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The longest flight delay of my life and five tips to make sure you will be more prepared than I was.

It’s 2007 and I
am attempting to fly from Cape Town to New York City. I am quite a punctual
person and a stickler for rules too. You want me there three hours before my
international flight? Sure, no problem. So here I am, 3pm on a Thursday,
standing in a line to check-in for my 6pm flight to JFK. I am third in line,
and realize that I have not moved in fifteen minutes. An airport employee makes
an announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you that we are
facing some technical difficulties with our system. Please be patient while we
try to fix the problem”.

Three hours
later the problem is fixed. I check in my bags. My flight has obviously been
delayed at this point. As I am about to exit immigration I see that our flight
has now been delayed further, with a boarding time of 8:25pm. I approach an
airport employee, asking for information. Apparently there has been a fault
with the engine. Okay, fair. I would rather they realize this beforehand, and
sort out the problem. A few hours later the engine fault is fixed. But now the
pilot has been awake for too long, and cannot legally fly. We need a new pilot.
It is now close to midnight. After some more time waiting, we are herded into a
shuttle bus and taken to a nearby hotel for a few hours of sleep. Back to the
airport Friday morning at 7am. More delays. More waiting. We finally leave at
10am.

Any delay can
be a frustration, and I was especially frustrated and bored through all the
waiting. I had planned to sleep through the flight, and maybe watch a couple of
movies on the plane. I had not prepared myself for hours of waiting. Now I
always make sure that I am prepared. Here are my top tips for making delays
bearable.

Comfort

Make sure you
have a spare change of clothing. Nothing is worse than having to sit in the
same sweaty clothes for longer than needed. If you have not already, invest in
a decent travelling pillow. It makes all the difference for your neck!

Practicalities

If you have
someone waiting for you at your destination, contact them to let them know that
you are facing delays. It may seem obvious, but in all the rush and chaos of
plans changing, this is something that can easily be overlooked. Also, make
sure that you have enough local currency or a reliable bank card that will
work. While airlines often provide meal vouchers during long delays, they are not legally obliged to do so. Therefore, it’s always
good to have your own supply of cash on hand.

Entertainment

So this is the most important thing. You are going to be somewhere
between mildly and severely angry about your delay, depending on your tolerance
for plans to change. You need to have an arsenal of options for entertainment.
Luckily most airports supply you with at least some free Wi-Fi access. If you run out of your free
Wi-Fi, go have a coffee at a restaurant. You’ll probably need the caffeine, and
most restaurants at airports will have their Wi-Fi that you are free to use as
a customer. So now that you have internet connection, your options are open!
For me the best thing to do is find something online that you can become super
engrossed in. You want to forget about the delay and let time whizz by. My
personal favorites include cat videos, and some super cool online slots games. And the best part is that you
can play these from your mobile phone! So if you’re not travelling with your
laptop, you can still have some fun!

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Airmail in the Early Days

All over the USA, Seventy foot concrete arrows can be found in remote locations. Follow them, and they’ll point you out of the desert.

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They come courtesy of the US Postal Service’s Air Force and will point you all the way across the continental United States.

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They were constructed in 1924 to guide postal planes in the right direction as they carried mail from coast to coast.

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These old planes couldn’t rely on radio as much at the time, so they used these arrows, along with beacon towers, to navigate.
 
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The arrows and beacons bisect the United States
from San Francisco to New York City.
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The towers were 50 feet tall and fixed with gas lights
that could be seen from 10 miles away, in order to help
lost pilots find their way.
 
 
This is a model of the arrows and towers in their heyday.
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World War II brought new advances in radio technology effectively making the towers and arrows system obsolete. The towers were mostly dismantled.

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There has been an effort to restore and preserve some of them, however. Like this one in New Mexico complete with its generator shack.

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This is a pretty cool piece of history, even if it was short lived. To think of those early postal pilots navigating like this from coast to coast is mind blowing.

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Flight Visualization over Europe Video

This data visualization was created from real flight data. It shows the air traffic which flies on a typical summer day and highlights the intensity of the operation in Europe - an operation which runs 24x7x365.

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New Orleans Summertime Blues? Try These Vacation Destinations

Summertime is full of barbecues, shorts and river walks. New Orleans is an exciting city this time of year. Everyone seems to have summer fever and is out and about. The only problem is that hot, sticky New Orleans summer weather! You might enjoy this year’s steamy months a little better if you took a break. A cost-conscious, fun-filled vacation is just the ticket if you want a month, week or even a long weekend away from The Big Easy.

The Everglades


Enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, eating and drinking in one of the most unique locations. Stay in Florida City’s Everglades International Hostel and enjoy breezy accommodations at great rates: dorm beds are $28 per person, and a group of six can book a private room with bathroom for $168, according to evergladeshostel.com. They can set you up with tours for any time of day. Prepare to share space with gators the size of tanks and heavy-artillery mosquitoes … it’s all part of the fun!

Everglades

Photo by Bogeskov via Flickr

Europe


Although it might seem like an ambitious goal, seeing 10 or even 20 countries in a summer is completely doable, as long as you know where the deals are. A Eurail pass for up to 3 months starts at $494, according to eurail.com. Save by staying in hostels and eating cheaply at markets and street stalls instead of restaurants. One of the best sites to check the cheapest flight deals is Skyscanner.com. Round-trip flights from New Orleans to the U.K. start around $1300.

Eiffel Tower

Photo by Terrazzo via Flickr

Charlotte, North Carolina


So you can’t be Katniss Everdeen, but you can at least travel to the state where much of “The Hunger Games” was filmed. Take a day trip to the ghost town of Henry River, where several District 12 scenes were set or catch a show at the Knight Theater, also a filming location, according to romanticasheville.com. Looking for adrenaline boosters? Check out the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Photo by James Willamor via Flickr

Carnival Dream Cruise


Set sail on the high seas with a cruise through Carnival Dream. Their all-inclusive packages include 24-hour room service and multiple dining options, among them a coffee bar, steakhouse, chef’s table and tasting bar. Entertainment doesn’t lack, either. Packages come with a comedy brunch, access to the art gallery, “dive-in” movies, concerts and an Internet café. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t forget the candy shop. And when you’re done there, head to a yoga or Pilates classes to work off the extra calories before hitting the pool. Depending on your room choice, cruises can cost as little as $40 per night, according to carnival.com. There are cruises departing from the Port of New Orleans year-round.

Carnival Cruise

Photo by El coleccionista de instantes

A quick word of advice: When traveling a lot, protect your identity with security measures while dealing with money or personal information. According to Lifelock, in 2011 there were more than 11 million victims of identity fraud. According to usa.gov, must-dos include keeping receipts or tearing them up, shielding your PIN with your hand while at ATMS and storing personal information in a safe place.

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