Thursday, January 28, 2010

New location

This blog has moved to:
http://www.flygracefully.com

Please update your bookmarks

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Podcasts


I'm going to come out and admit I'm a Windows Mobile smart phone user. On my Fuze I have an application called BeyondPod which is an open source RSS feeder. I have a classic iPod I used to use for podcasts, but I didn't sync my iTunes often enough to keep podcasts up to date and when I'm stuck at an airport without free internet I couldn't download new episodes so a smart phone with cellular connection works better. I like podcasts because I'm not much of a reader.

Podcasts, like Blogs, need to be updated frequently or the audience loses interest. On my phone I have a mix of blogs with different update frequencies.

Grammar Grater (RSS and iTunes links on site) is a short podcast (usually no longer than 8 minutes with a couple quick ads) about a grammar topic. Although I write in choppy sentences, can't form paragraphs, and don't know when to hyphenate or not I do at least try to improve my grasp of English grammar. This podcast isn't updated very regularly, often no more than twice a month.

The Crew Lounge (RSS) is a new podcast from the people who give us Upgrd but this time from the perspective of flight crew instead of frequent flyers. There are only 2 episodes so far and they are around 30-40 minutes. they are trying to do a weekly podcast. Since it's new I'll take a wait-and-see approach to that, but good luck to them and welcome to podcasting! If you are like me and RSS your podcasts instead of using iTunes, click on the RSS to get that link. Upgrd is not very forthcoming with RSS feeds and that took some digging.

Free Talk Live (RSS and iTunes on site) is my bread and butter podcast. It is the syndication of a daily radio show so even on the longest flight I usually have enough Free Talk Live to get my through. It is ~2 hours per podcast and there is a new episode Mon-Sat. This podcast has nothing to do with travel, but some of the TSA haters out there do call in periodically.

I just found Travel Commons (RSS and iTunes on site) recently and haven't really checked it out much yet so I can't comment, but the most recent episode is from last year so I'm guessing it isn't updated too often.

And last but not least is Upgrd (RSS). Upgrd is run by several flyertalkers and for any true frequent flyer it is must-listen material. I think it is bi-weekly and episodes try to stay under 40 minutes. This is usually the first podcast I listen to on a trip before using Free Talk Live to fill the rest of the flight time.

Other podcasts I have subscribed to include Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! which is an hour long weekly podcast and is like the Daily Show of NPR. It's a good way to see how well you keep up with current events.

Any other travel or general podcasts anyone out there recommends?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Automatic bathrooms


There seems to be a trend in airport bathrooms and that is to make everything automatic. In ORD one only needs to wave a hand to get a fresh toilet seat cover. Soap, water, and even paper towels all come with just the wave of a hand. The only one that really annoys me is the water because most of them in airports have no temperature control which means the water is slightly colder than I'd usually like. Some hospitals do have temperature controls on automatic sinks, but not always in the public areas.

All this automation is great unless the sensor doesn't work or, as this sign from Cincinnati Northern Kentucky (CVG) indicates, your clothing doesn't register with the sensor. Of course this means you get soap but no water or paper towel. Those are always fun days...

On Flyertalk one of the signs on being a frequent flyer is being home and holding hands under the sink waiting for the water to start.

Now on twitter

I'm now on twitter http://www.twitter.com/FlyGracefully

I was against it because I like to maintain as much privacy as I can. I realized that many people use twitter to find out about news and information very quickly and that appeals to me. It seems like a lot of noise to sift through though. I started following a couple similar things and it seems that they all retweet the same information.

One of the things that intrigued me is the #boarding and then listing the airport you're in. I might try that out, but at the same time like I said I like to stay somewhat private.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weekend Routine

Most weeks I fly out Monday and return Thursday or Friday night. I try to avoid flying on Sunday unless I really have to since I am not compensated for weekend travel and it just really isn't good for my work/life balance. Earlier on in my career I was too willing to sacrifice work/life balance, but I can't continue to be that way.

When I come home on the weekend there are some key things I need to get done before the next week begins:
  • Do laundry
  • Epliate
  • File my nails
  • Mow the grass
  • Clean the house
As someone who is never in the same place week after week I don't need to have a lot of different clothes so I need to do the laundry every week for the next week and change a couple items. I know other women who color code their weeks so they only have to bring 1 color of shoes. I tried this earlier in my career and probably should return to this routine, but right now I only wear clothes that work with black shoes. A three week cycle...black, brown, and navy works for many.

About a year ago I started epilating. I bought theBraun 5270 Silk-├ępil X'elle after a friend suggested that model and I've been epilating on the weekends ever since. I mainly like it because I used to cut my shins all the time and now I don't have that issue. I use it on my legs, forearms, and arm pits. I will usually need to shave my armpits again during the week, but my legs often stay clear enough until the weekend. This model is a corded model so I just leave it plugged-in at home and epilate while surfing the web. I still carry a razor with me on the road, but if it's too dull and I haven't replaced it yet I don't ask for one of those torture devices they have for free at the front desk or run out to a pharmacy just for a razor. Some hotels do sell nicer razors, but in Canada I paid $14 for a razor at the hotel store and they didn't do room charges so I didn't get extra points on that.

I grew up as a horrible nail biter. For about a year or so when I first started traveling for business I had acrylics, but if I didn't have time to get them filled when I was home I would go to the mall wherever I was and have some random person fill them. I decided to switch back to natural nails and had really weak nails until a friend taught me about Nailtiques polish. I file my nails weekly when I'm home because when my nails get too long they are not comfortable for the way I type. I used Nailtiques daily for a while, now I only put a coat on once a week or so and that keeps my nails strong enough for the most part. If I use it every other day my nails are strong enough to do anything.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Goodbye free airport wifi...oh, wait!

The Google free Wifi promotion is now coming to an end. During the promotion I only passed through 1 airport that was part of the promotion that didn't normally have free wifi...Monterey, CA.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Safety Hazard, Really?

No, despite the title this actually isn't about TSA.

Last night I was on an regional jet with only 1 flight attendant. The flight attendant was not a native English speaker. He pronounced the CH in Charlotte like the CH in chat. Little things like that don't really bother me because I'm sure I mispronounce city names all the time.

We were in the penalty box for 30 minutes for flow control into CLT and some passenger mid plane asked the FA to repeat what the pilot had said (the pilot spoke with typical pilot voice and I understood him fine, but people far from a speaker might not). the FA said there was a delay for flow control in CHarlotte. The passenger (who was very loud) started instructing him that it is pronounced SHarlotte like SHicago. The passenger asked the FA where he was from because "you sound Eastern European but you look Asian."

During deplaning some other passengers were talking about how they would feel very unsafe if we had an accident and that FA had to give instructions. I've been on flights with just 2 flight attendants where 1 was a native English speaker and the other wasn't and the one with the heavy accent spoke the safety demo. I never had a problem with it. I don't like getting sent to overseas call centers who don't properly train phone staff on how to resolve basic issues, but this FA would have gone through the same training as all other FAs for this regional carrier. The track record for pilots on regional carriers has come under fire a lot recently so I just hope the flight attendants are actually getting properly trained for emergencies...especially when they are the only FA on board.

If they let people who don't speak English onto airplanes then I don't see how someone fluent in English (his usage was fine, just his pronounciation of proper nouns was off) but with an accent is a safety hazard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Travel Tip of the Week: Know where you're going

To go with my new blog name I figured I should offer tips to help you fly gracefully. Travel Tip of the Week #1: know where you're going.
Of course you've bought a ticket from XXX to YYY possibly connecting in AAA on your way there. If you're connecting in AAA do you know how to get from one gate to the next? I have many hubs fairly memorized and I try to stick to the hubs I know unless I need to fly another airline. If that situation arises I begin research. You could start this during the ticketing process, but I usually look the day before.

Most airline websites have something that should say Flight Status or something similar to this. It should usually be prominently displayed on the home page, but may also be under something like Traveling & Check in or Travel Tools if you have navigated away from the home page. Look up your first flight for yesterday and today and see what gates that flight usually uses for departure and arrival. Next look up you second flight and do the same. Then try to search for a map of the airport and plot your course. If you have enough time to eat, look for food options en route. Nothing is worse than waiting in line at the first food you see only to find your favorite restaurant farther down.


This shows me that Columbus, OH usually takes off from C53 or C54 and usually arrives in the higher end of B. The flight from Cincinnati to Cleveland usually takes off in the higher B gates so it looks like unless the gate situation drastically changes I will have just over an hour (subtract 30 minutes for boarding) to get from one flight to another.

I then google the airport code (in this case CVG) and map or sometimes "terminal map" if the airport code is synonymous with the city. I find this page and can see there is a Husdon's News, a bar called Ida's Seat and a burrito restaurant close by. If those don't strike my fancy, I can see all the restaurants at the food court aren't too far either.

Tips:
  • Gates are subject to change and DO change! Don't wait by B28 unless a board confirms that gate.
  • Try to find the phone number or mobile address to check gates while taxiing in if you have a tight connection. In this example, the bottom of the delta page says 800-325-1999 is th delta number. http://mobile.delta.com will take a smart phone to the mobile site. If those aren't options, call someone who has internet access and make them look it up.
  • In many cases the flight attendant only gets a list of connecting gates on takeoff. If you are connecting in ORD just don't even pay attention because the gate has probably changed 3 times since that list was printed.

Delta Sky Club to change snack offerings

"
As many of you are aware, we have limited locations (ATLAtlanta, GA E for example) that offer pre-flight appetizers, which offer an increased level of food service. These select clubs are primarily aligned to support Delta’s international departures. We know that you also frequently comment on the overall selection and availability of snacks as we continue to harmonize the offerings of the pre-merger Delta and pre-merger Northwest locations. The change we are making will address both of these issues.

Starting on January 16, we will no longer offer pre-flight appetizers at the clubs where they are currently served in favor of providing a more consistent product across the entire Delta Sky Club network for longer periods of time throughout the day. We are very pleased that this will allow us to have a snack offering throughout the entire day a Delta Sky Club is open. Right now, for example, we serve an expanded snack offering from 4 – 7 pm but if you come to the clubs outside of those times, snacks are not available. (After breakfast, we are currently only offering pretzel mix, dried fruit, Biscoff cookies and Nutella). Therefore, beginning February 1, the expanded snack service will be offered from breakfast until the club closes all across the Delta Sky Club network.

We feel that working toward greater product consistency adds to the value of your membership for all of our members and is the right thing to do. We hope you enjoy the upcoming changes and yes, we will continue to listen to your feedback.
"
Flyertalk

Now I mainly use the Sky Club for a quiet place with an outlet. As long as they stay quiet and they keep the outlets I'm still OK for right now. I was looking forward to trying the snacks at the ATL East club (not the one right across from McDonalds, the one down the concourse from that).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For some, hassles dim the appeal of air travel

For some, hassles dim the appeal of air travel
Usually I just kick the USA Today into my room and go on with my business, but this article today struck me because it's what many of us have been saying for a while. I had only flown a handful of times before 9/11/01 and I'd never left the country before then so my experiences don't reflect back to the "good old days" before TSA too much. I did start frequent flying before the August 2006 liquids fiasco so I do reminisce back to those days. I love my job, but I'd love it more if I had a teleporter or if I could use NetJets or something like that.

Registration now available for Hilton first quarter promotion

Registration now available for Hilton first quarter promotion

What is in a name?

I figured it's time to do a little overhaul of this site and the first thing to go is the name. Originally this blog started out as me discussing eating well on the road. I didn't like that topic enough to post regularly so instead of being an anonymous Traveling Dietitian I am out in the open now as Grace. i decided to go through a few name iterations and tried to find a domain. I thought about Flying Gracefully and had a good image all mocked up (similar to the current one), then I wasn't going to be able to get a .com domain, just the others. I wanted a .com domain to have some legitimacy so I played around with -ing or not -ing. "with" or not with. Fly Gracefully got me a .com domain. It's also less clunky to type than the double g flyinggracefully.com had.

The new name just enhances the irony of my name with my travel style. I am usually not very graceful and either cause a commotion at the TSA checkpoint or other places.

...there are more changes underway so if you RSS me, leave your RSS the same for right now, but if you actually go to me, update to http://www.flygracefully.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

My luck with United e500s

I seem to collect United 500 mile upgrades. My coworker asked me why and I said I'm cursed when I use them and this is what I told her.
If I request to use them over a week in advance bad weather happens, flight 1 gets delayed, and I miss my upgrade on flight 2.

If I request them when I check in the flight gets delayed AND my upgrade does not clear. This makes them very useless to me and I can't wait for the automatic elite upgrades coming this year.

Just last week I decided to use some e500s because I was taking a redeye. I was #6 on the list with 8 seats remaining. Then eventually I was 3rd on the list and 3 seats remaining, then suddenly only 2 seats remained and I was still #3. I decided it would be better to not look at who was in F so I wouldn't speculate why I suddenly didn't make the threshold.

I had a connection after the redeye and the upgrade cleared on that. Then good old Mesa couldn't get the main door sensor to say the door was closed. After 45 minutes of messing around with the door they let us off (because it was cold in Chicago!). They made us hand around for an hour while they continued to figure out what was wrong. Pretty soon the next flight was coming up so most of us jumped ship onto it. I got the last coach seat available on that flight so I can't complain with United there, but I was supposed to get home at 10 am and instead got home at 3:30 pm. This really messed up my day since I had calls scheduled at 3 pm.

Do I need a passport to fly domestically?

I've been trolling yahoo answers quite a bit recently and this question comes up so much it is very sad.

There was a time a couple years ago when RealID was a hot issue where this was rumored to be true. States were voting to not enact RealID due to the cost of implementation and not enough federal funding. DHS/TSA struck back by saying people from states not RealID compliant (which was pretty much every state except NC) would not allow those licenses/IDs for travel. All states were quickly issued a waiver to prevent mass chaos. RealID still rears its ugly head, but there is no requirement from TSA or otherwise for US domestic travelers to need a passport. Presenting a photo ID as listed on the TSA website does help one get through the checkpoint without getting their stuff searched automatically, but photo ID is not *required*. This means if you are traveling and your wallet gets stolen your main concern should be getting your credit cards canceled and such NOT how you will get on your flight home.

So in summary: No passport needed for domestic US travel. Valid photo ID with name, gender, date of birth, expiration date is good, but with a search it is possible to go through without it.

My philosophy on carry-ons

When I buy a carryon I make sure I buy one that fits a size and can go wheels-first into most bins. I put my backpack below the seat in front of me. I rarely have problems fitting my roller bag into an overhead since I get to board in zone 1, but I also try not to be "that person" and ruin it for the rest of the people.

Although my actual ethics class didn't really use this method, I use the "If everyone did this would it be good or bad" method of ethics. If everyone who brought a carryon brought a 23" carryon and had to stow it sideways we woul have much less storage space. I bring a backpack that fits under the seat in front of me so unless I'm in a bulkhead it goes under the seat in front of me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 off to a good start

I still haven't decided if this is two thousand ten or twenty ten, but 2010 started off well. I started my year with a trip across the country involving 2 airlines and 3 flights. The three flights went off without a hitch and I got op-upped on the 2 United flights.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'll take basic toiletries for 100...

Today was my first day traveling since the Christmas attack. Some on flyertalk had reported issues with generic bottles at checkpoints so in addition to that I made sure stop using my 4 oz (shh!) generic bottles and clean out various old boarding passes and other junk from my bag to prevent too many reasons for a bag check. I also considered checking my bag, but I was on a 2 airline 3 leg trip so I didn't want to risk checking it and carried on. It helped that the lines were fairly short due to this being the post-holiday travel lull and many other business travelers didn't seem to be traveling today.

I got to the checkpoint, prepared my stuff in the bins (first bin: coat, shoes, liquids baggie second bin laptop, then backpack, then rollerbag). The x-ray operator had called a bag check on the person in front of me because he didn't take his laptop out. That one was resolved fairly quickly. Then the x-ray operator got to my rollerbag and called a bag check on me. I watched that person and the 2 striper who came over about 3 minutes later for the bag check while they were looking at the x-ray. They seemed fairly fixated on my hair straightener. I thought that was ironic because I had just told someone on Yahoo Answers that hair straighteners are just fine in carry on bags. Even though the spot they kept pointing to was obviously my straightener, it turns out it was my toothbrush they were suspicious of.

This is the second time my toothbrush has resulted in a bag check. It kinda makes you wonder about the people TSA hires if they don't know what a toothbrush looks like. It was just the cheap Oral-B sonic toothbrush with charger. the stupid thing stopped working anyway so maybe I just need to toss it at my destination after I get a manual one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time to start again

January 1 marks the day that my frequent flyer accounts reset to 0 for elite qualification and the race to status begins again. This year is looking good for United right now. I have a 6 segment transcon this week and I'll be flying from the east coast to MEL this year. That trip alone pretty much guarantees at least Premier so that plus my normal travel may just push me over to 1K. I know I better take advantage of any DEQM promotions. My only concern is that my regular west coast project is coming to an end and I'm getting more east coast business so we'll see how this all goes.

Delta is always an unknow. Last year a trip to GIG supplemented my Delta miles. The Hilton promotions for MQMs always help too, but who knows if that will happen this year. I should get at least Silver, but hopefully I can maintain my Gold status. Delta DMQM promotions have never worked for me because they require the highest fair classes and that is a little too much for me to spend on a mileage run.

Hilton is in the bag for diamond.