If someone in your house subscribes to the National Geographic Society’s magazine and your zip code implies relative affluence, you probably received a very nice booklet in the mail entitled “National Geographic 2016/2017 Private Jet Expeditions”.
Ours came yesterday. It’s the kind of mail that has “recycling bin” all over it, but my curiosity was piqued. What the hell is a “private jet expedition”?
It turns out that National Geographic offers four such tours, each lasting about three weeks. One of them takes you around the world. You leave Orlando, Florida, and then visit places like Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Angkor Wat, the Serengeti and Marrakesh, before returning to Orlando. (They do let you off the plane to walk around and sleep in a nice bed – you’re not seeing everything from 20,000 feet.)
Another trip is advertised as “around the world”, but doesn’t quite make it. You board your private jet in Seattle, take a northern route, mostly across Asia, and are then deposited in Boston, 3,000 miles from where you started.
The other two trips are even more geographically limited. One begins and ends in London, with stops in places like Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Israel. The other starts in Orlando and includes South America, the South Pacific, China and Japan, before inexplicably dropping you off in Seattle.
But how private is this jet anyway? I figured it must be one of those Gulfstream jobs that movie stars and titans of industry enjoy. They probably carry 10 or 20 people at most.
Unfortunately, the National Geographic’s plane isn’t that private. You ride in “two-by-two VIP-style seats” that look really comfortable, but your “specially outfitted Boeing 757” has room for 75 other passengers.
Thinking about this, I suppose I could handle the lack of exclusivity, but being on a tour with 75 other world travelers, plus the flight crew, plus the various guides and lecturers, plus the staff photographer, plus the on-call-24-hours-a-day physician, doesn’t seem exactly “private” to me.
Being familiar with that old expression “if you have to ask …”, I went ahead and asked (myself) anyway. The bad news is that the most expensive trip (the one that goes around the world and thoughtfully brings you back to where you started) costs $79,950. With sales tax, let’s call it $80,000. The cheapest trip goes for $67,950. But seriously, who would want to experience a bunch of exotic locations with a down-market group like that?
By the way, those prices are per person with double occupancy. If you don’t want company at night, it’s another $8,000 or so.
To sum up, if you and your significant other select one of these expeditions, your total bill will be around $150,000, maybe more, maybe less (hotel minibar and laundry, among other things, not included).
I don’t know why, but the booklet indicates that this is “sustainable travel”. Sadly, it doesn’t look like anything I’ll be sustaining any time soon. If you’re in the market, however, and you inadvertently recycled your booklet, you can get more information at National Geographic Expeditions. But if you’re as unimpressed by their definition of “travel by private jet” as I am, you might want to visit here instead.
So have a wonderful time, take lots of pictures, vaya con dios and don’t forget your yellow fever shot! Proof of inoculation is required.