Traveling is hard enough these days, but add in a mix of extra city traffic, due to lane closures, construction and Toronto hosting the PanAm games, and driving in this city is a horror.
As many of you know, I’ve just returned from a week off to Las Vegas. This post is one of two (maybe three) I’ve written on my little getaway.
Within the week before I went on vacation to Las Vegas, two of our Canadian airlines had six bomb threats. And two days before I left, there was a Wildcat Strike by the fuelers of the airplanes. It was also July fourth weekend, and the U.S. was on an extra precautionary high alert.
Amidst all that commotion, you have me and my husband hoping our plane would take off SAFELY. There were two days of backlogged planes that were cancelled and delayed prior to the 5th, when we were to leave. I spent the previous day keeping an ear to the news updates, in hopes of hearing about the sudden unauthorized strike being resolved.
I went and did my 24 hour prior to flight check-in, and was happy to find that my flight, so far, hadn’t yet been cancelled. While I was surfing the Air Canada site, I thought I might as well double-check the baggage restrictions. My instincts told me that because there had been so much chatter and complaints about people getting ridiculous with the size and amount of their carry-ons, trying to avoid baggage fees, that the airlines may start clamping down at any time. No doubt, it’s those people with over-loaded carry-ons that ruin it for others. The overhead storage compartments on the plane get over-stuffed and the last stragglers on the plane often have no place to put their carry-ons.
So, naturally, as I surmised, the airlines had changed their dimensions of allowable carry-ons. Was it a coincidence these new guidelines changed within a month of my travel date? I found out that if regulations aren’t followed, our carry-ons would be checked and charged the same fee as though it were a regular bag. I also noted the standard carry-on legal size guide was somehow shortened to no longer than 21 1/2 inches long (from the previous 23″), INCLUDING WHEELS AND HANDLES.
I rummaged through my junk drawer, in search for a measuring tape. As I was measuring my ‘what had always been considered a legal size carry-on’, I discovered that my newest addition to my luggage, my Route 66 carry-on, was an inch and a half higher than now allowed. I called out to my hub to inform him that he had to go back down to the over-crowded locker, and bring up a different carry-on, because I didn’t want any unpleasant surprises at the airport.
Travel day arrived. I was happy to find that our scheduled flight for 9:15am was on time. I awoke at 4:00am and turned on my laptop to verify the plane was leaving on time, before I scurried around with last minute switching of things around between carry-ons, a quick coffee, and got dressed. Before I knew it, two hours had passed and the limo was picking us up at 6:15am. You may be thinking that’s early, three hours before flight time. But I anticipated it would be a hectic transition until boarding the plane. In fact, I was hoping I had given us enough time; twenty minute drive (with no traffic) to airport, and lots of time for line-ups. And line-ups there were!
I thought I’d be one step ahead by doing my web check-in and printing my boarding pass at home, but as it turned out, if you didn’t also print out baggage tags, you had to stand in some extremely lengthy lines to do so at a kiosk, then go to baggage drop off, or go to assisted check-in line where the line was half of what was doing at kiosk. I opted for the latter; what seemed like the lesser of the two evils.
The Air Canada zones were mobbed. I suspected there were many stranded passengers from the previous two days delays and cancellations. There we were, smack in the midst.
After the nice Air Canada check-in lady told us to have a nice flight and to go to U.S. customs, then to baggage drop-off. The usual protocol turned into a very lengthy exercise.
Normally, it was a three minute stroll to U.S. customs. But we had to take our bags about a half-mile down the airport to what seemed like a holding area. We weren’t allowed to go to customs at that point. The area was so crowded, and there were gated walkways patrolled by boarding pass checkers. They were only calling passengers by boarding times. We were asked to take a seat until our flight time was called.
“Are you kidding me?” I mumbled to myself as I surveyed what had to be at least a couple of hundred people waiting for their time to be called.
When I arrived there it was 6:50am, and they were only letting flights cross through departing at 8:50am. I pulled my husband out of the view of the boarding pass checkers, and tried to stand inconspicuously behind a big sign, keeping close to the walkway because there was no way I was going to be in another huge line to customs when our flight was called.
I was asked a few times to take a seat when the checkers glanced my way, but they were so busy turning people away, they didn’t reinforce their instructions to us, so we remained in our quick getaway spot.
About an hour later, around 7:50am, they finally called for the 9:15am flights to pass through customs. Hub and I were 2nd in line. Once in line, we stood another ten minutes until the entrance was opened, and then the walk to customs turned out to be another half mile back to where we originally checked in to go to customs.
We had to pass through another kiosk to swipe our passports and take our mugshots before proceeding to a customs agent for interrogation before we could drop off our bags. By this time I was feeling quite bitchy.
Yay, finally dropped off bags, and off to security line. Yes, I know the drill, I wanted to say as I smiled at the security checker. We unpacked, undressed, repacked, redressed, and finally we were on our way to our gate.
I stopped for a coffee so I could eat my breakfast I had in my purse—of which I had to show the customs agent; a flaxseed and corn wrap with chopped egg. Then I made one more stop. I stopped to get us our usual 500 ml bottle of water to have on the plane. The water that replaced the two half filled bottles we had to toss at security. “That will be $8.49,” the cheery girl at the cash said. I laughed out loud as I added my usual two cents about how I feel about being ripped off.
I said, “Are you kidding me?” As if I was really surprised that I’d be paying for a bottle of water almost the same as what a beer costs. Done ranting, I shoved my bottles of water in my purse and trekked about another half mile to my gate. No joke!
We just made it to the gate at the requested boarding time. By then I felt as though I’d run a marathon, lifted weights, and had put in a day’s work. Our flight took off on time. I sat in my cramped seat and wrote this post as we lifted off to the west.
Note: I’d like to proudly add that after traveling to so many places through the years and struggling with overweight luggage (my weakness) that I’ve learned the tricks of the trade and this trip, I successfully managed to be within the guidelines, without being stopped by the airlines going, and without being stopped by Canada customs on my return. For those of you who don’t know how many times I’ve been stopped in the past, this was a major feat. And because of the many issues I’ve encountered through my travels, they were the inspiration for my new upcoming book, Have Bags, Will Travel. A humorous book of tales about some of the places I’ve been to, and incidents that occurred with me and my bags on those trips.