Above: Me in Manhattan, October 2013
I’m off to America next Thursday for nearly a fortnight – it’s a very last-minute trip which I’ve been scrambling to put together. I had actually blocked out some time towards the end of this month because I thought I was going to be going to South East Asia, Singapore to be precise.
I had been approached in the spring by a PR company about doing a press trip over there, not as a paid opportunity, just to cover something that was of interest to me and, over the course of six months, there were several exchanges of email, and then the recent checking with me of my availability and dates.
And then the PR suddenly went quiet after saying she’d be back shortly with confirmed dates. I sent several more emails to no avail so I pretty much knew it wasn’t going to going to happen – if people do an ostrich there’s always a reason – but you can still imagine my thoughts when I sent the PR a final email last week only to be told that the client wanted to focus more on print journalism, and unfortunately no print journalists wanted to come on the trip so they were cancelling it. So either way I was disinvited.
There is no eye roll emoji big enough for my thoughts on this matter, not least because the agency should be managing their clients’ expectations more successfully, as well as instructing them as to the actual state of the media landscape these days.
Because I had assumed (more fool me) that I was going to be away, I had pencilled in very few provisional meetings and appointments over the period so I thought, sod it, why not go away anyway? So now I find myself heading to the Americas instead.
I’m still reeling from the loss of 40,000 expired StarAlliance air miles last Easter: I couldn’t find availability on any long haul flights to places to which I actually wanted to travel, so I had to let them go. Doing my regular checkup on my various air miles accounts last month, I realised I still have tens of thousands of miles in danger of expiring pretty soon, and that the one thing for which air miles is fantastic are transatlantic and American flights.
I have managed to bag two incredible bargains.
A return flight from Heathrow to Boston for £130 using my Virgin Atlantic miles on a Delta code share, and then another flight from Newark to Cancun on United using my StarAlliance miles for an astonishing $78.
Neither flight is perfect – I’ll be getting the train down to New York (four hours) instead of arriving straight into JFK, but it has the distinct advantage of landing at lunchtime at Logan, not arriving at 2300hrs at JFK which would inevitably mean arriving in Manhattan around 2am, if not later, because of the relatively unmanned Immigration section at that time of night. I’d rather sit on a train for four hours, than queue for two in Immigration. And the train ticket straight into Penn is almost exactly the same price as a cab into the city from JFK. Given that flights to NYC are around the $1000 mark at the moment I am extremely pleased. And on the way home I am spending a night in Boston to take some meetings and to explore the city for the very first time. (We’ll draw a veil over the fact that I wrote a guide to Boston for ELLE ten years ago.)
The Mexico flight is from Newark to Cancun. Since I lived in New York, getting out to Liberty airport has become much easier and it’s as quick now to take the train ($13) as it is to grab a cab ($70), so actually quicker and cheaper than going to JFK or, horrors, La Guardia.
Of course there is always a catch with US airlines and the one here is that you are not allowed to take cabin baggage on the flight unless you are Business/United frequent traveller/United credit card holder. (You’re allowed a handbag or laptop bag only). So it’s an additional $30 each way for a hold suitcase. Still, given that flights on Expedia were £300, I have snagged a fantastic deal.
So my plan is: London – Boston, straight to New York, stay with Rach in her shiny new building, do lots of meetings and catchups, then take the train to Aberdeen-Matawan to spend the weekend in New Jersey with the boys and Bassets.
Above: Finchley, who will always have a piece of my heart
We are planning on apple picking and dog walking and eating and catching up. And possibly taking more ridiculous pictures of each other in the pumpkin fields.
Next Monday I fly to Cancun to spend five nights on the Riviera Maya, checking out hotels there for LLG. Then it’s back to New York for three nights – Halloween, meetings, brunch, the usual, then off to take the Acela to Boston for the night, and an overnight flight on Delta back to London. Phew.
At last count that’s four planes, six trains, several CitiBikes, god knows how many cars, and a temperature range from 10-32C. Bring on the packing…