The Unglamorous Reality Of My Review Trips

The Unglamorous Reality Of My Review Trips

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The Long Way to Abu Dhabi
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As longtime OMAAT readers know, I often take trips for the sole purpose of writing about travel experiences, as I try to review airlines, hotels, and lounges. I recently wrapped up a wild review trip, where I flew roughly 26,000 miles over the course of six days.

To the average person, that probably sounds awful. Flying for nearly a week without actually seeing much isn’t the way that most people want to travel. To the average avgeek, maybe it sounds kind of fun, or maybe it doesn’t. I mean, I’m basically spending nearly a week flying first and business class, and sitting around lounges, having some pretty decent food and drinks.

While I enjoy these trips, I suspect not many people have a sense of just what goes into them, so I figured I’d share, for those who are curious (and if you’re not curious, that’s totally fine too!).

The challenges with my review trips

My review trips aren’t vacations, but rather my goal is to generate as much interesting review content as possible. Yes, I’m not asking for sympathy here — I recognize that my “business trip” lounging around in Singapore Airlines first class probably sounds a bit more fun than the average management consultant working on a project in Fargo in winter, staying at a Hampton Inn.

But I’m not sure it’s necessarily any more relaxing, since there are some things people don’t consider. Let me just cover a few of those.

I’m terrible at sleeping on planes & dealing with jetlag

At home, I’m an amazing sleeper, and I consistently sleep through the night without waking up. When I travel, and particularly when I’m flying, my reality couldn’t be more opposite:

On these review trips, I’m often lucky to get a few hours of sleep per day. For example, on my 16.5-hour EVA Air flight from Houston to Taipei, I got about four hours of sleep, which is quite good for me, actually. With the exception of the last night of this trip where I was in a hotel, that was the most uninterrupted sleep I got on this journey.

I wish I were better at sleeping on planes

I spend a lot of hours at airports on these trips

I do my best to review airport lounges when they’re empty, so I can get the best pictures and respect the privacy of other passengers. To what lengths will I go for that? Well, let me give an example.

For the second portion of my trip, I was on a 4PM Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Singapore. While I would have loved to spend a morning sightseeing in Hong Kong, instead I was at the airport at 4:30AM, as I want to be in lounges the second they open.

Before I arrive at the airport, I set up an itinerary of exactly which lounges I plan on hitting up and when (based on their opening times), and I map out all the walks. So in Hong Kong, I had lounges that I wanted to get pictures of at exactly 5:30AM, 6:30AM, 7AM, and 7:30AM, based on when they were scheduled to open.

I’ll get to the airport 12 hours in advance if I have to

I’ll even be the first person standing outside of each of these lounges, so that I can hopefully get the best pictures possible, without anyone in them. And then throughout the day I return to each individual lounge to check out the food and other amenities that I can’t quickly photograph during my first round, and also to get a better sense of the actual average guest experience.

For situations where I can’t be at a lounge right as it opens (like the Etihad Lounge, which is open 24/7), it’s a bit trickier, as I spent most of my eight hour layover revisiting various parts of the lounge, as they emptied out.

Photographing lounges that never close is trickier

Speaking of the Hong Kong mention above, let me keep going with that example. I was at the airport in Hong Kong at 4:30AM for my 4PM flight, which landed in Singapore at 8PM. When I got to Singapore, I had 11 hours at the airport, because I wanted to review The Private Room before my 6:50AM flight to Jakarta the following morning.

The catch is that The Private Room closes nightly from 2:30AM until 5:30AM, and the lounge is emptiest just before it closes. So I ended up spending the entire night in the airport (with just a brief nap in Singapore Airlines’ sorta creepy nap rooms), so that I could get the best pictures possible.

I try to get in a nap whenever I can

I line up for boarding, and embarrass myself

When I’m reviewing flights, I’ll get to the gate at least 30 minutes before boarding, will scope it out, and then will be that annoying person who lines up so they can be among the first aboard. After all, I want to get the best cabin pictures possible. Then as soon as I board, I basically sprint down the jet bridge (without arousing any suspicion), so that I can hopefully get as much of a “lead” on others as possible, and take pictures from both the front and back of the cabin.

Honestly, I feel so annoying for doing this, because I don’t actually understand people who otherwise line up to board the plane. When I’m not reviewing a flight, I’m exactly the opposite, and would never line up.

I try to be the first onboard planes

I spend endless hours editing pictures

On the average long haul flight that I’m reviewing, I might take 500 pictures. That’s because usually when I try to photograph something, I take a few pictures, so that I can pick the picture that’s the sharpest, has the best lighting, etc.

So on these trips, I literally take many thousands of pictures. Whenever I have a spare moment (like when I’m lining up to board a plane or am waiting for boarding to finish), I’m always on my phone working on these pictures. I pick the best pictures, delete the duplicates, and crop and edit them, so that they’re as good as they can be.

I’m always happy when I can stay up-to-date on this during my journey, because otherwise this becomes a monumental task when I get back home (and writing the actual trip report is a time consuming enough process as is, without having to worry about pictures).

I’m constantly editing photos while traveling

I write a normal amount of content while traveling

While these review trips are ultimately an investment in the blog, I still try to maintain a standard amount of content while I’m traveling (I publish an average of 10 posts per day, give or take). These review trips generate me the most content for the future (when I’m home), but of course I still try to cover all the news and write other stories while traveling.

So whether it’s on a plane, in a lounge, or in my hotel room, I’m usually pecking away on my keyboard, just with a different office view than normal…

Hey, there are worse office views than this!

Oddly, I really do enjoy these trips, though…

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m not sharing the details of how I go about all of this because I’m looking for sympathy. Quite to the contrary, I really enjoy these trips, even though I think they sound quite miserable to most. To be honest, that’s probably largely because I take an almost clinical approach to them.

Nowadays I really do struggle with leaving home, since I miss my family any time I go. In my day-to-day life, I’m someone who really values a good night of sleep. But when I take these trips, it’s a totally different story, and my goal is to just get in a nap whenever I can.

I’m usually a zombie for a day or two after returning home from these trips, and briefly question why I subject myself to something like this. But then a week later, I always feel like I’m ready to go again (though nowadays I travel a lot less than I used to).

Lastly, let me emphasize that I wish I could see more of actual destinations on these kinds of trips, but everything comes at an opportunity cost:

  • I don’t want to be away from home longer than I have to, given that we have a young son, and I love watching him grow up
  • Enjoying destinations would largely come at the expense of trying to review the things I’m hoping to see, and that’s the whole point of these trips
  • My top priority is to rest whenever I’m actually tired and able to on these trips, so that I don’t come back home with a cold or more exhausted than I need to be, and can hit the ground running

Fortunately I also take lots of fun non-review trips, where I can actually enjoy destinations more. I’m very happy with the mix.

But even on these review trips, the reality is that the airline industry is my passion. It has been for 15+ years, and hopefully it will be for the next 15+ years. Staying updated on all the latest and greatest changes in the industry is important to me, and firsthand experience matters there.

As an aviation geek, I really do enjoy these trips!

Bottom line

I spend a lot of time taking review trips and then writing about my experiences, so I figured some people may be curious about the background of what these trips are actually like. If you ever wonder “why was the lounge so empty when you visited” or “why didn’t you go out and explore the city,” hopefully the above sheds some light on that.

With this out of the way, stay tuned, because it’s time to get into the actual reviews. Thanks for reading!

Conversations (114)
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  1. jallan Gold

    While I will likely never travel on the vast majority of the flights reviewed, I enjoy reading your reviews @Ben and dreaming. Thanks to you I knew about AA's 321Ts, and made it a point to book F (on miles!) for a trip I had to NYC a few years ago. Thanks letting us live vicariously!

  2. Jeff Guest

    Ben, I wanted to appreciate and applaud you on your candor. So many times, I see from other travel blogs, content creators that are just flaunting their “lux” travel. I myself am fortunate to do enough so it’s not a matter of jealousy, but distaste for arrogance.s

    I’ve come to appreciate your reviews as they’re informative for travelers like me to determine if it’s worth trying out another airline for my business Trans-Pacific flight or...

    Ben, I wanted to appreciate and applaud you on your candor. So many times, I see from other travel blogs, content creators that are just flaunting their “lux” travel. I myself am fortunate to do enough so it’s not a matter of jealousy, but distaste for arrogance.s

    I’ve come to appreciate your reviews as they’re informative for travelers like me to determine if it’s worth trying out another airline for my business Trans-Pacific flight or what lounge to try out.

    Best of luck and I look forward to additional content from you.

  3. Alexf1 Member

    Ben, I like your page generally. It's a reliable source of interesting reading and news about aviation and travel. in my view, the obsession with getting pics without people in them is illogical, especially if you're arriving at the airport ridiculously early to do that. If you blur any obviously recognizable faces, that's more than enough. Stop with the 4am arrivals.

    Being away from home is a reality for post people reading this. I...

    Ben, I like your page generally. It's a reliable source of interesting reading and news about aviation and travel. in my view, the obsession with getting pics without people in them is illogical, especially if you're arriving at the airport ridiculously early to do that. If you blur any obviously recognizable faces, that's more than enough. Stop with the 4am arrivals.

    Being away from home is a reality for post people reading this. I don't feel any sympathy for you given what you do is an inherently enjoyable job linked to your avgeek hobby. So keep up the reporting and enjoy this while it lasts.

  4. V. Staykov Guest

    And then, probably as usual my comment will be deleted,but flying for reviews, especially in premium is what makes the rest of us business travelers who need to fly for work get the worst of it when it comes to ecologists blaming air travel for all climate change and getting flight ticket prices raised abnormally

  5. Ricardo Ramirez Guest

    You are the hero we deserve!

    I am going to be incredibly sad the day you decide to retire.

  6. KeninDFW Guest

    Hi Ben. Avid reader. Appreciate the lengths you go to give us the best options when planning our travel destinations. I’ve never had success sleeping on planes as well. Despite first class travel from DFW to Bali I could not sleep and determined I had been traveling awake for 24+ hours given my layover. That was in 2008. As I have aged it hasn’t improved. There’s something about traveling via ship over a few days...

    Hi Ben. Avid reader. Appreciate the lengths you go to give us the best options when planning our travel destinations. I’ve never had success sleeping on planes as well. Despite first class travel from DFW to Bali I could not sleep and determined I had been traveling awake for 24+ hours given my layover. That was in 2008. As I have aged it hasn’t improved. There’s something about traveling via ship over a few days that now interests me more than sacrificing sleep deprivation and having to adjust quickly to your my destination. Good luck in your future travels.

  7. Mr FlyHigh Guest

    Hey Ben ! What a truly deep and informative writeup ! I am a regular reviewer at flight-report.com and reading your article is almost a mirror image of all the effort I go through, to present a flawless,exciting and engaging read. Wishing you a Happy and Safe festive season and keep being amazing in 2024 and beyond !

  8. Michael Guest

    Ben, I have enjoyed and benefitted from your work for many years. I appreciate all the work, and the considerate manner in which you execute quality photo gathering to accompany it.

  9. JetBlueFanboy Gold

    Thanks for this insight Ben! It’s interesting to see the work that on behind the scenes on these whirlwind review trips. I have to say that all the dedication is worth it, as you’re probably my favorite travel blogger. Keep up the great work!

  10. Kelcy Guest

    Ben, thanks for giving us a behind the scenes look. Travel is fun, but when it is part of your job, it is different. I really enjoy all your hard work.

  11. eightblack New Member

    Ben, as someone who has written the odd trip report, I appreciate how much work goes into your work and I have been an avid reader of yours since the start. Keep up the good work.

  12. Lukas Guest

    Keep up the amazing work. OMAAT is the only site I visit multiple times per day, and the whole reason I got into the ”miles game”. Currently writing this from an amazing property in the Maldives, paid by points :)

  13. Jonathan Member

    Hey Ben,

    I’ve been reading your blog religiously for over a decade now (since I was 14). Heck I’m pretty sure you’re my most visited website. The effort and lengths you go to create top quality content does not go unnoticed. Keep up the great work!

    Jonathan

  14. Ley Guest

    This article was very much appreciated. Ben, I wondered how you managed to capture so many photos, which reflect views from a number of different angles and without countless folk in the same. Had I been a passenger on any of the many flights you've written about, your consideration and thoughtfulness towards others would have been noted.
    Also, I find your writing style to be interesting, yet highly professional, and when you share tidbits...

    This article was very much appreciated. Ben, I wondered how you managed to capture so many photos, which reflect views from a number of different angles and without countless folk in the same. Had I been a passenger on any of the many flights you've written about, your consideration and thoughtfulness towards others would have been noted.
    Also, I find your writing style to be interesting, yet highly professional, and when you share tidbits of information about balancing work and personal life, it's encouraging to many of us. Thank you for your strong work ethic and obvious love of travel!

  15. Francisco Guest

    What about how you cope with regular stuff during travel. For example, you ravel for days/weeks but with a carry on. How you do laundry, how you pack so much stuff, how you handle the gym clothes, etc. Less seasoned travelers could use some advice in that front.

  16. nkpesq New Member

    I would love nothing more than to join your team. As an avid traveler and lawyer who is ready to retire at 58, I am ready to do something travel related for the remainder of my time... let me know!

  17. Adam Guest

    Ben, I really enjoyed this article as it brings home some of the realities of your life. For one, as a somewhat casual OMAAT reader, I’d somehow assumed you were in a high-travel field and did this as a bit of “extra,” not your primary gig. If I may ask, what inspired you to do this full time?

    Another slightly more provocative question — what do you think of the carbon implications of hopping around...

    Ben, I really enjoyed this article as it brings home some of the realities of your life. For one, as a somewhat casual OMAAT reader, I’d somehow assumed you were in a high-travel field and did this as a bit of “extra,” not your primary gig. If I may ask, what inspired you to do this full time?

    Another slightly more provocative question — what do you think of the carbon implications of hopping around the planet just to review flights? On one hand, I get it, it’s a job like any other. But on the other hand, it seems an awfully high carbon cost when the primary purpose of travel — getting from point A to point B — is a bit “wasted” as you spend no time at point B (or C, D, E, etc). Looking for your honest perspective on this question and apologies if you’ve discussed it before.

  18. Alan Guest

    This was such an entertaining post. While directed to different things, I can relate to the love/passion you have for the work that you do and that comes across in posts like these which is awesome.

    I typically enjoy your non-review contents (unless I'm traveling somewhere and I use your reviews as a partial guide on which airline/hotel to use) but I know many do and it's a very core part of your blog so...

    This was such an entertaining post. While directed to different things, I can relate to the love/passion you have for the work that you do and that comes across in posts like these which is awesome.

    I typically enjoy your non-review contents (unless I'm traveling somewhere and I use your reviews as a partial guide on which airline/hotel to use) but I know many do and it's a very core part of your blog so good luck!

    But thanks for sharing the "behind the scenes" of your blog!

  19. R B Guest

    Thank you for the insight on your trip reviews.
    Been an avid follower for over 10 years, I have been reading this blog daily.
    You’re the best!

  20. ClownDancer Guest

    Maybe you can go to lounges at more normal time. I am sure you would have different reviews if lounge is packed and older foods were being served. You would get more sleep that way. This is just a thought.

    1. UncleRonnie Member

      And have a drink! No-one should be reviewing Champagne or cocktail bar service at 5am.

    2. Onemiler Guest

      He said he goes early to get pictures without people and then returns at later times to get pictures of the food so in his example he was at different lounges at all sorts of different times from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  21. Alex Guest

    Awesome post. Fascinating to understand more about the part we don't see. It certainly provides another perspective. Many thanks for sharing!

  22. Steve Guest

    Informative read! Keep up the great work!

  23. Clarissa Guest

    Thank you for sharing this, Lucky. Reading your content is always a pleasure!

    Agree with some of the other comments here - I think we’d all enjoy more content on your exploration of the destinations (dining, city hidden spots, etc) assuming you make it out of the airport with time to spare, of course :)

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Clarissa -- Thanks, I'll see what I can do! :-)

  24. Nico Guest

    Thank you for sharing it, Ben. It's crazy how much work goes into it, without most readers even noticing the lengths you go for a review. I'm a regular reader of your site (not to day daily), but not a regular commenter. Now I would like to take the time to thank you for all the fantastic work you do. When you write a review, it really feels like I was on the flight too.

    Thank you for sharing it, Ben. It's crazy how much work goes into it, without most readers even noticing the lengths you go for a review. I'm a regular reader of your site (not to day daily), but not a regular commenter. Now I would like to take the time to thank you for all the fantastic work you do. When you write a review, it really feels like I was on the flight too.
    You can feel your passion for the industry in every article or review you write. Not the mention the respectful way you always talk about people, whether the crew onboard or other passengers.
    Your work means a lot to me, so thank you for doing this.

  25. Nicola Guest

    Have you thought about whether or not you'll try bring your child when he is a bit older?

    Earlier this year I brought my 3 year old daughter for a trip and created some videos on the flights on the way there and back and it actually worked out pretty well. I just made sure to not have her face on camera and when her face was momentarily on camera - I blurred it.

    I...

    Have you thought about whether or not you'll try bring your child when he is a bit older?

    Earlier this year I brought my 3 year old daughter for a trip and created some videos on the flights on the way there and back and it actually worked out pretty well. I just made sure to not have her face on camera and when her face was momentarily on camera - I blurred it.

    I guess that wouldn't really be a problem for you, but yeah, I imagine juggling a job like this and parenthood can be tricky.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Nicola -- I'm really excited to travel with our son when he's a bit older, and can actually get something out of destinations. I think it'll be so fun to see the world again through a kid's eyes, though he's not quite at that age yet.

  26. Matt Guest

    I needed to pick up someone at the airport the other night. The flight was delayed and my friend was so worried about it, that I was being put out. Any excuse to visit the airport I'll take. I'm envious about your trips!

    1. UncleRonnie Member

      Clearly that person didn't ask you to pick them up at LAX :)

  27. Claus Guest

    Ben, your reviews are the best out there. Details, perspective, and the quality of your pictures (very important) are simply the benchmark.

  28. Mike Guest

    Ben

    To start with I've enjoyed your content for seemingly now over a decade. Your site truly is THE source when I'm looking remember "how is Airline X's Business Class again" or which lounge in City Y is best to spend time in.

    All that said, and notwithstanding the family angle, you would do your sanity and health some benefit to slow down a little and smell the roses. I would encourage you to have...

    Ben

    To start with I've enjoyed your content for seemingly now over a decade. Your site truly is THE source when I'm looking remember "how is Airline X's Business Class again" or which lounge in City Y is best to spend time in.

    All that said, and notwithstanding the family angle, you would do your sanity and health some benefit to slow down a little and smell the roses. I would encourage you to have a look at SFO777's blog as a potential example. In addition to play by play on airline capabilities (typically in F), he also likes to eat at fine dining establishments. So throughout his trips there will be mini-reviews (photo reviews really) of his dining experiences...and when there's time - sightseeing. For you perhaps your passion or interest is hiking. It would be great to see a play by play of you hiking up (or down) Victoria Peak or around MacRitchie Reservoir for example...of biking around the Island of Singapore, or riding big rollercoasters...whatever is YOUR thing.

    Some of us might bi-pass those stories - but some of us would like the additional human dimension as well. And I suspect you would enjoy yourself more - and attract perhaps an entirely new audience for your area(s) of interest.

    Back in the day we read through "living out of (was it) 5 suitcases in hotels for a year" and iirc the search for boba tea in Washington state...I think we can handle a little bit of indulgence for some diversions while on the road...YOLO and all that.

    Best regards.

    1. Points Adventure Guest

      I'm just guessing, maybe Ben's passion and strength is airline and hotel reviews. That's what he's passionate AND good at, and he's playing to his strength. I'm the opposite - I rarely talk about the airlines I fly and hotels I stay at, but love talking about destinations and experiences. Each content creator has their interest and niche. Personally, airlines and hotels are mostly just tools to get to places I want to visit, but...

      I'm just guessing, maybe Ben's passion and strength is airline and hotel reviews. That's what he's passionate AND good at, and he's playing to his strength. I'm the opposite - I rarely talk about the airlines I fly and hotels I stay at, but love talking about destinations and experiences. Each content creator has their interest and niche. Personally, airlines and hotels are mostly just tools to get to places I want to visit, but I still want to maximize those tools and value Ben's content.

  29. Smic8881 Member

    I think the majority of readers appreciate the hard work, dedication and creativity you put in your work to create content for your blog. And that is why you're considered one of the best travel blogs on the net!

    1. Icarus Guest

      Dedication yes, however it’s not “hard work”.

  30. Ehud Gavron Guest

    I have no idea how many millions of dollars you make from OMAAT but I'm 100% sure it's not worth it.

    All the stuff you wrote... I wouldn't do that for $5M/yr. The better way to measure it would be "Hey instead of 52 weeks out of a year, what about 1/10th?" I would not do 5 weeks a year on the schedule you wrote about for $1M.

    Maybe I'm lazy (no, I'm not) or...

    I have no idea how many millions of dollars you make from OMAAT but I'm 100% sure it's not worth it.

    All the stuff you wrote... I wouldn't do that for $5M/yr. The better way to measure it would be "Hey instead of 52 weeks out of a year, what about 1/10th?" I would not do 5 weeks a year on the schedule you wrote about for $1M.

    Maybe I'm lazy (no, I'm not) or stupid (unlikely based on previous experience) or unable to handle the demand of such a tough "job" (no, just am nobody's patsy). What's more likely is my peace of life is worth more than writing insipid reviews of shit nobody cares about. Lounges? Airports? Cabins? Sure, great someone did a review on their way in and out... but to actually make it the primary goal???

    You're crazy. Time to hang it up and get a life. If you think I'm kidding why don't you ask for someone to take your place. Offer $1M for 52 weeks of the crap you write about. See how many legit offers you get.

    Zero is what it's worth. Thanks for the writeup. Now we all know. When you keel over we'll miss... um... er... writeups about stuff that is already obsolete and we don't give a rat's ass about.

    1. Reader Guest

      You're out of touch. Plenty of folks would do this for $5M/yr. Annoying for sure, but not nearly as stressful as jobs like in finance or law.

    2. Marco Guest

      I would do it for 500K$ lol

    3. Clarissa Guest

      What a disgusting and delusional comment. No one’s forcing you to read this blog, and maybe try not to stroke your own ego too much.

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ehud Gavron -- Lol, you okay? I'm happy you're so concerned about your "peace of life," though I have to imagine writing this post raised your blood pressure?

    5. eponymous coward Guest

      How weird that you read something a stranger wrote about their life that didn’t resonate with how you want to live your life, and then you proceeded to insult them about their choices instead of going about your day.

    6. Reader Guest

      Wow. Someone got up on the wrong side of bed. I like everyone (but you) enjoy these articles and never get tired of them. As a retired airline employee I can totally relate to everything he does. Many of my colleagues travel weekly for pleasure because of the pass privileges and ability love of flying.

    7. jallan Gold

      @Ehud Gavron, if you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything. If third graders can learn that, then you can too. If you don't care for what Ben does, then don't spend your time reading, much less commenting on, it. There are lots of writers whose work I don't care for; I don't berate them - if they can make a living doing it, more power to them, it doesn't affect me one...

      @Ehud Gavron, if you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything. If third graders can learn that, then you can too. If you don't care for what Ben does, then don't spend your time reading, much less commenting on, it. There are lots of writers whose work I don't care for; I don't berate them - if they can make a living doing it, more power to them, it doesn't affect me one way or another. Unless you're somehow harmed by what Ben does (which I doubt), then why do you care?

  31. Johnsy Guest

    Love your reviews Ben.
    It is very well understood that it is just not normal for even seasoned travelers to constantly taking pictures, arranging the angles and venues for every single thing you come across just to make a detailed write ups. For social media influencers who actually love attention they get, it might be motivation, and they won't have to do the same thing over and over.
    But a semi-independent reviewer doing...

    Love your reviews Ben.
    It is very well understood that it is just not normal for even seasoned travelers to constantly taking pictures, arranging the angles and venues for every single thing you come across just to make a detailed write ups. For social media influencers who actually love attention they get, it might be motivation, and they won't have to do the same thing over and over.
    But a semi-independent reviewer doing all business and first classes for work, that can get exhausting very soon.
    Air travel is getting worse, even for grown up aviation enthusiast like me. Most people just don't travel by air for work regularly to never experience the tiring part of this undoubtedly exciting method of travel.

  32. FR Guest

    Hey now. As a Fargo resident, I suggest you stay at the boutique Jasper hotel for your January trip and enjoy the winter wonderland that our downtown has to offer.

  33. Ramon Ymalay Guest

    As a photographer myself, I totally appreciate the effort you put into getting pics without people. (The amount of time I’ve spent doing this for my personal satisfaction while traveling is not unlike your own.) That being said, for review purposes I actually prefer to see the lounge in full operation. It gives me a feel for the flow of a place, and how crowded it may feel at a specific time. Especially, when compared...

    As a photographer myself, I totally appreciate the effort you put into getting pics without people. (The amount of time I’ve spent doing this for my personal satisfaction while traveling is not unlike your own.) That being said, for review purposes I actually prefer to see the lounge in full operation. It gives me a feel for the flow of a place, and how crowded it may feel at a specific time. Especially, when compared to what you could be doing with your time, there definitely is a point of diminishing returns. Again, as a photographer, I can appreciate the effort, but from a time/benefit standpoint I’m just not certain if it’s really drawing in that many more readers or truly enhancing the blog. I’m betting if you polled the readers I’d they would rather have maybe more articles about other amenities at a destination vs. perfect lounge shots, the majority would rather just have a wider arrange of articles and reviews.

  34. Michael Guest

    Hi Ben, long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for the thought you put into your daily posts and review trips. The review trips are by far my favorite reads of the days I catch up with your blog! And likely the most work for you to bring to all of us. Appreciate your effort to do a great job inspiring the rest of us to keep exploring.
    Michael
    PS- thanks for the...

    Hi Ben, long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for the thought you put into your daily posts and review trips. The review trips are by far my favorite reads of the days I catch up with your blog! And likely the most work for you to bring to all of us. Appreciate your effort to do a great job inspiring the rest of us to keep exploring.
    Michael
    PS- thanks for the Fargo shout-out! It's a balmy 18 degrees (F) here at the moment, but I wouldn't want to call anywhere else home. :)

  35. iamhere Guest

    Interesting this is just a personal journal type of post regarding what goes into publishing a response. This said, what you do not describe is the entire business model of this type of blog. You are paid from advertisers. You receive perks and promotions because many airlines and hotels know you are blogging. You are paid to review and promote certain credit cards, airlines, hotels, etc. Many people may wonder why you do this after...

    Interesting this is just a personal journal type of post regarding what goes into publishing a response. This said, what you do not describe is the entire business model of this type of blog. You are paid from advertisers. You receive perks and promotions because many airlines and hotels know you are blogging. You are paid to review and promote certain credit cards, airlines, hotels, etc. Many people may wonder why you do this after all it is not just about the experience but the review is a time consuming process.

    I think you should find some new words to describe your experiences. I guess as you are a travel blogger this kind of trip is "wild" but most people would not consider it "wild." I think most would consider a wild trip as an exotic one. Flying business class around the world for a few days is not very wild.

    Your comment in the second paragraph is something else I wanted to point out. Even when you travel not just for a review it does not seem that you do much in terms of experiences and seeing different places.

  36. D3kingg Guest

    How do you position yourself in Houston from Miami and from Chicago back to Miami ? American in domestic F or the first row of the main cabin ?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ D3kingg -- I flew American from Miami to Houston and from Chicago to Miami, and my upgrades cleared on both segments.

  37. digital_notmad Diamond

    Genuine thanks for all you do, @Ben. You're the first site I load up when I wake up in the morning (in fact, I've banned myself from reading OMAAT on my phone in an effort to extort myself into getting moving and properly set up at my desk; I guess you could say OMAAT is the reason I wake up in the morning !).

  38. S Kumar Guest

    A very factual representation of travel these days, esp international. Sleep on long haul international flights is an issue that I have dealt with even in business class. I'm glad I feel the same way you've stated.
    Appreciate your review and the OMAAT community at large

  39. Morgan Diamond

    Great insight Ben and thanks for putting yourself through this (although I think it's fun!) for us - it is beyond amazing!

  40. Fjon Guest

    Ditto, airline enthusiasts likely have a difficult time staying awake. Having worked at a major airline for 25 years, falling asleep on an aircraft is very difficult. I enjoy the travel, but am forever sleep deprived!

  41. Kredie Guest

    I'm a big fan of your reviews, Ben - very detailed and thoughtful.

    They do stand out when compared to blogs like Head for Points, where reviews are patchy and/or mostly cover freebies (favorably, of course) these days.

    1. Rob@HfP Guest

      We are all in awe of Ben’s workload and commitment to detail, I promise you.

      We have an editorial position that we write for non-AV geek 35-45 year old bankers and other London professionals and they don’t need Ben’s level of detail. And if they did, Ben does it better.

  42. gay.dad.of.triplets Guest

    How about staying home and creating a bond between your child, especially at early years. I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t you wanna be with your child, fly less and combine both, family and work.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ gay.dad.of.triplets -- The two aren't mutually exclusive? I'm really lucky that when I'm not traveling, I get to be home 24/7, and don't have an office I have to go to. I spend a TON of time with my son, and will continue to do so. Just as other parents have business trips, I do too, mine just look a bit different than most.

  43. Chris W Guest

    Ben you say you run onto the plane to take photos of the empty cabin but surely that only gives you a few seconds advantage? Your photos this year never have any passengers in them - how do you photograph the back of the cabin and then the front without anyone in them? By the time you get to the front surely people are walking up the back?

    Do the crew ever stop you and...

    Ben you say you run onto the plane to take photos of the empty cabin but surely that only gives you a few seconds advantage? Your photos this year never have any passengers in them - how do you photograph the back of the cabin and then the front without anyone in them? By the time you get to the front surely people are walking up the back?

    Do the crew ever stop you and tell you that you can't take photos, using up your valuable head start time?

    And what about wheelchair and families with children? Don't they ever board before you?

    1. Vancouver - Char Diamond

      Ah, remember Lucky's infamous TAAG adventures

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Chris W -- Yes, everything you bring up are challenges that I agree with. I always hope that boarding takes place through door two, since that minimizes the impact of wheelchair and family boarding.

      I'd say I usually get maybe 20 or so seconds in the cabin before anyone else arrives, especially if the jet bridge is long, since I walk really fast down the jet bridge. And yes, crews are sometimes confused,...

      @ Chris W -- Yes, everything you bring up are challenges that I agree with. I always hope that boarding takes place through door two, since that minimizes the impact of wheelchair and family boarding.

      I'd say I usually get maybe 20 or so seconds in the cabin before anyone else arrives, especially if the jet bridge is long, since I walk really fast down the jet bridge. And yes, crews are sometimes confused, but I just smile and say "oh, it's such a nice cabin," and keep snapping away (unless they tell me not to, of course, but that rarely happens).

      I'm really fast at taking pictures nowadays, since I've been doing this for a long time, and know exactly what I'm trying to get.

      It doesn't always work out perfectly, though, and sometimes you'll notice that in reviews I don't get "clean" pictures. Just as an example, on my ITA flight from MIA to FCO earlier this year, boarding was just a total mess, and the pictures aren't quite as good as usual:
      https://onemileatatime.com/reviews/ita-airways-business-class-a350/

  44. Kevin M Guest

    Your attention to detail is nothing short of astounding, and it’s the reason you stand out among travel bloggers. It’s one of those things a reader like me notices without even really realizing it. Thank you for the inside look at your process.

  45. George Romey Guest

    Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

  46. Leslie Guest

    I really enjoy your work and appreciate the sacrifice. As a 2MM flyer, I found my desire for the road since the pandemic has really cooled. It broke the cycle of crazy mileage quests when I reconnected with home, which is now where I’d rather be. Even the best hotels, first class, etc. seem empty. Forced time off changed me, though I still travel more than the average human.

  47. Parimal Desai Guest

    Ben: I enjoy reading your blogs but this one was really “holiday” special as it provided more insight on your working style. Thank you for your diligence, passion and providing value-added information.

  48. Ted New Member

    Thanks for putting in the hard work for us all!

  49. Jeff Guest

    This is not a sustainable lifestyle. Your health will suffer over the long term. I enjoy your blog, but hope you realize this before it is too late.

    1. Onemiler Guest

      When he's not on a review trip he gets plenty of sleep. How many review trips is he doing a year now 4? 4 weeks out of 52? I assure you it's a lot better than some lawyers, accountants, doctors.

  50. Miami305 Member

    Lucky don't feel bad about lining up early. I think it saves time.

    I fly business or first. So I am (virtually always) in the first group that boards. I tend to line up a bit early. Why? I like to stand and stretch a bit before my flights. I never understood why this bothers people. (I never stand in the way of the pre-boarders.)

    In many areas of the world the gate area...

    Lucky don't feel bad about lining up early. I think it saves time.

    I fly business or first. So I am (virtually always) in the first group that boards. I tend to line up a bit early. Why? I like to stand and stretch a bit before my flights. I never understood why this bothers people. (I never stand in the way of the pre-boarders.)

    In many areas of the world the gate area completely fills up so you have to stand somewhere, so why not lineup when you are in the #1 group anyway?

    Additionally, I hate getting behind that group that gets to the bp reader and THEN realizes 'oh, you need to see my bp? Let me see... where did I put it?'

    Near as I can figure, the people that complain about 'gate lice' are the people that would like to board first as well, but are too lazy to stand up early.

  51. Robin Guest

    Thank you so much for sharing this, and for all you do. I feel like you need some kind of 'press pass' to access places when they're quieter...although maybe that defeats the purpose of finding out what it really looks like for us commoners. I hope you can rest and stay healthy over the holidays. Enjoy your 2024 travels!

  52. Bruno Guest

    Hi Ben,

    First of all, excellent post about your review routine.
    Can you share with us what electronics (such as cameras, phones, tablets, etc) that you fly with to help you create the content for a review trip?

    Cheers

    1. henare Diamond

      I think this would be a very cool share. I think Lucky is in the Apple sphere, but I'm unsure why I think this....

    2. Bruno Guest

      Unfortunately, no replies from him.
      Let’s hope he writes a post about it in the near future.

    3. jallan Gold

      Ben did a post about four years ago that he now mostly uses his iPhone camera (https://onemileatatime.com/iphone-11-camera/) (just search on the site for "camera" if the link doesn't show). I think he's also done other posts talking about things like headphones and such, but it may be time for an update.

  53. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Ben,
    you do BY FAR the best job of balancing all of the different things an aviation blog could be and doing it all very well.
    I read most of your content and respond to alot but appreciate the effort that you explained you take to do high-quality reviews.
    Keep up the good work, Happy Holidays, and enjoy your family.

  54. cairns Guest

    Just curious Ben- I wrote a comment thanking you for this blog and relating your experiences and it wasn't posted. An anomaly perhaps?

    Thanks.

  55. BradStPete Diamond

    Ben, I do not know how many years I have been enjoying your work, but I truly have been enjoying.
    Sadly, I am not able to travel as much as I used to. I lack words to properly thank you for bringing your world to my laptop in St. Pete.
    I was lucky enough to spend 30 years on the "pointy end" of the plane, the stays in some of the world's finest...

    Ben, I do not know how many years I have been enjoying your work, but I truly have been enjoying.
    Sadly, I am not able to travel as much as I used to. I lack words to properly thank you for bringing your world to my laptop in St. Pete.
    I was lucky enough to spend 30 years on the "pointy end" of the plane, the stays in some of the world's finest hotels. Even 2 jaunts on Concorde ( AF & BA ).
    But daily you bring back the type of travel I used to enjoy.
    Thank You doesn't seem quite adequate , but Thank You !

  56. BurritoMiles Guest

    You are the best in the biz Lucky. Keep on truckin', the review world is saturated now but you are still the gold standard.

  57. Valentin Guest

    And now imagine there is a person existing in this world, that does the same, but much more than you do these days. Flying 100+ flights a year in business and first class just for fun, for the sake of flying itself - but does not make a blog, youtube channel and does not monetize this weird hobby in any, any way.
    That's me.

    1. henare Diamond

      So, then, it sounds like you don't have a voice to contribute. That's a fine choice, I suppose, but your announcement here isn't the flex that you think it is.

  58. CXP Member

    It's all a lot more work than it might seem to people reading the stories - thanks for the look behind the scenes!

  59. UncleRonnie Guest

    @Ben -what do you use for your photos? SLR? Small digital camera? IPhone?

    1. jallan Gold

      I seem to recall that a couple years ago, maybe a bit more, Ben did a post about the technology he uses on trips.

  60. jotlaptop Member

    I appreciate your occasional behind-the-scenes piece, and absolutely appreciate your candid and consistent reasonable voice, through the years. It will be difficult to find any other writers with your voice, so please keep writing it yourself. Eventually you will need to bring others in, or sell out -- I hope I am gone by that time. Yes, the cleanliness of the photos is quite amazing, but your (writing) voice is more valuable: keep that a priority.

  61. Dave Guest

    I stink at sleeping on planes too, but I do have a few "tricks":
    1. Water - I get dehydrated super quickly if I don't drink ~12oz/hr while awake on a plane. When I'm hydrated I can sleep really well.
    2. Benadryl - If I need to sleep at an unnatural time, I take one or two about 90 mins before I want to sleep. Ideally before a meal
    3. Sleeping position...

    I stink at sleeping on planes too, but I do have a few "tricks":
    1. Water - I get dehydrated super quickly if I don't drink ~12oz/hr while awake on a plane. When I'm hydrated I can sleep really well.
    2. Benadryl - If I need to sleep at an unnatural time, I take one or two about 90 mins before I want to sleep. Ideally before a meal
    3. Sleeping position - The lay-flat position in most airlines is really uncomfortable, since there isn't enough padding to contour to the body. For the most part, 80% reclined is my optimal sleeping position.
    4. Creating a plan to be super productive on the flight - I usually sleep best when I plan on reading a book and/or writing a document while flying. My procrastination urge is that strong :)

    1. Santos Guest

      Yes, it took me years before I realized 80% recline is like magic to get some quality shut-eye. Before that, I simply used to toss and turn for hours.

  62. Tim Guest

    Love your content @Ben. While I agree with David, I do appreciate how authentic your stories are and how your passion shows through.

    Question though- how do your fans (like me) better support you and your business? Obviously I read almost all your posts and see the advertisements. Outside of signing up for credit cards through your links (I have all the cc’s I need now), what can we do to support the business? Again, love reading your stuff.

    1. jallan Gold

      We need OMAAT merch!

  63. Jordan Diamond

    I'm surprised that people are not screaming about the environment and what a waste these flights are.

    Yes "climate change" is one of the top 5 worldwide scams, but still, many believe this and other accepted truths that are also big deceptions. Just surprised :-)

    1. jallan Gold

      One person making these trips is not going to materially contribute to climate change (whether you believe in it or not) - the planes are going to fly regardless of whether Ben is on them. Plus, I posit that the people who feel passionately about the effects of air travel on the environment are not the sort who read blogs about such travel.

  64. Andy Guest

    Re: Jet lag, my tried and tested method for redeye flights is nyquil or zquil and two glasses of red wine. I’ll almost always get enough sleep to function at my destination until I fully adjust.

    Re: content perhaps the other guy has a point on outsourcing occasionally. I’m sure there would be a queue of people who’d love to contribute.

  65. Dolphin Guest

    FYI Singapore Airlines announced Gatwick.

    1. Jordan Diamond

      London Gatwick, for those not familiar with London's second airport.

  66. derek Guest

    I have been to over 100 airports with domestic US flights. Most of them were for business travel. At each city, I tried to do at least one touristy thing, even if I was at the site for only 1-2 minutes. I am glad that I did. Many of these airports and cities, I will never see again in my lifetime.

  67. Here Hare Guest

    You wrote "the most interrupted sleep" but I think you meant uninterrupted sleep.

  68. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    What is your "business attire"? I know it's not a shirt/jeans, though would be curious to know what you choose to wear as your go-to outfit during flight reviewing (esp with the sweating while running to be first onboard, low temperatures, etc.)

  69. Ken Guest

    I love the review trips and find the very valuable. Keep it up they’re great!

  70. Julius Grafton Guest

    Ben I always skim your posts every day, and read all the airline reviews. You're bay far the most prolific writer I know! You're also consistent and level headed, and have the appropriate thick hide to ignore or deal with the trolls. Hats off to you, man!

  71. JustSaying Guest

    Seems to me that there is a lot of self inflicted pain on these trips.
    Second it seems like you are spending an inordinate portion of your time photographing empty club rooms and empty planes when perhaps your time might be better spent on the logistics of how to make the trip a reality.
    Finally if you spent more time on reward availability and the ways to get the miles you could do...

    Seems to me that there is a lot of self inflicted pain on these trips.
    Second it seems like you are spending an inordinate portion of your time photographing empty club rooms and empty planes when perhaps your time might be better spent on the logistics of how to make the trip a reality.
    Finally if you spent more time on reward availability and the ways to get the miles you could do that around your family and be much happier and your readers would be much happier.
    I would think that your creativity you could could hire stringers all around the world to take those photos and everyone would be happy!

  72. Tacoman Guest

    This is a great article. Thanks so much for all the work involved. You’re my favorite travel blogger!

  73. AnishReddi Gold

    One day you’re gonna ask yourself ‘how did I do that, I must’ve been crazy.’
    Hopefully that’s a long time away as these are the best reviews on the internet, with all the nitty gritty detail that makes it so interesting.
    Hopefully I’ll be able do something like this as my job in the future.

  74. David Diamond

    Interesting look into how you do your reviews. I do wonder how many people care about a completely empty picture of lounges and the cabin though. A shot even with a few people and their faces blurred out might just be good enough, and would save you a lot of time.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ David -- Appreciate the perspective, that makes sense. A couple additional thoughts. First of all, it's useful to have nice pictures that I can use on the blog in general in stories, and I think there's something to be said for "clean" pictures there.

      The other thing is that I honestly just try to create content in a way that I'd enjoy as a reader (not that I always get it right, but I...

      @ David -- Appreciate the perspective, that makes sense. A couple additional thoughts. First of all, it's useful to have nice pictures that I can use on the blog in general in stories, and I think there's something to be said for "clean" pictures there.

      The other thing is that I honestly just try to create content in a way that I'd enjoy as a reader (not that I always get it right, but I try). Personally I enjoy pictures a lot less when the pictures aren't good/extensive, and that can be hard to do if the cabin is full. I'm happy to put in the effort, and I think readers deserve that.

    2. Morgan Diamond

      100% agree Ben - a photo of an empty lounge (or especially an empty cabin) looks significantly more aesthetically pleasing and renders it a more enjoyable review to read.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Well that, and all it takes is one "karen" (I hate that term, but it's applicable here) to complain about their unauthorized likeness being on a public forum, and you're now faced with all kinds of trouble that you don't need.

      Probably best to keep doing what Ben's been doing.

    4. Mike Guest

      100% agree with David.
      Can't begin to count the number of times I went to a lounge after reading a great review, only to find out that island of calmness has somehow become a zoo with people lined up for scrambled eggs and two dozen empty wine bottles (Star Alliance Paris - Yes, I am talking about you).
      I can definitely see value in representative lounge reviews, plus who wants to spend 12 hours in lounges? any lounges?

    5. David Guest

      Also agree with other David - while we appreciate the effort to get to the lounge at open to take empty photos, I'd be more than happy with non-empty photos (and maybe one more review since you're less tired ;) )

  75. Willem Guest

    The more I fly business & First class, the more glad I am that I don’t do what you do, but also glad that you do do what you do so the rest of us have good references when deciding between these experiences. Always fun to follow along, while focusing entirely on my own experience when actually travelling!

  76. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    "I don’t actually understand people who otherwise line up to board the plane."

    They're low-priority boarding, and are scared that (1) there'll be no overhead space available, or (2) that any available space will be far away from their seat.

    1. omatravel Guest

      Even when I was Platinum on Delta, I'd still line up early so I can just get on the plane and seated ASAP. I really just want to be done with boarding.

    2. chasgoose Guest

      Same. Once it’s close to boarding I just want to get on the plane and get situated.

    3. Kevin Guest

      Hell, I'm high priority boarding and I still line up to make sure I've got overhead space, even up front. Even that's not guaranteed, I can't tell you how many times I get on first and find crew bags in the overheads up front.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ David -- Appreciate the perspective, that makes sense. A couple additional thoughts. First of all, it's useful to have nice pictures that I can use on the blog in general in stories, and I think there's something to be said for "clean" pictures there. The other thing is that I honestly just try to create content in a way that I'd enjoy as a reader (not that I always get it right, but I try). Personally I enjoy pictures a lot less when the pictures aren't good/extensive, and that can be hard to do if the cabin is full. I'm happy to put in the effort, and I think readers deserve that.

7
Tim Dunn Diamond

Ben, you do BY FAR the best job of balancing all of the different things an aviation blog could be and doing it all very well. I read most of your content and respond to alot but appreciate the effort that you explained you take to do high-quality reviews. Keep up the good work, Happy Holidays, and enjoy your family.

6
Alvin | YTHK Diamond

What is your "business attire"? I know it's not a shirt/jeans, though would be curious to know what you choose to wear as your go-to outfit during flight reviewing (esp with the sweating while running to be first onboard, low temperatures, etc.)

5
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