England via New York

For various reasons, we ended up going to England and Italy this summer. I realize to many Americans, this probably sounds like a treat. It wasn’t actually for tourism though, and either way, it ended up being quite a grueling trip. We ended up spending something like 24 hours inside airplanes and another 24-ish in airports with 5 flights in 8 days. I will absolutely never do that again. It was so exhausting, to say nothing of how painful it is to have to sit or stand in airports or airplanes that much in such a short burst. I think having that many flights in a row also increased the chances that one or more of them would have issues, which the last one did in a big way.

We had not actually intended it be this grueling. The trip was original nearly twice as long, but for various reasons, we had to shorten it and cancel many of our plans in the UK.

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The mountains near Sky Harbor

I also have the strongest set of comparative opinions about airlines that I’ve had in a while. I will never give Virgin Atlantic money again for instance. That was easily the worst flight as they had no space and the people in front of us were horrible. They put their seats all the way back for the entire flight. The flight attendants actually had to ask them to pull them up a bit so we could eat after watching me spill coffee on myself. One of the flight attendants also managed to spill beef drippings on my scarf as well, which was frankly the most fun part of the flight.

This flight left me with the conviction that if they are going to reduce seat space to this degree, the seats should no longer go back, especially on a non-night flight. It is just a good way of making you want to murder your neighboring passengers.

Virgin also have very limited hours to help you in person, which was annoying, as we actually did need some help. We thought of speaking to someone in person before going to our hotel, but no one from Virgin was there yet at all:

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The surprising winner for best flight was Delta. Chris and I have both hated them for years due to the really angry flight attendants that have worked the same London to Minneapolis flight over and over, but the Phoenix to New York flight was impressive. It had internet, comfortable seats, reasonable food and phone plug ins. We also had good luck on this one, in that, it was not utterly packed, so within the context of economy comfort, we were able to get a three seater to ourselves, which was great.

That said, as reasonable as that flight was, I don’t want to go to the UK via JFK again. New York did not fair well on our final ranking of states last year. It is horribly expensive, full of traffic and just not a place I really enjoy being. JFK is so huge that to get to the area where hotel shuttles pick you up, you have to take a 30 minute train from the terminal, which was a bit on the annoying side. It is also *not* in a nice area. I realize airports are rarely in the most glamorous part of town, but this really wasn’t a place I wanted to go back to. Hotels in the area were also amazingly expensive for how terrible they were. Ours was tiny and run down, yet cost 250 USD per night. I used the same system that I used while traveling to choose it i.e. at least 4/5 on TripAdvisor, but this was a low 4 at best. The a/c smelled funny, the furniture was all old and it was tiny. I will say that the shuttle was fine though and the woman working the front desk was pleasant enough. It also did a continental breakfast before the hot hotel breakfast. As we had to be at the airport around sunrise, this was a useful feature.

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JFK in the morning

We mainly went via NYC in an attempt to not have to sleep on an airplane. Chris just cannot do this and I’m not great at it either. That said, I am not sure this alternative was much better. In addition to staying somewhere we didn’t want to be, the time difference meant the flight was horribly early. We had two nasty early morning flights in a row rather than one sleepless night. I suspect in the future we will just bite the bullet of not sleeping for a night rather than go for the two early mornings and the crappy, expensive area that is Jamaica, New York.

We have done the two days of travel thing with Chicago being involved in the past when visiting my parents when we lived in the UK going from Wisconsin to Chicago to London with a night in Chicago. That worked better, but then, of course, the first flight involved was a lot shorter so it wasn’t two full days, but more like a day and a half. We were also on the local time more or less, so the morning flight didn’t feel anything like as early.

We did do something we hadn’t done before this time though with mixed results. We used melatonin to move our body clocks. I think it did move them, but it also didn’t give very well rested sleep, so although we were getting up quite a lot earlier a few days before leaving, I’m not sure I’d want to do that again either. If anything, I think going in winter might just be a partial solution. Since Arizona doesn’t change to summer time, the gap is bigger right now than it will be in winter.

A small note about the video – we have subtitled parts of it to make some of our speech during flights clearer. If you want this, please turn on the English subtitles rather than the English (automatic). Here’s the video:

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