Annals of Travel

Online Mapping: What happened to MapQuest? It used to be a very flexible, free online mapping service. It’s still there, but it has been severely pared back feature-wise: it’s missing things like “make this map bigger” and “add an icon to this map” and “save this map.” MapBlast, from Microsoft, has better maps and more features, but it’s still not where MapQuest used to be.

Air Canada: Although flying Air Canada these days is the travel equivalent of buying generic “no-name” peaches, at least it’s cheap. Catherine, Oliver and I are flying Halifax to Montreal return for $58 each way. That said, the cheapness disappears if you’re trying to fly from Charlottetown, where the cheapest equivalent for our dates was $286 each way. For the extra $684 I’ll defy David Malahoff and drive to Halifax. By the way, JetsGo, WestJet and CanJet were each more expensive to Montreal from Halifax, and only CanJet flew direct.

Photo ID: How is it that we can be almost 3 years into the new airport security regime and people still don’t understand about the need for photo ID at the airport? I think you could improve the efficiency of air travel by at least 15% if people simply had their ID at the ready at every turn. As it is, I’d say about 25% of the traveling public act surprised when it’s requested at the gate (despite the “please have your photo ID ready” announcements), and about half of them take 2 minutes to root through their purses or wallets, slowing up the lines and frustrating the gate agents (and the people behind them).

Alamo: About two years ago, I registered with Alamo, and went through the rigamarole required to sign up for their Quicksilver program. This, in theory, allows me to reserve online, and then quickly check out my car from a kiosk once I arrive at their airport location. In theory. The problem is that in half a dozen visits said kiosk has only actually worked once, and even that time it mysteriously “upgraded” me to a Chevy Astro Van from a Toyota Corolla. Every other time I’ve had to get in the regular line because the machine has been completely or partially broken. Their cars tend to be horrible GM proto-cars like the Chevy Cavalier, and are often dirty, have filled ashtrays, and are missing ice scrappers in winter. I think it’s time to go back to Hertz: although they have a poorer reservation engine, I’ve never had a bad car from them, or a bad experience renting.

Ted Williams Tunnel: The opening of the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, which runs from Logan Airport in Boston under the harbour to downtown Boston and the I-93 north and south, has made it extremely easy to travel by car to and from Logan. But if you’re Canadian, it’s important to remember to have your $3.00 in US dollars with you before you leave the airport: the best I had was $5 Canadian, and they wouldn’t accept that. As a result, I had to wait for 5 minutes while the toll booth clerk filled out an invoice for me, and collected everything from my driver’s license number to the license plate of the car. I have 14 days to mail them a check for $3.00 or they’ll fine me $250. I’m not complaining, just warning you to be ready.

The Inn at Jaffrey Center: I spent seven nights last week at the Inn at Jaffrey Center, an 11-room inn just south of Yankee in Dublin. For most of the week I was the only one there. Beds are comfortable, staff is friendly and helpful, and rooms are clean and well-appointed. Breakfast isn’t exactly splendiferous, espcially if you eat neither eggs nor bacon, but it’s nice to have included, given the Inn’s remote location. And in the winter the pipes do knock a lot. And they’re really, really loud. But all in all it’s one of the nicest places to stay in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire.

Beverages: Regular readers will know that I love iced tea. The Dublin General Store now stocks the T42 brand, which is a happy medium between the syrupy overkill of the standard gas station Liptons and Nestea and the stripped-down unsweetened goodness of Honest Tea. The beverage highlight of my trip last week was a bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate. It’s expensive as hell ($3.98/bottle), but boy is it ever good.


Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on February 5, 2004 - 01:34 Permalink

Try National … I’m a member of their Emerald Club and it’s really slick … and their prices are better than Hertz.

Clark's picture
Clark on February 5, 2004 - 02:38 Permalink

I was quite surprised by the price of an Air Canada ticket from Charlottetown to Vancouver, $385 one way. Not sure if that is exactly cheap but it was cheaper than the budget airlines. Of course not so surprising was the fact that the planes interior was a complete mess, with my seats arm loosely fastened, ripped fabric, garbage from the last flight, seats that didn’t recline, and service which has to be the worst in the industry.

The trip over I flew Singapore airlines business class from Seoul to Vancouver. Incredible service — highly recommended.