Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Airports (page 1 of 4)

I finally understand! This is what our airport code stands for ​

A couple weeks ago I had quite the trip. Er, non-trip. I was supposed to fly from San Francisco back up to Arcata on the hour long hop after driving one way to the Bay, but that plan was crushed like always. Instead, I found myself driving back up in a rental car through the pouring rain.

Now I’m still fighting to get the miles back that I used for the trip. But that is a story for another day.

The frustrations of flying ACV

It’s no secret we live in an isolated pocket of the country, and our unreliable air service doesn’t help matters at all. Maybe it’s just me, but literally half of all flights I’ve ever taken with United between ACV and SFO (either way) have been either severely delayed or outright canceled. It’s so bad, that I gave up and generally fly out of Sacramento (SEE: 5 Reasons Why Sacramento is my Favorite Northern California Airport).

While at Arcata, I met a fellow member from the Travel Grumps 101 Facebook group that I am a part of. We’ve previously both commiserated online about the difficulties of flying out of Humboldt, and we got to chat travel for a bit. Until our flight was summarily canceled.

She headed out to retrieve her luggage and rent a car to drive home while I decided to grab dinner for free at the Giants Clubhouse before heading back to the city. A little while later I received a Facebook message from her saying the United baggage handler definitely knew the woes of flying into ACV. He asked her if she knew what ACV stands for.

I’ve always wondered what our airport code stands for, and his answer finally shed some light on the odd airport code. It makes complete sense now.

What does ACV stand for? That’s right: Another Canceled Vacation.

Travel Day – Beijing to Hong Kong

It was a bit sad to wake up and realize that our time in Beijing had already passed. Our five days in the Chinese capital were an amazing experience. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what Beijing has to offer, but the food, history and people make it a great place to visit. Here are the posts from each day of our adventures in Beijing:

Breakfast was again complementary in the top-floor lounge of our central Beijing hotel (SEE: Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing Review). We even finished up early, a small miracle for my children. My bags in hand, we made our way downstairs and I asked the desk to call us a taxi. We could have taken the subway, but it would have meant a transfer and toting our bags a good distance. Given how cheap taxis are in Beijing, the convenience was totally worth it.

Our ride took off around 8:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I figured we would take an hour to get to the airport. The driver made me a bit nervous at times, cutting quickly from lane to lane. But we made it safely. The ride took 40 minutes on a Sunday morning leaving about 8:45 a.m.

Arriving at Beijing Capital Airport

Front of Beijing International Airport Terminal 3 is impressive. Our flight into Beijing had arrived into Terminal 2, and we’d taken the Airport Express straight from there. I didn’t get a good look at the airport. Plus, it was dark and we were exhausted. We also had an unfortunate incident where my son wet himself, as he hadn’t gotten up to use the lav before our final approach into Beijing. He has a habit of not being aware of his need to use the facilities, not to mention the worst timing on the airplane (every time he got up to go was during meal time). Just one of the hurdles of traveling with kids.

But I digress. The memories of our arrival into Beijing, although it was only a few days prior, already seemed distant. We walked through the doors into the massive departures hall of Terminal 3. There is row after row after row of check-in counters and there were huge queues of people. I’m not surprised Beijing in building a new airport that is projected to be the world’s busiest in short order.

Too early for a flight?

Turns out that due to our early departure from the hotel and faster drive than expected, we were an hour earlier than my anticipated arrival at the airport. We were also there an hour before the check-in desk opened for our flight. Now…I know there are some places where check-in counters don’t operate all the time. But given that Beijing Capital Airport is massive, and Cathay has more than just a few flights per day, the fact that the counter was not yet open surprised me.

There was one counter open. But the signage clearly marked counters for specific flights, something I’d never seen. We unfortunately had to kill an hour wandering the departures hall.

Once we were finally checked in and had dropped the bag, it was time for Chinese immigration. We’d had no issues entering the country on the 144-hour transit without visa (TWOV) exemption, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little bit of apprehension about passing through the country. I’d been instructed to keep the stubs from the original visa paperwork, and they were still in my wallet. Everything should be good.

And it was. We got a couple odd looks from the immigration officials, but we passed through just fine. Very glad that we were able to take advantage of this opportunity for a stopover in the Chinese capital.

Security went smoothly as well. This was the 14th segment for both of my older two kids, and they have learned the drill pretty well. I was a dolt this time though and insisted that my backpack didn’t have any water in it even when the security official flagged it in the x-ray. Had totally forgotten that I’d put in the last bottle from the hotel that morning. Oops.

Once through, we hung out in the lounge for a while where the kids did some school and I wrote a couple blog posts and enjoyed a glass of wine (SEE: Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport Review). We also ate an early lunch. All for free with my Priority Pass membership through my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Our plane was late, but we still got out early enough to make it to Hong Kong in time. You can read all about our experience flying Cathay Pacific 777 Premium Economy.

Hello, Hong Kong

We landed right before sunset and hopped on the Hong Kong Express toward Kowloon. A short bus ride later, and we were walking the last few blocks to our hotel through the bustling Mongkok neighborhood. I wasn’t so sure about staying here, but I would happily do so again. The energy and everyday-ness of Mongkok makes it a vibrant place to enjoy as a foreigner.

Bedtime came at about 8:30. It was a good travel day. Now we had Hong Kong to explore for our last three days!

5 Reasons Why Sacramento is my Favorite Northern California Airport

With all the delays and cancellations that plague our tiny regional airport, I’ve had to look beyond our “Redwood Curtain” for reliable flights. Not to mention cheaper. Prices out of ACV are insane.

There are a number of options in the northern section of the state, including Redding, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and three more airports in the Bay Area. But one stands out above the rest: Sacramento.

If you’re a local and am wondering why I associated Sacramento with Northern California, have no fear. I’m firmly in your camp (SEE: 5 reasons you *must* visit coastal northern California). The Bay Area and Sacramento Area don’t qualify as NorCal in my mind. But since there are millions of people in the middle section of the state that don’t agree with us, I have to throw in the towel and go with the prevailing definition.

Couldn’t ask for easier access

The most appealing feature of Sacramento International Airport is the utter lack of traffic. Coming from Humboldt County, I head south on Highway 101, cross over to Interstate 5 by way of State Route 20, and then it’s another 45 minutes south to the airport.

Because the airport is located north of downtown Sacramento and busy Interstate 80, you don’t ever have to deal with any substantial traffic. I’ll take it over Oakland, San Francisco or San Jose any day.

From curbside to gate in no time at all

Along with the lack of the terrible traffic that plagues the Bay Area, everything is faster at Sacramento. The walk and time through security can be comparable to Oakland or San Jose, but its the proximity of the rental car center that helps significantly. It is located much closer, with a fast and frequent shuttle (ease of access to the rentals car center varies at San Jose airport depending on which terminal you are flying into or out of).

I’ve clocked my time through Sacramento Airport on a couple occasions. On one occasion I pulled up to drop my rental car with Enterprise at Sacramento at 4:58 a.m. I made it on the shuttle by 5:03, arriving at security at 5:05. Clearing security took all of a couple minutes and I made it to my gate by 5:09 a.m. Total of 11 minutes. No way I could do better than that at SFO.

Little to no price premium

As a mid-size airport, you might think Sacramento would have higher prices than a large hub like SFO. This is certainly the case if you’re looking to fly somewhere overseas, as Sacramento only has a few international flights (Air Canada to Vancouver and AeroMexico or Volaris to Guadalajara, if you are wondering). But for many domestic destinations, there is little to no difference in price. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper.

Don’t make the mistake of leaving off Sacramento Airport from your flight searches. It’s literally another 4 characters on the keyboard when searching airfare with Google Flights (SEE: 6 reasons Google flights is the BEST flight search engine). Just hit “S-M-F-space”, and then proceed to type in SFO like you planned to in the origin box.

Plenty of options

Sacramento has a leg up on Santa Rosa airport due to the number of airlines and flight options it offers. While Santa Rosa has definitely expanded in the past year, and is on track to continue this trend (SEE: Santa Rosa Airport Expands to Meet Crushing Demand), it still doesn’t have nearly the same number of flights. For example, American Airlines only offers one flight per day out of STS, and it is just after noon, making it hard to catch an eastbound connection in Phoenix that arrives on the East Coast at a reasonable time.

Sacramento offers many more options. Sure, it’s not SFO. But there are a number of reasonable departures on all the major carriers. You can pick from American, Delta, United, Alaska, Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier, and Hawaiian domestically. International carriers include Air Canada, AeroMexico and Volaris, as previously mentioned. Southwest offers the most nonstop destination options by far (which makes sense, as they have 53% of the market share at SMF).

Consistent rental car prices

Since I have to get myself to and from Sacramento Airport, I do have to take into consideration the cost of renting a car. I’ve found that I can pretty much always get a car for $100-150 depending on when and which direction I am going. This may sound like a lot, and it *is*, if it is coming out of my own pocket. But it work is paying, I can often justify it since the difference in fare is more than the cost of the rental car. The typical differential is $300+ between a fare out of Sacramento and a fare out of Arcata.

There is the issue of added travel time, but depending on the itinerary, even this may not be substantial. Most of my United itineraries for work back east involve two connections. Flying out of Sacramento allows me to cut it to only one. In some cases, flying out of Sacramento only adds 1-2 hours to my trip each direction. The added reliability makes this trade more than worth it.

Conclusion

I have a love/hate relationship with our local airport, which has made me look into flying out of other airports many times. Now I’ve finally settled on my favorite of the most easily accessible.

Header image courtesy of jericl cat via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: Priority Pass Restaurant Review

During one of my work trips to and from the East Coast earlier this summer, I was able to finally stop by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport. The restaurant is one of those within the Priority Pass network. Priority Pass has been on a spree lately when it comes to restaurant additions to their network, which I think is a major plus for travelers. The latest are in San Francisco (SEE: Two SFO Priority Pass restaurants added to network!), which I hope to stop at next time I pass through there.

Timberline Grille Denver Airport: How to use Priority Pass

The Timberline Steaks and Grille is located in Concourse C of Denver International Airport. Since all of DEN is accessible from a single security checkpoint, you can easily access the restaurant even if your flight is from a different concourse. Just take the train there, but give yourself enough time to get back to your gate.

The restaurant is located in the center of the concourse. The hours are from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

timberline grille denver airport

Priority Pass membership will give you and each registered guest $28 off the final bill. Depending on the membership, guests may be free or you may be charged. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, I can bring two guests into a lounge for free, which would give us $84 off the final bill. This is plenty for three people at this restaurant.

To use your Priority Pass membership at the Timberline Grille Denver Airport, you must present your Priority Pass card and same-day outbound boarding pass. Some lounges let you access them on arrival, but it may be that the Timberline Grille does not. Since I was connecting to San Francisco, I had an outbound boarding pass.

When you get your final bill, $28 will be deducted per person registered with the Priority Pass account. If you register people beyond whatever number of free visits your membership provides, you’ll be charged $32 per person, so you’ll actually be paying extra.

Food and drink

The menu offered by the Timberline Grille Denver Airport is excellent. Rather than the typical domestic airport lounge which offers small bites, snacks, and other fairly cheap fare, the Timberline Grill has a full menu or steaks, burgers and other offerings.

The steaks will eat up most, if not all of the Priority Pass credit, so you may still end up paying a little. But for a sit-down airport meal, it’s still a fantastic deal.

I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which came with a salad. The food was very good.

The view of the airport was nice as well.

The Timberline Grille Priority Pass credit can also be applied to drinks. It turned out that the sandwich and a glass of wine fell a few dollars short of the credit. My server still happily ran my card so I could tip her.

One note: I did find the Timberline Grille Denver Airport to be rather busy during my visit. I had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated. Luckily, I had a healthy connection and still wasn’t rushed. The wait might make stopping by a bit hard if you don’t have enough of a window of time to eat. I’m sure the fact that the Timberline Grille takes Priority Pass hasn’t helped the demand!

Conclusion

DEN doesn’t offer any other Priority Pass lounge access, but the Timberline Grille Denver Airport more than makes up for that. It’s a great place to stop for a meal if you’re passing through. And for mostly free. Which is obviously the best part. 🙂

Best way to get from CDG Airport to Paris

When researching destinations, the first thing on my mind is how to get to and from the airport. For Paris, the main airport is Charles de Gaulle (CDG). It is the hub of Air France, and is primarily used by the major/full-service carriers. This is where we were flying into, so I wanted to find was the best way to get from CDG airport to Paris.

Luckily, there are a number of options. Some may appeal more to the cash-strapped backpacker, while other may be better for the time-sensitive business traveler.

Which makes it a bit hard to determine the best way to get from CDG airport to Paris center. But we’ll try. Here are four options:

Convenient: RER B Train

One convenient option is the RER B train that departs regularly from CDG. Expect to wait 10-15 minutes for a departure. The cost is 10.30€ per person (7€ for kids 4-9), and you can use the ticket machines to purchase your fare by card. The machines do have English as a language option. For myself and the kids, we paid 27.60€ for our transportation from CDG to Paris.

best way to get from cdg airport to paris

The RER B takes about 30 minutes from CDG airport and will take you to Gare du Nord as the first major stop. Additional stops include Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg Gardens, and Port Royal, among others.

The train does make local stops along the way to the center of Paris. At least ours did. I don’t know if this is standard. Maybe only some do this and we ended up on a local train.

From each of the stops, you can catch at least one metro line to other destinations within Paris. This is what we did, catching line 5 to Republique from Gare du Nord. You must have your train ticket to exit the train.

One detail I missed is that you can apparently use your RER B ticket to transfer to the metro for free. I wasn’t aware of this. We bought three metro tickets needlessly.

Roissybus

This was my backup option if I decided not to take the train. We were originally going to be staying at the Holiday Inn Paris Opera and Grands Boulevards, and using the bus would make more sense as it takes you to the Opera neighborhood.

If you want to take the Roissybus, you can buy a ticket at the bus station at CDG. The cost is €12. Busese run about every 20 minutes.

The transit time of the bus varies based on traffic. Generally, it will probably take 45 minutes to an hour to get you from CDG to Paris. Because we weren’t staying in the Opera area, the bus didn’t make much sense, as it is both more expensive and takes longer than the train.

Shared Van

A shared van could possibly save you a bit of transit time, but with some added cost. It won’t be as expensive as a taxi or Uber, however, since they are transporting multiple people. The plus side is that you will be taken to your actual destination and won’t need to transfer anywhere.

Prices vary depending on your destination. Transit between our hotel (Crowne Plaza Paris Republique) and the airport with Super Shuttle prices at €47 each way for three people. This is definitely more than the train, but it isn’t outrageous.

You can schedule your pick up and drop off ahead of time and pay ahead of time as well, which is convenient.

Potentially fastest: Uber/Taxi

If time is your most critical factor, Uber or a Taxi may be the way to go. Just expect to pay a whole lot more than for the train or bus. However, if you are traveling as a family, the cost differential might not end up being quite as bad.

A taxi or Uber can get you to the Paris city center in ~40 minutes, but it obviously depends where in Paris you are staying. The benefit here is that you will be taken directly to your destination rather than to a station from where you have to take a city bus or metro to your final destination.

But it comes at a cost. Uber will probably cost upwards of €50, and I’d expect a taxi to cost even more. Might be worth it if you’re traveling as a group and can pile several people into a car.

Personally, I don’t value the time savings that highly. I’d rather stick with the train, which in my opinion is generally the best way to get from CDG airport to Paris after reviewing all the options.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it really depends on your needs to determine the best way to get from CDG Airport to Paris. The train is probably the most consistent and economical for the majority of folks. I’d maybe consider a rideshare if in a group, but I probably wouldn’t consider the other options, mainly due to cost.

Roissybus photo used under CC 2.0 license

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