The Do's and Don'ts of Travel

Trip Start Dec 20, 2012
Trip End Jan 02, 2013

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Flag of Puerto Rico  ,
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Having just unpacked from a wonderful month-long trip camping my way across the Big Island of Hawaii, I embarked on yet another adventure around the world.  This time, I was headed with Ed, Wanda and the Brothers to the Caribbean.  Nearly a week in Puerto Rico would be augmented by a 7-day cruise among some of the Lesser Antilles (also known as the Caribbees).  But first, we had to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico... and to describe this, I'm going to write using a slightly different prose, instead of my typical chronological commentary.

The Do's and Don'ts of Travel:

 Do: Enjoy an early morning cocktail at your hometown airport after clearing security.  I prefer a double caesar (no more than 5 drops of Tabasco) to get me in the travel mood.  For those of you not familiar, think Bloody Mary, but substitute Clamato for Tomato Juice.

Do Not: Consume more than one 1 double drink on an empty stomach pre-flight.  After a real breakfast of champions, I began to feel like anything but a champion shortly after boarding the plane and realizing that I left my second carry-on bag, my "snack pack" in the airport terminal.  This reusable shopping bag filled with various dry snacks, including granola bars, cliff bars, cashews, pistachios, vitamin-C packets, homemade cookies, (etc.) was the first belonging I'd ever forgotten in an airport in my life.  Rather embarrassing.

Do: Try to get as much sleep as possible during and between flights.  Jet-Lag can be a real B**ch.

Do Not: Fly with American Airlines.  Their employees seem to hate their jobs, their coworkers and their lives in general.

Do: Fly through Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW).  Anyone who has ever been through LAX (Los Angeles...  Think the exact opposite.  The DFW airport is just as expansive and spread out, but FAR better organized.  At DFW, you clear security once.  And that's it!  Not like LAX, where you have re-clear security every time you switch terminals.  At DFW, once you've cleared security, you can move easily, smoothly and efficiently between terminals via the inter-terminal tramway (which also provides some scenic views).

Do Not: Fly with American Airlines.  Even before leaving YYC (Calgary) the airline told us that we no longer had our reserved seats.  In fact, we were told that, despite booking 9 months in advance, we had no seats at all, on one of our flights.  We finally managed to get our seats back... except that the 6 of us were scattered all across the plane.

Do: Give yourself enough leeway in your travel plans upon arrival to your destination to allow for delays between flights.  You don't want to miss that tour you were looking forward to taking the morning after arriving; and nobody wants to miss that bus transfer, or the cruise you booked 6 months in advance.  Put a crowbar in your wallet, forget about "the cheapest flight" and pay a litle extra so you have some leeway.  

Do Not: Fly American Airlines.  Their fleet of aircraft are rather old (think... no screens in the back of the seat in front of you... for that matter... think, only 50% of the big aisle-way TV's actually have both picture and color) and not always reliable.  While waiting in DFW, we ended up waiting an extra 5.25 hours (the first 3.5 spent sitting on the plane still connected to the terminal) for the crews to first tell us that there was a broken latch on the plane that needed fixing.  Well, the replacement part was sent... to the wrong place.  And finally, the company decided to can that plane and bring in a different plane for us, which in itself took forever to arrive.  The crew was not friendly or sympathetic to passengers at all during this time, and refused to even offer beverage service, because they "only had a limited supply to begin with".

 Do: Prepare a carry-on that can, in itself, sustain you for a couple days in the absence of your checked bag.  By this, I mean, prepare to have your checked bag lost.  So you'd better be ready with at least one spare change of clothes, an extra tooth brush and travel-sized toiletries (toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, pit-stick... your makeup, if applicable).  Of course, don't forget your travel documents (tickets, transfer confirmations, money... do I need to mention passport?).  I always carry an extra pair of shoes or flip-flops.  A good rain jacket (and a soft shell).  A book (or two or three).  Your tech gadgets (iPod/mp3, tablet, GPS, phone, camera, and chargers/cables for all).  And lastly, some snacks... doh!

Do Not: Expect your checked bag to arrive at your destination at the same time you do.  Good ol' American Airlines saw fit to load all but one of our party's checked bags on the plane.  As such, we arrived in San Juan at 04:30 local time only to discover that K2's checked bag had been left in DFW and was about to be put on a plane headed first for Miami.  It would be nearly 36 hours before the bag eventually showed up (it almost didn't make it onto the cruise ship)!

Do: Learn a Second Language.  As a young, naive boy, I thought that English would become the Earth's language.  Ha!  I have long since abandoned that thought.  I mean, the predominant language spoken throughout the Americas (South, Central, and yes, North America, too) is Spanish.  An no, it's not "Mexican" as an American sitting beside me on a plane once said.

Do Not: Think that understanding and speaking that second language is the same thing.  While I am in the process of trying to follow my own advice (above)... you could say that I'm a slow learner.  Having been exposed to some Spanish in the last few years, I understand (perhaps subconsciously) the language far better than I can speak it.  Of course, it hasn't help me that many Spanish speaking individuals have a tendency to talk rather quickly, and considering the fact that I'm half deaf... well, yeah.  On top of that, the few words that I do know how to say sound far more correct (and exotic) when spoken in my head, compared to when the same words roll off my lips.

Do: Try to smile, even if your delayed flight causes you to arrive at your hotel well after 05:00 local time.  And take whatever happens with a grain of salt.  And a wedge of lemon.  And a shot of tequila.  Or an incredibly large stein of local beer.  You're on vacation, after all.

Do Not: Fly with American Airlines. Did I mention this one yet?

Do: Try the local cuisine.  We enjoyed some excellent meals in our first couple days in Old San Juan, including: a quaint, tasty cafe called St. Germain Bistro & Cafe, the delicious Itallian Al Dente's, the Old Harbor Brewery, the local farmers market, and a tasty burger joint.  (Remember, click on these links, to see my reviews on TripAdvisor).

Do Not: Believe that all tour guides are equally gifted.  ;)  It's plain and simple: some tour guides are amazing and memorable (like me), some are just average (like Debbie, the woman leading the guided tour of Old San Juan), and some just suck (you know the one... we've all had him... that guy, driving that bus, in that place, that mumbled his words, but it didn't matter, because the static-filled PA was drowned out by the engine of the vehicle... Yeah, you remember her now...).

And Lastly...

Do: Travel.

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