Browsing Tag: travel

    airline departures

    TIL: I’m a REALLY Picky Traveler

    August 27, 2013

    airline departuresI had no idea how picky I am about traveling until the person on the other end of the phone said, “Our travel agent will book your travel for you.”



    I’m going back east next month for a trip that I’m not paying for (it’s not work-related) and the people who are bringing me there are handling all of my travel details: air travel, hotel, ground transportation, etc. Sure, I feel like a semi-important person all of a sudden, but I cannot stand the loss of control over how I get from here to there.

    I’ve been on the phone and traded a couple emails with the people making the travel arrangements (they’re extremely nice and helpful!) and this is what I’ve been trying to get across without making myself out to be a complete jerk:

    • I prefer aisle seats on airplanes.
    • I like to sit as far to the front of the cabin as possible on planes, but not in the very first row.
    • I’m a night owl, so flights that leave before 7 am PT are a pain in the arse.
    • Worse, I’m a west coast night owl, so flights leaving from the east coast before 10 am are a pain in the arse.
    • I’ve missed enough flights in my time to fear layovers of less than an hour, and less than 90 minutes at bigger airports.
    • Plus, flights from east to west are slower due to headwinds, so I prefer longer layovers when traveling in that direction.
    • I like Alaska and Delta the best for weekday travel, especially cross-country, because they both have a lot of flights with Wi-Fi, which means I can put in a semi-normal day of work while I travel.
    • At hotels, I like rooms that are on higher floors because I like the views (and because they’re often quiter than lower floors).
    • More importantly, I like rooms that are as far away from the elevators as possible so that I dont have to hear all the late-night foot traffic.

    See? I’m a picky son-of-a-gun when it comes to travel, aren’t I?

    When I’m booking my own stuff, I can control most of that myself. But not on this trip. Details aren’t set in stone yet, so I don’t know how close the trip will be to matching that wishlist above. But I have my fingers crossed for sure.


    Out of Turtle Mode

    July 10, 2013

    turtle-in-shellI’m an introvert.

    Most of you that know me are probably calling BS on that sentence, but it’s true. The outgoing, smiling, talkative Matt that you’ve seen at industry events or around town isn’t my natural state. It’s genuine. But it’s learned.

    On the night of July 4th, we had a block party that involved all the neighbors, their kids and plenty of fireworks. It must’ve lasted a good two hours or so. And I spent the whole time sitting alone on our back patio, reading and listening to the loud cracks and bangs all around me.

    I call it “turtle mode.”

    I needed to be by myself. Get back inside my shell. It happens every so often. In this case, it lasted a couple weeks and came on the heels of about two months of non-stop travel. Between late April and late June, I was in

    • Cleveland
    • Mountain View, CA
    • Philadelphia
    • San Francisco
    • Seattle
    • Portland
    • Seattle
    • Hawaii

    I was gone 28 out of 63 days in that stretch. Too much! (But, wow, every trip on that list was fantastic. Can’t deny that.)

    Now I’m home for the next couple months. And “turtle mode” is starting to come to an end. Good timing, too. There’s a local conference happening a week from now that I’ve been at each of the past two years, and I should be able to go this time, too. And I’ll be outgoing, smiling and talkative … just like “normal.”

    (Stock image via Used under license.)


    Goodbye Taxicabs … I Love Uber

    October 8, 2012

    uber-logoI’ve seen a lot of buzz about Uber on Twitter in recent months but didn’t get a chance to try it out until our recent SMX East conference in New York City.

    I love it.

    And whenever I’m traveling to/from a city where Uber operates, I’ll be skipping the taxicabs and shuttles and using it.

    What’s Uber?, you say? It’s a mobile-based driver service. It’s like having access to a private towncar/driver, but without having to pay the often astronomical fees that regular driver services charge. (Another benefit: Since you’re not making a pre-reservation, you don’t have to pay extra if your flight gets delayed and the driver has to sit around waiting for you.)

    How Uber Works

    To use Uber, you have to do a couple things before you need a ride:

    1. Create an account on and add your payment information (one of the nice things about Uber is that you don’t pay the driver at all).
    2. Download the iOS or Android app (and connect your account to it), or go to and connect your account there.

    I used Uber twice last week: From Newark airport into New York City, and then from NYC out to JFK airport.

    1) You start by indicating where you want to be picked up; this is usually automatic via your phone’s GPS. If it’s a little off, you can move the marker to where you want to be picked up.

    2) Uber will tell you how many cars are nearby and how far away the closest one is. You have different choices of vehicles, from hybrid/smaller cars up to SUVs for larger groups. Prices are different for each type of car, and there are often fixed prices for popular routes — like my two airport trips in NYC had fixed prices.

    3) After you choose your type of car and click “Set pickup location,” Uber alerts the nearest driver and gives him/her the option to accept the job. In both of my cases, the first/nearest driver responded immediately.

    When the ride is accepted, Uber texts you and the app also shows you who the driver is and where s/he is. (see image below left) It also gives you the car’s license plate, which I’ve blurred out, and a “Call Driver” button — that was helpful for me to tell them what I was wearing and exactly where I was standing. And then once you’re in the car, you can follow your progress on the same map. (see below right)


    If you’re curious, the drivers also have smartphones and their own version of the Uber app and that’s how they can accept jobs, indicate when a ride is complete, etc. Here’s one of my drivers’ setups — you can see his phone mounted on the dash at the top.


    uber-costBoth of my drivers — Amine and Nasser — loved the service. They say it’s more convenient and easier to get jobs. I’ve read articles that say Uber takes less of a cut than traditional cab and car service companies, too. These guys were in a great mood and made the rides very enjoyable.

    When you reach the destination, Uber auto-bills your credit card and includes a tip for the driver. You don’t have to worry how much to tip or anything — the transaction is completely taken care of. (Although I’m sure if you wanted to offer an additional tip in person, the drivers wouldn’t say no.)

    Uber tells you what the charge is right in the app, and also gives you a chance to rate your driver. (I gave both of my drivers five stars.) And, next time you check your email, you’ll find a detailed receipt showing your route, the total cost, and some cool stats like how many miles you drove and exactly how long it took.

    Here’s a $10 Credit for My Friends

    Uber is relying pretty heavily on word-of-mouth and social media for visibility. I had some conversations with their NYC area manager on Twitter to help me learn what to expect, for example — they’re very active that way.

    When I finished my first ride, they also sent me an invite to share with friends. If you use the link below, you’ll get $10 off your first ride. Pretty cool! (And I’ll get a $10 credit, too.)

    So, technically, I guess that’s an affiliate link that I need to disclose to be a Good Blogger.

    But seriously, I highly recommend Uber. It was easy and fun to use.

    airline departures

    Alaska Airlines Boarding Process is Ridiculous

    September 14, 2012

    alaska-horizon-departuresI generally love Alaska Airlines. Frequent flyer member. Use them almost exclusively for west coast flights. Etc.

    But I’m starting to rethink that loyalty because the process of getting on an Alaska Airlines flight just keeps on getting harder and harder.

    Take, for example, my flight home on Monday from Phoenix. Flight 637 (I think) from PHX to SEA. It was a full flight. Crowded gate area. People anxious to get on board and get to Seattle.

    Every airline has a couple different boarding levels — those in wheelchairs, parents with babies, first-class, etc., always go first. That’s cool. Here’s my best shot at remembering the boarding levels for this Alaska Airlines flight:

    1. Passengers in wheelchairs are welcome to board.
    2. Parents with babies and small children, or those otherwise needing some extra time to get down the jetway.
    3. Uniformed US military members are welcome to board.
    4. Some high Alaska/Delta frequent flier club — like Platinum Million Milers or something. I don’t remember what it was called.
    5. Another high Alaska/Delta frequent flier club — Gold Medallion or something like that, maybe.
    6. Passengers sitting in First Class and in Row 6 (first row of the main cabin).
    7. Passengers whose only carry-on bags will fit under the seat in front of them. (WTF? Seriously, at this point, half of the people in the gate area started cursing, sighing, rolling their eyes or otherwise venting at the process. And I’m starting to wonder what’s next … “Passengers who have three-legged dogs are welcome to board”???)
    8. GENERAL BOARDING FINALLY BEGINS with passengers sitting in rows 20 and higher allowed to board.
    9. GENERAL BOARDING ENDS with the rest of the passengers allowed to board.

    I’m pretty sure that’s close to the real step-by-step boarding process. I think there might even have been a THIRD Alaska/Delta frequent flier level in the middle, but I’m not sure. I know there were at least two.

    It took forever and it was ridiculous.

    I alerted Alaska’s Twitter account once I got on board, and they handled my bitching and moaning very well. I hope they take my suggestion to have one of their decision-makers watch the boarding process in action and think about whether it’s a great customer experience or not. (Hint: The answer is “not.”) And I hope it’s less ridiculous next time I fly Alaska.


    Where Independence Was Saved

    August 24, 2012


    The photo above is where Washington crossed the Delaware with a ragtag army of soldiers on December 25, 1776, many of whom were only committed for a few more days of service.

    The war was not going well at the time. The British had won several battles in a row, forcing Washington’s troops down from New York, across New Jersey and back into Pennsylvania. The Declaration of Independence had been signed five months earlier, but unless the war turned for the better, we were likely to remain a British colony.

    Washington boldly decided to cross the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, and try to surprise Hessian troops in Trenton. Despite a terrible storm that left much of the river icy and slowed their progress, they made it across. Further down the river, two other generals were unable to get their troops across.

    On their own, Washington’s troops went on to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, and then won another battle at Princeton. As word spread of the victories, the Revolutionary Army was emboldened and British soldiers began to doubt. The rest, as they say, is history.

    There’s a great, 30-minute documentary about the crossing and the battles called “10 Crucial Days.” If you ever get a chance to see it, you should. It’s not a stretch to say that our independence was saved in this timeframe.

    Today, there’s a marker and other historical sites in the area to mark the spot where Washington’s troops landed on the New Jersey side. (That’s the photo.) There are two Washington’s Crossing state parks — one on the Jersey side and one on the Pennsylvania side. The former is bigger and has a visitor’s center with some amazing artifacts from the Revolutionary War. The PA park/center is undergoing renovations at the moment.

    I grew up 30 minutes from here, but never visited it until three weeks ago when the whole McGee family went cross-country (from Washington state, appropriately) to see my side of the family.



    Google’s Airfare iPhone App Suggests a 2-Day Layover

    August 8, 2011

    For my money, the best airfare app on the iPhone is Google’s “On The Fly” — the latest update has all kinds of great search features and beats Kayak hands down when it comes to finding airfares.

    I’ve been using it a lot lately because the McGees are thinking about a return trip to Hawaii sometime in the next year. So I like to keep an eye on current fares from Pasco to Maui, or maybe Seattle/Portland to Maui.

    That’s what I was doing when On The Fly found me a $588 fare from Pasco to Maui on Alaska Airlines. But ignore the price … check out the length of this flight and the layover!


    Really, Google? Really???

    It’s suggesting a 53-hour trip, 46 hours of which would be spent on a “layover” in Seattle. WTF!!!????

    I do a lot of looking at airfares and never have I seen any system suggest a 2-day layover. Still shaking my head over this one. And no, if we go to Hawaii again, we won’t be booking that flight.