Archive for the 'travel' Category

TSA Screening

In mid-November, after the TSA modified their security screening procedures with the installation of full body scanners (hereinafter referred to as pornoscanners) and the enhanced patdown, I sent my senator and representative a note. I complained about what I perceive to be out of control abuse of power by the TSA, unconstitutional search & seizure, and treating law-abiding travelers as criminals without reasonable cause.

I finally received a response from Senator Patty Murray last week. It was not what I’d hoped for, to say the least:

Thank you so much for contacting me regarding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new security methods at airports. I appreciate hearing from you on this important subject.

I share your concerns regarding the need to balance between national security and civil rights. As you know, the TSA has continually adapted their policies and implemented new technology to help thwart those who seek to do harm to our nation. The most recent security measures added include full body advanced imaging machines and enhanced pat-down procedures. These procedures are aimed at preventing attacks like the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid or the Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. I believe it is critical that we continually adapt our policies and practices to respond to these threats. But I have also been in contact with airport officials about ways to reduce the impact on passengers.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Rest assured, as the 111th Congress moves forward, I will keep your views in mind. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at http://murray.senate.gov.updates.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator

“I believe it is critical that we continually adapt our policies and practices to respond to these threats.” How about we continually adapt our approach to best serve our travelers? There’s a concept. And, you know, it’s being shown all over that the new procedures do NOT WORK.

The TSA’s approach is a placebo, at best, and I feel Sen. Murray (who I voted for!) is a disappointing party-line parrot on this issue.

Posted on Monday, December 20th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: travel | 6 Comments »

Take Off, Eh!

Tomorrow, I’m taking off at oh-dark-thirty for the great white north and a spot of on-site project work. I’m staying with the awesome, ever-hospitable Barb & Bill, and Pippin-psycho-kitten is in charge in my absence. (He just nipped my thumb to make me type that.)

Posting may be a bit light because things are always a bit of a madhouse in Anchorage, plus the travel hours are insane. Here, have some Bob and Doug Mackenzie to tide you over. “Alaska is like Hawaii.” ::snort::

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: humor, travel | 1 Comment »

Weekend Adventure: Leavenworth and Apples

Every fall, Bryan and I used to trek across the mountains to acquire a couple of crates of freshly picked Wenatchee-area apples. We didn’t save any money getting them that way, it was just a really beautiful trip.

This year, I started a new tradition, making that same expedition with my extended family – mom, Mary, Cheri and Ben this time around.

Jeri, Mom, Cheri

We headed across Snoqualmie pass, then up through beautiful rural Blewett pass toward Leavenworth.

leavenworthmap

We stopped at my favorite Prey’s fruit barn for apples and pears – 40 pounds each for me, I make lots of apple and pear butter. They always have amazing varieties of both – giant Sekai-Ichi, super sweet Ambrosia and crispy Winter Banana apples, and Flemish Beauty, Stark Rimson and Speckles pears.

Apples

Then on into Leavenworth. Ben noted that Wikipedia lists Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest as the second most popular in the world, behind only Munich. I’d believe it, it was a madhouse. The highway was a parking lot and the town was wall to wall people. There were hundreds of patient festival-goers in line at every food venue, festival music floating overhead, and lederhosen- and dirndl-clad herrs and frauleins everywhere.

Leavenworth Oktoberfest

Since we are not beer (or is that bier?) drinkers, we had to be satisfied with a long, long wait for a beer brat and potato salad and wandering the various crowded shops.

We gave up fighting the crowds after a while and headed home on Highway 2, Stevens Pass. The fall color was glorious in the late afternoon sun; it was a beautiful day.

Stevens Pass

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is my favorite season – I’m thankful I got to celebrate it outdoors today with some of my favorite people. Tomorrow I’ll be making apple butter and preserving a bit of the season for the rest of the year.

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: travel | 2 Comments »

Traveling with Priceline

A friend of mine asked me recently for tips on how to use Priceline. I’m a big fan of using their name-your-price service for hotels for personal travel. The advantage? I can save a LOT of money. The disadvantage? I don’t get to choose the hotel or room type, and only loosely get to choose the geographic area. I’m a bit of a control freak so that can be a challenge.

Note that there are two areas of Priceline – the full rate travel section which functions like Travelocity or Expedia, and the name-your-own-price bidding section. The site will often redirect you to the full rate section so keep track of which part of the site you’re on.

Basic Priceline: How does it work? You select a city, a zone within the city, and a class of hotel and submit a bid, naming your own price. You don’t get to choose the hotel in advance – if your bid is accepted you find out the hotel you got upon acceptance. You provide your credit card when bidding, it books when the system accepts your bid, and there are no changes and no cancellations.

This is to the hotel’s benefit because they can sell their unused inventory of rooms based upon expected occupancy. And it’s the user’s benefit because you can save a good deal of money.

There are sites that help with Priceline bidding strategy – the one I use is Bidding for Travel. The site can help with determining good bidding prices, hotels that typically come up on Priceline in a given city, and ways to rebid again within Priceline’s rules if your initial offer is declined.

Free Rebidding: When you bid on Priceline, if your bid fails, you typically have to wait 24 hours before Priceline will allow you to submit another price. However, Priceline will allow you to instantly resubmit another bid, if you loosen your requirements, for example, if you lower your star-level requirement or if you add extra regions to your bid.

Free rebidding is a technique that frequent Priceline users have developed to get the best price possible. Free rebidding strategy depends on the fact that not all Priceline “regions” contain the same distribution of hotels.

For instance, when bidding on a hotel in Seattle, Priceline will let you specify regions including Downtown/Pike Place, Seattle Center, Renton or Southcenter/Seatac. However, of these regions, only Downtown/Pike Place has a 4-star hotel affiliated with Priceline (You can check this manually on Priceline’s website or look at the lists on Bidding for Travel, but the latter is not authoritative.

A free rebid is when you add a region to your bid which is guaranteed not to change which hotels you are actually bidding on. For instance. To illustrate: Your initial bid is $75/night for a 4-star hotel in Downtown/Pike Place. You will be able to get a free rebid by adding Seattle Center to your list of acceptable regions. Since Priceline has no 4-star hotels in Seattle Center, this bid is functionally equivalent to your original bid – but Priceline will allow you to instantly submit this bid, since you have “loosened” your regional requirements.

Following this line of reasoning, and doing some research on the Bidding For Travel website, you should be put together a series of free rebids for a 4-star hotel in Seattle, such as this:

  • $75/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place
  • $80/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center
  • $85/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center or Renton
  • $90/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center or Renton or Southcenter/Seatac

This series lets you try a sequence of bids in a row on the same region, hopefully getting you a bid that comes as close as possible to the “minimum acceptable” price that Priceline will accept. If $90 doesn’t work, you can wait 24 hours, and try again starting at $95. Of course, you can adapt the above strategy to 4-star hotels in any region by researching available hotels in that region.

Suggested Price: Priceline will often display a “suggested price” on hotels in the area you’re bidding. Disregard that – it’s usually far greater than the bid price that might be accepted. Research recently accepted bids on Bidding for Travel, or look up hotel rates on a full price travel site and start at 33-50% of the listed rate.

Priceline has also been known to very occasionally respond with a counteroffer. You don’t have to accept it – it may still not be the lowest price you can get. Many users have reported success with logging back in and using another free rebid that only increases the amount by 50-75% of the increase suggested in Priceline’s counteroffer.

Good luck – and happy traveling!

Posted on Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: travel | 1 Comment »

Domestic Details

This has been a crazy week and I’ve been completely neglecting my blog. (Twitter is a bit easier because I can find time for 140 characters!)

  • Monday: Work all day, fly to Anchorage in the evening

  • Tuesday: Get up at oh-dark-thirty for a project deployment, spend the morning providing customer support onsite, then the afternoon prepping for the next one.
  • Wednesday: Get up at even earlier oh-dark-thirty for a second project deployment, then go back to bed. (Yeah!) Go in late, coffee in hand.
  • Thursday: Work on budgets for next year’s projects. Fly from Anchorage, to Fairbanks, to Anchorage, where my flight to snowy, icy, Seattle is delayed. Make it to Seattle by midnight, and crash on my kind sister’s couch.
  • Friday: Creep home slowly on icy roads, work a couple of hours, then take boys back over to Seattle to train station. Wander through awesome indie bookstore Elliott Bay Books, navigate skating rink roads to dinner date at Etta’s Seafood. (Mmm, crab cakes!)

This morning, after coffee and green chile omelets, I’m being lazy. If I could go *nowhere*, I would, but we’re expecting Snowpocalypse v.2, this time with 2 feet of snow and then freezing rain. I need to get groceries today if I’m going to get them at all. All in all, we’re supposed to be socked in with snow and freezing rain for the next week.

I can think of worse things than to be snowed in with my husband while my children are out of town.

Happy stormy solstice, all!

Posted on Saturday, December 20th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: home, travel | 2 Comments »