Whatever happened to the journey?

What’s more important to you — the journey or the destination?

This is as good a time as any to ask the question (with apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Change is in the air, whether it’s the switch between summer and fall, or the upcoming presidential election, or a wobbly economy that’s unable to decide between recession and recovery.

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So I asked my readers about their journeys. And their destinations.

The responses were telling.

“It is both,” says veteran travel agent Tommie Imbernino, who has taken the time to answer my annoying questions since my coming-out as an opinionated, troublemaking travel columnist in 1996.

“It is the excitement of getting ready, putting out your clothes so you can decide what to take, making your list. The excitement that you are going to become an adventurer — no matter how many times you have traveled, or how many places you have been. There is something so exciting about the thought,” he adds.

He’s right, that’s how it should be. Travel ought to be an adventure. All of it.

But that’s not how it is for many of us.

In interview after interview, travelers told me they dreaded the journey. The thought of going to the airport, dealing with the TSA, being snarled at by a flight attendant, the delays, the overall apathy, made many readers want to just stay home.

“The way things are these days, the destination surely is the draw,” says Gary Koenig. “Flying the unfriendly skies sure doesn’t qualify for much other than being an ordeal.”

Over and over, I heard the same thing: The journey sucks.

It isn’t just flying, although airlines are complained about most frequently. The once-great American road trip is frequently marred by traffic, road rage and the worst kind of lodging experience you can imagine.

No one takes pride in their hotel anymore; it is nothing more than a franchise opportunity, where everything from the towels to the napkins at the eat-all-you-want breakfast is dictated from the corporate office. Why should anyone care if their property is any good when a suit in the New Jersey suburbs says it meets standards?

And cruises. Ah, cruises! Now there’s an example of journey being as important, and perhaps more important, than the actual destination. After all, some Caribbean ports are little more than crumbling concrete docks connected to a customs house connected to a flea market selling shell necklaces made in China.

But there, too, the thrill is gone. Where once you could take a deep breath of salty air after you boarded the ship, anticipating the voyage ahead in relative peace and quiet, now crewmembers are buzzing around you, offering extras that will turn your vacation into an ancillary revenue windfall for the company. Everything from the picture they take of you as you clear the walkway to the after-dinner show, costs extra. Someone always seems to have his hand out.

Swatting away come-ons from crewmembers is hardly the ideal way to enjoy the journey, don’t you think?

What’s even more upsetting to me is that there seems to be no shortage of industry apologists who have convinced us we wanted it like this.

We’re the ones who asked for the $9 airfares, the $29 motel rooms, the “free” cruises. If we want to know why the journey is so unbearable, they add, maybe we should take a good look in the mirror.

(If we don’t like what we see, they smugly add, we should pay top dollar for tickets and become frequent fliers like them. Then we can sit in first class and make snide comments about the “little people” in the back of the plane.)

But that’s preposterous. I’ve been covering this business for a long time, and I’ve never heard someone ask to be nickel-and-dimed to be mistreated and to be squeezed into a space that makes a coffin look roomy. No one ever requested this.

Yeah, we want to travel cheap. Truth be told, we’d pay nothing for our vacations if we could. That’s no excuse for turning the journey, which was once the best part of the travel experience, into torture.

“Most of the time, it’s when you get to the destination that the trip becomes enjoyable,” says Tabby Stone, also a longtime reader.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The next time you board a train or get into a car to go somewhere, tell yourself that. When you shake your head and mumble, “That’s ridiculous!” remember this column, and for goodness sakes, do something.

Get off the bus, check out of the hotel, disembark the cruise ship and tell them you won’t be coming back until they make the journey as good as it can be.

Safe travels, everyone.

77 thoughts on “Whatever happened to the journey?

  1. For me, it’s the destination. But then again, I do everything I can to make the journey as pleasant as possible, whether that’s saving a book that I’ve been meaning to read for the plane ride or investing in a set of good noise-cancelling headphones. And whatever you do, get to the airport early!

  2. Respectfully, that is only half true.

    I would submit that many of us are choose to utilize the cheapest means possible when traveling.  Whether by choice, inclination, or necessity, again and again, we purchase what we believe in the cheapest product.  Whether it ultimately is the best value is another question and besides the point.

    Hotwire and Priceline exist because there is a market for their products.  I missed a turn heading to SFo once and the hotels in that area are amazingly dreadful yet judging by the number of cars in the parking lots they were probably filled to capacity.  

    When American Airlines introduced more room in coach by adding extra legroom it did not translate into additional passengers.  Eventually it was ultimately removed.

    A crappy airline like Spirit thrives while others fail.

    Travelers have voted with their wallets.  I’m flying Virgin Air next weekend.  First Class is usually pennies over main Cabin Select yet First Class almost always has empty seats.  On my flight First Class is 3/4 empty.

    The reality is that we complain and complain and complain yet we won’t put our money where our collective mouths are.

    1. First class is pennies over main cabin?  I almost want to fly where you fly.  Going to the Virgin site I picked a random day in October to fly from my city (Boston, to San Diego).  Main Cabin is a reasonable $283, first class is $1726. “Instant upgrade to Main Cabin select” is $600 but no marketing details show why you would want to double your price for ‘select’ or what “instant upgrade” means, (There is a small ‘i’ for information but that doesn’t do anything at least on google chrome).  

      The industry says it is giving us what we are asking for but to me airline pricing has never seemed like a fair set of choices.  It looks like industry really is trying to steer you one way or the other.  I’d love to buy a refundable ticket and not have to worry about a hassle if my plans change.  However a refundable fare is 3x as expensive as a non-refundable ($283 vs $844).  So for a refundable fare to be worth it my plans would have to change 3 times before it becomes cheaper than to just buy 3 non refundable tickets.  Seriously a no-questions asked travel insurance policy for a domestic airline ticket costs 2x the price of the ticket itself?  How does that make any sense?  Really the same thing goes with first class pricing 6x is not a realistic factor in what it costs the airline. First class seating doesn’t provide 6x as much value as coach.   It is not even close,  For that price you could buy 5 neighboring  seats in coach and still have a 5 star meal delivered to the airport for your in flight meal.

      I really don’t think it is consumers asking for this, but the airlines have never put out a set of real options.

      1. I have to agree with you when it comes to air travel. The prices on anything beyond coach are so absurd, the only people who can justify it are the super-rich to whom thousands of dollars is pocket change, or business travelers who can dump it onto their expense reports.  Regular folk just can’t justify spending THAT much more money for an experience that isn’t THAT much more superior.

        I have money to spend, and I definitely do not always go with the cheapest anything when I travel:  comfort, amenities, and luxury are things I am willing to pay for, provided the prices are within the limits of reasonable, and what I get for the money seems appropriate.  I always check prices on business/first class when I’m shopping for air travel, but almost NEVER find a price that doesn’t make my head spin.  Occasionally I am able to swing an upgrade using points, but that’s pretty rare.

        But coach has gotten so bad lately that my threshold for what I’ll consider spending has been creeping up.  Just last week I bit the bullet and bought first-class seats (not upgrades, I paid the actual fare) for flights from LAX to Costa Rica.  They were 2X the price of coach, but I’m traveling with my elderly mother and I just don’t want to inflict such discomfort and indignities on her for such a long flight.  But that was a rarity – it’s not often that prices for first/business are anywhere within the range of 2X – they are often more like 4 or 5X, which I just can’t justify.  When the cost to get there is way more than the cost of the rest of the trip (and I don’t stay in the cheapest places!), that just makes no sense to me and I can’t bring myself to do it.

        By the way, Carver has a point about Virgin – they offer upgrades to first class that are incredibly cheap.  I just did this on a flight from Philly – it was just over $200 to upgrade to first class, which is nothing for what you get – WAY worth it!  The problem is, you can’t even request the upgrade until just a few hours before your flight, and they do sell out.  So you have to set an alarm for yourself and call the minute the time hits…and hope your call gets answered before the other pax scrambling for upgrades.  It’s a pain in the rear, but totally worth it.  Still, it’s yet another indignity we must suffer in order to make air travel even tolerable.

        1. For international travel, Biz class is usually double in price of a coach ticket.  First class is well out of the price range of most travlers who are not having their company pay for their ticket.  I think you will be pleased with paying to travel in anything but coach to CR. 

          1. Just ticketed my brother traveling to SEAsia on Cathay Pacific.
            Economy Class $1250
            Premium Economy $2100
            Business (discount I) Class $7850

            Business Class (even discounted options) to Asia can easily be more than 6x (times) the cost of economy. Astronomical indeed.

          2. Nothing is set in stone. To Asia, that is a hot market and they can command those prices.  I do a lot of Europe and sell a lot of business class with those usually being twice the price of coach. 

          3.  Do either you of Tony handle package trips to London/Paris?  I’m looking for a TA to help with this. 

          4. Sorry Jenn, I don’t handle packages since they usually end up underwhelming or disappointing people. To London and Paris, you can easily do your own thing and at your own pace. Both cities have excellent subway systems. Very easy to get around.

          5.  Thanks, Tony. I was arranging it myself but thought I would talk to a TA to see if he/she could arrange the transfers, know the hotels, rail tix, stuff like that.  I think I’m doing a decent job of it myself.  I’ll find myself on Chris’ column and the other TAs will yell that I should have used a TA!

          6. Bodega, the interesting thing is that Business Class to ASIA is almost always full. That’s why they can demand such high premiums. I guess they (Chinese) are now richer than Europeans.

          7.  Yes, first class is usually substantially higher than coach.  Although once when I went to Paris, the coach ticket was about $1200  and the business was on sale for about $1500 or $1600.  Business class was nearly empty as of the week before the flight.

          8. Right now Business Class New York – Paris is only $1715 on United. That is slightly more than double coach price.

            I paid more than $2k for my coach tickets to Japan for this winter’s travel. 🙁

            The economy in Europe must be very bad. That’s sad for business but great for travelers who can spend today.

          9. I must be flying to the wrong places…I’ve rarely seen an international biz class fare that wasn’t way more than 2X coach.  But I admit I don’t travel internationally all that often, so I’m looking at a limited data set.  😉

            This flight to Costa Rica has quite bizarre pricing, though – honestly I don’t understand it at all!  The non-refundable first class fare is – I’m not making this up – only $3 more than the non-refundable coach fare!  Check it out…do a search on US Air for a flight from LAX to SJO on March 15, returning March 31.  You’ll see what I’m talking about!

            I realize if you change dates you can find coach fares for half that…but on my dates, 1st class is literally $3 more!  I also realize I could find coach fares for half that on other airlines on my dates, but I’m quite satisfied with this 1st class fare.

            Which brings up a question that I hope all my travel-expert friends here don’t mind me asking….

            If you look at the flight I booked, it’s LAX-PHX-SJO.  My mother lives in Phoenix, so I wanted to just book the PFX-SJO leg for her…but it’s twice the price.  So I’m having to fly her out to LA the day before, so she can then take the LAX-PHX leg with me.

            Sooo…of course you know what I’m going to say…for the flight home I want to have her
            just exit the return flight in PHX. That way she can just scurry on home, and not have to go through all the hassle of taking another two flights, including having
            to transfer over to the SW terminal in LAX (not easy for an elderly
            woman with a cane and luggage). Plus I really don’t want to subject her
            to another coach class flight – it’s just hard on her, given her
            mobility issues.

            I believe this is called a “hidden city” scheme, which the airlines don’t like.  But I figure, why make a disabled old lady take two flights that she doesn’t need to take?  She’ll be home!  She’ll already have her luggage, since it’s an international flight so she’ll have to go through customs anyway.

            My question is…since I booked these seats together…will US Air give ME a hard time when she doesn’t board the second leg?  Will they try to throw ME off the plane, or charge ME for the additional fare?

          10. You need to ask USAIR if she can get off in PHX.  She is going through customs there and will be getting her luggage for that.  What can happen if you don’t ask and they don’t ok it, is that the carrier has the right to reprice her itinerary with PHX at the end stop and if it is higher, charge you for it.  Honestly, I have never heard anyone say this has happened, but her ticket that you paid for is a contact and by not having permission, you are breaking the contract.

          11.  Its amazing.  Only in this Twilight Zone world of airline contracts is that even an issue.  If airline contracts followed the same rules as 99.9% of US contract law the airline would be laughed out of the courthouse for trying to enforce such a clause.

          12. AGREE!  I was reading a bunch of threads in FT about “hidden city ticketing”, and apparently the airlines feel perfectly justified in demanding that people take flights they don’t want to take, or charge them MORE for NOT taking them.  Lots of people actually agree with this – they say “you agreed to the contract when you bought the ticket”.  I know of know other situation in which a company feels justified in penalizing you for NOT using something that you bought.  The justifications I read for this are pretty convoluted, but some folks are just adamant that it’s acceptable. 

            I disagree, but I guess the best course of action for me is just to do what we’re going to do, and keep our mouths shut about it.

          13. If it was me I would keep my mouth shut. You have the right to remain silent 🙂

            YOU are not violating the contract since YOU are flying home to LAX.
            Why will they throw you out of the plane?

            BTW the fare difference for your Mom is $178.

            Chances are USAir will do nothing.

          14. Thanks Tony! I’ve had a couple other frequent flyers basically tell me the same thing, so I’m feeling more confident about it. Hey, people miss flights all the time…she’ll just be another pax who missed her flight.

            Is that a weird fare or what?? Although I can’t complain – works out well for me!

    2. So, so true.  It’s not that they ‘provide’ substandard service, it’s that we ‘buy’ the substandard service.  We’re going to Maui in two weeks and decided on the Ritz Carlton.  People said we’re crazy to pay for that, especially when traveling with a six year old.

      However, I guarantee you that everything will be ‘just right.’  And if it’s not, they’ll make it ‘just right.’  Sure, we could pay much less for Hotel le Puce and whine about the rooms and the service and the pool.  But why?

      The old saying, “You get what you pay for” is a universal truth — there are no bargains in life. 

  3. Both for me. I anticipate our vacations months in advance, searching the net about cool things to see and do, talking to others going along, having as much fun researching as being actually on vacation.

    Airlines, the biggest complaint from me (no, not the TSA). Some airlines have seats so small, and so close to the next one, that with the tray down, if the person in front reclines, the tray is in my stomach.

    There is still good airlines, and service out there, but it’s getting more and more rare.

  4. To me, and to many of my friends, my vacation starts when I arrive at where I’m going.  So the travel to get there is simply a means to take the vacation, but not really part of the actual vacation….

  5. Things are the way they are because the traveling public voted with their wallets to make it that way…

    “Airlines aren’t loyal to me” – Why should they be when you will change for a ticket that’s $1 cheaper

    “Airline seats are too [close, small, etc.]” – You voted with your wallet for the cheapest fare so they gave you what you wanted. Anyone remember when AA, I think, redid their aircraft to allow for more seat pitch but raised the price. The experiment didn’t last long as people fled to the cheaper seat. Better yet, how many people actually pay for the Econ + type seats on airlines. Everytime I ask around they are FF Elites sitting there for free.

    “Hotels are all the same / don’t care” – If you make your choice on price, you are saying the experience means nothing. So guess what happens, owners put less money into the experience so they can keep costs down.

    1. What percent of the public had any clue when AA increased their seat pitch?

      What you are attributing to the public voting with their wallet, I would mostly attribute to companies like AA doing an inadequate job of making the public aware of legitimate value differentiators.

      Jet Blue is a great counter-example: they heavily promote their value differentiators (such as more seat pitch) and the flying public is generally well aware of what they offer.  It helps that they consistently stick to it.  Experimenting between radically different visions from one year to the next leads to confused customers.

        1. Actually they notified the TA community that they would be removing the extra leg room.  I flew them when they had the extra leg room and it was great, so I was disappointed when they went back to sardine seating.  United’s premium economy isn’t even close to what AA offered IMHO.

        2. It remained for the better part of a decade

          I wasn’t even aware it lasted that long and I had status with them when they announced it.

          They may have invested the marketing dollars at some point, but if they simultaneously engaged in a highly publicized race to the bottom for other services, the overall message could be incoherent.

          1. A quick search suggested it lasted about 5or 6 years. From 2000 to 2005/6.  This predates the plethora of fees such as baggage fees and other items which annoy many passengers.  AA simply found that passengers didn’t give them the competitive advantage that they hoped for.

  6. The journey can be tiring, frustrating, and even painful especially on planes.  But when the destination is worth the journey, it is worthwhile.  The issue I am finding is that the destination is becoming tiring, frustrating and painful now because we run into the disinterested employees lackluster tour guides and overcrowded sites even in what used to be the isolated ends of the earth where travelers were a seldom seen wonder not a horde of locusts devouring the local hospitality until there is none left.   

    Cheap travel has made it possible for nearly everyone to go to places that in the past only the rich or people traveling for work could experience.  And we have paid the price through the overall decline in the service provided that goes along with any commodity product and the increase in “optional” services the travel companies attempt to force us to purchase often with no guarantee those services can even be provided.  It is partly the fault of the teaming masses demanding travel at the lowest possible prices who will choose one travel option over another for only a dollar difference in price, but the level of service could still be better even at the prices being paid if the companies would not put up with disgruntled employees harassing the customers.  Am I yearning for the days of travel when men wore suits and women wore hats and gloves?  No, of course not.  Wearing decent but comfortable clothes to be comfortable on the journey is what saves me many times from total collapse.  I can’t imagine traveling in a suit.  I am also not longing to a return to the times when the government regulated prices in the travel industry because I would not be able to travel except for work at the prices that translates into.  

    Oh, and you had to poke at the frequent flyers again, didn’t you?  They don’t have it all that good these days.  I flew on UA this weekend and there were 60 people on the list to upgrade to 1st on my flight — and only 1 seat available.  Seems that at least 59 people were disappointed.  The frequent flyers you hate so much are in the cheap seats more often than not these days because the airlines have made it too easy to become one of the “elites” because then they believe the lie that status has become.  The only benefit most get on a regular basis is a free checked bag.  When you do get upgraded, you have the same snarly flight attendants who burned out years ago and are just hoping to make it to retirement (if the airline doesn’t go bankrupt first and cancel all of their retirement savings) and the seats are often less comfortable than the premium coach seats because after cramming in all the electronics in so they can sell you TV and squeezing even the 1st class seats ever closer together there simply is not enough room for the number of passengers.

  7. We enjoy cruising, Las Vegas and NYC.

    Most ports that we have visited are usually more than a pile of rocks with a flea-market but I do agree with the Chinese trinkets. We never buy souvenirs that are made in China. Nothing against China(as least as far as vacations go) but I don’t consider a Statue of Liberty made in China as meaning very much to our vacation.

  8. What’s even more upsetting to me is that there seems to be no shortage of industry apologists who have convinced us we wanted it like this.

    Looking at the responses to this column that seem to say “the traveling public got what it asked for” would lead one to believe most or all are “industry apologists”.  Yet, I neither believe they are industry associated nor are they smug.  Realists stating the truth and the facts – almost certainly.  Smug apologists.  Hardly.

  9. Woo hoo!  A “That’s Ridiculous” tag and no poll so everyone knows you’re letting off steam about a topic.  This should lead to some good comments about the topic and I look forward to reading them later today.

    I may have answered your question when you posed it to us a while back, but I’ll second @google-cfebd946871303aade1465e6e408c78e:disqus in that planning for the journey is time-consuming, but ultimately lots of fun – that is, when your journey is for pleasure.  My husband and I are trying to walk in all 51 U.S. capitals (50 states + national capital) and the journey is often the best part when we go by car.  Next year we have our sights set on Harrisburg, Annapolis, Richmond and D.C. and I can’t wait to see places like Valley Forge, Philadelphia and Gettysburg.  Yeah, the price of gas stinks, and other people can’t drive (listen to any old George Carlin recording on that topic!) and the motels are pretty much what you described in the article.  But it’s the people and sights along the way that make the journey great for us.

    Traveling for work – well, plenty of other people will have plenty to say on that. 

    1. Wait a minute – where’d the poll come from?  It wasn’t there earlier.  Really.  I think.  And yes, I was having my morning Diet Coke, so had my caffeine.  ???

      Not to nag about poll wording, Chris, but I agree with other commenters – I would like to vote “Both”.  Thanks.

  10. Hi,
    I couldn’t vote in the poll because for me it’s both.  I have been planning my trip to Rome since March, when I received a good income tax return–really good.  For me the planning is part of the journey.  I purchased my airplane ticket through a travel agen

  11. Hi,
    I didn’t mean for my partial comment to be sent in.  I was puzzling over the sign-in bit.  So throw the first one out and here goes again.
    I have been planning my trip since March and for me planning is part of the journey. I am going to Italy for the 13th or 14th time (in 51 years) and I bought my airplane ticket in April through a travel agent.  However, I have made all my hotel reservation mostly in places  I really like and have stayed before and, in fact, two I have pre-paid at a nice savings.   And, of course, I made sure travel  insurance would cover them.
       I have, month by month bought some of the tours, tickets,etc. I plan to 
     use such as Venice transportation pass, reservations in Florence for Uffizi, Accademia, and Palazzo Vecchio tours and a Dante’s Florence walking tour.  (Yeah I’ve read the Divine Comedy.)  Coming up in October will be rail pass if it’s a good buy (travel agent again), a Compagnia pass for Sorrento and Naples and Vatican Museum and garden tickets.
       In November before I leave I will check out my favorite walking tour company to see what I might like to reserve for several cities. And then November 20–off to Milan.
       Yes, I have enjoyed the journey (though I can’t say I’m looking forward to the flight).  But once I land I will be enjoying the destination–obviously my favorite place to visit. 
      Before I close I have to say that posting this has been a bit of a chore because of the trouble I had with “+image” trying to move down in my wordiness!

    1. Thank you for coming here and adding a breathe of [positive] fresh air. Your genuine excitement and delightful attitude towards travel makes me want to travel more. Cheers!

    2.  This is how I feel.  I used to love to fly.  Now it’s much worse but I look at it as a time away from everything going on and zone out.  I watch a movie, play classical music over my headphones and just vegetate.  If I think of it as time away from the everyday, it makes it more bearable. 

  12. It depends on my mode of transportation.  If I’m driving, I like to meander and enjoy the sights so it’s the journey.  By train, it’s relaxing and again the journey. By plane, it’s definitely the destination. Flying, with all the hoops and whistles you have to go through are …well…trying to say the least, but a fact of life.  It doesn’t bother me, but if I’m traveling with my husband it is a pain in the a$$! From the moment a flight is mentioned he goes off on all the hurdles for security.  It doesn’t matter that I have repeatedly told him what you can and cannot take on the flight. I have to go over it again and again, all the while he is shaking his head and complaining. Traveling by plane with the hubby is NOT fun! Definitely the destination!

  13. Destination 100% for me.  But then, I’ve always been like that.  I am a Nervous Nellie when I travel.  I am always worried about everything so I can’t relax and enjoy the trip.  Having said that, crammed flights, rude people (passengers and staff) small seating, dirty hotel rooms, etc takes its toll. 

    Of course, “cheap” does not have to mean any of that.  2 years ago I stayed at an inexpensive hotel when I visited Mt. Rushmore.  For less than $40 a night, I got a no frills room – which I expected – but the room was cleaned within an inch of it’s life.  The staff was outstanding and friendly.  I’ve stayed in 5 star hotels that did not have that cleanliness level or friendly staff.

  14. It’s both! So I couldn’t vote.  By car, it’s the journey, I like to meander and see the sights. Going by train is also the journey. However, by plane, it’s definitely the destination and especially so if traveling with my spouse! I take all the security hoops and hurdles as just a fact of life for us all these days.  My husband, not so much!  At the hint of a plane trip he starts going off on all the security and the lines. I have to remind him every time what you can and can not take on board. I fly more frequently than he does and as I said I just take it all in stride. Whatcha gonna do? So whenever I fly with him, I have to go to “my happy place” until we arrive at our destination!

  15. This is another one where I would have said both. You need to seriously consider a third box. Just yesterday I returned from a road trip. Yes, we won’t somewhere for a purpose but as you well know, driving someplace is a trip all unto itself…

  16. This is another case where you need a third box that says both. Just yesterday, I returned from a road trip. Yes we went to a detonation but the journey is definitely a part of any road trip as you know. I’m old school and would like it to be the journey AND the destination…

  17. Both are why I travel, as it should be for most.  Neither the journey nor the destination need be miserable.  If you do your homework, read Elliott, do some research on TripAdvisor, and simply Google part of your trip and see what is there, then you can reduce the agony and increase of ecstasy of a memorable trip.

    Sure, things go wrong, but you can minimize known hiccups in travel.  Reading this column is one way!

    1. I agree!  I’ve learned more about travel from this site than, really, from anywhere else…even :::gasp::: “that other place”.  😉

  18. As you said, the number-crunching corporations that own mega brands of airlines, cruise lines, and hotels have commoditized the experience. Saying “NO” to mediocre service, to rudeness, to nickel and diming, to airlines with disgraceful and continuous delays and mechanical problems, is the ideal; the one part, however, that defies rebellion is the airline industry.
    Affordable (a word open to interpretation) hotels and cruise lines mirror the same concept as affordable stores and restaurants. The quality has gone way down and the service is is robotically similar. So, journey or destination depends on where I’m going-flying anywhere domestically the destination trumps the journey. Going to a chain restaurant or store, the journey trumps the destination. 
    Let’s hear it for small boutiques, independent restaurants, informed and professional travel advisors, charming inns. The problem with the journey is corporate AND it’s a symptom of our malaise as the employee (It’s about doing a job rather than providing an experience) and and the passenger (a combo of accepting mediocrity as okay and feeling “entitled”). It is all of our responsibility to be the best we can be in any situation.

  19. For me (and I have written about this before, google I smell a bakery or Around the world in 80 cafes to read about my biking adventures) the trip starts when you start the planning phase.. the kick back and pick where you are going. The walking in to the airport with the joy of knowing this is not a work day and nothing anyone can do will spoil my day..  I only have so many vacation days so to not think and act like the travel days are not part of the vacation is to waste several good days. I drink wine, I meet other travelers,  I read a good book, by the time I am at the point where I have to start peddling my bicycle I have totally shaken off  all the worries of work and home life.  Because of this attitude of enjoy every minute of the journey many people not only want to know where I have been but stop me to ask where are you planning to go next.    

  20. For me (and I have written about this before, google I smell a bakery or Around the world in 80 cafes to read about my biking adventures) the trip starts when you start the planning phase.. the kick back and pick where you are going. The walking in to the airport with the joy of knowing this is not a work day and nothing anyone can do will spoil my day..  I only have so many vacation days so to not think and act like the travel days are not part of the vacation is to waste several good days. I drink wine, I meet other travelers,  I read a good book, by the time I am at the point where I have to start peddling my bicycle I have totally shaken off  all the worries of work and home life.  Because of this attitude of enjoy every minute of the journey many people not only want to know where I have been but stop me to ask where are you planning to go next.    

  21. It has the be the destination for a flying trip, as airports are the miserable beginning of a trip. From checking in to weighing and measuring the suitcases toTSA to the boarding agents to the the idiot in row 31 that puts his carry-on above your seat in row 4; now are the attendents all in a good mood? If you are driving, and can circumnavigate traffic, it is both as driving is such a great way to see the world, and knowing that I am going to see beautiful dpwntown Duluth is in the back of my mind. Commercial travel is a challenge today, and onr that I try to avoid.

  22. On behalf of those who have loved ones half way across the globe, I wish to say it is the “Destination” that matters most. The journey is usually long and arduous and often to villages unknown to westerners. Some require additional bus or train rides, ferries, pump boats and pedicabs.  It is by no means cheap and you arrive almost a zombie. But as soon as you see the smiles of family and hug them, the journey was all worth it. Priceless.

  23. For me it is both. I like airports, I love flying – even in coach, but it is much more fun when in first of course! (doesn’t happen that often sadly)  Planning the trip is just as much fun, choosing the hotel, choosing the seats on the plane, times of departure and arrival, and rental car for the destination are just as much fun for me as finding all the sites to see at my destination. It has become even more fun at destinations now with all the apps on my smart phone and iPad. I do not choose the cheapest airfare, or the cheapest hotel room or the cheapest rental car. I want to enjoy myself, so the departure and arrival times make a difference to me. If I can purchase E+ and get more leg room that is a plus for me. Purchasing a first class ticket is normally much too much, but getting leg room is worth while.  I want to relax in my hotel, so having a bar so that we can have a nightcap is important to me as well as a clean room, good bedding, etc.

  24. For me it’s the journey. Whenever I can I book air travel so I can see different airports. I love airports! I really like the smaller ones. Chattanooga’s is really pretty, and Reno’s is easy to get around. I prefer a driving vacation, though, and I plan it so that I don’t drive Interstate highways – I want to see small town America, old time cemeteries, pastures of farm animals, roadside stands, fields of wheat and sunflowers and dirt. I love the smells and the colors and the sites as I travel. It’s not always a joyous journey. For example, if I never, ever see or smell a beef feedlot in Kansas again, I won’t miss it. However, I’d not know that if I hadn’t choked my way along the Chisolm Trail highway – what a stench! On the whole though, there’s no place I want to be so badly that I can’t take the time to enjoy the journey.

  25. I can’t answer the poll, as it depends on the type of trip.  For our driving trips, the journey, like you are currently doing Chris, is what I enjoy.  Taking a side road, stopping someplace funky (like Wall Drugs in SD or the Corn Place) or having lunch at a local fundraiser in a town we are passing through. 

    For trips that require air, such to Europe, flying in business class makes the trip more enjoyable to the destination and part of the journey.  For a trip that long, the destination is the focus.

  26. Before steep inflation, when our children were young, it was the journey. Every summer, my teacher husband and I would pick an area of the U.S. and camp and sightsee (like Chris is doing on Away Is Home) from July 4th to Labor Day. Now, my retired husband, who hates what it takes to fly, drives our RoadTrek everywhere, even to our daughter’s over 2000 miles away, except if there is absolutely no time. He likes to stop at places of interest on the way.  I am now retired and I want to see the world, so I fly, and, I must confess, it is now the destination for me.

    Lack of vacation time must also make it difficult for some to like the journey. Very few people can afford to take the time for a road trip. When our kids were approaching college age, I went to work full time and my husband had to moonlight with a couple of extra jobs. 

    The kids married, had children, and we were still working when our oldest daughter and family moved to Israel for a three-year assignment for HP. She was seven months pregnant at the time. I got only three weeks vacation, so I would have to take advantage of 3 or 4-day weekends, add on a couple of days, and use up a day flying just to see them. Often, I would get back at 5 a.m., take a shower and go right into work. My husband was able to take fewer, but longer trips, as he had a lot more vacation time. Luckily, our two other children only lived a couple of hundred miles away, so we could drive to see them on the weekends. You can bet the trip became more about the destination for me.

    No, the airlines and the government haven’t made things any easier, now that I have time to appreciate the journey. I would, and often do, pay more for better service, but many people not just won’t, they can’t. So, I don’t think circumstances will change for the better. At least it is easier now and more affordable for people to travel greater distances to see family and places.

  27. A problem frequently seen in the cases Chris mediates is some people have completely lost the sense of adventure from traveling. Part of an adventure is that there are unknowns involved and not everything may be 100% perfect or absolutely consistent from one trip to another.  Hence, the slightest issue prompts these people to demand a full refund. I’ll grant you that the TSA and some of the other things Chris highlights in the article have taken some of the fun of the journey away, but without question part of the problem is caused by certain travelers.

    1. I so agree.  I mentioned in another post that I was recently on a train in Germany that broke down.  Yes, it was a pain, but I got to my destination, abeit a few hours later than planned, but got there in one piece.  Not one passenger yelled they were going to sue, not one passenger was rude.  Many, once the new train arrived for us, headed to the car with the bar for a beer and made the best of the situation.  A great lesson for all travelers!

      1. We’re spoiled these days in so many ways. Everytime I see the Christmas Story movie with the kid and the bb gun, I’m reminded of how unreliable car travel was even in the 1950s. That was before radial tires so flats were so common I’m sure people actually did keep track of how fast they could change a tire like the dad does in the movie. Plus, breakdowns were much more common and the Interstate system was in its infancy, so people were traveling on inferior roads.  We take so much for granted now.

  28. For me, it’s both. I LOVE, L-O-V-E!, to travel! It really doesn’t matter what form, ship, car, bus, plane or train. Just that feeling of going somewhere, meeting different people, seeing different things.. Yes, awful things can happen during your travels but if you stop, take a breath, try to be a little flexible if possible, but most of all, keep a smile at the ready, most things either resolve themselves or at the least, you won’t sit and stew over all the horrible things that went wrong rather than enjoying the trip and destination. So for me, I always try to plan in some flexibility in my travels, both for time and activities so that I have options should something happen. It makes for a much more relaxed trip, so that every bit can be enjoyed! 🙂
    Obviously, I travel for the destination as well. Especially as with a growing family money’s a little tighter, and with government fees more than doubling the price of my plane tickets to go back home (the -ticket- price I have no problem with.. it’s those government fees that are killing my travel!), my travels have been a bit more infrequent. 🙁 
    With less ability to travel the destination is becoming more important, but I think even then you have to keep a similar mantra as for the travel itself – be flexible and have a smile at the ready, because people are much more likely to help you then.

  29. I was just discussing this very subject not long ago with someone.  For me, it’s ALL about the journey.  I’m on vacation and I believe it should be a pleasure from beginning to end.  It drives my husband crazy as he is a “destination” person but, I’ve never passed up a gift shop or World’s Biggest Ball of String in my life and I find I’m much more relaxed after a vacation than my husband, who’s so focused on staying on an itinerary he misses so much.

    Could be why my favorite quote (and it’s part of my e-mail signature) is: 

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
    by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the
    bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
    Explore. Dream.



    Mark Twain

  30. I enjoy both – or at least I try. Yes, airplane travel can be annoying now, so I factor in travel and security lane time into my decision on what flight to take or whether to take a train. I bring a couple of books to read, and enjoy watching other people. I’ve made my personal experience as comfortable as it can be (by bringing snacks, a water bottle to fill up from a fountain, dress in comfortable layers for temperature control, slip-on shoes, etc) and have no expectations anymore – that way, if I actually get a packet of pretzels I’m pleasantly surprised instead of grouchy that I’m not getting a meal.  

  31. I can’t vote because it’s both for me. I make myself as aware as possible of any irritants I may encounter on the Journey and prepare as best I can. I roll with the punches and let things roll off my shoulders. I have yet to have such a horrible experience that I wouldn’t want to travel. But then again, I people watch for entertainment. 🙂  Airports are excellent for this! Ultimately, the Journey & Destination is what you make of it. Will you let others dictate your experience? NO!

  32. The trick to having a fun trip is to simply filter out the unpleasant parts from your notice.  Let them slide off you like water and you’ll have a much better time.

    If you really want to dwell on the slow TSA checkpoint, or the servers trying to sell you drinks, the overpriced trinkets at some port, etc., then sure, your vacation will be unpleasant.

    Fun times and interesting people can be found anywhere, if only you care to look, even at the most benighted 3rd-world heap or anonymous airport.

    But yes, we DID ask (and continue to do so) for things to be like this.  Every time an airline tries, and fails, to push their airfares up a few bucks, the airline is being told that consumers shop by price, and that they are unwilling to pay more.  If consumers truly cared about service over price, openly customer-hostile operations like Spirit wouldn’t even exist.

    1.  I agree with you. I’ve done nearly 40,000 miles by motorcycle in India and Asia, and stayed in $2.00 a night rooms many times, and circumnavigated Australia on motorcycle and more cheap rooms, and been to Europe and the Caribbean more times than I can remember, and took the train from old Prague to cold war St. Petersburg, and unless I filtered out the unpleasant parts from these trips I would not have the very fond memories that I do. 91 countries for a total of nearly 12 years of nothing but travel and its all about “filtering” and having the patience to overcome the trauma.

    2. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to filter out sexual assault from your notice.  🙁  And I get sexually assaulted almost every time I fly, because of the metal in my back.  It usually sets off the metal detector, resulting in the full pat-down.  And while I’ve had a couple of benign pat-downs, the majority of them have been utterly unacceptable from a personal-dignity standpoint.  I’m sorry but there is just no circumstance in which it is acceptable to have a stranger touch my breasts or crotch.  That is, indisputably, sexual assault. Hence, almost every single trip I take begins with a sexual assault.

      Kind of makes it hard to enjoy the journey.  Even preparing for the trip is fraught with tension, as I am aware I am ABOUT to be sexually assaulted.  I must go through various mental steps to prepare myself for the ordeal, including reminding myself NOT TO FLINCH when they jam their thumbs into my lady-parts.  I learned the hard way that flinching at that stage can lead to threats of being ejected from the airport for “interfering with the screening process”.

      Once I get past the sexual assault part, I do find things about the journey to be enjoyable. It’s always just wonderful to get out of your routine, and airports and air travel always offer great people-watching opportunities! 

      It’s sad, however, that I have to begin every trip with something so horrifically offensive.  It has definitely impacted my overall enjoyment of travel, as I have to mentally prepare myself for having my sex organs pawed by strangers every single time.

  33. For me it is the journey on my motorcycle!  I refuse to fly due to the mistreatment by airlines.  I ride my Road King to any event or to visit family.  I meet great people only for a few moments at various stops along the way.  That is the BEST PART of traveling!!

  34. Destination or Journey.  That is 100 percent subjective.  To suggest that people should care for one or the other is presumptive.  I can speak only for myself.  And speaking for myself, if I could say “Beam me up Scottie, I’d be a happy traveler.”  The journey means nothing to me, a means to an end, a necessary evil.  I see the journey as less time at the actual destination.

    When I took the Euro-Star across Europe, I fired up the laptop and watched movies.  You can pass a lot of time with the full extended Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

  35. For me it is definitely both.  We rarely travel by air, so I always plan our trips along routes where there are lots of sights to see.  We live in LA and just took a road trip to Lake Tahoe.  Since we’d be traveling along the scenic Hwy 395, I made plans to stop at the Alabama Hills, in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, and Momo Lake.  I wo.  On the drive home, we stipped in Bodie, and drove around the scenic June Lake loop.  I would have liked to stop at even more places, but there wasn’t enough time in the day.  I also spend weeks before the trip doing lots of research of the route and the destination, which is very exciting for me. 
    My daughter will be starting at ASU in January, and the only thing good about her being so far away is that we will have an excuse to take more road trips to AZ!   

  36. A few years ago, we took a road trip up the CA coast to Monterey with absoultely no plans and no hotel reservations.  I just wanted the freedom of being able to enjoy the journey without any time constraints of where we had to be that night.  Granted, I do know that route pretty well, so I had a general idea of where we’d end up for the day and it isn’t that long of a drive to begin with.  But just the thought of taking off with no set plans felt so free to me.  It made my husband a little nervous, but it all worked out and we had a great time. 

  37. @LeeAnneClark:disqus 

    No, your first-class fare is NOT a weird fare.
    It just so happened that USAir has a First Class Fare Basis Code ABWH0NSK ($634 base)  that is cheaper than Coach Class Fare Booking Classes N, B, Q, H, etc.; and the only coach seats available (for the return date of your travel)  are N and above. The cheapest economy fare basis costs $358 but there are no available seats for it (L class).

    As far as hidden city is concerned, the airlines usually addresses that with their AGENCIES and not with the passengers directly.

    In their website,  http://www.usairways.com/en-US/travelplanning/drs/inappropriatebookings.html  USAIr is really warning travel agencies against inappropriate practices like this. If they catch a travel agency, the penalty is a Debit Memo. If they catch a passenger, the worst the airline can do is confiscate your Miles.

    The only thing weird in your case is the airlines practice of illogical pricing. They price travel from their hubs higher since they may have a virtual monopoly for those airports.

    1. Ahh…okay, if I’m reading this right, then it just means that less expensive cheaper coach class fares previously existed, but are sold out, and only more expensive ones which are priced commensurate with 1st class are left.  That does make more sense.  Thanks for the explanation!

      And also thanks for confirming that my Mom can leave the flight in PHX.  That’s a huge relief for her – she was not pleased with the idea of doing all that additional flying for no reason.  Big weight off our shoulders!

      1. LeeAnne, no one can “bless” what you are about to do except the airline. That said, they do not like what your Mom is planning to do, but since they do not know about it in advance then there is not much they can do to stop it. Just keep quiet and go about it. Good luck.

        PS, there is a whole game in FT about FD, 3X, etc. Makes me wonder if anyone still gives a damn about getting caught in a hidden city scheme.

  38. To me the journey is important, that is why I love train trips.  Relax, enjoy scenery and not be rushed. It is like you almost are forced to slow down. With a hectic, demanding job that is what I need.  We have sooo much to see in this country I just can’t justify spending my hard earned dollars somewhere Americans are not appreciated.

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