Saturday, November 19, 2011

Two Money-saving Travel Day Tips

Here are two handy tips that will save you money the next time you travel:

1.   Don't buy water - If you have flown in the past 5 or so years, you'll know all about the ridiculous liquid ban on flights. So instead of buying a bottle of water for $5 that would normally cost $0.50, bring an empty bottle (either the ones that are en vogue now, or just an empty plastic one) in your bag through security. They'll know if there is liquid in it or not. Then go find one of the water coolers, or go to a fast food joint in the airport that has a self-serve soda fountain and I guarantee you there will be water there. And you can even get ice while you are at it. I've not been stopped once for doing it although it's not like I'm making a spectacle of myself about it either.

2.   Don't pay to check your bag - This only works if you have one reasonably sized bag to check. The trick is to act like you are going to carry it on. Of course that means that you have no liquids larger than 3oz, or whatever the dumb rule is. But bring the bag with you through security and when you board just have the gate agent check it. I guarantee you that they'll do it since they will no doubt run out of overhead bin space when all is said and done. The gate agent will gladly check your bag to your final destination and you didn't have to spend the $25 to check it. This is especially convenient if you have a connecting flight and don't want to be dragging your bag with you through a gigantic airport like Dallas, Chicago, Denver, or Atlanta.

Reflections on Turkey

As promised, this is my post on my reflections about my trip to Turkey. Besides the awful start that I had with United Airlines and Turkish Airlines, the trip was really pretty great. Here some quick thoughts/reflections/do's/don'ts.

  • DO's
  • Fly Turkish Airlines - They are way better than any US airline and their international inflight entertainment is pretty good. Their food is really good too. Even their domestic flights were enjoyable with good service and flights.
  • Learn the language - At least learn some phrases. I didn't and I regret it.
  • Eat the food - Literally everything I ate was incredible. Unfortunately I don't know what any of it was because at the conference hotel food was buffet and things were barely labeled. Turkish desserts are incredibly sweet and usually dripping in honey or syrup. Drink Turkish coffee and tea. It's delish.
  • In Istanbul, stay in the Old City - That's the part of town where it's really, uh, old. But you'll be very close to the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, which are must-sees. 
  • DON'Ts
  • Drive without GPS - The one thing I would not do again is drive in Turkey without a GPS. Roads are labeled very poorly and hardly any streets are straight. Cities aren't grids which can be confusing. Actually I wouldn't recommend driving if you don't absolutely have to. Gas is the most expensive in the world because of all the taxes. Turkey has a very extensive bus/coach system that looks to be quite affordable. I would've done this had my conference not been in the boonies.
  • Buy domestic Turkey tickets from travel websites - I had to buy a one-way ticket from Ankara to Istanbul and I checked the usual suspects, expedia, orbitz, etc and they wanted like $200 for the 45 minute flight. But I went to the Turkish Airlines website and it was around $50 for the same exact flights. It's ridiculous. There are other low-cost airlines that fly domestic routes in Turkey, but they fly to the alternate airport in Istanbul on the Asia side, which may not be convenient if you need to be on the European side. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A series of delays

As a good seasoned traveler would, I checked in for my flight to Honolulu via San Francisco from Orange County airport online so that I could use the electronic boarding pass. I love this since it is paperless. My flight boarded at the really cool new addition to terminal A and consists of 3 new commuter gates.
My flight boarded on time and we were able to walk out to the plane which I love because it reminds me of the good old days before Orange County had a terminal with jetways.
I flew on a United Express regional jet and it was actually quite comfortable.
Once on board, we were informed that our flight that was supposed to leave at 10:39am would now leave at 11:05 for an air traffic control hold from SFO airport. It wasn't that big of a deal because I would still have plenty of time to make my connection to Honolulu. I started this new service with called pro.

It tracks your flights for you and sends either text messages or emails with flight alerts. It works quite well and it let me know that my flight from SFO to HNL would actually be delayed also due to a late incoming aircraft. It evens gives you options for alternative flights. I'm sold on it. I had a free 30-day trial, but I may purchase it. Once I landed at SFO I had about 3 hours to kill so I ate lunch at Boudin and had a great overpriced sandwich. I found a wifi signal near an empty gate and played some games and did emails, facebook, etc. I soon made my way to my gate and saw that the estimated departure time kept creeping more by 5 minutes each time I checked. My flight ended up boarding around 3:15p and we left the gate around 3:30p with an initial departure time of 1:40p.
I ended up with the seat free next to me which made for a very comfortable flight. United Airlines has a contest on their flights to Hawaii called "Halfway to Hawaii". The captain gives out the flight time and average speed and you are to determine at what time in HST the plane reaches the geographical midpoint  between SFO and HNL. I was 15 seconds off from the winner. I was pissed.
Upon landing I saw parked at Hickam AFB all of the dignitaries' planes for the APEC meeting in Waikiki this week. I wish it would've been daylight so that I could take pictures because there were all of the President's planes and executive planes from Russia, China, Australia, Brunei, and Japan that I noticed. Once we arrived the bags came out quite quickly and my grandma was waiting for me at the curb. We went right to dinner since I was starving and didn't buy any food on board my flight. We went back to her house and she let me take her car to my hotel for the night, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Apparently President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia were staying there too. It took me 2 hours to get past all of the blockades and security measures in place before I could even drive up to my hotel. It was crazy. They made every car open their trunks and engine hoods and had a bomb dog sniff out each car. I was exhausted by this point. Nicely enough, the hotel didn't end up charging me the $25+ for valet parking. Most of the streets were blocked and things were beyond crazy. Given the number of world leaders and Hawaii's history with Pearl Harbor, I was glad to be in the safest hotel on the planet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Article: Aviation Consumer Protection Division

Bookmark this in case you ever get bumped from your flight. That way you will get the compensation you should receive.