Friday, August 26, 2011

DIY Travel

Can it be blog day already? I feel like I’m in one of those movie montages where they show calendar days flipping to show the passage of time.

I lost track of the last two days spending too much time trying to arrange a flights to Greensboro North Carolina. I’ve never been to the state and now I have two overlapping events taking place there on the same weekend. They couldn’t be more opposite. The first two days will be at the Fall Knit and Crochet Show and the last three at the Writers Police Academy.

I’m hoping to take a couple of classes at the Knit and Crochet Show that have to do with a technique I’m using in the book I’m working on now. The Writers Police Academy offers something a little harder edged, like a trip to a jail, information on blood spatter and arson investigation and the chance to climb around in a fire ambulance and cop car among other things.

All that sounds great, but I found out the hard way getting to Greensboro isn’t easy, direct, or cheap. In the old days, I would have just called the airlines or maybe a travel agent, but now thanks to web only fares and the airlines charging you to have a real human sell you a ticket, it was all up to me.

Since I’ve traveled a million miles on American Airlines and they offer me some nice perks, I always try to fly American. I also try to fly out of Burbank airport whenever I have to leave in the early morning. It is quick to get to and looks like a small town airport. When I checked flights through Burbank, I found out it would take two days to get to Greensboro. Flying from LAX at least would get me there in one day, but I’d have to fly to Miami to get a small plane to Greensboro. It was inconvenient and expensive, but just in case, I put a hold on the ticket.

Next I tried Travelocity. They had a number of flights on different airlines. They were more direct and the cost was considerably less, except for one small problem. As far as I could tell there was no way to check the available seats until after you bought your ticket. Concerned, I went directly to the Delta site which did let me check the available seats. They were either middle seats or right next to the bathroom. No way did I want to spend 5 hours on a plane in either of those spots.

My son suggested I fly to Raleigh-Durham or Charlotte. I checked the flights and there were even some direct ones. Ah, but how to get from Raleigh or Charlotte? I found two shuttle services online. They both had great professional looking websites and it seemed like a perfect solution. Until I called them. The first one rang and rang and rang, and was finally answered by voice mail. Not a good sign. The second was answered by a human person with a thick island accent who said they didn’t have shuttles, only a taxi. When I inquired on the cost, he paused and I had the feeling it was just making it up off the top of his head. Not a good sign either.

I went back to my original plan to fly to Greenboro, but I’d looked at so many flights with so many different issues that I couldn’t remember what was what. Hours had flown by on the clock and I finally gave up for that day.

For a moment I considered forgetting the whole trip, but the lure of seeing some of my new friends from the summer Knit and Crochet Show, and taking the class that had just the stitch I was using in my current book, and going to a police academy and maybe to a jail, got me to persevere. On the second day, I checked everything again to see if by some miracle things had changed. The only one that had, was the flight on American Airlines had gone up by $150. When they tell you Tuesday night is a good time to buy a ticket, they’re right. Lucky for me the ticket I’d put on hold had the Tuesday night price. I finally bit the bullet and hit purchase. So, it’s Greensboro here I come.

Do you like having to figure out your own travel arrangements or do you long for the days when you could go into a ticket office and a nice person in a uniform would figure it all out for you and hand you a real ticket?


Kate said...

I got caught in Vancouver many, many years ago, when the airline I was flying went on strike, in the middle of my vacation. Needing to get back to Ontario, for work, I was at a loss on what to do. I must have looked lost, because a nice man at the counter for an American airline (don't remember which one) asked if he could help. In no time he had me booked on a set of 3 flights (Vancouver-Seattle-Chicago-Detroit), which took me through US customs twice, but got me home by the next morning. Try to figure that out on the internet!
Enjoy your trip.

Betty Hechtman said...

Kate, that kind of service seems like of thing of the past. However, recently when my plane was delayed, I got a CALL from American Airlines telling me before I left home. In the past I never got that information until I got to the airport.

Linda O. Johnston said...

You described one of the things I particularly don't like about making travel arrangements these days, Betty. If you don't jump immediately on a fare, no matter how high it seems, it'll likely go up!

Julie said...

I don't really mind making my own reservations, but I've flown from Indianapolis to Greensboro, and I feel your pain. I was on Delta, changing planes in Cincinnati, delayed so long on the way home that I considered renting a car and driving the rest of the way. I remember when air travel was fun. Sigh.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, being able to put the ticket on hold really helps. Then you have 24 with that price locked in.

Betty Hechtman said...

Julie, the flights to Greensboro were crazy. Tavelocity had some with three stops. American had a flight from L.A. to Orlando, Orlando to Miami, Miami to Greensboro.

At least I'm getting two events for all the trouble.

Julie said...

Getting in and out of Indy can be challenging, but I draw the line at flying AWAY from my destination in order to get to it!

JanG said...

Mostly, I like someone else to do the work for me. However, I called a travel agent who insisted she'd sent me all the vouchers I needed to get around England and France. When I landed in London, I found she'd just been too lazy to look up my folder. She thought it was hilarious that my Eurailpass and Britrail pass were in LA while I was in London, calling at 3 AM London time. By then, the travel agent had given me a nonexistent confirmation number for a hotel room and the covers for all my vouchers, with no paperwork inside. Worse, everything looked OK on the surface, so I never got compensated for the extra costs, though she did telex the papers. Of course, it would have cost me more to sue them than to let it go, so I just reported them to Better Business Bureau, for all the good that did. S0 -- no guarantees no matter who does the work!