The trip of a lifetime


It’s funny how a problem can turn into the best thing that has ever happened to you.

The problem: Our experience with flights to and from Houston have been less than ideal, and are inconsistent.

For instance, my Aunt Susie has visited a few times, and she has always had trouble finding flights that worked for her schedule and price point. We never understood this. She is flying from a major airport, Newark, NJ, to Houston, which is the fourth largest city in the U.S., and not to mention that there are two airports to choose from. She has made it work, but she has had to go over budget to make the trips happen, and she has had to fly at inconvenient times.

The scenario: We were planning on going to St. Lucia at the end of May, as a celebration for Derek finishing graduate school. We booked a hotel about six months ago, and we had not gone any further in the planning. I looked at flights a few times, and found that flights from Houston to St. Lucia were averaging $1,800. What? Why?

My Uncle Paul looked and looked at flights but could not find anything cheaper. So he said, “I’m sorry, but it looks like St. Lucia will not work. Where else would you like to go?”

I have a detailed bucket list – 38 trips in all, St. Lucia included. I sent him the list. I didn’t really care where we went, so long as it was still on my list.

My dream vacation, at the top of the list, is Sicily, Italy. My family immigrated from Ragusa, Sicily in the 1800s, so it would be a trip to the motherland.

For a few days, Uncle Paul asked me questions here and there, and looked at different destinations. Hawaii, Croatia and Paris all came up, but Uncle Paul kept coming back to Sicily. They asked me, “How much money do you have saved for Sicily?” They knew I have been saving for Sicily dollar by dollar for the last six years. They also sent me some tours to look at, but I was told to “stand by.” The waiting was agony.

After three days, my Uncle Paul broke the news by texting me a picture of a piece of square Sicilian pizza. I cried. And then cried some more.

The irony was not lost on me that this trip was technically supposed to be for Derek, but I originally picked a beach vacation, and he’s not the biggest fan of the beach. He burns too easily, even with generous amounts of sun screen.  Italy, even though it is my dream trip, will be a better fit for Derek too. He will soak up the art and architecture, not to mention the wine.

I never thought I would say that I was thankful that flights from Houston to a destination were too expensive and we had to cancel a trip, but it worked out for the best. Eight days in Sicily (flights included) ended up being cheaper than a 5-day trip to St. Lucia. So, thank you Houston airports for being both too expensive and inconsistent!


The Airport

We went on vacation a few weeks ago. We had to fly out of Houston’s George Bush Airport to Miami. As someone who travels a lot, the thought was not lost on me that now we have a new “home” airport. I’ve gotten so used to northeast airports like Corning-Elmira, Philadelphia and Newark. We traveled frequently enough that we knew what restaurants/areas we like in different airports, and we know our away around the terminals and shuttle systems for the most part.
Not to mention that this would feel extremely different just because flying in and out of the northeast is so… yucky! We always leave home in the dead of the winter (usually raining) so flying south would literally be a breath of fresh (hot and humid) air. It was strange flying from hot weather to hot weather!
The thing I was most worried about at the airport was parking. I researched this ahead of time, and there are two ecopark garages where you can park for $5.54 a day, or $7 for covered parking. I was relieved, because I was expecting to pay $100 for parking! If we fly out of a busy big airport, we’re usually traveling with family, so we leave our car behind. And parking at Corning-Elmira was cheap. So I was a little naive about what to expect in Houston.
The Ecoparking was a decent experience. Two shuttles left while we were getting our bags out of the trunk, but two more pulled up right behind them. The driver hands you a paper slip that has your parking information on it. You have to keep the slip to get to your car when you get back. It was about a 5-10 minute ride to the terminals, including time to pick up a few more people in the parking lot.
Coming home was very strange. I’m not a homebody at all, I’ve always resented the fact that I was from the northeast. Every time I flew home and the pilot said, “Welcoming to Corning, or Newark, etc,” I would always quietly “boooo.” It felt less awful to fly home to Houston, which is a destination for travelers.
There are two airports in Houston, George Bush and Hobby. They are on opposite sides of the city, north and south. It took us half an hour to get to G.B., but we left at 5 a.m. in the morning and had no traffic. Hobby is closer to us, but it is a smaller, domestic airport (Southwest has a hub there) so I’m not sure if we’ll ever get the chance to fly out of it.

Differences part 4


Driving – I’m a much different driver here than I was in Pennsylvania. I am more alert, and more careful yet more aggressive at the same time. Driving around, you see SO many cars that are dented. People must get into a lot of accidents around here due to the sheer volume of cars. I now think nothing of putting my turn signal on and crossing over three lanes of traffic. If you have an opening, don’t hesitate, you just go for it. And if you don’t stick the nose of your car out in the other lane, the other cars won’t let you through. I go through a mini panic attack every time I need to get over to my exit lane. I have to pay attention at all times because there are plenty of people who cut me off without a turn signal. It is what it is here.

States around us – Even though I’ve adjusted at this point and I know we live in Houston, which is a shock in itself, sometimes I totally forget we are in the state of Texas. My whole life I lived on the east coast, so sometimes it hits me when I realize we’re on the gulf coast instead. The other day I was in a shopping plaza parking lot, and I saw some license plates for other states, like Oklahoma and New Mexico. Seeing those made me had one of those moments. I am so used to seeing plates for New York, New Jersey and Maryland instead. It is interesting to think and realize all the different things and places that we are nearby now.

Airplanes – Our closest airport was Elmira/Corning, and it was TINY. I don’t think any of the flight paths went over Tioga County, because in all my years there, I never saw airplanes. Growing up near Philadelphia, I suppose that was something I just got used to and didn’t realize that they wouldn’t always be there. Now we’re even closer to a major airport, and I’m back to seeing airplanes all the time. They are so low in the sky, being close to the airport! You can even usually tell what kind of flight it is. I always tilt my head back to get a good look at one. They are pretty cool, if you think about it.

Thermostat: In Wellsboro, we had two settings. Heat on, heat off. It was as simple as that! We didn’t have AC, and in the winter, it pretty much stayed consistent at 68 during the day, 62 at night. There were a few weeks in October where we would wake up to the house being in the 50’s but we stuck it out because we felt it was too early to turn the heat on! Here, we are finding that we have to change the thermostat every month! When we first arrived in August, we kept the thermostat to 77. Then little by little, we lowered it. 76, 75, 74, and now we’re at 73. It has still been too hot for us at night (we like sleeping colder) and we’ve only just reached the point where we can program the thermostat lower overnight. In fact, Derek shut off the air entirely, and when we woke up this morning, it was 66 degrees. Chilly, but doable. But of course in a few weeks that will probably have to change again! Too bad that you can only program a thermostat by weeks and not by months at a time!

Links to other difference posts: