Monday, July 4, 2011

The Journey Home: LGA to DFW to HNL

Taxis lining up to drop off passengers on the departure level of LaGuardia.
The return trip back home to Honolulu, Hawaii from New York City has always felt long for several reasons. First of all there is the travel time which can total about ten hours just in the air not counting time waiting at the departure or connecting airport.

Secondly none of the itineraries on American Airlines heading to Honolulu (HNL) are overnights unlike the flights heading east. Because the flight is in daylight straight through it makes it far more difficult to get some rest. I have a preponderance for being unable to sleep on planes and even when every passenger have their shades pulled, the fact that its daylight outside is hard to put out of my mind.

Thirdly in order to make a connecting flight to Honolulu, early flights and therefore very early hotel check-outs are required. A flight out of LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR) between 7am-9am is necessary in order to have adequate time to make one of two connecting flights from Dallas-Ft Worth (DFW) to Honolulu. These flights are on American but other airlines have similar schedules through their hubs.

The fourth reason has to do with the early departure that a check-out by 5am is not unheard of. Taking a taxi (about $30) to LaGuardia at such an early hour is quick as traffic is lacking. However because part of the night before (and in many instances part of the morning) is spent packing there is very little opportunity for a good night's rest. Again my issue is that I can't sleep on planes no matter how tired I may be. I may doze off for few minutes but I'm constantly aware of my surroundings on the plane. This makes for a far more exhausting flight. Probably the biggest issue is simply the uncomfortable seats in economy. Good for you if you can sleep or have no issues with taking a medication to induce sleep.

Food concessions at the American Airlines terminal
at LaGuardia are very limited before 7am and those
that are open offer a very limited menu with basic
breakfast items.
There is an American Airlines flight that departs out of JFK at about noon and connects in Los Angeles (LAX). However this is a popular flight and is often more expensive than flights departing out of LaGuardia or Newark.

Since I have been regularly departing from LGA and it's the closest of New York City's three airports to Midtown Manhattan I take a taxi from the hotel to the airport. I would normally use a shuttle from JFK or have booked a car service from Newark which are both much farther away from Midtown and therefore more expensive to reach by taxi.

There is one more consideration between flying to a vacation destination and flying home. The excitement and adrenaline of getting away is replaced by exhaustion and the reality of heading back to our regular lives and routines.

So since I cannot tailor a flight itinerary that is perfect, I try to make these flights as comfortable as possible by doing the following. Most of these reasons are common sense.

1) Maximizing sleep the night before by using a taxi rather than a shuttle.
2) Arriving early at the airport with enough time to check-in and pass through security.
3) Drinking water regularly throughout the journey and eating breakfast.
4) Bringing more than enough reading material and movies or television episodes downloaded on to my iPad to keep from feeling restless. I can't stress enough the value of noise-canceling headphones.
5) Booking a connecting flight that has enough buffer time in case the first flight is slightly delayed and to allow time to travel between terminals/gates.
6) Wearing comfortable clothing, shoes.
7) Keeping things that may be needed during the flight readily available such as a chapstick, tissues, a pen, etc.

Often the things we remember most about our vacations are the things we last experience and in most instances it's the flight home. Some time and care in the planning of this process will help to preserve the fond memories of any great vacation.

Heading to airport security at LaGuardia.


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