I’m Gonna Pack My Suitcase

by Nancy Bestor

img_4489Bob and I almost never check our bags. It’s not that I am worried about lost luggage. And it’s not because I don’t want to pay the checked bag fee. The real reason is that at the end of my trip, when home is ever so close, I don’t want to wait  the 15 interminable minutes it takes for bags to come off the carousel at the Medford Airport. Er…excuse me. The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.
I’m always surprised at how long it takes. The airplane is really just a short distance from the baggage carousel at our little “International” airport. And when I’m tired and just want to get home, the 15 minutes seems like 45.

But, unfortunately, there are times when checking a bag is necessary. Last month on our cycling trip to Jordan was one such time. We needed to bring lots of our own equipment—bike helmets, bike shoes, bike pedals, etc., etc. So we paid to check one bag on Alaska Airlines down to San Francisco, before catching our international flight via Turkish Airlines, where a checked bag is still free. We also had to pay for our return from SFO back to Medford. The cost was $25 each way. Alaska conveniently lets you pay for your checked bag when you check-in online, 24 hours or so before your flight, AND print your luggage tag right at home. This saves time at the airport, as we did not have to wait in line with other travelers who were checking in for the same flight. Alaska also provides a plastic reusable bag tag holder at the airport, and we simply slipped our tag into the holder, attached it to our bag, and handed the bag to an agent. You can even request up to four reusable holders to be mailed to you in advance on Alaska’s website.

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We did indeed have to wait 15 long minutes for our bag to come off the carousel in Medford. But what are you going to do? Patience is a virtue, or so I’ve heard.

How United Did NOT Break My Guitar

by Bob Bestor

DSC02757We’ve all seen travelers lugging oversized bags on board and straining to cram them into the overhead bins. And when we see it we ask ourselves, “Man, how’d that guy get that on board?” Well, it’s likely that he skipped the ticket counter altogether by checking in and printing his boarding pass online. Then he was able to head straight to security where the TSA didn’t bother to do anything but x-ray his luggage. After that the gate agent was the first and only airline representative who could have even looked at his luggage before he got on board. But gate agents are often working alone and doing two or three things at once. So he made it. And oversized or not, as long as he could stuff it overhead, he was good.

On my recent trip to India I was that guy. Well, sort of. But at least I did it with the blessing of a friendly United gate agent.

I arrived at Rogue Valley International Medford Airport (no, really—that’s what it’s called) with a standard, maximum-sized 22” wheeled carry-on, a daypack, and a guitar in a soft-sided case. If you’re counting, and the airlines usually do, that’s three bags. Now I was fully prepared to check the suitcase, although my preference was not to check anything. But traveling internationally, I knew that at least my checked bag would be free.

I was not able to print my boarding pass online, so I had to go to the United ticket counter first, where I was only asked if I “wanted” to check anything. Of course I answered “no”. TSA didn’t take notice either and soon I was at the gate with my three bags and my boarding pass in hand. The gate agent took a look at me and my bags and frowned. “Do I have to check something?” I asked. “Well, she said, “you’re not allowed to bring three items on board. But, a few years ago a country singer had a big hit with a song about how United breaks guitars.  So I’m not going to be the person who starts another round of that.” And voila, no checking for me. This time at least.