How I Roll: TPG Travel Analyst Zach Griff
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Welcome to a special COVID edition of How I Roll, an airport routine series with a focus on health and safety while traveling. Today, we’re asking TPG travel expert and Travel Analyst Zach Griff a shortlist of questions about how he travels during the pandemic, covering everything from how he preps for a trip to what he wears on the plane. Here’s what he had to say. Safe travels!
TPG: What is the last flight you caught?
ZG: I last flew from Los Angeles to New York in JetBlue’s Mint cabin.
TPG: Was the trip for business or pleasure?
ZG: This was a “fun” trip — spent a weekend in San Diego catching up with friends and reviewing the new iPhone 12.
TPG: With whom were you traveling? If you had a travel companion, what conversions did you have to align on safety precautions? Did you need to reassure them?
ZG: I was actually meeting with a buddy who works at a major airline. We flew separately but stayed at the same hotel. Both of us recently had negative COVID tests, so we felt comfortable hanging out together indoors. When we were outside our “bubble”, we both followed the same precautions as we do back home in New York — masks on, outdoor dining only, etc.
TPG: Did you plan this trip pre-pandemic, or were these new travel plans?
ZG: This was a new trip, planned when we both realized we had a free weekend.
TPG: What’s a trip you’re hoping to take in the future, that’s been put on hold?
ZG: I’ve been itching to try United’s island hopper service from Honolulu to Guam, with five stops on a bunch of islands in the Pacific. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take that aviation-themed adventure soon!
ZG: I always have my travel backpack mostly packed. This includes a spare laptop and iPhone charger, extra masks, some contacts and other toiletries. Sometimes, I make travel plans right at the last minute, so having my bag pre-packed minimizes the risk of me forgetting something.
TPG: Are you getting a COVID test? If so, what kind?
ZG: Yes! In my opinion, this is one of the most important steps in the pandemic-era travel experience. I get tested before and after each trip. Fortunately, getting a reliable, fast and free PCR nasal swab is quite easy in NYC.
TPG: What items are you packing to protect yourself from coronavirus?
ZG: I keep a healthy supply of extra masks (both surgical and N95) and hand sanitizer anytime I’m on the road! And some extra snacks since I try to minimize how much time I take my mask off when flying, so I’ll eat my snacks before I get to the airport and after I land.
TPG: Is there anything you are leaving at home that you would normally take?
ZG: Nope! I’m a man of routine.
TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?
ZG: Some might laugh, but the most important thing I pack is an international power adapter. (True story: I once thought I was flying to Los Angeles before finding a great deal and changing my flight to China at the airport.) Nowadays, I’m not doing all that much international travel, but I’m still bringing my converter! Why? Because most U.S. airlines have power outlets, but they’re often loose and don’t hold a U.S. power adapter. So, instead, I used a U.K. or European adapter, and I find that it always fit without falling out.
TPG: What’s your go-to travel outfit, and has it changed at all during the pandemic?
ZG: Before the pandemic, you’d always find me wearing a t-shirt and jeans on most flights. (When flying in a premium cabin with pajamas on offer, I always change before departure.) Since COVID hit, I’ve switched from jeans to Lululemon pants — they’re more breathable, especially when I’m sitting with a mask on for the entire flight.
TPG: Are you getting to the airport early or with just enough time to spare?
ZG: Have you read my article about why I skip the airport lounge?
TPG: Has that changed at all?
ZG: Now that I’m flying with less frequency, I try to get to the airport a little bit earlier than before. I miss seeing planes and getting the “airport experience.” Also, there are many fewer flights these days, so if I cut it too short, I’d likely need to wait a while to be re-accommodated.
TPG: How do you normally prefer to kill any extra time at the airport?
ZG: If I get to the airport with extra time, I’m always looking for the windows with the best airport and tarmac views. And then uploading my best shots to my Instagram account (follow me!).
TPG: What is your airport food strategy?
ZG: These days, eat before arriving at the airport to keep my mask on during the entire end-to-end journey.
TPG: What differences have you noticed at the airport since the pandemic began?
ZG: Airports are actually getting a lot busier leading up to the holidays. However, many stores and restaurants are still shuttered, fewer security lines are open and lounges are still operating with limited hours and services.
TPG: What is your strategy for choosing your seat on the plane?
ZG: I have an article for that: Why I always choose the window seat!
TPG: Were you able to work or relax during the flight?
ZG: I aim to accomplish a bit of both. But for me, being in the air always has a work component.
TPG: Do you eat or drink on the plane? Has that changed in any way?
ZG: Unless I’m six feet from other passengers, I’m keeping my mask on and waiting to eat when I’m on the ground.
TPG: Have you noticed any changes in in-flight service?
ZG: Every airline has made adjustments to the inflight service. Some are more extensive than others, but the bottom line is: these days, don’t rely on the airlines to feed you.
TPG: Overall, did you still enjoy traveling during the pandemic?
ZG: I’ve now taken 12 flights since the pandemic started. I was nervous about my first one back in August, but with masks and HEPA filters, I’m feeling quite confident about the return to travel.
TPG: How much traveling have you done since the pandemic began?
ZG: 12 flights:
JFK – LAX JetBlue Mint
JFK – LAX American Flagship First
LAX – JFK JetBlue Mint
SFO – EWR United Polaris
EWR – DEN United first
DEN – PHX Frontier
PHX – SLC – JFK – FLL Delta!
MIA – EWR United first
JFK – DXB and DXB – JFK Emirates’ “game-changer” first-class
Are you Team Ask or Not Ask when it comes to fellow travelers who aren’t wearing a mask? Team Ask.
Latex gloves — yay or nay? Nay.
Favorite hand sanitizer brand? The free ones that Clear hands out.
Favorite mask brand? I’m a fan of the basic disposable surgical ones — one a day keeps the doctor away.
Favorite pandemic travel gear innovation? A mask?
Feature image by Zach Griff/TPG.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees