We made it to Florida safe and sound and have had a few days to relax after two days of traveling. It’s great to be here, although it’s not exactly the warm, tropical vacation we had planned. Florida is currently experiencing its coldest temperatures in 40 years. It even snowed and hailed a few days ago. However, things are looking up as the forecast says it will warm up very soon.
We started our trip on Thursday by driving about 8 hours to Bangor. We stayed the night in a hotel and then flew to Florida the next day. The drive and the flight both went really well. I really enjoy long drives, so the 8 hour drive wasn’t a problem. The Holiday Inn in Bangor offers a Park and Fly rate where you can leave your car with them for up to two weeks without any extra charge. This worked out great for us because leaving our car at the airport would have cost us quite a bit.
The next day we didn’t have to fly out until 6pm so we were able to relax at the hotel until about 2:30 before we headed to the airport. As we’ve mentioned before, I’m usually terrible to be in a plane with. But this was one of the most pleasant flying experiences I’ve had. I think our recent flight over Debert made it easier. We were able to book our seats in the exit row so we had lots of leg room, and our side of the plane only had two seats in each row, so we didn’t have a stranger sitting next to us. The pilot pointed out all the major cities that we flew over, which was great. We actually flew over New York City, and it was amazing seeing it lit up at night from 35,000 feet.
It’s been cold here, really cold, but we are having fun anyway. We’ve done a bit of shopping, a bit of relaxing indoors, and we even bought a puzzle to help pass the time until things warm up. Once the frost melts, we’ll spend more time outside and do some more fun activities.
I think one of the funnest parts of going on a trip for me is the preparation. I love making lists, checking them twice, and plotting out itineraries. Even though I make detailed lists of everything to do I usually spend the first hour of any trip fretting that I forgot something major, and this trip was no different. If you’re not the type of person to make lists, I’ve included the one I used for this trip to help you along:
- Passports – the most crucial thing you must remember. You can forget your underwear, but don’t leave home without your passport. Gone are the days when Canadians didn’t need a passport to enter the US.
- Travel insurance – If your job doesn’t provide you with a health plan that includes international health insurance, you’ll want to purchase some. You can get comprehensive plans that include trip cancellation insurance, but we usually just get the emergency medical plan. The cheapest provider we found was President’s Choice, which was $54 for both of us. The next cheapest was Blue Cross for $124. The price, of course, depends on your age and how long you’re vacationing.
- Money – I was content to use my credit card for purchases, but Brad insisted on cash, which is a good idea for little incidentals along the way.
- Prescriptions – if you take medication make sure it’s in the bottle it came in with your name on it if you plan on taking it in your carry-on bag.
- Travel information – I wrote down the addresses and phone numbers of the places we were headed for at the border. If you’re anything like Brad and get nervous at border crossings, this eliminates any brain freezes.
- Hotel – a no brainer. If you’re not traveling to visit family you’ll need somewhere to lay your head. Print off the confirmation email or jot down the confirmation number.
- Flight itinerary – print off your flight details sent by your airline. This is very useful reference for those times when you panic and wonder if you remembered the wrong flight time.
- Cell phone packages – if you’re made of money or your job pays for your phone, it’s worth investing in an international phone package. Brad checked with Roger’s before we left and it would have cost $30 for 10 MB of data. Hardly worth it.
- Pets – if you have any little four-legged friends at home make sure they’re taken care of before you take off.
- Vehicle check – take your car to the garage (or do it yourself if you’re smart like that) if you’ll be traveling by car for any lengthy distance. Make sure your tire pressure, wipers, and oil levels are good. If you’re anything like me you’ll also want to clean the car before you take off.
- Electronic devices – cameras, video cameras, cell phones, iPods – make sure you have all your essentials with batteries, chargers, and memory cards.
- Work stuff – if you must take a bit of work with you but don’t want to lug your laptop, consider putting the files you need onto a USB stick. As long as the place you’ll be staying at has a computer you’ll be made in the shade and save a ton of space.
- Clothes – remember your pj’s!
- Bathroom items – a lot of hotels will provide you with complimentary bathroom items like toothbrushes and toothpaste if you forget them, but you probably don’t want to leave home without your deodorant and facial products such as moisturizer.
I know this list may be exhausting and make you reconsider your trip, but it will make a smoother travel experience. We had such a great travel experience this time and I think it’s in large part due to having all our ducks in order.
Probably one of the most expensive purchases of any trip is the flight. While we were shopping around for flights after Christmas we couldn’t seem to find anything cheaper than $1000 for the two of us to travel to Florida, and none of the flights were direct. Thank heavens we called Grammy. She told us about Allegiant Air and saved us over $500. Our trip from Bangor, ME to St.Pete’s, FL was only $427 for both of us, taxes included. We could have gotten it cheaper if we hadn’t paid for the exit row seats but they were totally worth it. The cost of the hotel and the gas money to drive to Bangor was still cheaper than any other flight we could find.
The drive to Bangor was very pleasant. If we wanted to we could have driven to Bangor the day of our flight since it took off at 6pm, but we didn’t want to chance any bad weather and by the time we paid for airport parking it would have only cost $10 less than staying the night at the hotel. We decided to go the relaxed route and are so glad we did. It helped ease us into the flying experience, which we needed.
Since this was the first time since our honeymoon that we’ve traveled alone, it was nice to not have to navigate major airports together. The hotel shuttled us to Bangor airport and then we had 4 hours to kill before our flight, which wasn’t too dreadful since they have free wi-fi. About an hour before we took off we socked the Gravol to our systems and faded into oblivion. My biggest concern about flying was the claustrophobic feeling of being in a small tube with 150 people for 3 hours, but the exit row seats cured that. Since one of the catches with Allegiant Air is that there’s no in-flight entertainment, I loaded a movie onto my iPod and watched it for the first half of the flight, and played Scrabble for the second half. The pilot was nice enough to point out major cities along the way and there was next to no turbulance. Here’s hoping the flight back is just as smooth!
Since Florida’s been in sort of a cold snap since we arrived, there’s not been as much to do, but we’re finding ways to enjoy ourselves and have fun. Yesterday we went on a blustery golf cart ride around the neighbourhood and today we’ll be heading out to find some shopping deals. The important thing to remember with any trip is to not have huge expectations for things you have no control over, like the weather. You just have to roll with the punches and so far we haven’t been knocked out.