Twisted into a Pretzel at 39,000 Feet, On My Way to Jerusalem!

On the way to SFO

I am 6 hours in on a 13 hour flight in Economy Plus on United Airlines on my way to Jerusalem. My body still hasn’t fully recovered from my trip to Japan, so this should be an interesting trip. I did want to push myself to see if I could do two international trips back to back, and also to see how I can handle a long-haul flight in Economy. I’ve been very lucky the past few years to do nearly all my long-haul flights in Business Class thanks to a combination of upgrades and cheap business class fares (yes, yes, I do see those tiny violins you are playing for me…I’ve just been lucky and the luck has run out). The business class fare for this direct San Francisco to Tel Aviv flight was quite expensive ($8,000) and upgrades were just not happening (even as a 1K; evidently lots of full fare and Global Service and 1Ks flying from Silicon Valley to Silicon Wadi) so here I am.

I’ll have a full review of the flight later, lets just say I’m on a Dreamliner which is a pretty plane, but whoever made the decision to shove 9 seats across on this 787-8 should be tortured throughout eternity for the torture of all the passengers having to sit in these seats for long flights. My goodness, I’m a small person and I fill the seat completely; no wiggle-room in this 17.3″ across seat. And as for sleep, well the seats sort of slide and don’t recline and even with a neck pillow I keep pitching forward. So I’m writing instead.

I’m on my way to Jerusalem. The Holy Land! This is exciting. I’m actually going to a Travel Blogging conference called TBEX, but also spending a couple of days as a tourist with Mr. Travelholic and my niece Claire who is flying in from Continue reading

Is That Mt. Fuji?

Good morning from Tokyo! I have had the most pleasant (if jet-lagged) first night and morning possible in Tokyo.

Mobile WiFi HotSpot I Rented at Narita Airport

Mobile WiFi HotSpot Rental, Narita

I arrived last night just a smidge late due to the snow and ice in Denver. I think I got through passport control, baggage claim and customs in a record 15 minutes flat! Waiting to greet me when I got off the plane was Mr. Alan Scott Pate himself. Alan is the foremost American expert on Japanese dolls, and he is the creator and leader of our small-group tour. Big kudos to Alan and his team at HE Travel for meeting every single one of tour participants at the airports as we have arrived. In case you missed it (or I forgot to mention?) I am in Japan with a group that will be focusing on Japanese dolls…it is possible that some of my travel readers don’t know that I’ve been writing about and photographing dolls for many years, and hence this tour.

The most amazing thing about Alan greeting me at the airport (besides how wonderful it is to see a familiar face upon arrival far away from home) was that Alan helped me rent a mobile wi-fi hotspot for my trip. These little wonders are about 1/2 the size of my iPhone 6S+, and will keep me wi-fi connected for my entire trip; I believe the cost was just under $100 for the 12 days. For all the times I’ve been traveling to Japan, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this! I can now blog and social media from anywhere.

View, Capitol Hotel Tokyu

Sunrise view from my room, Capitol Hotel Tokyu

It was also wonderful to have Alan take me to the handy airport shuttle which goes directly to my hotel (just 1 other stop before). If you’ve ever taken an shuttle from Narita, there are just so many of them and getting on the right one can confuse the jet-lagged mind. The shuttle was very reasonably priced; under $30 US.

I arrived at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu (in the Akasaka area of Tokyo) just before 8pm. I opened the door and the view of Tokyo from my room took my breath away. Even as tired as I was, I was taking photos almost immediately. I was too tired to go out to dinner, so I had a quick room-service curry and was in bed by 10pm. Continue reading

Ruminations Above The Aleutian Islands in Polaris Business Class

How many times on this planet does one find oneself flying over the Aleutian Islands? Not many for most of us, including me, and hence my blog title today. Turns out if you leave from Denver for Japan instead of from San Francisco or Los Angeles, your route takes you over Vancouver, skims Alaska and then goes right over the Aleutian Islands! Just like Sarah Palin I can wave to Russia today.

Denver Airport

Denver airport

I’ve had a very pleasant day flying to Japan so far. At this very moment, I am literally over the Aleutian Islands, with about 5 hours to go on my 12 hour flight. Well, the day has been MOSTLY pleasant except for having to wake up at 3:40am to catch the Courtyard Marriott Natomas airport shuttle to make my 5:25am flight. The shuttle times were 4 or 5am, so I didn’t have much of a choice; I only had about 25 minutes time at the gate before boarding my flight to Denver. And am I the only one who sort-of sleeps with one-eye open before an early morning flight because your subconscious thinks you’ll miss the flight otherwise?

Polaris bedding

Polaris bedding

I’m sure you are wondering why I am flying backwards to Denver to go to Japan. Well, my circuitous route got me an unbelievable deal on a Business Class ticket for the trip (less than 1/2 the usual price). I am lucky to fly business a fair amount of the time thanks to miles, upgrades, and searching out discounted fares. With my Rheumatoid Arthritis, a good flight with my legs up and room to stretch can mean the difference between a painful first few days of a trip or not, so this is a good thing. I couldn’t find a discounted business fare to Jerusalem for the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange Continue reading

Flying on New Year’s Day! Is There a Better Way to Greet 2017?

Leaving Boston Logan Airport

Leaving Boston Logan Airport

From the first moment I set foot on an airplane (I was 12 years old and headed to the Bahamas) I have loved flying. I loved it so much as a teenager that I even looked into being a flight attendant (at 5 foot 1 inch tall, that was a no-go).

I started traveling when I was 6. My life was pretty dull and I remember very little of it before then. But once I started going places…well, now THAT was something. Pre-flying I remember Cape Cod, Lake George, Lake Placid, and the Catskills (all in upstate New York; my family being from New York City), Vermont, New Hampshire, Bar Harbor and Freeport, Maine. Those are the places I remember most fondly.

And then once my family started flying…oh, the places you go! While I was a teenager we went to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mexico City, Acapulco (back when that was still an amazing place), Hilton Head Island in South Carolina , and Hawaii.

Made Premier 1K with United Airlines!

Made Premier 1K with United Airlines!

No need to innumerate all the places I’ve been since then, because that is what this blog is about. Lets just say I feel completely at home flying and, well, going. Which is a good thing since so much of my family lives on the other coast, and also a good thing since my husband and I share traveling as a hobby.

Back to today. Applause to United for a great experience flying; my first as a Premier 1K. I cleared both of my RPU upgrades (one last night and one at the airport). I already had printed out my boarding pass for the one that had cleared yesterday but they still called me at the gate and gave me a new and improved boarding pass that said in giant letters PREMIER 1K at the bottom. Since this was my first notice that all had gone as planned for my December 30th flight I was a happy camper. Continue reading

Traveling on United to Boston For New Year’s Eve

Flying over the Sierra Nevada

Flying over the Sierra Nevada

So I decided I hadn’t traveled enough in 2016 (a dubious assessment, you might rightly think) and I therefore took off today, December 30th, to spend New Year’s in Boston with my son. He broke up with his girlfriend this Fall and was planning on dinner alone at a family favorite restaurant that I introduced him to, Cragie on Main. This upset his mother. Oh, and I might also mention that a trip to Boston pre-January 1 would throw me over the finish line for 1K status with United next year. So my long-suffering husband (who hates New Year’s and hardly ever stays up till midnight on New Year’s with me anyway) said MERRY CHRISTMAS and here I am on a United flight to ORD (Chicago) and then BOS (Boston) to meet my son. It’s funny, but as you get near 1K status, all of a sudden you can speak in airport shorthand…

In any event, I also decided to try to burn some RPU certificates that I got as a Platinum elite flyer with United. I got a fairly cheap flight and booked myself into Economy Plus…and even though all the flights had TONS of first class seats, of course United waitlisted me on all of them. Um, thanks United. And then on this flight I go to check in and there are still 2 seats left in first class. United, in it’s non-infinite wisdom, decided they would try to upsell the remaining first class seats for $200 each (yep, I was offered to BUY the seat for $200 at check-in) instead of honoring my hard-earned RPU. Of course they both sold for that price and I ended up #1 on the upgrade list and my upgrade didn’t clear. I hope that the $200 makes the difference in your yearly profitability report United, cause It seriously pissed off this frequent flyer. Continue reading

Flying All Nippon Airways to Japan for the First Time

United Club at SFO

United Club at SFO

My kids have already departed from Boston and Mr. Travelholic and I are ensconsed in the United Club at SFO awaiting the beginning of our trip to Japan. We are here a million hours early because of that one time I gave myself 6 hours to get to SFO from my home (normally a 3.5 hour drive) and nearly missed my flight due to Bay Bridge traffic. Of course today there was no traffic and we have nearly 4 hours now to wait till our plane departs for LAX, and then to Haneda on the red eye.

You might ask why we are going from SFO to LAX and then to Haneda, and then why on an awful redeye. Well, we were able to get 1/2 price Business Class tickets by picking this route, and since putting my legs flat vs not for 12 hours help the rheumatoid arthritis affected knee joints immensely, this is the route we have picked. The difference between flat legs vs bent legs for that long can mean hitting the ground running vs. a slow and painful start to an international trip.

As for the redeye, we get into Tokyo at a godwaful 5am arrival time. Mr. Travelholic sleeps great on planes and is already plotting his day in Tokyo. I never sleep on planes and look at all such plans with great trepidation.

We are taking All Nippon Airways (“ANA”) for the first time internationally. This is exciting because we always take Continue reading

Playing Travel Delay Roulette. And Losing. And then Sort-of Winning.

View from Cortyard Marriott, Portland Waterfront

View from my room at the Courtyard Marriott Portland Waterfront

So yesterday morning my group of five travelers (ranging in age from 21 to 83) woke themselves up at the ridiculously early hour of 3:30am (12:30am West Coast time if you are counting) to catch a 6:15am flight out of Portland. We normally wouldn’t try to leave that early going East coast to West coast but we were trying to make a wedding on the West coast after seeing the play my daughter directed on the East coast the night before. Tough scheduling.

We had a non-eventful trip to the airport and then Gate. Very pleasant actually; no traffic from Freeport to Portland, easy car-rental return, easy Premier check-in line (thank you United) and TSA-Pre security. We like the choices for breakfast at PWM (Portland International Jetway): great breakfast bagel sandwiches at The Great American Bagel and Starbucks (I think there is also a Burger King for those so inclined). Am I the only person who eats low carb except on long air travel days because I just have to self-soothe on those days…).

We boarded the plane in a timely manner, and then the captain’s voice: “We have to power Continue reading

2Hippos and Off I Go!

Me, at SMF airport after waking up at 4:30AM to catch an early flight

Me, at SMF airport after waking up at 4:30AM to catch an early flight

When you live in a small city on the West Coast, going anywhere on the East Coast generally requires waking up at a horribly early hour; most flights I need take off between 5:30 and 6:30am; we live 1.5 hours from the nearest airport (thanks, United, I’m still bitter about you ending flights to our local airport in 2014…please come back). I’m not a morning person; the wake-up time math is ugly.

This time we stayed at the Residence Inn near the airport but we still had to wake up at 4:30am (and thank you to Marriott for the very nice Starbucks gift cards you had for me at reception as a Welcome Back gift…you know the way to my heart!). We parked in 2H at the airport (hence 2Hippos…its how we remember where we are parked; take the floor and the letter and imagine the correct number of a memorable animal).. We flew through TSA Pre, navagated the long but quickly moving line at Peets coffee, got to the Gate with 15 minutes to boarding time, and I am on the plane as I type.

I am heading up to Maine for a multi-purpose trip. We have friends and family along to see my daughter’s production of Sherlock Holmes (she is the director) at Bates College. We are staying at a favorite place, the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, my son is joining us from Boston, and we are scoping out possible rental locations and rentals for Summer of 2017. So pretty busy for a 4 day trip, and I’m hoping to have some time for blogging and photography as well.

And for those new to my blog, I also post travel images and micro-blog daily over at Instagram, at TheTinyTravelholic so follow my page and check back often; I also followand interact with my community on Instagram as much as possible; I love seeing all of your travels and adventures!

Post-Vacation Depression

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Vacation memories may fade a bit but some will always be in technicolor. Carnival Breeze.*

My cruise vacation is over, and I have a classic case of post-vacation depression. My cruise was everything I hoped it would be, I had a huge amount of fun and sun, and now I am home and reality hits hard.

The trip back was uneventful although a little more difficult than the trip out; on the trip to Galveston we had a direct flight from Sacramento to Houston on United, but due to timing issues, on the way back we had to travel Houston-San Francisco-Sacramento. Plus roughly 1.5 hour drives each way to the airports. We had some minor travel delays due to air traffic control in San Francisco (typical) but nothing too troublesome.

The most troublesome part of my trip home was that I had somehow sprained my ankle dancing away the evenings on the Carnival Breeze. I attended the line-dancing deck party, and then the fabulous Rock-N-Glow 80s party, and danced twice at Club Liquid.  As an ex-dancer, I’m going to dance on vacation whether or not my RA is effecting body parts. I knew my right knee was bad due to the RA and also an old injury, so I think what happened is that I overly-relied on my left side (as I often do) while dancing all week. The last day of the cruise I woke up to a really swollen and painful left ankle. I didn’t feel myself injure it, but it definitely was sprained. Continue reading

On My Way To Galveston, Texas

Galveston Pleasure Pier the night before our cruise

Galveston Pleasure Pier the night before our cruise

I’m quite literally on my way since I’m typing this on my iPad, on a United flight heading to Houston. I’m blogging off line though because United wanted $9.99 for two hours of WiFi, which I refuse to pay. I’d pay $2 an hour or even $2.99 an hour (as I’ve been able to do on some flights) but $5 an hour? Nope, I’ll pass on the WiFi and type off-line and read on my lovely, lightweight Kindle Paperwhite instead. Blog shall be posted from hotel WiFi.

I am heading to Galveston, Texas (with Mr. Travelholic and theater friends) where tomorrow morning we’ll board the Carnival Breeze for an 8 night cruise to the Western Caribbean!  Technically we could have tried to fly in early tomorrow morning and boarded the boat in the late afternoon, but we didn’t want the stress of possibly missing the boat if there was a plane delay or cancellation. Or massive traffic. Or a meteor strike.   Continue reading