I don't need to remind you that travel for the last few years has ranged from impossible to foolhardy to inconvenient to very expensive. So many employees were let go during the pandemic period that airlines are now drowning in a sea of cancellations and delays; there are not enough people to fly, stock, load, or ride herd on unruly passengers.
Every flight in Canada my youngest has taken in the last few weeks has been either canceled or seriously delayed. Her baggage went missing for 36 hours. A few weeks ago it took her 19 hours to fly from Halifax to Vancouver, a trip that normally takes 7 hours.
Even though we know flying has become a spin of the roulette wheel, airports are packed to overflowing. The pent-up demand to get out of the house and go...anywhere, has put a strain on the airlines and airports that seems to threaten the viability of the entire system. Don't even get me started on the cost of a rental car. I've had lower mortgage payments than what Avis or Hertz wants for 24 hours in a compact something or other.
In 2020 our month-long cruise to New Zealand never happened. Our trip to Montreal and Quebec bit the dust. Thinking the worst was behind us, Betty and I went to Disney World in February. All was OK until American canceled our flight home, rebooking us on a connection through Austin, that was, you guessed it, canceled. A full day later we managed to arrive home but only after getting up at 4 am to catch the only available flight from Orlando to Phoenix.
A post about travel plans seems sort of, well, irrelevant. But, as a people, we tend to be either optimistic or pig-headed, in equal measure. All those people standing in line at the airport must be trying to go somewhere.
Our plans for the rest of this year are certainly less ambitious than two years ago. In a week we are heading for the cool Alpine town of Greer. At 8,900 feet, temperatures are comfortably stuck in the 70's. We have a cabin in a wooded setting that will give us a respite from the 112 degrees of a week or so ago in Phoenix.
Come September, we will fulfill a long-delayed dream of taking the Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Portland. Yes, it takes 26 hours, but that is the point. Bowing to the uncertainty of flying, instead of a 75-minute flight, we will drive the 7 hours from our home to Los Angeles. The train runs once a day. We won't risk missing it because of cancellations.
After spending five days in Oregon we have booked a flight home. If that one is seriously delayed or canceled, so be it. Getting home doesn't have the same urgency as meeting Amtrak at Union Station.
Next year we are toying with something a bit farther afield: either the United Kingdom or fulfilling the previous plans to visit parts of Canada and northern New England. To proceed with both these trips will require a substantially improved airline system over what exists today.
Our health and energy clock is ticking regardless of airline staffing issues or costs that seem to know few boundaries. We can't take it with us...so I guess we hope for the best and plan for something else!
We flew to France & Spain in June and didn't really have any big problems. We first visited my wife's sister (and only sibling) in France whom she hadn't seen since 2018. Our flight there was Toronto to Frankfurt and then a connection to Bordeaux. The early morning connection in Frankfurt was the only connecting flight we had and it was on-time. I think early morning flights are probably less backed up but things deteriorate as the day goes on. Within Europe we had a direct flight Bordeaux to Barcelona and while the small airport in Bordeaux was busy our flight was on time. On arrival in Barcelona the airport was jammed and there was a LONG line at the taxi stand, we had about a 45 minute wait for a taxi to take us to our Barcelona hotel,ReplyDelete
Within Spain we took the AVE high speed trains between cities that at 300kph (186mph) was almost as fast as flying and a lot more comfortable. Why we can't have that sort of rail service here in North America is a mystery. We had one internal flight in Spain, Seville to Madrid, to catch our flight home. We could have taken the train to Madrid but since we were going to the Madrid airport anyway it seemed easiest to just fly there. That flight was rescheduled several times but as it was our only travel item that day it made little difference to us. I suppose the lesson there is build in lots of leeway into your schedule. Things being the way they are I think you are taking your chances booking a tight connection right now.
Our flight from Madrid to Toronto was delayed 2-1/2 hours and as we had booked overnight at a hotel close to the airport we stayed at our hotel right until the noon checkout time. After that we cooled our heels at the Madrid airport but we had lounge passes (a perk of one of the credit cards we have) so it was quite pleasant. Still the airport there was crowded and as we were walking to check-in we passed a Spanish TV reporter on-camera reporting how the Madrid airport was a travel mess--it seems to be a general problem worldwide. That said we had lots of time built into our schedule and we were fine.
The flight from Madrid to Toronto was good though on arrival, due to airport congestion, we were held at the gate for about 10 minutes before we could deplane. Toronto was our final destination so it was no problem for us but those with connections looked pretty stressed. Our luggage was slow coming off the plane, I was starting to get worried, but thankfully it eventually appeared on the belt.
Maybe we were just lucky but I think if you are going to travel be sure to build in LOTS of time for connections, even the next day if you can, and early morning flights are better than later in the day. Also try and not stress about it, there's nothing you can do about it anyway. I have seen in the news people being upset and ranting about luggage not arriving on time but my take is that stressing about some missing clothes just isn't worth it. Breathe deeply and know that after 2+ years the world is opening up again, and that is a good thing.
One of the problems my daughter has had with Air Canada over the past several weeks is their tendency to book very close connection (one hour or less). I'm not sure if someone can request a different connection and still book the ticket online. That may require a phone call to have some human help.Delete
I'd say you were quite lucky with all the flights and different-sized airports. Toronto seems completely overwhelmed at this time, though it was in Vancouver my daughter's bag went missing for 36 hours. Betty and I will certainly judge the status of the various airports and airlines before we commit to something involving international travel next year.
I have found that booking on the Air Canada website itself (or with any airline really) you do get more options than you find on the consolidators like Expedia. That said your daughter works in the travel business so I am sure she knows a lot more ins and outs than I do.Delete
We usually take a family trip to Hawaii every year. We canceled our June 2020 trip as the horror of Covid unfolded. By June of 2021, it rather seemed as if the horror was receding and to Hawaii we went. This was just before we all found out that Covid was planning on working its way through the Greek alphabet.ReplyDelete
Fast forward to this year, and an even bigger family group is headed to Hawaii on Monday. Fortunately, we are on early flights with no changes of plane, so I certainly hope all goes well.
Our non-stop flight from Phoenix to Lihue, Kauai, went without a hitch last September, though there were strict testing requirements still in place. The return was a red-eye that also had no issues. Especially now, I don't think I would book anything to one of the islands that involved a plane change in either Los Angeles or Honolulu.Delete
Best of luck to you and your traveling group on Monday!
I've got several plane tickets. West coast to Charlotte late August (change plane in San Diego, and Dallas late September. I book first flight of the day and always have. Right now it's best bet for no cancellations. Each trip is 2 weeks. I'm getting my 2nd C19 booster this week to have my best "health insurance".ReplyDelete
We did the same thing getting our second booster 2 weeks before our trip to Europe in June. We didn't get Covid so it either worked or we were fortunate--perhaps a bit of both.Delete
First flights are usually the most-likely to go. But, we have a very hard time getting up and to the airport in time for a 6 am flight. I used to do that when I was younger, but not so much anymore.Delete
We're lucky to be just 10" from the airport in our modest size city. I do better with early flights that late night arrivals ;-)Delete
Before the pandemic my wife and I were taking annual spring and fall international trips. We haven't been on a plane since 2019. In 2020 we cancelled the annual trips. In lieu of our trips abroad, during the spring we spend a few weeks at Hilton Head Island, SC. We fell in love with the place. We found the restaurants, bike trails, and our oceanfront/ beachfront rental exceptional. We enjoyed HHI just as much as our average foreign trip.ReplyDelete
We are not traveling anywhere where masks and covid tests are required. Because we have traveled so much (over 60 Countries) during 50 years of marriage, we can afford to be more careful with travel choices. We have essentially accomplished our travel goals even if we don't visit any more foreign countries. Others may want to take on the attitude of "were running out of time so let's do it now while we have the energy, irrespective of the pandemic." We hope to resume long distance travel by 2024. However, we are cautiously optimistic that we'll celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in 2023 in one or two of the last remaining countries on our "bucket list."
Finally, we encourage our fellow travelers to visit your "must see" sights and those requiring stamina as early as you can. You are not likely to have the energy to climb Machu Picchu in your 90's. Yet, you can do a cruise at any age.
Our 50th will be in 2026...keeping our fingers crossed we can do something special.Delete
One change we have made is considering prepacked tours instead of doing everything ourselves. Driving in foreign countries, arranging all the hotels, train schedules, and attraction tickets, finding decent places to eat, and just adapting to cultural differences takes away the ability to simply enjoy the new environment.
Tours do have disadvantages, but we are seriously considering them for the U.K. trip. It helps that one of our daughters is a travel agent. She can do a lot of the leg work for us.
My wife and I have done a number of tour group trips. Each one we have enjoyed. We especially enjoyed meeting fellow travelers who are some of the most interesting people we've ever met. For seasoned travelers we love to ask, "What's your favorite country?" Tours offer a number of conveniences. Except for Canada, we never drive in foreign countries. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans abroad according to the US State Dept. We prefer to let experienced local drivers transport us, another reason we have used tours. We prefer that most dinners be left open on tours. During the evenings we usually break away from the group and go to a fine restaurant. We are not foodies but we're picky. Our favorite tour companies are Smartours and Friendly Planet, using them in Africa, Asia, and South America. Be aware that there may be an on occasional 4:30AM wake up call on tours. Tours do push you a bit so you wind up seeing more. If you want a slow leisurely pace don't do a tour. Carefully look over the itinerary before you commit.Delete
We also love tours. We are way too old to do all of that arranging on our own and tours get priority at many sites. Who wants to travel to a city to find you can't get in to the attraction that brought you there? And you don't have to handle your own luggage. I also agree on the interesting people you meet. We never met an unpleasant person on a tour. A tardy one, yes, but never unpleasant. :DDelete
Thank you, both Jake and Anne. Group tours would be quite a change for us, but it might be time.Delete
You are five years ahead of me, Bob, but I too feel the ticking of the clock. We had all these grandiose travel plans (what happened to that?) . Good thing I chose to advance my retirement by one year in 2019 because at least we got our one month AUS/NZ trip in during October of 2019. I 'traveled for a living' for five years from 2014-19 and learned a few things along the way:ReplyDelete
- Live near a major airport if you have the choice. Better still, near an airline's hub. that way you get more non-stop direct flight options and plane/crew schedule flexibility.
- Non-stop beats relay every day of the year.
- Carry-on your luggage, if you can.
- Join airline loyalty programs
- Fly as early in the day as you can
- Pack snacks
- Sit as far forward as you can in an isle seat
- Get 'TSA Pre' domestically and 'Global Entry' internationally. The latter includes TSA Pre.
- For God's sake, leave yourself extra time at the airport if you can.
- Things will go wrong. Accept it with patience. Everyone is stressed out enough.
We currently are looking at three destinations for later this year, St. Pete, FL, Costa Rica and Portugal, but with BA5 racing thru the population, right now we are stepping back again. Hoping for that updated Omicron booster shot in the fall.
Every one of your travel hints are ones I used during my twenty years of traveling for my business. We did add the Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check a year ago and it makes a big difference in the airport experience.Delete
I did start flying a lot during the "OJ Simpson Run through the airport" days when true road warriors would try to show up 60 seconds before the door closed. No more!
Friends of mine are in Portugal at the moment and absolutely have fallen in love with it and the people.
The airlines took on massive amounts of debt to survive the Covid shutdown. We can fully expect them to cut every corner possible in order to attempt to recoup their losses. This will include terminating less profitable flights, restricting employee additions, increasing prices and over booking every flight they possibly can. I think it would take a decade's worth of profits for some of them to recover. For the consumer it would actually be better if some of the airlines declared bankruptcy and discharged their debt. The next recession, whenever that is, is the most likely time we will see more seat availability.ReplyDelete
I agree with much of what you say, with one coda: employee availability. My understanding is the airlines are attempting to restaff as quickly as they can, since a flight not flown is money lost forever.Delete
But, wages and working conditions for people like gate agents and baggage handlers are going to have to show serious improvements from pre-Covid days. These folks realize they have much more control over their employment situation and expect to see changes.
If you want to travel I suggest going for it. While your experiences with canceled flights are a bummer, the experience of traveling is still something I want to do. I'm current on a trip in Asia and I completed two US trips earlier this year, all without significant issues ( a few flights were late). Don't let your worry stop you from going, just vuld in as much flexibility as possible. Seize the day!ReplyDelete
Seize the day...since none of us know how many more stretch before us. Exactly.Delete
We had reservations at a nice hotel in Dutch Antilles for New Years, we changed our plans not because of the destination but because we had to be tested for Covid before we could return to the U.S. We did not want to risk one of our party catching covid and then we cannot return home until we test negative twice. We drove to Orlando since it is not so far driving and if we caught Covid we could drive home.Delete
Our daughter was in Europe last Fall and she could travel all over Europe with the vaccine passport except the UK since they left the EU, there are travel restrictions coming back to the EU from there. The biggest issue with airlines now is all the older experienced pilots retired during the pandemic and there are not enough pilots to cover all the scheduled flights. I read a story this morning that airlines are trying to train more pilots to cover the increased post Covid demand.
I have read the same thing. Personally, I would rather pilot training was not rushed.Delete
Believe it or not Allegiant is where I have had my best experiences. Yes, you have to add everything. Tonight I am flying from Idaho Falls to Mesa with only a personal item for…$78 Round trip! I added a bag last trip- $40 more. The small airports are easy to get to and leave. This will be my third trip in seven months.ReplyDelete
My son has traveled twice a month since January. It has been a mess. The worst? Delta contracted out to Virgin Air from NYC to London. He said he flew with his knees in his ears. So much for being a platinum member!
That is something I hadn't looked into. As you know, Alligent uses the airport in Mesa, about 20 minutes from me. They fly to smaller airports and those near larger cities, but not to primary hubs. That could be a wise work-around for the time being.Delete
I have read, on our Go Gilbert facebook group page that the lines to get through security at Allegiant are very long, but not so many delays of flights. They suggest getting there 3 hours prior to flight. We have used Allegiant pre Covid. We have no air travel booked at this time.Neither of us care to deal with the mess or the risk of Covid in airports and on planes right now.Delete
While I traveled to the UK three times in the past two years, I am not eager to do it again right now. The flights during Covid were virtually empty and the whole process was quick. I did carry-on only and am hooked on that. It makes everything easier if you can wear the same clothes on repeat for a couple weeks. :-) And customs either way is SO much simpler than the whole luggage dance. BUT, the stories of travel lately (delayed flights, canceled flights, jammed flights, unruly passengers, no masking) have put me off. I certainly hope it changes but the staffing issues as well as new variants popping up constantly are concerning.ReplyDelete
I will not fly again until all of these issues are sorted out. We will drive 7 hours to LA to catch our train to Portland, rather than risk a 75 minute flight.Delete
We flew to Wisconsin in March. No problems. We decided to drive to Wisconsin in July, because of all the issues you point out. No real problems, except we were exhausted by the time we got home.. It's 2,000 miles round trip. That's a long way to drive!Delete
Yes, that is a lot. 350 miles to LA is more doable for us!Delete
We got back from a cruise last Friday - flew Seattle-Heathrow-Barcelona without a problem. We'd thought about canceling but decided against it. It was a two-week cruise on a low key but comfortable ship, and we added Spain, Morocco and Portugal to our list of countries we've seen. Flew home Heathrow to Seattle. Caught covid at Heathrow! But I think of travel as an adventure, including whatever hassles may come along! We splurged for business class tickets and it was a great decision, as we got several hours of in-flight sleep which minimized the jet lag.ReplyDelete
What cruise line did you use? I like the cruise experience, but not on Mega ships. Your description seems to match what we are looking for.Delete
I hope your Covid was mild. I would guess that you and Art are fully shot and boostered!
We took a short road trip to Winslow to stay in our favorite historic hotel, La Posada. It was a great getaway through Pine trees, some nice meals and wine at the Turquoise Room, live music in the lobby after dinner, some antique shops on the way home. I must be getting old, and Covid years have taken a toll.. but getting HOME was also wonderful.Our own pool,patio, my good home cooked meals, a pile of good books yet to be read..all very enticing.. the glitter of travel has worn off a bit.. but maybe another mining town soon…ReplyDelete
We are off to Greer next Friday...rain showers and highs near 70...really looking forward to it.Delete
We have been to Wnslow a few times and seen the hotel you enjoy so much. Of course, we posed for a picture at the statue.
We have an Alaska cruise coming up in 24 days and can't wait. It is a makeup for an Alaska cruise that was cancelled in May 2020. We can't wait. We are boosted and ready to go. We both had Covid last week, so we are hoping we will be in great shape for avoiding any Covid for the next few months. We have another cruise scheduled in November. So, we are jumping back into travel with both feet this year!ReplyDelete
Best of luck. We loved our cruise from Seattle to Alaska in 2019, though the famous glacier outside of Juneau was already shrinking because of warming.Delete
I've been struck recently by the fact that accounts of air travel nightmares never mention train travel as an alternative -- despite the fact that I live in the northeast, where rail is a reliable (and, oh-so-much-more-pleasant) alternative. I've seen some discussions recently of "slow travel" as a desirable experience, and I agree. If you've got the time and enough money in the travel budget to, for example, get a bedroom on an overnight train, this is a delightful way to travel. I just recently discovered that it is now possible to travel by rail from Boston to Montreal without having to go south to New York first, and that has me dreaming about a vacation in Montreal.ReplyDelete
Betty and I are taking the train from LA to Portland in September, a trip I have always wanted to take. We did spring for the bigger bedroom, rather than the tiny rommette.Delete
You are absolutely right: train travel in parts of the Northeast is convenient and quick. We are looking at a trip to Quebec City in 2023, with an excursion into New England. A train from Monteal to Boston may be perfect for us.
I'm back today from my work Asia trip. No issues with any flights, delays or luggage. Just the usual exhaustion from long flights and multiple airport stops. On some flights masks were required due to local laws and on the rest outside of then US many people were masks. In the US less so. Its possible the delay issues are being overhyped by the media.ReplyDelete
Good to know and you might be right. Troubles and problems always lead over calm.Delete