My travel year in review: 2011


As 2011 comes to a close it is time once again to look back at all the crazy I’ve managed to experience in such a short period of time. This was once again a banner year for me, with plenty of new experiences. It also had a number of repeats, however, and those were mostly good, too. And so, without further ado, some of the highlights of my 2011 travel numbers.

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It was a personal best for me in terms of total miles flown at 217,781. That is more than eight times around the globe (though I only did that as an actual trip once) or 87% of the way to the moon. The miles were spread across 103 segments for an average of over 2100 miles/flight; apparently this was the year of long-haul for me. That said, I also managed to grab some really short flights, like a 93 mile hop from Carlsbad, CA to Los Angeles. Awesome views of sunrise on that one.

It was also the year of one million actual flight miles. I actually know there are many more from other trips as a kid that I cannot properly document so I’m not counting them, but I definitely became a millionaire this year.

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Of the 104 segments there were 54 routes I had previously not flown. There were also 54 in coach. That’s right, more than half the flights (though only 47% of the total miles flown) were in coach. It isn’t always champagne and caviar for me, though there is plenty of that, too. Oh, and only 5 of those segments were work-related, making up less than 1% of the total mileage flown. Only 19 of the flights were on regional planes of fewer than 90 seats.

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Speaking of airplanes, I flew on 33 different aircraft types, including 7 I had not previously flown on. I finally got to fly on an A380 (though I had been on one a few times prior) and I got to fly the 787 in its first week of commercial service. I also got the A345 and A342, a Dash8-100 and an E35, completing my collection of all the Embraer RJs. That’s something of an ignominious accomplishment, but there it is.

I flew on 17 different carriers, of which 5 were new to me. SriLankan, AirOne, South African, ANA, Austrian and Alaska Airlines were the new ones and all but AirOne were quite pleasant.

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As for where I traveled, there weren’t as many new countries for me this year – only 7 – as last. Austria, South Africa, Mauritius, China, Brazil, Argentina and Sri Lanka are the new entries in that collection, bringing my total number over 50. I managed to enter a foreign country 20 times through the year, plus all the returns to the USA. No wonder I needed extra pages in my passport. Again. Two of the trips had 3 countries in them; I’ll best that mark early in 2012 with a six-crossing week in January.

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Perhaps the most surprising number to me, however, was the total spend I had in consular fees. I paid for new pages for my passport and for my wife. There were also the visas required for India, China, Brazil and Argentina (though I ended up getting out of that last one). Overall I spent nearly $1,000 on consular fees alone. No regrets there at all, but the numbers can add up in a hurry.

I didn’t count how many nights were in hotels or on airplanes (something to add to my list next year, I suppose) but my best guess count based on my TripIt records is nearly 100 nights spent not at home.

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There was a trip derailed by an earthquake (I ended up in Guam/Hong Kong instead of Tokyo) and then two more trips later in the year to Tokyo to make up for it. I had an airline try to charge me more while at the gate and I managed to take a VDB in a foreign language. I got to drive a jet bridge, load baggage, make boarding announcements and walk a plane out on pushback (all appropriately supervised, of course).

I got to join three different couples in celebrating their weddings all over the world and narrowly missed out on crashing a couple more wedding parties here in India towards the end. I got to relive a bit of history with TWA and a ride in a helicopter over the tip of South Africa.

I saw penguins, went diving in the Pacific and pet an elephant in India. There were also giraffes, cheetahs and antelopes. Plenty of wild in my life.

Indeed, it was a good year, maybe even a great year. And 2012 shows no signs of that letting up. Happy new year to all; may your upgrades clear and your flights on time.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

11 Comments

  1. Nice summary! Any idea how much you spent for all the travel? I was planning to track it (well, just airfare, hotels, rental cars… not food and other misc stuff) for 2011, but quickly forgot. Will try again for 2012 🙂

    1. Even most of the time in Y wasn’t so bad. Heck, I actually gave away my F seat so a couple could sit together on the DEN-HNL flight I took and didn’t mind so much. Sure, there were flights I would have preferred to not be in Y, but on my budget I take what I can get.

      For tracking the flights I use a combination of TripIt and OpenFlights (http://openflights.org/user/sbm12). I don’t have anything good for hotels so I based it mostly on how much TripIt said I was out.

      As for the cost, well, that’s an interesting one. The number actually caught me a bit by surprise. Looking at the AmEx charges in the Travel and Transportation categories my totals hit right around $20K for travel during 2011. There are some charges for trips in 2012 on that report than I’m skipping and there are some others I’m sure from 2011 travel which were charged in 2010 that I’m missing, but that’s the ballpark. On a straight CPM basis the number is pretty poor. Considering all the other bits, I’d say it was money quite well spent.

  2. 20k is a lot, but you could maybe subtract a bit for the free booze and food that’s included 🙂

    1. I thought the $20K number was rather high. I had a few more minutes to look just now and I think my total airfare spend was probably closer to $7500, plus a couple hundred thousand points redeemed from various accounts. That’s much closer to what I expected the number to be. I have to figure out where AmEx is coming up with those other numbers from. I know that a decent chunk of it is from my front-loading 2012 with a couple awesome and objectively expensive (i.e. EK/BA F) tickets, but I got such a bargain on the fare that I couldn’t resist. And, for some reason, hotels.com lists in the airfare section of the AmEx reports so that definitely messed things up. Plus some of the trips include my wife so there are two tickets purchased rather than just one. I suppose I could do a more thorough analysis, but at the end of the day I know that my bank account still seems to have money in it so I haven’t spent too much yet. 😀

  3. Do you have a spreadsheet or something to keep track of all the details of your travels? If so, would you mind sharing it?

    1. I don’t have a spreadsheet, at least not anymore. I used to and it was fine, but I’ve found many better tools online to server similar functions and more. I do use a few resources and I’m happy to share what they are.

      1) GoMiles.com – This is my go-to resource for tracking all my loyalty program account balances. And those of family and friends. Keeping track of account expiry and leveraging the suggestions offered for extending the expiry on the cheap are two of my favorite features the site offers.
      2) TripIt – I don’t think I could live without this site. Seriously, it is amazing in terms of helping me keep track of some of my crazy itineraries. What I used to spend hours on before is now 95% automatic.
      3) OpenFlights.org – I use this to track the specific details of my flights. It is where I get the crazy stats like number of flights in each cabin or upgrade counts or such.
      4) PassportStamp.com – A great tool for tracking country visits, especially dates and frequencies. That’s how I know new countries and total country counts. I occasionally cross a border on land so just depending on the flight info would leave me incomplete. The map in the sidebar comes from TravBuddy.com but I much prefer the PassportStamp option for just about everything other than the map it produces.

      Those are the main tools I use. I hope that helps some.

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