It turns out that Project Pacific Circle was the last tour of duty my old passport would see, as its expiration date later this year loomed on the calendar. When it came time to renew, I not only found out what I’d need to do to put another ten years on my international travel clock; I also learned a few fascinating facts about passports that everyone should know!
When you want to get somewhere in the northeast, hopping a train is always an option. In California, cheap flights are fairly plentiful. If you want to travel around Florida, though, your options are limited. Amtrak covers the east coast of the state just twice a day, and at relatively odd hours, leaving the west coast uncovered. Flights into American’s hub in Miami are easy enough, even from as close as Orlando, thanks to the need to reposition foreign visitors from their Miami arrival point to the Magic Kingdom. If you’re looking to go elsewhere in the state, though, the solution is almost always to drive.
Though Governor Rick Scott put the kibosh on a high speed rail project the federal government wanted to fund within the state, even this option would have connected only Miami, Orlando and Tampa, leaving the Tallahassee, Fort Myers and Jacksonville areas out in the cold.
Just about 2.5 hours’ drive from Orlando, Jacksonville is far enough from the center of the state that enough trips will leave you craving a better solution than burning a tank of gas following the tiresome route of I-95 to I-4, but close enough and too thinly traveled to seriously entertain the thought of connecting flights. Jacksonville to Tallahassee is even worse: just a little longer than Jacksonville to Orlando by a watch’s objective measure, the trip seems to take days with nothing but endless trees lining I-10 for most of the drive.
And so it is: Florida’s most populous city, the largest city by landmass in North America, is cut off from the rest of the state because driving’s just a bit too convenient to merit any substantial improvement. Into this environment comes RedCoach, a new, luxury bus service seeking to ease the pain of yawn-inducing jaunts throughout Florida.
Luxury bus service might sound like an oxymoron, but RedCoach makes a fair case: its “First Class” buses have just 27 seats, in a 2×1 configuration. These are wide, plush chairs with a tremendous level of recline and a leg-rest that pulls into position from the seat ahead. Standard power outlets can be found ever couple rows, and RedCoach offers free Wi-Fi on its flights…errr, drives.
RedCoach offers service throughout the state, finally offering a way to get from Jacksonville to Orlando without driving. As Orlando is RedCoach’s hub, you may continue on from there to a variety of other destinations.
In the Orlando area, that means a fleet of shuttles ready to whisk you to any of the major hotels at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, International Drive or Kissimmee, or even out to Port Canaveral’s cruise ships for a measly $5 up-charge.
I rode with RedCoach to Orlando and back for a 24 hour trip last week to see if riding the bus was really more convenient than simply driving myself and was surprised with what I found:
Reader Debra wants to travel from Florida to South Africa for a honeymoon. She’s never been out of the country and has only taken one vacation in recent memory. She’s a private school kindergarten teacher and wants to make this trip happen with her newlywed husband before life gets too complicated.
Though her 19,810 Delta SkyMiles and 8,557 Southwest Rapid Rewards points are better than nothing, trips to South Africa from North America require such a substantial outlay of points that we’re essentially starting from scratch. Today, we’ll take a look at which programs offer the best values to South Africa and how folks like Debra can most easily begin amassing the miles needed to cover such a trip.
Expanding Our Horizons
We might normally restrict our search to the most popular US frequent flyer programs in some cases. South Africa, however, is often an extraordinarily expensive destination from a miles and points perspective, rivaled only by jaunts to the South Pacific. As such, we’ve widened the scope of our search to include many more programs than usual, including most transfer partners available to the Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards programs.
Here’s a broad chart of possibilities in Economy and Business Class, sorted least-to-most by Economy Class: