Posts Tagged With: flight

Sacramento, CA –> Lihue, Kauai

Finally, sweet, sweet vacation! It’s been a long year and summer of school and work… getting back on the “school horse” has been a tough uphill climb but worth it. So, now, we vacation… although it’s funny that I say that since I’m writing this post from an awesome coffee shop called, Aloha N Paradise in Waimea on the island of Kauai while Andrew sits next to me finishing up some work. But alas, he’ll be done soon and pure 100% vacation shall begin. More on Aloha N Paradise later in another post… but it’s awesome and that’s the main take-away.

Anyway, the start of the trip. We had originally planned on coming to Kauai for Spring Break this year, but then the pups got in a little tiff and had some cuts and we had to watch them so we postponed. It ended up working out well because I got really sick and Andrew had work to finish up. So, we rescheduled for now… and as an added bonus, my parents, who live in Pennsylvania, decided to come along for a second week on the Big Island. A long story short, my dad unfortunately was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism, had major surgery, and is thankfully doing well. Unfortunately, however, they had to cancel their plans to travel with us… in the end we still get a two week vacation, but the second half is a little bittersweet. The important thing is that he’s doing well :0).

IMG_6417Our flight was at 7:00AM from Sacramento, CA on a Saturday. We left our house around 4:30AM and after searching for a few minutes, found a parking spot in the economy lot (apparently a lot of people are traveling right now because we’ve never seen the parking lot that full)! We took our bags on the shuttle and got them checked (more on that later- we packed too much) and went through security to our gate. We were flying on Hawaiian Airlines. We hung around the gate, holding off on eating since we knew we were getting breakfast on the plane. Hawaiian Airlines is one of the only airlines that still includes a meal in the coach ticket price (sweet!).

Around the time to board, the blue Hawaiian shirt-clad attendant came over the IMG_6419loudspeaker and let us know that while the crew was working on breakfast, they had a short-circuit so they had to call in an engineer to check everything out. Long story short, we were delayed about 2 hours, during which time, the attendant kept us updated and apologized for the delays. Some folks were disgruntled… but we figure, hey, we’re on vacation, who cares!? About an hour in, they brought around cold water and Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion chips which was pretty nice as well- I’m not sure any other airline would have/has done that for us because of a delay before (airlines at Chicago O’Hare TAKE NOTE!).

We boarded and got settled into our seats. There were rows of two seats on either side of the plane and rows of 4 seats in the middle. The flight was really uncrowded and many people had a four-seater to themselves. The two seats in front of us (we were on a side) were open the whole time. Not bad. Once we took off, they asked us to lower the shades so folks could rest if they wanted to and then they brought around breakfast and drinks. The drink options for coach were plentiful- the usual soft drinks and coffee/tea, water, as well as the tropical juices, which is what we were interested in-> namely, pineapple juice and passion-orange-guava juice. The breakfast included a little container of water, a breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, American cheese, and a red pepper/small diced potato mix, a small cup of fruit (cantaloupe, honeydew, and grape), and a little Hawaiian cookie shaped like a pineapple (I got chocolate chip, Andrew got pineapple). Although the breakfast sandwich (pictured below) doesn’t look that appetizing– it was actually really really good. Two thumbs up to the gratis and bountiful breakfast, Hawaiian Airlines!

We were told to come up and ask if we wanted additional beverages during the flight and they came around with water at least two times… and they offered us more Maui Sweet Onion chips. They did have in-seat radios with a few Hawaiian music channels and you could rent media players for $17. There were three TVs in view (see above picture) that showed Hawaiian musicians and information about Kauai. There were no outlets for plugging in computers and what not, but my battery lasted through a 2.5 hour movie and about an hour of transcribing for work. When we were within 45 minutes of landing, the crew brought around the drink cart once more and included, was a gratis (free) cocktail made with Koloa Rum (Kauai Rum). Not a bad way to say Aloha.

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Free Koloa Rum cocktail before landing… Aloha indeed!

When we landed in Honolulu (no direct flights from Sacramento to Kauai), we were a bit worried about what to do next- we had definitely missed our connecting flight… but they had assured us in Sacramento that Hawaiian Airlines would have it figured out by the time we landed. Umm is this airline for real? Since when do airlines make things easier?! Anyway, as we were standing up to disembark, the crew came on and said that if we were flying to Kauai, we should head to Gate 53. So, we headed there and awkwardly walked up to the desk and said, “umm, we missed our flight”. The response? “Aloha, did you come from Sacramento? What are your names?” We told them and they immediately handed us two new tickets ready to go for the flight about to board. Well that was the easiest and most efficient process ever! We smiled and went to wait when we heard an attendant come on the loud speaker and say that there was a maintenance issue on the plane- what are the odds? About 20mins later, the same attendant came on and told us that our plane was out of commission and we were to go to gate 50… where there was no plane. About 10mins later, another plane did arrive, and about 30mins after that we were airborne.

Because we had to move our flights from Spring Break, we actually found cheaper flights this time around (our money was kept as credit by Hawaiian Airlines linked to our account). Since it was going to expire within a year of our initial trip, we decided to use it all up on this trip since we weren’t sure we’d be back again within a year. As a result, we got to fly from Honolulu to Kauai in first class. Our flight home in two weeks from Honolulu to Sacramento will also be first class (sweet!). Anyway, first class was nice as you might imagine; good leg room, although I’m not sure it was too different from coach otherwise (except free beer and wine). We had pineapple-orange-guava juice and a bag of rice crackers (see above). Side n0te- maybe we were just on “island mind”, but the POG juice tasted fresher and as if it was made with real fruit on the inner-island flight (it did not taste as fresh/real on the flight to Honolulu). After what felt like 10 minutes (45mins really), we landed safely in Lihue. We waited for our luggage (Hawaiian Airlines seems to always be in baggage claim B in Lihue) and then we went outside to look for our rental car shuttle.

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Flying away from Oahu towards Kauai

There were rental car windows onsite but they were all locked- not sure if they moved or because it’s getting to low season they don’t work onsite. Either way, we found the National Rental Car shuttle waiting and we were the only people taking that one (there were a lot of people trying to fit on budget and other shuttles). We hopped on the shuttle and chatted with our driver about how he moved to the island to help his sister with her horse farm a few years ago. He walkie-talkied ahead to National and let them know that we were coming and an Emerald Club member (free to join and I highly suggest it- it’s so easy and fast). We arrived about a 7min drive later and the manager pulled our Jeep Wrangler up. We loaded our stuff, drove to the check-out window, handed her our IDs, we were both signed on as drivers (no additional cost) and we were on our way. More on that later. Aloha!

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Jeep Wrangler Rental: National Car 

***We got the Jeep specifically because we knew we were headed out to the end of the road in the West where there is a dirty, rutty, pothole stricken path to Polihale State Park. Many rental companies won’t let you take their cars out there, so if you get stuck, you are screwed and two trucks may not help you out. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like a jeep is necessary on Kauai (although many people rent them and there were other cars, including mustangs driving on the road to Polihale).

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Flying from DC to Anchorage, AK

First things first. Sorry for not posting over the last two weeks. We were traveling around Alaska and wifi was at a minimum. I still need to finish up the Indo trip and add the Alaska posts. Working on that now! Enjoy :0)

 

This morning we woke up at 3AM and gathered our bags, scrambled some eggs for breakfast burritos, and hopped into a taxi to take us to the airport. We’re going to Alaska! Our flight was on Delta; I’d found a decent deal through Amex Travel—plus if I book through Amex with my Amex, I get 3x the miles. So, why not? We were flying from Reagan National Airport to Minneapolis, MN and from Minneapolis, MN to Anchorage, AK. There we would call Great Alaskan Holidays (RV Company) for a ride, we’d watch a video on driving the RV and then we’d meet up with my parents and head onto the great outdoors for two weeks of adventure, sight-seeing, hiking, and “bonding time” (hopefully not too much- I mean there are four of us living and traveling in an RV).

The flights weren’t too bad. While they in no way compared to our most recent International flight (seat size, plane size, bathrooms size, or snack service-wise), they still weren’t too bad. Our first leg was about 2 hours. We received drink and snack service twice. Drinks included the usual coca cola beverages and juices (including coffee, tea and water) and our choice of snacks between cookies (2 biscoff graham cracker type cookies), a small bag of pretzels or a small bag of peanuts. To be honest, we weren’t even expecting the snacks, so that was a nice surprise.  The plane was completely full at 6AM so we were pretty packed in… sleep was not comfortable.

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Our layover in MN was about an hour or so and the gate was only a few stops from our arrival gate. So, we exited the plane, took some time to stretch and use the restroom, and moved on…

Our flight from Minneapolis, MN to Anchorage, AK was a little over 5 hours. The plane was again full. We boarded the plane and took our appropriate window and middle seats. As the plane filled up, a woman came and asked if we were in seat 25D. We both said no because that was the aisle seat next to us. She then said well 25D is the window seat. Luckily the woman behind us piped up and said “no it’s not. It’s the aisle seat”. The woman said OK and sat down. The first flight attendant that came by was asked if there were any open window seats. At this point I was going to offer her the window seat, but figured I’d wait until she found out if there were any available seats, which we doubted there were since the flight was full. Well wouldn’t you know, about 10 minutes later, the flight attendant came back and told her there was one more window seat available in the back. So, the woman moved, we got three seats/a row to ourselves, and the comfort level went way up!

On this flight we were given drink and snack service a few times and in addition, the flight attendants would also walk around offering water to folks in between main drink service times. The plane had large TVs hanging over the center aisle every few feet for people to watch what was playing (our first flight did not have TVs). This flight showed the movie, “Veronica Mars” and then showed a series of three TV episodes… from 3 different shows (How I Met Your Mother, About a Boy, and then a third show about a little girl ends up traveling with a convict- not sure what the name was- hadn’t seen it before and only watched bits and pieces on the flight). You could use your own headphones or purchase a set for $2 (no cash; credit cards only).

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We arrived in Anchorage about 10 minutes early. The airport is a really nice one that has had some definite updates. Moving from plane to baggage and out of the airport was extremely seamless (I had almost forgotten what it’s like to fly domestic and not have to purchase a Visa, get cash out, or go through customs). We called up Great Alaskan Holidays and told them we had arrived and about 15 minutes later, a maroon van showed up, loaded up our bags, and off we went.

Our driver was extremely friendly and turns out he was born in Alexandria, VA (where we live), lived in PG County for a while, then moved to Texas, and eventually moved to Alaska (first Fairbanks, now Anchorage). He is a welder by trade and moved to Alaska as a result of the recession. He had family living in Alaska who told him that the state hadn’t been hit by the recession. So, he moved to Fairbanks and worked for a Gold Open Pit Mine there as a welder. He said the benefits were amazing and the pay was 6 figures, but the work was boring. After a little while in Fairbanks (which he does not like at all, by the way), he found himself down in Anchorage. His girlfriend, a basketball player on some professional level, is an Alaskan and loves it more than anything, so he’s sticking around.

After watching 15 minutes of a video about how to drive the RV, Andrew had his license scanned, he signed a form, we met up with my parents, and we were on our way. First stop: Safeway Grocery Store. We stocked up on some fruit, vegetables, sandwich fixings, and some chicken to grill. We grabbed lunch and then headed towards Seward… but that’s for another post.

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In Search of the Great Komodo Dragon: Part I

I’ve always loved lizards. In fact, I currently have a bearded dragon, named Roxy, and two leopard geckos: Mac & Cheese. I have always been fascinated by Komodo Dragons- giant, massive lizards that are bigger than dogs. If there are two animals that I want to have the pleasure of seeing in the wild it is the Manatee and of course, the Komodo Dragon. Hands down, one of the coolest animals ever. That’s why, when Andrew mentioned that he was going to be heading to Indonesia for work and that perhaps we could spend some time traveling in Bali, I immediately started to my plans into action. You see, Komodo Dragons are only known to live in the wild [and thrive] on some of these small/tiny islands of Indonesia. They are protected by law. I HAD TO SEE THEM! So, after lots of planning and hoping that we weren’t getting ourselves into a messy situation where someone would run off with our money, we packed our bags and headed out of Ubud for Denpasar. We had scheduled a flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo, Flores… an island a few to the east of Bali. Setting up the flight Flores was rather random to say the least. I had read on a few sites about two airlines that fly there once or more times per day depending on the season. After an email to an airline “TransNusa”, we received a response letting us know that there were two seats available and a price total for the seats. I knew I wanted to go and see these dragons, so I held my breath and told Andrew, I was paying. We received an email stating that our seats were confirmed.

I had also researched a number of tours and trips that groups offered once in Flores to go see the Komodo Dragons. Many of them offered week-long excursions or more. I was looking for a simple 2 day, 1 night deal. This limited my options, but I was able to find a tour group that I had read a bunch about claiming that it was a reputable group and that the guy in charge was fantastic. I emailed him and let him know we had flights and asked for his availability. He confirmed and that was that. We took off from Denpasar in a tiny plain, excited for the next adventure. We arrived in Labuan Bajo, Flores in the late morning. The landing strip [yes just one] was rocky and muddy. We disembarked and walked into a one-room airport waiting room. Our luggage was handed over and we went outside to wait. The airport was indeed a single small building with a dirt parking lot immediately next to it. No security here— cars and trucks drive up, drop off, park, hang out, etc. We waited for an hour or so, turning down many people who were offering tours, and then called the number for the contact group. Andrew spoke with the man who told us that the driver was on the way. We waited again for about an hour or so until an SUV pulled up and out hops a guy, no boy, who is about 14 [maybe?]. He introduces himself and lets us know that he will be our guide for the trip. We’re wondering where our guide is [the man who we’ve been talking to all along], but we don’t ask questions.

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The driver as it turns out is Jeffrey Buana’s brother [Jeffrey is the tour group’s main contact and owner– Putri Komodo Tours]. Anyway, we drive in the car for a bit before our guide lets us know that we’ll first go by a limestone cave for a tour and that the cost is $2 a person or something equally low. We nod and ride along thinking that wasn’t part of the outline, what are we doing and what are we getting ourselves into? At the caves, we met a boy who was perhaps 12. He gave us hard hats and flash lights and took us on a short hike and into a giant limestone cave. I have to admit, the cave was pretty awesome. We saw all sorts of fossils and a cave spider [nasty], and other cool sights…. including some crawling. We learned that the boy who was our guide was going to tourism school and that they learned English and how to give tours, as well as other business skills. Pretty cool.

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After the cave tour, our guide took us by a grocery story to buy beer and then to a snorkel shop to pick up snorkel gear. Finally, we arrived down by the docks and saw our home away from home for the night- a tiny boat that looked pretty awesome. We hopped on board and they showed us to our cabin- one of two on the ship that had a set of bunk beds. They showed us the restroom and then encouraged us to sit and relax. I think were 5 of us in total on the boat- Andrew and I, our guide, and then our captain and cook. They served us fresh fruit and snacks and gave us juice and water. We took off into the water– headed for Rinca Island… home of Komodo Dragon National Park. The trip to the island was awesome. The water was GORGEOUS. We were even allowed to climb up the mast and sit on the top “deck” of the boat. It was perfect and lacking security and so so perfect :0).

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and on to part II…

 

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