Amok Vacationing Part 2: Air Travel

Now that the passport was secured, we could relax and get excited for London. And pack. I’m a chronic over-packer, which I’ve been trying to curb recently. A friend brags that she can manage with a large carry on for a 2 week trip abroad, and here I was barely able to zip my largest suitcase for checking for a 5 day trip. But, you feel me, right? You need at least three outfits for every day – daytime, nighttime, and workout gear on the off chance the mood strikes you to work out EVERY DAY. (I always work out on vacation. I never work out every day. But if I don’t have the gear and I wanted to …?) And, certain times of year, in certain climates, you have to pack extra in case you need layers! And you need at least three pair of shoes, maybe four depending on colors …

Let’s just pretend my packing only looks like this when I only have a few days’ notice of international travel and not all the time. 😉

Anyway, yeah. I have a problem. I’m working on it. Sort of. It would be a lot easier if I was the type of person that didn’t have to plan for every contingency that runs through my head and just sport a carry on. Sometimes, I wish I was that breezy. It would make airline travel a lot easier, that’s for sure?

Speaking of, have I mentioned I find airline travel stressful?

I mean, I’m not afraid to fly. I don’t particularly love turbulence, and when there is a rocky landing, it’s really not my favorite, but that’s not fear. That’s me not liking the sensation of falling. I’m not a fan of elevators, either, and will typically opt for the stairs whenever practical. (My old job was on the 40th floor. That was not practical.) I also don’t like the pressure buildup in my ears, especially since I have inner ear issues to begin with. But again, not fear.

Even so, these aren’t the primary reasons I find it stressful. Sure, it’s convenient for long distances. But, the longer the distance, the more likely 1. I need a connection (and I can’t control what the plane is doing or when I get there!) or 2. I need to fly out of a larger airport, which means additional travel.

We flew out of JFK for our trip to London. It is my least favorite airport to fly in or out of. All things being equal, I would choose Logan or even Newark over JFK. But, Chris’ family lives on Long Island near the light rail, and the light rail goes direct to Jamaica Station, and from there you take the Air Train that connects directly with the airport. Painless, brainless. That is, unless you don’t give yourself enough time.

A few years ago, when Chris was still writing his book, I flew out to San Francisco to meet him for a week of sightseeing through the city and wine tasting around the Sonoma Valley. My flight was scheduled for a Sunday morning at 8am, and the earliest train from didn’t get into Jamaica until something like 6:15-6:30am. In hindsight, I should have let my mother in law call me a car service that morning, but it seemed silly to me to spend the money on that when the train was just as easy.

Needless to say, TSA on a springtime Sunday morning was MOBBED. (I didn’t factor in the honeymoon contingent into my travel plans.) After lugging my bags from the LIRR to the AirTrain, I had just barely an hour to get through security, and it took me nearly that. I sprinted to my gate, only to learn that the gate had changed (I didn’t have time to confirm on the board!). However, I will be ever thankful to the gate agents at JetBlue who knew the flight had not yet taken off, and they called them to hold the plane the extra 5 minutes it would take me to run across the terminal.

Ever since then, I have been ultra paranoid about getting to JFK super early “just to be safe.” We took the train, because our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until after 6pm, though we took the 3pm train.  However, a Tuesday afternoon was far less chaotic. Checking into our flight and checking our bags was a bit of a hot, disorganized mess, but once that was done TSA took all of about 15 minutes. A record. Or maybe because so many people have TSA Pre-Check now, it makes the commoners line that much shorter. Who knows. However, we had a full hour before our plane would even begin BOARDING. Luxurious. Also, a little annoying. Because what were we going to do for an hour? (I’ll tell you – we were going to find outlets to charge our phones and play Words with Friends and troll Facebook, that’s what. At least, that’s what I did. Chris might have found a more productive use of his time.)

Yes, yes it is.

We headed back to our gate shortly before we were scheduled to board. Chris – who despite being a bit afraid of flying, is a total aviation geek – was really excited because we were flying in a new model jet, the 77W. Of course, it being BRAND NEW, when it pulled into the gate there was a minor mechanical issue. Nothing to be terribly concerned about, but it was going to delay our trip by about an hour. Well, let me rephrase: in a normal airport, it would delay our trip by an hour. But this is JFK, and once you lose your place in the queue, you have to get back in line. We ended up taking off about 2 hours late … an hour of that sitting on the tarmac, in line. More things I have no control over. Meanwhile, even though upon learning our flight was going to come in about 2 hours later than scheduled, even though it was still afternoon in LA and we could let those making our arrangements know so that they could notify the car service that was picking us up, it was past bedtime in London meaning whatever poor driver was scheduled to come get us was going to be there 2 hours earlier than necessary. Though he was very polite and pleasant to us, knowing it was not our fault, he was pretty clearly peeved by the inconvenience of being at Heathrow at the crack of dawn only to learn he could have slept in an additional 2 hours. Me? Despite having slept for a few hours on the plane, I was BEAT. I passed out in the car on the way to the hotel, and was so relieved to find out that even though it was only about 10:30am, we were able to check in and I could squeeze in a much-needed catnap before we began to explore the city in earnest.

We weren’t this smiley on the trip home.

I was really hoping our flight home wouldn’t be delayed. We were flying home Sunday and I opted not to take Monday off, which I was beginning to regret. If we were delayed 2 hours getting home, it was going to make Monday morning that much worse. More things I couldn’t control. Fortunately, our drive back to Heathrow was uneventful and featured a friendly and chatty driver, with whom we had a wonderful conversation. The drive home from Albany to Long Island that evening was painful. Our bodies were convinced we were leaving Long Island at 1am and getting home just before 5am, instead of reality, 8pm and midnight. Night owl Chris made it until about 11pm (4am) before he really began to crash, when I took over for the last leg after having fitfully napped on and off the last couple of hours. Otherwise, uneventful. As return trips usually are barring any adverse circumstances. Traveling home is never as fun or interesting as getting there.


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