The Unbearable Misery of Traveling in September

Around here, the schools close for two days in September for the Jewish holidays. Seems like a perfect opportunity for a quick vacation, right? The weather is still nice, but the crowds are gone. The autistic kid doesn’t have friends, so it makes him much more portable. We switched around some tutoring time, and we’re good to go.

A couple of years ago, we used this break for a quick trip up to Lake George. This year, Ian and I hitched a ride to Toronto with Steve, who had a business trip there.

But both September trips were kinda “meh,” because it’s really a bummer to be at a place that isn’t set up for tourists. Sites are closed; others are a little depressing. Meanwhile, both Steve and I are in work-mode, so we’re either feeling guilty about not working or answering work e-mails from the top of CN Tower.

And this trip involved some serious transportation hassles. Toronto is actually very close to us. The flight is only 1-1/2 hours on a tiny plane that flies into a little island in the downtown area. Should be piece of cake. But still, it felt we were traveling for the entire day.

Slightly sleep deprived – I’m a terrible hotel sleeper — we cut corners when we could. We lugged our suitcases to the airport in a cab, rather than waiting 30 minutes for the free shuttle, for example. But still it was a whole day affair. Customs, suitcase weigh-ins (failed/had to check a bag), security, cab rides home, cushion time, taxi home in rush hour. The whole process probably took six or seven hours.

The autistic kid got a gold star and kept his frustrations to himself. Mostly.

On the way back home, the driver of the car service yelled at Steve for nearly the entire 40 minute trip home, because Steve texted him too early. Steve hadn’t considered that it was going to take over an hour to process our passports, pick up luggage, and then go another mysterious 30 minute line. The dude had to circle the airport for an entire hour, because there’s no place to wait with a cab.

Getting from Point A to Point B was so miserable yesterday that I can’t imagine flying again for quite a while. How do people, who travel frequently for work, survive this process without despairing?

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22 thoughts on “The Unbearable Misery of Traveling in September

  1. “How do people, who travel frequently for work, survive this process without despairing?”

    Usually someone else makes all the arrangements. That must have been frustrating. I’ve luckily never had such a long process in Canada.

    Also, I have some numbers to call (provided by work) if my flight is cancelled etc. Those numbers work magic and no, I won’t share them.

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  2. Don’t know any secret numbers, but flying is a different experience for people who fly a lot. I was largely unaware since spouse has had miles for a long time now, and we get the perks, both official and the sneaky ones when we fly with him. Flying can still go bad, but it’s better when we’re flying on one of “his” airlines.

    It’s another example where the top money takes most of the value and others get the crumbs (though, again, the money matter — flying is cheaper for the cheap seats because of differential pricing, in part). And, lots of people have more perks than us.

    I think it’s the short flights that are the worst, because the other time pads the flight so much (travel/to/from airport, wait times, checking bags, . . . ). Crossing borders has also gotten harder.

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    1. The “top money” as you call it, is what pays for the airline. They get most of the value because they pay for it. Of course they need to keep the frequent travelers happy. If I tell the our travel office that I will not fly United and make many trips a year, it can actually matter. I have to travel regardless of the price, and some of my tickets are very, very expensive. Someone that travels once a year – who cares. And my tickets definitely make the tickets available to once a year travelers cheaper.

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  3. Anyway, I quite liked Toronto, but the CN Tower seemed pointless. Mostly, I thought it was New York City, but cleaner and cheaper.

    Montreal was nicer, but still.

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  4. I don’t like traveling by air, and I don’t do it too often for that reason, but if your job requires, as mine once did, it can be made more pleasant by (i) joining a few of the airport clubs, so you have someplace nice to wait, surrounded by People Like Us, plus the staff there can do everything they do at the counters, and they’re less harried, (ii) paying full price for tickets, which means you get first dibs on upgrades, don’t get bumped etc., (iii) accumulating lots of points, which means more upgrades, (iv) traveling light, so you don’t have to worry about shlepping bags, (v) using a car service, not Uber or Lyft, which costs more, but the driver will meet you, carry your bags, and not yell at you, and (vi) staying at the Four Seasons, which makes all things new again. All of this costs money.

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  5. I’m not traveling at all for the current job, but I previously did it by living in a country with real First World infrastructure that has kept getting better over the time I’ve been here. Munich to Berlin, which is just a tad shorter than your NYC to Toronto, is now just under four hours by train. Even more than a decade ago, I could get from Munich to Frankfurt for a press conference and back in a day with greater comfort and productivity on the train than by plane.

    Let me also recommend building trains from the city center all the way to the airport terminal. Frankfurt has gone one better and put a main-line station in the airport basement, so you can get off your intercontinental flight and go straight to your connecting train, no futzing about with the city center at all.

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    1. That was the nice thing about Philadelphia, you could hop a train at the airport and be city center quickly for like $12. Pittsburgh only has a bus and it is very slow.

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    2. Oddly, Atlanta also has a train that goes directly to the airport (I think, mainline, though I don’t know what your definition is). Seattle’s stops short, in a truly inexplicable decision.

      I enjoy airports — Seattle, San Francisco, O’Hare, Dulles, Oslo, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Verona, Singapore, Hong Kong. Not, though LA, De Gaulle, Heathrow, or San Jose.

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      1. bj said,

        “Seattle’s stops short, in a truly inexplicable decision.”

        But oh so common!

        I was doing a day trip to Minneapolis from Fargo this summer and I was able to get on the light rail at the airport and then ride a few stops to Mall of America to meet a friend. It was super easy. They were having some issues, or we would have gone downtown by rail, too.

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      2. I’m pretty sure I took a train from Seattle’s airport to downtown. I don’t remember anything but a walk to get to the train.

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      3. Yes, just a walk, but not like Atlanta’s, which goes directly into the airport building, from which you can wheel you luggage away. I vaguely remember a Delta bag check, but not sure about that.

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      4. By “main-line” I meant long distance, as distinct from local rapid transit. So you can go downstairs from the Frankfurt airport to the train station and catch one that goes to Munich, for example, without needing to connect anywhere else.

        It’s as if the station in the Atlanta airport (which is great! saved me tons of time when I lived in Atlanta!) were not only MARTA but Amtrak. And as if Amtrak had more than two trains per day serving a metro area of nearly 6 million. But one thing at a time, I suppose.

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  6. “the driver of the car service yelled at Steve for nearly the entire 40 minute trip home, because Steve texted him too early. Steve hadn’t considered that it was going to take over an hour to process our passports, pick up luggage..”
    Driver was quite right that he had been screwed. Steve did it with no ill will. But, it caused the guy a problem. Probably the right thing to do would have been to give him fifty dollars cash on top of the fee paid by credit card, and a nice apology. Aesop, he said: “I was running for my dinner, but the hare was running for his life”

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    1. “I was running for my dinner, but the hare was running for his life”

      Like that, yes, feel empathy for the driver. Though yelling at your customer is probably not an effective technique for running for your life.

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  7. Just flew through Omaha for a Willa Cather Road Scholar program in Red Cloud, NE. I used to think that would be driving distance from MN, but some knee issues have made long drives unpleasant afterwards. Didn’t check a bag. Didn’t spend much time in lines. Enjoyed 3 hours of Nebraska prairie drive, which would not have been fun after 8 hours of MN and Iowa…

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    1. Driving across Iowa sucks. So does the Godfather’s breakfast pizza in the Omaha airport. The new rental car facility at the Omaha airport is nice, but the food options on the other side of security are not plentiful.

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  8. Husband was just on a trip to the Bay Area where he ordered a ride share.

    A car appeared with the correct driver’s license and the photo matched the driver, but the driver insisted that he was not my husband’s ride and told my husband to cancel the trip.

    I believe the driver was driving for both Lyft and Uber, so either there was some sort of technical glitch, the guy made a mistake (clicking the wrong thing?), or he ditched my husband’s ride after getting a better offer from the other company.

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