimum of 1,000 points per stay. That means that normally it takes 15 stays to earn a free night. With this promotion cutting that down to only two stays, the value is amazing.
In fact, the value is so great that you may even want to consider making a mattress run to get these points before the promotion expires.
What is a Mattress Run?
You may have already heard of a Mattress Run, or the somewhat related Mileage Run. If you are not familiar, a Mattress Run is when you reserve a hotel that you don’t need just to earn loyalty points. While it might seem like a waste, there are times where the value of the points earned can be higher than the cost of a hotel room. Wyndham Hotel Group is a perfect candidate for this, especially with the current promotion. Wyndham includes a wide variety of hotel brands, including some budget offerings such as Days Inn and Super 8. Depending on your location you can often find a budget hotel under the Wyndham umbrella for under $40 a night. Even if you don’t need a hotel right now, for only $80 you can earn 15,000 points and get a free night at any Wyndham hotel worldwide.
In order for the stay to count you have to actually check in, so you can’t just find a random hotel clear across the country and reserve a night. The easiest way to complete a mattress run is to book the cheapest hotel close to your house, check in, leave the key in the room, and then go home.
The Wyndham Rewards Promotion
As mentioned above, the promotion just requires two stays at a Wyndham property during the promotion period. Your two stays must be completed before June 30th, 2018, and must be two separate reservations, not just two nights. You also have to have a Wyndham Rewards account and register for the promotion.
Registering for the Promotion
To register for this promotion you must first have a Wyndham Rewards account. This account is free to create at the Wyndham Hotels website. Once you have an account and are logged in, go to the promotion page and register for the promotion. Once that’s done you are good to go and are free to start booking your stays.
You must have a Wyndham Rewards Account
You must register for the promotion on Wyndham Hotel’s website
There must be two completed stays at a Wyndham property by June 30th, 2018
The room must be booked directly through the hotel. You can book:
Online at WyndhamHotels.com
Online at the specific chain’s website
Via phone to the hotel or Wyndham’s Toll Free reservation line
No shows do not count; you must actually check in to the hotel
Getting the Most out of the Promotion
In order to maximize the value of this promotion, you should focus on two points. First, minimize the cost of your two stays. If you were already planning on staying at a Wyndham property you don’t have to worry about this, but it is particularly important for Mattress Runs. Mid-week stays at budget properties will usually offer you the best prices, but it can vary depending on your geographic location. Days Inn, Super 8, and Travelodge are often the cheapest options, but it’s a good idea to search all Wyndham properties via the Wyndham website to get the best deals for your area.
The second part of the equation is deciding where to spend your free night. Wyndham Grand resorts often offer the best redemption value, although Ramada and a number of Las Vegas casinos, including Harrah’s, Caesar’s Palace, and the Rio can also offer an amazing value. Wyndham has also recently added vacation homes and condos to their offerings, adding even more amazing redemption opportunities. Peak season rates at some of these properties can start at $300 a night. That means that for about $80 you can earn 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points and get a free night valued at over $300. Without the promotion, it would take 15 stays to earn a free night, which would cost you at least $600. This represents an amazing value and an excellent opportunity to splurge at a resort you may otherwise never get to experience.
Wyndham Hotel Group has over 7,800 hotels across 19 brands throughout the world. They also have partnerships with Caesar's Entertainment and 6 different Vacation Clubs, which add a wide array of homes, cottages, villas, and resorts to their network. The Wyndham Rewards program works with all of these properties, and it has an amazing flat rate redemption policy. 15,000 rewards points will get you a free night at any of these locations. Every stay at a Wyndham property, even the most budget friendly options such as a Super 8 or Days Inn, earns at least 1,000 points, and occasionally they have a special promotion where you can earn the necessary 15,000 points for only two stays.
Start the slideshow to see 10 of the best properties you can book for free with just 15,000 points.
Hotel: Wyndham Grand Qingdao
Location: Qingdao, Shandong, China
Average Nightly Cost: $120 (745 Chinese Yuan)
The Wyndham Grand Qingdao is an upscale beach resort on China's eastern coast, about halfway between Beijing and Shanghai. The hotel has 518 rooms and suites with options to overlook the city skyline or the beach. The suites can be quite pricey, and do not qualify for award stays, but even the Deluxe King rooms offer stunning views in a city often regarded as the most beautiful in all of China.
Hotel: Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $460
The Wyndham Grand Riverfront is one of the best locations available for a hotel downtown Chicago. Within easy walking distance to Millennium Park, the Loop, and River North, this hotel is centrally located for both business and leisure travelers. All rooms and suites have views of the city skyline or the river and offer rainforest showers, in-room massages, and an award winning on site Bar and Restaurant, Hoyt.
No matter what you are looking for in a Caribbean escape, the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar has it. Located 20 miles away from San Juan and bordered by El Yunque Rain Forest and the ocean, this resort boasts 1 mile of pristine beach, 500 acres of land, 10 restaurants, 2 championship golf courses, 2 ocean front pools, and an on-site casino. Puerto Rico is an amazing destination, so the only downside with this stunning property is you may never want to leave the resort and explore the rest of the island.
Hotel: Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $240
This newly built boutique "hotel in a hotel" is located inside Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. As part of Wyndham's recent partnership with Caesars Entertainment, you can earn and redeem Wyndham Rewards points at most Caesars properties in Las Vegas. The Nobu hotel is arguably one of the better redemption values because of the concierge service, and the fact that the rooms are new construction. Many of the well known hotels on the Strip are relatively dated, including the main Caesars Palace, unless you opt for an upgraded room. Nobu, and the nearby Cromwell which is also included in the Wyndham partnership, do not have that problem. All the rooms are upgraded.
Hotel: Wyndham Bali Kai Villas
Location: Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $329
These villas on Kauai Island, also known as the Garden Island, are actually 1, 2 or 3 bedroom condos available through Wyndham Vacation Club. These are technically timeshares and there are a limited number of units, so the availability can be very poor. If you can find open availability, the property is family friendly with two pools complete with waterfalls, a kiddie pool with a reef, and an on-site beach for building sand castles. Kauai Island is an extremely beautiful island and is not as tourist heavy as Oahu, so this would be a prime property for a true tropical escape.
Hotel: Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
Location: Orlando, Florida, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $274
This resort in Orlando sits on 500 wooded acres and includes a complimentary shuttle to the nearby Walt Disney World. After spending a full day at the park you can return to your Mediterranean styled suite and enjoy the resort's lagoon style pool, spa, and jogging trail. Even if you aren't planning on visiting Walt Disney World, the resort offers a luxurious retreat in the heart of Orlando.
Hotel: Viva Wyndham Azteca
Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Average Nightly Cost: $216
Viva is Wyndham's brand of All-Inclusive resorts with locations in Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. All-inclusive resorts aren't for everybody, but if you have the 15,000 points, staying (and eating and drinking) for free really can't be beat. The Viva Azteca in Playa del Carmen, Mexico is one of Wyndham's highest rated all-inclusive resorts and also gives all guests access to the amenities of the sister property, Viva Maya. Playa del Carmen is near magnificent white sand beaches, Mayan ruins, mangrove swamps, and jungles. This resort has something for everybody, from families to romantic couples, all with food, drinks, and entertainment included.
Hotel: Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levent
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Average Nightly Cost: $220
This property is one of Wyndham's newest hotels in Europe and offers stunning views of the city and the river. Istanbul is an excellent mix of the old and the new and is Turkey's economic, cultural, and historic center. The Wyndham Grand Levent is located right on the subway line giving you unfettered access to all the sights of the city. The hotel also offers an amazing spa, and there are deluxe rooms available with extra space and kitchenettes.
Hotel: Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel
Location: Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $282
The Mills House in historic Charleston, South Carolina is not like most other luxurious hotels. This is a much smaller, boutique-style hotel that was first opened in 1853, and despite updates and modernization it maintains it's relaxed, old world charm. The hotel's location is ideal for exploring the historical city, and when you return to your room you can enjoy the outdoor pool or the elegant, but still very relaxed, on site Barbadoes Room restaurant.
Hotel: Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort
Location: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, United States
Average Nightly Cost: $300
The Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort is another timeshare/condo resort with hard to find availability, but if you can land a reservation you will not be disappointed. The resort has two pools that are designed to seamlessly blend in with the tropical surroundings, and a pool side bar to keep you fully refreshed. While the rooms do offer kitchenettes, there are also outdoor picnic and BBQ areas so you can soak in as much of that Hawaiian sunshine as possible. Hawaii's Big Island is filled with activities, and the Wyndham Kona resort is ideally located for access to the beaches and the volcanoes that make the island so popular.
If you are experienced in the points and miles game you are likely already aware of mileage run. Originally mileage runs were a way for flyers to get a large number of frequent flyer miles. People could find a long haul flight for a relatively cheap price and fly round trip to rack up the miles. Recently, however, airlines have mostly switched to a revenue based model. This means that instead of earning frequent flyer miles based on distance, you earned them based on the ticket cost. This could have been the end of mileage runs, but instead they just evolved.
State of the Mileage Run Today
Today mileage runs are utilized more for gaining or maintaining status. Even though a cheap long haul flight will no longer earn many redeemable miles, they still count towards elite status. To earn elite status with an airline you need two things; qualifying miles and qualifying spend. Unlike redeemable frequent flyer miles, qualifying miles are still granted based on distance. Mileage runs can help build up these elite qualifying miles, although they still won’t help with the spend requirement.
Because of this limitation, a mileage run only makes sense for a few specific types of travelers. First, is a traveler who makes many short but expensive flights. This could be a business traveler who books flights in first class or on a fully refundable fare. These flyers will often have a high spend but a low total mileage, so completing a mileage run at the end of the year could be perfect.
The other type of traveler who could benefit from a mileage run would be one who utilizes an airline credit card. Spend on an airline branded credit card, even for expenses not directly related to a flight, counts towards an elite spend waiver. The total spend is much higher when using a credit card, typically around $25,000 a year, but if a passenger is spending that much every year then they can reach the spend requirement without hitting the mileage requirement. In this case a mileage run could be their only opportunity to reach elite status.
Value of Elite Status
Even if you could earn elite status using a mileage run, you are still looking at several hundred dollars in otherwise unnecessary costs. In order to determine if a mileage run is worth the cost and time you have to put a value on the status you can reach. Elite status is more valuable the more you fly with perks such as free upgrades, bonus miles, and fee waivers. Typically, this means that the people who will get the most out of a mileage run are frequent flyers who spend a lot, but need a small boost of miles to reach a higher tier of status.
Winter is here, and it is here to stay. If you are planning any travels this winter there are a few tips that are good to remember. No matter if you are traveling near or far, by plane or car, we want to make sure that your travels are safe.
In This Post
Take Extra Time
By far the most important rule of winter travel is to take your time. During the holidays especially the roads can be significantly more crowded. An increase in traffic can make your planned drive take quite a bit longer, and you don’t want to miss a flight because you arrived at the airport late. Aside from an increase in traffic, the US Department of Transportation estimates that average traffic speed is reduced by up to 64% when snow is falling.
Accidents are also more common during adverse weather; approximately 22% of all vehicle accidents are weather related. An accident on the highway can bring traffic to a standstill and cause significant delays. Being involved in an accident will cause you an even longer delay, or even make travel impossible. Make sure to give other cars on the road plenty of space and never drive faster than conditions allow.
Cars are not the only vehicles that are delayed by adverse weather. Storms can delay or cancel flights, and delays often compound on each other. Even if there are no active storms anywhere along your flight path, planes require de-icing. The de-icing procedure is typically quick, but when hundreds of flights are waiting to take-off it can quickly add up. De-icing is done away from the gate, so the flights are still listed as on time departures, even if it takes up to an hour to actually take off. Make sure you give yourself extra time for any connections
While giving yourself extra time to travel and make any connecting flights is important, the occasional missed or cancelled flight is inevitable. It is always a good idea to prepare alternatives just in case your plans don’t pan out. If driving, know alternate routes and detours, just in case an accident or bad weather closes down the main road. Detours may not always be obvious, and cell signal can be fickle, so it’s a good idea to have an atlas or road map available in your vehicle.
For flights, it can be valuable to have an idea of what other flights are available. This way if your flight is delayed or cancelled you already know what your options are to get to your final destination.
In the days leading up to your travel, keep an eye on the weather reports. It’s important to not just look at the weather at your home location and destination, but at various points along the route. It’s a very good idea to follow your local National Weather Service office. If traveling domestically, you can also find the NWS office that serves your destination.
Aside from specific forecasts, it’s also important to know about any rules that are in effect for a certain area. For example, the Alcan Highway through British Columbia into Alaska requires either chains or certified winter tires on all vehicles from October through March. Across the northern and western United States, there are some roads and mountain passes that may require chains in inclement winter weather. Knowing these rules can not only keep you safe, but can help you avoid large fines.
It is also a really good idea to keep an eye on road conditions. For any state you will be traveling through you can search for “State 511” to get current road conditions. For example, to get the current road conditions in Nevada, you can search for “Nevada 511” which will lead you to http://nvroads.com.
Have an Emergency Kit
For winter safety it is also a good idea to have an emergency kit packed and stored in your vehicle. You should make sure you have a portable charger or spare battery for your phone to make sure that you can always contact emergency services or family if you run into trouble.
You should also have supplies to help you out if your car breaks down or gets stuck. Standard items such as a jack, spare tire, flares, and a jumper cable are important, but you should also have a portable shovel, tool kit, flashlight, and an ice scraper. The cold can drain batteries, so make sure you have fresh batteries for your flashlight at the start of each trip. It’s also a good idea to have sand, cat litter, or gravel to help you get traction if your car should get stuck.
You should also have items to help keep you safe if you get stuck and have to wait for rescue. Blankets are crucial to stay warm without having to have the car running, and water and non-perishable food can be a life saver, especially if you are traveling on roads that don’t get a lot of traffic.
Consider Travel Insurance
Even the best made plans can still be impacted by inclement weather, and part of being prepared is knowing what will happen if things go wrong. If your flight is cancelled or delayed due to weather, most airlines will not provide any financial assistance other than rebooking you on a later flight. If you end up needing to spend the night you can be out several hundred dollars for food and a hotel, and if your luggage is stuck you may need new clothes or toiletries.
Airlines won’t reimburse you for any of these expenses, but certain travel insurance offerings will. They can also cover you for any non-refundable expenses at your final destination that you missed due to the delay. Travel insurance isn’t for everybody, but if you reach out to us today, we can review your plans and help you determine if it makes sense.
Winter travel can be magical, but make sure you reach your destination safely by following these tips. Happy Holidays!
Airfare is notoriously expensive and as a result airlines have begun focusing on no-frills service. Often this means that the cost of your ticket includes nothing more than the ticket itself. Over the past decade this has become more common, with many airlines starting to charge for checked bags. This also led to the rise of “Ultra Low Cost Carriers”, or ULCCs. ULCCs would charge extra for just about every service. Choosing a seat, checking a bag, drinks, snacks, and even carry-on bags would cost extra.
This model is most commonly associated with dedicated ULCCs, including Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant in the United States. However, the larger legacy carriers have recently implemented their own version of this concept. Enter “Basic Economy” fares.
Basic Economy Comparison Table
Pay or Auto-Assign at check-in
Pay or Auto-Assign at check-in
Pay or Auto-Assign at check-in
Choose or Auto-Assign at check-in
Auto-Assign at check-in only
1 Personal Item Only
1 Personal Item Only
Ultra Low Cost Carriers
Frontier is based out of Denver and often offers the cheapest tickets when flying from the Western United States. Often one way tickets can be found for less than $100, but nearly everything comes with an additional fee. Carry on bags stored in the overhead bin start at $30 each way if you purchase online. All of Frontier’s baggage fees are higher if you purchase at the airport on the date of travel. Change fees are $99 plus any additional difference in ticket price.
Passengers are free to check-in online 24 hours before their flight, or at the airport the day of their flight.
Spirit is very similar to Frontier; bags, drinks, snacks, and seat selection all cost extra. Just like with Frontier, paying for your bags when you book the ticket will be cheaper than paying at the airport. Basic seats on Spirit have only 28 inches of legroom, the smallest on any American carrier. The extra cost “Big Front Seats” have an impressive 36 inches of legroom but can cost up to $200+ for each leg of your trip.
Also like Frontier, Spirit offers free check-in online or via their mobile app 24 hours before your flight. Checking in at the airport will cost an additional $10.
American Airlines was the last of the legacy carriers to adopt the basic economy model, starting in February 2017. American is the middle of the pack between Delta and United; more restrictive than Delta but not as bad as United. Seat assignment is available for purchase 48 hours before your flight, or will be automatically assigned at check-in. You can check-in online or via the mobile app 24 hours before your flight.
Upgrades to Premium Economy can be purchased, but will not be complimentary, even for elite members. All passengers who purchased a Basic Economy ticket will board last, even if they purchase Premium Economy or have elite status. No changes or refunds are allowed on Basic Economy fares, but they do still earn frequent flyer miles.
Delta has the least restrictive basic economy offering of the legacy carriers. You are free to check-in online or via the mobile app 24 hours before your flight, and can select your own seat at check-in. Upgrades to Premium Economy are not available, even for purchase, and basic economy passengers will be the last to board. Unlike American, if you have elite status with Delta you are free to board with the other elites, even with the basic economy ticket. Best of all, basic economy passengers on Delta have the same baggage allowance as other passengers. You are free to carry-on a personal item as well as a larger carry-on for no additional charge.
No changes or refunds are allowed on Basic Economy fares, but they do still earn frequent flyer miles.
United basic economy is… it’s just the worst. If you are not paying to check a bag you cannot even check-in online with a United basic economy fare. Without a checked bag you must check-in at the airport, and you have to wait for a United agent to sign off on your check-in. My last time flying United in basic economy, this actually caused me to miss my flight. It took us close to 20 minutes to get an agent over to the kiosk to approve our check-in and by that time it was too late for us to complete the check-in process and receive our boarding pass.
United does not allow a large carry-on for basic economy passengers, and automatically assigns seats at check-in. You will still earn frequent flyer miles, but unlike Delta and American, these flights do not count towards earning elite status.
Considerations When Booking Basic Economy
For my personal travels, United is the only airline that I refuse to fly in basic economy. With every other airline, it is something that I will at least consider if the price is right.
Understand the Rules
The fact that United does not allow online check-in was not widely publicized. If I had known how difficult checking in would be we might have pushed to arrive at the airport earlier, or avoided booking the ticket all together. For ULCC’s like Frontier and Spirit, knowing that bag charges are cheaper online can save you significant costs. Also, knowing that they do not offer snacks for free means you can purchase a drink or snack in the airport before boarding.
Use Them for Short Flights
For particularly short flights the restrictions placed on basic economy fares will be less noticeable. If you are flying on a smaller regional jet that only has four seats across, you can’t end up in a middle seat. Less legroom would also be more tolerable on a short flight, so the inability to upgrade your seat may not be a big concern.
Be Careful if Travelling in a Group
Without the ability to choose your own seats there is no guarantee that members of your party will be seated together. Even on American and Delta where you can choose your own seat at check-in there is no guarantee that there will be adjacent seats available. There is a new law, the FAA Extension Security and Safety Act of 2016, that will require airlines to make accommodations for families travelling with children 13 and under, but this is not active yet. Until this is officially implemented, it would be best to avoid basic economy if you need to sit with your family.
Double Check Before Booking
When booking a flight directly from the airline’s website the ticket will be clearly labelled as basic economy before you purchase. If you use an online booking engine, however, it might not be as obvious. Even with basic economy fares, you can cancel without penalty within 24 hours of purchasing, as long as your flight is more than a week away. Make sure that you pay close attention to what you are purchasing so there are no surprises when you reach the airport.
Trying to plan an adventure on a budget can be a daunting task, but there are several steps you can take to minimize the stress. It does not matter how big of a vacation you are planning. Whether you are taking a short weekend getaway, a week long cruise, or spending a month abroad; overpaying for any vacation is not pleasant. Thankfully, you have options that will help you make the most out of your vacation budget. Read on to save money on your next dream vacation, and keep more money in your bank account.
Be Flexible Whenever Possible
When and Where You Travel Matters
One of the best ways to save money on a vacation is by being flexible. You have probably seen this in action when attempting to book flights; many websites will ask if your dates are flexible. If you say yes they will then show you the cheapest price available within 3 days. You can take this even further by using a tool such as Google Flight’s Low Fare Calendar. Often you can get much better deals flying on a weekday, or on a date when the airline has many available seats.
Aside from dates, you can also potentially save money if you can be flexible with the airports you are flying between. Sometimes this can be obvious, such as considering both O’Hare and Midway if you are flying into or out of Chicago, but there are other options. Depending on how far you are willing to drive you can find a large number of potential airports to price check. For example, somebody in Chicago might consider going to Detroit. If you are in New York you may consider Philadelphia or even Boston.
Planes, Trains, or Automobiles
Finally, you can also compare different transportation options. If your destination is not too far you can consider taking a train or driving. While both options are slower than air travel, when you add in the time spent in security lines and any delays, the time difference may well be worthwhile for shorter routes. You can also look into combining travel options; on a recent trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, we were able to save $150 per person by taking the train from Vancouver to Seattle, and then flying home. The time difference between taking a direct flight from Vancouver was only 2 hours; well worth the overall savings.
Of course, it is not always possible to be flexible. School, work, and other obligations can restrict the time frame that you are able to travel. These limitations can also make it such that a quick, non-stop flight is necessary, even if the monetary cost is higher. One of the most important things to remember is that your budget is not just the dollar amount spent, time must also be budgeted.
Using Points to Your Advantage
Frequent Flier Miles
When we talk about using “points” to travel, there are many different programs that can come to mind. Many people are familiar with “Frequent Flyer” programs; points that you earn for travelling on a specific airline or airline alliance. These points can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, seat upgrades, or other perks. Unfortunately, if you do not travel often these points can be slow to accumulate, and with some programs they can expire.
Aside from flying, many airlines have credit cards or special shopping portals that can help you earn additional miles. If you travel often, especially if you almost always fly on a specific airline, these points can be extremely valuable. Still, their use can be severely limited since you are limited to specific airlines and restricted to award availability. Just because there are open seats on a flight, certain dates or routes can be blacked out for travel using points.
Hotel and Cruise Loyalty Programs
Airlines are not the only industry that use the point system to encourage and reward loyalty. Many hotel chains offer similar programs, where each night you spend in a participating property can earn points which can later be redeemed for various perks. The same limitations apply as with airlines, with blackout dates and having to stay at specific properties, but you may be surprised as to what all is included in a specific chain. For example, Wyndham owns 15 brands, including hotels such as Days Inn, Super 8, Ramada, and Wyndham Garden. Marriott, which recently acquired Starwood, has 30 brands in their portfolio.
Cruise lines also offer a loyalty program, but these are traditionally handled quite differently from airline and hotel programs. While miles and stays can earn you status with a particular airline or hotel group for a year, cruise status does not expire. The points that you earn for cruising do not translate to free cruises, at least not until you reach the highest tiers, but instead offer you benefits on future cruises. Some typical perks can include discounts on all future cruises, free drinks or internet on board, early boarding, and priority waitlists for reservations.
Credit Card Points, Miles, and Cash Back
All of these points lock you into a specific brand, but there is another option that is much more flexible; credit card points. Cash back credit cards are well known, and an excellent way to save a small amount on all purchases, but there is so much more to credit card points. One example, and my personal favorite travel credit card, is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Points earned on the card can be redeemed with a 25% bonus when booking travel through the Chase website. It also provides the option to transfer your points to various partners, such as the aforementioned frequent flyer programs. American Express has a similar travel portal program, and Citi has a 4th Night Free program when you book four or more consecutive nights in a hotel through their service.
Consider All Costs
When travelling on a budget it can be really easy to just look at the big purchases, but it is crucial to consider all the costs. For example, you may find a flight that’s $100 cheaper at an airport 200 miles away. At first, this can look like a great deal. However, the plane ticket is not the only cost you need to consider. If it will cost you $50 in gas to make the round trip drive, and $15 per day to park, that cheaper ticket can wind up costing you a lot more.
Maybe you found a hotel for only $50 a night, compared to another that is $100 a night. At first glance it seems obvious which hotel is cheaper, but when you consider all the associated costs it may not be so straight forward. Maybe the cheaper hotel has no airport shuttle, so you’ll have to spend $25 each way on taxi fares. Perhaps internet or breakfast are not included and will cost you an extra $10-$20 per day. In order to truly get the best price on your vacation it is important to consider all the expenses you will incur.
Recently, many airlines have begun offering “basic economy” fares that are cheaper than the ordinary tickets. Unfortunately, these then add on additional fees for large carry-ons, choosing your seat, or checking a bag. Cruise lines will add daily gratuities, and do not include sodas, alcohol, internet, or shore excursions in their listed price. It can be extremely easy to just look at a trip and say, “It will cost me $250 to fly, and $1,500 to take a cruise”. If not prepared, however, you may get home and see that you were charged an extra $50 in baggage fees, $150 in cruise line gratuities, and $75 on sodas while on board the ship. All of a sudden you have gone through your entire vacation budget without even realizing it.
Understanding the Rules of the Game
This is where having a knowledgeable travel agent can really come in handy. For example, most plane tickets are non-refundable and have a large fee to change flights. For that reason I often recommend that travelers on a budget book flights last, when they are certain that the vacation won’t be cancelled. There are some tricks to getting the absolute best price on flights, but they also have downsides. For example, sometimes it might be cheaper to book one ticket between your departure airport and a middle airport, and then a second ticket to your final destination. While the ticket itself is cheaper, you will end up paying for checked luggage twice. Also, if your plans change you will have to pay the change fee twice.
Travel insurance is another expense that can sometimes make sense, but you need to understand the terms. Some travel insurance will reimburse you if you have to cancel a vacation because you lost your job, or had your leave request revoked, but not all. Some packages won’t pay out if you had a pre-existing medical condition. Others may not be valid if a flight is cancelled for mechanical or staffing issues. Many people who are impacted by these rules come to believe that insurance companies will do anything to not pay a claim. However, it ultimately comes down to understanding what the insurance does and does not cover.
Refundable Expenses and Price Drops
Aside from flights, some other aspects of your vacation may be able to be cancelled without penalty. Cruises, for example, are often fully refundable up until 2-3 months before you sail. This also means that if the price of your cruise drops after you book, you can get it repriced at the better rate. Here at Adventures With Anthony we offer the guarantee that you will get the best available rate. If you book a cruise and the price drops before final payment is due, we will automatically adjust your final cost.
Hotels can be the most confusing of all because cancellation policies will vary wildly. Often, whether or not you can cancel a hotel stay is dependent on the exact rate you booked. The same exact room may have both a refundable and a non-refundable option. Sometimes the policy can vary depending on the season or how far in advance you book. Having a knowledgeable agent working on your behalf can make finding the rate right much easier.
Make Sure You’ll Be Happy
This is by far the most important thing to keep in mind. No matter how great of a deal you scored, if you don’t enjoy yourself it will be money wasted. For example, if you absolutely hate flying it might be better in the long run to purchase a more expensive non-stop flight. Otherwise, you may start your vacation incredibly stressed and won’t be able to properly enjoy yourself. Similarly, when planning a cruise it might be better to spend a little more for a ship or itinerary that you are really excited about.
In the end, you need to budget your time, money, and happiness. Focusing exclusively on spending as little money as possible can backfire, but with a little research and flexibility you can maximize all three.
** UPDATE ** – Royal Caribbean has made some changes to the schedules for Empress, Enchantment, Majesty, and Vision. See the updates here.
Royal Caribbean just announced the first half of their 2019/2020 deployment and there are some BIG changes in store. Today’s announcement includes the deployment for Caribbean, Alaskan, Northeast, and select European cruises. You will be able to book these cruises starting next week, and reserving early often gets the best deal. Royal Caribbean will announce the remaining cruises, including Asia, Australia, and the rest of Europe, next spring. We are very excited with the information that has already been released, and are looking forward to more details.
As their name implies, the majority of Royal Caribbean’s offerings are in the Caribbean. They are sending 13 of their 25 ships to the Caribbean for the summer of 2019 into 2020. The cruises will range from 3 to 8 nights and visit Mexico, the Bahamas, and Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean islands. You will also have a lot of options, with cruises leaving from Galveston, three ports in Florida, Boston, Baltimore, Newark, and San Juan.
Short Caribbean Adventures
If you are new to cruising or are just looking for a short trip, Royal Caribbean has you covered. The Navigator of the Seas and the brand new Symphony of the Seas will both be making 3 and 4 night cruises to the Bahamas from Miami. Also leaving from Florida, the fully reimagined Mariner of the Seas will be making the same cruise from Orlando. For something a little different, you can also take the Enchantment of the Seas from Galveston, Texas. The Enchantment will be making 4 and 5 night trips to Mexico and the Western Caribbean. These shorter itineraries will be available for bookings starting the week of November 20th.
7 Night Caribbean Adventures
A main staple among cruise lines, 7 night cruises are a great way to get the full cruise experience when you don’t have a lot of time. All four of the Oasis Class of ships – Oasis, Allure, Harmony, and Symphony – will be based in Florida. Both Oasis and Symphony will be departing from Miami on alternating Eastern and Western itineraries. The Allure of the Seas will be moving to Fort Lauderdale, and Harmony will go to Port Canaveral/Orlando. They will both also be alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings. In addition to the Florida offerings, Liberty of the Seas will be taking 7 night Western Caribbean cruises from Galveston, Texas.
If you want something a little more exotic, the Freedom of the Seas will be departing San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Southern Caribbean. Our own very first cruise was on this itinerary. The Southern itineraries tend to have more ports than their Eastern and Western alternatives. So, if you like visiting as many places as possible, this might be the perfect cruise for you. These will be the first cruises available to be booked, with reservations opening the week of November 13th.
East Coast to Bermuda
There are also a variety of options to visit the Caribbean from the east coast. The Anthem of the Seas will continue sailing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey on 5 night cruises to the Bahamas and 9 night cruises to the Caribbean. Also at Cape Liberty is the Adventure of the Seas, offering 8 night cruises to Bermuda and the Bahamas. In the fall of 2019, the Serenade of the Seas will offer some 7 night cruises to Bermuda from Boston, while the Grandeur of the Seas will alternate 5 and 9 night Bermuda/Bahamas cruises from Baltimore, Maryland. These will all be available starting the week of December 4th.
Canada and New England
All of the ships from the East Coast above will also be offering summer cruises to New England and Canada. Typically, these ships will alternate itineraries, going to Bermuda one week and Canada the next. Adventure of the Seas out of Cape Liberty will offer both the longest and the shortest of these itineraries to Canada. In the summer Adventure will be taking 5 night cruises to Canada and New England, while in the fall she will offer 10 and 11 night cruises. These longer cruises are one way trips; going from Cape Liberty to Quebec City on one cruise, and then returning on the next. Currently, this is the only itinerary Royal Caribbean is offering that visits Quebec City.
The Anthem of the Seas will also be visiting Canada and New England from Cape Liberty. This is a cruise we have done before, and visits Boston, Bar Harbor, Portland, New Brunswick, and Halifax. This cruise will be 9 nights long and will only be available during the fall months. The Anthem is a Quantum Class ship and has a lot of the big amenities that make Royal Caribbean so much fun to sail. The Serenade of the Seas will be offering a similar, 7 night option. Since the Serenade leaves from Boston it is able to complete the remainder of the itinerary faster than the Anthem. The Serenade is also a slightly smaller ship, and as such may be a better option for some cruisers.
Finally, the Grandeur of the Seas is your only option for sailing to Canada and New England in the summer months. Sailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Grandeur will be making 9 night cruises up the eastern coast. All of these options will become available for bookings starting December 4th.
Europe and the Mediterranean
There are some big changes in store for European cruises. Royal Caribbean is adding a brand new port, Portofino, Italy, to select European cruise itineraries. This stop is currently scheduled to be added to the 7 night Mediterranean cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas. This will be running only during the fall months, leaving from Barcelona, Spain. During the summer, the Brilliance will be sailing out of Amsterdam on 10 night cruises to the Iberian Peninsula and 12 nights to the Baltics.
Aside from the Brilliance, the Oasis of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will also be sailing from Barcelona. The Oasis will be sailing 7 night Western Mediterranean cruises in the summer before repositioning to Miami. The Vision will be alternating 12 night Mediterranean itineraries, switching between visiting the Greek Isles and Venice.
If you would rather start your trip in Venice, the Rhapsody of the Seas will be leaving from there. The Rhapsody will sail alternating 7 night cruises; one to the Greek Isles and one to Greece and Croatia. The Greece and Croatia route will have brand new ports that Royal Caribbean ships have never visited before. The exact ports which are new to this itinerary have not been identified yet, but should be announced by the beginning of December. Also leaving from Italy will be the Jewel of the Seas. The Jewel will be going on 7 and 9 night cruises to the Greek Isles and Western Mediterranean from Rome.
Scandanavia and Russia
The last ship that is scheduled for summer European sailings is the Serenade of the Seas. The Serenade will spend the summer in Copenhagen before transitioning across the Atlantic for fall in Canada and New England. While in Copenhagen the Serenade will be going on 7 night cruises, alternating between the Norwegian Fjords one week and Russia the next. The first round of European sailings will be available for booking starting December 11th.
Alaska is going to have some really exciting changes for 2019. The Radiance of the Seas will return once again to complete the open jaw 7 night cruises through the Inside Passage. The Radiance has been a staple ship in Alaska for several years, and is one of our favorite cruises. We have actually taken the Southbound Alaska cruise on the Radiance twice. This cruise goes from Seward Alaska to Vancouver, Canada and then back the next week, visiting Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, and the Hubbard Glacier.
The big change for 2019 is the Ovation of the Seas will be replacing the Explorer of the Seas for Alaska glacier cruises. The Ovation is a Quantum Class ship and is much larger than the typical ships which sail to Alaska. The Ovation also has the North Star Observation platform, which promises some outstanding views of wild Alaska. It will be ported in Seattle, Washington, and will take 7 night, round trip cruises. The current itineraries that the Explorer takes visit Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, and Victoria, British Columbia. Royal Caribbean has not yet confirmed if Ovation will be following the same route, just that it will go on Alaska cruises from Seattle. Both Alaska cruises will be available starting December 11th.
Plan a Cruise
The initial deployment schedule looks very promising, and we are very excited to see what details will come out over the next month. While 2019 and 2020 seem fairly far away, the nature of cruises often means the earlier you can book the better price you will get. Reach out today to find your perfect cruise. Don’t forget, we offer a lowest price guarantee. If a better deal is available after you book until final payment, we will get you the lower price.
Luis and I recently had the pleasure of flying on Asiana Airlines from San Francisco to Shanghai, via Seoul. As this was our first international flight, we upgraded the first leg to Asiana’s premium economy product, Smartium Economy. Smartium Economy is a fairly new product, which Asiana launched this past May on their newly delivered A350s. Since it is so new, there was not a lot of information available when we were first booking our flights. We were very excited to try this new product, even without knowing fully what to expect. We also wanted to see what the standard economy product was like on Asiana to compare the two offerings. With this goal in mind, we purchased the upgrade to Smartium Economy for the first of our four legs; travelling from San Francisco to Seoul. We were also able to get a very good deal on the flights by combining Google Flights with the travel rewards bonus of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The first important thing to note is that the seats in Smartium Economy are the same seats as in standard economy. Both Smartium Economy and regular Economy are configured 9 seats across, in a 3-3-3 setup. The seats are 18 inches wide in both cabins, which is nice as some airlines are shrinking seat width to 17 or even 16 inches. There are 4 rows of Smartium Economy seats, row 10 through row 14, for a total of 36 available seats.
What Smartium Economy offers over it’s cheaper alternative is an additional 4 inches of leg room; increasing from 32 inches in Economy to 36 inches in Smartium Economy. Smartium Economy also offers an in-flight amenity package that includes an eye mask, toothbrush, tooth paste, and business class slippers, as well as a blanket and pillow. Standard economy seats, on the other hand, offer only the pillow, blanket, and economy slippers. I personally always travel with my own sleep mask, and did not feel that there was a particularly noticeable difference in the slippers offered in Smartium versus economy.
On the ground there were a few additional benefits as well. Smartium Economy passengers receive priority boarding at most airports that Asiana serves, and also qualify for access to the Asiana lounge at Seoul. This latter perk does come with a fairly major caveat, however. You are only entitled to access if you are booked in Smartium Economy for a long haul flight departing Seoul. This would be a flight to the United States, Europe, or Oceania. This means that even though we had purchased Smartium Economy on a long haul flight, since it was from San Francisco to Seoul, we were not permitted into the lounge. This was disappointing, especially since the cost of a Smartium Economy seat is the same inbound and outbound but the offered perks are diminished.
Smartium Economy is currently on a flat rate pricing structure. Long haul flights, which are any flights outside of Asia, are $150 US per seat. Flights within Asia are either $30 for Japan, China, and northeast Asia, or $60 for flights to or from the rest of Asia. This is pretty much on par with the cost of economy plus or premium economy seats on US carriers. For example, prices for Economy Plus on an upcoming United flight start at $159 for transpacific, and $49 for domestic.
Ultimately I did not feel that Smartium Economy was worth the cost, especially when flying from the United States. We never really used the additional amenities, and I did not really notice a difference in the slippers offered in economy versus Smartium. Surprisingly, I also didn’t really notice the extra leg room. Normally I feel fairly cramped on airplanes, but the 32 inches of leg room offered in regular economy felt comfortable. Many American carriers now have a seat pitch of only 29-31 inches, so Asiana’s standard offering already felt like an upgrade. Priority boarding also felt unnecessary. Despite the large number of passengers needing to board, the process was incredibly quick and smooth. Also, the A350 offers ample storage space for bags, so boarding early did not offer much of a benefit.
The best potential benefit would be access to the lounge in Seoul, but the value of that perk depends largely on how long of a layover you have. It is also important to note that the lounge accepts Priority Pass. That means you may already have access, even without spending the $150 on Smartium Economy. I highly suggest you apply for a travel card with Priority Pass as a benefit if you don’t already have one.
The Asiana Experience
Overall, Asiana was an excellent airline to fly. Compared to the legacy carriers common in the United States, Asiana was significantly nicer. The seat size, even in standard economy, was comfortable at 18 inches wide and 32 inches deep. Boarding was also very quick and efficient. We started boarding 30 minutes before takeoff, with one line for Smartium and one for economy. In less than 20 minutes everybody was in their seats and the flight attendants were making their initial rounds to prepare us for an on time departure. The flight attendants were also very professional and friendly. They did not all speak fluent English, which was not unexpected on a Korean based airline, but there was never any problems with communication.
On the transpacific flight we were given two full meals as well as a snack. The first meal was offered shortly after we reached cruising altitude, and was a choice between a Korean bibimbap or a steak and veggies dish. Both entrees were served with a biscuit, shrimp slaw, and a small desert cake. We were served the second meal two hours before our scheduled landing. We had a choice of a fish meal or a chicken lasagna. The snack was finger sandwiches and was offered midway through the flight. The meals on the return flight included a spicy beef and rice dish for the first meal. Since we were landing in the morning, the second meal offered was a breakfast omelette.
The flight from Seoul to Shanghai was significantly shorter, just over 2 hours. Because of the short flight time I was not expecting anything more than the standard offerings of peanuts or cookies that we expect domestically. Instead we were given a snack that included a yogurt and a pig in a blanket. On the return flight the snack was a beef and rice dish served with a muffin and fruit cup. The meal offerings were plentiful and spaced perfectly throughout the flight. The seats in economy, and even in Smartium Economy, were a little cramped when trying to eat a meal, but nothing too unpleasant.
In Flight Entertainment
Each seat had a 12 inch touch screen entertainment center in the seat back in front of them. The entertainment center had options for movies, tv shows, music, games, flight map, and communication. A remote was also offered which was useful for some of the games, but for the most part I found the touch screen to be most convenient. The movie selections were excellent, with a variety of options ranging from recent blockbusters to classics. There were several movies with English, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese audio and enough selection for me to spend the entire flight watching movies. I have a hard time sleeping on planes, so I ended up staying up and watching movies for the entire 12 hour flight. There was a total of about 30 English movies available.
Asiana also offered earphones in each seat, although I found the audio quality to be lackluster and ended up using my personal earbuds the entire flight. The entertainment center had a USB slot next to the headphone jack to charge a device. There was also a universal plug between the seats for devices that couldn’t be charged via USB. The games available on the entertainment center included several casual puzzle games, such as solitaire and sudoku. There was also a golfing game and a couple of basic platformers. These games seemed to work much better with the available remote than the touchscreen. Wi-Fi was available for the duration of the flight, ranging from $12 for 1 hour to $22 for the entire flight.
The Airbus A350
Asiana’s Airbus A350 was an extremely comfortable plane. The bulkheads offered ample storage which made the boarding process extra smooth. People could easily find space near their seats and quickly store their carry-ons. Take off and landing was also incredibly smooth, probably the smoothest experience I have ever had on a plane. Despite the large engines the noise was almost non-existent.
The one main downside to the plane was the climate control. Unlike most other aircraft, seats on the A350 do not have individual climate control. Instead, the entire cabin’s climate is controlled by the flight attendants. On our flight to Shanghai I was quite comfortable, but it depends highly on the crew. Our return flight was much warmer than I am used to on a flight. I walked past the galley on a trip to the bathroom and was able to see the thermostat. The economy cabin was set to a rather toasty 78 degrees. Personally I would much rather having my own control over air to my seat, or for the cabin temperature to be colder. It is easier to add blankets or a jacket to warm up when cold than it is to cool down when the plane is too warm.
Overall our experience on Asiana Airlines was exquisite. The seats were comfortable, the food plentiful, and the in flight entertainment was vast. Despite the extremely long flight, the journey was comfortable and we were entertained throughout. Asiana’s economy product was more than comfortable enough for a transpacific flight. I would not hesitate to fly Asiana again, although I most likely would not pay for the Smartium Economy upgrade next time.