Getting ready to fly? Here are a few of my recent crazy travel tidbits and my tips before you takeoff. Expect the unexpected out there because we continue to live in crazy times. I decided to share…to help you prepare.
Crazy Travel Tidbit #1 – Flight delays & cancellations are aplenty right now. Plan for it!
I was due home Sunday night at 7pm, but I didn’t arrive until after midnight. And I was lucky that my flight didn’t get cancelled! Why? Because my American Airlines flight was not matched with actual pilots to fly the plane. What??? The flight attendant crew boarded the flight on time…and sat on the empty aircraft for the almost four hours it took to find a pair of pilots to get us home. Yep, the flight ops department could not locate actual pilots to fly the plane! While my fellow passengers waited at the gate together, we exchanged flight delay and cancellation stories. Unfortunately, there were a lot of tales to share. When the pilots finally arrived, fresh off a plane that they just landed, the gate agent told us to quickly board and to expect nothing but water on board since the plane had sat for so long. Bummer. However, once we took our seats, one awesome flight attendant told us that she convinced the pilots to get some snacks and drinks on board. I promptly ordered a glass of wine and I wasn’t the only one who ordered that.
Once we finally arrived in Phoenix at midnight, I was stunned to see a whole lot of passengers napping on chairs and on the floor in the gate area due to the long flight delays they were also experiencing. It wasn’t just my flight or the airport I had just come from in Austin.
Tried & True Travel Tip– Need to be somewhere on a specific date? If you are traveling to attend a special event like a wedding or a reunion, for example, get there a day or two early to plan for the potential flight delays and cancellations that are occurring due to the crew shortages.
Crazy Travel Tidbit #2 – Staff shortages in all kinds of places are also aplenty. Examples…
*During my trip away, my hotel was short staffed. The front desk clerk told me that several employees had recently simply walked off the job with no notice. So the bar area in the lobby remained closed even though the guests are back and the rooms are full.
*The hospital I spent a few days frequenting, due to a family member’s surgery, was also eerily short staffed. Several public check-in areas that would normally have a check-in receptionist instead sported signs telling patients to have a seat and wait for a nurse to eventually come out to take patients back to surgery prep. At one point, an anxious couple approached me asking me if I was a hospital employee. Why? Because the wife was in labor! They were confused and frustrated to see the “we will be with you soon” sign. I found a nurse to take them back to labor and delivery. Also shocking to me (especially in the state of Texas) was just how easy it was each day for me to simply walk in, take the elevator up to the patient floor, let myself in to the private patient room area, walk right past the nurses’ station to my loved one’s room without EVER being stopped. No visitor badge, no check-in, no security. With the horrific recent school shooting in Uvalde, one would think that that a hospital would have security or at least a check-in area for visitors. Think again. Nothing. Nada. Wow.
*A local McDonald’s had a drive-thru line that wrapped around the building. I went inside to see if I could get my order faster and this is the sign that greeted me…
I took my chances and ordered at the kiosk instead of taking my place in the lengthy drive-thru line outside. It worked and I received my food quickly. Two interesting things to note…there was also a kiosk in place of a receptionist at the hospital the day before (so strange) and my next experience in the following paragraph demonstrates that I didn’t get lucky twice with a timely food order…
*…Looking forward to eating at a popular restaurant, my friend and I were seated at our table (after our 30-minute wait at the bar). I am not exaggerating when I say that our waitress did not appear at our table with water or anything for 30 minutes! At the 20-minute waiting mark, we grabbed a manager to politely ask to have our order taken as I needed to get to the airport. (This was before I knew that my flight was going to be so delayed due to staff shortages…I could of had another margarita!). Anyway, the manager took our order, but was unapologetic and seemed bothered that we asked her to take our order. When our exasperated waitress finally appeared, she had tears in her eyes. I reassured her that I realized that her employer was understaffed and not to worry. I made sure to tip her, too. I felt bad for the overwhelmed girl!
Tried & True Travel Tip– As you can see from my recent trip, the staff shortages are everywhere in all kinds of facilities. Plan for it. Be patient, flexible and don’t book appointments or commitments close together. Give yourself leeway and be ready to for a long wait with employees who are working triple their normal load to cover the shortages.
Crazy Travel Tidbit #3 – People are nuts. Stay aware!
People are nuts out there. Pandemic-weary, inflation-stressed, distracted and dazed is why I’m guessing that people are nuts! This may explain what I’m observing out there as I travel around the nation. My April departure day that took me from LA to Washington DC was really bizarre. I observed a car accident on the way to LAX and I watched three different people fall down in one day…one in LAX and two in Washington’s Reagan airport. One fellow went tumbling down the moving escalator! All were OK, thankfully. And then my Uber car was rear ended! Again, all were OK, thank goodness. What a travel day that was! Crazy times, crazy people.
Tried & True Travel Tip– Be aware out there. The world has changed. Expect the unexpected. Plan ahead. Be calm and keep an eye on what’s going on around you. The good news is that I have also experienced a lot of kindness from fellow bewildered travelers.
Crazy Travel Tidbit #4 – Sometimes the security line is surprisingly short. Sometimes it is very very long.
It’s weird. Sometimes the regular TSA security line isn’t bad at all. Other times it is a long wait in a line that is packed with impatient people.
Tried & True Travel Tip– My best travel tip ever if you ask me…pay the $85 bucks to get the 5-year TSA Precheck clearance! It really is the best thing since sliced bread, as they used to say! Get all the details on how to get TSA Precheck clearance here in my blog article that I happily wrote after I received mine. The TSA precheck line is much shorter. Your shoes stay on and your phone and computer stay in your bag. It is so nice! With my TSA precheck, I can get from the curbside drop-off to the gate in half the time it took me before I received my TSA precheck membership…and that is with a checked bag, too!
Crazy Travel Tidbit #5 – Passport application centers/post office locations are backed up with a monthlong (or longer) wait. Here’s how to get around that.
When my daughter needed to obtain a passport, we were told that the LA and Phoenix application centers and post offices didn’t have appointment openings for over a month. Add the four to six weeks it takes to obtain the passport and that is a long wait.
Tried & True Travel Tip– Check passport participating post offices in smaller towns. I secured an appointment for her just four days later in the Prescott post office. She was also able to pay the expedite fee at the Prescott post office. We made a fun day trip out of the experience.
One last travel tip, which is my personal favorite — have a preflight cocktail to take the edge off before takeoff. A glass of bubbly is now my travel ritual. I’m off again next week. Here’s hoping that I don’t have more crazy travel tidbits to share when I return!