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Jordan Travel Guide

Was a 56-Hour Journey to Visit Petra Worth It?

It's all about the journey, not the destination.


have three travel rules: no motels, no overnight buses, and no flights more than 10 hours at a time (been there, done that). However, I’ll make exceptions for a world wonder, and Petra in Jordan remained on my bucket list.

When United Airlines announced a new nonstop route to Amman, with high-speed Panasonic Wi-Fi on Polaris business class in their fancy-schmancy Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, I took that as the universe saying, “Take Gabriel for the ride of their life!” Gabriel is my new AWAY suitcase—I’ve never used it because it’s a diva and refuses to sit in coach. Yes, this would be the longest return trip I’d ever take within a three-day timeframe, but Gabriel and I could finally bond, have a comfy journey, and check off a famed UNESCO site over a long weekend.

Hours 1-5

Imagine dropping your newborn child straight into a subway trash can. That’s how I felt when Gabriel’s shiny new spinner wheels rolled on the pavement. I tried not to obsess over canine E.coli, tricking myself into happy thoughts via vintage Mandy Moore to Austin Bergstrom International. “International” may sit in its name, but almost all flights here are domestic and connecting. This initial leg would take me to Washington, D.C.’s mammoth Dulles International Airport, where actual international fun would begin.

I had water; Gabriel had bubbles. We’re happiest in open bars. James Wong

Hours 6-12

4:25 p.m. at IAD. Gabriel hasn’t had a new strain of dog poop on them since 10 a.m. Ordinarily, I’d dread a six-hour layover, but not in United’s Polaris Lounge. I request a shower room, first to scrub myself, then to scrub Gabriel’s hard white shell. I tell Gabriel we look gorgeous, and it agrees, so we celebrate with champagne by the runway. I later FaceTime mom from the lounge’s phone booth. We talk for ages, mostly about Julie Andrews.

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“Mom, it’s nearly 7 p.m. I’m getting dinner, bye.” I hang up as she ponders which of the Von Trapp kids are alive; then—between a sit-down dinner and buffet station—I choose the buffet station. It’s closer to the bar and has cupcakes.

We spent around 22 hours in Polaris, including eight happy hours sleeping. United Airlines

Hours 13-25

10 p.m. I’m in seat 7L, and Gabriel is resting overhead. I kick off with Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet (the episode where she castrates a reindeer), and Drag Race All-Stars season six (no castrations). Wearing oversized United pajamas and wrapped in Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, it feels like home, except with an attentive cabin crew bringing me cheesecake instead of my groaning husband. I recline the seat flat, pop an antihistamine pill, and doze off. Four hours of solid sleep—the most I’ve had in the sky—and not a drop of gross night sweat (thanks cool-gel pillow). When I wake, I gasp, not because of my recurring nightmare starring Helen Mirren with a shaved head, but because my bedside amenity kit is custom-made by none other than AWAY—it’s the baby to Gabriel!

Feeling blessed, I slap on a Korean facemask behind my seat’s privacy screen and massage my skin with the kit’s Sunday Riley goodies, looking younger than Prince William’s children by the time I arrive at Queen Alia International Airport.

INSIDER TIPU.S. visitors can purchase visas upon arrival or get them on the Jordan Pass if visiting longer than four days.


The best way to rest and rejuvenate in Amman before the final leg to Petra. James Wong


Fifth Circle’s big hotels are a 30-minute cab ride away. Grueling long journey + excellent USD to JOD exchange rate = rest at the best of the bunch, the lavish Four Seasons Hotel Amman, where room rates start at 190 Jordanian Dinars (around $270—brilliant!).

Renovated in 2021, everything from their Romanesque lobby pillars to the mosaic-tiled pool is positively jubilant (and how fitting for my Princess Charlotte-soft-skin!). Knowing that I was in town solely to see Petra, the concierge sent up a tasty (and very social media-friendly) welcome treat: a miniature chocolate version of Petra’s Treasury on a plate of Jordanian baklava. I nibble while emailing, then hit the fluffy pillow until 6 a.m.

Hours 26-31

6:30 am. I grab breakfast from Olea (a.k.a. box of freshly made falafel), and since there’s no room for error, trust Viator, a platform I’d used in the U.S., to get me to the ancient city of Petra and back safely.

“My name is Khaled,” introduces my driver.  “You’re going to wear those?” he points at my flip-flops. I say yes, these are ideal for sand, and I’ve totally walked miles of Turks and Caicos beach wearing them, but he’s not convinced.

At Petra’s entrance, I’m swiftly handed over to a guide with my ticket. He walks me all the way to Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), spewing gallons of information I forget immediately—my sights set firmly on the finish line, Ad Deir (The Monastery).

“It’s another 40 minutes away, straight up,” he says, motioning to my flip-flops. I leave to wander solo, soon realizing the hike to the Monastery is up 800+ steps mixed with slippery sandy rocks and camel waste (thank goodness I left Gabriel in the hotel).

Hour 32

Barefoot, covered in sweat, I make it. Standing before me is a monumental Monastery, built in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean tomb carved of blushing pink and golden sandstone. There are only a few tourists, so my photo is uninterrupted barring a man on his donkey. I soak in the wonder. So worth the trek, I tell myself…but now I have to hike two hours back to Khaled.

Hours 32-37

I fall asleep, depriving Khaled of my mystical Petra tales (although I assume he’s heard it all before). The hotel allows me late checkout before my 1 a.m. flight, and I’m so overjoyed I’m tempted to gift them baby Gabriel (I don’t). Now I soothe my aches in the bathtub, frothed with soapy Argan bubbles and accompanied by what’s left of my chocolate monument (and no, I did not call the front desk to ask for extra Argan miniatures…those bottles in my tote are, um, from QVC). I refresh the United App for updates because delays mean more bath time. But of course, all fights are on schedule.

Hours 38-50

1 a.m. Seat 7L. A flight attendant hands over some warm nuts (my favorite) and offers me a selection of beverages. We chat Jordan, and it turns out she also visited Petra.

“It’s a new route, so we had to see it!” she beams.

“I’m so tired,” I regrettably blurt while wrapped in fresh pajamas, a fresh blanket, and clutching another complimentary AWAY amenity kit (woo! I have twins now).

She bounces. “Well, I always have a ton of energy!” Suddenly, I feel like grandpa. I order the halal sesame tuna and watch a movie on the desktop-sized monitor. Eventually, I’m “checked out” as plastered across my ergonomic eye mask for another four blissful hours.

I finally enjoyed my longest sleep in the sky. James Wong

Hours 50-56

6:30 a.m. Washington Dulles. I race through immigration to ensure ample time in the Polaris lounge to shower, eat breakfast, and catch up on work before the connection home. I reach my apartment, clocking in 56 hours of pure travel time (not factoring in rest). Was Petra worth it? 100%. Would I do it again? No.

Come on, not even on snazzy Polaris? Fine…I guess I better start saving miles or ask my editors for substantial pay increases (Fodor’s editor: er, nice try!). There’s only so long Gabriel and the twins will stay in the closet, after all.