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Archive for February, 2013

My Experience with International Flights Feb 12

My husband and I were presented with An Opportunity for International Travel that would test the boundaries of our flying abilities.

A little background before I get into the nitty gritty of our experience? At one time, my husband was working toward his pilot license, and has generally always enjoyed flying. His opinion has changed slightly since the girls were born, but would still prefer flying to any other form of travel. I, on the other hand, have never been a good flyer and much prefer to drive or possibly even travel by train than to fly. With that out of the way…

We flew on a Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 from Orlando, FL, USA to Frankfurt, Germany and then, (according to my husband) a 747 to Prague, Czech Republic.

We left home at 4:30pm for the airport. We took off out of Orlando at 8:20 pm on Friday and arrived in Frankfurt shortly after 11am (all times written are local time). We spent most of our time in this airport sleeping on benches. Our flight from Frankfurt to Prague left sometime around 3pm and arrived shortly after 4pm. Our hotel shuttle had us checking in to our room by 5:30pm. We were showered and dressed for dinner with a friend by 7pm. Did I mention we’d both been awake since 7am Friday? And that it is now 7pm Saturday?

By far, the most hassle we experienced was at U.S. airports. We were scanned, questioned, and a few were scanned again (luckily, not us). The lines were long and people were impatient.

In Europe, we walked off the plane with completed customs forms in hand, handed them and our passports to airport customs officials and then continued on to our next gate or to baggage claim. It really was just that easy. The longest we waited in line was 5 minutes.

For the return trip, we had the usual hassle of checking in. We probably spent the same amount of time in line checking luggage and getting boarding passes, except in the U.S. there were no less than 4 agents working, while in Prague there were only 3 and one was dedicated to First Class and Frequent Flyers.

After our baggage was checked, all we needed was our passport in Frankfurt and we were good to occupy the airport for a few more hours. When we finally landed in the U.S. (10 hours from Frankfurt and about 20 hours and counting in total travel time), we waited in line for at least 30 minutes to visit with customs, and it wasn’t until we were through that luggage started coming into international baggage claim (and we’d been in the middle of the group getting off the plane).

When it comes to amenities, these flights do rival domestic flights on JetBlue. The one MAJOR difference is that the seats are smaller. They are narrower than JetBlue and those falling in the obese category might have difficulty fitting into a single economy seat. We were provided with headphones, a pillow, blanket, and all seats have TVs for in-flight movies, TV and music. On both long flights, we were provided 2 meals and 2 snacks. Both short flights we were provided with simple breakfasts. Overhead compartments were adequate if you stuck to the guidelines (and I didn’t see anyone having to force anything into the bins). The bathrooms were well maintained and there were 3 sets throughout the plane. Refreshments (including a limited supply of alcohol) were distributed roughly every hour.

My one REAL issue with the long flights? Unless EVERYONE sits upright or EVERYONE reclines, you end up with people in your lap, and that’s not really an exaggeration. Both my husband and I on the return flight made several unnecessary trips to the restroom to escape the claustrophobic space that had been created when the couple in front of us reclined. Why didn’t we recline? Because we looked behind us and saw that both people were using their laptops on their trays, and if we’d reclined, would have closed their computers (which happened to my husband and his laptop).

It’s called common courtesy people.

Oops, sorry, end rant.

In short, any adult can manage an international flight. Just do your research and be prepared. However, I will not be taking my children on a flight like this until they are MUCH, MUCH, heck, MUCH older, because there just isn’t the space in economy to keep them distracted. IF, somehow, we can afford Business Class seats, I might consider the trip once they are both in elementary school, but definitely not as infants, toddlers, or preschoolers.

I hope this has helped anyone who might be about to take their first international flight. If there are other questions, feel free to ask, I know that having answers helped me handle the flight despite being claustrophobic and just generally not a good flyer.

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Picky Reader Feb 04

I need a new author to read.

I don’t often discuss what authors and books I read because everything falls into the “romance” category. I usually read romantic suspense with some contemporary romance thrown in for easy reading. For every person who has gone, “OH! I LOVE that author!” there have been two who give me that, “You read that crap?” look.

The category isn’t crap, but it does idealize life. I like them because they always have a happy ending. No matter what trials and tribulations have to be endured, no matter how bad things get, the end result is a happy one. I really like the illusion that even though the story lines contain real life situations, that the end result is always a happy one. There just isn’t enough happy news in the world today.

The problem is, there isn’t a whole lot that distinguishes my mystery-with-romance-included from other books that should be labeled erotica but aren’t. While smut is big right now thanks to 50 Shades (there’s a book club for it), it’s not my genre. I don’t want to read bedroom adventures of fictional characters unless there’s another story to go along with it.

I’m sure you’re extra curious by now as to who I’m reading.

Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series is amazing and the stars are usually Navy SEALs. Elizabeth Lowell doesn’t just tell you a story, she teaches you about something as well. The Maya, the Pacific Northwest, and gems come to mind immediately. Nora Roberts is just a fantastic story teller. While, typically, her characters come into their relationships a little too easily for my mind, she has a way of making you love the characters so much that you have to know the ending, whether it ends with the book you’re holding or two books later as part of one of her many trilogies. Janet Evanovich is skirting writing categories because her Plum series isn’t as mysterious or romantic as it used to be, but the things that happen to Stephanie and Company are so crazy that you have to see what happens next. Laura Griffin’s Tracers series is the newest in my collection and – while it lacks some of the polish of Brockmann’s point of view telling, Lowell’s description, and Roberts’ character descriptions – is another series of good reads.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. When those five authors release a book, I’m all over it.

Sure, I’ve read other authors. Sandra Brown, Jude Devereaux, Jayne Ann Krentz and Heather Graham, to name a few more who randomly exist on my bookshelf. And books don’t exist on my bookshelf unless the book has proven its re-readabilty – or is one of the five aforementioned authors. Thanks to cheaper books on my Nook, I’ve also read Pamela Clare and Catherine Mann. Good authors, but I’m not stalking their webpages like some authors (see above ;)).

So, can anyone out there tell me who else I should be reading? Or, at least someone to try and see if they fit my picky standards? I’ve really been burned by a couple of cheap reads I’ve tried…