Category Archives: air travel

I’ve Arrived!

Upon arriving into Buenos Aires, I was one of the first from my flight to arrive in immigration. Thank you Business Class.

As you get into immigration, a representative asks where you are from. Because I have a US passport I was directed to the line for US citizens; however, I had already paid the reciprocity fee* when the boyfriend and I visited Argentina last year. When I showed the page in my passport confirming this, I was swiftly directed to a different line where I was quickly and efficiently stamped into the country (unlike in Miami upon my return into the States, but I digress).

The events that follow I can best describe as a clusterf#ck brought on by yours truly.

After immigration, I spotted a duty-free shop and asked where the American Airlines Business Class Lounge was. The woman working there did not know where the lounge was and directed me to another man, who worked for a different airline. I got nothing. I went through Customs and asked at a taxi stand. Nothing. Made my way to the to the American Airlines departures desk. Closed. The woman at the shared LAN counter told me I could only use the lounge if I was departing that day. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a shower upon arrival, no?

Hot (I was still wearing my fleece from the airplane) and eager to shower and put on weather-appropriate clothing, I continued to ask various people working at the airport where the lounge was. Nearly an hour later I decided to give up on that shower I had been dreaming of.

A smart girl would have asked on the plane, or would have referred to the map in the magazine – which I normally do look at. I blame this on my distraction with all things Business Class and thus neglected to figure out the lounge access situation prior to my arrival. Note to self: make this a priority before getting off the plane. Next time…

* Reciprocity fee is the equivalent to what Argentine citizens pay to enter the US. The entry visa is good for US citizens for ten years. Argentina charges reciprocity fees to citizens of Canada and Australia. The costs and validity vary. You can avoid the fees by traveling overland. Note: Chile also has reciprocity fees; however, I did avoid those by entering the country by bus.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

*If you are following along, yesterday’s post took us all the way to the end of the trip. We’re back to chronological order and … leaving (the US for Argentina) on a jet plane.

Soon after I booked my international flight, the boyfriend had encouraged me to upgrade myself to Business Class. I agreed and got myself on the list but the upgrade was not confirmed until the day before my flight.

The boyfriend’s reasoning was that if I were to have a panic attack, it would be so much nicer to have one in Business Class, than in Coach. I have to agree. So I hope you have a laugh with me as you see the irony of starting a budget travel adventure in Business Class.

Upon arriving at JFK, I made my way to the Business Class check-in. It was so pleasant! The gate agent actually invited me behind the counter to view the seat map and pick another seat since the one I had chosen on the phone not more than 24 hours prior was no longer available.

Nervous, because I did not have access to Seat Guru, I trusted the gate agent, and chose my seat based on her recommendation of the bulk head seat.

Once confirmed, I was directed to the Business Class lounge. I was even told that I could use the Business Class lounge upon arriving in Buenos Aires to shower (in hindsight…lies!).

Nothing says Business Class lounge like comfy chairs, great views and free drinks before a flight. Nothing says backpacker like yoga pants, a 60 liter rucksack on the back and small daypack on the front.

I was seated near four business people headed to Rio. I realized I was sitting there in the international departures lounge because I was heading to Buenos Aires! It was really real!

About three-quarters into my glass of wine, my flight was boarding. It was painless as I left the lounge and headed right for priorty boarding. I didn’t even see the seats in Coach as I took my seat in the front of the plane. Per the gate agent’s suggestion, I was in the bulkhead seat and since Business Class was half empty, I didn’t even have a seat mate.

Pre-departure I was greeted by my friendly flight attendant with a glass of sparkling wine. Soon after take-off I was handed a pair of Bose headphones and a menu, (a menu!), with my choice of drinks, dinner and dessert.

I took the first two hours of the flight to discover what was available to me in Business Class. I had down comforters, an assortment (yes, more than one!) of pillows, television, movies and music.

And buttons!

There was an entire panel of buttons to use to control my seat. The buttons kept me occupied for some time as I played around to determine just the right amount of recline for dinner, entertainment and (of course) sleeping.

Since no one was next to me, I took both toiletry bags…socks, eye masks, tisses, wipes, pens, extra toothbrushes and toothpaste…which came in handy since I quickly realized I forgot my toothbrush. At some point my flight attendant stopped by to check on me and my television situation. It was fine. He told me there were problems in Coach as most of the tv’s were not working. How pissed those people must have been…

But let’s not neglect dinner.

After my table was set with a tablecloth and proper silverware, I chose to start with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. My main course was halibut and lemon risotto followed by another glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a cheese plate for dessert. I could have even had ice cream. I hadn’t been in the front of the plane on an international flight in years, and that’s because my job had paid for it.

According to the in-flight route map, I tried to fall asleep somewhere over the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I woke up somewhere on the border of Northern Bolivia. And then went back to sleep and woke up just an hour outside of Buenos Aires.

No more than five minutes after opening my eyes, my flight attendant gave me a breakfast menu. I chose the bowl of cereal, which was accompanied by a yogurt and croissant but Huevos Rancheros and other hot foods were on the menu.

I also took a look out the window and saw this.

All for 25,000 miles and $350. Well worth the investment. I’m not sure how I will ever be able to go back to Coach.

All those miles I have on various airlines…forget using them for free flights, let’s talk upgrades!

And that panic attack, well, with all the comforts of Business Class, it never happened.


Rerouted.

This post has been saved in my drafts for some time and double-checking again to confirm I am still right, it’s gotten even worse.

Several airlines have annoyed me with recent route changes.

When I was looking for flights to surprise my sister back in November, I was very disappointed in the outbound evening flight offering.

Continental used to run an 8p EWR – PHX. Now, the last flight nonstop flight out is a 6.30.

Update: now it looks like a 5.29p is the latest flight.  ???

Just for the record, JetBlue also took their 8p ish flight away and now a 5.50 is their last flight (JFK – PHX) of the day.

Update: now it looks like a 5.45 is their latest non-stop outbound flight.

And US Air – really? Phoenix is one of your hubs and the last nonstop out of the New York area is a 4.35p? How is that even considered an ‘evening’ flight at this point?

Update: now a 4.12p

Note: this is not completely scientific. I checked flights during January 2012 on random Thursdays and Fridays outbound and Sundays and Mondays for the return. And this is the information I found.

If I wanted to kill a vacation day flying I would have already been flying Southwest – which for the record is a good airline the two times I have flown them (not in or out of NYC). Southwest’s flight schedule for cross country flights does not match my flying style – nonstop and evening fights for east to west travel and the red-eye for that west to east travel.

For the record I have asked this question of United and JetBlue on Twitter…twice. No response.


Transit #indie30

Transit is prompt 22 of the November BootsnAll indie writing project.

How’s this: NYC subway –> AirTrain –> plane –> bus –> train –> bus –> rental car –> Siena, Italy

I had found a great deal – JFK to Milan for the boyfriend and I. Our southernmost destination was going to be the Tuscan countryside. The nearest airport was Florence. Second closest was Rome. Oops. Or not.

We had left late afternoon from Midtown Manhattan. We took the subway to the Air Train to catch our Milan bound flight.

Once we arrived in Milan on our overnight flight (keep in mind the boyfriend doesn’t do well on overnight flights), we had to jump on a bus that would take us to the train station where we would catch a train to Florence.

The train ride from Milan to Florence was just shy of three hours, and when we arrived in Florence, we actually had to get on another bus to go to the airport to pick up our rental car.

Then we had to drive (keep in mind I don’t drive stick) to the Tuscan countryside.

We were checked in late afternoon. We walked around Sienna and had decided to head back to the hotel to eat at the restaurant in the basement. Sounds gross, but it was a Tuscan basement with cafe tables and cobblestone walls. The meal was delicious and the proximity of the bed we were to crash in was well well worth it.

In case you got lost on all the modes of transport, here it is:

NYC subway –> AirTrain –> plane to Milan –> bus to Milan train station –> train to Florence –> bus to Florence airport –> rental car –> Siena, Italy


One day #indie30

The prompt for the BootsnAll indie writing project is ‘one day.’

I can’t limit myself to just one because I had two perfect travel days this past year.

1. Seeing my grandma’s face light up when I surprised her in Florida this past July for her 81st birthday.

2. Seeing my sister freak out when I showed up in Arizona earlier this month to celebrate her 30th birthday weekend.

Both times I had trouble sleeping all week in utter excitement. As each of the flights neared their destination, I had butterflies in my stomach and couldn’t wait to get on the ground!

The excitement from the plane was similar to how I felt when I was getting ready to land in Ushuaia, but that was excitement for the unknown. These surprises were known. To me. I knew that by making a surprise appearance, I would make two very special women extremely happy.

That’s the magic of air travel.


Tricks, for the Treat of Cheap Airfare!

Here’s a Halloween treat for you! I always get asked about finding the best airfare – what day, how do I find it, etc.

Thanks to one of my favorite travel websites, AirfareWatchdog.com, here are your answers in one consolidated place!

In addition to the tips in the link, I’d like to add just a few more tricks.

1 – Look at the airport’s website to see if there are smaller, local airlines that may fly your route. These smaller airlines may not show up on the big search engines. Examples of these are Allegiant Air and Sun Country.

Sun Country does have layovers in Minneapolis so you might want to think about the time of year if your final destination is not MSP…which brings me to point number two.

2 – If you are going to have a connection,  try to avoid cold weather cities, in the winter. You don’t want to be flying from Boston to LA, only to get stuck in Chicago thanks to a snowstorm. Try looking at connecting through cities in warmer climates during the winter!

My sister once had an opportunity to get bumped, and get a free ticket, from a cross-country flight. She was supposed to have a layover in Houston. It was wintertime. They rerouted her through Chicago. I figured she was going to get stuck in Chicago. Not so. But I still wouldn’t have taken the chance. Ok, for a free ticket, maybe 😉

3 – Always try to avoid layovers in NYC.

Maybe it’s because the ‘big three’ are my home airports but ugh, ugh and more ugh.

4 – Be flexible with your airports and get creative. Flying into the Big Apple, you have at least three options. Flying to Miami? Also take a look at West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Want to avoid the big airports of Vancouver or Seattle? Look at Bellingham, Washington.

Last year the boyfriend and I were flying from EWR to PHX for Thanksgiving — and as expected airfare was a fortune. We were flexible with dates and were able to fly on Tuesday night – which was still very expensive.

Do you know it cost less for us to fly EWR to LAS (yes, Vegas), spend the night and then get one way tickets (it’s only an hour flight so whoever had the cheapest fare won) from LAS to PHX on the Wednesday morning? For the return, I was able to secure a nonstop flight from PHX into EWR.

Even with the additional expenses: cab fare from the airport to the Strip, one night in a hotel AND a cab back to the airport in the morning — I still saved a few hundred dollars, making this convoluted trip well worth it.

We were delayed arriving in Vegas but everything else ran smoothly. Had we experienced a delay leaving Vegas, I might be singing a different tune.  And if you are wondering, I didn’t lose that saved money in the casinos either.

Hope these tricks help you score a great treat and Happy Halloween!


None of the above

What’s your inflight fashion?

Are you any of these types of travelers?

I’ve mentioned before what I like to travel with.

What kind of traveler would they consider my category to be if I dress in leggings, a soft tee-shirt and a hoodie sweatshirt? One that probably won’t get upgraded, that’s for sure!