A Decade in Travel: 2010–2019

I started my travel-heavy position at my job in 2009, so the 2010s were the first decade where I really frequently traveled throughout the decade.

Since then, I started tracking my flights in a spreadsheet, then eventually wrote an entire flight logging database website. I learned how to extract history from GPS navigation devices and started logging my driving. I also started tracking hotel stays and a myriad of other travel activities as well.

As a result, I have quite a lot of data built up on my travels over the last decade. For the past seven years, I’ve put together annual end-of-year travel summaries. With the turning of the decade, it seemed to be a good time to make myself a decade travel summary. While there’s a small overlap between the decade and annual summaries, I’ve generally tried to focus the decade summary more on areas that make more sense on a 10-year scale, so even readers of my previous summaries should see some new statistics!

In the Air

From 2010 through 2019, I flew on 824 flights, with a total distance of 555 874 miles (894 590 km).

Flight maps generated by Paul Bogard using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

My first international trip of the decade was a business trip to Germany in February 2010, and I finished my international travel with a Nordic vacation in August 2019. In between, I picked another multi-country Europe trip, as well as travel to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Within the U.S., I’ve now been to every major hub airport, and a lot of minor airports as well.

I somehow managed to visit four German airports (Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremburg, and Berlin) while visiting no more than one airport in any other European country.

Grid showing all new airports visited between 2010-2019, and highlighting the airports first visited each year. Visited 2010-2019: DAY CVG SFO ATL IND SEA ORD CLE JFK LGA STL DFW CLT CHM FRA SAV MCO. First visit 2010: SLC LAS PHX IAD BWI ABI. First visit 2011: AVP TOL DCA. First visit 2012: LAX HNL CHS OKC PHL EWR MSP RAP. First visit 2013: AUS BOS DTW DEN GRK ITO PDX TUL IAH MHT MDW. First visit 2014: ICT TUS FLG LAW SAN SJU. First visit 2015: LIT YVR YYZ SPS COS BNA. First visit 2016: AMA SAT MUC NUE TXL LHR CDG KEF ONT PWM DSM BUR RDU. First visit 2017: OAJ VPS BFL TPA PIA. First visit 2018: SYD PER MEL CHC DUD AKL LBB PVD. First visit 2019: NRT FLL FAY PIT BHM MCI HEL ARN MIA ILM.

I visited 93 airports this decade, 76 for the first time.

Chart with years 2010–2019 on the x-axis and Flights on the y-axis, showing number of flights each year for airlines with at least 20 flights.

When I’m flying for work, contracts with airlines for particular routes drive which airlines I can fly, which means my most-flown airlines change year to year. I started out the decade flying mostly American, ended up primarily United in the middle of the decade, then went back to American by the end.

Chart with years 2010–2019 on the x-axis and Flights on the y-axis, showing number of flights each year for aircraft families with at least 20 flights.

With Dayton as my primary airport, I fly on a lot of regional jets. At the start of the decade, the 50-seat ERJ-145 dominated my flights. By the end of the decade, I was mostly flying the larger 70–90 seat E-170/175/190 and CRJ-700/900 jets.

Node-edge graph showing the routes between airports

My most traveled routes were by far Dayton to Dallas/Fort Worth or Chicago O’Hare. Dayton requires a layover for most of my trips, and most of my flights were on American or United this decade. DFW is American’s largest hub, and ORD is a large hub for both airlines.

Map of flights within single states
Directed graph of intrastate flights

Not counting my two flights that returned to the same airport, I had 42 flights (18 unique routes) between pairs of airports within in a single U.S. state.

On the Ground

I drove approximately 207 331 miles (333 667 km) this decade.

Personal Vehicles154 363 mi248 423 km
Rental Vehicles52 968 mi85 243 km
Total207 331 mi333 667 km
Chart of hotel nights by year. 2019 shows 24765 total miles (15418 personal cars, 9347 rental cars)

2016 far exceeded all my other years for driving, mostly because of my summer project to visit every one of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Map showing 2010-2019 driving routes in the United States and Canada

My driving in the U.S. has generally connected into two large clusters, with a bunch of smaller areas. The largest cluster is based in my home state of Ohio, and it largely extends to places I’ve driven to from home, although that started to overlap a few places I’ve flown to (particularly in the Carolinas). I also have a Texas-Oklahoma cluster, since I started the decade frequently traveling to Dallas and Abilene TX, and ended the decade with a lot of trips to Tulsa and Altus OK.

Map showing 2010-2019 driving routes in Germany and Iceland

Within Europe, though I’ve been to other countries, I’ve only driven in Germany and Iceland.

Map showing 2010-2019 driving routes in Australia and New Zealand

Likewise, I’ve visited other cities in Australia and New Zealand, but Perth and Dunedin were the only areas I drove in. Perth was my first experience driving on the left side of the road – I lived in the UK for three years as a child, but I was not old enough to drive.

Geography

Heatmap of the US and the world, showing overnight stays (excluding home) from 2010 to 2019. The ten hottest areas are Tulsa OK, Orlando FL, Altus OK, Seattle WA, Washington DC, St. Louis MO, Charleston SC, Abilene TX, Wichita KS, and Chicago IL.

I visited a good portion of the United States and some of the world, but quite a bit of my travel was focused in Oklahoma and northern Texas.

My top 10 metro areas (excluding home) by number of nights I’ve stayed there this past decade are as follows:

RankMetropolitan AreaTotal Nights Visited
#1Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.97
#2Orlando, Florida, U.S.96
#3Altus, Oklahoma, U.S.71
#4Seattle, Washington, U.S.60
#5Washington, D.C., U.S.55
#6St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.50
#7Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.41
#8Abilene, Texas, U.S.40
Wichita, Kansas, U.S.40
#10Chicago, Illinois, U.S.36

For each year, my most visited metro area (by number of nights stayed):

YearMost Visited Metropolitan Area
2010Washington, D.C., U.S.
2011Washington, D.C., U.S.
2012Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
2013
(tie)
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
2014Orlando, Florida, U.S.
2015Orlando, Florida, U.S.
2016Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
2017Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
2018Altus, Oklahoma, U.S.
2019Wichita, Kansas, U.S.
World map showing visited countries. First visit in 2010s: Austria, Iceland, France, Australia New Zealand, Japan, Sweden. Visited in 2010s: United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada. Home: United States.

I visited 11 countries this past decade, 7 for the first time. (I also had a layover in Finland this year, but since I did not leave the airport, it’s not counted as a visited country on this map.) Every country in the world that I have ever visited, I also visited at some point this decade.

Trivia

My favorite airport restaurant (and the one I’ve eaten at the most) is Tortas Frontera, with three locations at Chicago O’Hare.

Chart of unexpected overnight stays, with six in 2014 and one in 2018

I’ve generally been pretty lucky with avoiding major travel disruptions, but 2014 was not my lucky year – I got stuck overnight six times due to weather or other flight delays and cancellations. Three times were in Chicago, one was in Baltimore, one was in Orlando, and one was in Charlotte.

I also got stuck overnight once in 2018, due to a series of weather and mechanical delays that caused me to miss my connection at DFW.

In 2015, I had a flight from Wichita Falls to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas which was cancelled, but the flight was a short enough distance that the airline had a taxi company transport us on a fleet of 10-passenger vans. I even received a boarding pass for that “flight.”

Airport #61/100: Amarillo (AMA)

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Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport · Amarillo, Texas, United States
First Visit: 24 January 2016 · http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/AMA

I often have to travel to Altus, Oklahoma for work – and Altus is a city small enough that it doesn’t have its own commercial airport.

The closest commercial airport is Lawton, Oklahoma, about an hour’s drive away, but Lawton’s a tiny airport; there are no jetbridges, and it’s only served by a few flights a day on American Airlines to DFW. Wichita Falls, Texas and Oklahoma City are also viable options, as is just flying into DFW and driving for three and a half hours.

Basically, there are no great ways to get to Altus, so for my most recent trip, I decided to at least try a different way and fly into Amarillo, as the price wasn’t substantially different from any of the other options.

Amarillo was pretty decent for a small airport; the terminal felt modern, and it had glass jetbridges and airplane-themed carpet, both of which I like.

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On the negative side, it didn’t have a true TSA PreCheck lane; having PreCheck entitled me to a plastic card enabling me to keep my shoes on and to go through the metal detector rather than the body scanner, but I still had to take my laptop and liquids out of my bag. Signage also was not great for the rental car return; I missed it the first time and had to circle the airport before I found the entrance to the rental car lot, which still had no signs that I could see.

It’s still a bit of a drive from Amarillo to Altus (about two and a half hours, depending on route), but I’d consider using it as my Altus airport again.

Airport #55/100: Little Rock (LIT)

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Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport · Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
First Visit: 21 June 2015 · http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/LIT


Arriving on a Sunday, I didn’t find Little Rock remarkably different from any other airport of a similar size; a dozen gates with a few small shops and restaurants. The signage could have been a little better – several passengers passed the less-than-obvious, unmarked door to pick up gate checked baggage, and the rental car signs pointed to unmanned counters when the employees were all just operating out of the garage booths directly. Still, it was an airport that it wouldn’t be terrible to be stuck at for a few hours.

I found that out the hard way.

I was originally supposed to travel home on a Friday evening after a full day of work, so my coworker and I had booked a flight departing at about 18:30 local to a 45-minute layover at DFW, and then on to Dayton from there. We’d finished early on Friday, however, so after a late lunch we were done for the day and with nothing better to do, we headed to the airport about four hours early to see if we could get rebooked to an earlier flight.

That didn’t turn out to be possible (our fare didn’t allow same-day same-cost flight changes, and the cost difference wouldn’t have been justifiable), so we each headed our own way to burn a few hours before our flight. Looking to pick up some steps on my Fitbit, I walked around the terminal for a while before passing through security and walking a few laps around the single concourse, before finally settling down to take advantage of the spectacular free wi-fi.

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Then, at about 17:00, I got an alert that my flight was delayed an hour and a half to 20:00, due to incoming aircraft availability. My second flight was still showing as on time, and I would almost certainly miss my connection, so I talked to a gate agent to try to find another way to get home that night. Nothing was available, though, so the best I could do was take my chances with my original flight and hope the flight to Dayton ended up being delayed as well – if not, I’d be spending the night in the Dallas area.

So, watching American Airlines’ app and FlightAware, I finally saw that my incoming flight was at DFW and ready to come to Little Rock to pick me up – right as the weather that had been hovering west of us came right at us.

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The storm, heading right for us

It was a bad storm. The concourse windows were shaking violently, and I got to experience my first (thankfully brief) power outage at an airport.

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And, just as the storm started to clear, another big thunderstorm hit DFW. A little bit after 20:00, I finally and unsurprisingly got the notice that my flight had been cancelled. I quickly booked a room in Little Rock, called American Airlines to get rebooked on flights the next morning, and finally left the airport to catch a cab to my hotel.

The next morning I headed back into the airport, and was able to depart without much trouble.

Because of all of that fun, Little Rock may now be the airport with my highest average time spent per visit – 9 hours at the airport, with two flights recorded in the flight log.

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Downtown Little Rock as seen from the airport concourse

My Airport History: Orlando (MCO)

2014-06-16 21.36.23Flight Log: http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/MCO

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with MCO.

Orlando has made its way into my top five most visited airports, and it’s the only one to have done so entirely as a destination. (DFW has a lot of destination visits for me, but it has many more visits as a layover.) In other words, I go to Orlando quite often – I work doing acquisition of flight simulators, and Orlando is a large modeling and simulation hub.

In theory, I should really like MCO.

  • It’s a large airport with plenty of room to go for a walk if I get there early
  • Given its size, it’s laid out relatively well. If you know where you’re going, you can get there with relatively minimal walking.
  • The main terminal has many interesting design elements – the ziggurat-like exterior, its rooftop parking, the Hyatt integrated into the eastern atrium.
  • It has enough variety of restaurants that it’s not terrible to eat there.
  • Many, many airlines serve it, so it’s great for planespotting.

But with all that, if I were asked to name my least favorite airport, Orlando would be a strong contender, purely due to the lines and the atmosphere.

Orlando is, of course, a world-class tourist destination; when I’m traveling there for work, I often feel a bit like a fish out of water. The airport is not targeted at me; it has all of the noisy excitement of a theme park, but if I’m traveling for yet another central Florida office visit, it’s difficult to get caught up in the vacation enthusiasm. What’s left is an airport that’s hard to do work in and has huge lines everywhere – rental car counters, check-in, security, you name it.

Orlando Survival Guide

It is at least possible to mitigate a lot of the problems I have with the airport; here are a few of my tips.

  • Buy TSA PreCheck. Security is often packed, so being able to use a much smaller security line is a huge benefit. I paid for PreCheck entirely because of this airport. Not having to take off shoes or take things out of your bags is a bonus.
  • Never check a bag. This is my preference everywhere, but it’s especially important in Orlando. The couple times I have had to check a bag (no overhead bin space for my carry-on, or traveling with someone who checked bags), the baggage claim took over half an hour; likewise, check-in lines can take quite a while. It’s a much better experience if you can go straight from your plane to the rental car counter, and straight from the rental car return to security.
  • Print out or download your boarding pass beforehand. Not having a bag to check in doesn’t do any good if you still have to go through the check-in line to get a boarding pass. It’s best to skip the check-in line altogether, so have a boarding pass with you when you arrive.
  • Sign up for your rental car’s loyalty program if it’s free. Many US car rental agencies offer a line specifically for members of their loyalty program, and joining is usually free. This can save a lot of time even at smaller airports, but it’s especially important at the rental car megalopolis of Orlando.
  • Program your navigation system before you head to your rental car. If you have an in-terminal rental car, your car will be located on one of the lower floors of a large concrete parking structure; if you brought your own GPS system with you, it’s not likely to get a signal in the garage, and once you leave the garage, there’s really nowhere to pull over safely to put in a destination until you’re well away from the airport – and since you can effectively leave the airport in all four cardinal directions, you want to be sure you’re going the right way. (Orlando’s littered with tollways, too, so navigation mistakes can be expensive, especially in a rental car!)
  • Eat before going through security, or at least be sure to check the map to know what’s in your concourse. There are many more options for dining pre-security (be sure to find the food court in the middle of the main terminal) than post-security, so just know what you’re getting into if you’re hoping to eat at the airport.
  • Bring earplugs or headphones. It’s often quite loud. You’ll probably notice this even on your flight to Orlando – in my experience, there’s more conversation and excitement going on in flights with Orlando as a destination than any other destination I’ve been to (Honolulu is a close second).
  • Relax.

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