This post has been percolating for a while.
We flew over with Air New Zealand, as full service passengers. This meant a flight from Brisbane to Auckland and then one from Auckland to LA. Plus side this meant that we didn’t have to transfer terminals in Auckland, because we were already in the international one. All the years I flew Brisbane-Sydney-LA, that was always a pain. Frustrating thing? We landed much later in the day than the Sydney flight, so our connecting flight to New York was also later. It was on United.
This was my first real encounter with the new TSA. The last time I flew to the USA was 2002, and they were still working on protocols. Do not like. I have lived in countries with domestic and foreign terrorist issues, and they were not this awful. Major disincentive to travel to the USA and fly.
Our flight with United was delayed, and the gate switched. To top it off, when we had checked in back in Brisbane, seats had not been allocated to us, and we didn’t get them allocate for a while, so of course two middle seats, separated. Not impressed. But, they had a schematic of the plane showing empty seats and there were two economy plus seats next to each other, so we asked the gate staff if we could pay for an upgrade and she did it for free. So warmer feelings from that. The flight wasn’t bad. Older plane, so the upgrade just gave us more legroom.
New York. We happened to be there for a graduation weekend, we worked out later. So hotels were expensive. We ended up with air BnB. Because we were arriving at midnight, we needed to stay at one where someone could let us in(definitely an issue to consider). So we ended up with a private room but shared bathroom place on Roosevelt Island. Since there are no hotels on Roosevelt Island, this was a unique experience. The bathroom and the bedroom were nice, clean and welcoming. The hosts were nice, and not always in evidence. Overall, it was a positive experience.
We took a Peter Pan/greyhound bus to Northampton. It’s the only public transport options that oes the whole way (trains go from NYC to Springfield, but a bus is needed for the rest anyway. Just as painful as I remembered, with the added bonus of sketchy NYC bus terminal.
Accom at the reunion was a dorm room. Just like I remember.
We rented a car for a few of the days we were in Northampton, and that was fun.
The night before we left for Chicago we stayed in Springfield. We were at a La Quinta inn. It was Memorial Day, so not as cheap as possible, but still one of the cheaper stays of our travels and the newest accomodation of the whole trip. It was located in the rather decaying and depressing concrete mess of Springfield though.
The train from Springfield to Chicago was meant to be 22 hours, but the train was an hour late and delayed a further two on the way! We were just in the coach seats, no bed options for us on this leg. They were more comfy than an airplane, and we could check bags! We had our own food for the afternoon, but ended up with breakfast in the dining car, that was nice. It was really interesting to roll through upstate New York and several Midwest states.
In Chicago we were also unfortunate enough to be there for a grad weekend. So again, air BnB . This time, not so good. We were in our own apartment. Up a super Steep staircase, which was tilty too. The floors in the building were quite slanty. The bathroom was very sketchy, the bedroom was tiny and no air con. So we put the mattress in the living room. We would have stayed in a hotel, but the prices were insane. The area we stayed in was on the verge of gentrification, but not yet. That was an interesting experience. Would not recommend that air BnB place, and it has made me more cautious about the concept.
We took the train from Chicago to San Fransisco. Close to three days. Leave midday Sunday, arrive early Tuesday evening. This time we booked sleepers. But we didn’t book the one with a private shower. The sleeper cars come with all meals included. The roomette we had was two chairs facing each other, the width of the room was the width of the chair, plus about 6 inches. The two chairs slid together to make one bed, and the other bunk dropped down from above. Not the most comfy bed. The trip itself was great. Food was good, views were nice, there were showers for the sleeper car. Much nicer than flying.
Our hotel in San Fransisco was a real hotel. Older, but a hotel. We didn’t use air BnB because the prices in SF were close to the rate of hotel rooms.
My takeaways? The train was better than domestic air travel, but slow. Air BnB is useful, but the risk level of good vs bad is about where online hotel booking was ten years ago.