Ricketts Road Trip

This evening, I’m literally riding west into the sunset.

Well, I probably shouldn’t have said “riding” since it really is more like “driving.” I guess we’ve mostly left the world of horse transportation, huh?

Ricketts road trip route from Chicago to Seattle

I’m beginning the first leg of a 2,400-mile road trip across most of the country from Chicago to Seattle. My new life in the Pacific Northwest is due to a job at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), one of my favorite companies. And I’m pumped.

For the first few days, I’ll be making the journey by myself. Even though I had the opportunity to fly instead, I decided that I need the catharsis of a six-day trip. I need the time to slowly close the book on my eight-year stay in southwest Michigan and my four-year stay in northern Indiana. I need to feel as if Seattle is far away—otherwise, a flight just feels like cheating, almost as if I suddenly appeared in my new life with no arduous journey.

After a few days by myself, I’ll be picking up my brother, Kyle, from the Minneapolis airport. From there, we’ll trek across South Dakota to the Badlands, then on to Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and the mountains of Montana.

You can follow along on our journey with the hashtag #RickettsRoadTrip on Twitter or Instagram. I’ll probably rock a few other social experiments along the way, too. (Periscope anyone?)

I’m looking for music ideas to play in each state. If you have any songs or artists that make sense for a portion of the journey, please hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

How to Meet New People with IFTTT

Eagle Creek luggage at O’Hare Airport ORD

Have you ever wondered how to meet new people who are influential in your particular industry?

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may have noticed some weird airplane symbols. You may have even noticed some of our mutual friends doing the same thing.

What is that about, you ask? Good question. Let me explain.

A few years ago I heard a great talk by Wil Reynolds at SES New York in which he espoused the benefits of IFTTT (If This Then That), an automated service that ties the Internet together using “recipes.” In order to meet new people of various industries, Wil would use IFTTT to trigger an email whenever someone Tweeted or posted their arrival in Philadelphia using the name or airport code of PHL. That way he could see if someone influential was close, and then he’d reach out with an invitation for a drink. Smart.

During flights to other cities or countries, I started marking up my Tweets and posts with the airplane emoji (✈️) and airport codes (e.g., MDW). And oddly, it kinda worked! Even though scant few of my friends were using IFTTT with Wil’s recipe, I began receiving text messages from folks in each destination city.

It would be awesome if everyone had similar nomenclature for travel. That way we could meet up in cities all over the place.

Here’s how you can get started:

  1. When traveling, post to Twitter or Facebook with your originating and destination airport codes or city names. Separate them with a travel emoji such as the airplane (✈️), train, bus, or automobile.
  2. When at home, create an IFTTT recipe to track influential people against airport codes and cities in your area. When they post on Twitter or Facebook, the recipe should automatically email you so you can arrange a a meet-up.

Pro tip: you can access a Mac emoji picker with the key combination control+command+space.

I’d love to meet up with you, too. Feel free to track my travels on Twitter or Facebook.

Calibrating Toward Travel

Pagoda at West Lake in Hangzhou

Some folks might say that I have wanderlust. Who knows, maybe that’s true.

Colin Wright recently wrote the following about prioritizing travel in your life:

Calibrating toward travel is really about recalibrating away from things that are less important to you. It’s about prioritizing the freedom of movement and exploration, rather than spending all of your time, money, and other resources on the perceived security of possessions and locked doors.

Well said. I think this is very true for me both as an aspiring minimalist and destination aficionado.

Airline Alliances for Beginners

Southwest Airlines plane interior

This year I gave the gift of new memories to both my parents. Each one was given the choice of one destination out of five. I’m really excited to be traveling to China with my dad in May, and I’ve been heavily researching airline alliances and airline rewards programs so we both can maximize our flight miles for future trips.

I guess I feel altruistic today, so here’s what I’ve learned about airline alliances.

Full disclosure: I found this blog post on “rookie travel tripsextremely helpful in coming up with this summary.

Why Alliances?

The three main airline alliances, including oneworld Alliance, SkyTeam Alliance, and Star Alliance, now account for almost two-thirds of the total world airline capacity and more than 80 percent of air travel spend between the world’s top 100 business cities. (Source: oneworld fact sheet)

Most people want to travel internationally to different markets, but local laws and ordinances make it almost impossible for a single airline to operate under all those pressures. Alliances enable like-minded airlines to work together for the benefit of passengers.

I’ve included a summary of each airline alliance below, along with member airlines.

oneworld Alliance

Member airlines: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.
Soon to join: SriLankan Airlines, TAM Airlines, and US Airways

Countries: 151
Lounges Available: 603
Destinations: 883

SkyTeam Alliance

Member airlines: Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
Soon to join: Garuda Indonesia.

Countries: 178
Lounges Available: 530
Destinations: 1,024

Star Alliance

Member airlines: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines (moving to oneworld Alliance in 2014), TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways (moving to oneworld Alliance in March 2014).

Countries: 195
Lounges Available: 1,000+
Destinations: 1,328

Tips and Tricks for Airline Alliances

From what I’ve researched, there are a number of great ways to take advantage of airline alliance benefits.

  • You don’t have to join the alliance rewards programs to take advantage of their benefits.
  • Join one major airline reward program per alliance. Even though in most cases you can’t transfer points or miles between airlines reward programs, you can still book flights from a single airline across the whole alliance. For example, if you book a flight on Air Canada, you can use a rewards program from any other airline in the Star Alliance. Most travel experts recommend joining American Airlines AAdvantage for the oneworld Alliance, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles for the SkyTeam Alliance, and United MileagePlus for the Star Alliance.
  • If you achieve status in one airline, it will carry over to most other airlines in the alliance.

Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ if you have any airline alliance tips or tricks of your own!