Sunday, May 27, 2012

Top 5 Traveling Annoyances

In the past week, I've done a fair amount of traveling, having been through five airports, and with another four coming up next week, it seemed like a good time to write a general travel blog.  With that in mind, I've put together a list of the top 5 things I find annoying about travel.

5.  Airport pricing.  I think there needs to be some government oversight on the price fixing that goes on behind the security checkpoint.  At the San Francisco airport this week, they wanted $3.95 for a 20-oz bottle of soda, and it was the same at every shop and restaurant.  I can understand doing something like that at an amusement park or conference center, where you're paying for convenience, but since they recommend you're there two hours before your flight and make you dump any drinks you brought with you, it just seems unfair.

4.  The window seat.  To be fair, I sometimes do like to have the window seat on early morning/late night flights, so that I can lean over and sleep against the wall.  However, since the airlines have reduced the leg room available on most flights, the windows don't really line up with the seats any more, and you often end up losing some shoulder room to where the seats were obviously meant to be divided.  Then, there is the window itself -- cleverly positioned no higher than shoulder-height for anyone older than seven.  It's easier to look out the window on the other side of the plane!  And, of course, you're still stuck with the limited leg room (in coach, anyway), which is often compromised to give the middle seat a little extra under-seat storage to make up for their other disadvantages.  Under most circumstances, I'd actually prefer a middle seat to the window.

3.  Lack of access to power outlets.  I've got workarounds for the few outlets in the hotel rooms (carry my own power strip and USB hub for all my gadgets), but still find it annoying to have to carry all that with me.  My biggest gripe, though, is at the airports.  Again, they expect you to be there a couple hours early for your flight, but don't give you enough in the way of outlets (with a few exceptions, like at San Jose, CA, where they have a large number of powered seats, and in Santa Ana, CA, where they have a few dedicated gates with power strips between rows of seats).  At Burbank airport, at least in the terminal I always end up in, there is only one outlet every three gates -- even though they advertise their free WiFi all throughout the airport!  Even then, some of the outlets are tough to use -- one was 6 feet off the ground, so I couldn't use it because the power brick for my laptop was too heavy.  You'd think that airports would add new electrical options in our current age of connectivity.

2.  The TSA.  I find myself questioning the value every time I step into an airport.  When leaving from Santa Ana the other day, there wasn't a line at the security checkpoint -- there was just one traveler working with the TSA agent, but she was having some difficulty getting her electronic boarding pass to scan.  There were four other TSA agents standing around at the chokepoint, but they didn't seem interested in helping or in opening another line for the check...just standing around.  Once through that point, there was another agent whose job it was to remind everyone all the ridiculous rules for going through the scanner, and another agent to tell everyone they must keep out their boarding pass.  Another agent crowded the conveyor belts to check your boarding pass and let you enter the machine.  Another two agents let you know when you could leave the machine (one of whom checked the boarding pass AGAIN), and then another agent watched as you got your things.  Three more were sitting on or around the one bench they had available for recombobulation.  With the one guy who was actually reviewing the bags as slowly as he possibly could, that made 14 TSA agents at a very lightly used checkpoint.  A little ridiculous for people whose job is to take that potentially dangerous 4-oz tube of toothpaste and toss it in a drawer full of other potentially dangerous substances.

1.  Other travelers.  This could be a list of it's own, and must be really annoying if it beats out the TSA.  It just seems like people lose their common sense when they're traveling.  My biggest people pet peeve is on those occasions where I have to check my bags -- and everyone crowds the conveyor belt.  If everyone would take two steps back, there would be plenty of room for all travelers to see their bags coming and make arrangements to get them.  But no...most people feel the need to stand close enough that their legs are touching the carousel.  Some even have their whole party stand together there, even the kids.  When their luggage comes, it becomes just another obstacle for others to maneuver around when their bags come.  In Santa Ana, again, they try to remind people (each of the baggage claim carousels has a tiled area right next to the carousel, with a carpeted standing area about 3 feet away), but it doesn't change the behavior.

Then, there are the seat savers who get really annoyed if you are looking for a place to sit down, like these guys.  There were four of them, and they somehow felt it was their right to take up 13 seats in a crowded airport.  This was at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, where the sun beats down on half the rows of seats...but, of course, these were shaded seats, perfect for sleeping!

Others that annoy me are the people who bring their oversized luggage on and expect that it is going to fit, the people who board early to put their purse and jacket in the overhead and close it to make it look full, the people who don't close the door to the airplane bathroom when they leave, the ones who don't give their kids headphones for watching kid programming on their iPad, the ones who stand on the walk side of the moving platforms, and the ones who just move slowly and stop suddenly between gates...  It's enough to drive me mad!

These annoyances are based on my recent travels.  If you agree/disagree, or know of some more annoying things that I might have just forgotten -- please let me know in the comments below!

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