What’s the Best Place in the World to Live for Convenient Travel?

Reader Jeff asks a question that may be too subject for me to answer definitely, what do you think?

What is the best place in the world to live in to take advantage of not just miles/points, but to have relatively close access to great travel destinations?

Criteria:

— best proximity to desirable travel areas. I realize this is incredibly subjective, but, in general, most people would put Europe and SE Asia high on the list of desirable travel destinations.. Places with good climates, reasonably safe, etc.

— major hub for an airline alliance

— a nice place to live

He goes on to speculate that outside of New York and Washington DC (with Star Alliance hubs and short travel time to all of the Americas and Western Europe) you’d rule out both North and South America entirely.

He guesses,

I think you have to go with a city in or near Europe. Fankfurt? What about Istanbul? Europe at your doorstep, interesting Mid-East locations, and Southeast Asia is 10-11 hours away. Not close, but not extreme. Turkish gives you Star Alliance access. And Istanbul is a pretty cool city.

It’s a fun question but there’s so many subjective elements that goes into it, what started off as a best city for connecting started adding on other criteria.

I can answer best cities for connectivity, for fares, for award availability but once you layer on climate preferences, food preferences, etc. it becomes hard to offer an objective answer.

If you had to pick one place for non-stop convenience to the world it would probably be in the Middle East. I’d pick the UAE, which gives you access to Dubai and Abu Dhabi as hubs within driving distance of each other. There aren’t many places you can’t reach easily.

There are other reasons you might not want to live there. But from a pure flight convenience standpoint…

Los Angeles and San Francisco appeal to different sorts of folks but both offer great access to Asia. (I suppose LAX is reason enough to rule out Los Angeles, though, despite having become such a great food mecca.)

Chicago is good for Asia and Europe, but I’d hate to live there (cold). I’ve been happy for years in DC but I don’t like the cold even here, I do love the ethnic food though!

What’s the best place for a traveler to position themselves? And what criteria should be used? Certainly cost should factor in too, and that would rule out New York and even much of the U.S. I would think.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. PHL has benefitted from the US/AA merger with acces to award flights on both. The proximity by rail to EWR, IAD, JFK, etc with lower living costs than those cities. Still have the cold weather to deal with though.

  2. If you have a lot of BA miles then consider living in an AA or USAirways hub city to take advantage of BA’s insanely generous 4500/7500 mile one-way nonstop awards for travel on AA or US metal. PHX/ORD/LGA/DFW/PHL/DCA/MIA/CLT among others come to mind.

  3. To some extent, livability and (travel) connectivity are mutually exclusive. In my humble opinion, the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the best places on earth, but is far from SE Asia and Europe (which are my favorite travel destinations). Still, distance aside, SFO is well connected to much of the world and is a very nice airport (though sometimes delay-prone).

    Bangkok is certainly a great, centrally located hub, with very easy, relatively quick access to great spots in Thailand itself (my favorite vacation country) and many other great destinations. Culturally pretty interesting as well, though the climate can be tough part of the year and traffic and walking can be quite unpleasant. Also in the general region, Singapore and Hong Kong have their respective advantages and disadvantages, with Singapore’s airport, overall organization and relatively good air quality making it a great and relatively livable (though not so interesting) starting point and Hong Kong being much more scenically spectacular.

    In Europe, I’m pretty sure that London and Frankfurt are the two top hubs, with London being a much more interesting city and its airport, while certainly having its faults, being far superior to the maze of a mess that is FRA.

    If I were truly a global traveler who for work or play wanted relatively easy access to the most of the world, I’d pick one of the Middle Eastern hubs. But I find these cities all among the least interesting places in that part of the world, not to mention the climate, the politics and gender dimensions of living there.

    All of which brings me back, in my thoroughly biased opinion, to the San Francisco Bay Area as the place to be based!

  4. “[LHR] far superior to the maze of a mess that is FRA.”

    Uh are you serious? LHR is the only airport I know of with a MCT of up to 1 hour and 45 minutes depending on terminals… There is no airport on earth worse than Heathrow.

  5. Seattle! Ok, it gets more points for livability than number of international flights. But it does have several nonstop flights to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. And TONS of nonstop flights to Hawaii and Alaska, as well as most of the rest of North America.

  6. If you actually wanted to have money to travel and not pay it in taxes, Miami is the best spot–no taxes in Florida on anything whatsoever. You will never have weather delays, outside a thunderstorm occasionally passing through, and you know the weather is always nice. FLL being so close keeps MIA’s fares low. And you’re already in a city that the rest of the world envies, so it’s like living a permanent vacation. The city is clean and beautiful, unlike SFO and ORD, and unlike DC, you don’t have to drive 50 minutes…if you’re lucky…to get to an international airport.

  7. London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hong Kong. All great cities and hubs of good-to-great airlines.

    Frankfurt, Singapore, and Dubai are too boring. Munich’s airport is too far from town. Bangkok is too hot.

  8. I rather like living in SEA. In addition to a temperate climate and no state income tax, it’s geographically closest to Asia while still being quite reasonable to Europe. Air fares from SEA are generally reasonable, and there’s decent international service from Star Alliance and Sky Team and Emirates. And we can always hope that CX finds their way here too.

  9. Justin – you miss the point. If you live in London, you won’t be connecting at Heathrow. You will be taking direct flights from Terminal 5 which is in general a breeze to navigate.

    Given the £35 Avios Reward Flight Saver tickets, London is logically the best place to be. Out of FRA you are looking at 25,000 Lufty miles for a European economy flight PLUS over $200 of tax! BA ex London is 9,000-15,000 plus c$50.

    Thr ability to fly direct for minimal miles to Paris, Rome, Berlin, Venice, Vienna etc etc etc cannot be beat.

  10. Agree 100% with Jeff on Istanbul. World class beaches, skiing, everything a couple hour hop away. Direct long-hauls to most everywhere. TK is a good carrier and *A the most versatile alliance. Turkey, while it’s been having some up and down publicity lately, is still a secular republic and stable compared to its neighbors. Tons to do in IST, and real stuff, not manufactured glitz like the UAE.

  11. I like to say that DC is the southernmost Northern (NorthEast) city. It fares far better in weather than Phila and New York, which are both quite close.

  12. As far as multi-alliance connectivity from North America, I think New York and Los Angeles are your best options. Orlando would be another interesting option as it’s likely a draw for many carriers around the world. Being in Cincinnati personally, it’s not horrible to fly from here. The airport is easy to get in and out of. Going east, we have directs to all the alliance hubs in roughly one hour flights. Also for Skyteam, our directs to Seattle and LA are helpful on Delta. Between ATL, DTW, JFK and ORD we have access to flights pretty much anywhere.

  13. Miami – great city if you have a few coins – some complain about the airport, but I can fly off to interesting destinations and be eating inexpensive meals in Central & South American, while many of you are still trying to process through your local airport security.

  14. Fankfurt? A little spelling error… I would say SFO is the best for for Asia (doesn’t have CAN like LAX, but has KIX+CTU, and CZ will probably come to SFO soon) It also has pretty decent European network, and you can pretty much get anywhere there with 0 or 1 stop.

  15. Chris, those BA miles are also great for short haul redemptions on Alaska (great service from SEA, PDX, and the San Francisco area). Only downside is that BA awards for travel on AS are not bookable online.

  16. I’d think it would have to be in the Euro/Middle East zone…since you can fly from there to just about any continent on the planet with just a single long haul flight. From Paris or London or Frankfurt or Istanbul or Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Doha, you can reach any major international gateway city on the planet. Living in N America, you generally can’t easily access Africa (unless you live near ATL and use DL to JNB or IAH and use UA to LOD). The flight times aren’t so bad when you love in Europe–anywhere in Europe–as your long haul international flight is just 10-12 hours to just about anywhere be it East or SE Asia, Southern Africa, or the Americas. Only Australia and New Zealand make it tricky, but it imagine one of the Euro carriers will use the 787-900 Dreamliner to access them in a few years time (my guess is Turkish to Sydney). Still, Europe is far more inviting than the Middle East to me.

  17. I used to live in Atlanta. If you don’t mind living there and flying Delta / Sky Team internationally, I feel like you could get to almost any destination imaginable either non-stop or one connection.

  18. I would say that the bigger the city, the better the transport options. As such, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will always be the big winners in the USA. By virtue of the type of traveller, Washington will also always rank up there. I live in London and benefit from being down the road from one of the best connected international airports in the world: BA offer a decent level of service to destinations all around the globe. I’m not sure I could ever leave, if only for the ease of getting wherever I need to go.

  19. This is a nice academic exercise, but I think we all know the answer already…Tupelo, MS. 🙂

  20. Purely from a travel perspective, the best city in which to live is hands-down Cairo. Not only is it at the crossroads of the world like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it has the lowest fares of anywhere in the world and that’s a fact. It is much closer to Europe and the Americas than the UAE and adds only an extra two hours to Asia. But the fare angle is unbeatable. Fancy $2,000 First class fares to Asia? No problem — start in Cairo! 🙂

    Please, no comments about the political situation, blah blah, the question was which city is the best to live in for travel convenience.

  21. But unless money is no object, isn’t the USA the best place to live for free travel thanks to the generosity of our banking system? I mean, jeez, there’s no other country where it’s so easy to get other people to pay for your travel.

  22. SF has some charms. Having three airports and a full suite of LCCs (hey, it’s the new Virgin America hub) can help keep domestic prices down or at least provide some good options when one airport is overpriced, and SFO has a good selection of non-stop routes.

  23. SF has pretty good connectivity, but I feel the international routes are not price competitive compared to LAX, especially to Asia (Europe a bit less). United lock-in maybe?

  24. Miami, FL – free trolley to the cruise ships, free trolley and cheap train to the airport(s) and we also have excellent beaches and dive spots for staycationing.

    Add in protection from bloodsucking airlines in the form of Norwegian Air and Air Berlin flights and cheap hops to the Caribbean and South America and no wonder half of the folks from Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela live here.

    Bienvenidos a Miami!

  25. London or New York most likely just due to airport routes and many things to do in each city.

  26. I would say Prague. Great architecture, huge old town, the best beer in the world and super cheap cost of living. Base of Czech Airlines (ok, maybe not very big one) but short drive to Vienna and close proximity of Munich – there are many options to travel

  27. David,

    Yes, LAX is cheaper to Asia than SFO in many cases but I don’t equate that to United lock-in as much as LAX is the bigger operation with the bigger population and located in a city with bigger name recognition. Look at the huge number of flights per day to Asia by the carriers. Three, four, or more flights per day for some carriers.

    Contrast that to SFO. You get two a day from Singapore, EVA, and Cathay but only one a day from Asiana, JAL, ANA, and Korean. And no regular A380 service…contrast that to most of the Asian carriers who have A380s fly them to LAX.

    With that much competition, the prices are going to be lower. It’s supply and demand.

    I don’t think you can non-subjectively answer this question. If you are interested in Europe and Asia you’ll tend to look at eastern seaboard airports or European airports. If you are interested in Asia and the South Pacific, it’s LAX. SFO is good enough if you live here though, which I do.

  28. There’s a lot to be said for IAH or DFW.

    With IAH, you have nonstop flights to Africa (JNB), east Asia (SIN/NRT/ICN/PEK), the middle east (DOH/DXB), South America (EZE/SCL/GIG/GRU), and Europe (LHR/FRA/CDG/AMS/IST). But you don’t have a nonstop Australia flight.

    Enter DFW. No nonstop to Africa, but you have east Asia (HKG/PVG/NRT/ICN), the middle east (DOH/DXB/AUH), South America (EZE/SCL/GIG/GRU), Europe (LHR/FRA/MAD/CDG/AMS), and Australia (SYD).

    Granted, out of NYC, you get much better TATL connectivity and decent SA/TPAC routings, but there are no nonstops between NYC and SIN/SYD.

  29. I would make a strong case (without even the tiniest hint of bias, of course…)for Malta.

    Ideally located in the Southern Mediterranean for easy flights to London and Germany (and served by BA and Lufthansa, amongst others), and the onward connections from there.

    Needless to say, fantastic connections to Italy and seconds away from the unbridled beauty of Sicily.

    Also within easy reach of Africa and the Middle East, and daily non-stop flights to Istanbul from two airlines.

    America may not be directly served, but it is a very easy connection from a multitude of choices (that will, not least, give you a good opportunity to shop around and maximise points redemptions).

    Finally, a hugely accessible and easy-to-get-through airport, a pretty key factor in my book.

    So, come and join me…

  30. I agree with iahphx- It’s just not possible to accumulate all the cheap miles and points to begin with if you live outside the USA.

  31. Again, this was a city picked “for travel convenience”. For every trip you take, you need to transit your home airport twice, though security, immigration, luggage pick up and taxi queues. If you are looking at 2-3 hour flights, you might also spend as much time at the airport as in the air.

    So on all of those criteria, the best place to be located is Singapore, because of Changi. 20 minutes or less from curbside to gate, almost never a line at immigration/emigration, and your baggage makes it to the carousel faster than you.

    Easy to accumulate cheap miles and points outside of the US, as long as you have a US billing address and some US expenses.

  32. i pomder this question regulalry, as have global clients smd option to live anywhere. I am based in SF and agree with the poonts Steve makes. SF has many benefits for a loving place as well as connectivity for traveller. The downside is thst many locatioms are a lomg segment away but many are within easy reach. Overall, I keep asking this question and here I find myself staying.

  33. I’m amazed nobody has mentioned Toronto. Nonstop flights to all 6 continents, star alliance hub, US preclearance (but you’ll need NEXUS to avoid the lines). Everybody speaks English (which for those recommending Bangkok or Istanbul, will wear you down after a while). Lower cost of living than London or New York.

  34. Having access to credit card sign ups of 50-100k is essential so that narrows the field to LAX, SFO, JFK or ORD……..SFO has break transit bus service from the “good suburbs” and also mass transit throughout the city which goes a long way to make the pre-flight transit easier…………but a lot of frequent travelers fighting to use those free miles……..last minute is the secret……

  35. TPA has a lot of great benefits. Small enough to navigate easily; modernized and continually upgraded with a minimum of bother to customers; fares that are inexplicably cheaper than those from MCO and MIA; pleasant, calm, and free wi-fi. What’s not to like?

  36. My choice (in the USA) for convenience, weather, safety and gathering the most points would be HNL. Both for domestic USA and international to Asia.

    ED.

  37. I’m going to toss out a non-consensus view and say San Diego. The only non-stop international destinations are LHR and NRT. However connections to everywhere else are balanced by it (1) being a great place to live, and (2) that most core neighborhoods are only a 10-15 minute Uber ride away to an easy to use Downtown airport. With TSA pre-check, it is typically 23 minutes from my front door to the gate. I think its a great trade-off compared to the other US locations I have lived (Boston, DC, San Francisco, Orange County)

  38. Stateside, probably SFO.

    Anywhere, else, gotta say Tokyo. Nonstop flight to everywhere imaginable, access to SE Asia, Korea, and you can get anywhere in Japan for 4,500 avios one way (exception: OKA). Japan is also considered one of, if not the safest country in the world. Also have access to two large international airports in NRT and HND. Oh, and the food scene is one of the best in the world. Can’t be beat.

  39. Years ago I was told that the best part of living in Zurich was leaving Zurich and boy was that accurate. An amazingly efficient airport (leaving the office downtown 2 hrs before scheduled departure was plenty of time to utilize public transit, visit the lounge, and leisurely board). Direct flights to SEA, US, much of Europe, some of SSA. What was lacking could be done with a 45 minute hop through FRA (and best of all, skipping security in FRA).

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