Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Day: An Airbus Odyssey Old and New

To get from Los Angeles to Phnom Penh required two airlines, an overnight in Tokyo, and flights on one of the oldest and the newest Airbuses. Flight SQ11 to Tokyo left LAX from the international terminal and we were required to take a bus to the plane that was parked all the way at the end of the runway. I had a seat one upper deck and there was a separate jetway that went directly to the top deck. It required a lot of inclined walking but it was ok. There is a ton of room up there and the seats are quite comfortable. There is a small locker right under the window where you can put a small backpack or magazines. I put my wipes and book there. I always wipe down my tray table and every surface that I'm going to be touching for the next 11 hours. Singapore Airlines' entertainment system is called Krisworld and it is quite extensive. There's got to be a month's worth of shows to watch including TV and movies. I ended up watching three episodes of the HBO show Veep, The Hunger Games, and The Avengers. The fed us a dinner right after takeoff and another dinner before landing. The entire experience flying with Singapore Airlines is just awesome and they put most other airlines to shame. The thing about flying the A380 is that it is very quiet inside. It's almost eerily quiet.

We arrived in Tokyo Narita airport around 7:00p and the sun was almost gone. After a very very long walk to immigration and customs, we headed outside to the shuttle area. We caught the Hilton's free shuttle from the airport and were in the room by 8:30p. in the morning we had the nice buffet that is standard in all Asian Hiltons and it was great.

Since we were only about 2/3 of the way to Cambodia we still had another full day of flying to do.

This time we were on Thai Airways which is also a great airline, but doesn't compare to Singapore. Our flight to Bangkok left at noon, but we were at the airport 3 hours early.

We walked around the mall before going through security then we went to the ANA lounge until the flight was called. This flight was almost 6 hours long and I watched Twenty-one Jumpstreet and John Carter. We had almost a 2 hour layover in Bangkok before catching the last flight for the day. That flight was on a really old A300 which is the first type of jet that Airbus started making. So we had been on the newest Airbus and the oldest.  The distance between Bangkok and Phnom Penh is a little more than 200 miles so it was a quick 55 minute flight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Article: Singapore Airlines Good Food Guide To The Sky - Airline News - etravelblackboard.com

This is an interesting article that mentions how food affects our bodies when we fly and subsequent jetlag, travel sickness, indigestion, anxiety, fatigue, and bloating. I think I have suffered from all of these in my years of travelling.

Singapore Airlines Good Food Guide To The Sky - Airline News - etravelblackboard.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Want to know more about S.E. Asian countries?

Check out Travelfish. I've been reading this website for a few years now, I think since I was planning a trip to Vietnam. It is titled as the "Backpacking travel guide for Southeast Asia" but it has great information even if you aren't a backpacker, which I am not. They even have iphone apps for certain cities. There is also a forum where people ask and answer questions.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Upcoming Itinerary: 5 countries in 10 nights

We are one week out from my next big trip to Southeast Asia. What's crazy is that I'll be in a different place just about every 2 days.

The flight itinerary is as follows:
LAX - Tokyo(Narita) on Singapore Airlines
Tokyo(Narita) - Bangkok - Phnom Penh on Thai Airways
Phnom Penh - Vientiane on Vietnam Airlines
Vientiane - Bangkok - Macao on Thai Airways
Hong Kong - Vancouver - LAX on Air Canada
for a total of 17,941 miles all booked using United Airlines miles...and the best part is that I don't even have to fly on United.

It seemed less crazy planning it all out than it seems now that I've written it all out like this. Yikes.

The hotels are quite exciting too:
Tokyo - Narita Hilton: 1 night
Phnom Penh - Raffles Le Royal: 3 nights
Vientiane - Ansara Hotel: 2 nights
Macao - Conrad Macao: 2 nights
Hong Kong - Conrad Hong Kong: 2 nights

Sunday, July 15, 2012

3 days @ Cisco in Santa Clara

I have been spending my days at the Cisco campus in Santa Clara, CA and it is quite the operation. There must be at least 30 buildings and I spent all of my time in building 5. 
At one of the main entrances there is a "fountain" with these rock monolith-type things. All of the students were taking their leadership group pictures in front of these things. 
This has been my view for the last 3 days. At least Cisco provided us with free wifi and it's really fast.
This is the view from the balcony of the 10th floor. In the distance is a white tent, which is for the show Cavalia that opens in a few days.
This is the snack area of the concierge lounge on the 10th floor. I never saw another person in this area but the drinks in the fridge kept disappearing. The elevators open up directly into this area.  
Here's another shot of my room. It was quite spacious and the bed was really comfortable. 
Here's the tiny bathroom. Although right outside the door is another vanity sink.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Travel Day: OC to San Jose and Cisco

Today I had to travel with one of my students to San Jose for a state meeting at Cisco in Santa Clara. Of course, we flew on Southwest Airlines and the flight was supposed to leave John Wayne airport at 2:30pm, but I was notified by text message by Tripit Pro that my flight was delayed by 45 minutes. They let me know this around noon, so it was in plenty enough time for me not to rush to the airport. (Side note: Tripit Pro watches your itineraries for you and lets you know about schedule changes, gate assignments, and baggage claim information. It is worth the money to subscribe to Tripit Pro and you can choose whether you want to get messages via text or email). I parked quickly at John Wayne airport and checked-in even faster. Security was a breeze and we soon headed over to Starbucks. I tried the new lime refresher drink and it's really good. It tastes like a margarita but has a tinge of coffee, which sounds strange but it really is good. We found other state officers from another local school that were on our flight and waited with them. 
Our flight did end up leaving exactly when they posted at 3:20p and it was a short 59 minutes up the coast to San Jose. As soon as we picked up our bags we called the Doubletree hotel to inquire about the free shuttle. As soon as we got out to the curb, it had arrived and we were off to the hotel which can't be more half a mile away. 
There was quite a long line to check-in and when it was my turn I found out that I was to be roomed with another advisor. Oh HELL NO. Hell to the N to the O. I told them to book me in my own room. The advisor from the other high school was in the same boat. We had to find the section director to sort out our rooms because she told us earlier that we would have our own rooms. Eventually they sorted it out. 
Since I am a Hilton diamond member and Doubletrees are part of the Hilton family, I was given a room on the executive floor which was on the 10th floor. My room has a nice view of the freeway and the mountains behind it. 

The room has been renovated but the hotel itself is quite dated and is showing its age. There is a concierge lounge right when you exit the elevator and to keep the riff raff out you have to use your key card to just to get to that floor. When I arrived there was nothing in the lounge but I can see where they have refreshments set up. There is a little fridge with some sodas in it too. We will see what the rest of the weekend brings. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Flexible travel plans? Take the bump

I've been thinking about summer travel lately ever since my trip last week and it got me thinking about how it seems like every flight is oversold. With airlines reducing capacity and frequency, they inevitably oversell their flights. Even though this can be a headache because it means that your flights will be bursting at the seam, it is also an opportunity for you if you have flexible plans. If you don't have flexible plans, then don't read any further. If you are flexible and volunteer to give up your seat, the airline will give you vouchers in varying amounts depending on the city you are leaving from and the length of your flight. You can get anything from $150 to $500+ towards the purchase of your next flight. Sometimes they will also offer you a free domestic ticket. Those are usually harder to use because they may only be used on certain types of fares and certain seats have to be available. The no-brainer is to go with the voucher. Depending on your negotiating skills you can really make out like a bandit too.

Here's how it usually happens. Within an hour of boarding they may make an announcement about the flight being in an oversold situation. They will also say how many seats they need. When you hear this immediately get to the counter because they will take people on a first-come basis. So when you tell them that you are willing to volunteer, they will ask for your name and/or your boarding pass. If you are going somewhere that is relatively difficult to get to, meaning that there is only 1 or 2 flights per day to where you need to go, they might not take you because it might be too difficult for them to rebook you. But if you are clever, you can suggest some alternative airports to them too. You can also suggest to be routed through certain cities too. Don't assume that the agent knows everything about your needs. Give them options and the nicer and more amenable you are, the better you will be treated. They will offer you options and you can feel free not to take them. Technically you have to agree on the alternatives before they release your seat. They will also make you sign something. If they can't get you on an alternative flight that day, then they have to pay for you to stay in a hotel. You might also want to suggest one too because you don't want to be stuck in a dumpy hotel room for the night. You can also ask to be upgraded on the alternative flights too. It never hurts to ask. If they are on the ball you can ask them to remove your bag so that you are not stuck without luggage and toiletries. They will usually deliver it to the luggage office in baggage claim. They will not bring it up to the gate.

So there is also no limit to the number of times you can do this in a single journey. If your alternative flights end up being oversold too, you can start all over again. Then you can amass a large amount of vouchers and use them to pay for your next vacation. Summer and holidays are the best times to get bumped from flights. So take a risk and see what happens...only if you have flexible travel plans.