Snippets from the Road

Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

AMERICAN AIRLINES IS QUITE FINE

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I want to give a shout-out to American Airlines.  They have upped their game in terms of cross-country routes (LAX to Philly, NY, etc).  We flew to Philadelphia on a Friday in August (i.e., the height of summer tourism season) and the flight got to our destination early.  Our exit row seats were two on the side and very spacious.  The business class configuration is terrific but I would only do that if my upgrade request came through.  I don’t like to use miles for domestic flights, preferring to save them for the long international flights.  For the LAX return, we left Cincinnati for Chicago with a plane change at ORD.  Again, on-time departure and early arrival plus our gate was clear.

 

I read all the horror stories about cancelled flights and other nightmares. No doubt, that could be my tale at any time. Did you hear the one about the flight leaving Peru that had multiple delays over the course of THREE DAYS?   That was indeed the perfect storm of ineptness and things beyond one’s control.  But fortunately that is a very rare occurrence.

The takeaway is this:  When the news or experience is good, let it be known!

 

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Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

WE MUST NEVER FORGET …

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One might think that incorporating a visit to a somber site while on a fun road trip might be counter-intuitive, but I think it’s of utmost importance.

SHANKSVILLE, PA

On our recent baseball trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, we took a side trip somewhat out of our way in order to visit the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, PA.  To say that this site is literally “in the middle of nowhere” is not an exaggeration.  It is a beautiful place of rolling green hills in the Allegheny Mountains off the main interstate between Philly and Pittsburgh.

The weather was somber — dark clouds with some rain and plenty of lightning —  as we walked the vast space.  The memorial is under the auspices of the U.S. National Park Service.  The design of the site allows visitors to view the crash site from a flat ridge above the area.  One can also drive to the site and walk the length of the debris field, some quarter of a mile long.   There is one long wall displaying the names of each victim.  Their stories are also available elsewhere at the site.

Of the four hijacked flights, Flight 93 will forever be the most personal.  It is widely thought the flight was on a path to either the Capitol building or White House.  The hubby and I had entered the U.S. Capitol that morning just after 9am, and were hastily evacuated not long after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.  So in my heart of hearts,  I will forever owe the heroes of that downed Flight 93 for saving countless lives while sacrificing their own.

 

“A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”

SQUIRREL HILL

The next day while in Pittsburgh, we went to Tree of Life Synagogue.  We attempted to meet with the Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, but regrettably the timing did not work out.  We were at least able to see the synagogue, which is closed, and that somehow provided a connection to the community.  Evidence of the “Stronger Together” message was seen all around the area.

 

 

My “Snippet from the Road” is this:  take some time out of your travels and pay tribute to the fallen.  Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City Memorial, Valley Forge, 9/11 Memorial and sadly many more.  My sense of gratitude has only increased after these visits.

Snippets from the Road

TOP 10 TRAVEL RULES

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A wonderful friend recently sent me “10 Commandments for Travel” that she had come across, with the suggestion that I provide my own.  Well, here goes:

  1. Go with the flow!
  2. Bring copies (yes, paper) of your reservations.
  3. Keep copies of cancelled reservations including the cancellation number until after your trip — or until your credit card posts.
  4. Work with hotel concierges.  They are your best friends.
  5. Hire local guides and drivers through the hotel.  They work with and know the best and it’s not just a matter of cost.   You might also get a referral for a guide from someone you know and trust.
  6. If you’re of a certain age, make sure you are covered if you get sick or have an accident.  We recently enrolled in GeoBlue — covers all international travel for 12 months at a reasonable cost. It’s unlikely your health insurance covers foreign travel.
  7. Try for morning flights.  If it’s a “short” hop, you can still get to your destination and perhaps have an afternoon tour.  Try not to blow an entire day with a midday flight.
  8. Even if you can obtain a visa upon arrival, I recommend paying perhaps a bit more and arriving with it in hand.  Why waste travel time searching for the kiosk and perhaps waiting in line.
  9. Splurge on a greeter at the airport if you’re arriving somewhere foreign for the first time.  It’s so calming to have someone show you through the maze upon arrival.  You can cut your costs on the airport return.
  10. Talk to locals!  You can talk to your fellow countrymen when you get back home.  Smile and engage — you’ll get it back tenfold in return.

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST AIRFARE

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Once again, Scott McCartney (WSJ’s The Middle Seat) comes through with some salient tips about  buying airline tickets, while debunking some popular myths.  In a nutshell:

  1. Non-stop flights are generally less expensive than flights with stops — especially in markets with low-cost competition.  Non-stops will most likely cost more on international flights and cities serviced by fewer carriers.
  2. Sunday is still the best day to buy tickets, with Tuesday the second best.  Avoid Wednesdays and Thursdays if possible.  Ironically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least expensive days to travel because “who wants to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday?”
  3. Include a Saturday overnight stay to get the best discounts on international fares.  Domestic is a different story, although it still may help lessen the cost.
  4. Supply and demand is what drives pricing now.  The tie-in to oil prices is no longer relevant.  So fuel costs might go down and fares will still go up due to lack of available seats.
  5. According to a study by Expedia/ARC, the best window for buying tickets is three months before departure —  up to three weeks before.  Once inside 30 days, travelers are at the mercy of the airlines.
Illustration by Fabio Consoli

 

Snippets from the Road

ABOUT THAT HOTEL RESERVATION …

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I freely admit to being obsessed with where I stay for big trips.  Here’s a tip for you who might think I’m wasting my time angsting over reservations:

For the upcoming birthday trip to NYC, I booked several hotels.  Now that the departure is two weeks away, I’m re-evaluating the bookings so I can see if things have changed and make a final decision.

I learned one hotel where I booked has recently been acquired by a brand I avoid so I’m certain to be oppressed by said brand’s marketing — a spoiler for me.   In the spirit of Christmas, I shan’t name names.  But message me for additional details if you care.   That one was canceled.   But another hotel is now 15% less than it was when I last looked (October) … and the room is better/larger.  Re-booked and staying there.

My snippet from the road:  If accommodations are important to you, invest the time getting exactly what you want for what you choose to spend.

But the hubby will tell you it’s more like 100% ..

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

UNEXPECTED (EMERGENCY) TRAVEL

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Those of us in the wonderful state of California mostly have it pretty good.  Our weather is enviable (I would prefer more cold), we have virtually every activity — beaches, mountains, desert, culture, sports — at our fingertips.  But it’s well known we have had our share of disasters — most recently epic fires in both the northern and southern parts of the state.

Residents watch as the Woolsey Fire burns in the West Hills area of the San Fernando Valley Friday night. (photo by Andy Holzman)

That brings me to a thought:  What if you had to travel VERY QUICKLY as though your life depended on it?  Would you be ready to go at a moment’s notice?  A longtime friend/business colleague told me that she and her husband thought they were ready to go with the essentials packed:  medication, water, computers and back-up devices, snacks, pets and their necessities, clothing, etc., so they were feeling pretty confident.  When the evacuation order came, two issues occurred:

  1. Neither of their cars had more than 1/4 tank of gas; and 2) they didn’t know where they should go.

Fortunately everything worked out in the end for them even though it meant spending a night in their cars (along with three cats) at a safe destination.

So what’s the takeaway?  Have a go-list ready so you don’t have to think about it if this happens to you.  If you keep cash in the house (and everyone should, particularly smaller bills), grab that along with jewelry and portable valuables.  Have a list of prescriptions you need plus a one-week supply ready to go.  Make sure all your photos are backed up! Prints can be reproduced but don’t forget those priceless photo albums.  Extra cords you’ll need. Don’t let your cars get too low.  Finally, move faster than you think is necessary.  My friend was stunned at how quickly the winds shifted and their situation became urgent.

Finally, below is an excellent list provided by FEMA.  Find your own version and use it.  I would even suggest modifying a list of must-haves when you’re traveling.  Your carry-on becomes your go-bag with things you absolutely need.  Most importantly, be safe out there!