RHYS BOWEN: Today we were going to chat about becoming an accidental expert as we write, but real life intervened. There was an awful shooting at LAX, taking the life of a TSA agent. Red Hallie got stuck on the tarmac for hours at LAX on the day of the shooting and the Red Lucy found bedbugs in her hotel bed. So I thought we'd better chat instead about what we hate most about traveling and any survival tips we'd like to share.
I used to love to travel. My husband worked for an airline and we'd stroll down to the airport and hop on a plane going to Hawaii. The kid would be invited into the cockpit. We'd stand by the gate waiting excitedly for relatives to emerge from the jetway. And now: stand in one line to check in. Another line to check bags. Pay to check bags. Another line to take off shoes, belt, jacket, take out laptop and toiletries. Be xrayed patted groped. Put on shoes etc. Stand around while flight is delayed. Get no food or pay for food that is so refrigerated it's like eating sawdust. Ah, the joys of travel.
We Reds travel a lot. We have each developed strategies to survive all the little annoyances and to STAY SAFE. Mine are:
1.food. I always stick a couple of those little gouda cheeses in my purse, plus a nut bar, some dried mango. That way I can avoid airline food.
2.Kindle. Have Kindle loaded with several books from my TBR pile. If flight is delayed whip out Kindle and read happily.
3.Pashmina. I always have my pashmina ready because planes can be horribly cold. (So can convention centers/rooms where I'm going to speak)
4. Shoes. I wear shoes that slip on OR undo with Velcro.
5.Survival gear. Have spare white top in carry on because there will be turbulence as soon as I sip coffee/orange juice.
6.Taxi/shuttle. I always go online ahead of time to book a shuttle or know how much a taxi should cost.
7.Hotels. Check room. Lift up bedding to see signs of bedbugs. Never put suitcase on the floor. Never make coffee without rinsing coffee maker jug really, reeeely well. (I've seen the video where the maid cleans them with same cloth she cleans toilet) Never sit on the comforter unless it has a new duvet cover.
8.If you don't like your room--noisy airconditioner, too near elevators, noisy neighbors etc never be afraid to go back to the desk and say "This room is unacceptable. Please find me another one."
If you make it clear you are not going to accept the first room, they have to find you another one.
9: Restaurants. As a single woman you tend to get shoved in the corner near the toilets. If you are taken that way veer off and say "I prefer this table, thank you." and select a table in the window for yourself. Then ask for a complicated wine. Tell them to as the kitchen to hurry up as you have to make a speech in an hour's time. This makes them realize you are not going to be easy.
10: Strange cities. Never stand on a street corner with a map, looking like a tourist. I always study the route ahead of then walk with purpose to my destination. If in doubt have route on Google Maps on phone. It's quite acceptable to pull out a phone for a second. And having been in situations where we've had a bag stolen or someone has attempted to steal my purse, the one most important thing I can pass along:
IF SOMEONE IS MAKING YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, BEHAVING STRANGLY, YELLING, PUT YOUR HAND STRAIGHT TO YOUR PURSE/WALLET.
So Reds, do share your tips and warnings.
HALLIE EPHRON: My trip to LA started off so auspiciously! I zipped through TSA in 10 seconds, literally -- I guess I've flown SO often they whisked me through the line where you don't have to remove anything, just walk through. Wowza! Arrived early in Denver. We'd heard about the shootings at LAX but our connecting flight took off for LA on time. Landed at LAX early. SIX black choppers circling ominously.
And then... tick tick tick. At first the pilot announced a half hour and we'd get a gate assigned. Three hours later... we finally got a gate and were free... to deal with a zooish airport, of course. What amazes me is how much we all take these kinds of situation in stride, we are so well behaved. And I made new friends because you talk to people so much more when you're in pain.
My survival kit: 1 apple, almonds, at least 2 books, my fleece coat which doubles as an air mattress when pressed up against the window. And a RIGHT side window seat near the back of the plane. For sleeping, and they board you early enough to score overhead space for the wheelie bag without having to gate check it.
RHYS: I always have to be at the front of the plane. I even pay for economy plus to get those extra inches and to get off first. I hate waiting forever while everyone gets off ahead of me.
LUCY BURDETTE: Hallie likes to tease me about this, but I always, always check for bedbugs first thing when I get into a hotel room. Here's what you do: Strip back the sheets and mattress pad in the corners at the top of the bed. This is where the little rascals show themselves. Inspect the seams of the mattress along tops and sides. If you see any signs of bugs or the little rusty spots that are their droppings, high tail it out of there. Last week was the first time I ever actually saw the red spots in the mattress seam. We had just unloaded the dog, the cat, the litter box, and all the luggage. Sigh. It would have been so much easier to stay--but they're very hard to get rid of, and would love to transfer to YOUR home, so don't take the chance! I informed the hotel and they quickly moved us to another room. After inspecting that bed, we moved. But none of us slept very well that night....
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh. Listen to this. I arrived at my hotel room in (city deleted) and there was a note, xeroxed, on the nightstand, from the hotel management. It had a photo of this bug, (!!)
and it said something like--you may see this little guy in your room but if you do, don't worry, it is just looking for a warm place, and it is friendly. It then said--if you have any questions, please call the desk. I will tell you Reds, if I saw this baby in my room, you would not need a PHONE to hear about it. Can you believe it?
My travel secrets? A black pashmina, (useful as a blanket or a coat, pillow, or a bathrobe. And almonds and apples, readily available, non perishable and suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks
And , sidebar. Let's hear a big cheer for TSAPreCheck. However I got on it, I am thrilled. NO shoes off, no cosmetics out, no coats off. I am infinitely grateful.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Great tips, all. I ALWAYS carry bottled water. And some kind of high-energy snack like dried fruit and nuts. Tablet loaded with books, check. A paperback, check. Scarf/shawl/pashmina, check. Warm socks, check. I also have a fabulous travel blanket made by Coolmax. Here's the link. I can't recommend this highly enough: http://www.travelsmith.com/coolmax-travel-blanket/12572?redirect=y You can cover up, head-to-toe. It's warm, it's amazingly light, packs to nothing, and can double as a shawl or wrap. Nice for naps in hotel rooms, too.
I didn't know to check for bedbugs!!! Ack!!! Never sleeping in a hotel room again without lifting the mattress! Lucy, thanks so much!
And Hank, how do you get TSAPreCheck? I WANT IT!
RHYS: I WANT IT TOO! I'll do anything.... anything.....
John is over 75 so doesn't have to take off jacket or shoes BUT last time they patted him down all over, just in case. Ugghh. I know that Red Julia is traveling at this moment, on book tour for THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. We wish her safe travels and no bed bugs!
So do share your own travel nightmares and tips. And the copy of The Twelve Clues of Christmas goes to Joan Emerson. I loved her comment that the holiday was all about family and that they'd kept up the decorations while her nephew was deployed with the navy. So true, Joan. Email me at email@example.com to get your mailing address.