Wednesday, May 20, 2009

 

It's Vacation Season Again

I travel a lot. In fact, I travel for a living, and I genuinely like to travel when I'm not working, too.
I know that I'm not typical.

Some folks only travel long distances once or twice a year, if that. And, with warm weather and schools geting ready to close for the summer, many of those folks will soon be boarding the same airplanes I do to get to work every week.

So, if you haven't boarded a US carrier for a while, let me bring you up to speed. If you're flying coach, it's neither elegant nor particularly simple. The price quoted to you on Expedia or Travelocity probably didn't include about $40-60 worth of taxes and fees, and it most certainly didn't include baggage charges, refreshments,

Here are some tips to adequately prepare travelers for their summer vacation flight.

  1. Attitude: Don't argue with the airline personnel or TSA. If you have a problem, discuss it calmly. Otherwise you could get booted off a flight or arrested. I'm not kidding. They don't mess around.
  2. Seating: On regional commuter flights there is typically no first or business class. Most airlines now charge a premium for the "better" seats. Kids and the infirm cannot fly in exit rows.
  3. Luggage: There is no such thing as free checked baggage on most carriers any more (in coach-- business and first class are another ball of wax). Please just suck it up and pay the fee for that oversized roller bag, sports equipment, birthday gift, stuffed animal, LCD Projector, baby doll or other item that is too large to fit in the overhead compartment. That's what all the nice, literate people who played by the rules did at check-in.--No, you may not ask the nice person in the next seat to ride with their feet smashed so that you can put it in the space under their seat. It's your stuff, and unless you are paying for their seat, that's their space. (And, flight attendants, do not give the person who refuses that, "What a jerk!" look. I paid to check my bag so that I wouldn't have to be uncomfortable. Unless you want to reimburse me for the baggage fees I happily pay, I want some place to put my feet.)
  4. Getting through security: Find out before you leave what you can and cannot bring on board in your carry on luggage, what kind of ID you need, etc. The answer is HERE Take five minutes and read it, and make sure you follow the rules. The TSA folks will not make a special exception for you, no matter how nice you are, or how much you complain. The people behind you in line will appreciate your consideration.
  5. Decent food in airports? Depends. If you're going to or through some place like Atlanta, you'll have food choices. No matter where you go, it may be overpriced. If you're going to or through some place like Tallahassee or Akron, (regional airports) the choices are very limited. If you are flying before 8 AM or after 10 PM, even in a large airport, you may be limited to the kind of stuff sold at the local gas station---- at two or three times the price. Since 9/11, you probably won't get real silverware in concourse restaurants, so unless you like eating salad with a plastic fork..... Just a heads up.
  6. Gifts: Do not wrap gifts you're taking on the plane. Security officers may have to unwrap gifts if they need to take a closer look. Wait until your destination to wrap them. Gift bags and tissue in your luggage work wonders.
  7. Screaming Kids: If you are traveling with children, their behavior is your responsibility. Screaming nonstop for 2 hours may be an indication that your child is not ready for air travel. (I am a parent and grandparent. I understand your dilemma. I just don't think you have the right to make 100 other people miserable because Johnny or Janie is having a bad day.) Consult your pediatrician in advance for help in mananging your child's inflight behavior. An adult who screamed nonstop for an entire flight would be arrested on arrival. They don't arrest children, but it would be nice if the other people on the plane with could have a pleasant experience, rather than a migraine.
  8. Family Groups: If you are not able to be seated together, make sure that the child you've seated next to a stranger is old enough to be self-sufficient. Other customers are not there to baybysit your kids. If you wouldn't leave them home alone, don't leave them out of your sight here, either.
  9. Baby Hygiene: Even if the seat beside you is empty, that's not an appropriate place to change a diaper. Please use the restroom, and ask the flight attendant to dispose of the soiled diaper properly. Nothing like arriving at your first appointment of the day smelling like a big bag of poop.
  10. Coffee, Tea or....You gotta be kidding--Depending on the airline, there may be NO FREE REFRESHMENTS OF ANY SORT on your flight. This includes water. If you do not want to pay the inflated prices for in-flight refreshments, please provide your own. (Remember that fluids of more than 3 oz cannot be carried through security, so you'll have to pay the inflated terminal prices. Catch 22. To avoid this, I carry an empty water bottle with me when I go through security, and fill it from the water fountain afterward. When you travel as much as I do, those $3-4 bottles of water in the airport shops get annoying.
  11. Climate Control: The A/C and Heating doesn't work properly until the plane is in the air. The longer people mess around trying to get settled the more uncomfortable it gets in there. (another good reason to check your bags) If you're also forced to sit on the tarmac waiting for takeoff or waiting for the gate to be ready to deplane on arrival, it's going to get nasty in there. Please bathe before boarding, avoid overuse of colognes and perfumes and dress appropriately.
  12. Delays and Cancellations- Airlines basically have no responsibility for getting you to your destination on time. Bad weather-- even if it is the weather in a city that is completely unrelated to your travel pairs-- gives them a complete "get out of jail free card" when it comes to delays or cancellations. Even if your flight is delayed several hours due to equipment problems or a late crew, there is no mechanism in place to help you inform others who may be waiting for you of the delay.
  13. Lost Luggage- Don't put anything in your checked luggage that you need immediately upon arrival. Oh, they don't really LOSE things very often, but they do get delayed a lot, especially if you have connecting flights and less than an hour layover. So don't put prescriptions, your car keys, the notes for your meeting, or the clothes that you need to wear to that meeting/ wedding/ party in there. They'll typically get the delayed bags to you within 24 hours. Of course, they sometimes leave them out on the tarmac in the rain, so the contents may be damp/ruined, the wheels may be broken off, and the TSA may have caught your clothing in the zippers when they inspected them. (all of these things have happened to me more than once this year) but they're not responsible for any of that.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

 

Butterfly Conservatory

Put me in a city with buterflies and a camera, and I'm likely to go there. Was with a tour and didn't have nearly enough time... shot all of these in less than 30 minutes

http://picasaweb.google.com/jpkabala/OntarioButterflyConservatory#
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A visit to the greenhouse

Click the title or go to http://picasaweb.google.com/jpkabala/NiagaraGreenhouse# to see sone shots from my early morning trip to the greenhouse
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Monday, May 11, 2009

 

Goodbye to Niagara

Getting ready to pack my bag....this has been a lovely weekend. I'm glad I did this.....
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video

Saturday, May 09, 2009

 

I Like Canada

Why don't I come here more often? It's not that far, it's pretty, the people are nice, I speak the language (mostly) and there's lots of stuff to do. I could have spent the entire day at the botanical garden! But the trip behind the falls was a complete hoot.
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Friday, May 08, 2009

 

Oh, Canada


Canada's been on my mind since the last trip to Shanghai. (I had layovers in both Toronto and Vancouver). When it turned out that I was going to make a trip to Toronto, I decided to treat myself to a side trip to Niagara. Good move.
No Motel 6--I'm here during the "shoulder" season, and the rates are reasonable, so I booked a falls view room on the 22nd floor of the Marriott, (the price difference between a parking lot view and a falls view was minmal) and the view of both the American and Horseshoe (Canadian) falls is freaking amazing.

Now, let me tell you about NF, CA. There are several decidedly different ways to do this. If you like crap and/or have small kids who need to be "entertained" there is the whole Clifton Hill scene-- the wax museums, miniature golf, water parks, Ripley's, yada yada. Not my scene. (Have a great time if it is yours.) But at the other end of the falls is the grownup scene--nice restaurants, the casino, elegant shops, gorgeous views, ----less honky-tonk and Mickey D's and more brie and chardonnay. And in between is some of the most beautiful natural scenery, a gorgeous botanical garden, and a fair amount of history to be learned (and/or re-evaluated from a more mature viewpoint.)

Tomorrow is my seriously touristy day-- The last time I was on the Maid of the Mists I was in grade school, so I decided I absolutely positively had to do it this trip. I feel about 10 years old.... I got my car out of the hotel garage and tried to find some of the places I remembered from my first trip here with my parents when I was a kid. Alas, the "famous" Fox Head Inn and restaurant with the horrible food burned down in the 60's. (a family joke for years! Dad called it the Fox's Butt-- well, he didn't say "butt"-- Dad was rather colorful! ) The German restaurant seems a lot more Disney-fied than I remember it being, and the reviews on line aren't encouraging so I decided to pass, but it is still the same place with the same owners. Since I was driving East, not West, I didn't come through as much rural PA, but I'm keeping my eyes open for Goats Milk Fudge and that ungodly sweet maple candy. I remember loving it. A friend sent me some as a joke a couple of years ago--- ugh~ what was I thinking?

Going to clean up a little and hit the casino after dinner. I don't really gamble, so it will be more in the nature of people watching--- and perhaps a Mother's Day nod to my own Mom who LOVED slot machines.
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