Is Writing Trip Reports “Work?”

Reader Ivan Y asked an interesting question in the comments section of my Korean Air first class trip report between Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon:

@ Lucky – would you say that an under-appreciated part of your job is that you can’t just board a plane and go to sleep but must stay awake for the meal service(s) and document everything else?

I’ve tried to imitate you and document my last trip (at friends & family’s request) but it wasn’t easy, especially on flights after crossing the Atlantic. Ended up falling asleep while waiting for food on ORD-IAH (UA F) and FAs didn’t wake me up even though I placed my order. Woke up with 40-45 minutes to go & it was too late to get anything, so had a bag peanuts/crackers/whatever to show for my UA flight which didn’t significantly improve my outlook on them (DirecTV was nice thou).

Now let me start by saying I’m ridiculously fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living. So while my “job” has its pros and cons, on the whole I don’t think there’s anything under-appreciated about it. So no violins for me… not even the world’s smallest violin. 😉

In the past I’ve received several messages from people saying that they finally wrote their first trip report and were amazed by how much work it was. Yes, it’s incredibly time consuming to write a trip report, between taking the pictures, resizing them, uploading them, writing text and captions, etc. But for me it’s not really a lot of “work,” it’s just a lot of time consuming fun. I wrote trip reports long before I ever made a dime from this blog, and I’ll write them long after I make my last dime as well!

I’ve flown over three million “butt in seat” miles, and I’ll be the first to say that after flying that much the fun of premium cabin travel as such does wear off a bit. I’m not as giddy as I was the first time I flew international first class, though at the same time that’s kind of a good thing. Why? Because I can actually sleep the night before I take a big trip nowadays, rather than tossing and turning out of excitement for hours on end. And for that matter I can actually bring myself to sleep on planes, because at the end of the day the ability to do that well is one of the greatest things about international first class. Back when I first flew international first class I was so excited that I refused to sleep because I was afraid I’d “miss something.” Nowadays I’m happy if I can sleep the whole time between the meals.

But that doesn’t really address Ivan’s question, so I figured I would share the few areas of the trip report process that I do consider challenging:

The first 30 minutes on the plane

So the only aspect of writing a trip report that gets me a little bit stressed is the first 30 minutes on a plane when I’m flying an airline or airplane for the first time. Many times I only have one segment on a new airline or airplane, so I have to make it work. If it’s an airline like Lufthansa or Cathay Pacific that I’ve flown dozens of times before, cabin pictures aren’t as important.

But for recent flights like the China Southern A380, Korean Air A380, Virgin Atlantic A330, Alitalia A330, etc., I had one shot to get things “right.”

The challenge really is trying to be as subtle as you can about taking as many pictures as possible. I do whatever I can to be among the first aboard so that I can get mostly empty cabin pictures. And yes, unfortunately at times that means I’m the douchewaffle that’s lined up on the carpet well before boarding starts. Really, if I can get the first class cabin to myself for a minute I’m golden in terms of pictures, I think.

China Southern A380 first class cabin

Korean Air A380 first class cabin

Similarly, even once I settle in I do what I can to get as many pictures of the seat features as I can. That’s because the cabin is usually still lit up during boarding, while it could be dimmed after takeoff, so it’s tougher to get good pictures then.

Yes, I occasionally get evil glares from flight attendants…

I’m not hungry…

A couple of months ago I had a long layover at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in New York. I had such an enjoyable and relaxing time. The first five hours of the layover were enjoyable, while the last three hours were relaxing, in that I passed the hell out and napped.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York

Funny enough I don’t really drink when I’m not flying. When I am flying, though, all bets are off. So I was awoken during the final boarding call and ran for the flight. My Virgin Atlantic flight from New York to London was under six hours and I wanted to sleep more than anything. I really, really did, because I was not feeling well, to put it mildly.

But I’d be letting you guys down big time if the extent of my report was “we took off, I slept, we landed. The end.” I’ve disappointed you guys once before with my Emirates flight from Singapore to Dubai where I had a little bit too much Hennessy Paradis, to the point that it interfered with my shower.

But I stayed up and took one for the team, I guess. I only had a bite of each dish, but suffice to say that with each course it was the most painful bite I’ve had!

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Thai vegetable curry main course

I’m just tired!

I think I’m one of the few bloggers that sometimes actually flies exclusively to review new airline products. So it’s not unusual for me to fly around the world in 72 hours with four longhaul flights. As you’d expect, by the second or third flight airplane food sounds really unappetizing and sleep sounds awesome.

Admittedly I don’t eat everything I’m served on a plane. Sometimes I’ll have a little bit just to try it. But if I’m flying an airline for the first time I really do want to be able to review and take pictures of as many of their offerings as possible.

Bottom line

I’m incredibly fortunate and I love what I do. But since Ivan asked, I answered. If I had to say there were “challenges” associated with reviewing airline products, it’s trying to capture the cabin in “mint” condition before everyone boards, and ultimately not necessarily being able to eat or sleep when you want.

To those of you that write trip reports, what do you consider to be the most “challenging” aspect of them?

Filed Under: Advice
  1. I agree that they are not easy. If they were, I wouldn’t be “back blogged” in terms of trip reports. We all aspire to be as punctual as you, Lucky.

  2. I like that you point out the negatives to a particular airline, aircraft, etc.. I don’t see this feedback that often in other trip reports. I’m glad to see that you board early to take photos of an empty cabin. I see too many bloggers taking photos of other passengers and not blurring faces. I’d be curious if you’ve had any instance where they have asked you not to take photos. I know Matthew at UPGRD has had at least one story on this.

    I also wonder what your opinion is on other travel bloggers that post trip reports when they don’t typically write them. Sometimes I have to wonder if they do this for a tax write-off on a vacation. I have seen some pretty low quality cellphone photos being used on international dinners, flights, and hotels and have wondered the motive. Even when you are traveling with family members your reviews are just as high quality.

  3. There are many great bloggers, but I never fail to enjoy every post that you write! And I agree, writing trip reports and taking pics is not as easy as it seems!

  4. As someone who writes “Trip Reports” (except not in the blogger sense, actually for the hotels themselves, yes we do exist), I’d really have to say its writing it all down in detail after the fact. You want to fully enjoy the experience, but having to remember all of the details in hindsight is tough!

  5. Trip reports are by far the most time-consuming posts to make for me. I also noticed it sort of makes me enjoy the flight experience less. When I get on a plane I’m constantly worrying about taking pics of the seat, every course of every meal, and I’m constantly taking notes on my phone to remember how the service was for the review later.

    Hotels are a bit easier, but my friends get annoyed when I say they can’t enter the room until I’ve taken pics first haha.

  6. Wait…you mean you didn’t used to be able to sleep…because you were too busy enjoying ZE AMBIANCE!? 🙂

  7. “I had a little bit too much Hennessy Paradis, to the point that it interfered with my shower.”..Classic. Love it!

  8. Lucky, sometime I’d love to see a post about how you prepare for potential issues of traveling. Are you ever nervous about language barriers and being able to get around your destination? Do you carry a medical kit and have you ever had to use it? Have you had any major mishaps? Have you ever made a travel insurance claim, and how was the process? Have you ever gone to a country where you felt unsafe?

    I love, love, love hearing about the glamorous and wonderful parts of travel, but I’d also like to hear how an experienced traveler prepares for and handles the inevitable issues that come from being far from home.

  9. I write trip reports too on my blog and it’s just a long way to go. It’s not challenging or difficult, it’s actually fun reflecting on the trip. The only problem is that it’s time consuming.

    Thanks for writing reports for us. I love reading your trip reports. Thank you!

  10. I write trip reports regularly too. Not for a blog but on FlyerTalk. (My handle is BA_jfan, if anyone cares). For my first couple it was really exciting. After that, while I have taken pictures, I rarely actually post them just because of effort involved. I think to some degree it definitely qualifies as work.

  11. Thanks for all of the work you do put into your trip reports. I’ve spent countless hours reading through your reports to look for my next points redemption.

  12. I really can’t keep up with trip reporting. I’m running a full year behind on mine at this point. God bless you for your efficiency.

  13. Sure, its work, but its also Lucky’s job! Think about it, those of us with ordinary 9-5 jobs work at least 40 hours per week minimum. Personally, I work closer to 50 or 60 hours per week, and there are certainly people who work more than that.

    Now sure, there is more to running this blog than writing trip reports, and Lucky also has his award booking service, but I’m pretty sure that Lucky has plenty of time to write his trip reports considering this blog is his main job. Lets say an average trip report post takes 2 hours to write, that still leaves 6 hours in an ordinary 8 hour work day for other tasks. Hardly sounds difficult in my opinion.

    No sympathy here, writing blog postings is infinitely easier than most jobs out there.

  14. I’ve had a few “Lucky inspired” flights this year, including a trip to the LH F terminal. I have to say that I got very self conscious about taking photos in lounges or even on the plane in F. It felt a bit odd to constantly be taking photos (and trying to not disturb the other passangers and crew). I’m always amazed at the quality and quantity of the photos Ben brings us each week (or even daily)! Keep up the great work! And yes, the fourth 12hr segment in a round the world trip, even in F is not the most exciting for anybody, but that’s why we all admire Lucky!

  15. @ Lucky — thank you for taking time to respond! I’m glad other bloggers/report-writers chimed in.

    It takes extra effort to do such quality reports (a good write-up + lots of photos) and we all really appreciate it.

    I know that my family is really glad that Lucky’s flown so many different products and destinations. His report on SQ F from IAH-DME is how we found this blog and his write-up & photos is what helped me convince my mom to let me treat her to SQ F instead of Y and let her know what to expect every step of the way.

    And Lucky being lucky*, sometimes he unearths real gems like SQ bears. Even people who work for SQ don’t know about them (at least, ground crews in Houston and Moscow).

    * – who else can get two LH F seats on IAH-FRA? LOL

  16. Nice post! I always wondered how you got photos of the empty cabins, I just thought they let you on early. I appreciate the positives and negatives as it helps set expectations for when I travel. For me, after a few hours to put together my first trip report for my blog, I applaud everyone who puts the time in whether it is their job or their hobby – it is definitely time consuming

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