|Priceline||Retail||$ Savings||% Savings|
|Delta – Melbourne to Colorado Springs||$280
|Alamo Compact Car||$14.64 / day||$19.53||$4.89||25%|
|Courtyard by Marriott (3-star)||$42.20 / day||$61.60||$19.40||31%|
|$57.22 / day||$87.69||$30.47||35%|
Didn’t drive this trip – wouldn’t mind driving to Colorado, but it would have meant an extra travel day on either end. The gas estimate was $310 – that would have been a wash with the flight and car rental, but I would have needed two extra hotel nights somewhere. So in this case, flying seemed the best choice.
I’ve been planning to go to Denver for some time to visit friends, but so much of my travel is last-minute that the flights have been too expensive.
My price-point was to get the flight, with taxes and fees, under $300, but with the lowest retail price for these dates being $309, I didn’t really expect my $230 bid to be accepted. Surprise.
I had some unused Priceline Bonus Cash available for both the hotel and car. So I bid $7 a day for the car, which the Bonus Cash added an extra $5 to. So, really, with taxes and fees, I got the car for the retail price less the Bonus Cash application. But even so I still saved $20 over the time I’ll have the car.
The Bonus Cash for the hotel was $10 a night, so my $34 winning bid was made $44. The savings for this trip aren’t as significant as some of the others, but it’s still a 3-star Courtyard for $42 a night real money. Considering the Motel 6 is probably advertising $39.95 plus tax, I think this was a pretty good deal.
The trip started with a drive from Orlando to Melbourne to catch the outgoing flight. All of the flights out of Orlando were $150+ more, so the hour drive to the Melbourne airport seemed worth it. It also gave me a basis for a new game I invented to play while flying somewhere: “I’d Drive an Hour to Avoid That”.
The rules of the game are simple. When you fly somewhere instead of driving, you add up all the things you’d gladly drive an hour to avoid and add that to the flight travel time … if the total is still less than the driving time, then you made the right decision in choosing to fly. Let’s play!
Starting parameters, door-to-door travel times: Air=12-hours, Car=29-hours.
I’m going to take a step back to the act of purchasing the plane ticket now, because it’s applicable to the game. $280 was a decent price. I’m happy with it. Of course, once you buy the ticket, it’s time to then buy the ticket again, by dealing with the a la carte items.
Yes, much like dining at a fine steakhouse, where the price you pay gets you a slab of beef and everything else is extra, the price of the ticket gets you a seat with lots of extras for you to ponder on. The difference, of course, being that the slab of beef is generally quite nice and well worth the price, while the basic seat on an aircraft is … not so much.
Yes, sir, thank you for being a valued customer, sir, here’s your ticket.
Will you be wanting to actually change clothing at your destination and need to check a bag, sir? There’s a slight charge for that, sir, but I’ll be happy to take your credit card now.
You’re absolutely right, sir, it’s a short trip and you can manage with just a carry-on. Now, sir, I see that you’re a
lower-classeconomy traveler and you’ll be boarding the aircraft in Zone 3.
No, we don’t divide the actual aircraft into zones for boarding, just the passengers. First we’ll board those who
say theyneed special assistance, then First Class passengers, then all of our frequent flyers who’ve actually flown frequently, then Zone 1 passengers, Zone 2 passengers, and, finally, the dregs of the flying publicyou.
But I’ll be happy to take your credit card now and upgrade you to preferred boarding, where you’ll be
at the top of the lower-classesboarding with Zone 1. Thank you, sir.
Now, sir, I see that you’re 6’-2” and would you possibly want a seat where your patella is not actually in contact with the seat in front of you for the entire flight? I do have to warn you that we are not responsible for the cost of surgery to repair damage when the passenger in front of you reclines, crushing your kneecap.
Yes, sir, an exit row would absolutely give you more legroom, but we now reserve those seats for members of our frequent flyer program – not all members, you understand, but those who’ve managed to total up some actual miles. If any exit row seats are available 24-hours before the flight, we’ll open those seats up for
cheap bastardsanyone to select. All you have to do is select that seat at check-in and insert your credit card for the slight upcharge.
Of course, sir, that’s assuming that any of those seats are available 24-hours before departure. If you’d like to be assured of
unbroken kneecapsa preferred seat, we do have larger seats with more legroom available to anyone for an upcharge twiceslightly more than the exit row would be.
Oh, no, sir, I’m sorry,
you’re a fucking idiotyou misunderstood. The upcharge isn’t to upgrade your seats for the entire flight, it’s for each leg of the flight. Yes, sir, a separate charge to upgrade the seat each time you step onto a new plane.
Thank you, sir, I’ll run that charge through right now and thank you for flying Nickel & Dime Airways.
Now, I understand the business process behind this and I actually do agree with it. It lowers the price of the basic ticket so that someone who doesn’t want any of those extras can get the lowest price and those who value the extras can pay for them. This is good business and good for the consumer, in general, but I hate it.
I hate it not because I object to the fundamental practice or find it deceptive, as some do. I’m a big boy and I can do addition real well, so I can calculate the actual cost of the extras and make an informed decision. I just don’t like it – I prefer not to make that many decisions about what should be a simple flight.
Guess how many decisions I have to make about where to sit when I drive somewhere.
So, a la carte options on the flight? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (1)
TSA screening. Yay. First I hand my boarding pass and ID over. He looks from it to me three times. Little hint for you guys at TSA: If the driver’s license picture looks like the guy in front of you, it’s fake. He asks me if I’ve lost weight … yeah, thanks, gained weight since then. Divorce makes you happy and you enjoy things more. He laughed.
Shuffle forward. Shoes off. Guy in front has two carry-ons, needs three bins for his laptop, shoes, coat, etc. Yay, waiting.
My turn now. Shoes in the bin, plus my little ziploc of toiletries, then my big ziploc of electronics. I don’t have a laptop with me, but I know that between the camera, gps, charging cables, etc., there’ll be an issue if I leave them in the bag.
Into the scanning chamber … feet on the special places, hands up, wait for the radiation exposure. Or get felt up by the TSA “officers” … yeah, because if I saw them at the last place they worked I totally wouldn’t feel it was necessary to check my order twice before driving away.
Having to buy quart-sized bags and special-sized toiletries? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (2)
TSA screening in general? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (3)
So now it’s time to wait at the gate. I don’t like waiting. It’s just a personal preference where I prefer to be in motion and making progress, rather than sitting still and waiting. Faced with a traffic jam, I’d rather drive more distance on a different route, even if it takes the same amount of time, than sit still.
Having to sit still and wait before every flight? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (4)
Next they start calling for boarding.
Lying bastards People who need assistance, First Class, Frequent Flyers, and then I’m up … Zone 1. Which I can start boarding as soon as I edge my way through all the Zone 2 and 3 people who cluster around the gate under the misapprehension that staring at the gate attendant will make her let them board earlier.
Down the jetway. Wait in line. Onto the plane. Wait in line. Slowly make my way down the aisle. Wait in line. I don’t like waiting in line any more than I like sitting and waiting.
Jetway, aircraft, and TSA lines? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (5)
So I’m safely ensconced in my seat, happily reading a book on my Kindle, when the aircraft pulls away from the gate and the
stewardess flight attendant tells me I have to shut my Kindle off during takeoff and landing.
Now, never mind that the Kindle’s in airplane-mode, which means that all of its antennas are off. Never mind that it has about the electronic signature of an LCD panel, twenty of which are still operating in seatbacks. Never mind that there is absolutely no evidence that cellphones, tablets, Kindles, or MP3 players have any effect whatsoever on aircraft. Never mind all that – let’s look at a different fact.
Follow me on this, FAA-people: There are 200+ people on the aircraft. You’ve asked them to turn off their electronics. This presumes that all 200+ of them have complied, since you don’t check or force them in any way. This presumes that of all 200+, no one, through malice, oversight, or obstinacy, has a phone on in their pocket, carry-on, or checked bag. No phones, tablets in sleep mode, etc. None. On any flight, ever.
Because if we accept that some percentage of people … 1%, 0.1%, 0.01%, whatever, but some percentage of people will leave their device on. And once that percentage is accepted and applied to all flights everywhere, we see that dozens of flights a day, hundreds a week, thousands a year, tens of thousands in the decade since this silly rule went into place … have all flown with “electronic devices” running and have had no incidents whatsoever. Making your rule … absolute bullshit.
Not having to comply with a rule I know to be absurd and useless? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (6)
I get to change planes in Atlanta, which is always fun. Luckily, my connecting flight is on the same concourse as I arrived at, which makes it easier, but it’s also at the far end of that concourse. So I shoulder my duffel bag and take the long walk from one side to the other.
Yes, a rolling carry-on would be easier. And over the years I’ve accumulated no fewer than four of them … but the ex “needed them” and at $300 an hour for the attorney it wasn’t worth arguing about. So now I have a duffel bag until I’m willing to buy a carry-on with wheels.
Changing planes? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (7)
It was well past lunchtime, so I figured I’d get something to eat while I waited. There wasn’t really enough time for a sitdown meal, so I headed for the food court.
Unfortunately, none of the food court vendors had fewer than fifteen people in line and there were no tables available. So faced with the prospect of a long wait in line with a carry-on and heavy jacket to juggle, then trying to find an empty table with that plus a tray of food, I opted for a prepped sandwich from a sundry store.
I walked up to the register with a turkey sandwich, a bottle of Sprite, a small package of cashews, and a candy bar. I handed over $20 … and actually didn’t understand that the clerk was asking for more money.
I ate half the sandwich before I couldn’t stand the soggy roll anymore and gave up.
Eating in an airport? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (8)
On to the next flight, where I had a preferred seat ($) with extra legroom on the aisle. Which would have been perfect except for the big guy sitting next to me.
He was not fat. He was big. Dude’s shoulders were wider than his assigned seat and I’m pretty sure there was chemical enhancement involved in his physique and his biceps encroached past the arm rest by at least two inches. This was not only physically uncomfortable as I tried to avoid three hours of touching a strange man, but mentally uncomfortable as those rock-hard muscles were a constant reminder of certain inadequacies on my own part.
Bo Beefy’s bulging biceps? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (9)
And there was the traditional crying baby on this flight, so it was a two-fer.
Crying baby? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (10)
Finally on the ground in Colorado Springs I was able to pick up my rental car keys without any trouble and headed out to the lot to be on my way.
Seventeen degrees when I landed, with lots of snow on the ground. Curiously, I didn’t feel a need to blast the heat in the car. Only once, the morning I left, did I turn the car’s heater past the first speed. And it really wasn’t until that last morning that it seemed cold to me … for the rest of the stay it seemed cold, but no worse than it gets in Orlando during a cold-snap.
I had a nice, hour-long drive to my hotel outside of Denver – a drive that was actually a relief after the sitting on the airplane for so long.
The next morning I had some free time before meeting a friend in the evening, so I headed a little ways out of town to do some hiking. The spot I chose was just an open-space park with walking trails, not a huge state park, but it was a nice walk, with good views.
I took one of the less traveled trails up onto a ridge.
There were flocks of geese all over town, including people’s yards.
And a few fields of prairie dogs.
Friday evening and Saturday morning I spent visiting an old friend who I haven’t seen in too long.
Saturday night I was planning to drive to Loveland to see a hockey game – the Avalanche were away, but the ECHL Eagles were in town. But Saturday afternoon the weather forecast called for heavy snow overnight, and I didn’t want to be an hour away from my hotel after the game and have to drive back in the dark with snow falling. So I skipped the game and stayed in.
Dinner wasn’t incredible, but Denver has a couple chains that I really like and don’t have in Florida. Tokyo Joe’s is upscale, fast-food Japanese – think a Japanese-version of Chipotle. Build your own bowl of meat, vegetables, sauce, and rice or noodles. Tasty and affordable.
I had chicken with brown rice, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, bean sprouts, and teriyaki sauce.
Sunday morning there’d been a few inches of snow overnight and the forecast had changed from “heavy snow” to “blizzard warning” through 11:00PM.
My return flight was at 6:00 Monday morning from Colorado Springs, an hour away from my hotel. To arrive in time I’d have to leave the hotel before 4:00AM – not a problem, unless there was, say, a blizzard during the night.
Rather than risk that, I decided to move to Colorado Springs on Sunday morning. After breakfast I got on Priceline and got the Springhill Suites for $45. I did have to eat the Sunday night stay in Denver, but, even so, I still saved money on hotels for the whole trip.
Leaving the hotel I got a look at what had happened overnight. Mine’s the white one:
There were a lot of cars moving on the interstate, but the area around the hotel was covered with ice and snow with very few cars. I drove very slowly in the area, but the last turn before getting to the cleared roads was on a slight downhill slope. As I was making the turn, I felt the traction go and the car slid like a bumper car. I hit the far curb broadside.
It cracked the hubcap and messed up the alignment a bit … so I figure I’ll be hearing from Alamo. They were closed when I turned the car in, so I just dropped the keys off. That $11 / day for full coverage is looking pretty good right about now …
Now, here’s where people might say that this was an advantage to flying over driving. After all, if I’d driven, then it would be my car that had been damaged.
No, I reply. If I’d driven I would not have been on the road at all, because I wouldn’t have been facing a 6:00AM flight the next day. I would have had options.
I could have left Saturday afternoon and been safely ensconced at a blackjack table in Vegas by the time that storm rolled in.
I could have decided to wait it out, curled up in my room with Chinese take-out until the roads were well-cleared and I could safely leave.
In other words, I would not have been faced with the decision to drive in unsafe conditions or miss a flight. Instead I spent thirty miles like this:
I’d drive an hour to avoid that decision. (11)
I settled myself into the slow lane behind someone who seemed to know what they were doing and trundled along at 30-35 MPH. About halfway to Colorado Springs we got to an area that the plows had been through and things sped up to 45.
Colorado Springs was getting light snow, but had 15-20 MPH winds. With that and a damaged car, I decided not to try going anywhere except a short trip for dinner.
This was at HuHot, another upscale, fast-food place, this time Mongolian grill. I really, really love this place and was very disappointed when the one in Orlando closed. I think it had a horrible location, nestled into a tiny strip-mall near the Florida Mall. Very sad. If I had $1,000,000 for a franchise I’d open one.
I got to bed early and up early the next morning. No new snow had fallen in Colorado Springs and the roads were clear, but 166 flights had been canceled the day before in Denver.
The return flights had enough turbulence that the flight crew had to remain seated and both legs (COS->ATL & ATL->MCO) had no beverage service. Except in First Class … apparently First Class people can handle turbulence without spilling their drinks, but the peons can’t. It’s an acquired skill, I suppose.
In Atlanta I had time to eat — got a mediocre chicken sandwich with a stale bun, frozen chicken, and plastic silverware … because of all those times someone’s hijacked a plane with a butter knife and a fork.
And home … with the beginnings of a cold, that I’m sure is the result of sitting on a plane for four hours breathing recycled air.
Getting sick when I travel? I’d drive an hour to avoid that. (12)
And in my next post, we’ll have the game results and post-game analysis.