It's that time again, folks. The holiday season is coming. I heard a Christmas song at the LCBO on the weekend, so I know it's approaching. And did you see that nasty frost on the roofs and the leaves here in Toronto?
I'm all for snow for all you skiers and boarders and snowmobilers. It's just that winter weather can wreak havoc at airports, as anyone in Vancouver who lived through last year's terrible delays will know. Or anyone who's sat on the tarmac at Pearson waiting for the de-icing to start.
We don't always think about it here in Canada, but American Thanksgiving is just a few days away - next Thursday, Nov. 26 for those of you keeping score at home. And Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year in American airports; crazier than Christmas.
(I assume this is because families with little kids want their kids to open their stockings at home. It might be, however, that folks would rather visit family for Thanksgiving because you can only stay Wednesday to Sunday and then it's, "Sorry, love to stick around, favourite mother-in-law of mine, but gotta be at work first thing Monday!" Whereas if you go for Christmas, you might have to stay through New Year's Day).
Anywho, there are a couple reports out there that might help if you haven't already made travel plans.
The first one comes from Orbitz, which listed the 10 busiest American airports on Turkey Day and the 10 least busy.
1. Chicago O'Hare (and terrible winter weather; see more on that below)
2. Los Angeles (no surprise, and what's better than turkey sandwiches on the beach?)
3. Denver (terrible winter weather, part 2)
4. San Francisco (headed there myself next week)
5. Atlanta (always a busy hub)
6. Boston (pesky university students and all that)
7. New York LaGuardia
8. New York JFK
9. Newark Liberty (all three NY combined makes this an area you might want to avoid)
10. Seattle (can be cheaper to fly into than Vancouver if you're headed that way)
Least busy? Well, they tallied the easiest of the major airports to use, too.
1. San Jose, California (a great option close to Monterey Bay attractions and even SF itself, but you'd have to connect somewhere if you're flying from T.O.)
2. Nashville (never been but imagine there's great ribs and beer)
3. Richmond, Virginia (nice town, actually)
4. Sacramento, California (about 90 minutes from SF; less than an hour, though, from the Napa Valley, and only 90 minutes from California ski country)
5. Jacksonville (close to great Atlantic beaches, and to golf)
6. West Palm Beach (a nice alternative to Miami)
7. Hartford, Connecticut (Go Whalers!)
8. Orange County, California (great for Disneyland or Newport/Laguna Beach)
9. Cincinnati (Motto: gateway to southern Ohio)
10. Fort Myers/Southwest Florida (perfect if you're headed that way or to Naples)
Budget Travel magazine in November has a nice chart on airport delays, and it only goes to prove the point I make to people that one should ALWAYS avoid O’Hare Airport if at all possible, at least for connections. U.S. statistics show only 59 per cent of flights at O'Hare have on-time departures, and I’m surprised it’s that high. Newark Liberty in New Jersey is even worse, at 57 per cent. Scoring high were Charlotte (76 per cent), D.C. Reagan National (72), Houston (75) and Cleveland, which surprised me with a 71 per cent score but maybe it’s not as busy as Chicago. Similar weather, though, which is always a concern.
I didn’t see stats for Denver, but I HATE flying through there in winter. It’s often better to fly south for your connection, even if it’s a little longer, as you’re less likely to run into winter weather conditions.
TOUCH AND GO
I've never seen one at a restaurant I've been to, but the Budget Travel mag for November has a piece on restaurants in New York (Clo Wine Bar) and London (Inamo) where you scroll through a list of offerings on a touch screeen and cue in your request, rather than using a waiter. The Clo Wine Bar apparently has dispensers on a wall that spit out your drink, which doesn't sound so romantic. But they have 100 vintages to choose from, so maybe it's not so bad, and you can search by price, grape style, region or look at interesting tasting notes while you dine on pate or cheese.
Inamo in London beams images of the meals onto plate-size disks on their table, according to the Budget Travel story. Diners then use finger pads on the table to place their order or call a taxi (maybe to say, "Get me to a real restaurant?).
A place called uWink in Hollywood, California (where else) has tabletop monitors with more than 70 games you can play while you wait for your burger or mac and cheese. Perfect, cuz god knows you don't actually want to TALK to anyone when you go out for lunch, right?
SPEAKING OF WINTER...
If you ever needed an incentive to take in Quebec City’s Carnival, here it is: a package from Loews Le Concorde offering savings of 15 per cent. Rates start at $209 and include one night’s accommodation overlooking the St. Lawrence River and two passes to Carnival. Loews is even throwing in two snow rafting tickets and two maple taffy lollipops to sweeten the deal. The $209 rate is valid Jan. 28 – Feb. 14 and applies to two adults sharing a room. For each child under 12, add $20. Hotel information is at www.loewshotels.com
JIM'S DEALS OF THE DAY