Finding the best seats in the house, and the lowdown on packing, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield has the know-how, as he traverses another week in travel
The new generation of slim aircraft seats save weight and I find them firm and comfortable. But here’s a tip for those in economy in the Qatar Airways A380-800 that flies between Perth and Doha. When the seat in front is fully reclined, you can’t put your tray table up or down. If it’s down when the passenger in front fully reclines, that’s where it stays, making it awkward to get out, if you have to. If it’s up, you won’t be able to use it. Make your decision before they crash back into your lap.
And here’s another tip. Economy passengers, be aware that there is a small upstairs zone. The seat numbers are up to the 30s. I like it as it’s more intimate but the main cabin feels more spacious and taller.
Be aware that if you are upstairs, you will be last off, as you have to come down stairs and through the big main economy cabin. But it’s only a few minutes, really.
BASK IN A MASK
‘Who was that masked man?” I’m sitting in my Qatar Airways seat, in economy, and I’ve actually slept. Unbelievable. The plane left pretty much on time at 11pm. I had a tasty supper of spinach and ravioli, put my seat into its reclined position (thankfully I have a seat with no one behind), adjusted the two inflatable pillows I always carry, and relax, meditate and then sleep ... all in my mask. Yeah, the pandemic is over, and I’m not neurotic but there’s a horrible “three-week cold” going round Perth, and I don’t want that. Or anything else. Sitting in a tube with hundreds of other people coughing and sneezing (I can hear them), I feel comfortable still wearing a mask. But I look around this big cabin and I’m the only one. “Who is that masked man?”
Tip: There’s full-flight wi-fi for $US10, and you can switch between devices once you’ve bought it.
I’m away for a couple of weeks, sailing from Norway to the Faroe Islands and on to Iceland, in the company of readers. This is the great Viking route across the top of the North Sea, so it’s appropriate that I, and my 29 companions on this Travel Club Tour, are doing it on a Viking cruises ship. It’s a good tip to travel with a company on their “home turf”, or, in this case, home waters ... where they started and what they know best. A place where they have a duty to uphold heritage.
Tip: Look for travel companies’ heritage routes.
YOUR BALANCED DIET
In the few days before I travel, I have that week’s editions on the go (in this instance, 52 pages of travel across the weekend), but I also leave the next two weeks (another 100 or so pages) and prepare the week’s for when I get back, because those editions have to be in production before I return. Another 50-something pages, at least. So I’ve got 200 pages in my head, plus eTravel, The Pod Well Travelled and all the other things that we do. Then there’s the prep for the trip itself — apps, documents, camera batteries charged, a spare for every cable and clothes and all that other stuff (it’s summer but it could be cool at sea, and there might rain).
A CASE OF CASEY
And all that is my excuse for being slightly dazed and not reacting late in the evening at Perth Airport when someone shouts: “What’s your suitcase’s name? What’s your suitcase’s name?” The chap calling out, who has recognised my black hat, if not the wearer, is clearly a fan of Casey, my faithful suitcase. “I only read you and Justin Langer,” John tells me. He’s with mates, on the way to surf in Indonesia. “I’m the worst surfer in the group but I have the most fun.” John looks down at my carry-on and says again: “What’s the name of your suitcase?” As soon as I remind him, “Casey”, he smiles: “Of course”. I tell him Casey’s here, downstairs, on a conveyor belt somewhere. And he’s happy, for once. This is just his sort of gig: Oslo, Reykjavik, decent hotels, and Viking Jupiter in between.
SEAT OF POWER
Just back on the seating in the plane. I have skilled travel agent Kate McIvor to thank for getting me what I think might be the best seat in the full economy section of this plane. Kate is managing director of Global Travel Network and a personal travel manager. She’s one of the contemporary breed of “work from home” travel agents, and she has more than 20 others in her network. They have looked after all the arrangements for this West Travel Club trip, with travellers assigned an agent to look after just them. Kate has looked after me and I do remember her saying “I’ve selected seats for you”. I truly never thought another thing about it until the machine at Perth Airport spat out my boarding passes. There’s a lot to be said for a travel agent who really knows what they’re doing.
PAY AND YOU GO
I like this new world of making appointments with travel agents and paying them for their services. It’s just like your tax return — you can do it yourself and hope you’ve got the best out of it, or pay a tax agent, who possibly will get more out of it. I want an experienced, accurate and clever agent (both tax and travel) and I’d prefer to pay for independent advice, rather than rely on someone getting commission with their advice perhaps being persuaded by that.
Apart from preparing and leaving all the stories you (hopefully) will read over the next couple of weeks, I’ve also been focused on the Festival of Travel, which is on Saturday, August 19, at the University Club of Western Australia, in Crawley. It’s a big project for us, as we take the mix of what we do here live , and add in dozens of presenters and exhibitors from across the travel industry. (Yes, Kate McIvor will be there. And yes, Viking cruises will be there)
CASEY’S COMING TOO
Incidentally, I’m sure the festival is on Casey’s mind too, as he has a big part to play. Although he’s a shrinking violet (NOT), he will be dragged along, and opened, with his innards and private places on display for all to see. After a working lifetime of travelling and writing, and 21 years as travel editor of The West Australian, I’ve learnt a fair bit about packing, and will be sharing that ... with Casey’s help, of course. He’s sure to be a star of the show.
BETWEEN ME & YOU
Between me and you, my key commitment to the festival is that anyone who pays their $20 and comes along gets good value for their money. I’d never dud you. And so, the Travel team will present more than 20 short sessions, from packing to photography to travel essentials and even choosing cars to tour in WA.
Apart from the core Travel team of Mogens Johansen, Penny Thomas and Leyanne Baillie, travel and motoring writer Olga de Moeller will be there, as will Will Yeoman (who recently left us to become CEO of Writing WA).
Michael Ferrante, also fresh back from the Norwegian coast, will be there for all things cruising.
Grady Brand will be there to talk about wildflowers and the WA landscape in general. We’ve travelled WA (and a fair bit of the world) together.
Travelling writer Patrick Cornish is coming too. Patrick was my first friend when I arrived in Australia in 1985. Friendships mean a lot.
AND THERE’S MORE ...
In addition to all our writers will contribute, we also have five First Class partners who are experienced friends from the travel industry each with rooms where there will be informative and entertaining sessions.
And Tina Altieri will be running the auditorium, with its full audio visual presentations.
And, of course, our many exhibitors will have booths and deals.
All that is included in the $20.
I’d never dud you.
HOW TO BE THERE
Visit westtravelclub.com.au/events (it’s filling and we have capacity limits).
PS Being away writing is the best thing I know, after being home with my family. A fortunate life.