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Senior reporter Katherine Fan: My favorite stories of 2019

Jan. 20, 2020
10 min read
Katherine Fan South Africa
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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

Pride Profiles
Graphic by Austin Courrege for The Points Guy

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.

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Amidst all the premium cabins and aspirational travel stories, these are the people whose life stories make my career meaningful.

Here's where you'll find all the babies on your next flight

Comfortable babies make for happy babies. Cheaper lap-infant fees make for happy parents. Image courtesy of Marc Romanelli via Getty Images.
Image courtesy of Marc Romanelli via Getty Images.

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.

Everything you need to know about the best seats on Southwest

Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
Image courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

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.

My $200 travel insurance plan paid for almost $1,300 in Italy

Photo by Roger Ballard Photography.
Photo by Roger Ballard Photography.

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.

Here's why I applied for a Target debit REDcard this year

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21: The logo of Target Corporation "TGT" is seen on one of its branch at middle Manhattan on May 21, 2018 in New York, Target is expected to report first-quarter earnings per share of $1.38, up from $1.21 in the same quarter a year ago. Target Corporation is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States.(Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)
Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

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.

Related: Here's why my Chase Sapphire Reserve still makes sense for me

How a $200 bonus from Capital One redirected my 2020 financial strategy

Young woman shopping online in cafe with laptop. (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)
Young woman shopping online in cafe with laptop. (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

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

Photo by Katherine Fan / The Points Guy
Photo by Katherine Fan / The Points Guy

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.

How to book a cruise using points and miles

Luxury cruise ship Seabourn Sojourn sails on the Beagle Channel in Chile. (Photo via Getty Images)
Photo via Getty Images.

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.

11 jobs that actually let you travel — and where to find them

Image by Shutterstock.

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.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of Lauren Ashley Studios
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.