Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel Trials and Tribulations

I haven't flown anywhere since my trip to Colombia last winter, but I have been browsing around looking for deals on future trips to visit relatives and friends. I was surprised how many flights listed overnight connections. For example, I wanted to go to Mazatlan this spring. Several American Airlines trips included an overnight stay in Dallas: Tucson to Dallas one day, Dallas to a variety of locations in Mexico the next day. Basically, these flights took longer than driving to Mazatlan!!!! Oy.

With gas prices continuing to climb, I see this situation only getting worse in the future. Recently, the Tucson airport announced dramatic cutbacks in direct flights out of Tucson beginning this fall.

To combat these inconveniences, consumers and entrepreneurs are getting creative. One company is marketing a Mini Motel one-person tent for stranded travelers. I wish I had had one of these a few years when I was stranded in the Washington National Airport. I found out that my flight had been canceled around 11 p.m.; my new flight was early-- 5 or 6 a.m. I thought it was silly to find a hotel for a just few hours. Little did I know how noisy and uncomfortable the night would be. Airports no longer allow passengers to sleep in the carpeted gate areas. The airline gave me back my luggage and made me (and several other poor souls) go outside of the secure area. There were no comfortable chairs; no chairs that faced each other (so I could prop my feet up); no movable furniture; no carpet; no couches. Plus all night long the cleaning crew drove a HUGE, incredibly loud floor polishing machine back and forth the length of the terminal. The stranded tried hard to snooze, but it was really tough.

Now that airlines are trying to actually sell trips with planned overnight stays, I wonder if airport sleeping has improved. Obviously, we all can't afford to reserve hotel rooms. Maybe I'll buy a Mini Motel.

Photo credit: The New York Times

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