Monthly Archive for October, 2010

Day One, part 1: Traveling to New York

Our trip to New York was with friends of ours, a married couple. The wife’s family lives in New York, so she arranged for us to stay with the family during our vacation. Three of the four people traveling have never been to New York, so we decided to sight see as much as possible.

Preparing for Departure

We knew that we wanted to share one car and split parking costs. Initially, several weeks before the trip, we decided that I would take one of our cars because we rarely do the driving, as well as, out of the four of us, one of the cars we own is the crappiest of the four, so it was deemed appropriate that is stay at the uncovered Economy parking lot at the airport. The last week prior to our departure, our couple friends decided that they will drive because it makes more sense that they pick us up on the way to their airport instead us back tracking to pick them up, as we live closer to TUL1 than they do.

The night before our flight, I called our friends to determine detailed plans of our first leg of our travel, the trip to the airport. I spoke with the wife and calculated aloud departure time from their house. With the help of Google Maps, I knew exact travel times. Rounding up 5 to 10 minutes for each leg of the journey and tasks, like loading luggage, we determined that must leave their own house at 4:15 in the morning to arrive at our apartment at 4:40. This planned allowed us to arrive at the airport parking at 5:30. Our friends arrived at our apartment at 4:15, 25 minutes early! I was completely undressed, so when I heard the knock at the door, I raced for my pants.

1 TUL is IATA code for Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Leaving the Dwelling

We stayed up late the night before because we were poor at packing (or simply deciding on what to pack). Wake up time at 3:30, we slept for only about 3 or 4 hours. We certainly felt quite rushed to get everything thrown together, as I leave my toiletries to be one of the last things to pack, and I just started to eat my high-fiber cereal, aka Lukasz Goulash, counting on the high fiber will keep my hunger at bay until we arrive in New York. I ran through my last minute checklist feeding our animals, shutdown my computer, and then we were out the door, 2 minutes behind schedule. We arrived at the airport even earlier than planned, on top of the margin built into the schedule.

At the Airport

First hard-learned lesson the trip was still in Tulsa County. Despite significant time spent researching the possibility of charges for checking luggage, it was to my surprise that we had to pay for our checked luggage. From what I understood on American Airline’s website was that my checked luggage fee was included in the ticket, but $25/bag painfully it was not. That’s when I knew our trip just became $100 more expensive than I anticipated. Because of the check-in machines were automated, it did not prompt for a separate card for each piece of luggage, so all charges had to go one card, which was my friend’s. I had to pay him back after after the whole trip.

Security at the airport was quite lengthy for what I considered an early time of day. Conversations were good, so time flew by quickly, and we were on our plane shortly but not without our friends stopping to purchase a travel horseshoe pillow. While waiting at our gate, we took bathroom breaks before boarding, and as I was walking to the restroom, I passed a Polish couple who are friends of the family. I thought that statistically surely they’re going to Chicago as all Polish people, but how funny it would be if they sat next to us in the waiting area. Well, sure enough, not only were they sitting next to my friends, they took our seats, and we had to sit on the other side of my friends. I stopped to say hello, although they didn’t recognize me at first. Then, they sat in the same row as we did on the airplane. We didn’t talk until we started to disembark, and they told us to give them a call when we get back.

The Flights

Boarding was no hassle. The planed pulled away from the gate 2 minutes ahead of schedule, at 6:33. I slept on the plane quite soundly. The flight, AA325, was smooth. I ordered apple juice for my complimentary beverage and received a full can. The decent into Chicago was memorable because I had the window seat and downtown Chicago was our side of the plane. Visibility was 10, and I pointed out the Sears Tower to my friends. Such colossal real-estate development is always impressive.

I thought the flight was comfortable, especially now that the AA installed on all seats new headrests whose sides fold up to prop one’s head on it. I wonder how well those are cleaned between flights. When we were at our gate for our connecting flight to LGA2, I learned that my friend, who is quite a large guy, felt very crammed in the seat, so much so, that he preferred to have flown without layover just to get through the all of the flying quicker. Complained his butt was sore and knees were quite pressed against the seat in front of him. I couldn’t relate but tried to sympathize.

While we waited, I wasn’t very hungry, but just in case I ate a sandwich I packed, soy butter and jam. My friend got some bagels. Although the layover was scheduled for 45 minutes, once boarding time is factored in, the wait was incredibly short. Fortunately, our arriving gate from TUL and departing gate for LGA were practically right across the hall from each other.

The flight to LGA, AA382 at 9:00, was less pleasant. The temperature was significantly colder, so cold that Monica was shivering, and our friends complained. Additionally, my friends got seats behind an exit row, so they were even more squashed than on the previous flight. I offered to trade seats, but we stayed where we were. Monica’s sinuses started to bother her, and apparently to my surprise, sinuses can make the experience of air pressure changes much worse. At first, we didn’t know that was the cause, so we were quite worried about her headache.

The decent into LGA was one of the most breath-taking I have ever seen. Not only we sit on the good side of the plane again, apparently, the flight path for the approach is somewhat twisty over the city, and we got a great aerial tour starting with Liberty Island (Statue of Liberty), lower-Manhattan from over the Bay, to Brooklyn, and then Queens. There were so many sailboats in the bay that one can only imagine the incomes of New York’s citizens. It was over 5 minutes of low flying and incredible scenery compared to Chicago that passed us by in about 2 minutes.

2 LGA is IATA code for LaGuardia Airport in New York City.


View NYC 2010 Flight Path in a larger map

Arrival to New York

We got our checked luggage, repacked some it to accommodate the next leg of our trip, and met with our the cousin of our friend’s wife. When we walked outside to meet him, the fresh northern air was the first thing I noticed and felt immediately nostalgic. The plan was the her cousin will take our luggage to his family’s house, where we will be staying, and we will explore New York in the mean time. He picked us up in a nice car, and our first lesson for us foreign Oklahomans was the rubber bumper cover hanging out from the trunk. This is common in New York because sometimes cars have to be bumped around to accommodate the parking of others. He drove us from the airport to the “chinatown” of Queen, called Flushing. He dropped us off at the entrance into the subway, the 7 train. We purchased 7-day passes (for our 4 day trip), and we left for Manhattan.


View NYC 2010 LGA to 7 Train in a larger map

Checklists and Packing

In preparation for my trip to New York, I figured that I’d make extensive use of checklists to help me remember everything. After significant research well in advance, I had quite a few checklists going; however, one of the most important checklists of all, which was the original reason to create any checklist for this trip in the first place, was what to pack into my luggage. In the end, I hardly made use of this checklist mostly because I had a difficult time to commit to what clothes to take, which was firstly dependent on the weather that New York would have during our stay, but it also depended on pulling out my winter wardrobe from storage in Space Bags underneath my bed. I didn’t feel like rummaging through the bags because that could make a mess, but I also didn’t feel doing the whole summer-winter clothes exchange in the space bags because that bi-annual tasks requires some time and I was busy getting ready for the trip. As I can see, that was counterintuitive because that should have been pivotal to my checklist, and instead, I subconsciously created a piece of chaos central to my attempt to organize.

Another obstacle in the end was the some of the checklists really should have been printed on paper or have been accessible through a very mobile electronic device. Although my PC, which stored all my checklists, was 4 meters away from anything that I was packing, constantly referring to my PC after every item was so cumbersome that I did most things from memory anyway. I had my Last Minute checklist printed off because I knew my PC would be shut down by the time I needed it.

The Checklist

Essentially, my checklists were divided into 5 lists:

  1. Way in advance – e.g. arrange pet care, plan itinerary, purchase tickets for attractions, and print off list of important phone number incase cell phone stops working or is lost
  2. One week in advance – e.g. laundry, clean the dwelling, print tickets, empty SD card in camera
  3. One day in advance – e.g. charge phones, set light timers, unplug some electronics, and change out keychains that wil travel with you.
  4. Last minute – e.g. put the toilet lid down, close closet doors, turn on certain night lights, check oven, shut down computers, etc.
  5. Packing – was sub-divided for carry-on and suitcase. Suitcase stuff was subdivided into warm and cold weather to be ready for either.1

1 A difficult obstacle I had with making a list for packing clothes was inventing a method to describing clothes specifically.

Overall, the lists did give me great calmness once we walked out the door, with the only true exception being whether I actually did everything because it can be difficult to remember when feeling that one is running late. Unfortunately, the clothing lists will require a improvement for the future, as well as, get reviewed from the lessons learned during and after the actual trip.

Lessons Learned

  • If the weather at the destination is expected to be that of a different season than the clothes that I currently have out of storage and in use, then it is worth the time to pull out the clothes from storage.
  • Print off lists that will not be used directly from the PC, such as the toiletry list and suitcase lists.
  • Taking a list with me once I leave the house is really the only way to avoid any second guessing once en route. Unless I have a mobile device that can sync the list, preferably with the cloud, then I must resort to printed lists, which are yet one more thing to carry.