A Traveler’s Recurring Nightmare – Literally

2393382468_919d6491c0_zIt used to be the dreaded final exam dream that would have me waking in a cold sweat a few times a year. You probably know it, too: That recurring dream where you’re headed to the final exam in a class but you’re not prepared. There are variations on this classic. For some, in the dream they didn’t study for the test. For others, they also forgot to attend the class. For still others, they then arrive for the test naked or in their pajamas. I’ve had the first two of those flavors many times, and in my case it’s always, always, always a math test. (No surprise there. Though I did study for math deciduously, because it wasn’t a strength of mine.)

In the last year I’ve noticed I’m no longer haunted by this final exam dream, probably because school is a distant memory. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve moved on to a new type of frustration dream that reflects my current life.

It’s the travel nightmare.

In this dream, I can’t get to where I need to be on time. Something out of my control is always holding me back. Sometimes it’s the airport gate, and I can’t seem to get out of security. Or sometimes I can’t figure out which is my hotel room because I lost the key sleeve—and, of course, I’m in a huge hurry, trying to make a deadline or to pack for a flight.

Strangely enough, I’m not a stressed traveler. I allow plenty of time. (My husband says, too much. Which reminds me of an observation of a friend. He says there are two types of travelers: those who get to the airport early, and those who get to the airport late. And they’re all married to each other.) I’ve never missed a flight. And I always find my hotel room.

Perhaps I need to acknowledge the underlying stress in travel and try to process this more overtly. No, I think I’ll just let my deepest psyche work that one out in my dreams.

 Do you ever experience travel-related frustration dreams?

Photo: Flickr/belen becker

Private Space: Travel’s New Guilty Pleasure?

The "coffin" seat on a Cathay Pacific 747

The “coffin” seat on a Cathay Pacific 747

I slept with a man who wasn’t my husband. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, I’ll add that it was on an international flight and we never touched.

Am I the only one who feels a little exposed when I’ve had a lovely, prolonged chat with my seatmate for the first couple of hours on a flight in business class, then stretch out to sleep a few inches from him? While I do enjoy the opportunity for conversation, I much prefer what my friend calls the coffin, a walled seat in a herringbone configuration, where I cannot view more than a fellow passenger’s feet.

It’s said that time is the new luxury (a thought I agree with). But now, move over time, you have company: Private space is a luxury, too. This is according to Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board, Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, who said during his CES keynote last week: “Quality time and private space will be the true luxury items of the future.” These two commodities wouldn’t be considered luxuries unless they were in short supply.

Nowhere is private space more rare–and coveted–than in air travel. Certainly, economy passengers have no refuge from the masses (except perhaps a moment in the lav). And while the landscape is better for premium passengers, finding pockets of privacy for these travelers can take some effort, too. And often, some funds.

For me, one of the most important aspects of private space is the option for quiet–of not hearing someone else and of not being being heard. I don’t care to listen to others’ cell phone conversations, nor do I wish others to eavesdrop on mine. Uninvited phone conversations floating through the air are like pollution, and airport gates are heavily polluted.

Lounges, while offering the promise of private space, are often crowded and don’t live up to that promise.  A friend of mine once discussed her new job on a cell phone in an airport lounge. When she hung up, a gentleman several chairs away introduced himself and said he was the one she had replaced. Ouch.

Gradually, privacy has been taken away from us, a reality as uncomfortable as sleep deprivation. And when we travel, we experience both!

You’re the only one who knows when and for how long you need private space. But it’s nice to have the option, and the more private space options that can be built into travel, the better.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be an extrovert and never care about this. But I do. Nothing against you, fellow passenger, but sometimes I just need a little time to myself.

It Was Bound to Happen Eventually

6414430209_6e0e1a67fb_z (1)When my cab pulled up to Terminal 1 at LAX on Tuesday, I cringed: The line outside Southwest Airlines’ doors snaked down the sidewalk. Bomb scare? Computer system down? Flight schedule bottleneck? I immediately made a beeline for the self-serve kiosks I knew were just inside the door, feeling a little smug that I was an experienced traveler and knew I did not need to wait in line.

Unfortunately, after recognizing my identity and my destination airport, three different kiosks told me I’d need to talk with an agent. So there I was, at the end of the line with all the leisure travelers, despite my best efforts to find someone who could talk with me immediately.

Things did not get better. When I finally reached the check-in agent, she told me she couldn’t find my confirmation number. I showed her the email, and she tried every which way to “locate” me. Finally, she checked the date.

That’s right, my ticket was for the flight three days prior. Well, that was humbling. After handing over my credit card and getting booked on a full-fare ticket (plus losing my funds on the “missed” flight since that’s SWA’s policy on no-shows), I gathered my belongings and headed to the gate.

The inevitable had happened. I’d made a stupid mistake and booked a ticket on the wrong date. This was something I thought about a couple of years ago when interviewing a frequent flyer who said it was one of his big fears because he traveled so much and was booking flights so quickly. He knew booking the wrong date was bound to happen eventually. A friend made the mistake a few years back. And now, I had, too.

I bought the ticket online a few weeks ago, while in a hurry, on a complicated, multi-leg itinerary. Now there was nothing to do but swallow my pride, eat the cost, and learn from it.

Have you ever booked a ticket on the wrong day?


Photo: Flickr/Aero Icarus

Love/Hate That!

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was voted #1 in the “favorite airports” category in Expedia.com’s 2014 survey of more than 6,000 frequent travelers. The thing is, ATL was also voted #1 in the “least favorite airports” category.

Who knows what was really behind this result, but it reminded of something I feel often when it comes to travel: a distinct sentiment called love/hate. I love to meet new people, but hate to be away from my family. I love the stimulation of travel, but hate the fatigue. I love to get away from the office, but hate having to manage from afar.

What do you love/hate about travel?

When Small Airports Aim High – and Afar

Small airports can be a pleasure to fly from. Easy parking. Walkable concourses. Few delays. But behind the scenes and on the balance sheet, they have some economic challenges. It was through this lens that I read about South Bend Regional Airport in Indiana changing its name to South Bend International Airport. The thing is, it has no international flights—just wants them. I suppose they’re following that old adage, “Act as if.” (And they will apply for government money to construct a federal inspection station.)

International flights are key to airport financial stability for a few reasons:

  • Landing fees for international flights are generally higher than domestic flights because they’re based on weight.
  • These flights often draw new domestic traffic, with passengers connecting to the international flight.
  • International routes are increasing as the world flattens.

So it makes financial sense for a small airport to aim high and try to add international routes. Dovetailing with this is the development of smaller aircraft with greater range. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has singlehandedly contributed to smallish-airport growth—those that cannot accommodate the wide-bodied aircraft so often used for long-haul and ultra-long-haul routes can easily slip in a Dreamliner.

My hometown small airport, Oakland, does a fair business with Mexico flights, but the world (or at least Europe) has opened up with proposed Norwegian Air 787 nonstop service to Oslo. (There are some complications with this–a big sticky wicket you can read about here.) Similar benefactors of the 787 are smallish San Diego and San Jose.

I’m not of the belief, as some legislators seem to be, that it’s a constitutional right for people in small towns to have a thriving airport. (If you choose to live in South Bend, it seems reasonable to expect you to drive two hours to Chicago for your big trip.) But if it’s a win-win-win for airlines to add a route, locals to travel farther faster and the airport to grow, then I’m all for that.

Good luck with your new identity, South Bend International Airport.