unique travel experiences

Month: January 2016

Appear on TV’s Good Morning America!

How would you like to be seen by 5 million people, live on American TV? Well simply head down to New York’s Times Square, stand in the background while they film ABC’s daily TV show ‘Good Morning America’ … and wave!

Standing behind all 5 GMA presenters for an outside sketch

Being mentioned by one of the presenters

I found this out while working in New York for 2 months back in 2014 where I’d regularly walk past the studios on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway towards the end of their 7am to 9am show (7am – 8am on weekends). It’s a daily event and surprisingly far less busy than you might expect. There’s a big window for watching the presenters as they interview that day’s “A-listers”, with speakers so you can hear what’s going on inside. However the best bit are definetly the live sketches they do outside on the sidewalk.

GMA in Times Square on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway

GMA in Times Square on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway

During the Autumn months while I was there they tended to have daily outside sketches where if you were lucky you could appear in the background for your 5 seconds of “fame.” Generally it’s a sea of bright neon placards saying stuff like “Hi Mom”, but I found the colder it was the better as that reduced the size of the crowds. This is where I got the chance to appear right in the front row as the camera panned round with a little mention from George Stephanopoulos himself.

A few times a week there’d be more of a show on the plaza with rigging, lighting and more than one camera. On that occasion I took photos from behind the presenters and then watched the show a few days later online to see if I’d appeared or not. On slower days generally just Ginger Zee, the weather reporter would appear, adjacent to the window for a weather update, with possibly a quick chat to the crowd before she retreated back inside!

Standing behind all 5 GMA presenters for an outside sketch

Standing behind all 5 presenters for an outside sketch


A screenshotted view of the live show with me in the pink hat in the background

Me in the background in the pink hat

Alternatively there’s the ‘Today’ programme at the Rockerfeller Plaza in-between 48th and 49th. A similar set-up with a view of the studio and outside sketches but GMA’s was one my route to work and felt a bit more accessible.

Any tips?

  1. Stand near the exit door on the right handside as you’re then more likely to have a casual chit-chat or get a “hello” from one of the presenters. Also you might see a star waiting candidly in the wings (like I did when Lisa Kudrow was on the show).

    Standing by the exit allowed us to have a quick chat with presenter Robin Roberts

    Standing by the exit allowed us to have a quick chat with presenter Robin Roberts

  2. Alternatively stand by the corner of the viewing window as that’s where the roving camera tends to be, and how you’ll get in the background.
  3. Don’t get unlucky and be right behind the presenter as then you won’t be in shot at all!
  4. If you do appear in shot try to look at the presenter every once in a while otherwise you’ll appear like a buffoon constantly gurning at the camera.
  5. Check out the GMA website on your iPad/laptop the next day so you can film the screen to prove you were on the TV when you get back home. However if you wait until you get back to the UK the GMA website won’t let you watch the video as you are then outside of the United States. If using your phone the website might instead direct you to the ‘Watch ABC’ app on the Apple Store. However your phone might try to direct you back to the UK App Store … which doesn’t contain the ‘Watch ABC’ app. 🙁 So see how you get on while still out in the USA. Alternatively sign up with Hulu for a free trial and watch the show when it appears online on their site… although once again you can’t appear to access this website back in the UK unless you’re clever and know about VPN or Smart DNS access that is.
Appearing "with" Ginger Zee on Good Morning America

Appearing “with” Ginger Zee

Overpay your mortgage or travel?

Like with most things in life the key word seems to be “balance”, but overpaying your mortgage feels like it should come first, with house maintenance/improvements not far behind. But does that mean travel has to come third?

Those “Go city hopping every weekend!” posts can bemuse people who have financial obligations (let alone families) and know that it’s not quite as simple as that both in time and money terms. Oh and this post is for those people who don’t particularly want to quit their job, travel around the world for a year while renting out their house.

Achieve balance

Achieve balance. Source

Overpaying the mortgage

So overpaying the mortgage? By paying off an extra £250 a month I could reduce my mortgage term by 6 years and save myself a whopping £11k in interest. That would pay for a LOT of travel … but in 14 years’ time! I can’t be waiting that long. So with a “financial hat” on overpaying the mortgage every month is a great thing to do, but that might not be so good for your health/wellbeing/sanity. If you are overpaying though ensure that any overpayment goes to reducing the debt (so shortening the term) rather than reducing your monthly payments as that’s where you’ll make the biggest eventual saving!

Pay off your debt early!

An example of paying off your debt early! Source

Check out this overpayment calculator at Moneysavingexpert but also make sure that paying off your mortgage debt saves more than having the same money in a “very” high earning savings account!

House maintenance

Also there’s house maintenance. In my house I need to have the front brick wall repaired, two fireplace hearths built, skirting boards fixed, a door bricked up and two rooms decorated. Most of these things require a tradesman. Apart from it needing to be done for my own aesthetic satisfaction it would certainly need to be done if I wanted to sell up and move on. So simply put, not all my spare cash can be spent on travel.

Now this is where “balance” comes in. The best thing to do financially is to overpay your mortgage, while making improvements to your house to add value, with the smallest possible outlay to get a good ROI. And then you turn 48 and wonder what you’ve done with the last 20 years. One meme we all like is  the one that says “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. Kind of true isn’t it?

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

So yes certainly make sure you pay your mortgage and bills, do essential maintenance, tart up those extra bits when you can (even try some DIY) and overpay the mortgage as a prudent bonus but always try to put some money aside for travel. It doesn’t have to be an escorted 18 day trip to Antartica (£10k), or a luxury week’s break on The Algarve. Travel could be a weekend “staycation” or even visiting something in the county nextdoor. Either way saving elsewhere can be what funds it. Your travel piggy bank can be quickly filled by forgoing your daily work Starbucks (£567 a year!) … or just by asking your boss for a £567 pay rise (after tax), saving the same amount in the space of 5 awkward minutes instead! 🙂

How much CO2 does a flight actually produce?

So flying is bad for the environment. But just how much CO2 is produced per person on a return flight from say London to New York?:

  • 1.69 metric tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent when CO2, methane methane (CH4) & Nitrous Oxide (N2O) are converted to carbon dioxide equivalents).
  • That’s the weight of 2 old style VW Beetles (800kg each). Therefore about 250g of CO2 per mile. 
    Two VW beetles weigh as much as the CO2 produced per person flying from London to NYC and back!



But what’s that in volume terms? Well 1 metric tonne of carbon is 550m3 (a cube with 8.2m sides).

  • So that return flight per person creates 930m3 – that’s a cube with 9.8m sides (bigger than a 3 bed house). 
    The CO2 produced would be bigger than this house!

    The CO2 produced would be bigger than this house! Photo: Yahoo


  • Or 37% of an Olympic sized swimming pool (a 50m long, 2m deep pool is 2,500m3) 

    The area as represented by an Olympic sized swimming pool

    The area as represented by an Olympic sized swimming pool. Photo:

  • … and using the UK’s Albert Hall as a visual comparison then 100 people on this flight are producing  93,000m3 of CO2 in total which is one Albert Hall or 169 tonnes (that’s 13 new Routemaster buses!!) 

    The Royal Albert Hall is always used in UK to make size comparisons easier to understand

    The Royal Albert Hall is always used in UK to make size comparisons easier to understand. Photo:

How is this all worked out?

  1. The distances is calculated using the shortest route.
  2. This is then multiplied by 1.09 to allow for take-off, circling & non-direct routes.
  3. This is finally multiplied by the appropriate Defra emissions factor specific to the type of flight (UK domestic, short haul or long haul), the class of seat taken (economy class, business class etc.) and the average occupancy of the plane.
  4. Some sites then have a ‘Radiative Forcing Factor’ as emissions from planes at high altitudes impact climate change more than if the emissions were released at ground level. This then multiples any total figure by 1.9 (and what I have done for my calculations).

So what can be done?

  1. Combine your trip with another one?
  2. Think it through – do you need to take this trip at all? 

    I hear tales of travel bloggers taking 42 flights in a year totalling 87,000 miles. Do you need to go on that many trips as that’s 21.75 tons of CO2, which is 27 old style VW Beetles or 4.8 Olympic sized swimming pools in volume!

  3. Offset your carbon?So what about carbon offsetting? An article in the New York Times stated that company ‘Responsible Travel’ were cancelling their offsetting program as “while it might help travelers feel virtuous, it was not helping to reduce global emissions. In fact, company officials said it might even encourage some people to travel or consume more”. Flight emissions in the UK are rising so fast that by 2020 they will account for the country’s entire sustainable carbon allocation so people flying more is certainly not what we need!

    Maybe plant some trees? However a tree is carbon neutral so planting one will store the carbon temporarily only to emit it back into the atmosphere when it eventually dies. Most carbon offsetting schemes have already moved away from tree planting to cleaner energy projects such as supplying energy efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries. But only if that wasn’t going to happen anyway by some other means can you prove the additionality and worthiness of any offsetting project. More info. on this in a great article by the Guardian – A complete guide to carbon offsetting.

    Better still a tonne of carbon saved today is far more valuable in terms of preventing climate change than a tonne of carbon saved in a few years’ time. So how about we all just take fewer flights and consider that saying you’ve travelled on 42 flights during the course of the year is actually a pretty “bad” thing and not something to be overly proud of.

    Have a go yourself at one of the many ‘Flight carbon footprint calculators


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