Airline Review: Thai Airways

From CNX to BKK to DXB, this was one of the least complicated international routes I’ve taken from one foreign outpost to another. There was no b.s. at the gates or on boarding/deplaning. Truly courteous staff. No long lines to suffer through at the counter or gate. Excellent in-seat entertainment options and comfortable, clean seats. Even the food was decent, far above most airline standards. No frills sitting in economy, but there was no major crowding/fighting for arm and leg space with nearby passengers.

Verdict: Excellent (9/10)

Upper Tier Hotels: Millennium Hilton (Bangkok, Thailand)

Towering over the river, you have an amazing view of the city from nearly every room. And particularly at the Executive Lounge at the top and the adjacent bar. Rooms are clean, the lobby is well-restored and the staff is top-notch (very attentive in helping send a parcel on my behalf). It’s a bit far from things as it’s on the west bank of the river. But there’s a fast ferry they run right from the hotel across to a prime part of the city, near the popular Silom district and another BTS station. Very reasonable prices, probably due to the hotel getting passed by newer, fresher and “hipper” hotels. But it’s as good as it gets with the Hilton main brand and a nice place for respite from the endless parade of hawkers and touts who try to sell you on things every second of every day around hotels in the middle of the city.

Verdict: Can’t Miss (9/10)

Upper Tier Hotels: Aloft Sukhumvit (Bangkok, Thailand)

There is no better location than this one on Soi 13 in Sukhumvit for access to bars (both naughty and classy) and the shopping scene around Siam. It’s a bit obnoxious getting in and out - cars are completely gridlocked on the Soi and you’ll have to walk a few minutes out if you need a car ride or Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber). But there’s also a great BTS Skytrain station at the intersection with Sukhumvit, so you can jump around the city pretty well from there.

Rooms are cool and trendy as you expect from Aloft, with a good breakfast if you can ignore the few ants spotted around the drinks station. Won’t deduct too many points since it’s Bangkok and there are always some creepy crawlies to be spotted. Only real issue is that it’s ground zero for the old white men who are in town for nothing but plowing Thai women. And/or Thai ladyboys - to each their own on that account. They leave you alone and you don’t have to talk to them, but they are all over the place - more so than most places in the city - and it can be jarring.

All in all. It’s a super-well priced brand hotel in a great location with safety, comfort and all you can expect from the fast-growing Aloft brand.

Verdict: Solid choice (8.5/10)

Luxury Hotels: Le Meridien (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Clearly one of the best hotels in the city (and tallest), the Le Meridien does not disappoint with very nice rooms and an excellent Club Level Executive Lounge - the food and alcohol selection were quite good. It’s also located very close to the Night Bazaar, the nightlife scene and Tapae Gate (eastside entrance to the Old City). Personally, I like the Nimman’s trendy hotels a bit more, which are also far less pricey. But for old mainstays earning and burning on Marriott, this is a great value for a great hotel. Service is excellent as expected too.

Verdict: Good but there’s better value & cooler local style elsewhere (8 / 10)

Fun with Numbers: Airports Visited (99 and counting)

On another flight and couldn’t focus, so spend some time thinking about airports visited. Many of these were layovers only and most made zero impression at all. And then there are the airports lost to time and memory. Nonetheless, it’s fun to see the number is 100 on the dot, with 99 airports confirmed to date. Here’s the list:

AMS Amsterdam, Netherlands

ATH Athens, Greece

ATL Atlanta, Georgia, USA

AUH Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

BCN Barcelona, Spain* (possibly also GRO)

BFS Belfast, Northern Ireland

BKK Bangkok, Thailand

BNA Nashville, Tennessee, USA

BOG Bogota, Colombia

BOS Boston, Massachusetts, USA

BUR Burbank, California, USA

BWI Baltimore, Maryland, USA

CAI Cairo, Egypt

CDG Paris, France

CEI Chiang Rai, Thailand

CID Cedar Rapids, Iowa

CLT Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

CMH Columbus, Ohio, USA

CNX Chiang Mai, Thailand

COS Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

CTG Cartagena, Colombia

CUN Cancun, Mexico

CUZ Cuzco, Peru

DAD Da Nang, Vietnam

DCA Washington, DC, USA

DEN Denver, Colorado, USA

DFW Dallas, Texas

DOH Doha, Qatar

DPS Bali, Indonesia

DUB Dublin, Ireland

DXB Dubai, United Arab Emirates

DYG Zhangjiajie, China

EDI Edinburgh, Scotland

EWR Newark, New Jersey, USA

EZE Buenos Aires, Argentina

FCO Rome, Italy* (possibly CIA instead)

FLL Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

GLA Glasgow, Scotland

HAN Hanoi, Vietnam

HKG Hong Kong, China SAR

HKT Phuket, Thailand

HNL Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

HOU Houston, Texas, USA**

IAD Washington, DC, USA

IAH Houston, Texas, USA

IST Istanbul, Turkey

ITO Hilo, Hawaii, USA

JFK New York, New York, USA

KBV Krabi, Thailand

KOA Kona, Hawaii, USA

KUL Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

LAS Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

LAX Los Angeles, California, USA

LEX Lexington, Kentucky, USA

LGA New York, New York, USA

LGB Long Beach, California, USA

LGW London, United Kingdom***

LHR London, United Kingdom

LIM Lima, Peru

LYS Lyon, France

MAD Madrid, Spain

MBJ Montego Bay, Jamaica

MEX Mexico City, Mexico

MIA Miami, Florida, USA

MID Merida, Mexico

MSP Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

MSY New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

MXP Milan, Italy* (possibly LIN also)

NRT Tokyo, Japan

OAK Oakland, California, USA

OGG Maui, Hawaii, USA

ORD Chicago, Illinois, USA

PDX Portland, Oregon, USA

PEK Beijing, China

PHL Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

PHX Phoenix, Arizona, USA

PIT Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

PRG Prague, Czech Republic

PSE Cairns, Australia

PSE Ponce, Puerto Rico

PVG Shanghai, China

PVR Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

REK Reykjavik, Iceland

RNO Reno, Nevada, USA

SAC Sacramento, California

SAF Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

SAN San Diego, California, USA

SEA Seattle, Washington, USA

SFO San Francisco, California, USA

SIN Singapore, Singapore

SJC San Jose, CA, USA

SJD Cabo, Mexico

SJO San Jose, Costa Rica

SJU San Juan, Puerto Rico

SLC Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

STN London, United Kingdom***

SYD Sydney, Australia

URT Surat Thani, Thailand

USM Koh Samui, Thailand

VCE Venice, Italy* (possibly TSF instead)

* 100% certain of a visit to the city, but not certain which airport

** Very likely visited this airport, but not 100% certain

*** Visited at least two secondary London airports, but not certain which ones (LGW, LTN, STN???)

Fun with Numbers: Airlines Flown To Date (35 and counting)

Since Americans are all about numbers and size and girth and whatever, and since it’s impossible to sit through a long flight without developing stupid lists, here’s a rough accounting of airlines experienced to date.

Note that there are a few dubious entries - where it’s clear that a new airline was flown but the exact name may not be accurate. And of course, there are many entries that were forgotten with time. So for now, we’ll go with 35 airlines as “the number” when evaluating the worldliness of a traveler. When you figure there were ones forgotten from childhood, it’s likely to go up towards 40. But we’ll stick with this number out of confidence and security that the number is strong enough to show true experience as a globetrotter.



Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

Bangkok Airways

British Airways

Cathay Pacific

China Eastern


Delta Airlines


Etihad Airways


Frontier Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Iceland Express*


Juneyao Airlines (China)

Kuwait Airways


Meridiana* (Italy)

Qantas (Australia)


Southwest Airlines***

Spirit*** (The Devil’s Airline)

Sun Country

Thai Airways


Turkish Airlines

United Airlines

US Airways*


Virgin America*

Virgin Atlantic


* No longer exists

** Not 100% certain but pretty sure it was this one

*** Never fly unless there are absolutely no other options

Upper Tier Hotels: The Hongta (Shanghai, China)

Part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, the Hongta is what I consider a “luxury-adjacent” brand hotel.  It’s far nicer than a traditional chain hotel but you don’t get quite the same refined experience as a Waldorf, Ritz, St. Regis, etc.  

Rooms were spacious (upgraded to a suite on the 15th floor as a Platinum member) with very well-appointed rooms.  It does need a refresh - the carpets are beat - but the lobby is quite beautiful, the facilities are very maintained well and you have to consider fancy/luxury hotels in comparison to the big big big names in the industry. You aren’t living like a true A-lister at a place like this, but it’s darn good enough to impress someone special to you.

Service is great - good English-speaking staff.  With breakfast and Executive Lounge bar happy hour (over an amazing view from the 40th floor), it was well worth the $100 or so per night. The happy hour at the Executive Lounge is truly an amazing perk as a top member with Marriott (and when I stay with Hiltons too). It’s really worth using your credit cards and spend right to ensure you get these benefits. Free meals add up quickly when reviewing your travel budget over the course of a year.

The location in Pudong was so-so, a bit far from the action but in a safe spot with a close Metro stop nearby.  Not in the prime part of Pudong by Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower, but the only hotels there are super pricey.  Only caveat:  if you’re a snowflake, avoid walking close to the Holiday Inn Express across the street.  The hotel looks nice enough but it’s hooker central.  You cannot walk near the hotel without being approached by many many overeager street walkers.  It was safe and didn’t bother me.  But for snowflakes, it may be a bit too appalling to handle.  Frankly, there is something uncouth to be found in the nicest parts of every city - all of SF is a demilitarized zone of poverty, crack and mental health issues - but it was more a fun observation than anything.

The price, quality, easy location to the fantastic Metro and very nice style - they all make it a great place to go for any type of audience (business, bleisure, family, romantic).

Verdict: Solid enough (7.5 / 10)

Luxury Hotels: St. Regis (Beijing, China)

We planned our nine day trip to Beijing to hit two hotels - five nights in the Ritz-Carlton and four in the St Regis - to make sure we were in two different parts of the city. The Ritz got the leg up for being in the middle of a luxury shopping zone, but it was pretty far from the main parts of the city where tourists want to go. The St. Regis was still a ways off, but considerably closer.

More importantly, the hotel was far more luxurious for a far lower price. Just walking into the spacious lobby, we could tell it was an upgrade. The rooms were larger, better appointed, sharper and less dated, with fantastic views and the perfect bathroom with long tub suitable for even those of us who are tall.

The breakfast was pretty amazing - very high quality with lots of options. Service at the restaurant, front desk and around the hotel were 100% on point. They weren’t bad at the Ritz, but this just felt a lot more tailored to your needs. Oh, and every St. Regis offers YOUR OWN PERSONAL BUTLER SERVICE!

You can’t make them go all Alfred on you and built crime fighting caves or go to the point of excess, but it’s a huge element in the St. Regis brand that you just can’t ignore.

Oh, and the happy hour for two hours in the evening in The Press Club - a bar name that is so fitting for me - has excellent food and great drinks (complementary wine, beer, whiskey, champagne, etc.).

Even without comparing it to the average experience at the Ritz right before it, this place rocks. And the cost is pretty reasonable for a true luxury hotel. It won’t break the bank but it may make you want to stay in instead of exploring an amazing city - which is just how a luxury hotel should be.

Verdict: Do It! (9.5 / 10)

Digital Nomad Economics: Using Points/Miles Wisely

It’s tempting to use points and miles for travel, cash or other rewards just because you have a high balance. For the uninitiated, they still look at points and miles as freebies.

The truth is points and miles are currency. The value for a single point/mile isn’t high, usually about 1-2 cents a piece. But the benefits can be huge without a whole lot of time or effort. In fact, it’s lost money if you’re not considering it as a viable way to automate your everyday budget purchases into a passive income.

Making five figures a year is a pretty easy feat for most people if they’re willing to put a few hours in every month.

For now, focus on the one fundamental rule, understanding the value of a point or mile. Again, they’re all worth 1-2 cents but the variation can be big. The Points Guy has a fantastic monthly chart showing the valuation of points across every loyalty program and you can find it here.

We can get into earning points/miles later, but next time you look at burning through your stash, look at these values and compare it to the cash price of the hotel room or flight ticket. Sometimes you can get a $1,000 flight for 10,000 points, and sometimes you can get a $100 flight for 25,000 points. Just multiply the points required for the redemption by the value and see if you’re better off using the points or sticking with cash. It varies on every search, so don’t just burn the points without understanding their value as currency.

Airport Lounges: Seattle's Delta Sky Club (SEA)

One of the best perks of credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card or the Ritz Carlton Visa by Chase is access to airport lounges via Priority Pass and other partnerships. Delta Sky Clubs are part of this deal but you have to be flying on Delta to get free access (whereas all other lounges are open to members regardless of the airline you fly that day).

Seeing as the AMEX Centurion lounges set the gold standard at nearly every airport, it’s rare to venture beyond them at places like DFW, MIA, SFO and SEA. But it was on my way and closer to my gate than the AMEX Centurion, so I figured why not check it out. At the least, I could skip out and head to the Centurion if it was terrible.

To my surprise, it was incredible. This two-story behemoth felt like a breathe of fresh air - huge ceilings and a wall of glass windows give you the space to feel at ease during the usually claustrophobia experience of being at the airport.

Food was excellent, as was the selection of free alcoholic beverages. It was clean, service was fast and friendly, the wifi was speedy…what more can you ask for? Although the AMEX Centurion’s still hold the crown for best lounges - for the most part - this particular Delta Sky Club was well worth the visit.

Verdict: Sweet! (8.5 / 10)

Digital Nomad Economics: The 24 Hour Flight Check-In

Trying to get a good seat without paying a premium for an aisle seat or an exit row or something else?

Always, always, always….check into your flight right at the 24 hour pre-departure time. Every airline is different and they’re all looking for new ways to screw you out of a penny. But when check-in opens, there are seats that have been on hold that get released.

Sometimes you get a free bump up to an exit row to get more legroom, but it’s more important for finding your way out of the dreaded middle seat. Maybe you like being cramped between two smelly strangers and a middle seat is awesome for you. But chances are, you will take any aisle or window instead of the middle.

At the 24 hour mark, elites start getting upgrades and airlines start losing hope that you’ll pay for the upgrade. It’s a game of chicken and works out 50/50. But I’ll take 50/50 any day of the week and twice on Sunday, especially after the last time I flew middle - on a Southwest flight next to a person working on a “Ted Cruz for President” excel grid on her laptop.


Digital Nomad Economics: Register for Every Airline & Hotel Loyalty Program

Even if you don’t travel very often, you must be a “member” or “guest” in all the major airline and hotel loyalty programs. They have dozens of factors to rank your merit as a customer and those who are unaffiliated rank dead last. Even an infrequent traveler gets a little more recognition, leading to better boarding zones when flying or better rooms when staying at a hotel.

And if you’re not making sure you get points for EVERY leg of your travel, you are missing out big time. Points and miles add up. It takes time. Be patient. But every lit bit counts. And there are always offers to get freebies or double or triple points for certain trips.

So go spend 30 minutes and register for the following:

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

British Airways



United Airlines




Marriott/SPG/Ritz Carlton

There are plenty of others around the world, and some left off intentionally that we don’t suggest using (Frontier, Southwest, Spirit). You have to start somewhere, so get going and make sure you’re on the list with all these big companies. When you finally fly one in three years, trust me when I say you’re likely to do better if they see the “member since 2018” instead of nothing. Granted, airlines generally treat all humans like cattle (or worse). But that’s why you have to fight for every little bit of recognition.