Last year I had begun to take seriously the idea of visiting all fifty of the United States, after ticking off seven more. But if I wanted to achieve this by, say, my fiftieth birthday, I would need to maintain a pace of about three a year. On the avgeek side of things, meanwhile, having joined Norse Atlantic’s inaugural LGW-OSL service I was keen to add to my collection of ‘firsts and lasts’ with a longhaul flight.
When BA announced it would be adding a new US destination for 2023, I saw an opportunity to combine these goals – and also outsource some of my summer travel planning to the network team! Once I found it on a map, their unusual choice of Cincinnati seemed ideal for my purposes. Although the city is in Ohio, the airport is in Kentucky, so I could easily get two states for the price of one.
Illinois was also tantalisingly close – there’s even a tripoint in the Ohio river – but it looked difficult to achieve a meaningful visit rather than just setting a foot across the border. And as much as I was pleasantly surprised by less-touristy destinations such as Omaha or Boise, I wasn’t convinced Cincinnati offered a week’s worth of attractions. So I figured I would use Ohio/Kentucky as the starting point for further wanderings, rather than the entire focus of the trip.
To that end, when bookings opened for the route launch I immediately claimed one of the four guaranteed avios seats in Club World – but only for the flight to Cincinnati. My working theory was that after a few days I would make my way to New York -the easiest place to get back to London on staff travel – either exploring some more of that great city or claiming a nearby state.
However, an excellent introductory redemption rate for a recently-added IHG property in Washington DC shifted my attention to the nation’s capital. Whilst notably not a state, it seemed easy to lay claim to at least one of its neighbours: at the very least, I’d need to venture into one of them for a flight home!
To get there I did briefly entertain a surface segment on Amtrak’s Cardinal train, but I would only be sampling a fraction of its Chicago – New York run. With only three services a week it would have locked me into either a shorter or longer than desired stay in Cincinnati; nor did the 3am departure time appeal.
Instead, I looked to the skies, with Southwest – a new airline for me – offering flights to Baltimore’s BWI for less than a hundred pounds all in. That also determined the third state of my tour, Maryland; although it would only be a fleeting visit.
Virginia’s Dulles International looked the more promising option for returning to the UK in comfort, and so just like that I had a travel itinerary! Now all I had to do was fill it with things to see and do…