Re-reading the coverage I filed from Mobile World Congress in 2013, I can only think of what a slacker I was back then: one post for Discovery News about the state of smartphones, an extra column for USA Today about much the same topic, and a post for my tech-policy hangout at the time, Disruptive Competition Project, on how weird the U.S. phone market seemed after my overdue introduction to the workings of wireless in the rest of the world.
During my fifth trip to MWC, I filed six posts from Barcelona and need to finish a seventh about the hype and reality of 5G wireless. Unlike four years ago, I wrote enough stories from the global phone show on top of my typical weekly output to cover my travel costs, even though the contracts I write on today aren’t as generous as 2013’s.
I’ll admit that I would have liked a little more free time to play tourist beyond the Saturday afternoon I spent traipsing around Park Güell, but I also hate feeling like 700 words must require a day’s work or that I’m somehow above cranking out copy from a tech event. So I wrote as fast as I could but not as fast as I’d like.
I’d like to think that motivation led me to take more notes from the show floor, and I hope the practice sticks in my head on weeks when I’m at home and have free time to tempt me to poke around with a post.
For example, one of the stories I sold started with a pitch I made to an editor in between gobbling down lunch Friday and packing for my flight out that evening. That was totally worth setting aside my luggage for a few minutes.
After the jump, more about travel: The other part of my approach to MWC that’s changed since 2013 is how having an elevated elite status on one airline has left me even less capable of booking flights like a normal human being.
Four years ago, booking less than two months before MWC left me with a seven-hour connection in Brussels and an equally prolonged journey home that had me fly to Zurich, then Montreal, then Dulles. That seemed okay because the trip was at a reasonable price and I could enjoy lounge access with my newly-won gold status on United. (I didn’t realize how horrible the lounge at BRU was then. It’s much better now.)
This time around, research back in October yielded inexplicably high prices on United’s obvious connections through Newark. Lessons learned from scouting airfares led me to hit Google Flights, knowing that it can turn up itineraries that airline sites don’t that you can then sometimes click through to book on the same airline sites.
That site yielded one with a return home on Lufthansa that cost less than any of UA’s non-awful routings and wasn’t completely out of whack with fares on airlines on which I’d fly with zero status. Besides, the cheap Airbnb I booked in Barcelona would keep my total costs down.
That flight home, meanwhile, was not only in Lufthansa’s comfortable Premium Economy but in a fare class eligible for an upgrade on one of the certificates I got for spending way too much time on UA’s planes last year. The upgrade cleared… and I could reserve a seat in the first-class cabin, thanks to LH ending sales of F between some Munich-Dulles flights before it started removing those seats from planes on that route.
The payoff for overwrought attention to airline-booking fine print: an exceptionally comfortable ride home, even with “only” business-class service. That seemed like a justifiable privilege after filing 4,300 words and change.
But I still felt tired the next afternoon. Our kid’s school obviously didn’t consult me when deciding to close for parent-teacher conferences the day after I got home from MWC!
(Lest this obnoxious anecdote suggest I always know what I’m doing with travel, tune in next week to read about how I’ll spend two nights in Austin crashing with friends as the result of a travel hack gone awry.)