Travel Tip #384

March 9th, 2008, 10:25 pm PDT by Greg

I’m passing through Toronto as I write this (but posting it after I got back to Vancouver, as I’m too cheap to pay for wireless). There was a crazy snowstorm yesterday in Toronto. Things are cleared now, and my flights weren’t affected.

There are still a lot of people around the airport, standing in lines for customer service, or whatever other airline person will talk to them. I guess a lot of connections must have been cancelled: maybe to airports that took the storm later, or were hit harder.

The people in these lines are the subject of my travel tip:

If you find yourself in an airport needing to fix your flight, don’t wait in a line. Phone the airline. There will invariably be hundreds or thousands of other people in the same situation as you. There’s no hope of the staff in the building dealing with it quickly. Phone their toll-free number (it’s probably on your itinerary or boarding pass) and jump to the front of the line.

The operator should be able to rebook you, and give you a confirmation number. From there, you’re home-free and just need to check back in.

To be fair, there were also a lot of people bumming around for standby, probably after their original flight was cancelled. I have no good tip for those people.

Time change

March 9th, 2008, 4:31 am PDT by Greg

Daylight savings time day: +1:00.

East coast to west coast: -3:00.

Traveling on DST day: -2:00. One less hour of jetlag. Score.

Six words

March 6th, 2008, 12:24 pm PST by Greg

My six-word story: I’m here and Mario Galaxy rocks.

I’m pretty much hanging around in Chapel Hill, trying to get some work done while Kat’s in the lab. (She’s doing full days, trying to get the science done so she can come home as soon as possible.)

I decided to set the reasonable goal for the week of getting my email under control. I’m down from probably 270 messages in my inbox to 180. If I can get it down under 100 and handle all of the “my mark is wrong” ones from my distance ed class, I’ll be pleased.

But then, Ryan (a lab tech in Kat’s lab) lent us Super Mario Galaxy. That’s costing me. I just got the second power star. If nothing else, it’s a solidly long game.

Why I love redeyes

March 3rd, 2008, 6:49 pm PST by Greg

or “How to take a redeye from the west to east coast.”

I usually fly redeye (aka overnight) flights when coming east. I have had some disbelieving reactions to this like “Did you save a lot of money?” Sometimes, but that’s not really why.

The setup: Flying from Vancouver to Toronto or Ottawa takes about 4.5 hours. Counting in the 3 hour time change, that just about equals “overnight”. The last flights leave at 11:00 or so.

The prelude: I can get in a full day of work (or whatever) before leaving. The airport run happens after rush hour, and at a time that people are generally more willing to give me the ride.

Airport arrival: First thing at the airport: take a sleeping pill (Sleep-Eze or whatever). Check in and go through security. It only takes a few minutes, since there are few flights at that time. Eat somewhere in there and buy a bottle of water past security. About 10 minutes before boarding time, brush teeth.

The flight: The sleeping pill should be starting to kick by boarding. Put on sunglasses (since I can never be bothered with a mask). Ignore everything and get as much sleep as possible.

The connection: I am generally making a connection to North Carolina. That involves going through US customs at the Toronto airport at about 6:00. No lines, and the agents are still half asleep. For some reason, I sleep better on the second flight: I have slept through the takeoff and usually wake up when somebody tells me to put my chair up.

All-told, I usually get a little more than a half night’s sleep. That leaves me a little screwed up the next day. But, consider the alternative: if I hadn’t taken the redeye, I would have spent the whole day on a plane. This way, I can lounge around, take a nap and be good. As an added bonus, I can go to sleep whenever I want the next night, and jetlag is suddenly a non-issue.

The math doesn’t work out for east to west, though.

NC Food

February 29th, 2008, 11:09 pm PST by Greg

Now that I’m in Chapel Hill for 10 days, I have to figure out what I want to do: this will probably be my last long visit. My plans seems to be focusing around food. Here are the places I need to visit:

Allen and Son BBQ: The best local BBQ place. Actually went for dinner tonight. As you can tell, I’m off the vegetarian wagon in NC.

Goodberry’s Frozen Custard: We stumbled across frozen custard when on a quest to buy some damn thing or another last year. It doesn’t seem possible to get it in Vancouver, so I’m going to have to get it now.

Toledo’s Taqueria: This is a little hole-in-the-wall cafeteria-style Mexican place. Day labourers wait outside in the mornings, so I’m guessing it’s pretty authentic. Plus, nobody speaks English. Kat insists on exercising her high school Spanish. I’m happy to get out “plato especial”.

Some less authentic Mexican place: I’m not against a little tex in my mex either.

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen: It’s just not possible to get biscuits this good in Vancouver. Something about the amount of protein in Canadian flour.

Bon’s: We haven’t been there before, but I need some southern food.

S & T Soda Shoppe
: A real, restored olde-timey soda shoppe nearby.

Heading out

February 27th, 2008, 11:21 pm PST by Greg

I’m heading to North Carolina tomorrow night for about 10 days.

I’ve said if before and I’ll say it again: the jetset lifestyle only sounds like fun until you do it. Once you actually find yourself in an airport more often than once every couple of months, you start to realize that the whole process is a lot like some colourful analogy involving something that’s really bad.

This might affect my thrice-weekly blogging. Or it might mean I have a lot more to talk about. Only time will tell.

My last stop before I go tomorrow is the SFU Surrey Open House. All should consider coming.

P.S. Musthaveone!

My trip

May 30th, 2007, 11:27 pm PDT by Greg

As most of you know, I just spent 5 days in North Carolina.

The only course I’m teaching this semester is a three-hour block on Thursday nights. I took a red-eye out on Thursday, and came back today. This was part of the reason I wanted an evening course for the summer, and it worked out pretty well.

Kat and I spent the weekend in Wilmington, NC with Lisa and Brian. For those who don’t know (that includes me a week ago), Wilmington is on the Atlantic, near the South Carolina border. We spent Saturday on nearby Topsail beach. Major thing I learned: I don’t get beaches. “So, I’m just supposed to sit here, slowly getting skin cancer? No really… what are we going to do?” Maybe I’m a little more Type A than I thought.

I did learn an excellent group-vacation strategy: I refused to make any decisions. “Where should we go for dinner? I don’t care: you decide.” “When should we leave for home? Whenever.”

It was awesome. My input would have lengthened the discussion and contributed very little. I just blissfully followed along and enjoyed myself. I chose my own meals from the menu, but that’s about it.

Other than that, the trip was pretty uneventful. Air Canada successfully got me there and back. That might qualify as a notable event by this point. Canada Customs didn’t believe my $0.00 declaration, but they relented when I explained I go regularly and didn’t have anything else to bring back.

Oh, and I really like frozen custard and am annoyed I can’t get it in Vancouver. And being able to update your Facebook status by text message is a nice, lightweight, realtime travel blog.

Next step: flapping arms

March 6th, 2007, 1:42 pm PST by Greg

Good thing I paid for the wi-fi. I have now been in the Raleigh-Durham airport for 7 hours, and have one more ahead of me (if all goes well). I bet AT&T didn’t think people would use the “one day” account at the airport for more than a few hours. Hah! Showed them!

Where were we… My Air Canada flight to Toronto was canceled. I phoned Air Canada and was told I could get to Toronto tonight, but not Vancouver. Fine, I’ll stay here and with Kat for another night.

When I went up to the desk to get my free shit, the guy said “you can’t get on the O’Hare flight?” He worked for United, not Air Canada, and put me on their flight to Chicago and then Vancouver, getting in at something like 23:00.

I had to go get my bags and check back in. No problem.

I got my bags and went to the counter. Since they had a canceled flight, there was pandelirium. But, I already had my ticket, and went to the electronic checkin. No problem, except the guy who was either (1) retarded, or (2) new and received 5 seconds of training before being put on the desk. The woman ahead of me who was trying to change her ticket befuddled him for probably 15 minutes. After somebody came and helped him, I put my bags up and said “have boarding pass; take bags”. He had to have somebody help him with that too.

Then, off to security. Who’s been selected for special screening? Nope… Nope… Nope… Yeah, that’s right! It was me!

So, I get patted down. Not that bad, I guess. Once again, they were friendly, and even slightly jovial.

The kicker for that: there’s a notation on your boarding pass that indicates that you’re up for special screening. So, if I had been a ne’er-do-well, I could have easily noticed that and, before getting anywhere near security, thrown out my knitting needles or toothpaste, or whatever. Nobody would have been any the wiser.

There’s a airport spa here. I got the 25 minute stress-reliever massage. That helped.

Now, I’ve got another hour before my flight. I found a seat near power, but should probably give it up and get something to eat. Maybe a drink.

Update 12:10: Home after 19 hours of travel containing maybe 6 hours in the air.


March 6th, 2007, 10:33 am PST by Greg

So, I’m still in the North Carolina airport. My flight that was delayed half an hour is now about 2:00 late. We spent about 1:30 sitting on the plane before the pilot decided we’d be more comfortable sitting in the terminal.

When we got off, they were still trying to get a maintenance crew to the plane. The guy on the intercom just said they’d have an update for us in about a half an hour.

I had a 2:30 layover in Toronto, so I’d be sure I had enough time to get the connection, having missed connections on a 1:30 layover there before. Good one, Air Canada!

Update: flight canceled. Rebooked with a Chicago stop. I may, in fact, get to Vancouver tonight. Late.

On the way

March 6th, 2007, 6:36 am PST by Greg

I’m heading back to Vancouver today, flying from Raleigh-Durham, through Toronto to Vancouver.

I left plenty of time to get to the airport, since I had to fill and return the rental car and get their shuttle to the airport. It turns out that at the Alamo rental car, a guy with some wireless dohickey comes up to your car and checks you out right there. There was a shuttle waiting to leave, so the whole thing took about 60 seconds.

Check-in and security were empty, so I sailed through there.

And, my flight was delayed about a half hour, so I’m here with almost 3 hours to kill. I might have to pay the $8 for wi-fi.

As an aside, the TSA people were almost… well… friendly. I know it’s contrary to everything I have read on the Internet. After the woman asked me to take my shoes off, she smirked and said “when they lower that threat level, you can keep your shoes on.” I told her that the floor was colder last time, so it was okay.

Yeah, I’m paying for the wi-fi…

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