2017 in review.

Firstly, apologies for my short absence over the festive season – I decided to take a little bit of a break from posting.

However with 2017 drawing to a close and my 199th post since I started writing the Ginger Travel Guru, I thought I’d take a some time to look over 2017 and also forwards to 2018.

Personally speaking, it’s been a brilliant year of travel.  I use TripIt to track my trips and I guess I’ve visited a fair few places.

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Favourite Place

Isla del Sol at 4,100m above sea level on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.  A truly outstanding and beautiful place.  There’s no fancy accommodation – everything is pretty basic, but the fact you’re not in the lap of luxury just added to the appeal.  Truly awesome.

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Favourite Country

Peru.  I had an incredible time on my South American trip in Peru.  Machu Picchu is incredible, but everywhere I went I found people friendly and genuine, the food and drink fantastic, and stayed in some brilliant places.

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Photo of the Ginger Travel Guru at the Sun Gate with view of Machu Picchu

Favourite Airline

For me this came down to two choices, Qatar Airways or Swiss International Airlines.  However in the end, it has to be Swiss.  Having done a number of long and short-haul flights, the consistency of their product, the friendliness of the crew and their accessibility mean they won.  Plus their first class is pretty bloody amazing – I mean how many airlines have a choice of three different eau de vie’s?

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Favourite City

Seattle, WA.  It’s only a relatively small city (by the standards of London or New York City), however there’s something about the place that I just like.  There’s a decent gay scene, people are friendly, the weather is the same as London and people seem to have a work/life balance that’s absent in so many other places in the US.  I’ll be back in 2018 I have no doubt.

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Biggest surprise

That domestic flying within the US can be almost humane when travelling with Alaska Airlines.  I did two trips with Alaska Airlines in 2017, one from Seattle to San Francisco and the other was the reverse route a few months later.  I’ve done a lot of US domestic flying in the past, primarily with American, but also a bit with United too.  In every respect travelling with Alaska just seemed a little more friendly and civilised.  Recommended.

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Biggest disappointment

My stay at the JW Marriott in San Francisco.  The JW Marriott brand is meant to be one of the top brands in the Marriott / SPG portfolio.  There was nothing wrong per se about my stay, but it could have been any chain hotel anywhere in the world.  The service was ungracious and decidedly non-high-end.

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JW Marriott San Francisco king size bed

What I’m going to do less of in 2018

British Airways.  I’m so sad to write that as I have many people I’m proud to call friends that work there, but the product simply isn’t there.  Whether it be short-haul economy with the disgraceful buy on board, to Club Europe with the carb-laden panini that you get offered bread with, coupled with the scrum on boarding.  Others such as the Lufthansa Group of airlines offer a better experience within Europe.

On long-haul things are just as bad with American offering all-aisle access over the North Atlantic and everyone else offering it going east-bound.  First isn’t even the world’s best business class any more.  But enough moaning, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and switch.

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What I’m going to do more of in 2018

Star Alliance.  Having reached the milestone of lifetime Gold with British Airways (oneworld emerald) and 35,000 lifetime tier points, I no longer need to worry about 1,500 tier points annually.  I qualified for Lufthansa FTL status (Star Silver) on Christmas Day, so in 2018 I shall be most likely trying for Senator (Star Gold) status.

I’ve had a little bit of a debate with my friends about the pro’s and con’s of Lufthansa’s programme and I absolutely agree it’s among the least generous of all of the Star Alliance options.  However as a European-based flier they have a two-tier system going on where they treat their own better than elites from other members of the alliance.  Coupled with the great award availability and access to first class greater than two weeks in advance it makes sense for me.  However the upcoming devaluation to mileage earning coupled with the loss of the UK credit card for new applicants means it’s less attractive than it was.

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With that, I wish everyone a brilliant 2018 and happy travelling!

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