I Like Having a Plan

My experiences on this trip gave me some food for thought:

  • As soon as I got home, I purchased a plug with multiple USB slots to facilitate charging in airports.
  • I also purchased multiple adapters—one each for camera battery, laptop, Kindle, and CPAP. No one has to share.
  • I also gave a lot of thought to the swelling ankles/painful feet problem: I diagnosed the pain (tendonitis) and learned exercises to prevent; discussed it with healthcare professionals; purchased compression socks; and have realized that a full massage is something I need to have within twenty-four hours of landing.

I like having a plan.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I also learned something about overbooking on the airlines. (When you travel alone, as I mostly do, you end up as an observer, a listener, a lot.) Sitting in Nashville waiting for my outbound flight to JFK, the gate announced they were overbooked and looking for three volunteers to step off (before they started bumping people involuntarily). (I’m not sure why they overbook in the first place—perhaps because people don’t always show for a flight they’ve booked?)

Anyway, in this case, the offer to a volunteer was they’d put you on the next flight to NY (although it would land in LaGuardia, not JFK, which was where my next flight would depart), and they would give you a $300 voucher as a thank-you. I’ve done that LGA to JFK thing and know what it involves. You have to retrieve your luggage, schlep it out to the curb, and catch a shuttle (at a cost of $15 last time I checked) to JFK. The shuttles come by every fifteen minutes and it’s a forty-five–minute ride. Then you check your luggage back in and wait for your flight.

Five minutes later the gate attendant asked again, only this time the offer was $400. Five minutes later it was $500. And they got takers. But I’d never been aware of—never listened attentively enough to—the escalating offer. So if you’re so inclined, you gamble on the reward getting more lucrative … or people taking the offer ahead of you.

I had the time to participate—a five-hour layover—but really didn’t want to spend it humping luggage across New York City by myself. Not to mention the fact that something could go wrong—a storm delay here, a traffic jam there—and I sure didn’t want to miss my overnight flight to Dublin. I decided then and there that I’m too old to switch itineraries in the middle of the stream … and let someone else grab that five hundred dollars.

Travel: There’s an App for That

I spend a lot of time planning my trips; I love the anticipation itch that planning scratches. Still, as you know, even a well-planned trip can go off the rails—a missed flight, for example, or an unexpected case of pneumonia.

But I spend more time at home than I do traveling. I’m not a frequent flyer. So it never crossed my mind that there are dozens of apps to make travel easier.

Some years ago I worked for Mike Hyatt, and I’ve followed his blog for some time (along with about a hundred thousand other people). No longer at the publishing company where we met, Mike is now a popular public speaker and author, and as such he does a lot of traveling. So you can imagine my delight when I found this blog post in my in-box: “Are You Using These Top 5 Travel Apps?

Here’s a sample:

1. TripIt. This is “command central” for my travel details. My assistants and I use it to maintain all my transportation and accommodation information. When they book a flight or a hotel, they forward the information to TripIt. The program parses the email and creates neat records with all the details. It tells me when flights are delayed, the travel time, my seat assignments, confirmation numbers, and whether or not the flight provides wireless Internet service. It gives me similar information about hotels.

Mike goes on to name four other travel apps he finds useful, including one called Uber, which allows you to book limousine service from your iPhone. Don’t assume it’s too expensive, he says: “I find it is often much cheaper than a rental car.” I can affirm this: Gerry and I booked limos from LaGuardia to midtown Manhattan and they were cheaper than cabs.

So read this article—you may find something very useful for your business or pleasure travel. Best of all, Mike encourages his readers to leave suggestions in the comments—and holy cow, are there some good ones:

• Gate Guru: It gives a list of all the restaurants, snack stands, and shops in the terminals of most airports.

• Seat Guru: Find low airfares, pick your ideal seat on the plane, and get real-time flight alerts with the free SeatGuru app.

• GlobeConvert: Currency and units converter.

• HotStop: Local transit directions (subway, train, bus, ferry, bike).

• Bedbug Registry: self-explanatory.

• AroundMe: Quickly identifies your position and allows you to choose the nearest bank, bar, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, and so on.

Check it out!

Wherein Jamie & the Boy Take a Vacation at Christmas

14 December 2000, Thursday

As a single mom, I’d been careful to keep family traditions sacred. And there is none so sacred as Christmas, right? But ten years in, the Boy was older and the opportunity arose to visit friends in England. We both wanted to go.

In the short weeks between Thanksgiving and our departure on 14 December, though, I had to transition from one job to another within the publishing company I worked for, make ready for sales conference, and physically move my office from one building to another, all while preparing for a two-week overseas trip (buy British pounds; pack, pack, pack) in my, uh, off-time. Oh, and ride herd on the Boy’s preparations for his midterms and his applications to three Tennessee Governor’s Schools.* During this time my Daytimer and I, while always close, became intimate.

To wind down and get into the Christmas spirit, we saw the Jim Carrey movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas the night before we left. It was perfect.

The next day we parked my car at a friend’s house, where the Boy’s dad met us. He drove us to the airport and helped us lug three large suitcases, one large box (full of Christmas gifts), and one carry-on each to the check-in point. Honestly, I’ve come to realize that travel at the holidays is insane. But that was then. 🙂

Music fans will find it interesting that Nancy Griffith was on the Nashville-to-Charlotte leg of our flight. As a big fan, I spotted her immediately (she was not traveling first class), but as a longtime Nashvillian and veteran of the music biz, I did not approach her. (sigh) And then we were in New York, as easy as pie.

I’d been shocked to learn we couldn’t fly into the same airport we’d fly out of. No, we landed at LaGuardia and would have to make our own way to JFK, forty-five minutes across town. The Port Authority’s got it covered—there are shuttles passing by every thirty minutes—but you’ve got to schlep all that stuff out to the curb and throw it up into the van. That’s one good reason to travel with a teen. I’ll think of others, surely.

The driver of the van we boarded was living through his own personal first-day-on-the-job-from-hell hell—yes, you heard me: his first day on the job—so the trip took twice as long as it should have. During which time my fellow passengers, I am ashamed to say, verbally expressed their dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in his ability. He was Chinese, so there was a bit of a language challenge, too, although I am sure he learned a few uniquely American words that day. Welcome to America! Land of the Free, home of the Rude.

Lucky for us, we had plenty of time to make our connection with Virgin Airlines, so we checked in, then grabbed a bite to eat. Virgin, a British company right down to its socks, was very, very civilized; from our first contact with them to the last, our experience was wonderful. (Although I’d had my doubts at first, when the plane was an hour late getting into NY from London—where it had been delayed because they held the flight for a passenger who’d gotten lost on his way to the gate! Seriously, that’s civilized, no? But having now experienced the Virgin terminal at Heathrow, I understand why that passenger was lost.) When we finally boarded the plane, each passenger found a pillow, blanket, and nylon backpack goody-bag in his or her seat: pen, postcards, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, eye-covers, rubber ducky (I’m not joking), breath mints, cologne, hand/face wipes, tissues, and—my personal fave—socks. I was charmed from the get-go.

I’d planned a late-night flight (originally slated to depart at 11:10 pm, it was well past midnight before we were in the air) so we could sleep on our way to England. But you may know that Virgin was the first airline to equip each seat with personal television screens and a selection of movies on demand (as well as television shows, MTV-style radio, weather channel, and Sega and Nintendo games) at no extra charge, so needless to say the teenager with whom I was traveling had to experience … well, all of it. After the not-at-all-like-airline-food meal (which included wine, a choice of three different entrees, after-dinner liqueurs, and some truly sublime cheese), I slept. The last thing I remember, I checked the on-board flight map and we were over Iceland …

* He made all three, chose to go with Music and the Arts, of course.