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If you are a regular reader of mileage-oriented blogs and frequent flyer websites, sooner or later you pick up all manners of advice about how to maximize your travel experience. Some of these tips pertain to what to go see at your destination, where to eat, or how to maximize your visit. Others are more about the travel consumables. How to experience the benefits available at the airport before your flight. What to do in flight to take advantage of every possible amenity. Where to maximize your hotel status to gain suite upgrades and lounge access.
That advice can be good. I’m all about knowing that hidden special order food options are available in an elite lounge. I like knowing that an airline will make my bed up and let me go straight to sleep. And how to pre-reserve my dinner entrée to eat later in the flight. I’ve been known to use a hotel lounge happy hour spread as a substitute for a light dinner when I’m jetlagged. Or to hop into an airline lounge for a quick shower so that I can board my flight clean and refreshed. But I personally draw the line to not allow time in airline or hotel lounges to keep me away from the real reasons that I travel – spending time in the cities I visit and enjoying local food.
But there always seems to be a stream of internet criticism about travel choices. Others have different ideals about maximizing the travel experience. Those are often derived from too much time studying the experiences of others on blogs or social media.
As an example, I don’t particularly like the “cooked to order” dan dan noodles that Cathay Pacific serves at the noodle bars in some of their airport lounges. I don’t find them to be particularly authentic. I would rather use the calories for something else. But mention a visit to a Cathay lounge in travel circles and someone will insist that you need to have dan dan noodles. Likewise, they seem to be an obligatory mention in any blogger’s lounge review. Skip them and your experience is somehow incomplete. (See also: “beef curry” in the Japan Airlines NRT first class lounge.)
I’m guilty of missing many hotel lounge breakfasts and cocktail hours. They just don’t align with my travel plans to catch up on sleep or to be out visiting with friends. I’ll admit that planning around the lounge hours is not high on my priority list. My flight experience is not diminished because I didn’t order the most popular dish. I may only get to the airport an hour before my flight. Therefore I will skip the airline lounge (or use the less desirable location closest to my gate). But my trip is not ruined. I might pick a hotel without the best lounge benefits. It just means I’m closer to where I need to be.
And for me, its okay to skip the dan dan noodles. I’ll just fill up on the Krug and caviar instead. But I won’t judge you if you choose differently.