Airport Guests: Behave Yourselves!

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Boston, Massachusetts. August 2016.

So, if you are following along from last weeks discussion/advice on carry-on bags and air travel, you will remember that my final point was to simply Be Kind. In my advice, I also mentioned that I was going to talk about bad behavior and some of the truly horrendous things I’ve seen in my last few travels and how to avoid being these people who make life more difficult for everyone.

I have two quick points to start us off:

Firstly, I was never going to write this post, because, let’s be honest, we’ve all seen people misbehaving in airports and all immediately think ‘but I’d never do that!’, however, it’s easier to fall into bad behavior in a stressful situation (ie, traveling) than one would think. Then seeing certain situations – as will be detailed below – I felt the need to ask: when did we all forget how to travel well?

And, secondly, it may seem weird to address this to ‘Airport Guests’, after all, it’s not like you are staying at the airport like you might a hotel room or any other lodging, however, in both of these cases, you are technically a customer. Most of the time, we find that people behave better when they think of themselves as a guest – a person who may be served while there but who is generally expected t0 do their part and respect their host – rather than a simple customer – a person who is spending money in exchange for goods and services.

Therefore, if you are traveling, think of yourselves as a guests, with those travel employees not as your servers but as your hosts who are more than happy to help you out, but who also have every right not to do your bidding just because you demand it. (In this, I am in no way saying that anyone who works as a server deserves less respect; this actually works for all kinds of service oriented jobs!)

Anyway, while a lot of boorish behavior I have seen deals with luggage, I want to highlight two whoops moments (one seen and one experienced and neither really luggage related) to see what to do and not to do in the high stress world of travel: where everything can/will go a bit topsy-turvy.

Bad:

Coming home from Boston, my family landed in LAX which is the main LA thoroughfare, meaning it is a relatively large airport (but nothing like JFK or Heathrow!) but, in all my experiences, it is very well signed so that if you are paying attention, you shouldn’t end up too turned about.

Well, unless you were like the two early twenty-somethings we saw arguing with the two female security agents guarding the exit rout leading to the baggage claim – for those who are unclear, this is the hallway that is an exit only from the terminals which has no official security (metal detectors and ticket checks) and therefore cannot be used as an entry point to the terminals for any reason (which is why there are signs which specifically state the this is an exit point only and to check your baggage!).

This pair of young women were roughly explaining – one in anger and one through near tears – that they had been on the other side of the checkpoint but had gotten turned around while trying to transfer between flights, the next of which was set to board in half an hour. While one of the girls continued to be very combative (and very fond of interrupting), one of the guards explained that they could not verify that they had come through and, since it seemed like they had walked in through the outer doors before approaching the station, they would have to go though security (again) to reenter the terminal area.

The belligerent one began yelling (or at least something very reminiscent of it)n- hence why I can tell you so much about a conversation I heard in passing – about how they wouldn’t make their flight if they had to reenter security and how this was frankly (and I am censoring) total B.S. because they were not outside – they had just come down because they got lost trying to transfer.

After double checking their time to get to the plane, the guard very calmly (I was keeping track at this point and it all happened quickly) told them to head up to security and to tell the person sorting  out the line what had happened and the time constraint, and they would do their best to get both girls to their plane as quickly as possible.

While the crying girl went into panic mode, the other got more belligerent but, finally, after another minute or so of arguing fruitlessly, and frankly wasting precious time they did not seem to have, the angrier one dragged her panicked and now sobbing counterpart off toward the exit and the security above, however, not before loudly exclaiming “I can’t believe these absolute *C-U-Next-Tuesdays!” (*again, this is censored).

Yep. So why was this so bad?

First, there are certain parts of airports that are exit only’s just as there are no public access areas – it’s part of security. These exits do not have bag scanners or metal detectors but pairs or single guards who are in charge of keeping the peace, keeping the flow of traffic moving, and making sure it all goes in one direction: out. Therefore, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter the reason, you cannot enter at these points no matter how self-important you may think you are or what your situation may be. This really goes double if you are the ones that got turned around and didn’t follow the signs.

Second, you are yelling at a person who is one of the front-line defense of national security. You may know that you are not dangerous or carrying anything dangerous, and frankly, in this situation, the guards were not worried about these two girls being a danger. However, by yelling and causing this scene, these girls did distract them from their jobs which, again, is a matter of national security.

Thirdly, speaking to anybody the way this girl was is highly inappropriate and I do not just mean the language used. More critical to you traveling, however, most airports have posted warnings about physically and/or verbally abusing airport employees and the consequences of breaking these rules can be severe – forget missing your flight, you may end up on, at the very least, that airports no fly list if you behave badly enough.

Finally, I was shocked they were helped at all. As they say, ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ If they had been calmer and listened, these girls could have been up at security at least 5 minutes quicker and a lot less panicked. Who knows what other help could have been offered as well, but instead they acted out. We all know that traveling can be frustrating but no one deserves to have it taken out on them personally for doing their job, especially when they are helping you and your fellow travelers the best the can (even if it many not feel like it to you). So again: Be Kind.

The better way:

My sister and I had a huge diversion on of our early transfer flights through New York when we flew off to our graduation trip around the UK – big enough that we sprinted alongside an elderly Japanese couple who were traveling like we were so we wouldn’t miss our flight (this was with a two hour scheduled gap so that wasn’t a planning issue, but a weather fluke). By the time we got to the gate, they had just started boarding so we were not worried. However, we didn’t seem to have all our information in order because when we got to our boarding, we couldn’t get on the plane.

We were panicked.

We headed to the counter, which was a bit understaffed, but a lovely British gentleman got to us eventually and helped sort us out – unbeknownst to us, because of the way we had checked-in in LA and the delays, we were supposed to check in with the desk and let them know that we had made it and let them re-print the tickets for the last legs of your journey. To this day I do not know why this was in all the details, but that’s what happened.

There was confusion and panic and the verge of tears, but no anger and no language and we were helped and headed on our way.

Unfortunately, because of that hiccup – or at least we assume because of that flight mishap – when we landed in Dublin to catch the bus to Galway, our luggage wasn’t there to greet us.

Again came the panic.

I had planned 4 days – one of our longest stays in any city – in Galway to get used to the time zone and settle in but the woman working at the lost luggage center couldn’t guarantee that the bags would get to us in time for our next stop. She was very nice and gave us – two very panicked, very tired, and very young travelers – all the information we would need to check in with the airline to see where our bags might be and where we could change our locations if they hadn’t managed to get to us in those four days.

Still on the brink of tears and mildly panicked but ready to start an adventure we set out, once again without a rude word or tone, which also meant we got a free meal voucher that my shoe string budget truly appreciated. And, maybe with karma on our side, with a bit of high-jinks along the way, the bags reached us the afternoon before we were set to leave Galway.


Now, in no way am I trying to say our panic was on the same level as the two girls in story one, nor am I trying to call them out as nasty, rude people (I make no judgment about them personally, just their actions and words) – what I am trying to do is show that things go wrong when you travel both by your own choices and just dumb luck, but that doesn’t give you any kind of right to take it out on anyone else.

So please, travel well, make good choices, and always, always, always, try to be kind out there.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Airport Guests: Behave Yourselves!

Watch the Carry-Ons

On our way to Boston, we got to the airport early – we flew out of LAX and drove ourselves so multiple hours of sitting and eating far outweighed the chances of running into issues of traffic and security, even if we could have slept longer.

Between 5 of us, we had 4 suitcases and 5 carry-ons which shouldn’t have been an issue, however, there were a few issues that were truly unexpected:

1. Three of us were seated in exit rows.

Exit rows have no under seat storage so everything you bring into the cabin must go above you in overhead storage. Despite this deficit, you are not granted an earlier boarding or reserved bag space – though we were seriously considering recommending it! If you find yourself in this predicament when booking, prepare for it, especially in the busier season (as I’ll discuss next!).

People who board first, especially with multiple carry-ons, take up a lot of room and (at least on our way to Boston), people were closing overhead bins before they were full but, since this is not traveler etiquette, we never thought to check! Luckily, we did get everything stored but remember in your process to always keep a watchful eye out for space (as you’ll see).

2. Think of the season and pack light!

With more and more airlines charging for checked luggage, more and more people are opting out of checking bags and carrying on whatever limit, including pushing it to extremes. This leads to more and more issues of finding cabin space especially near your seat – we noticed some passengers have started to put luggage ahead of where they sit in order to jump ahead on departure.

So, how do you combat this? Well, one: bring carry-ons you can store under your seat (when you have said space) and avoid fighting for the overhead space. And, two: if you must bring overhead luggage, don’t be surprised (or cross!) if you have to check part of your haul at the gate, especially if you are in a later boarding section.

3. Follow all directions at security before being asked personally.

It was absolutely unbelievable to me how many people I had to fight not to yell this at – it honestly felt like no one in the airport had ever traveled before. We had people who didn’t remove shoes, belts, hats, liquids from bags as well as large electronics. This is especially hazardous when more and more people are bringing more and more cases through security in lieu of checking items.

The issue with getting flagged at security is that they must unpack your entire suitcase/bag. I watched the whole contents of people’s luggage – panties to toothpaste and laptops to paperwork – get pulled apart and examined. Now I wouldn’t mind so much if this just slowed down the person getting pulled out and checked, however, as your improperly packed bag must be scanned multiple times and, if too many people are being pulled, there is no where for these bags to be pulled, causing security to slow or stop. 

Security is not hard: follow instructions, do your part, and we’ll all get out in time to do what we need to do!

4. Beware dense objects (and odd objects).

This was something really unexpected: some objects that you wouldn’t think as a problem in your carry-on, might be a bigger issue than most! If you really pack your bag and have dense objects in them – my sister’s box of business cards in this case – these denser pockets can appear as solid unidentifiable objects in a scan which will get you pulled from the security line. The truth is, most of the time you won’t know what will set a scan like this off, however, density and metal coatings – I had a metal CD case once that caused some issues – play a large part in making these determinations.

On a stranger point of odd objects and the randomness of scans, my mother’s bag got flagged – we thought it was her metal water canister at first – because of an oddly packed bag of peanut M&Ms!

5. And (as always) be kind!

I have seen a lot of incidences in all my flights (and I’ve had many both international and domestic), but this trip between LA and Boston was worse than I can ever remember. Between the woman who scowled and scolded the women loading us over having to check in one of her overhead bags, the girls who got a little lost and had to re-enter security between transfers (which I’ll talk about more next week, though edited for language), and the many complaints about wait times (be it loading, getting luggage, or getting through security or customs), there are so many areas where people’s tempers fly, but getting angry and lashing out never helped anyone.

Practice your yoga breathing, meditate, count to 10, whatever, but if you take it out on anyone who is there to help you (even if you doubting their actual helpfulness), you won’t get the help and the world will come back to bite you on the butt. You will not be the first ungrateful person they work with and you will not be their last, but being kind takes as much energy as being angry and you may brighten the day of someone else enough that you get exactly the help you are looking for.

So, for more ‘did she just say that out loud!?’ stories from LAX and why you should really be nicer to people, tune in next time, but until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Watch the Carry-Ons

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

5 days round trip to Boston Comic Con and the truth of the matter is: I am so tired.

Today is the fist full day back in the California time zone and, as I was barely on Boston time, I feel like my whole internal clock is stuck in Wonderland – time means practically nothing at all to my body right now. Add in some post-travel, recycled air crud, amplified by the ever present pot-con crud, and I’m not in tip-top shape.

But, alas, onto some big points on traveling for any kind of dress-up/costumed cons:

1. Check and double check your luggage

I have definitely pulled brain blanks multiple times in packing for cons and, as a complete detail-oriented freak, this never goes well. For my first Doctor Who convention, I bought solid white velcro shoes for one of my Rose Tyler costumes and, of course, I left the ruddy things sitting in my room. Luckily, we were an hour away from homeand my dad was coming into the area for a class so it was easy to meet up, say hi, and pick up my shoes. You can’t do this, however, if you have flown across the country.

So yes, check and double check all the details of every outfit and costume you’ve planned for your weekend and – at least for me – this means packing a few mundane outfits but I’ll cover that in a moment or two.

2. Look carefully at the time/season when you are traveling

Most people going to a con have bulky pieces and that is a major pain no matter what season you travel in, but in the peak seasons, this is just insane. It’s bad enough with more people bringing more carry-ons in lieu of high check-in costs overfilling the regular cabin space, but with clunky cosplay gear, this doesn’t work at all.

If you can de-bulk your cosplay, seriously consider it. Between lack of space, cost of multiple checked items,  damage in the transport process and chance of lost luggage, you may well end up without your gear (at least in any shape to wear proudly). However, if you are going to fight to bring your biggest and bulkiest – costs be damned – you must plan ahead. You should try and check in early as a few airlines will let you on in order of priority and check-in (this is if you are pushing the carry on limit). Secondly, you need to show up earlier than the airlines recommended time; this guarantees a higher chance of your bags getting onto the correct plane. If you are late to check in, only you are responsible for your bags not making it in, especially if you are checking multiple items – law of averages goes way up in a time crunch!

This includes post-con luggage! You may travel to the con with one carry on, but if you over shop, that can easily escalate and as stated earlier, travel space can just as easily become scarce. When packing, remember to leave space the first time around in your checked gear and you’ll be able to really work in souvenirs if you haven’t completely overindulged yourself.

3. Check the weather and make your costume choices accordingly

Just as your con gear can get bulky, generally this bulk also increases the heat of your outfit. While convention centers are generally air conditioned (if they are done correctly!) to the point of needing a sweater, there are always areas inside and out that are disturbingly warm.  If you are in a hot region, watch-out for fleece and layers or else make sure that you take breaks outside of your gear to cool down.

If you are close enough to your hotel, go back and forth from costume to mundane clothing as needed and if not, wear light mundane layers under your clunkier gear that you can take off periodically.

Also, take care of yourself. Drink lots of water and pack snacks; there are days where you will barely have time to use the bathroom let alone any of your other necessities. Speaking of, make sure you can move and do things like use the bathroom without help – no one really wants to be your bathroom friend, no matter how much they love you.

4. Plan your budget to suit what you can actually afford

Cons have all the nerd gear you could ever want – and most that you will never need – and all of it more than your wallet can stand in a single weekend. From gadgets, to costumes, to trinkets, to photographs and autographs, everything at the con has a steep price that can add up quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

If you plan out your costs before heading out – buying what you can ahead of time, having money on hand, ect. – you’re much more likely to stick to your budget. Also, make sure that budget fits your lifestyle. If you have a lower income, you can’t spend your whole rent or food budget on trinkets that you are never going to use. Be sensible, nerds!

5. Make a plan to combat your jet lag

Cons are generally short lived – Boston was a weekend which we extended to five days with travel – and therefore, you will barely get used to the time zone you are in before heading back home, leaving you in a state of weird time-limbo.  You can push all the caffeine (beware of the crash) and fluids you want but you really just need to get yourself out on that first morning and go.

Our first morning, my dad and I were scheduled for a 6:30 50 minute run and, between the adrenaline and endorphins, I felt more awake than I expected after getting through the workout. Just make sure to fuel up after because jet lag, no food, and in a calorie deficit, you will not make it through the day.


 

There are obviously many more things that are vital for you to have a successful con and I’d love to hear some of your top things to remember. This being said, I loved Boston Comic con – small enough to handle but wider appeal than my regular stop – but I’ll probably just be sticking to my local favorite, Gallifrey One, for the foreseeable future.

Many more topics to cover from this quick trip, but until the next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

Wine Country: Sonoma County

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One view from Hanna Winery and Vineyard. Sonoma County, California. May 2016.

So this post has been a long time coming but it’s been month after month of crazy so it’s taken much longer than expected. However, following the earlier post about foodie-ing out in NorCal, here goes a quick set of the wineries we visited while visiting the Sonoma County area.

But first things first, I don’t really drink; I’m simply not a fan so I didn’t really participate with the tastings. I still feel really confident recommending these wineries, however, because of my amazing friends, huge wine lovers, who set up these tastings and they are members of most of these wineries and their wine clubs.

Mercury Wine Tasting Room,  Geyserville

Our first stop after breakfast was this cute little store front in Geyserville – an almost single street looking town with tons of rustic feel. It would be so easy location-wise to fly right past this location, but when you visit, you’ll be so glad you stopped.

This winery is a family business (like most) with one brother who sells and the the other who works mainly on the design and creation side of things. The whole feel of this shop is a little hippy and a little eclectic. With details like fun house mirrors and fun art pieces alongside the wonderfully socialized Freddie, the dog, this location was so much fun.

The tasting room isn’t huge so there was a little wait (but we were not idle which I’ll explain in a moment!) but it was definitely worth it. The service was amazing and friendly – again, I don’t drink so we had a great laugh about the water quality, clarity, and vintage! – and they make you feel like family.

If you like wine and having it delivered to your house, this is one to go with! They can set you up in store and the membership comes with perks such as invitions to food and wine events as well as free tastings.

Ramazzotti Wine Tasting Room, Geyserville

So when I say we  weren’t sitting idle, those of us who drink were right in the next room sampling from the Romazzotti wine collection. These two sampling rooms are for two different vineyards but they share a single store front and once again, the service was great. When we went in, two older ladies were serving and they let us sample using my friends Mercury Wine club membership.

There was no rush and they didn’t mind chatting with us as we sampled and waited for our other appointment. Freddie moves freely from room to room which was so entertaining and the wines are different enough to make the tastings interesting. These wines were much more classic rather than Mercury’s more innovative styles.

Everyone sampling at both locations left very satisfied and a few bottles heavier!

White Oak Vineyard

Beautiful.

That’s all I could think when we hit this stop – I’m a budding photographer (though I’m not really a fan of that wording … ) so finally getting to a location that looked like a winery (meaning visible vineyards) was amazing!

Between the fountain, architecture, sculptures and the expansive lines of growing fields, this location feels elegant, rustic and eclectic all at the same time. It’s all about the details here; I loved the inside tables (as pictured below) with the glass covered wine corks – just a gorgeous detail.

The interior is beautiful as well and hearing – from another amazing tasting team – about the special tastings in the most beautiful store room was great. This is a cat vineyard whose cat had recently passed -they’re waiting to see if a new cat will adopt them and you should definitely ask about it – but you can check her and other vineyard cats out in the special Cat book that they sell at the wine counter.

When we went, we received a free tasting as well as a discount on the wine purchased when we showed our Visa Signature Card without ever paying with said cards. While Visa Signature has been discontinued in favor of a new program, checking out these kinds of deals is always worth it!

There’s also a new winery opening up across the street and White Oak is excitedly waiting for more people to come through these two and enjoy an amazing array of cross-traffic – again, they will be different enough that a two-stop location will be well worth crossing the road.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

Making it to tasting rooms within the open vineyards was just perfection after perfection and Alexander Valley was no different. This felt almost carved into the mountain with all the lovely stone and rock work that built up the different buildings and cellars of this vineyard.

The parking lot is small and you have to be careful of the pair of dogs who reside here – one really likes to sleep in the sunny driveway! – but this small cabin-like stop is worth it. Speaking of dogs, they sell the Vineyard Dog book (by the same people who photographed the cat version) and it is so cute!

Beyond books and wine, they also sell fun animal shaped wine aerators and veggies from local farms. Their shop was great fun to look through even as a non-drinker. We were on a quick stop tour but you should definitely check out the other features offered – cave tours and vineyard hikes? A next time must.

Hanna Winery and Vineyard

This was our final tour stop and a great way to end the day.

The views from large windowed doors that make up the majority of the outer walls was unlike any vineyard we had visited. The sun was at just the right level and everything about the scene was so open and refreshing I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Every vantage point gave a new perspective of this grand wine country and the interior – the brick fireplace with the metal-worked fireplace screen, wooden counters, everything – was just as captivating.

A breath of fresh air doesn’t do it justice. Seriously, just go!


Again, I am not a wine drinker – I’m barely a drinker at all – but each of these stops through Sonoma wine country was so unique and filled with so many different treasures, that I truly feel all confidences in recommending each and every one.

There are many more wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards worth visiting in Sonoma and the surrounding counties but these are the ones I’ve had experience with and had the pleasure of photographing. So go: explore and enjoy! And, of course, as always, stay safe – a sober driver is not a joking matter!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

P.S. If you are interested in these pictures and many more, my Flickr is linked here!

Wine Country: Sonoma County

My Top Travel Regret.

I’ll be honest, I try not to regret any of my experiences when traveling. Whether a kindness leads to a lost phone, inexperience means that I don’t take every opportunity, or a misread timetable leads to a long day of waiting for plans to work themselves out, I try my hardest to find something that makes those decisions worth it.

This can be anything from a lesson learned or a positive alternative, but no matter what spin I turn on some of the darker parts of traveling, there will always remain the dark cloud within the silver lining.

Of all these darker travel moments, I think that skipping the day trip to Pompeii is probably the one I will always regret most.

In all fairness, this was a 3 week, fast paced excursion with my grandparents, 4 cousins, an aunt, and one sister touring most of Italy jammed inside of a hot van. I was also a 12 year old girl who liked her space and privacy, not to mention sleep.

Pompeii day was about two-thirds of the way through the trip and most of us were at an absolute breaking point. The hotel we were staying at was absolutely beautiful and had a gorgeous view right from the swimming pool – paradise.

So, instead of going to Pompeii, all but three of our party stayed at the hotel, lounging at the pool and having a good lie in – all together a fantastic relaxing day which recharged me for the last third of the trip.

Since then, I have seen museum exhibitions of Pompeii’s artifacts and read about it’s history; I have seen images and history channel (and Doctor Who) clips which showed the devastation. Now thirteen years later, I am ticked at younger me for not getting up and getting my butt in gear.

While the day off from the travel grind my family set in close quarters recharged me, having missed this incredible site plagues me much more in the long term.

This regret hasn’t stopped me though. My best friend is half Italian and most of her family still lives in Italy. In a year or two when we have both saved enough, I’m hoping to plan a special friend-cation for us around Italy (and maybe into Spain) and Pompeii will be seriously high on that list.

So there you have it, my biggest travel ‘I wish I had’ moments. Let me know what yours is below as well as any way you are looking to correct it!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My Top Travel Regret.