Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego in a flash

We are very used to non-rev travel. It's how we get around. We are lucky that we live in a major Hub, have no kids and know how to pack efficiently.

Last weekend was my last weekend off for a while. We wanted to take advantage of the time off so we headed to San Diego to visit the zoo.

Getting there was a challenge. With all of the fare sales, planes are getting really full. This sucks for us! Thursday night things looked grim. I had five ways for us to get there:

Dallas - Santa Ana - flight overbooked

Dallas - Los Angeles - flight overbooked

Dallas - San Diego - flight overbooked

Dallas - St. Louis - Los Angeles - just 5 seats open on each flight

Dallas - Burbank - flight nearly full but expensive rental cars

Friday morning things went nuts. On the way to the airport we could either try for the direct to Los Angeles flight or go for the Dallas-St Louis-Los Angeles option. While walking across the employee parking lot I made the choice to go for the direct to Los Angeles option. The flight was to depart at 6:15AM. The St Louis flight left at 6:40AM. I figured many real passengers would miss the flight. I was wrong. We didn't make the flight by 5 passengers. We didn't have time to make St Louis flight as it was across the airport. Crap.

Now we were in a tiffy. All the other options were all very full. I had to think outside the box.

After hammering away on my laptop, I found a way...through Austin. I booked us on an 8:50AM flight but noticed a flight leaving at 7:25AM...just a few gates away. We walked down to the gate and hopped on the flight. Once in Austin things got odd.

We had 3 hours until the Los Angeles flight left. There were only 4 open seats. At the time we were the only standbys...things look good.

Two hours to go we were sitting by the window when I noticed a plane being escorted by fire trucks making its way to the terminal. It was an AA MD80. The plane deboarded and I noticed all of the passengers were waiting in the gate area. This flight was not supposed to come here. Turns out this flight took off from Austin headed for Chicago, had an engine issue, and returned to the airport.

The engine issue was minor, appeared to be just a sensor malfunction. There was no smoke, fire or visible trauma to the engine. What happened next at first appeared to screw us....but turned out to be a great thing.

The Chicago flight was transferred to another AA MD80 standing by. This other MD80 was the plane that was supposed to be used for the Los Angeles flight. This would mean our flight was delayed. Things began to happen quickly. All of the top tier passengers for the Los Angeles flight were rebooked through Dallas or Chicago. This opened up several seats for us!

In the end there were plenty of open seats on the Austin to Los Angeles flight. Nice.

Once we got to Los Angeles we headed to Budget for our rental. I haven't rented from Budget in years. Alamo/National is our preferred company. Budget is like Thrifty/Dollar in that they aren't streamlined and easy to use. With Alamo/National I can pick my own car 99% of the time. Not with Budget.

I rented the cheapest car possible. The agent said they were out of base cars but would give me a "free upgrade" to a compact car. My options were a Hyundai Elantra or a Chevy HHR. Hmm.....give me the Elantra. I asked about a few other cars that are in the same category as the Elantra (when renting from Alamo/National), but the agent said it would be $10 a day for just about any other car. Whatever....I'll take the Elantra. They offered a navigation system for $10 a day. Who rents these anymore? I bought a $99 Fry's special last year and hacked it to be a TomTom. Most people have portable navigation units...why not pack them and save a few bucks while traveling?

The Elantra was decent...the XM radio worked. The IPOD/USB jack didn't work with my Zune. No biggie...again XM.

The drive down to San Diego took a while. Lots of traffic. We did find a In-N-Out burger though.

The hotel was in an awesome location, very close to downtown.

We checked in and then walked around the Gas Lamp district. With the Comic Con convention in town there were A LOT OF DORKs around. I felt really hip.

During dinner we were surrounded by dorks. Kelli actually had beer. She never has beer at home.

After dinner we headed to Tivoli's bar. We really liked this place, very down to earth. Of course there were a bunch of dorks here as well. Lots of people watching.

I stumbled out of the bar around 10:30 and we headed back to the hotel. Good times

The next morning we had the awesome Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls before heading to the San Diego zoo. The hotel had a free zoo shuttle. We arrived at 8:20AM....the zoo didn't open till 9AM. We were glad we were early. Once the gates opened we hopped on the first bus tour without waiting in line. The bus tour covered over 70% of the zoo. We saw a lot.

After the tour we walked around for a few hours before heading back to the hotel.

The flights back from Santa Ana were W-I-D-E open. During the drive back we wanted more In-N-Out burger. The first TWO.....yes I said TWO, had lines out the door and crazy long drive thru lines. We headed way out of town before finding one with only a really crowded dining area. With our bellies full of deliciousness we arrived at the airport an hour before the flight.

With such an open flight, we could pick our own seats. For some reason Kelli picked aisle seats across from each other for us. Hmm...her row was empty, but the two seats next too me were full. Thanks Kelli!

Before the flight I moved to the window seat next to Kelli. We would have the middle seat open. Once on the plane I was really glad I moved. The seat Kelli put me in was next to a couple with a 2 year old lap child. If I had been stuck there we would have had a divorce in the sky.

No further travel is planned for me until Tokyo in October. I am sure we will go somewhere. I might head up to Portland/Seattle with Kelli in a few weeks. She is going to some punk rock concert up there.

Below are photos from our trip....I actually wrote captions for a change!

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