Senior reporter Katherine Fan: My favorite stories of 2019
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This is a milestone week for my relationship with The Points Guy. Four years ago this January, TPG published my first contributor article about 10 unique, delicious foods to try in Taiwan. Two years after that, I became a full time writer on TPG’s editorial team.
Along the way, I’ve logged more than 90 flights each year since 2017 between work and personal travel, averaging between 150,000 to 200,000 miles and approximately 100 nights on the road in both 2018 and 2019.
It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve enjoyed all the adventure that’s come my way.
As TPG’s Senior Travel Features Reporter, my coverage has evolved with our brand. I’ve written about everything from aviation to flight deals, from credit cards to points and miles, from breaking news to full-length feature stories.
Here are my 2019 favorites, in no particular order.
These are the real heroes of 2019
Telling stories will always be the best part of my job.
This year, I got to share about Montgomery, a gay Jamaican man who spent more than 30 years waiting to begin his life in freedom. I wrote about four leaders who are pioneering LGBTQIA+ rights in the world of travel. And the first woman captain for American Airlines told me how she spent years breaking barriers so she could become who she was meant to be.
I also wrote about everyday heroes who made the world a better place. When south Texas experienced a severe flash flood, a young hotel employee named Satchel Smith singlehandedly kept 90 stranded guests safe and fed for more than 32 hours straight. After Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, a young bride kept her bachelorette party’s resort booking to help boost local tourism, but filled her group’s suitcases with donated supplies for affected communities.
Amidst all the premium cabins and aspirational travel stories, these are the people whose life stories make my career meaningful.
You may have seen this news on Travel + Leisure, CNN, the New York Times — but you heard it here first. I broke this story for The Points Guy, thanks to a tip from a friend: Japan Airlines debuted a new seat map, that allows travelers checking in to see where babies are seated on their flights. The Internet exploded with opinions, both positive and negative.
As for my personal take? I think this was a good development all around. People who love babies can sit near them to offer support for traveling parents, and people who don’t can sit as far away as possible. It’s a win-win in my book.
I fly Southwest a lot. Since this airline doesn’t assign seats, travelers are free to choose their own when they board, based on whatever seats are still open.
I have my favorite seats on the plane, and so do my coworkers. While certain criteria are subjective, other principles are not. Here’s all “insider knowledge” you’ll want to know before you board so you can find your own favorite seat — well before you walk down that jetway.
This year, I got up close and personal on TPG by sharing some of my travel and financial habits. I’ve invested in an independent travel insurance plan since 2018, which netted me a check totaling almost $1,300 to cover my unexpected travel expenses in Italy.
How did that happen? I left for a three-week trip to Italy in the summer of 2018. Thunderstorms in Chicago delayed my inbound flight, which meant I was rerouted onto another plane with just two hours to spare. As you might imagine, I eventually made it to Venice — but my checked luggage did not — for an additional five days.
Since I was attending a photography workshop, my suitcase was full of fancy dresses for the models, all of which I had to replace on the spot — during the height of peak tourist season. I also ended up having to pay out of pocket for additional basics such as extra socks, rain gear and alternative transportation.
Fortunately, my travel insurance plan provided the financial cushion all travelers hope they won’t need. While my Chase Sapphire Reserve would only have paid out a total of $500 for delayed baggage, my AIG Travel Guard plan reimbursed me a grand total of $1,296.55 in expenses for the five and a half days I spent without my belongings. That amount included replacement clothing, a second set of evening gowns, a replacement suitcase to carry everything back and forth over the Venetian cobblestones, a canceled Airbnb booking in Florence as well as my expensive water taxi.
This year, I signed up for a store-branded card — the Target REDCard — for the first time in over a decade, enticed by a $35 coupon and bonus savings on all Target purchases. Seven months in, I have no regrets.
I’m a relatively new Capital One customer, but I’ve been pretty happy with the brand thus far. I have a no-annual-fee Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which offered new award opportunities through various airline partners that were introduced toward the end of 2018. And just before the 2019 holidays, I invested my emergency fund into a high-yield savings account that will grow by more than $200 next month from my sign-up bonus.
Miles Away: Here’s how I stay safe when I travel solo
I took my first solo international flight when I was 16 years old, and it’s only gotten easier since. In this episode of TPG’s Miles Away podcast, I shared some of my best tips for staying safe on the road while still having fun.
Keep Austin weird: My best tips for visiting the capital city of Texas
I’ve got a lot of feelings about my hometown of the last 15 years. In 2019, I shared my best tips for seeing the best that Austin has to offer, and even reviewed the new Delta SkyClub for TPG.
New to the high seas? This guide tells you everything you need to know about booking your first cruise, including hacks for earning and burning points and miles.
Red rooms and free slippers: My travel reviews of 2019
In 2019, I had the privilege of reviewing several travel products for The Points Guy. The Virgin Hotel San Francisco is one of the prettiest hotels I’ve ever visited; Lufthansa’s new direct A330 flight between Austin and Frankfurt is convenient — and not much else; and Cathay Pacific’s A350 premium economy cabin offered a cushy seat although EVA Air’s competing product provided great amenities and a top-notch service experience.
Five years ago, I worked 12-hour days in a rat-infested office in Manhattan’s SoHo district, spending my evenings combing through job listings that would help me escape my cubicle. I took a leap of faith and applied for a job for which I felt wildly unqualified… and here I am.
I had my younger self in mind when I wrote this article, interviewing professionals from a wide range of career fields to find out how they balance employment and exploration. Stay tuned for our next installment coming soon: A compilation of careers in the creative industry that offer ample opportunity to travel.
Looking forward: 2020 and beyond
All told, 2019 was an exciting year for both TPG headlines as well as my personal life. I can’t wait to see what this new decade holds.
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