Africa Trip-Travel Days

Newark Airport to JFK Airport 

Our travel hacking skills have improved over the past few years, and we are able to use our credit card points to pay for our flights to and from Africa. Wanting to use the least amount of points possible, we book our flights out of New York’s JFK airport.

Since we wouldn’t wish the drive to JFK airport on anyone, we arrange to be dropped off at the Newark airport in New Jersey.

There are no restaurants around the hotel we will stay at for the night, so we sit down for a meal.

Our next goal is to find the shuttle that travels from the Newark airport to the JFK airport.

We’re impressed by the bright, clean, bus area.

 

The staff are helpful and friendly. We have two options. We can take the regular bus, where we will have to get off of the bus in New York City and then transfer to the JFK airport bus. Or, for a few extra dollars, we can take the express shuttle that will take us directly to the airport. We opt for the express shuttle.

After loading onto a comfortable van, we are on our way.

The traffic in New York City is BONKERS. It takes us two and a half hours to drive to La Guardia airport, where a fellow shuttle passenger is dropped off.

Our shuttle driver asks the rest of us which JFK terminals we are flying out of. As it turns out, we are all flying out tomorrow. We’re simply going to the airport to meet up with hotel shuttles.

After asking us the name of our hotel, the driver proceeds to drop us off at our hotel’s front door. He definitely did us a solid.

Finding a hotel to stay at around the JFK airport that 1) doesn’t cost us hundreds of dollars and 2) doesn’t have multiple reviews from people stating, DON’T STAY HERE, is a challenge. The hotels also book up fast.  I would find a place and plan to book it the following day, only to come back and discover that there were no rooms left.

We stay at the Sleep Inn, in Rockaway. The location feels a bit sketchy, and the hotel overall is painfully basic, but our room is nice, clean, and the bed is comfy.

In the morning we head down to the free hotel breakfast. We’re pleasantly surprised. They have just about everything, eggs, bacon, waffles, cereal, and yogurt. Whatever type of breakfast fare you’re craving. The coffee isn’t half bad either.

The hotel’s airport shuttle is prompt, and soon we are navigating our way through the JFK airport.

JFK Airport-Johannesburg-Victoria Falls

I’ve heard countless horror stories about JFK’s security, so we are sure to arrive to the airport extra early. It is a wise choice. The more camera and video gear I pack, the more I’m destined to get my bags pulled for further inspection. There is a back up, so it takes over twenty minutes until they finally get to my bag. The man searching my bag is nice, but I cringe as he yanks items out of my bag, oblivious to the amount of time it took me to meticulously pack it. He then hands the bags back to me opened and jumbled.

We still have plenty of time before our flight, so we giddily traipse to check out our very first airport lounge.

One of the perks when we signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, was obtaining Priority Pass airport lounge cards. We can use any of the airport lounges that qualify for Priority Pass and anyone who is traveling with us can enter the lounges as well.

The lounge has a nice spread laid out for breakfast. There are snacks, and a plethora of drinks. Since we already ate breakfast at the hotel, we enjoy some juice and cookies.

We find the lounge to be a nice respite from the chaotic hustle and bustle of the airport.

It is finally time to board our South African Airlines plane. At 15 hours, it is our longest flight to date. I’m excited to take off and settle in for the long haul.

It ends up not being as bad as we thought. The airplane staff are exceptionally friendly. I read, watch Lego Batman, and listen to some podcasts.

It has been years since we’ve had airplane meals, so it adds to the novelty of the flight (the Snickers was a nice touch).

We land in Johannesburg for a brief layover, before boarding the plane to Zimbabwe.

We finally land at the Victoria Falls Airport.

The line at immigration is long, partly because it seems that people did not do their research ahead of time and are having issues deciding which visa to get.

Important information: (based on being visitors from the United States) There are three types of visas you can get when entering Victoria Falls/Zimbabwe

  • Single entry visa- With this visa you can only be in Zimbabwe. If you want to travel/walk to the Zambia side of Victoria falls you will not be able to with a single entry. We witnessed a couple who seemed absolutely perplexed as they stood at the immigration window in Zambia and were told that they could not visit the other side of the falls because they only had a single entry visa
  • Double entry visa-With the double entry visa you can leave and return to Zimbabwe twice during your stay. This is a good choice if you only plan on crossing over to the Zambia side once during your trip.
  • Kaza Univisa-With this visa, you can leave and return to Zimbabwe as many times as you would like during a 30 day period. This was the visa we requested. We knew that we would be leaving Zimbabwe twice during our stay. Once to go to the Zambia side of the falls and once to go to Botswana for a day. The double entry visa would work too, but just in case for some reason we happened to decide to do an activity where we would leave Zimbabwe again, for peace of mind, the Kaza visa was the best choice.

Victoria Falls-Cape Town 

After five days in Zimbabwe, we head back to the Victoria Falls Airport, to make our way to Cape Town, South Africa.

We have time to relax in the Victoria Falls airport lounge.

We snack and have tea and coffee before boarding our airplane.

I always love the experience of walking across the tarmac and climbing actual steps to get on a plane. It feels more adventurous than boarding the plane from a sterile walkway.

Usually I can never sleep on planes, but the combination of heat, constant activity, and exercise, leaves me exhausted. I completely crash.

Cape Town-Dubai-JFK

After our week in Cape Town, we sadly return to the airport for our journey home.

We spend some time in Cape Town’s airport lounge. It is the best one we’ve visited so far. There is a ton of yummy looking food and the seats have outlets so you can keep your electronics charged.

We board our Emirates plane for a 14 hour flight.

We’re excited to fly with Emirates for the first time. It did not disappoint. Even in economy, we felt fancy. They feed you, and feed you, and feed you. There were meals and snacks and drinks being offered constantly. The chicken korma was my favorite airplane meal of the trip.

Before we land, they give us a hot towel to freshen up.

On our 14 hour flight they gave us breakfast before we landed. When we boarded the next flight, they served breakfast again. We politely declined 2nd breakfast and the flight attendant in the sweetest tone said,

“Madame doesn’t wish to eat?” I felt like a Princess.

One of the other things we are looking forward to on the journey home, is our layover at the Dubai airport. Being the land of excess, I imagine that the Dubai airport will be grand and sparkly.

We are disappointed. The airport is just a normal airport, and it’s too far away to get a meaningful view of the city.

We still have a 9 hour flight ahead of us, and at this point, all we want to do is board our plane and get home.

JFK Airport-Newark Airport

We land at the JFK airport feeling delirious after over 24 hours of travel. We locate the bus area. It’s not as nice as Newark’s, the staff are surly, and there is no express shuttle. We load on the bus and are dropped off in the middle of New York City, near Bryant Park. We wait for what feels like an eternity, for the Newark airport bus. Visions of my bed dance in my head.

Finally, the Newark bus arrives. The bus staff are not pleasant. Fortunately, it is later at night, the traffic isn’t as crazy, so it doesn’t take long to reach the Newark airport.

Travel Thoughts

Everything went smoothly during our travel days. I always find it funny how on the way to your destination, the long hours in the air don’t seem to matter as much. It’s all part of the adventure, but on the way home, I curse that teleportation has not been invented yet. All I want to do is get home.

After witnessing the insane traffic traveling to the JFK airport, taking the shuttle from Newark was a great option for us. I would do it again if we got a good price on flights.

I’m totally on board with airport lounges. I’m thankful for our Priority Pass, giving us the ability to have a place where we can rest, eat, grab a water or soda, and charge our electronics. Though our pass came with a credit card, you can purchase a Priority Pass. I would say it’s worth it if you are someone who travels a lot. I look forward to checking out more airport lounges in our future travels.

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17 Comments

  1. Ruth

    November 3, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Yes, 15 hours is a killer! In some ways, I would prefer the direst flight (to get over with that part, I do not like to fly). JFK can be tricky. It is a bit disorganized and you get confused on where to go. I have been able to pass thru security fast but my flights have been super early in the morning. I need to get the Chase Sapphire Card. Have heard a lot of good things about it.

  2. Corinne

    November 3, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I recently booked a trip with a low-cost airline that leaves via Newark (as opposed to my home airport of Phl). It’s funny going to the “big city” airports. But I really like that you shared the actual travel portion of your trip as so often we just share and see the glory shots. Getting to the destination ain’t always pretty but it’s necessary. I love that you consider it all part of the adventure. You’re totally right!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:24 am

      Phl is our home airport too, but tickets can be twice the price. There are pros and cons. It is nice to fly into PHL sometimes and know that you only have 15 minutes until you see your bed. I also like the travel days as they can include some great people watching.

  3. Sarah

    November 4, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Awesome post, great to hear about the travel side of the trip.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:25 am

      I also love vlogs that include travel days, especially when they show you how to use a train or a bus. It makes me feel more confident that I could do it too.

  4. Nancy

    November 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

    What an amazing trip! We did South Africa / Vic Falls / Botswana this summer out of DC and that flight IS killer. =)

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:22 am

      It was our longest flight so far, but I’m glad we did it because it proved we could and now something like Australia feels absolutely doable.

  5. Kayla

    November 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Hi there, that looks beautiful! I have always wanted to visit South Africa! Thanks so much for the visa explanations, thats super helpful!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:21 am

      You’re welcome. I’m always happy when I read blogs and get information that you may not easily find anywhere else. That’s why bloggers are great.

  6. Lara Dunning

    November 4, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Long flights are such a slog. And, I agree, airport lounges make the experience so much better. That is my happy place on my travel days.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Now that I’ve discovered the joys of the travel lounges it would be hard to go back.

  7. Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields

    November 5, 2017 at 5:48 am

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time. We have just had three weeks in Sth Africa and enjoyed every minute – well maybe except the five hour airport delay before our very long flight home – but apart from that it was just great. Next time I am putting Victoria Falls on the agenda.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:19 am

      Victoria Falls was worth the visit for sure. I’m glad you had a great time in South Africa. Your pictures were great!

  8. Jenn

    November 5, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I’ve got a 29-hour flight myself next week which I’m not looking forward to! It’s lucky though that you have access to the lounges. Do you just pay for it or do you have a card? I also cringe when I go through security and they rummage through your bags after you’ve packed it perfectly. I’ve never been to the falls but definitely want to go someday so great tip about the single entry only giving you access to the Zimbabwe side.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 6, 2017 at 12:18 am

      We got our lounge pass through the Sapphire Reserve credit card. Definitely one of the best credit card perks we’ve received.

  9. Jim Jones

    November 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Long flights are never fun, but it sounds like you made the best out of it. You made some good points about travelers getting the right kind of visa for their trip – that’s so important! We went to Tanzania last year, and it was a bit challenging figuring all that out ahead of time. You provide some really good advice!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      November 8, 2017 at 1:41 am

      Visas and Vaccines always seem to be two of the more confusing things to figure out. Transportation can be tricky too, so I’m always grateful when travel bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters share their advice, especially from a first hand perspective.

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