Switch and Bait

Project 2012: Day 281

Bags have their usesWe booked our domestic flights back in August when planning the trip, with the travel agent STA. I have to say this was a particularly frustrating and complex trip to plan. There are just so many options, so many places to visit, and friends to see.

Then there’s the flights. Different airline partnerships. Different airports and taxes. Changing from one airport might save you huge amounts in the ticket, but end up costing you an hour in transfers, not to mention losing all your savings just getting to your location.

Initially I thought to get one of those Air Passes, where you get a number of hops, and can book up to the day before you travel. But they turned out to be pretty expensive.

Anywhoo, we thought we got a pretty good deal, right up until check-in for our flight to San Francisco. It was then that we were asked for $25 per checked-in bag!! Srsly?!?!? It turns out airlines in the US charge you for everything. And I’m not talking about the budget carriers, but the established businesses (we were flying United).*

And no my American friends, that’s not the experience around the rest of the world.

“Not happy Jan!”

It’s bad enough that Airlines in the US charge you to check a bag in. What was worse was that the travel agent led us to believe all of our travel costs were covered. So we were expecting cheap flights (bait) only to be stung with unexpected luggage fees (switch)

I Red heart NY

The second place we encountered Switch and Bait was in New York. Everyone, apparently wants an I Red heart NY tee-shirt. Around Times Square you’ll find a dozen souvenir shops selling these plain shirts, and they’ll advertise “4 T-shirts for $10” with these tees on display.

Of course when you get there, the 4 for $10 shirts have an entirely different design. You’ll be lucky to get an I Red heart NY shirt for <$12

I’ve no problem with the economics of supply and demand, but I do have an issue with switch and bait tactics. Enough for me to refuse to buy anything from those shops.

I know, they probably didn’t even notice the lack of my business. So be it.

Everywhere

In fact if I have one issue with the USA it’s that nothing is the indicated price. From grocery stores, to taxis, restaurants to attractions. You have to add sales tax (different in different states, and different depending on the goods or service). Then there’s an expectation to add around a 20% tip.

Tip: If you’re headed to the US, allocate an extra 30% for anything you budget.

*The one airline that does include a checked bag, ironically, is the discount carrier, JetBlue. They were by far the friendliest, most economical, on time, and comfortable domestic airline we flew in the States.

Getting Close Now

Project 2012: Day 227

Update 1 – Planning

Travel

The planning phase for my Bucket List Ride, the Topdown Tour of the US 2012 is really starting to ramp up now. I’ve booked and paid for most of the bike rental. I pick up the bike in Seattle on 9th September from Motoquest. My flight is booked, as is the Vancouver to Seattle bus.

I’ve also paid for a return flight from Long Beach to Seattle for the 19th September, when Lucy and the girls fly in to the US.

Safety Gear

Because I’m riding alone, I wanted to ensure that people could track my progress, and that I have a way to call for help, or alert Emergency Authorities even if there is no cell signal. To this end I ordered a SPOT GPS Messenger, which does exactly that.

You can follow my progress on the page on this blog. I’ll also be testing it on my Black Dog Ride week-end that you can check out at http://blackdog.rog42.net. Feel free to sponsor me 🙂

The one frustration is that a device that costs just $99 in the USA (which is about AU$93) is charged at $200 here in Australia. “On Sale”

I also ordered a UTAG ICE Dog Tag. This is a USB device that carries all of my personal, identification, medical and emergency contact information. Along with insurance details. If I’m unconscious, I want to ensure that people can rapidly get the information they need to treat me. Especially insurance in the USA, not to mention my rare blood type.

This is a cool device that hangs around your neck, just like a dog tag, but plugs into any USB drive.

Home from Home

Camping

I’m planning to get off the beaten track, and at least half of my nights will be camping. Partly to minimise cost, but mostly because I actually enjoy getting out into nature, and the ride from Top to Bottom on this continent’s coast has some of the most spectacular nature in the world.

Now Air Canada is quite strict on their “1 bag 23kg” policy, so I’ve been researching light, strong, weather proof, compact, yet large enough, inexpensive tents. 🙂 No mean feat. Especially when this has to include my Helmet, and Riding gear.

After weeks of research, including building an Excel model, looking at tents both locally (more expensive, have to include in flight weight) and in the USA (less expensive, have to bring it back, potential warranty issues) I ended up finding a tent left over from the Aldi “Extreme Hiking and Mountaineering Sale”

Alloy poles, gear loft, alloy pegs, taped seams, bathtub groundsheet, 2 entrances, 2 vestibules, in a compression dry bag, at only 2.5kgs and just AU$70 – bargain. 🙂

Especially when you have 60 days to return it if not satisfied.

Now I’m doing the same with both sleeping bags, and hiking self inflating mattresses. I’m also looking at a dry bag for the camping gear on the back of the bike.

At the moment I’m unsure about cooking equipment, as I may just eat out all the time. I’d rather not spend too much time shopping at supermarkets.

Electronics

Another big issue is what to take in the way of electronics. On the one hand I don’t want to spend all my time editing, and posting etc. On the other this is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and I don’t want to leave the SLR at home and then get to experience a shot that I’ll never get the chance to see again.

Of course all of you get to live life vicariously through my lenses as well.

;

Suffice to say I’ll have:

  • Contour GPS Helmet Cam
  • iPhone 4S for most Instagram and Candid Shots
  • Canon 550D with twin lens for serious photography
  • All three of the above devices take HD video – but I may try and reclaim my Flip Camera from the friend I lent it to a year ago
  • For editing and Internet, I’m tossed between the iPad and the MacBookPro. I’m erring toward the iPad at the moment because of battery life, ease of charging, limited replacement cost should something happen to it, weight, and the limited functionality will minimise the time I’m messing around with electronics. Mostly this trip is about disconnecting.

To that end, I’ll be testing the iPad this week-end as well. If it works, I’ll leave the MacBook at home. I can pretty much do everything on the iPad and iPhone.

That’s it – I’m getting the riding gear together as well, but I’ll leave that for another update.

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