Africa

Best/Worst Destinations of The Year

It's been a pretty eventful travel year for me. I've been to France a few times, Argentina, China, England, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Hawaii, and more states around the US. Looking back on the places I've been, there are a few stand outs for me. So here are the best and worst of my 2016 destinations.



Best - Cape Town

My end of the year trip started in the planning stages as a way for me to set foot on my 6th continent, and many people who had traveled to Cape Town, raved about how great it was. As my planning evolved to add Dubai, I personally started to get more excited for Dubai than Cape Town. Dubai is a flashy city and I really could not wait to see all that it had to offer.

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Once I landed in Cape Town, the whole area won my affection and my focus shifted quickly away from Dubai and back to Cape Town. Downtown Cape Town is nothing to write home about, but the surrounding area is so full of vibrant history, nature, and people, you just can't help but fall in love with it. My driver put it an interesting way, Cape Town has an insect that bites you and does no harm, but once it does you can't help but want to come back. While a funny little tale, it is true on some level, the city and surrounding country are so captivating, you almost immediately realize you'll be back.

The Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and the associated national park is a must see destination. Rarely have I been to a place with so much natural beauty.



Worst - Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires like Cape Town was an effort to grab my 5th continent, but Buenos Aires had quite the opposite effect on me. Landing at the airport, I almost immediately felt uncomfortable, and there are very very few cities that have ever done that to me... honestly it's the only one so far. While my taxi driver was great, the attendant wanted money from me just for showing me where the cars were. We literally walked 200 ft at most... no I don't have any cash for you.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Once we got into the city, it quickly became clear that the name "Paris of South America" was a very poor name. There were a few spots that reminded me of Paris, but for the most part, those buildings that did remind me of Europe were every 7th building or so, the remainder of the buildings looked run down, weathered and in major disrepair. 

Walking the streets, 2 separate people attempted to scam me. Shops were not open on the weekends, the main avenue felt like it was ignored and no one really liked the city in which they lived. 

Eventually I did find a nicer part of the city, but that still left me unimpressed. I found a single art museum I enjoyed, other than that, I left with a sour taste about Argentina and South America in general. The people were rude, and generally unfriendly, quite literally the opposite of what I've found almost any other place in the world. Argentina left me with a desire to visit any other part of the world except South America. Maybe that's a harsh point of view, but I have no desire to go back, much rather go to South Korea again where I felt welcome and had many interesting things to do.

2017

Next year approaches fast and I'm thinking about my next destinations. On top of my list is Hong Kong, I've long wanted to visit what has been described as an amazing city. After that, there are many European countries I have yet to make it to, and I feel the need to focus more on Europe this year.

There are no definite plans in the works yet, but this year will hopefully become bigger than 2016.

Flying to South Africa

Yesterday covered a little of the planned outbound flight from Cape Town, South Africa. The question still remains, how to get to Cape Town in the first place. This is a question I’m still trying to answer right now. Using award points to fly in premium classes is amazing, but is always a challenge to set up an itinerary that works.

Right now I’m still pretty early in the year and only will likely have the 1 round trip left to book this year. So while I have points to play with, they aren’t all in the right place at the moment for me to book the flights I want. Alaska Airlines has the points I need for the Emirates flights, but I’m waiting on 25,000 points to post to my account so that the flight can be booked. Citi owes me 30,000 AAdvantage miles that they have been dragging their feet on posting to my account. So while I have the points I need for a round trip, they aren’t all posted to my account yet.

After nailing down a decently flexible award time frame for Emirates, the challenge to find me way to South Africa began. There are so many options to fly to South Africa, but knowing all of those options, knowing what is the best in what situation, and finding available award space is a big challenge… but one I really enjoy. Since a credit card pick up just gave me access to 50,000 Delta miles, I thought I could grab a business class ticket to South Africa. This is possible, at least for part of the journey, the flight to France would have been in Economy at a business class price.

Qatar Airways doesn’t have award space to South Africa, same with Etihad, same with many airlines. South Africa seems to be a problem for award space, Emirates is only offering business class on their 777-300ER for the leg to Dubai, and even that is only available on select dates.

One option I have found is British Airways, but I’d have to spend my AAdvantage miles, which i had hoped to not use this year in anticipation of a big big trip in 2017 or 2018. It wouldn’t even have been a big deal to fly business class… except British Airways business class gets bad reviews, really bad reviews. So British Airways should be done in First Class. British Airways first is on par with other carriers business class if that gives you any idea of what to expect with them. The upside here is that the leg to Johannesburg is flown with a 747-400, which I’ve been wanting to fly for a while, these queens of the sy are being phased out, I’d love to grab a flight before they are gone.

The one thing I have not yet tried is to book individual segments. Use some Delta miles to London, then pick up British Airways to South Africa. We’ll have to see what I can arrange in the near future. Meanwhile, stay tuned for my booking as soon as I figure out this routing.

 

Flying To Cape Town

Lately I've been contemplating the use of miles for a trip to Cape Town. Previously I had made a point that flying to Cape Town counted for half of my miles needed to maintain Platinum Status with American Airlines. Since that was the case, I thought about making that flight in economy class. Really though, 25,000 miles in the air in economy class is not my idea of the most fun i could have flying.



The other issue to consider here was that the reason I was avoiding it was that my planned flight to Buenos Aires was to take place on a 787 on American Airlines metal and I wanted to try their business class on the airplane I helped design. American still hasnt opened any award space on their new 787's and I'm really not sure it's going to happen anytime soon. If I fly Qatar Airways. the flight from Doha to Cape Town is on a 787 as well.

Additionally, the flight from Philadelphia to Doha is now being operated by an A350, the newest aircraft from Airbus. So I have the chance to fly to Cape Town, South African on 2 planes I've never flown before, the 2 newest planes in the commercial world. One of those planes is the aircraft I helped design and it'll all happen in business class.

For all of the above reasons, I'm really seriously considering flying to Cape Town on Qatar in business class. Really don't think you can go wrong with this. Combined with all of my planned flight next year, I should only be short of Platinum by 5,000 miles and that shouldn't be too difficult to make up. 

Does anyone have any other suggestions on better way to get to Cape Town? Or better routings for Buenos Aires?