And this one when we had finally finished: I still stand by those two posts, much to the surprise of all my runner friends who said “never again” themselves and have since done insane things like multiple other marathons and even ultras. (You people are messed up. You know who you are.) Others have been surprised that I haven’t wanted to do another just to have a good experience at one because I know – and I do know – that it would be better than this one was.
Surprisingly, despite that I still don’t want to do another and despite how utterly miserable it was, I have long since decided that stupid marathon was worth it. Here’s why:
1) I met a wonderful friend, Emily, in the trenches of mile 18 or so, and she has ended up being a huge blessing to me. We’ve since had several more adventures, and I hope there will be more this year!
2) I learned that I never want to do that again – and, having finished, never need to.*
3) I learned that I am strong and I can do anything. I was in intense pain for about 16 miles of the race. No real idea what went wrong; we did everything right, but it was just a really bad day. For a while, trudging around mile 21, I kept a meager pace by chanting sometimes in my head, sometimes aloud, “Never ever ever again. Never ever ever again.” But we prevailed. We did it. We finished. When the sweepers were looming, instead of giving into the sweet idea of putting ourselves out of our misery and taking a bus to the finish, we dug deep into bone-dry wells and kept moving until the finish line. When since faced with difficulties I’ve said to myself, “If I could finish that stupid marathon, I can do this!”
What have you learned from a negative experience that made you a better or stronger person? Are you one of those crazy runners who said “never again” but then went back and conquered what you had previously struggled with? Let’s hear your stories!
* I should add that I have amended my “never again” to suit the following criteria: I would do another marathon if it were in an interesting place I haven’t been (or haven’t spent much time in, like any other country) that isn’t freezing, and if someone else were to pay for my entry fee, airfare, lodging, and food in-country. So of course it will not happen because why would someone do that? But an all expenses paid trip would make it worth it for me to try again. So there is my exception to “never again”, and if any wealthy running benefactor is out there reading this, bring it on. 😉
I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for weeks! This is the year I managed to do 12 half-marathons, a full marathon, a 15K, two 10Ks with the same people on opposite sides of the country (SoCal and NYC) within three weeks, three 5-milers of very varied temperatures (one in the 20s and snowing, one nice, and one in the 90s), as well as a few 5Ks! Read on for more of my Year of Running, 2016! (You can also read my Year of Running, 2015!)
Best Race Experience
I think I’m going to have to break this down into smaller categories because I got to do SO MANY great races this year!
Prettiest Course: This one’s easy: the Old Koloa Sugar Mill Half-Marathon in Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii. It just doesn’t get any prettier than Hawaii. There was gorgeous tropical flora and fauna, volcanic mountains in the distance, and the ocean. Let’s just not talk about how the last three miles (and a lot of miles before that) were uphill.
Runner-up: Tomoka Half-Marathon, Ormond Beach, FL
Most Fun: I’m going to have to go with the whole Disneyland Half-Marathon Weekend experience (September) because I ran the whole Dumbo Double Dare (10K + half) with my friend Emily, whom I met in the fires of Mt. DoomPit of Despair Wide World of Sports during the ill-fated marathon. This was my first time at Disneyland, my first 10K race, and my first Disney race challenge. Also, my costumes (Genie for the 10K and Mickey for the half) made me really happy.
Runner-up: Dark Side Half-Marathon, Disney World, FL
Alice in Wonderland and the Genie
Mickey and Dumbo-inspired, and no we didn’t do the same thing on purpose!
Dumbo Double Dare and Coast to Coast!
Hardest: Area 13.1 Half-Marathon in Roswell, GA (August). I like the night race idea in general, but it was very hot and humid, the “flat course” had some steep and very long inclines, and when it’s dark and everyone’s spread out it’s kind of lonely. Plus, I was more than 30 minutes under the cutoff time but when I finished all the sponsor/vendor tents had already packed up. I stayed and cheered the last person in to attempt to make up for that lameness. Also, it was an alien-themed half and I dressed as a Men in Black and no one got it. WTH, Atlanta.
Best Atmosphere: This one’s no contest: Her Madison Half, Wisconsin (June). This was the most encouraging atmosphere of any race I’ve ever done. They just want women to succeed. They don’t care how fast you go. They give awards for the fastest and for the one on her feet longest (a.k.a. last). When the last people finished they got to run through a tunnel of cheering support staff and finished runners. It was awesome. I also made a new friend: Lauren. It was her first half, and she did great!
Runner-up: The Donna Breast Cancer Half-Marathon, Jacksonville Beach, FL (February)
Favorite Overall: Either Race 13.1 Detroit (July) or the Tomoka Half-Marathon in Ormond Beach, FL (March). Detroit is in my blood – my parents are both from there – so I love it. Belle Isle is beautiful and historic. The course was lovely and fast. (If I hadn’t run a half a week before and upset my knee, I’m pretty sure this would’ve been a PR.) The weather was great. Race 13.1 puts on a great race and their shirts and medals are always very well done.
Tomoka starts at The Casements, the former winter home of John D. Rockefeller, on the Halifax River. Other than the stupidly steep bridge at the beginning and end, the course is flat and beautiful, is mostly on a Florida scenic road, the Tomoka State Park, and a ritzy riverfront neighborhood. It was quite warm despite most of the course being well-shaded. I loved it, and so far this is the only half from this year that I’ve already signed up to do in 2017. (But apparently I didn’t take any pictures on the course!)
Runner-up: Memphis in May Great American River Run
I’m going to go with my last half of the year, the Ameris Bank Jacksonville Half-Marathon (December). This was the first half in a while where I paced myself really well and felt really strong throughout. At mile 10 I realized I could totally make my 2:40 goal time and… took off too fast, forgetting that I’d just gone ten freaking miles, and hurt my hip. I had to limp most of the remaining 3 miles. Blahhhh. It was a nice course, though, and I still had a decent finish time.
Best New Piece of Gear
1. BLUETOOTH EARBUDS. Oh my word. Best running purchase ever.
2. All of my INKnBURN clothing. I’d been lusting after InB for a while but finally used Christmas money to buy the Rose tech tee and “denim” capris in January. I am in love! All of their stuff is gorgeous or fun, feels like a dream, and all their bottoms have pockets!
Best Piece of Running Advice You Received
“Success in running isn’t always measured in speed.” Indeed, as I did 12 half-marathons this year and none of them were a new PR, I take heart in the fact that I am stronger than I was before. After my first half-marathon I could hardly move. After the second, third, fourth, it was also very painful. But slowly my recovery time has shortened. Now, barring my knee or hip acting up, I can do whatever I want after running a half and I will be just fine. (But I still want a new PR!)
Most Inspirational Runner
Well, she’s not a runner, she’s a walker, but it has to be my friend Suzanne. Through a series of unfortunate events, a year ago she had to use a walker to get around. One day last winter she got fed up with it and started actively seeking a way to regain her mobility. She put in lots of sweat and tears at physical therapy and following the PT plan at home. When she hit two miles walking, somehow I managed to convince her to join me and do a Christmas 5K December 10th. She continued to work hard. Her goal was to finish in an hour and a half. People. She finished in 1:01! She not only did it, she did it FAST, and with a smile on her face! As she put it, she went “from walker to walking a 5K”. ROCK ON, Suzanne!
A half-marathon every month! I can’t believe I did it!
Top: Donna, Tomoka, Dark Side, Memphis in May
Middle: Her Madison, Race 13.1 Detroit, Area 13.1, Disneyland
Bottom: Marine Corps, Old Koloa Sugar Mill, Thanksgiving Distance Classic, Ameris Bank
Favorite Picture From a Run or Race This Year
Have I been able to choose just one of anything on this entire post? Nope. So after much whittling, here are three:
Left: A Very Memphis Finisher Pic with one of my BFFs, Brenda, at MIMGARR. This was her first half and she rocked it!
Middle: Me as Rey with Chewbacca at Dark Side. I waited 20 precious race minutes for this photo op, making this my slowest half ever. I regret nothing.
Right: My finisher pic from the Disneyland Half, which makes me smile.
Race Experience You Would Repeat in A Heartbeat
Again, there are several! Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare, Disney World Star Wars Dark Side, Tomoka, and Race 13.1 Detroit.
I’ve run half-marathons in:
2015: Tennessee, Florida, Connecticut
2016: Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, California, Hawaii (also Florida and Tennessee again)
Only 42 states to go!
If you could sum up your running year in one word, what would it be?
Running Goals for 2017
Run at least 500 miles over the course of the year.
Sub-2:00 15K – March 11, Gate River Run 15K, 1:57:19! SO HAPPY!!!
Do at least nine half-marathons
Check off half-marathons in at least three more states
In May 2015 I was not tired of having a pixie cut – but at that point I’d had some variation of pixie for nearly five years, meaning neither of my children had ever seen me with longer hair and many of my friends hadn’t either. I still loved my pixie, but I was open to change. I decided to grow it out for a year – no wimping out when things got ugly – and see if my opinion of long hair on me had changed.
While I’d had it super short (inspired by Emma Watson and Natalie Portman) in the past, for probably a year or two I’d been rocking the longer pixie (inspired by Carey Mulligan and Morena Baccarin). I didn’t think to take a picture of my starting point, but it was basically this:
I loved it. You would be surprised how much you can do with this ‘do!
But after that last trim came… the growout. Dun dun DUN!
I tried not to trim it at all for as long as possible, but of course I heeded the internet and trimmed the back to avoid the otherwise-inevitable mullet! I made it about three months, the last half of which were pretty bad. Lots of twisting and bobby pins every day to not feel like crap about myself.
3 months and no trims yet:
Life went on and so did my bad hair days. In mid-November we were about to do family Christmas pictures, so it was time to not just trim the mullet again, but also shape the mess for the first time. While most of the time it was still pretty blah (left), thankfully for the family pictures my hair styled itself beautifully (right)! Honestly, if it always looked like that I might be convinced to keep it longer.
Six months was definitely the turning point. After that I still had more bad hair days than good, but that’s because of my hair, not the growout process. I had a haircut someone might actually ask for!
By the end of January I had a full-fledged bob! This is partially because I had another mullet trim with very slight shaping. 8-9 months:
My husband was extremely excited about the return of the double French braids. 🙂
Two words: CHIN. LENGTH! Since my hair gets curly as it gets longer, I felt like this milestone took forever. It had been quite a long time since that had happened. I liked this length.
And then, finally! I made it! 12 months!
I actually really like this length as well. I could see getting my hair cut to the 10 month stage and letting it grow for two months and then cutting it again and so on. The problem is when my hair is long I tend to not cut it for years.
At this point it had been a year so I was allowed to cut it. But with how short I wanted to go back to, this was only a few inches from donate-able. I figured it would be cool if my year of blah hair was worth more than just proving to me that I’m very happy being pixie. I decided to grow it out a while longer – hating it all the way, I might add. I basically put it in a ponytail every day, which was part of the reason I originally went pixie in 2010!
In August (15 months) my hair started to hit my collarbone at times. That was a weird feeling. It was also constantly annoying me, and had been basically since it got to my neck. In September my long-time hair stylist notified me that she would be moving away. Y’all, I had not had to worry about my hair in years. Heather was amazing. She knew just what I liked. I never had a bad haircut from her. Her plans to move sped up my timeline because I knew I wanted to go back to pixie before she left. I figured maintaining a good cut is easier than making one so I could find someone, but getting it back to beauty base zero via her hand was a priority. Thankfully I had a lot of hair long enough to donate to Children With Hair Loss by that point. The longest portion was over 9.5″ when stretched! 16 months:
When I went to check it out in the mirror, I actually said this out loud to myself:
After 15 months of bad hair and then hair I just don’t like much, I looked like myself again. Bangarang!
Thankfully after Heather left I found another friend who rocks at doing hair. Laura has provided such great service that I expect the Navy to take her away any time. *cries* I had to update my modeling headshot after cutting my hair again, so here are some good shots of my updated pixie ‘do!
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I may go back to the long pixie at some point because it’s so versatile, but I’m really enjoying the short pixie for now.
My tips for pixie growout:
1. Just accept that months 2-6 are gonna suck. A lot. The internet is right: bobby pins are your friend. If you like hats and/or headbands, I imagine the internet is right about those too. Try them. And don’t give up; it gets better shortly after that!
2. Trim the mullet. Yes, you will feel like your hair is growing faster if you don’t, but it will make you feel better. Trust me. And make sure you find someone who will JUST trim the mullet if that’s what you want!
3. After a few months, get a shaping trim. You will lose more length, but your hair will be less horrible. If you plan to grow it out longer than I did, I imagine you’ll need more than one of those.
If you’re pondering a pixie… just do it! What’s the worst that can happen? If you hate it, well, hair grows. You’ll be back at a bob in six months and shoulder-length in a year and a half. And who knows? You just might love it! But the wondering? The wondering sucks. Just chop it. Then, love it or hate it, you’ll know! And I think you might love it. ♥
I’ve sat at my computer and pulled up a blank page to write something several times in the past few weeks, especially the past two days, but I couldn’t think of anything. As I watched the aftermath of the Dallas attack, despairing, I finally figured out why no words would come:
THERE ARE NO WORDS for the terrorist attack that not only killed 49 innocent civilians in Orlando, but also specifically targeted those who already frequently endure hardship due to who they are.
THERE ARE NO WORDS for the murder of a man in Minnesota who was shot because he had a legal firearm, which he told the police he had and had a license for – but he was shot in cold blood because he was black, while a 4-year-old watched from the backseat.
THERE ARE NO WORDS for people deciding to seek revenge, not justice, return hate for hate and darkness for more darkness, and killing police officers in cold blood. This does not help the cause. This does not help anything.
THERE ARE NO WORDS for the systemic racism that permeates our law enforcement and judicial systems, and even everyday lives, that perceives black men as more threatening, arrests black men at higher rates, and gives them much worse punishments for their crimes than their white counterparts. (If you’re going to argue this point, read this first. And then don’t.)
THERE ARE NO WORDS for why we immediately jump to our sides – “He shouldn’t have been resisting arrest!”/”If he were white he’d still be alive!” “Without guns this wouldn’t have happened!”/”With more guns this wouldn’t have happened!” – rather than first mourning for lives lost, and listening, and trying to understand the other side. Even if your reaction is true, compassion does more than knee-jerk pontificating.
THERE ARE NO WORDS for how broken, lost, and utterly hopeless this world is and always has been. God didn’t mean it to be this way. Sometimes I wish He had never given us free will, but He did – and this mess is the result of millennia of terrible, sinful choices – of ignoring what He told us.
THERE ARE NO WORDS that can stop this more than Mark 12:30-31:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Love God – put His ways and His will above your own. (Even if those who aren’t Christians did this by more closely following whatever reasonable standard of morality they hold to, it would make a huge difference.) Love your neighbor – put others before yourself.
If your black coworker is heartbroken because black lives don’t seem to matter? Do not counter with statistics of black-on-black crime or by saying “#alllivesmatter”. Listen. Try to understand. Have compassion.
If your friend married to a police officer is freaking out because of the Dallas shooting? Do not respond by pointing out that “they brought this on themselves by unfairly targeting people of color”. Listen. Try to understand. Have compassion.
Get off your reactionary, defensive soapbox, and instead use it as a table to bring people together. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, the world doesn’t need more right people; the world needs more good humans.
This post is an extension of my P.A.A.M.A. post about flying budget airlines. My first trip on Allegiant just concluded, so here are my thoughts on Allegiant specifically. If you’re in a tl;dr mood, you can skip to the conclusion and find out whether or not I personally recommend flying Allegiant.
When Allegiant announced in January that they were going to offer nonstop service between Jacksonville and Memphis, my Memphian friends and I rejoiced! Previously there was no such thing as a direct flight between JAX and MEM, and there was also no such thing as getting between the two for under $400.
Friends started throwing Allegiant horror stories at us immediately. They were mostly internet hearsay (“One time, my friend’s mom…!”, etc.) or people who didn’t read things before booking, so I disregarded them. But since our booking, Allegiant hasbeeninthenewsa lot – and not for good things. No one has died or been hurt because of Allegiant, but I’m pretty sure they’re basically next to Chipotle as the exceptions to the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
My Allegiant Experience
After booking I received emails that my flights’ departures were to be altered by twenty minutes. A few days before departure I went to my Allegiant upcoming travel page and found out that my departing flight had been changed to five hours later! I had not received any notification of that. I contacted Allegiant and three days later they responded and said their records indicated that I had been sent an email about it. I figured the internet ate it, since I’d gotten the other emails, until I read the following review:
Flight to Memphis was changed with no notice (same day, five hours later). Called customer service and was told an email was sent day after booking regarding the change in flight times. No email was sent and another customer verified he received the same story when he called.
– K. Miller, May 2016 www.airlinequality.com/airline-reviews/allegiant-air/
I realized they just didn’t bother telling anyone about a five-hour schedule change. Well. OK, then.
The check-in process was simple. If you don’t print your own boarding pass or use the mobile app, you will have to pay $5 at the airport, but this is written out for you several times before you get to the airport so there’s really no excuse. (And who doesn’t print their own boarding passes out or use an app these days anyway?!) As I only had my under-seat personal item (a regular-sized backpack, which they didn’t bat an eye at, let alone measure), I proceeded directly to security and to the gate, where I found out that we were delayed another fifteen minutes. A while later I got a text: delayed for four hours. After that, we were delayed yet another hour. I got very familiar with the Jacksonville airport, and tried not to think about how from the original time of departure at booking to when I would actually get in, I could’ve driven to Memphis and gotten there earlier.
Expected travel time including time spent in the airport: 3 hours. Actual travel time including time spent in the airport: 7.5 hours.
Thankfully, I did indeed make it there the day I was supposed to, and only missed a dinner with my friends. This is not always the case with Allegiant and Frontier. (Nor is it always the case with legacy airlines, although it’s more likely.) I had a marvelous time in Memphis before beginning the trip home to Jacksonville a few days later.
Again: check-in online, security, everything was a breeze. The line to drop bags and/or have them print boarding passes was VERY LONG – not that it ended up mattering.
When I got to the gate, we were delayed for I think it was about an hour. Not really a big deal. Then we got on the plane and sat for what felt like a bit longer than the usual amount of time – and then we all heard a loud THUNK. I could see the “oh, crap” looks on the faces of the people around me, matching my own. A few minutes later the captain came on and said that the plane tug driver forgot to unlatch something before pulling back so he broke the tow bar and we had to wait for a maintenance guy to inspect and sign off on it.
To be fair, I don’t actually know that this is Allegiant’s fault. Google has conflicting answers about who the tug drivers belong to: the airlines or the airports. But, let’s be real: it was probably Allegiant’s fault.
After sitting in the plane for about twenty minutes, they deboarded us (never a good sign) and told us not to go far from the gate area. It took an hour before the guy showed up to inspect it and about thirty minutes to inspect it. During the time we were back in the airport, the gate agent brought out sodas and bottled waters for us, for free. Considering their reputation and the lack of any peace offering with five hours of delays in JAX, I was pleasantly surprised.
Eventually the plane was given a clean bill of health and we re-boarded and went on our way. The flight itself was uneventful, like the first one, although this plane was nicer. Shout out to my fellow passengers, all of whom communicated their frustration via sarcasm, sighs, and eye-rolling rather than screaming at people. You are good humans.
Expected travel time including time spent in the airport: 3 hours. Actual travel time including time spent in the airport: 5.5 hours.
So. All that said, here’s what you really came here for:
Would I fly Allegiant again?
Actually? Yes. Here’s why: this trip only happened because of Allegiant. I would not have even gone if I couldn’t have gotten my flight for $125 roundtrip. $400+ for a weekend somewhere is just not a reasonable proposition. And even with the doubling of my expected travel times both ways, 6 and 8 hours are not that far outside the travel times I’ve had to Memphis in the past (via flying into Nashville and driving to Memphis), or that far outside the typical fly to a hub, sit around for an hour or two layover, then fly to your destination model. You just have to be diligent to read everything, pack light, mentally prepare yourself for frustrations and shenanigans, and your schedule must be flexible. These are all easy things for me.
Would I recommend Allegiant to others?
Is it a trip you wouldn’t otherwise be able to go on?
Will it be a big problem if you arrive at your destination or back home several hours or maybe even a day late?
If your answers are yes and no, in that order, then I recommend Allegiant.
Is it a trip you can afford on a regular airline?
Do you have a very tight schedule or get easily upset?
If you answered yes or no, in that order, then I do not recommend Allegiant.
It may be a good idea to ask yourselves these questions when booking any budget airlines in order to save yourself some time and frustration.
What about you? Have you ever had a bad experience with Allegiant, or were you just fine with it? Would you ever fly them again? What about other budget airlines? Was it worth it to you? Let me know!
It’s 2016. 47 Million people in the USA have Netflix. (Let’s be real: more like 94 million thanks to account sharing, amiright?) And yet, according to a few Google searches I did when I was reeling from the iZombie season one finale and letdown of expecting episode 2×01 to begin, we apparently have no term for when you’re watching through a series on Netflix and you hit a season finale cliffhanger and are ready to automatically cycle to the next one – and then you realize the next season isn’t on Netflix! The shock! The disappointment! The utter lack of humanity – or, as the case may be, zombies!
We have the term “show hole” thanks to the Amazon Fire commercial. Show hole refers to the feeling of despair when you finish a show and have no idea what to watch next. I just had that as I finally watched through Parenthood; six seasons of Bravermans leaves quite a show hole. Then I found iZombie, which is basically Veronica Mars with zombies, and got very into it. I went through the first season in a week or so (this is fast when you have little kids), was reeling from the finale, and then to my dismay instead of cycling to another episode, Netflix recommended an entirely different show. NOT COOL.
So, my friends, we are tasked with the weighty burden of inventing this term. I’ve thought of: ‘flixhanger, netdown, and Impatient Seasonal Disorder. Any other suggestions? Opinions? I think I kind of like ‘flixhanger, even though I know the apostrophe will never last.
Today I’m beginning a new series called “People Always Ask Me About” (PAAMA). Unsurprisingly, each PAAMA post will address something I’m frequently asked about. In addition to hopefully serving as interesting reading, next time I’m asked – and there will be a next time – I can just give people the link.
Ah, budget airlines. The mode of transportation that people love to book on major sale and then love to complain about. The reviews for Frontier and Allegiant, two of the most recognizable budget airlines in the USA, are pretty dismal: they have an average rating of 2/10 and 3/10, respectively. That’s – well, that’s not good. You should definitely avoid them at all costs, right?
Wrong. Well, at least, it’s wrong if you can read, pack light, and be flexible.
If you look at those negative reviews, you notice that most of them are complaining about being nickel-and-dimed for everything: carry-on bags, checked bags, food, choosing your seat, and so on. They say that by the end of their flight they had paid more than they would’ve on a traditional airline, and suggest that you save yourself and just go straight to Southwest. Now, Southwest is my favorite domestic airline, but it has never come close to getting me to Denver and back for $90 or to Philadelphia and back for $56.*
Every single one of those fees people complain about on the internet is laid out for you before you pay for your flight. Every. Single. One. And you don’t even have to go through the motions of booking to find out what they are; you can just go to their sites and look at their fees (Frontier, Allegiant) whenever you’re bored. (I’m not claiming that reading those will make you less bored, but hey, at least it’s something to do, right?) But when you do actually go through the booking process, you’ll see that all those fees are completely optional.
I’ve flown Frontier twice, will be flying Allegiant in May, and have flown RyanAir (European budget airline) once and WOW Air (Icelandic budget airline) roundtrip – and I have never paid for bags. N-E-V-E-R. For all but WOW you are allowed a regular school-sized backpack, and it doesn’t matter what that sucker weighs when it’s full as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. WOW also limits you to 5 kg (about 11 lbs) for your free personal item, and they do enforce it and weigh all hand luggage. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that my husband and I were wearing so many layers when we went to Iceland in October that we looked like the kid in A Christmas Story.
But it was worth it: we spent six days there with minimal luggage to deal with (this came in handy since our rental car was a Prius!) and didn’t have to pay extra for luggage.
Here are some tips on how to pack for budget airlines:
– Wear your largest clothing items and shoes (and heaviest, if you’re flying WOW)
– If you’re bringing extra shoes, stuff them with socks and underwear
– Roll your clothes!
– Plan to wear things more than once. We packed three outfits each for six days in Iceland and wore them all twice. For three weeks in Europe I think we each had four or five shirts and three bottoms. We alternated them out and also did laundry once, plus washed underwear and socks in the sink as necessary.
– Don’t forget that most of those layers you’re wearing have pockets!
– If space is an issue and weight isn’t, get some roll-up Space Bags (NOT the vacuum ones!)
– If you think you’ll be traveling budget airlines a lot, consider clothing with lots of pockets like those made by SCOTTeVEST**
– Don’t forget a water bottle to fill at the airport water fountains and some snacks; you know they aren’t included in your fare!
To this day the only extra expense I’ve ever paid on a budget airline – and I knew it was extra because I can read – is to choose seats. This only mattered for Iceland because that’s a semi-long flight and I wanted to be with my husband (in addition to being awesome, he’s a great pillow), and for Philadelphia because I was with my kids, who are young. None of the budget airlines will guarantee that families will sit together unless you pay for it – yes, they will stick your kids with strangers just like Southwest will if you’re in boarding group C – so be sure to factor that into your budget if it matters to you. When I went to Denver with two introverted friends we ended up all over the plane, but dangit, we flew from Florida to Colorado and back for $90!
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Now that I’ve tackled 90% of the complaints about flying budget airlines, let me address the other complaints I’ve heard/read:
1. “The seats are uncomfortable.” Well, yes, they are. But I’ve flown in coach probably a hundred times and only flown in not-coach twice, and every single coach seat I’ve sat in is uncomfortable. Frontier is interesting because their seats really are no less comfortable than your average coach seat, but people see that they are different – a space-saving design that has less padding but I swear is not less comfortable for me – and it automatically makes them grumpier. This is just anecdotal and potentially more than you wanted to know, but my butt has never gone numb on a Frontier plane, including the four-hour flight to Denver. It has, however, gone numb on several traditional padded coach seats on flights half the distance. 2. “The customer service is terrible.” I haven’t flown Allegiant yet, but Frontier and especially WOW had great customer service for me. They were very friendly and helpful. I don’t remember actually having any interaction with employees on RyanAir (it was 7 years ago that I flew that airline), so clearly they weren’t bad either. 3. “They canceled my flight and there were no other flights till the next day!” Now this is potentially a legitimate concern. One of the ways these airlines save money is by running fewer flights, full to capacity. (Try saying that five times fast.) If there is only one flight from Orlando to Philadelphia each day and your flight home gets canceled, you’re going to be spending some unexpected quality time in the airport. But here’s my (admittedly also anecdotal) answer to that: I’ve traveled a lot of places on a lot of airlines, and only spent the night in an airport once. You know who canceled my flight, wasn’t the least bit apologetic about it, and made me sleep on the floor of Chicago-O’Hare on my birthday? United Airlines. And you can bet I spent a lot more than $50 on that ticket!
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Obviously, whether or not budget airlines are worth the hassle to save lots of money is an individual choice based on individual priorities. There is no right or wrong here. If you’d rather take one trip a year and bring as much luggage as you want and get “free” peanuts, that’s no better or worse than packing light and paying peanuts to go four different places in a year on Frontier. If travel is important to you and you don’t have a big budget for it, don’t write off the nickel-and-dime airlines because you’ve heard the horror stories from the people who didn’t pay attention. Take a look when they’re running their sales and maybe you can swing a long weekend at a far-away friend’s house after all.
Speaking of which, Frontier is offering me $19 each way to Houston. Oh, Houstonian friends…!
Places I’ve gone thanks to budget airlines:
One more thing: If you like the idea of saving money on travel but don’t like budget airlines, consider following TheFlightDeal. They post good prices on flights from anywhere in the USA to anywhere in the world, and do not usually post budget airline sales. Some TFD finds are better than others, but they only post them if they’re better than average. You can watch for a specific place, or you can just up and go anywhere that sounds interesting. Often these deals are out of places that budget airlines like Frontier fly to, so you can combine a great sale fare on a budget airline with a great sale fare on a legacy carrier and still come out ahead. Now you have no excuse: go see the world!
* Without using credit card points, that is. An upcoming PAAMA post will be about travel hacking!
** None of these links are affiliate links. I should probably work on that! 😉