The Best Thing I Bought for My Trip Around the World Was Travel Insurance

I dithered a little about buying travel insurance for my solo trip around the world. I’m young and healthy, and what’s an adventure if some bean counter has insured me against all the risks of taking the world by storm? I’d probably never need to make a claim, and then I’d have wasted that money, when I could have spent it on a mountain trek in Laos instead. Then again, I’m remarkably accident prone, and if I fell off a mountain in Laos and needed emergency evacuation, I’d be screwed without an insurance policy.

I planned to be on the road for a year, the realization of a dream a decade old. I bought a policy through World Nomads, a company that specializes in insurance for longer-term travelers. I could get the Standard plan or, for $30 more a month, the Explorer plan. I like to see new places, but I’m no adrenaline junkie, and I figured I’d just need the Standard, until I saw that snorkeling was under the same coverage as extreme activities like base jumping and parachuting. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was on my agenda, so I became an Explorer. For $100 a month, I was covered for injury and illness, emergency evacuation, loss of luggage, canceled flights, and some liability on car rentals.

Was it worth it?

Can’t Afford to Travel But Can Totally Afford to Be a Travel Snob

Most of the email newsletters I've signed up for go to spam. The ones that don't, I wish they did. Exception: The Travelzoo Weekly Top 20, which alerts me to the very best in airfare, hotels, and all-inclusive vacation packages that I have never and will never buy. I devour it each week.

Pilfering From the Hotel Room

"35% of global travelers say they make off with even more valuable hotel amenities, such as towels, lamps, robes and bedding, according to a recent survey by the hotel booking site Hotels.com."

Austin, On Less Than $20 a Day

A man goes to SXSW and tries to spend less than $20 a day.

The Way I Get By: Confessions of a Flight Attendant’s Daughter

I have luck with just one thing in life, but it’s a big thing: planes. As in, I’m always, somehow, against all odds, managing to get on them. Let me explain. My Mom is a flight attendant and one of the perks of the gig is that her family members can fly for free, so long as they fly in space available seats — those never purchased or that belong to people who, for one reason or another, never show up. Since most flights are oversold versus ever having empty seats, I’m usually in the morally compromising position of betting on other people’s bad luck; hoping, but trying not to hope, that somebody will miss their connection or get stuck in security, so I can take their spot.

Notes from an Airport

JOMO KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NAIROBI, KENYA But then: another one of those airports, like Newark, where you can’t let your guard down or trust anything that anyone tells you. A place where you have to snap out of it. Nothing will be easy here. East African Safari? Right over there in the waiting tent, sir; a representative will come and collect you and the other passengers. A representative? No, you have to go through immigration. Transit? Twenty dollars please. East African Safari is in the Cargo Terminal, reachable via shuttle bus—that shuttle bus. No, it’s in the domestic terminal, which is now the international terminal because the airport burned down on Wednesday. Or possibly it’s the cargo terminal that’s now the domestic terminal, which means the international terminal would be—

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that it took several hours to disentangle all of this, although this is to be expected, since the airport—the third busiest in Africa by passenger volume. Like, imagine JFK burning down and you’ll get an idea of how major this is—had in fact been reduced to a charred hunk of ’60s brutalist concrete the previous Wednesday. And what a field day the conspiracy theorists are having! “I DIDN’T BURN AIRPORT, SAYS PARETTI,” trumpeted possibly the greatest newspaper headline I’ve ever seen; “BLAZE CATASTROPHE,” read another, elegantly.

Blogger Armin Rosen has a fascinating post about visiting nine airports in the Middle East and Africa, describing his experiences at each one of them. I mostly fly out of JFK and in my experience, it takes forever to get through JetBlue’s security screening at Terminal 5, and is less of a pain if say, you are flying on Virgin America and going through Terminal 4. I’ve also haven’t had many problems flying out of LAX. Haven’t yet flown out of charred airport yet.

Photo: Shankar S.

Not an Elite Flyer? Sorry, No Seats for You at the Moment

The Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat column discussed how airlines have increasingly taken available seats on flights and blocking them out for regular customers, but keeping them available for "elite" frequent flyers. Scott McCartney reports that 30 to 40 percent of airline seats are reserved for these "elite" flyers or come with a reservation fee.

Souvenirs I Did Not Buy in Italy

From strange foods and scary fruit vendors to Vatican pin-up photos, here are the souvenirs I did not buy in Italy.

Things I’ve Gotten for Free at Airport Clubs

In the past few months, I’ve found myself deluged with free passes to the various fancy lounges that airlines offer to their frequent-flier customers, and sell for an average of $50 per visit to the rest of us.

Why Don’t I Give Money to Poor People?

Everywhere it's different but the same. In San Francisco it's the guy who could visit his sick sister in Portland if he could just get 10 bucks for the bus fare. In Paris it's children with their arms out. Why do we give or don't give?