Kansas City – I like to plan ahead, so far in advance that I have some events marked out on my calendar as far out as 2015 (mostly the midnight premieres of the next two Hobbit films). However nutty some of this early planning may seem, it is a good thing to do.
Flying and Connecting
In particular, I like to know, in cases where I’ll be somewhere that I’ve never been before, or rarely been before, what to expect when I get there and how to get from A to B without trouble. This is especially true when it comes to airports. Let’s face it, I’m best when it comes to Kansas City, O’Hare, and Midway. But when it comes to places like Heathrow, JFK, or Boston Logan, I need to do some extra planning before hand so I don’t get lost when I’m there, especially when it comes to places like JFK and Logan where I’ll be transferring with only a couple hours to spare.
In preparation for the possibility that I won’t have as much time as I think I will, in part due to the ever changing wait times at airport security, I’ve been looking around on some of the most interesting pages I’ve read to date: airport websites. Depending on where you’re flying through to go to your study abroad site, your connecting airports (and final destinations) may have more or less information, depending on how techie their staff are, I suppose. Heathrow, Logan, O’Hare, Midway, and Toronto Pearson are some of the more tech savy airport websites that I’ve gone through when planning for this trip. Meanwhile, I was less impressed with the websites for JFK and Atlanta. The big difference is in user-friendliness. Whereas I found it far easier to navigate the websites for Heathrow, Logan, O’Hare, and the rest, the JFK page seemed rather outdated, whereas Atlanta just had too much information. Let’s face it, I don’t need to read a message from the Mayor of Atlanta and the GM of Hartsfield Airport every time I look at one of their scroll down menus.
However, JFK was a lot easier to use in its “Flight Schedule” section. See, I wasn’t looking at a flight this week, I was looking to see what terminals my flights would be going in and out of through that airport come mid-June. Not only was I able to see what terminal I’d be leaving New York in, but I was able to find what terminal I’d be arriving in London at.
For me, the biggest concern always when flying is going through airport security. I always find it quite stressful, as anyone who has flown with me before can tell you. In booking my flights, I made sure to have a good 3 hour layover outbound from the US and a 2.5 hour layover returning to the States. Let’s face it, I prefer Amtrak security checkpoints to FAA ones.
I’m a big fan of guidebooks, in particular the DK Eyewitness and Rick Steves’ guidebooks. The DK books are excellent for me because they have great clarity, and the black font on the white page is easier for me to see on the fly, considering my eyes would make horrid HD cameras. Recently I ordered the 2012 edition of the DK Eyewitness London guide, to replace my long outdated 1999 edition.
The DK travel guides also give an excellent guide to the best sites and what to expect in each particular location focused on. On the other hand, Rick Steves is more personable in his writing style. Also, with the Rick Steves guides one can find his insightful PBS programmes, which I’ve been watching for years. He’s also on NPR in some cities (I once heard his radio show in Dallas, but never in Kansas City). Check your local listings for both.
Also, though I am a big supporter of many of the new technologies (mobile phones, tablets, laptop computers, etc.) I would highly recommend having some sort of old fashioned watch with you. I have a very nice Timex wrist watch that I bought a Target that tells the time perfectly (it has yet to lose even a second). Though traditionally I’m more of a fan of the pocket watch, let’s face it you’re not going to have quite as much room on the plane to reach into that pocket as you may think (trust me, I know from experience). Plus, if you’re going to be in school when you’re travelling it’s a good idea to have another way besides your phone to tell time in class, considering most professors aren’t a big fan of students looking down at their phones in the middle of class. According to ISA, the organisation I’m going to London with, the University of Westminster doesn’t even allow phones to be on in the classroom or lecture hall. Logistically, you’re going to need to keep an eye on time when you’re travelling. One of the best ways to do this without pulling out your iPhone or Android is simply to look at your wrist watch and know thus.