It’s been three years since I endeavored to write about travel experiences. As a former frequent cruiser of ships, the post several years ago, I have chosen to spend my time in the Carolinas working on personal goals even in tourist areas.
I have been traveling for over 30 years and seemingly have the organizational skills down to a science due to my somewhat obsessive plan ahead style. However, with every trip, new kernels of knowledge are always valuable. Some new kernels learned recently were shocking to this seasoned traveler! During my most recent trips to Wilmington, Myrtle Beach and Washington D. C. some new information was helpful, others nightmarish in nature with the aftermath, whether one is disabled or not!
Rental Cars- A Nightmarish True Story: Did Ya’ Know This?
Auto makers have made it a practice to “quietly,” very quietly, eliminate a spare tire (full- fledged and/or “cheater” tire as well as accessories (jack, tire iron) without mentioning a word to customers since at least 2012
Reasons given: Less overall weight; Better mileage; Less costly for car manufacturers and very deceptive to customers! It is unconscionable that the public would not be informed , particularly when you but or rent a vehicle, as the likelihood of becoming stranded in unfamiliar territory without the proper tools or tire can be high in certain geographic areas. Well seasoned travelers I know have no idea that this was the case! I was thrust into a nightmarish experience close to the end of my stay in Myrtle Beach in March.
- Rented a car for approximately 10 DAYS WHILE IN Wilmington, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC without knowing that the brand new Elantra had no spare of jack;
- Decided to venture out to a shopping outlet and signage directed me to an unfamiliar route. My choice –take an exit back to the airport area 5 miles away or continue on this route for 22 miles!
- Logically, I chose the more familiar route of Grissom Parkway toward airport. Got a flat tire(? Curbing) ~ 1 mile away;
- Luckily a friend was passing by and came to the rescue. Prior to drop off at the airport, I called the Hertz roadside service VERSUS my Triple A roadside service, probably a mistake! Discovered an empty trunk!
- Left car for tow truck to pick up to exchange for another car (WITH SPARE TIRE)
- Call to numerous parties (AAA, Hertz in two states) to inquire about any financial responsibility on my part. AAA told be absolutely not, as there was no equipment with which to change the tire
- (SIDEBAR STORY- While organizing my stuff at the Hertz counter after removing belongings from my first car, carrying crutches, backpack etc, I set my prescription sunglasses in magnetic case with name label were stolen off the counter…. Another nightmare dealing with police jurisdictions, making report from home via phone, homeowners’ insurance THAT’s a whole different story etc…. In the end, I got a much better deal on a new pair!)
- Back to Rental Car Saga- Just imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox on Easter Sunday to find a very generic looking bill from a collection company for $771.00 for what- I don’t know!
- Imagine trying to carry on with my day and literally having my cell phone stuck to my ear for three hours straight – no exaggeration. I tried Consumer protection for the State of South Carolina, two AAA offices, my auto insurance company and HERTZ with their endless customer service – “no satisfaction, on hold forever and ever, can’t talk to a manage, lose your place in line if you hang up communication! I was nearly in tears that day at the end of that episode!
- Finally, I wound up to the same place I started and a representative of the collection agency. The woman had integrity and took pity, got the $771.00 cancelled. But she couldn’t get a $155.00 charge I was charged, and had paid previously for the towing. AHHHH! (Pick your battles, Donna!) So…. buyer and renters BEWARE!
Airport Transportation for those with Disabilities
Seldom does a traveler with a disability find an efficient, effective system to deal with the comings and goings of travel. Therefore, I must recommend one airport service over all others at the Charlotte, NC airport. They serve 41 million passengers annually!
- If you must have a disability (LOL), there is no better internal airport transport system I’ve found than theirs. Although I could not find the contracted service on their website and got a “circular not so helpful phone menu” when I called to inquire, I always brag about them! Here’s how they roll…
- There is no waiting FOREVER for every passenger to de-plane, pondering where is that illusive wheelchair you reserved in advance;
- There is no searching for the right TV monitor or “walking sidewalk” to get you to your gate destination;
- There is no waiting in line for an overworked porter to come and retrieve you:
- BUT, there IS the magic of “the red chairs,” just past your arrival gate where you can wait to be picked up in a flash on a golf cart;
- Courteous employees assist you “and your hardware” onto the cart, borrow your ticket for electronic scanning and then they “walkie talkie ahead” to your destination gate to the to make your connection. You are given a quick tour and a joke by the driver and friendly conversation with other passengers along the route.
- You are safely delivered, with tips often refused. Our “World class airport” in Connecticut could learn many lessons from them! Thank you, Charlotte!
Yet another travel nightmare occurred when my trusty well worn leather fanny pack (doubling as a purse due to the use of crutches) decided to break at the zipper as I was leaving for Washington D.C. If you can’t carry your glasses, wallet, cell phone, checkbook etc. it is a BIG DEAL! Yoo have no idea what a hassle this became with taxis, restaurants etc. as I fished for things in a much too tiny bag! The best company I’ve found and one that makes high quality, durable and stylish fanny packs with multiple sizes is the Maple Leather Company. They feature multi-color leather packs and purses, even tapestry, and are a good value for the use they get! I ordered one as an EMERGENCY and was it was promptly sent went I returned from Washington!
LOST LUGGAGE: The latest Innovations:
Digital luggage tags are on the horizon in the U.S. British Airways has a prototype to make life easier. The E-Tag is similar to the electronic links for kindle and feature a bar code reader for the passenger’s name and flight number. They have begun testing from their Seattle to London route as of October 2013. Cost in the final analysis, who knows?? However, it may be worth it for your lost luggage contents and investment in traditional tags every trip!
The eTrack uses GSM, GPS and Bluetooth while the eTag uses Bluetooth to communicate with the eTrack. Both devices can be used separately. Passengers need to link the devices to their Flying Blue account and enter their flight information before their flight. Their flight information will be automatically sent to the eTag.
The changing roles of stewardesses and stewards
Although I realize that they are responsible for our safety when it comes to travel and are trained for such events when others may panic, some observations:
- It seems to me that these professionals have not much to do these days and are relegated to “merely trash collectors” going up and down the aisles looking for trash that was not even made from a delicious meal or nonexistent beverage if you fly in economy class as I do. (Ahhh.. for the bygone era of a morsel to eat or drink!)
- Just because your flight is only a couple of hundred miles away, why can’t we have a beverage anyway? Often they are prohibited on “short flights”
- The “puddle jumper companies” (Your ticket lies if you think you are flying on a major carrier all the way) that actually fly for the major airlines for connecting flights, make you think that you are on an international fight…when it is a glorified sardine can, barely making it down the aisle, even for skinny passengers like me!
- In addition, their 20 minute dissertations on coffee cups, magazine and “pretend service” that they are not allowed to render because you are on a short flight always makes me laugh! Really, they NEVER stop talking on the PA system re their “services.” But then again, they are only doing their highly scripted jobs!
- Why is it they must close that mesh curtain all the time, making us feel like second class citizens in economy? Don’t they know that we can see that they are offering drinks, pillows, magazines and other creature comforts that the rest of us don’t deserve for our hard earned money?
I could go on and on with other travel anecdotes, but why give all the useful and entertaining stuff away now? It’s a good time to close and say, “Bon Voyage” for now!