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Monday, May 17, 2010

What not to wear

Oh, yeah, we're big fashion mavens. Joyce calls me a clothes-pig and I worry that horizontally striped underwear will make me look fat. If you haven't seen my bathing-beauty photo, go look in the Great (Plains) Escape and you'll see why this is funny. Or frightening. Whichever.

But we definitely don't want to look like dumb American tourists with stuff worth stealing, so we're making a couple of changes. No belly-bags (fanny-packs) this time. We're both using underarm bags. No wild tee-shirts, either; at least on land, we'll wear collared sports shirts. And if need be we won't wear shorts, certainly not downtown or at night. Don't expect dresses or stupid shoes, though. We're not going to endanger ourselves or be uncomfortable or inconvenienced.

Everything has to fit in two bags each. For three weeks in different climates, we just can't do it in one bag. So as usual, everything urgent goes in the carry-on, and stuff we can replace if we must will be checked. Luckily we will stop in Quito several days before moving on, so our bags can catch up if we're separated, God forbid.

We're just about ready to go, and we're pretty excited. See you when we get back!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not flying domestic

That's how we'll be getting to Miami when the time comes, and that's how we're getting from Miami back here. We couldn't actually fly a foreign carrier to Miami, I tried to find one, so we chose to fly Hertz. That's right; we're driving.

Why in the world? you may wonder. A variety of reasons:

1. Cost. It simply costs more to fly to Miami than to drive there. That may sound impossible, but it's true. If you add airfare to all the extra fees domestic carriers pile on (especially luggage), it is MORE expensive than driving down in a rented sub-compact and staying a night near the airport. Using our own car and long-term parking at MIA would also be more expensive. It does take extra time, but that's one of the blessings of one of us being retired and the other having the summer off. We also make use of all the discounts we get from being geezers. I think it costs less than $40 for us to drive to Miami, and $75 or so to drive back. Compare to the two flights we won't be taking. Maybe if you had frequent flyer points it would be cheaper, but we don't. We fly as little as we can get away with.

2. The experience. The TSA and the airlines together treat people like crap. This is two times fewer that we'll have to deal with either.

3. The schedule. Even if we fly, we'd have to factor in a day to let our luggage catch up. While not as strenuous as Antarctica, it's still not a trip you want to take without all your supplies, and we simply can't carry everything aboard in the cabin. This way, it stays safe with us.

Here are a couple of other wrinkles about flying to Quito (and back fom Lima): you can't get there from here. By this I mean, if you ask to fly from and to Tampa, they route you through Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans and so on. You have to book each stage separately to get the route you want, which is exactly what we did for Antarctica, and that was also when we decided never to make a domestic flight again. I swear, if I were going to Seattle or Edmonton or Mexico City, I'd drive there. Another thing: the only non-stop from Miami to Quito is via a US domestic airline, and it's more expensive than our itinerary via San Jose, Costa Rica, both ways.

So I encourage you: if you want to send US domestic airlines a message, stay off them and tell everyone why. I've been doing it since we made our reservations.

I'll write another entry before we go, mostly about planning and packing.