Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Forty Pounds?

brown leather duffel bag
Photo by nappy on


So, on a Monday morning in May, I woke up with the knowledge that I was going to Club Med Punta Cana at the end of the week – the trip we had won from CTC Travel.  I had no idea whatsoever of what I was taking with me.

The Resort Life

I am the Museum Girl, not the Resort Girl.  I know what to take on cruises.  I’m great at packing for a road trip.  However, I didn’t know what to take to a resort, because that hadn’t been my life up to that point.

So I imagined a really casual five-day cruise without any ports of call and no dressing for dinner.  My wardrobe began to form in my head.  Swimsuits, sundresses and shorts.  I scratched my head a little more and tried to dream up every eventuality.  Maybe I’d need jeans?  What about some slacks?  I stood around in my closet gathering up things I might need.  Something to sleep in, lingerie, sandals, sneakers.  The items began to pile up.  In the end I took a lot more than I needed, because I just didn’t know.

The Baggage Thing

So, if you travel at all, you know what Spirit is famous for – no frills, but a fee for everything.  I looked online for all of Spirit’s baggage fees and thought I was pretty clever.  I was sure we’d be able to get by without the additional cost of carry-ons, because I’d managed to fit us into one suitcase for five days for our cruise.  Of course, since we drove to Galveston, the weight didn’t matter, but I was certain I could fit everything into two suitcases – and I did.

We weighed the suitcases with our handy dandy suitcase scale and put the them next to the door.  The alarm would be going off at 3:30 AM the next morning, because our flight was at the ungodly hour of 6 AM.

The Other Baggage Thing

We parked our car at Park & Fly, like we always do, and were delivered to our terminal.  As we stood near the Spirit Airlines acclimating ourselves to their procedures, a very nice lady came up to us and offered to help.  She was happy to see the confirmations proving we had checked in online.  Then she grabbed a bag and set it on their scale.  I didn’t have a worry in the world.  Both bags were under 50 pounds – the magic airline weight limit.  Or at least that had been the magic airline weight limit the last time I had flown on a real airline.

I should have worried.  The weight of our bags brought a frown to our friendly helper’s face, but it was nothing compared to the one on my husband’s face.  We were going to have to pay an additional $30 per bag each way.  $120!!  The weight limit for Spirit Airlines is 40 pounds!

My stomach dropped to somewhere near my shoes.  We’ve had vacations ruined for less than $120 in unexpected fees.  Bill is no fan of traveling and he hates fees – they’re like paying interest, only much more careless. I waited for my dressing down, but it never came.  We’d both been looking at the Spirit website for days.  I’d emailed him a reminder of the permitted size of his personal item.  We’d both weighed the suitcases.  He wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t in trouble.

We finished getting our boarding passes and got in line to begrudgingly pay our first round of $60 baggage fees.  (BTW, CTC was in no way responsible for our frustration at the gate.  They didn’t book our air and I didn’t ask them about luggage fees!)  There was a wait by the gate and then we climbed on board Spirit Airlines.  Come fly with us next week.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Getting There is NOT Half the Fun


Months of planning. Weeks of deciding what to take. Days of packing. Then you wake up one morning and you still have to get there!

Flying Out of Dallas

I’ve already moaned and groaned about the local airport, so I’ll save you that.  We did get a taste of Friday morning rush hour traffic, but soon enough were pulling into the Park N Fly lot.  The shuttle delivered us without mishap to the United check-in desk where we got our boarding passes and checked our bags without a moment’s frustration.

On this trip, Bill and I traveled with my best friend Deb Shera and her husband Joe.  As Bill and I gathered our carry-ons and headed to the gate, we found Deb and she was not a happy camper.  She’d checked-in on-line via her iPhone and the computer at the gate was giving her fits.  However, she hadn’t had coffee yet, so I’m not sure whether the computer or the lack of caffeine was the real problem.

Once past security, our next target was coffee.  We figured there was a Starbucks somewhere, but couldn’t find it on the map, so we struck out to find something caffeinated.  We were just about ready to give up when Deb stumbled on someone who knew where the Starbucks was and I fell into an Auntie Annie’s Pretzel.  Here’s how much Deb loves me.  Even though she was still caffeine-deprived, she waited patiently for me to get a pretzel and soft drink.  Coffee is not my caffeine of choice.

Not long after, we found the Starbucks and the day began to improve for everyone else.  But the fun wasn’t over.  The Departures sign told us the boarding gate for our first leg was just around the corner from the Starbucks, but when we showed up with all our luggage, the flight before ours was delayed.  The gate area was full and the gate lady sent us away.

Later, I went back to check on things and who was there but one of my cousins’ husband.  Colin travels a lot, so I assumed he knew what he was about.  We compared notes on the flight and he, like us, assumed the Detroit people would leave soon.  Eventually, it was getting pretty close to time and the Detroit passengers hadn’t moved.  The board still said it was our gate, but Deb wasn’t taking the board’s word for it.  Good thing, because they were loading our plane at the next gate. Even though the gates were consecutive, they weren’t right next to each other and we could have been in trouble.

Can we board yet?

As we cued for boarding, I looked back towards the old gate and didn’t see Colin anywhere, so I assumed he was already in the plane.  But he wasn’t there either.  I hoped he’d arranged another flight.  Frequent travelers have this penchant for finding flights the rest of us never know about and getting upgraded to first class, but that hadn’t happened.  He was the first guy I saw when I got off the plane.  He’d almost missed the flight!  I was sorry he’d had such a close call, but I was glad it was someone else for a change.

The Houston layover was uneventful, but quick.  We grabbed lunch to go at restaurant called The Real Food Company.  I recommend it highly if you’re in Terminal C at Bush Intercontinental.  Our flight was boarding when we arrived at the gate and our food was still warm when we settled in our seats.  Another uneventful flight ensued.  (And believe me, I’m not complaining.)

All of our luggage showed up on the carousel and it was time to find a taxi.  That’s when things began to get interesting.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Darn that DFW International




In the general sense, I’m pretty fond of airports. If I’m in one, I’m either traveling (which is a good thing) or I’m picking up someone I care about (and that’s a good thing, too).

DFW International Airport

In a more specific sense, I have to be honest, DFW is not my favorite airport.  Most of the time, if something is in any way associated with Dallas, the Metroplex or Texas in general, I’m one of its biggest fans, but that affection doesn’t extend to our airport.  Unfortunately, that’s where I have to start if I’m going to fly somewhere.  Since I just got back from a trip, I was reminded of my dislike affair with DFW International.

I Loved Love Field

I have to be candid with you.  I was perfectly happy with Love Field.  It was easy to get to and easy to get around.  Then the government stuck their nose into our business. The FAA decided we had to build on a grander scale and to be sure that the new airport made it, they came up with the Wright Amendment.  Like most Dallasites, I did my dead level best to ignore DFW International for as long as I could, but the amendment meant that there were a whole lot of places you couldn’t get to from Love Field.  I don’t know about you, but I’m still mad.  There’s a chance that my abhorrence of big government began there.

Changing Planes at DFW

As much as I grumble about DFW, I’m grateful that I just fly out of the place.  I’d hate to be changing planes there.  Some ding dong thought there was something wrong with having terminals that were actually connected with each other. Our terminals are spread out like cows grazing in a pasture – and the cows don’t like each other very much.   On this most recent trip, my travel companions tried to tell me DFW wasn’t all that bad – and I’m sure there are worse airports – but I just haven’t fallen in love with it.

Picking Someone Up at DFW

Going out to pick someone up is a whole ‘nother can of worms.  DFW was built a long time ago, back in the days when you had to know which gate someone was arriving at.  You strolled in, let security x-ray your purse and found a bar to hang out in until your friend arrived. Now you have to have a boarding pass to get through security – and I appreciate all the reasons for that – but there are no bars on this side of security.  There is something very wrong about that.

Layovers at DFW

And let’s say your best friend in the whole world, who you haven’t seen in twenty years, had a two hour layover at DFW.  Good luck with that.  You might have time to wave at each other from opposite sides of a security booth, but only if the moon was blue and you held your tongue right.  I’d consider waving at them from your backyard as they flew over, instead.

Layover at Denver

Which reminds me of a recent trip we took.  We ended up with most of the day to kill at the Denver airport.  Rather than waste our time hanging out in the terminals, we rented a car and played around at a gorgeous mall in Stapleton.  I’m trying to imagine what someone with the same dilemma would do, if they were at DFW.  Grapevine Mills Mall is probably close enough, but the logistical challenges would be legion.  I’m also questioning whether I really want that mall to be all someone saw of the Metroplex.  No – if this happens to you, please stay at the airport!

Thankfully, I’ll never have to manage a layover at DFW.  I just drop my car off at Park n Fly and let them worry about the whole thing.  What about you?  Have you been a victim of DFW International Airport?  Tell us about it!

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Airline Marketing vs. Operations


Have you ever noticed the gap between what’s promised and what you end up with?  On my recent vacation that gap was disturbingly obvious.  Think about how much money airlines spend trying to get you to choose them over the competition.  But as soon as you book a seat, you’re suddenly moved from the marketing department to operations.

The Gap Between What’s Promised and What’s Delivered

Affordable; Flexible; Accommodating; and Comfortable“… I picked up this phrase on the website of one of the airlines we flew.  Management chose these words to describe their airline and used them over and over again on the site.

  • Affordable?  Relatively, yes.
  • Comfortable?  More so than the other airline we flew on for this trip.
  • Flexible and Accommodating?  Really?

My disappointment began on the night before the flight, checking-in on line.  I wasn’t crazy about paying for every piece of luggage I checked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  However, I was dismayed for them to call it an “EXCESS BAGGAGE” fee.  What excess?  I was going to be gone for twelve days and would be doing everything from hiking in the snow to beach combing.  There was nothing excess about my baggage.  Obviously the marketing department hadn’t seen what operations was up to.

Along with my boarding passes I received very specific instructions about what to do at the airport.  I guess I don’t need to tell you that those instructions were useless when I got there.  A big thunderstorm rolled in after my computer session and DFW was a madhouse.  I admit, I already had a sour taste in my mouth about the “excess” baggage thing, but I wasn’t as dismayed about the fact that I couldn’t follow their specific instructions, as I was about the fact that there was nothing to indicate what I was to do in lieu of those instructions.

Every single airline employee had their head down helping other passengers (which was a good thing), but there was no one to answer any questions if you hadn’t made your way through the line to them, so we got in line.  Finally, someone showed up who seemed to be there to help with luggage.  We asked her about the instructions I received on the internet and she pointed to a kiosk.  We got out of line to use the kiosk and another employee yelled, “That won’t work.  Your flight is delayed over two hours. ”  Accommodating?  It seems that I was the one who was supposed to be Flexible.

In the airline’s defense, when I finally spent the requisite amount of time in line, the gentleman helping us was flexible and accommodating – but I wasn’t supposed to have to stand in line.  He apologized and smiled, even though we were just one of the many frustrated people he’d already dealt with or had waiting for him in line.  He tried to expedite us by booking us standby on several connecting flights, hoping we’d get lucky, but when we indicated that we didn’t want to spend the day stressing about whether or not we’d make stand-by, he gave us a definite seat on a later flight.  We rented a car during our lay over, had lunch outside the airport and caught a movie.  When you know what to expect, flexibility is easy.

Hello Corporate Decision Makers!  When I play by your rules, you should be nice to me.  You shouldn’t make money off my luggage fees and then insinuate I have excess baggage.  You shouldn’t leave me standing in a crowded airport wondering why I bothered to check in on line and what I should do next.  You shouldn’t send me letters explaining the ways you are going to downgrade the level of service you provide me and then try to convince me it is for my own convenience.  You shouldn’t make me fight with a phone tree before I can talk to a person.  You shouldn’t give me free stuff and then turn around a start charging me for it.

What about you fellow consumers?  How does the operations department tick you off after you’ve fallen for the marketing schpiel?