I just returned from speaking at the Philadelphia Travel & Adventure Show. I quickly realized that flying non-stop to Philadelphia from Los Angeles isn’t cheap. I kept monitoring the fares and came to the conclusion that American Airlines basically has a monopoly on Philly’s airport (PHL). Can you believe my economy class flights cost $695 roundtrip? I could’ve cut the price almost in half by making a stop, but since I wasn’t paying, I wasn’t interested.
The good news is that I got upgraded for free both ways (I’m Executive Platinum, which means I fly 100,000+ American Airlines miles in a calendar year). The bad news is that some of the flights were on the crappy US Airways planes that don’t have entertainment systems or power ports. Luckily, I did my research and remembered to bring a power bank so I could work on my laptop the whole flight back to pass time and get some work done. Fortunately, all the flights seem to have Gogo Wi-Fi (it worked well). If you don’t have a monthly pass like me, I suggest you buy your Wi-Fi in advance at gogoair.com.
On the flight to PHL, I had a weird choice of lunches: either salmon or a quinoa salad. By the time the flight attendant got to me (I was in the first row), they only had the salmon left and I’m not a salmon guy. So I asked if I could have a sandwich from coach. I ended up eating a pretty tasty Thai ginger wrap. Note: In both directions I declined the ice cream sundae, which is a first for me and probably related to why I lost 10 pounds over the last six months. I slowed my travels down to spend more time with my son Jack.
FYI: I forgot to preorder my meal choices in advance, which reminded me of a tip I need to run for those flying American Airlines (AA) in First Class: Flight attendants take orders on odd-number flight numbers from back to front, and front to back on even-number flights. That’s good to know—so you don’t end up with the salmon!
On the way back from Philly, the choice was either chicken or pasta.
PHL to downtown Philadelphia
We landed early on both flights. It was my first time in Philadelphia in about two years. I usually know my way around airports, but I felt like a fish out of water in PHL. It was a long walk to ground transportation from my gate and since I was taking uberX (here are my 10 Uber tips to help you have a smoother experience) I followed the signs to “Private Cars” (in the middle island at pickup C). My driver was there in about seven minutes, even as the app kept saying she was only two minutes away.
PHL is 12 miles from the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott, which is in the heart of the city. It cost $20 and took 18 minutes (no traffic).
Philadelphia Downtown Marriott
I stayed at the 1,408-room Philadelphia Downtown Marriott. The hotel is across from the convention center (they have a connecting bridge so you don’t need to go outside) and—like most Marriotts—it caters to business travelers.
It’s an old hotel and pretty depressing from the outside and parts of the inside. The elevators are super slow when the hotel is busy and the club lounge on the 23rd floor is just okay. What I liked about the hotel is that it had just a thin blanket wrapped in sheets instead of a heavy duvet. I didn’t like the bulky soft pillows, but I did appreciate the flat-screen TV with a slew of cable channels and plenty of electrical outlets.
Regular Wi-Fi is free if you’re a member of their rewards program; otherwise, it’s $12.95 a day. For premium Wi-Fi it’s $16.95 or free for Marriott Elites. So you don’t forget to tip the housekeeper (I always do in the U.S.), they leave an envelope with the housekeeper’s name on it.
Reading Terminal Market
A fellow travel blogger, @philatravelgirl, sent me a tweet suggesting I visit the Reading Terminal Market. It turned out to be across the street from my hotel so I visited. She was right. The place is fantastic and reminded me of the Great Market Hall in Budapest (but not as nice). However, they have all kinds of great places to eat and buy treats or groceries.
When I saw a huge line for donuts, I jumped in it since a long line filled with locals always means something good. Turns out that Beiler’s Donuts (Reading Terminal Market, 51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107) opened over 30 years ago and employs Amish girls to make its soft and gooey donuts. I bought a dozen ($11.99) to bring to a meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, and everyone went nuts for them. Here are the flavors.
Cuba Libre restaurant
Another food highlight was when I went to dinner with my buddy Dan Lantz (we traveled around the world together on my Travel channel show and he has a new movie out called Bloodrunners with Ice-T). When I stepped inside Cuba Libre I seriously was transported to Cuba. The décor is amazing and is worth a visit just to see. Turns out they have restaurants in other cities as well (D.C., Orlando and Atlantic City).
After my talk at the Travel & Adventure Show, I hopped in an Uber and was on the 3:35pm flight to L.A. I got upgraded at the gate, which made the flight super easy. Not only that: We pushed back from the gate early, took off nine-minutes later, arrived in L.A. almost an hour early, and there was a gate open!
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