Some people think that my travel life is all sunshine and roses. Sure, they think, maybe it can be a drag from time to time to travel for work, but you get to visit all these cool places! Yes, the vacations can be tons of fun. And, sometimes work travel is fun. Just not as often as you might think. I decided to log one of my recent travel days from start to finish to give a bit of an inside view to the “glamour” that is my travel life.
In this instance, I was on my way to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. I’ve never actually been before, but I had heard it was a bit crazy given the sheer amount of attendees. That being said, I don’t tend to have the type of schedule that allows me to book tickets months in advance. I started looking at flights about 45 days out and realized that flights were already very full. To get something even closely resembling a cheap ticket, I had to take 3 flights to get from my home airport of Washington-Dulles to Las Vegas. So, things would start out painfully on a long week. Here’s the breakdown of my day:
5:30 am Alarm goes off. The older I get the less I like mornings.
5:48 am After two mashes of the snooze button I jump out of bed and head to the shower.
6:04 am Done with the shower, I go wake my daughter up for school.
6:06 am My daughter is procrastinating, so I head back to her room to motivate her in the direction of downstairs. Doesn’t look like she enjoys mornings any more than I do. Can’t say I blame her.
6:15 am My daughter is eating breakfast but still doing a fair amount of procrastination.
6:15 am-7:00am Since my daughter is eating breakfast, I split my time between the kitchen and my home office, trying desperately to win the losing battle I’ve had with my desk for a decade or so. I will leave the house with it cleaner than when I got home, but not by much. How it takes my daughter 45 minutes to eat breakfast I really can’t imagine.
7:00am I start pestering my daughter to finish getting dressed and Mickie pulls Charlie out of bed.
7:18am Time to start actively trying to get the kids in the car. This involves asking, begging, bribing, and just a touch of screaming.
7:28am Kids are now actually in the car, but Mickie is running behind.
7:33am Mickie is in the car and we’re on our way to school.
7:41am Drop off my daughter at school. Give her enough kissing hands and hugs to last through the end of the week.
7:45am Quick goodbyes to Mickie and my son, and I’m off to the airport.
8:03am At the airport, pulled into the parking lot. I love my drive to the airport. With no traffic lights and all highway, it’s always between 18 and 21 minutes.
8:07am Normally, I’d be through TSA PreCheck by now, but I have a few issues with my ticket. It’s a combination of flights on American Airlines and US Airways. That means upgrades are an issue. I’ve cleared my upgrade on my first flight from IAD to Charlotte (CLT), but not the next two flights. One is on US Airways (US), the other on American (AA). I also don’t have a seat assignment on the AA flight. That’s a rookie mistake. I had one at one point but hadn’t checked back on my flight and it disappeared. I don’t do a good job of checking things like this because of my incredibly high upgrade percentage on AA. Coach seat choices aren’t really very relevant. At this point, I’m stuck in a middle seat, a very United Airlines-ish sort of outcome.
The AA counter is my first stop. No better seats than the middle seat I already have for my flight Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to LAS, but they are holding two rows under airport control. The ticket agent says she’ll make a note for ORD to look at. Second stop is the US counter, and they can’t clear an upgrade for me from CLT to ORD yet even though I show them that I was assigned a seat in first class. I explain to the agent that when I first checked in there were no upgrades from CLT to ORD, but one became available later. I went back through the check-in process and was able to get the system to confirm the upgrade on the second leg. Alas, it disappeared overnight and nothing was left in the morning. I wasn’t expecting a positive outcome here but figured it was worth a shot.
8:15am I’m done trying to adjust my tickets and head to PreCheck.
8:20am I’m done with PreCheck and headed to my gate. Can I tell you how much I love PreCheck?
8:27am I take the underground walkway from the main terminal to the A/B terminal and stop for snacks and water for my trip.
8:30am I hit the restroom and head to my gate. I’ve got about 20 extra minutes before boarding, so I deal with some e-mail on from my phone. See, isn’t this glamorous? So far, we’ve got getting up early, failing at getting out of the dreaded middle seat, a trip to the bathroom and work e-mails.
8:55am Time to board my US flight from IAD to CLT. It’s a short flight and we’re on a regional jet, but it’s a decent first class product. I have seat 3A, which is the last single seat in F. I’ve got a bit more time to crank out some e-mail prior to departure.
9:20am We push back on time and taxi towards the runway.
9:30am The captain comes on to tell us because of congestion we’re going to be a bit delayed. We’re about 8 minutes behind schedule now. My connection is only 51 minutes in CLT. With the door technically supposed to close 10 minutes prior to departure, my window is now down to 33 minutes. I expect there’s a bit of schedule padding for the short flight but we’re going to find out how much. Missing the first connection of the day when I know most everything into LAS is full will be something of a damper on the day.
9:55am Wheels up, finally. Going to be a very tight connection at CLT. I’m so concerned about my tight connection, I’m asleep in less than 10 minutes. Maybe less than 5.
10:32am Awake. We should be descending but we’re obviously running late.
10:59am Touchdown in CLT. We were supposed to be at the gate 10 minutes ago. The gate will close on my connecting flight at 11:30am (31 minutes).
11:05am We’re essentially at our gate, but because of the location we need a tug to pull us in. Ugh. (26 minutes)
11:09am Finally off the plane. Waiting for my carry-on bag. (21 minutes).
11:15am Bag in tow, I set off running. I need to make it from fairly deep in the E terminal (regional jet terminal) to the B terminal. My connecting gate is B3. I could technically have a longer run, but not much longer (15 minutes).
11:20am I’m faster than I thought. I’m at my gate a full ten minutes before they shut the door. I debate getting in the line to ask the agent about the miracle upgrade but decide overhead bin space is more important to keep on pace for my 3rd flight. I’m pleasantly surprised when I scanned my boarding pass and the gate agent stopped me and handed me a seat in first class.
11:30am There was a bit of a line on the jet bridge. By the time I get on board, all the overhead bin space in F is taken. The plane is an Airbus A321, a bigger plane. I start heading back and find a spot for my bag about 15 rows back. With a full flight of almost 200 passengers, it took me another 10 minutes to work my way back up to the front of the airplane to my seat.
11:40 am Back at my seat, flight running a few minutes behind. A few minutes to squeeze out e-mails while the plane door is still open. Once the door closes, I take a few minutes to read the newspaper and catch up on a 3-week old Sports Illustrated. Only 3 weeks behind is actually pretty solid for me nowadays.
12:05 pm We’re up above 10,000 feet and Gogo is on, which means my laptop is back out. I get about 90 minutes of work done before we’re in final approach to ORD. In-flight internet is just about the best innovation in travel in the last 30 years, save the 787 Dreamliner.
1:40pm On final approach, I’m back to catching up on reading for a bit, cruising through a bit of the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated.
2:05pm EST/1:05pm CST Running back on schedule, we deplane and I head over to the gate for my LAS flight to see if I can get a better seat.
1:08pm I wait a minute for the gate agent. It’s obvious from where I stand she’s in a bad mood. When she beckons me to the counter, she very quickly tells me there’s no available seats on the flight. I politely note the request earlier in the day and my status and ask if she can keep me in mind in case anyone else requests a seat change or gets upgraded. I’m 100% certain she had moved on from the conversation before I left the counter.
1:12pm I had about 10 minutes before boarding was supposed to begin, though it looked like it might not start on time. I ran to grab a sandwich and headed back to the gate.
1:20pm Running late for boarding. The arriving flight looks like it’s just about finished deplaning. I wolf my sandwich down standing up.
1:40pm Boarding gets under way and I squeeze into my middle seat and answer a few work e-mails before takeoff. The guy to my right asks me if I’m going to CES. He asks me what I do. He finds out my company invests in startups and I can see the gleam in his eye. A good chunk of my next two hours are snippets from him about business ideas and/or questions about companies we invest in.
2:10pm Doors closed. We’re running late but it’s not really an issue since it’s my last flight of the day.
2:32pm Wheels up.
2:40pm Laptop again, cranking through e-mail. Exciting, isn’t it? I told you this stuff was glamorous.
4:09pm PST/6:09pm CST/7:09pm EST Landed in Vegas and off the plane towards baggage claim. My seat mate with many questions has asked for a business card so he can follow-up. I give him one and out of habit ask him for one. He doesn’t have any. Should have seen that one coming.
4:22pm I meet two colleagues in baggage claim to get our badges for CES. The line looks long but moves faster than anticipated, and certainly faster than the lines are likely to be at the actual conference tomorrow.
4:32pm Registration completed, I’m lucky enough to have Hertz Platinum status through my company, which means a 2-minute walk to the parking garage and into my rental car as opposed to a 15-minute shuttle ride and navigating the immense off-site rental car facility. I just have to find the Hertz representative who has my keys.
Let’s see, there’s two people standing in the general area I’m supposed to be meeting the rep. One is a strikingly tall woman who’s at least 6’2 and in heels that make her more like 6’6 in a very short skirt and a big smile. She seems to be turning a lot of heads. Standing next to her is a rumpled looking older man. Any guesses? Hey, it’s Vegas. Anything’s possible. He walks us quickly to our car and we’re on our way.
**Note to Vegas newbies. NEVER return a car at the airport. It’s generally the same price to return somewhere on the Strip and many casinos have drop-off locations. Take a cab to the airport instead of adding 20 minutes or more to your voyage.
5:15pm Car parked at Mandalay Bay, my home for the next 5 days. Check-in process goes relatively smoothly, minus the part where they didn’t want to guarantee the bed types for my rooms despite M Life Noir status. The two colleagues and I decide we’ll do dinner at 6:30 inside the hotel after a day of travel. We pick RM Seafood (more on that later).
9:29pm I send my last e-mail of the day. Dinner has been done for a little over an hour. It was enjoyable, though none of us has the energy to gamble. Real bunch of party animals.
10pm-ish It’s 1am in Virginia, roughly 20 hours since I left home. I’m really ready for bed. Sissy, I know.
The 3 flights really just broke up the day a bit more than normal. I spent most of my day working on my laptop. It may sound backwards, but as long as I have wi-fi, I get a lot done on planes since I don’t have a phone or other distractions.
But, as you can see, there’s not much glamorous about a day of business travel, unless you count balancing my drink on the edge of a recycle bin at ORD while I cram down a sandwich before sitting in my first middle seat in quite some time.
Who knew I could turn a mundane day of travel into 2000 words? Really need to figure out this brevity thing.
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