Flying in a 1930 Biplane

Since dating the son of a pilot, my life has become much more steeped in aircraft, planes, and general aviation.  I have always liked planes – they’re pretty cool, after all, and a huge part of my travels! This past weekend, I had an incredible aviation experience unlike any other.  I was invited to come along on a photo shoot that focused on military veterans after their service.  The veterans participating in the shoot fly vintage biplanes from the 1930’s and 1940’s at the Bayport Aerodrome on Long Island, New York.  Needless to say, it was like aviation heaven!

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The shots for the photo shoot required being in the air, naturally, and I was fortunate enough to score an open seat with one of the pilots going up.  I have never before been in a biplane and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was positively one of the best experiences ever!  I enjoy “regular” commercial planes quite a bit but this biplane experience took my enjoyment and appreciation of airplanes to new heights (pun intended).

The photographers for the shoot and the pilots discussed formations and directions for what to do in the air – many of the planes do not have radios to communicate to each other, so knowing what to do ahead of time was crucial. Afterward, it was time to jump into the planes!  A wonderful gentleman offered to take me up in his beautiful green biplane from 1930 during the airborne photo shoot – I was very excited!  I sat in the front seat and he piloted from the rear seat. I donned a flying cap with headphones and a mic, and off we went toward the runway!

The runway itself was a grass strip.  The planes all lined up for takeoff and, before I knew it, it was my turn to head down the runway! The propeller spun furiously and we quickly gained speed before finally lifting off the ground.  It was such a bizarre yet incredible sensation! For a few minutes, I had that feeling you get while free falling on a roller coaster – I kept waiting for gravity to kick in and to feel some sort of steadiness or balance (like you do on a large commercial plane), but it never came.  Instead, I quickly adjusted to the bouncing of the small craft and the wonderful experience of truly feeling like I was flying (compared to a larger, commercial plane where you know you are flying but you don’t necessarily feel it). The whole time while in the air, I couldn’t stop smiling.

We flew out over Long Island and then over the water toward Fire Island.  The planes circled the lighthouse on the island a couple times for the photos and then my pilot flew me out over the beach, did some quick turns, and was able to really show me what the plane could do!  It was pretty windy up there, especially since the cockpits are open-topped, and a little cold, too, but nowhere near as cold as I had imagined it being.  After some time flying around up in the air, we turned and headed back toward the airfield.

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Landing the plane went much more smoothly than I had envisioned it in my mind.  I had anticipated a bumpy and rocky landing, but my pilot put the plane down gently and with ease back onto the grass runway – a sign of great skill and experience!  My only complaint was that I had to exit the plane when we were finished.  I wanted to keep flying!

After the flight, I perused the old planes in the hangars.  One was especially stunning – a black and blue WACO biplane.  The man who owned it asked if I’d like to sit in it, so I did! My cousin captured a great shot:

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Photo by B. A. Van Sise

I am so grateful to have been able to experience such a fantastic flight. Flying in a vintage biplane has only strengthened my love for flying and appreciation for aviation!

 

sarahheart

 

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8 Ways To Pass Time At The Airport

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Whether you show up super early to not miss your flight, or get caught with a long layover, spending time at the airport often means sitting in a chair for hours on end simply waiting for your next plane.  Sure, you may browse the shops or walk around, but what about those late-night flights or overnight layovers where everything in the airport is closed? Sure, you can always create a short video to entertain yourself (see what this awesome guy did here!), but there are actually a number a ways to occupy your time during those seemingly never-ending airport hours.

 

1. Get In Your Exercise

If I have lots of time at an airport, I’ll often walk from terminal to terminal to explore and check out what’s around.  This allows me to see various food options if I’m hungry (no such luck if it’s super late at night, though), discover neat views of the runways, and just see what planes are arriving and from where. I usually end up walking a couple miles this way, which is perfect since the next few hours are generally followed by sitting in a cramped airplane seat.  If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can find a space at an empty gate and actually do your workout routine – I’ve seen people jog in place, break out yoga mats, do squats, etc.  Some airports even have free yoga/exercise areas you can take advantage of!

2. Tackle That Book

Bringing something to read normally tops every list of “things to do on an airplane” or in an airport, but that’s because it’s truly really good advice.  If you’re like me, you probably have a mental list of books you’ve told yourself you’d like to read that has only gotten longer and longer over the years.  I take my time at the airport (and on the plane) to knock out some of this list as often as possible (I’ve finished Heart of Darkness, The Revenant, and a book about Ernest Shackleton this way).  So, bring that always-wanted-to-read-book with you and settle in for a page-turning adventure!

3. Find A Place To Sleep

If you happen to have a lengthy overnight layover, this may be for you. Sleeping in the seats at your gate is usually uncomfortable (unless the seats don’t have armrests and you can spread out!), so securing a comfy spot elsewhere is usually a good option.  Lots of airports have public “lounge areas” with larger (comfier) seats and tables (that you can put your feet up on!). If you are a lounge/club member with a certain airline, take advantage and use their amenities.  Otherwise, find a corner or comfy area (some even have TVs! The joy!) and rest up.  Remember to set an alarm to get to your gate on time!

4. Plane Spotting

If you are not familiar with this phrase, plane spotting is seeking out airplanes and tracking their take-offs, landings, and general movements.  I love to find great plane spotting locations at airports (which usually involves walking around the different terminals to find views of the runway) and watch the planes come and go.  If you’ve never seen a double-decker A380 take off – you’re in for treat! It’s a great way to pass the time and enjoy a view of the planes.  Lots of people consider photography a large part of plane spotting, too.  Finding the perfect viewing location can result in some fantastic photos! Plus, you may find new areas of the airport to explore and get some great views!

5. Catch Up On Some Work

It may sound mundane, but layovers and early arrivals are excellent times to get some work done.  Even if it has nothing to do with your actual job, there are probably “household” work things you can catch up on – sending e-mails, calling family members, paying online bills, editing travel photos, etc.  I often catch up on actual work as well as “household” work. It saves me a lot of time later on!

6. Do A Food and/or Drink Tour of the Terminals

If you are with a group of people (or can find one!), this is even better.  Dining options vary wildly by terminal and you might be surprised what yummy treats are hiding at a terminal different than your own! I found my favorite new sandwich place, for example, when I flew out of a different terminal than the one I usually do at the Orlando airport.  If you’re one for drinks at the airport, try the different bars!

7. Make Friends

Some people are naturally better at this than others, but it never hurts to be friendly to someone! Sometimes the last thing many people want is someone else bothering them with conversation in the midst of their travel stresses and worries, but I’ve found that this is the exact time I’m more thankful to have a stranger strike up a conversation with me.  After almost missing a connection, a girl about my age boarding the same plane began speaking with me at the gate. We happened to end up seated together, too, and it was nice to welcome the cool discussion we had going.  It’s never a bad thing to have friends in different corners of the world! You never know when one of those friendly connections could turn into your next trip, place to stay, or party partner!

8. Work on Your Hobby/Interest

I think it’s safe to say we all have hobbies and interests that we somehow never end up having as much time for as we want.  For me, that’s writing.  If I’m sitting at the airport, I may as well break out my computer and start working on that novel! It’s a great way to spend time doing something that you really love and could potentially help alleviate that airport stress that can creep in!

There are so many things to do at airports! Leave a comment if you have something in particular that you do to pass the time! 🙂

Happy travels!

sarahheart

 

How I Find Cheap Flights!

When I traveled as a child, other people like my parents booked my flights for me since our trips were often family ones.  When I began exploring taking trips on my own as I got older, I noticed that the way one goes about booking flights changed drastically since the time of my childhood.  Now, you no longer need to directly contact an airline or speak with a travel agent – there are plenty of websites and apps that easily and conveniently find cheap airfare for you.  We live in the age of technology, after all! And this makes finding low-cost flights super simple.

At first, I started off using regular discount flight sites like CheapOAir and even Kayak/Orbitz/etc. This normally did the job, but as I began to travel more and more, I wanted to find a way to get even cheaper flights – and I knew there had to be a way.

A relative of mine who flies constantly around the world introduced to me the concept of fuel-dumping airfare costs – that is, the “error” airfares where airlines only charge basically the tax and not the cost of fuel (which makes up a lot of your ticket cost).  There are ways to “game the system” to get these kinds of tickets (for sometimes as low as $1 to $10) but there’s a lot of “studying” to do and chance involved.  I usually have set dates to travel on, so this type of low-cost airfare just wasn’t going to work for me.

As I began to look more and more into cheap airfare sites and methods, I was introduced to the website and app called Skyscanner.  Let me tell you – this site is fantastic.  You can go through their website directly or download their app.  You can search for specific airports, dates, and times, or you can even do a cool “everywhere” search that shows you the cheapest flights going anywhere out of a given airport, which is pretty awesome if you have a free weekend or given time and are looking to just go travel for cheap! I book most of my flights using Skyscanner now.  I love the setup of their website and their app (easy to use and super helpful!) and I generally do find the lowest costs that way.  Hello cheap flying!

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Another app I was recently introduced to is Jetradar.  It was on my most recent trip, actually, that the girl sitting next to me and I struck up a conversation.  We talked about our frequent travels and she explained she used Jetradar to find her cheap flights.  I immediately downloaded it when I landed.  The app itself has a neat animation for when it’s searching airfares (a cute airplane that travels along the route you’re searching) and it is pretty easy to use.  I’ve had luck finding even cheaper airfares with Jetradar than I have with Skyscanner, so it’s definitely something I would recommend checking out!

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Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error – of testing out different sites and comparing them.  Many sites/apps claim they do the comparing for you, but the reality is that no one site or app checks every single airline or airfare database, so “shopping around” on a couple different sites or apps is definitely recommended.  Skyscanner and Jetradar are currently my two favorites!

(TLDR – Skyscanner and Jetradar are great apps to find super low airfares! I normally check both to compare 🙂 )

Happy travels!

sarahheart

I Actually Enjoy The Airport

Every few weeks I find myself at the airport.  I spend quite a bit of time there between driving, parking, checking in, going through security, and wandering around the terminal. I am someone who prefers to be early to the airport.  Sometimes, two hours just isn’t early enough, in my experience.  There have been many times where I’ve cut it super close to boarding time even though I arrived at the airport a full two hours early (long security lines with only one metal detector working are the epitome of evil). So, I’ve gotten in the habit of giving myself as much time as possible just to be on the safe side and also so that I’m not rushed.  If I’m traveling, I want to be relaxed!

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The predicament in airport arrival time is finding the balance in not being too rushed that you’re running to the gate but also not being so early that you’re left just waiting in the terminal for hours for your flight.  Because security lines, traffic, and random airport inconveniences are rather unpredictable, striking that balance is sometimes difficult.  For this reason, I tend to err on the side of caution for the sake of peace of mind.  I’d much rather have an hour (or two or three!) of downtime at the airport than running through the terminal trying to board in time.

Since I like to arrive early and leave myself sufficient time, I’ve come to realize that I quite enjoy exploring airports.  The extra time allows me to check out different terminals and areas, explore food and dining options, locate prime seating for eating and people-watching (some airports have some really awesome “hidden” places like verandas and indoor balconies!), and just get some walking and exercising in before having to sit in a cramped seat for an extended period of time.

One of my favorite sources of entertainment at the airport is planespotting.  This involves wandering the various gates and terminals to find the best location for watching the planes take off and land. Sometimes there are some really great places right in the airport that afford fantastic views of the runway!  (You can even hop online and search for planespotting locations at whatever airport you’re at – there are lots of forums about them!). I love getting a snack and settling down for awhile to watch the planes (especially when you manage to spot a really unique or rarer one!).  One my last airport planespotting adventure, I saw a vintage Continental Airlines paint job on one of the planes that pulled up to the gate I was near – it was quite a treat to see something like that!

I also really enjoy just generally exploring airports when I have time to kill.  Sometimes I end up walking a couple or few miles (depending on my time and the size of the airport).  It’s pretty neat seeing how the different terminals and gates vary and watching the people arrive from different destinations. This also provides an ideal way to explore food and dining options.  Sometimes I am surprised by how great the food options are at a terminal other than my own, so I like to seek out my choices if I have the time. It’s also fun just to browse through the different shops – sometimes they have really cool things!

Overall, I like to find ways to enjoy my time even if I happen to be stuck in a place like the airport, where most people are focused simply on trudging to their gate.  There are always cool things to find and places to explore! I’ve even seen people take advantage of their airport time by doing yoga in empty boarding areas, hanging up hammocks in secluded areas to sleep, and playing “games” on the moving walkways (of which there are countless internet videos of, haha).

Remember, if you ever find yourself at the airport super early, or stuck there for an awkward amount of time on a layover, take advantage of what it has to offer, even in unexpected ways!

sarahheart

Dangers of Posting Your Boarding Pass

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As this blog has grown and as I have become part of more and more travel/adventure communities online, I have noticed a pretty common yet dangerous trend: sharing photos of boarding passes. They’re on facebook, on instagram, on peoples’ blogs… and it’s something people absolutely need to be much more careful about.

A boarding pass is often times a token of pride; it represents our journeys and adventures and is something we get to keep and hold onto long after our plane disembarks. It reminds us of our destinations, the dates we traveled, which seats we may have been fortunate (or rather unfortunate) to get, and other useful information (particularly if you’re someone who includes that information and uses those details to make videos/scrapbooks/albums/etc.). Sharing too much of your boarding pass, though, can lead to some rather negative effects.

Most people are smart enough to blur out flight numbers, full names, and other obvious information. After all, no one wants their information to fall into the wrong hands! However, it seems that very rarely do we give the barcode a second thought. While blurring out obvious information is smart, leaving the barcode visible in online pictures is just as dangerous.

The barcodes on boarding passes contain sensitive information such as your name, your airline account number, your flight number, and frequent flyer number, among other important and often private information (such as your e-mail if you acquired your ticket online). If someone posts a picture of their boarding pass online without blurring the barcodes, that information can be retrieved using apps and software that can decode the information (which is super easy to do nowadays). Someone with access to this information could cancel your flight, change your seat, and even book future flights using your account and flyer numbers. Whoa!

So with all this in mind, if you’re someone who has on occasion posted a photo of your boarding pass, please think twice next time! Protect your information and stay safe 🙂

Happy and safe travels!

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