I didn’t always travel like this (I am quite content just riding Greyhound), but for those of you who’ve asked what it’s like to hop about the globe on a private jet, I’m happy to report that as modes of transportation go, this one has several real advantages:
First Class for Less
For National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary Expedition, we flew to 10 different countries (England, Oman, Nepal, Bhutan, Palau, Laos, Maldives, Botswana, Rwanda, Spain) in just 24 days. Compared to the cost of round-trip business class flights to each respective destination, an all-inclusive private jet trip costs significantly less.
More Room, With a View
Our Boeing 757 is refitted with 80 large leather lounge seats, so that even 6’4” tall me had leg room to spare. Even better, our pilots indulged us all kinds of scenic flyover moments, be it soaring over the turquoise reefs of the Maldives to pointing out Mt. Everest poking through the clouds or circling Victoria Falls. As someone who loves maps, touring the world from above was outstanding.
Flying commercially to exotic locales usually involves flying into larger hubs and then connecting on a smaller flight or traveling overland. On this expedition (and others like it), our private jet simply lands at the closest airport. In Laos, istead of landing in Vientiane, we flew straight into Luang Prabang, arriving at our hotel some 10 minutes later. Last year in India, we landed directly in Agra (a private military airport), and just two days ago, we made it into the Botswana newspapers when we set the record for the largest passenger aircraft ever to land in Maun.
Though we still have to go in and out of security, it’s always expedited, with most of the logistics so fine-tuned, our luggage arrives directly to our hotel rooms without ever having to deal with customs or paperwork. Perhaps the most luxurious extra is that every entry/exit form has been completed in advance—this is the easiest way to travel to the world’s farthest places.
Did I mention the food? 3 weeks on board our private jet has ruined me from ever actually enjoying a commercial in-flight meal again. Instead of some mushy beige tasteless tinfoil what not, our private chef Martin dished up delicate gnocchi, braised lamb shanks, tenderloin, great vegetarian dishes, fresh salads, superb desserts and a cheese cart that would shame most restaurants. (Also, every meal is personally catered to preferences/allergies.) Overall, the food and drinks were flawless, the service impeccable.
University in the Sky
Traveling with National Geographic is an expedition (not just a vacation), so our private jet is set up for maximal learning. Every seat comes w/ a pre-programmed iPad that’s loaded with digital with maps, films, presentations and in-depth information about each of our destinations. Our time in the air is filled with fantastic lectures—in the last 3 weeks, I’ve listened to National Geographic experts expound on their own passionate subjects, be it Human Origins, Ancient Trade Routes, Birds of Paradise, Buddhism, Sharks, Haitian Zombies, or Photography. Truly, this expedition is like traveling through the pages of National Geographic, with the writers and photographers literally sitting right next to you on the plane.