Tag: united airlines

Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

The hurricane known as Harvey made landfall on the Southeastern Coast of Texas just before I was due to fly back from my cruise, so it certainly made for some last-minute travel headaches. Thankfully I’ve made it safely back to my home in Austin, but even as I’m writing this the storm is still wreaking its havoc on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Having lived through hurricane Sandy a few years back, I would never want to wish anything like this on anyone, so my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the storm’s former and current path.

Since I was flying on United, my return trip from Orlando was going to connect in Houston. I like flying United; they’ve done fine by me despite the bad press they’ve received over the year. My only complaint is their lack of a direct flight between Austin and Orlando, but since I don’t fly that itinerary regularly, making the connection in Houston isn’t that big of a deal…unless there’s a hurricane in my way.  I was first notified of the storm on Friday, and some of the news sites were setting expectations for the worst. I hadn’t heard from United as of yet, but that changed on Saturday morning when I woke to find an e-mail showing my flight had been canceled.

I called United and was then rerouted to a later flight, also connecting through Houston. A few hours later, this flight was also canceled, prompting me to call back again. I was then given the option to reroute through Chicago O’Hare or Washington-Dulles, since I’d learned that Houston airports were closed until further notice. I chose to fly to Washington DC, and closely monitored the situation since getting those plans set up.

It’s reasons like this that I strongly recommend having the internet package (if only on one device, at least) while on a cruise. If I’d found out about all of this after returning to land, I may have been delayed further if I couldn’t take action as quickly as I had. Since I was delayed, I booked a room at the Hyatt within Orlando Airport, contacted my manager at work to notify her of my plans, changed my ground transportation in Austin to reflect my new pickup date, and even requested Monday off from work so I wouldn’t have to call out and use a sick day. Getting the internet package is great for posting quick selfies on vacation, but it also can really come in handy to prevent further travel headaches when plans change at the last minute.

Certain members of my family were understandably concerned about my plans to fly directly into the path of a hurricane, and adamantly insisted I fly back to NJ with them to spend a few days up there before returning to Texas. While I understand and appreciate the concern, I did not want to fly any farther out of my way than I had to, and I wanted to minimize the additional time off that I may have to take from work in order to get back within a timely manner. I also put my full faith in the airlines knowing that they will get me back to Austin safely, even if it means reroutes and potential delays. If they were offering a flight that went near the hurricane but not over it or through it, they are doing so because they have the knowledge and experience to know it can be done safely. I’m not a meteorologist, so I’m not going to pretend to know more than the professionals do in this scenario.

Using FlightView Elite  I was monitoring Airport Delays for both Washington-Dulles and Austin, and both were showing on-time performance throughout the day on Sunday. I also used United’s app to keep an eye on my flight, which remained On Time and On Schedule throughout.

Sunday was an uneventful day, which mainly consisted of me relaxing in my hotel room at the Hyatt, sampling the fabulous food-court cuisines of Orlando Airport, and getting a drink with a friend who lives in Orlando and was kind enough to drop by the airport for a few hours to catch up. My flights went off without a hitch on Monday, and I made it back to Austin by around 4pm CST on Monday.

The big takeaways from this whole experience:

  • Wherever you’re traveling, whether it’s on a cruise or traveling abroad, stay connected. If you’re on a cruise, make sure you have access to the internet; even if it’s not on your own device (someone in your room with you, etc.) – If you’re traveling to another country, speak with your phone provider to have some type of international plan added to your account. You never know when that can save you!
  • Have a core set of Travel Apps on your smart phone, and know how to use them. Use apps to monitor Airport arrivals/delays, have your airline(s) apps on your phone, and know how to access your reservations or the customer service phone number for your airline.
  • Have enough room on an “emergency” credit card to cover unforseen expenses; If given the choice of being stranded somewhere with no food/shelter/means to get home, or getting home safely after having a safe place to stay and a meal but having some extra debt, I’ll take option B hands-down. Sure, it cost me a few hundred dollars to have to stay overnight in Orlando, but I was able to mitigate most of that with credit card points so it didn’t severely affect my bottom line.

 

Off to a Great Start

Off to a Great Start

You know it's early when you get to the @united club and they're not open yet. #travel #vacation #itsallgood

A post shared by John Bamber (@iamjohnbamber) on

I don’t feel like I’ve been up for 2 hours, but I have. It’s just before 4:30am, and arriving at the United Club before it opened was definitely a first; that’s when you know it’s early.

I was going to drive myself to the airport, but figured since I had enough points on one of my travel cards, I got myself free black car service to and from the airport, and boy I was that a good choice. I was picked up promptly at 3:30am this morning by a black Tesla Model S… and it was one one of– no, it was the best ride to the airport I’ve had in a long time. I couldn’t think of a better way to kickstart this trip. I tried to think of a funny electricity-themed title for this post, but nothing came to mind. Why don’t you post a comment with some suggestions?

After having test-driven a Tesla a few months back, it’s really opened my mind to the idea of the possibility of daily driving an electric car. The ride experience was very smooth, and I loved the feel of the acceleration! The driver was quick to get up to the speed limit, which I always enjoy, of course. Maybe when I turn 40 a Tesla model S can be my midlife crisis car. I know I’ll feel better about owning one when charging stations are more accessible.

Either way, although it’s not obvious in the picture I’m excited and can’t wait for my upcoming cruise. More to come here on the blog, but also be sure to follow me over on Periscope for some fun in-the-moment live streams from the beautiful Oasis of the Seas.

It’s not even 5AM yet, and I’m here!

It’s not even 5AM yet, and I’m here!

Bed by 11pm last night, up at 3:15am this morning, parked/checked in/through security and in the United Club before 5AM.

Damn, I’m good.  🙂

TSA PreCheck is truly a beautiful thing. I skipped a line of about 10 minutes wait, and made it to my favorite hangout spot before flights: The United Club.  I made a video about TSA PreCheck some time ago, and more recently another video comparing it to Clear, another security expediting perk. I can’t recommend one or both of these enough; it can make a big difference in your whole pre-flight experience. Since having PreCheck, it’s helped me get through security more quickly which helps to get my trips off to a stress-free start. Travel is supposed to be fun, especially for vacation, right?

 

Some Things Look Better On Paper :-)

Some Things Look Better On Paper :-)

When I plan trips, I always like leaving as early as possible on the departure day. This lets me get to my destination as early as possible, so I’ve got the full day to explore and enjoy it. I plan every trip the same way, and, like clockwork, I always second guess myself as the day approaches. I have those moments of thinking “What the heck was I thinking booking a flight out at 6:30am in the morning???”

I usually have these thoughts the day before, specifically the night before when I’m trying to go to bed at an ungodly early hour. I love to travel, and can barely contain my excitement before a big trip. I have yet to try the whole “staying up all night” approach, but since I can’t sleep on the plane (I’ve tried) I find myself trying to get even an hour or two of sleep before I leave.

Let’s take a look at this picture of the start of my itinerary; you can click on it to see a larger version:

 

 

I’m very granular when it comes to planning travel, because travel is supposed to be fun. I’d rather get as much planning done as possible in advance so I can just focus on enjoying it.  I use an app called TripIt for planning all of my travel, since it allows me to share my itineraries with family and friends. It’s extremely useful.

I’m due to drop off my car at 5:15am, which will give me enough time to get to the airport and through security. My flight doesn’t leave until 6:30am, but I’d rather be early than rush through and risk being late, or even worse, missing my plane entirely. Anyone who’s traveled through Austin-Bergstrom International Airport knows security lines can be hit or miss, regardless of the time of day.

Dropping off the car at 5:15am means I have to leave my apartment by about 4:30am or so. I should probably get up around 4:00am to have time to get a shower and quick bite in before I leave. This means that, to get enough sleep (I’m good with about 6 hours on an average night) I need to go to bed by 10pm. I can already say that’s not going to happen.

Maybe I’ll be in bed by 11:30pm, but probably be too excited to fall asleep. I may drift off to sleep by about 1, then be woken up by my alarm just 3 short hours later.

On the one hand… What was I thinking?

But on the other hand…and, I think, the bigger of the two proverbial “hands”:  I can’t wait, and I look forward to losing sleep at the expense of what looks to be a really fun upcoming trip.

I’ll be streaming live from Bermuda via Periscope, so be sure to download the app for iOS or Android and follow me on there (@iamjohnbamber).

I’ll be posting live blogs here as well, if you want to just see the current cruise postings you can do so at johnscruise.live or past cruise stuff at johnscruises.blog.

 

A Handy Way to Rack Up United Miles

A Handy Way to Rack Up United Miles

Despite United having not had some great press lately, they do have one of the best loyalty programs out there. What sets them apart from many, I believe, is how easy it is to earn miles which you can put toward future travel. I did a video some time ago about an app you can download that makes it quite easy to rack up some miles. Check it out!