A new month and a new series of totally unbiased, unsolicited and non-sponsored reviews of…well, new stuff I’ve tried. It’s a pretty simple premise really – nobody pays me to do these so all opinions are incredibly honest. Sometimes too honest. You decide.
Having just returned from a pretty epic journey to Mexico and the United States, I thought I would share some travel related stuff I tried for the first time. If you’re embarking on a trip anytime soon, you might find this handy. If you haven’t read the other posts in the series, you can find them here.
Qatar Airways – Business Class
Buckle up, this might be a long one – no pun intended.
The modern miracle of flying is overshadowed by only one thing, being in a plane. Yep, for anyone who’s taken a long haul economy flight (to anywhere) you know that from the time you board that plane, the arduous countdown to landing begins – You follow that little plane on your entertainment screen religiously, just wishing it would go into warp drive or something! To make matters worse, you enviously walk through the kingdom of Business Class on your way to economy thinking “If only”.
I was tired of thinking “If Only”. So, when we found ourselves facing a 25 hour plane ride to attend a meeting in Los Angeles we decided to bite the bullet and fly Business Class. Much like everyone else in SA our first point of call was Emirates. I have a couple of friends who do a lot of business travel with them and rate it highly. Emirates also has the cheapest flight right? Uh…no. Well, at least not anymore. A moment before pressing the “book” button online I decided to check out their competition. Qatar Airways and Etihad both fly out of the same region and have equally good reputations so why not right? For some reason, the Etihad website is terrible and I literally couldn’t get a price on my flight – kept getting weird errors or it just kept kicking me off. They’re gonna need to sort that out. Qatar Airways was literally half the price of Emirates and when I realised they had been voted best business class in 2017 it was no brainer.
Hmmm…that’s a lot of background, this post is getting long. Just keep reading, it’s worth it.
In short, the experience is incredible. But it’s not just the personal service and lie-flat seats that make it great, it’s every moment from check-in that takes all the stress out of travelling. You don’t have to worry about getting to the airport extra early in hopes of bagging an exit row seat, you have your own check-in and every seat is awesome. You don’t have to worry about your luggage being overweight as with an allowance of over 60KG’s you’re good to go. You don’t have to rush up to the boarding queue in hopes of getting some overhead space for your carry on as you have more carry on space than you could ever use. I never realised how much these things would stress me out and ruin the start of my journey until I sat down in my business class seat totally stress-free with a glass of champagne in my hands. And that was just the beginning.
Once you’re in the air your personal flight attendant is at your beck and call. Literally! You don’t have to even press the little button, they just seem to know when you need them! Dinner or breakfast isn’t served on a schedule, it’s served a la carte off a menu and whenever you feel like it. You want the breakfast pancakes in the middle of the night, cool! You want it to accompany your mezze snack platter? Cool, cool! Oh, you want a glass of red wine with that, which one of these would you like? All of them? Cool, cool, cool! Yeah, it’s like that! Maybe it’s just me, but that feeling of sitting on a plane waiting for them to serve the meal is the worst. I’m hungry NOW, not when you decide I’m hungry!
The biggest benefit is, of course, the lie-flat seats. Our flight from Doha to Los Angeles was 16 hours, yep, 16! We were landing in the evening and had a very important meeting the very next morning. That sleep was vital, not only because, well, 16 hours, but also so that we could start getting used to the 9 hour time difference. When you decide you want to go sleepy time, you simply let your flight attendant know that you are going to put your sleep suit on (yes, they give you a sleep suit) and when you return your bed is made, complete with a bed sheet, duvet and pillow! I don’t think I need to tell you how incredible that sleep is!
The list of benefits goes on and there are far too many to mention. There is, however, one small drawback. The stopover time in Doha does generally add a further 8 hours to an already long journey. In saying that, you do have the award-winning business class lounge at your disposal. It’s all pretty standard stuff but on a massive and luxurious scale, with 2 restaurants, bars, a smoking room, quiet rooms and an office centre. It also feels shiny and new as opposed to some of the grubby outdated ones I’ve been to before.
You also have the option of leaving the airport and doing a city sightseeing tour ((South African passport holders don’t need a Visa to enter), or if you’re there for longer than 9 hours, Qatar Airways will put you up in a hotel until it’s time to fly again. We did this on the way back and although it was a great way to kill some time we arrived in the late evening with nowhere really to go and not much to see. Would have loved to have explored Doha a little more. Just so you know, business class passengers also enjoy there own private passport control and security, once again, minus the queus and stress.
The conclusion: Clearly this is a tricky one to conclude. My friend Vito describes it best with, “Your holiday begins when you get on the plane, not when you get to your destination”. This couldn’t be truer, but of course it comes at a price, and in this case, an actual price. Qatar Business class is surprisingly affordable, but fairly more than you would pay for an economy class flight. Is it worth it? Yep, every cent. Would I do it again? I’ve already started saving for the next one : )
T – Mobile – Pre Paid Tourist Pack
Unless you want to walk around looking for a Starbucks every time you need to check your mail overseas you’re gonna need to connect to a local network. We were going to be in the States for 3 weeks visiting different clients and driving around to different cities so really Starbucks wasn’t an option. Unless of course we actually wanted a coffee or something, but that’s a different bag of ferrets entirely!
I failed to do enough research before leaving but decided on this T-Mobile Pre Paid Tourist Sim card when we arrived anyway. As with most things in the United States I realized that the $30 price tag was, in fact, more like $55 after all the service charges, and taxes. It was however activated the moment we put it in our cell phones which was a good thing as we were in LA with no GPS or idea how to get to our hotel – We had used wi-fi to make it this far. The package comes complete with “unlimited data” (2GB on 4G speed and then you’re switched over to snail speed), unlimited local calls and unlimited international SMS’s – who still SMS’s? It’s also valid for 3 weeks, but i’ll get to that in a moment.
My entire trip had me between 1 bar or signal and zero signal. No matter whether we were in South beach Miami or South Central Los Angeles (That’s just an example, we never went to that part of LA)we had one measly bar of signal. This wasn’t a problem generally for using data, but every call I made was terrible! Not ideal when you’re speaking to clients and ‘wangling’ a deal…”NO…I said “Instagram, not Hologram….No…I don’t do Holograms” You get the picture. Like I said though, the data worked perfectly fine and served its primary purpose of being our GPS unit in the car as we drove up and down Florida.
The biggest flaw however with this package is that it is not rechargeable, so, when your 3 weeks is up, its up! This is fine if you leave before 3 weeks, but if (like us) you find yourself 1 day over your 3 weeks trying to get to Miami Airport without a GPS, then it’s very much “No Bueno”.
The conclusion: I feel like I went for what I thought was a ‘deal’ here at $30, but after dishing out over $50 and getting such terrible reception I wasn’t thrilled. If your stay is less than 3 weeks and you just need data, maybe this will work for you. Otherwise, I would maybe look at AT&T.
MUJI Packing Cubes
Okay, so this might be something completely new to most of you. It was to me.
My friend Vito (same guy above who does all the travelling) swears by packing cubes. He will not hesitate to tell you how great they are the moment a travel conversation comes up. I mean he is so crazy about them that Elzaan and I refer to them as ‘his children’ – just not in front of him of course. So, I was honoured when he let me borrow a couple from Muji for this trip.
Basically theyr’e little foldable pouches that let you pack and organize your clothes into little compartments before neatly putting them in your bag. Doesn’t sound very useful does it? Well, you’r wrong, and Vito was right, they are incredible and let me tell you why.
Over 3 weeks we were never in 1 place for more than 2 and a half days. This meant packing and unpacking every time 3rd night for 3 weeks. The beauty of the packing cubes is that you can group all your clothing – 1 for T-shirts, 1 for pants, 1 for underwear…etc etc. This way when you’re looking for something you’re not ruffling through an entire bag of clothes, just one cube. It also means that when you get to your hotel, unpacking just means taking out the cubes and putting them into a drawer. Then taking the out the drawer and putting them back in your bag! Boom! Packed!
The Conclusion: I am converted! I will never go on a trip without packing cubes ever again. I’m yet to buy my own, but it seems like there are loads of options out there. I found this article detailing “The best 8” so you might want to take a look at that. My suggestion is to go for something with a mesh top so you can easily see what’s in each cube!
That’s it for November. Next up will probably be some of the stuff bought and tried on our trip. I think it’s fair to say that I did ‘some’ shopping – All in the name of research of course.
Okay. Stay Fancy.