June 2, 2014

Vacations: How Do You Prefer To Get There?

Blogger friend Suzanne recently completed a great-sounding vacation trip with husband Malcolm that included a ride on the Amtrak Zephyr from the Bay area to Chicago. As a lover of train travel, I enjoyed her posts about this trip. If you missed them, here is a great summary post: Planes-Trains-and-Automobiles.

Another couple Betty and I have become good friends with, Mike and Tamara Reddy, just completed a 40 day long RV vacation through the southwest. We got together twice, once near Tucson and then again in Sedona as their route took them close enough to us to make spending time together possible.

Our youngest daughter returned two months ago from a two week vacation in New Zealand. That involved 14 hour flights and the International Date Line, so she one day ahead of us during those two weeks. Dad struggled to figure out what the correct day and time were for her when we wanted to stay in touch.
Betty and I have flown many times to Hawaii. We have taken long flights to England and Italy. We have been on a cruise. 

Our "drive till we drop" driving trip through the west put 5,000 miles on our car. We have taken Amtrak to San Antonio. And now, we are jumping into RV travel with both feet. These examples point to the variety of ways we decide to take a break from the routine. 

I know some folks wonder why retired people take vacations - isn't every day a vacation? Well, no. Obligations, schedules, chores, and routine are a part of retirement too. A break is needed.


So, my question for you, is how do you prefer to travel? If given the choice do you fly, drive, take a train or bus, motorcycle (this is for you, Chuck), head down the road in an RV, or maybe bike or hike to your destination? Why do you prefer that mode of transportation?

What travel choices do you avoid like the plague? Betty and I fly only when we must, either because there is an ocean in the way or time issues. Maybe it is because I flew over 1.5 million miles while working, or maybe it is because airline travel has become stressful and unattractive to us, but flying is my last choice. What about you?  I know folks who dislike driving: time spent on the road is not time at their final destination.



Let's compare vacation travel likes and dislikes. After all, it is the season.






48 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I do not enjoy the stress associated with various forms of travel. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the places we stop at along the way, and certainly the final destination. It is the other part I do not look forward to.

    Flying is not fun for all the reasons you mentioned above. I don't enjoy driving, as it requires constant attention and not enough time to enjoy the view along the way. When my husband drives, of course this is different and I get to enjoy the view and take in the sights along the way, without the distraction of having to drive.

    Cruises have always seemed too restrictive to me, and way too many people around! I think I would throughly enjoy train travel. We haven't tried it yet, but it is on our list of things to do.

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    1. Train travel in America takes a few "special" skills. You have to accept that it is likely your particular train will run late, so you need patience. The train itself it will show its age because Congress doesn't provide nearly enough support to keep the equipment in good working order. So, you will need to accept a sometimes rundown appearance and things that don't work perfectly.

      That being said, I find train travel to be my favorite form of getting from point A to point B. The ability to look out the window, have sit-down meals while moving, meet some fascinating people, and relax during the many hours it takes to get where you are going, can't be matched.

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  2. Even though I am a private pilot and love to fly, I have come to despise commercial air travel--the whole experience. It is just not enjoyable any longer. I also love and travel to Hawaii frequently and if there was a reliable and affordable way to travel by boat I would do so. I will be fully retired in two weeks and I think that the train will also become a possibility for me... now that I don't HAVE to get there or get back at a certain time. In our region Amtrak is another word for "eventually."

    A few years ago I went to an air museum ( in your neck of the woods, Bob) and walked through an old Douglas DC-7--the mainstay of the major airlines in the 1950's and 60's. I was reminded of how comfortable air travel was in those days. Roomy seats and helpful and friendly cabin attendants. Yes, it was noisy and slower, but I would take it back in a heartbeat over what we deal with now.

    With complete retirement I think that driving will be another reasonable option for me. Like Amtrak, as long as you are not in a hurry it can be relaxing and pleasant, save a few of the major metro areas.

    I am looking forward to trying out the options!

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    1. Amtrak = eventually - I like that. it's an apt description. Travel by train is all about the journey and not the destination.

      You must have been at the Confederate Air Museum in Mesa. It has nothing to do with the Civil War but everything to do with all sorts of planes. There is another fascinating collection of military planes in Tucson at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

      I don't mind driving, but since I do 99% of the driving in our family, I don't sightsee much when behind the wheel.

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  3. I'm anxious to read about Suzanne's and Malcolm's train travel. That's something hubby and I want to pursue. We still love car travel...and we have fiercely held onto a couple of large sedans for that very reason My husband won't let go of his 96 Roadmaster Buick and I'm holding onto my 05 Buick LeSabre. You simply can't beat those big old boats when it comes to trunk size and a comfortable ride. We always pack snacks and enjoy the old-fashioned road atlas for reference. Prior to trips, we research the best hotels, B & Bs, and restaurants. I always have my info in a notebook and it's fun to look back at those notes from our trips, years later. I have a favor to ask your readers. Since I confessed that we like big vehicles, and, sadly, those big sedans aren't made any longer, I'm wondering what vehicles your readers have found to be most comfortable. My husband has a hip issue that requires a flat seat surface. Many new vehicles have seats that are contoured. Anyway, your input would be appreciated. Now I'm gonna check out train travel!!!

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    1. OK, readers, a challenge: what never cars are the most comfortable for someone with a hip problem. Except in pickup trucks bench seats aren't available anymore, what can you suggest for this couple?

      Betty and I took a 5,000 mile driving trip a few years ago (before we bought the RV) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. One of our favorite trips is to retrace old Route 66 through northern Arizona. We have a fabulous book that tells you exactly what was, or still is, along the route as you drive.

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  4. Like you, time and logistics necessitate air travel - I've been to England twice, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, western USA (CA,NV, AZ, ND, SD, MT, WY), eastern USA (KY, TN), the east & west coasts of Canada. However, nothing beats a good road trip where the route is planned only to be digressed from, map in hand with a cooler in the back, good tunes playing, looking at the sights.

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    1. My parents taught me the skills of car trip planning, which now come in handy with the RV. I think my dad preferred the planning and map reading more than the actual trip!

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    2. That very thought crossed my mind this morning - half the fun is in the planning.

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  5. It depends on the type of vacation. If it is camping trip (we have a small pop up trailer and a pickup). As snowbirds who spend a month or two in Florida with a condo rental, we take 4 or 5 days to drive. Visiting family for 2 weeks in California at Christmas is definitely a flight using travel points so the flight is cheap.

    I have to put a plug in for Road Scholar, a non-profit, educational group that organizes trips of various ability levels. If close enough to home, we drive; otherwise, we fly.

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    1. I am aware of Road Scholar, in fact I get e-mails from them on a regular basis. It is a tremendous organization that maybe part of our future.

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  6. Like some others, I love being other places; but hate getting there and back. Driving is boring until you hit traffic and then it's maddening. And there are the speeders, tailgaters, aggressive drivers to deal with. Flying is frustrating, until you hit the air pockets, and then you start praying. And trains -- they just take forever. Whatever happened to Beam me up Scotty?!?

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    1. Trains take forever...that is part of the charm!

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  7. Bob, as you expected, I feel there is no way to see the country other than on two wheels. That being said, I do enjoy driving on four as well, and while I flew a lot until the recent retirement, I am still okay with that (I had good status with Delta so I was upgraded a lot, but that will go away next year so I will likely change my mind on the flying front). Most of our vacations are intentionally picked so we can travel by 2 or 4 wheels and avoid flying, which my wife has learned to hate. Destinations include New Orleans, Daytona, Orlando, San Antonio, and so on.

    We just came back from a week long TN Harley rally, and one of the local RV dealers had a couple of units set up, one being a toy hauler. I believe one was a Thor and I cannot recall the other brand. Absolutely gorgeous RVs that actually felt quite spacious with the bumpouts. They made very good use of the available space for cabinets, nice shower and the like. I definitely could get into that vacation lifestyle as well since we could haul the cycles with us. And I thought the prices were reasonable with good discounts on new and used models. We might be joining you and Betty, the Reddys and others in that pursuit sometime in the future.

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    1. Well, what do you know..another RV convert, maybe. Yes, with a hauler for the bikes and the slideouts, motorhomes really are quite comfortable. With gas prices and required maintenance they are not cheap. However, when we are gone we aren't spending much on electricity, and less on food and and gas for one of the cars.

      I am a lifetime Delta Silver Medallion, but that only means I can board first and pay less for upgrades: not enough to entice me back on.

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    2. Delta Platinum through 02/15 but nothing after that. Too many flights on US Air in the early days; didn't hit Delta a lot until the move to TN. I have met other lifetime Silver folks like yourself; for all the business you gave them they should have at least made it Gold.

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    3. I thought for a million miles on Delta I'd get more than a bag tag!

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  8. I have to say we use all of the above for our travel. You simply can't beat planes to get you to a faraway destination. We know it will be crowded and difficult, but nothing is entirely easy, is it? I am absolutely stunned by people who say they refuse to travel by air because it "isn't what it used to be". What is?

    We love train travel but it is enormously expensive to go any distance and you have to rent a car when you arrive, anyway.

    If it is fairly short trip (we go from So Cal to AZ all the time) then we just drive.

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    1. Train travel is certainly the most expensive way to go, if you get sleeping car arrangements which we consider essential. For me, a train trip is a special treat that happens infrequently for those reasons.

      Next year we are likely going back to the Pittsburgh area for a 4 day family reunion for Betty's side. That means flying for 4 hours instead of driving for 4 days!

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  9. We love to get in the car and GO! Saturday we headed for the mountains in Colorado and drove for four hours...enjoying the little towns and beautiful scenery. Would love to hit the road for a month when my husband retires next year, but both my parents are in a nursing home and we dont know if we can get away for a month, due to their health issues. We will decide that when the time comes. We love to be together traveling in our Honda CR-V.

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    1. I am just back today from towing our CR-V behind the RV up and down some nearby mountains to test the braking and towing system. It is one of the few automatics that can be towed with all four wheels down.

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  10. Over the years we have traveled by car, motorcycle, bicycle, foot, cruise ship, tour bus, airplane, and RV. As much as we currently enjoy RV'ing, I actually have a bigger love affair with travelling by foot or bicycle, where the getting there becomes the primary source of fun. We did this in 2010 in Europe, hiking from hotel to hotel, and will be doing it again in 2015 in England. Of course, both trips necessitate an airplane flight, so perhaps I'm cheating a bit!

    I think we're pretty much done with big ship cruising, simply because we've done quite a few over the years, but I would still recommend a Panama Canal cruise for anyone not familiar with this form of travel - there really is no comparable way to experience it, and it is so well worth seeing. Otherwise, our next 'sail' will likely be a river cruise, which we first experienced in 2011. The getting on and off, as compared to a traditional cruise ship, was a dream. Generally less than 150 passengers onboard, so you just walk on and off . . . no lines, no waits, no complicated procedures. Again, though, getting there generally requires an airplane ride to the start . . .

    As stressful as travel is, it is as equally stimulating, and that's why I can't fathom giving it up anytime soon.

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    1. A European river cruise and a barge through the canals of France are on our want to do lists. I like cruising but the temptation to eat too much and the risk of getting sick on board means we aren't likely to taker a cruise down the Mexican coast or to the Caribbean. Besides, 2,500 on one boat (with 1,000 crew members) is just too crowded.

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  11. I will fly only when necessary. I have a disability and cannot stand to go through the security scanner so I have to have a full body pat down by security and while the TSA persons are completely courteous and professional, I find it a humiliating experience. Also, I am constantly worried that my scooter will be lost or damaged in transit leaving me literally unable to leave the plane. I much prefer to take my van with my life and scooter in it.

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    1. In that situation, I would be very hesitant to fly, also. The TSA gets a lot of grief, but the whole process is stressful and unpleasant.

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  12. This winter, rather than four days of driving over 400 miles a day, I'm going to fly to Tucson in three hours with the cat, and Art is going to drive longer days with a family member.

    Best road trips are shorter-drive days where we tell the GPS to choose the least use of freeways - especially in places that are new to us.

    In September we're going to Maine for week. It's hard to get there from Seattle. Either we fly to Boston, rent a car and drive four hours, or we fly to Portland, Maine via Atlanta! I have a strong preference for nonstops and our home airline, Alaska.

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    1. Betty and I love Maine (and Vermont) when the leaves are changing. That should be a great week. I'd vote for flying to Boston and driving up the coast. It is pretty.

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  13. I was terrified of flying for years. I got over it, but still use it only when necessary. The hassle to simply get on the plane is enough to make you scream. I'm not a great passenger in a car. I'm nervous unless I'm behind the wheel, and then you miss everything. But back road journeys can be very fun. I love train travel, but Dave doesn't. I actually applied for the Amtrak Rider in Residence program. Haven't heard anything yet, but then I haven't had time. We do love cruising. We've been on 7 or 8, and the last was through the Mediterranean. We LOVED that trip! Now we want to go back to Spain and Italy, which will involve a plane.

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    1. OK, what is the Amtrak Rider in Residence all about?

      Our biggest problem with train travel is that Amtrak started bypassing Phoenix almost ten years ago. We have to drive 75 minutes south to meet a train at 4 in the morning, or drive two hours to Flagstaff and spend the night since the times the trains comes through town are too early to just drive up the day of the trip.

      A Mediterranean cruise would make me break my big ship ban. I've never heard anyone not rave about them, esp. the ones that start or end in Barcelona.

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    2. Maybe we could do a Med cruise together, sometime.? Here's the link for the Amtrak program...http://blog.amtrak.com/2014/03/amtrak-residency-for-writers/. Not sure how many have been contacted, but I know a few who applied. I think it would be awesome!
      b

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  14. My wife actually loves being the co- pilot for the day.

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    1. Every once in a great while I get to sit in the passenger seat and enjoy the sights. But, I am too nervous when I am not driving to really relax. ....a dilemma.

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  15. Last month I took the train (Amtrak Crescent) from Atlanta to Newark - Penn Station and back. Besides not liking flying, the train was also cheaper. I did this same trip two years ago; enjoyed it enough to do it again. Every trip is different. Some of the things about this trip:

    - Train legs! Walking around the train (bathroom, club car, dining car, just to stretch,...) while the train is moving, requires train legs. I actually forgot about that. Doesn't take too long to adjust though.

    - 17 hours is a loooooong time! And that was only one way. Sleep was restless. Even with earplugs, the train stopped all night long, noisy.

    - Three 5th grade classes (75-100 kids) picked the same northbound train for their class trip to Washington DC. Nothing more needs to be said here.

    - I did this trip alone. The odds are, you will be next to someone you have never met before for a long time: they might snore, they might need a shower, they might be on the cell phone - a lot,... Point is, you may not have any control over this on a crowded train. I was lucky both times on this trip - coming back I had two seats to myself, that made sleeping better.

    - By the end of the trip, the bathrooms will smell.

    - The dining car is overpriced but fun.

    - The Crescent did not have Wi-Fi, some of the other Amtrak trains do.

    - We got 2.5 hour late start because of bad weather in the route from New Orleans. Some people missed their connecting trains in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York. It's not just air travel that is impacted by weather.

    Even with all of that - for me it was still better than flying! Some day I really would like to try a sleeper car.

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    1. I have used both the roomette and the family room. It is amazing how much the roomette can pack into a space that is roughly 3 feet wide and 6 feet long: couches and a table by day, two beds at night. The family room includes its own bath, an easy chair, and more storage, plus the sleeping space and a couch.

      I could never sit up/somewhat recline in a coach seat overnight.

      I wonder how different long distance trains in the east are from those in the west. One thing is probably true: few classes of kids traveling from one place to another. Most long distance trains in the west are almost all adults and many retired folks.

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  16. I HAD to travel by train from Chicago to Philadelphia with our small son when Ken was a student due to $$ issues of being students! I will never willingly do a long distance train trip again. (It was approx. 20 hours one way..) My legs and arms went numb from the vibration.Had to sleep sort of sitting up.Bathrms. smelled. People on and off the train at very many stops--some of very questionable hygiene and character.That said,I am tired of flying also. We have taken many cruises, enjoyed them immensely but the ships are getting larger and we're a bit bored with that manner of travel. We have been driving more and more over the years,from Phoenix to Mexico, to San Diego, and other Ca. areas.I am ready to branch out with the drive trips and see the great U.S.A.!! As Bob knows, we are looking at RV's but till then I think we'll just use the car and tool around staying at airbnb places for now...

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    1. Betty and I took several trains in Europe - and were not terribly impressed. Yes, they were faster than American trains and made more sense than flying. But, they were hot with very poor ventilation, not very clean, and surly attendants.

      I'm afraid much like TV has replaced radio as a serious choice for entertainment, trains are tolerated but given little support to make them viable options.

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  17. I don't mind flying. I hate to fly. LOL. I cannot get to some places quickly without a plane- so I just bite the bullet and do it! Once I am on the plane I can fall asleep before take off. In the last two years I have flown enough to get a TSA pre check. That is worth it's weight in gold.
    Still, my husband is never surprised when I jump in the car and drive to either Phoenix or Baltimore.

    In two years we will enter a new realm of military flying. Jump seats and sleeping bags in the cargo hold out of Dover. We plan on several weeks in Europe on the rails. Sleeper cars through Italy and Turkey are high on the priority list.
    In reality, of we could ever live in the same place as all of our family we would probably never travel again.

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    1. For someone who doesn't like travel much, you are certainly out there! Family can do that. I am eternally grateful that our nuclear family members are all in the Phoenix area.

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  18. Bob, thanks for the mention and for the question. Obviously, we loved traveling by train and will do it again. I think what made that trip particularly successful was the combination of plane, train and rental car during a 15 day period. We actually looked forward to getting back on the train and heading to the next destination every few days. The 2 overnights in general seating were not ideal, but we got enough rest to carry on. Wine helps.

    Travel in general comes with headaches, but it also comes with tremendous rewards. We simply feel blessed to be able to go and do. Happy travels.

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    1. Thanks for the inspiration for the post! You and Malcolm had a good time, that was obvious from the post.

      I am so antsy to hit the road on our RV trip that yesterday I was trying to figure out if we could leave 3 weeks early and just get on with it. Unfortunately, things like taking my dad to the doctor, going to a ball game with friends, and the extra $1,600 made me come back to reality quickly.

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  19. Love all the comments and ideas! I fly a lot right now as I am not retired (18 more work days!) and time is of the essence, but we took a road trip last year and I really enjoyed it! Train travel is an option for us as well - we have done that in China (a little scary!) and in Canada and we thoroughly enjoyed the ease of sitting and catching the sights with lots of room to snack and read and stretch. So interesting to hear about Amtrak in the US. I see some road trips in our near future as we settle into full retirement in a new area of the country. We have learned to pack small and often pop into a big grocery store for take out lunches or dinners to save on costs. We love roadside picnics off the beaten track and the luxury of relaxing without rushing to catch a flight! Happy trails!

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    1. A train trip from Vancouver to Toronto would be great fun for us. I wonder how Canadian trains compare with Amtrak in terms of quality, service, and dependability.

      Picking up to go meals in grocery stores is the perfect answer for RV travel. After all, the frig can only hold so much and the kitchen space is very tight. Every once in a while we like to grab something for a picnic or break from the routine.

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  20. These posts are really inspiring. We fly a lot but never enjoy the trip. We go to Hawaii every year so flying is necessary. We're getting ready to fly to DC for family event. Then daughters and granddaughters and I are taking train to NYC. It's a trip of a lifetime so hope the train trip is pleasant. Oh heck, it will be fun whatever the conditions. I do love road trips; my father was a long-distance truck driver and I think it's in my genes. We tried a cruise but were so happy to get off the boat and probably won't try it again. I would love to RV but husband is 6'6" and just doesn't feel comfortable in RV. Thanks for your blog. I truly enjoy your posts and all the comments.

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    1. With a tall husband, you are pretty much restricted to the larger Class A motorhomes, which average between $200,000 and $1,000,000....that buys a lot of road trips and plane flights! Of course, at 6'6" how does he fit in a typical plane seat?

      Thanks for being here and I hope you find some inspiration to hit the road.

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  21. Thank you SO much for this post!! We are just beginning to look at travel options---it could not have come at a better time.

    pam

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  22. Love all the comments on traveling! I am single, so my traveling is done alone and I'm slowly checking off my bucket list! Took a trip to Thailand in February and will be going to Hong Kong and Bali over News Years. I tried to pull a Greece trip together, but couldn't get the air I wanted, so this will have to wait. After the long hauls, I MUST fly business class and it is a game of mine to get it for either free or as cheap as possible. I also love flying to Vegas...my little dog goes with me and loves it too. This summer I want to take him to a beach, so I'm looking into San Diego. Can't stand to drive long hours by myself, so flying is my only option, and my bucket list is not driveable anyway!

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    1. Wow - business class on long hauls. How do you find that for reasonable rates? When I flew continuously for business I would get upgraded to First or Business quite often, but could not afford to actually pay for it.Luckily, the last two times Betty and I flew to Europe i still had enough miles in my account to for us to fly First Class on both trips.

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  23. We have done five amtrak train trips on the last two years much prefer it to air travel. Having said that tough we come from Australia which does in most cases necessitate a flight. No trains from here to USA.

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