Margaritas and Plane Spotting on Rockaway Beach.

As long as I can remember I have loved all things aviation. When picking people up at the airport as a kid we would always drive around the back of the airport to watch the plane land and anything else that was coming in at the same time. 

If in London I would always trek out to Terminal 2 at Heathrow and watch the Concorde take off (on Saturdays you got two flights in the morning) not the normal way a 12 year old would spend their mornings on holiday in London. 

Plane spotting tends to be a bit of a solitary hobby. As it’s pretty hard to drag people out of bed to “watch the big ones come in at 7am” until now at least…..

JFK is one of the busiest airports in the world and one of the best places to see aircraft of all shapes and sizes arriving and departing to all corners of the world. The best bit is you can watch them from somewhere everyone loves…. the beach!! 

Rockaway beach is just beside JFK and on the days when the right runways are in use the views are second to none. There are a couple of ways to get there either by subway or the new NYC ferry which leaves from Wall Street. Sadly it has been pretty crowded the last couple of weeks but when you are on it the views are stunning.

There are various parts to Rockaway with lots of food and drink options along with the most important thing – great views of planes. Beach 98 is particularly good when flights are coming in off the sea to land. As you can see below they come in right over your head.

Flight Radar 24 is a great app to download so you can see what runways are in use and what planes are on the approach. Depending on the time off day you get arrivals from different parts of the world, early afternoon is perfect for all the wide bodies from Europe.

So the next time you are in NYC and someone suggests the beach. Mention the cool bars, the great boat trip and the views of Rockaway. Nobody even needs to know your favourite hobby is plane spotting!!!

Golf, Beer and Steak – Make Frankfurt Hahn a layover option. 

Frankfurt Hahn has long been an airport that people love to hate. The fact it is closer to Luxembourg than Frankfurt does not help its case. 

One thing this airport does have is very low taxes and in turn very low fares and alot of routes. 

One thing the European airlines do well is hike up fares as soon as any major event is announced. Whenever there is a Champions league draw, what would have been a normal midweek fare from London to Barcelona or equivalent triples in price, as they know the demand will be there. 

Summer fares to the beach resorts of the Mediterranean also tend to be very high from cities such as London.

This is where our old friend Frankfurt Hahn comes in. Fares nearly always remain constant here but connection time are often less than favorable. Being a hub there are lots of early morning and late afternoon departures. This means the chances are you will have six or seven hours to kill which is not really enough to go anywhere. (Seeing as Frankfurt is five hours round trip on a bus) 

But fear not. Just off the airport grounds and a five minute walk is a perfectly good nine hole golf course. Rates are cheap, rentals were of high standard and the restaurant was excellent.

This was one of the most stress free and enjoyable medium layovers I ever had and would even route accordingly if I could make it work.

The next time you want to go somewhere and fares are putting you off, have a look at Hahn. Golf, beers and steak and you’re saving money. That’s the Deal Traveller way. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – 24 Hours in Montreal and the Adirondack Train

Notre Dame – Montreal 

I needed to be in Montreal last weekend for an event on Saturday night. As always Friday to Sunday flights involving no time off work were pretty expensive, bearing in mind how cheap transatlantic travel has become the last few weeks. So I decided to get a bit creative and learnt a couple of lessons along the way. 

Embraer RJ-175 at LGA 

My outbound was relitively straight forward. I snagged an Air Canada one way leaving at 8.40am from La Guardia for $59, this landed at 10.00am getting me into the city in time for brunch. While La Guardia is a nightmare most of the time it took me 20 minutes to get there from Manhattan on Saturday morning. Bed to gate in under an hour. So will definitely be using it again in the future. The flight itself was very comfortable on an Embraer RJ-175, 2-2 in economy meant no bad seats. 

Lake Champlain from above.

The returns on Sunday were all in the $200-$300 range with stopovers. One of our group took one of these with Porter and ended up turning back to Montreal with a tech issue and spending an extra night. I don’t like using miles on such a short flight as it would be the same price to go to California. The other option for me was to take the train. 

Amtrak – Adirondack

The price for the Amtrak Adirondack route remained constant at $77 all the way to last week and is touted as one of the worlds most scenic train routes. Even though it was going to take all day, it was cheap and I knew I would be tired. 

All in all it ended up taking about 12 hours to travel the 400 odd miles. (Which sounds insane as I write it) but the train stopped for a long time at the border and again with an air con issue at Albany. Despite the length of time it took the seats were very spacious and the views at times were stunning. Tip: Sit on the left hand side though to catch Lake Champlain. There wasn’t much going on in the Cafe carraige which is a pity on a trip as long as this. They could surely do some good turnover. 

All in all, it was a very long day but at the same time a relaxing one. I’m not sure I’ll do it again in a rush but was an interesting way of seeing a beautiful part of the county.  I would definitely recommend the west coast version from Seattle to Vancouver ahead of this one. As for Montreal, I will definitely be returning there sooner rather than later. Great town. Next stop for me is Europe next month.

Sunset on the Hudson – nearly home. 

Fifth Freedom Business Class Value 

Let’s face it we all want to travel up the front of the bus, but it’s not always possible. While economy fares continue to come down the same cannot be said for business class fares making it all the harder to justify the difference in price. 
Even using miles and points comes with the same problem in most cases. While most credit card bonuses will allow a one way fare in business, you still need to get home again. However there is one way to try out premium cabins for lower fares and redemptions. 

These are called fifth freedom routes and are where the airlines with add a connection to a long haul flight to cover two markets. Last year TAM offered flights between NYC and Toronto and business class fares could be picked up for $100. My best use of a fifth freedom route was a few years back when I had a long layover in the Emirates Bangkok lounge before connecting to Hong Kong on my first A380 flight. The reduced cash price on that ticket was well worth it.

Qatar Airlines is widely known as one of the best business class products out there and offer a few off these routes. Last year I flew the below example between São Paulo and Bruno’s Aires. 15,000 Avios got me a lengthy stay in the lounge at São Paulo and a very comfortable flight down to BA.

Another route Qatar offer is between Bangkok and Hanoi this is available for just 9,000 Avios. 

While the flights are short these are a great option if you have relively long layovers where leaving the airport isn’t an option. You can eat drink and shower in the lounges before flying and if you have just come off an exceedingly long economy flight that is something to look forward to.

Many airlines offer these connections off the back of their long haul routes and they are always on the long haul aircraft rather than  the smaller connecting aircraft the local carriers will offer. You can find lists online, have a look and add some comfort to your next trip. 

Actual Free Flights – Seriously  

When it comes to airfares I have a few price points. What in my opinion are the prices before any discounts, offers, errors just the standard price. In my mind the East Coast to Ireland is around $550 anything above is expensive and below is cheap. This is kind of my default route that everything gets compared to. Call it my value stick if you will. 
Earlier in the year I needed to get to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. A little under four hours from New York but the fares were in the same bracket as a return flight to Europe. This led to weeks of playing around looking to find some value. 

What I came up eventually with is one of the mysteries of air travel to most people. It worked out cheaper to book an extra flight via multi city booking and travelling to San Francisco for Easter than simply booking the return fare to the DR.

As you can see below for Flights in July on the same routes it works out $40 dollars cheaper to add a flight to San Francisco at thanksgiving than to just book the return flight.



What I like about this little trick is you can book the extra leg way out. Thanksgiving is obviously a popular time to travel so getting it for free if you are “forced”to visit the Carribean is pretty cool.

Play with the airfares. There are plenty of routes this applies to so see what you find and let us know. 

The Error Fare 

Every now and again Airlines get their prices wrong and the twitter explodes with the so called Error Fare. Usually one of the taxes are left off a particular route or series of routes. Once they are discovered and posted by the likes of it is a race against the airline to book before they discover it and put the price back to normal. 

One of the most recent was an Emirates fare from Male to destinations around the world of course this isn’t of much use to most people, but there are always a few who take advantage. Last year I got lucky with a TAP fare which got me from JFK to Lisbon and from Lisbon to São Paulo a week later. This perfectly fitted my plans and I pulled the trigger for $183 an absolute steal. Once the booking was confirmed they offered bidding on an upgrade. I put in the minimum and for $300 upgraded the first leg to business class. A definite success story, I made my way around and back through a series of points redemptions and low cost airlines. 

You never know when these fares are gonna pop up and even at that wheather they will be of use. One thing worth noting is that last year three new routes out of JFK had error fares early on as the fares were launched. TAP, Air Serbia and Air Phillipines all had glitches. I’m still annoyed I didn’t book the later one to Manila. So keep an eye on new launches and The next Error fare may arrive at any moment. 

The Layover – Be Creative 

The layover is something most people dispise they want to get from A to B as quick as possible. The concept of flying somewhere else to catch a flight is alien to them, unless the ticket they buy insists on it. Recently a friend asked advise on flights to Miami from Dublin. There were really cheap fares from Düsseldorf so I advised get yourself there and connect. In the end they paid over €300 extra each and connected in London anyway. 

Sure there is some risk if your initial flight is cancelled and you miss the connection it’s on you but if you give yourself enough time you would be pretty unlucky for this to happen. But the real beauty of traveling like this is getting to see places you might not otherwise go to. 

Taxes and fees are notoriously high flying to the US out of London, but low coming back in. So I tend to use miles to fly from the US to London but not the other way around as the out of pocket makes it pretty pointless. The problem up until recently was there weren’t many options when booking one way flights. Often one way is more expensive than a return on the major carriers. 

On one trip I found a super cheap evening  fare out of Copenhagen. Then booked an early morning date to get there. All in it cost about £130 and I got to spend a day sightseeing in Copenhagen which was really enjoyable and somewhere I likely never would have had a reason to visit. 

Sure you spend some money on activities when you do this but you could be spending €600 extra to spend five hours in Heathrow…..