Getting There, Part I

As I am leaving the US to go to London, the only practical avenue by which to travel is air. For those of you seeking a boat, perhaps, or a subterranean train, or the world’s longest (maybe soon to be less impossible than you think?) road trip – this is not the post for you.

I booked my plane ticket on March 12th – a Saturday, for those of you who subscribe to the arcane witchcraft of buying tickets on certain days. This was a few days less than six months before departure.

I watched prices using Kayak, which I don’t regret as of yet. Kayak offers a lot of useful flight price tracking options, including periodic emails with price tracking. The site is easy to use, pretty intuitive, and displays a lot of information really comprehensively. You can save flights to watch to a “Trip”, so you can come back and check the same flights every time. Kayak will also offer up a comparison of what the other sites like them are quoting. Probably my favorite feature is that I never got annoying, unsolicited email from Kayak. I got the fare tracking emails I asked for and nothing else. Personally, I didn’t see a huge shift in the price like I have with some other international fares; I attribute this to it being LHR, but it could be anything. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any certain time to buy with this one, other than “soon” – flights were selling out pretty fast, even in March. They seemed to have the best prices on offer. They don’t serve as a booking agent, and I was referred to vayama – I don’t know if that’s because of the flight I booked or if that’s who does all of their booking.

I definitely did not use the “Trips” feature to its fullest extent – it also has hotel and car rental functions.

I was trying to watch for a major drop in prices – when I was looking to buy a ticket to go to Dublin, about eight months out there was a sharp drop of about $200, after a slow descent that totaled about another $150-200. I’ve decided, though, that no such precipice exists for London Heathrow. There was a slow downward trickle, and a few days of the price bouncing back up again, but honestly the total difference wasn’t more than $200. There is a very real risk of all the flights being booked, however, if you wait too long. Flights were filling up seven months out as I was waiting to book my ticket.

Look for updates from the airport when I actually leave to find out how it all works out.

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Theoretically, the Tube is easy to navigate (Pt. 1)

Because I am, by all accounts, entirely unused to metropolitan living, I thought I had better do some research with regard to navigating the Tube – especially since I may not have a functional smartphone immediately upon my arrival (also known as “the period of time in which I will be most confused about public transportation”).

After searching the internet for all the best tips and tricks and listicles, this is what I’ve come up with. Think of it as a Greatest Hits lists of advice about the Tube, accompanied by some truly awful or amusing articles for counterpoint.

This listicle was nicely comprehensive, written such that I wasn’t bored stiff reading it, and actually informative. It’s not just basic “this is how to get on a train” but also provides instruction on cultural norms, AKA how not to be the least-liked person in your carriage.

My main issue with most advice was that it assumed a basic level of knowledge I cannot claim. I’m looking for whatever comes before 101 here, folks. This article was a particularly heinous offender.

Here is a handy little modified Tube map showing which stations are actually faster to walk between rather than taking the Tube. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about London today, it’s that nothing is logical.

Somewhere along the way, I began to wonder if perhaps my problem was not that they all started at too advanced a level, but that they were all too basic – that my particular questions and confusion were beyond what is reasonably expected of a tourist (clearly the intended audience of most of these resources). After all, that’s not entirely implausible – I am, after all, not a tourist by the general definition.

There are a variety of YouTube videos, if the idea of reading article after countless article threatens a headache. This one is perfect for “I’ve never in my life partaken in the joys of any form of public transport”. Unfortunately, I went to NYC a few years ago with a school group, so it was a little simplistic for my tastes.

This is by far the best video I found. It was explanatory, answered questions it seemed like no one else had even considered, and kind of adorable. Also, the only time anyone has ever even attempted to tell me why Oyster cards are called Oyster cards. Still not sure I believe him, but.

After being sidetracked by a couple of Bustle listicles about good boyfriends and several snarky comment threads on Tube articles, I stumbled upon It. The One. The Tube 101 to end all my desperate researching.  It not only tells you the things all these other sites informed you about, but also how to tell where you can switch lines! How to identify a baggage entrance! How to estimate travel time!

Something else I’ve learned today is that there’s nothing quite as unintelligible as people familiar with an area giving platform- and architecturally-specific directions to those who have no idea what they’re referencing. I’m sure all your amazing tips and tricks for saving five minutes are perfectly functional, but you could be making all this up for all I know. I certainly can’t assign any meaning to the series of letters and phrases you seem so attached to.

A surprising amount of people warned me not to masturbate or grope people on the Tube.

Sorry, is this an especially big issue?

One article featured a television ad on reporting sexual harassment on the Tube. I’m a little torn. I mean, great that I can text you about a guy harassing, groping, or photographing me, but meh that it’s such a big problem there’s a line dedicated solely to that.

On handpicked.org I found the single most informative piece of information in this entire search: “on the platform, look for where the yellow paint is most worn – this is where the doors open.”

Honorable mention:

Honestly, this one‘s just really funny. Zero percent helpful, 100% hilarious.

Look for part II of this post after I’ve actually had to put this hard-won knowledge to use.