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February 27, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Delray to Sarasota, FL
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Greetings from Florida's Gulf Islands! After Honolulu, I made my way back home to L.A. for a few days before heading to Delray Beach. I visit south Florida all the time to hang out with my niece and nephew. I like to spend as much time with them as I can, especially before they're all grown up and show me no respect! When I'm there, I rarely ever venture out to explore other parts of the state but this week, I escaped the bubble and checked out an old Florida beach town, not far away. If you're looking for a slower pace and if the thought of sand like talcum powder thrills and excites you, then join me for a quick tour. If you're not up for some Florida fun, perhaps Janos Gereben can pique your interest with his tale of travel to the Philippines. No? You've got one more option. Join my brother Frank as he takes us into British Columbia's wilderness for the adventure of a lifetime!

HONOLULU TO LAX
From rain-soaked Hawaii, I jumped on one of United's four daily nonstop flights from Honolulu to LAX. Personally, I fancy the flight that departs at 2:05pm; it's not too early nor is it the dreaded red-eye. Besides, check-out at most hotels is 11am or 12pm and I don't know about you but I'm not a fan of having to wander around aimlessly for nine hours with my luggage in tow. The trip back to California on the 777 was painless and flight time was a swift four hours and 39 minutes. I was seated in Economy Plus, which meant I had an extra five inches of legroom ... and it really does make a difference. So, if you're not a premiere member, you might want to consider paying the extra money for the upgrade. If not, here's a seat map with the best economy seats. If you're not a fan of United's Buy-On-Board service, then remember to pack some snacks. I tried the $5 Trader Vic's turkey wrap and it was dang good ... but that could simply have been because I was ravenous.

THE NEW AND IMPROVED JOHNNY JET PORTAL
On February 3, The Washington Post listed JohnnyJet.com in an article entitled: 54 Online Travel Sites to Bookmark Now. Awesome! However, author Michael Shapiro warned that some of the links are outdated. Ouch. That hurt. But you know what? He was absolutely right. Upon closer inspection, I couldn't believe I had neglected my baby for so long. When I began clicking the links, I felt like the mother in Home Alone, who accidentally left Macaulay Culkin at home while she traipsed off on a European vacation. Of course, since then I have spent practically every waking moment adding and deleting hundreds of websites and categories to create an accurate and up-to-date portal. I still have about 400 more to go so please check it out (and often) and let me know what you think of the new and improved Johnny Jet Travel Portal. Also, if I'm missing a link to one of your favorite sites, send an email to info@johnnyjet.com and we'll see if we can include it.

LAST STOP FOR PAUL
At the L.A. Times Travel & Adventure Show, a PR person handed me a travel video and encouraged me to watch it. But honestly, I have a stack of unwrapped travel movies, videos and books on my bookcase that I just don't have the time to get around to. I usually end up donating them because I don't have a lot of free time. You know how it is; I'm busy working, traveling, playing sports or these days, updating the portal. However, the Last Stop For Paul DVD cover caught my attention with all its positive reviews and film festival awards. I ended up popping the 82-minute film into my dusty DVD player and was sucked in right from the opening scene. (You can watch it on YouTube). I loved this film and I'm sharing it with you since you probably have the same passion for travel as I do. It's about two friends who go on an around-the-world trip, highlighting all of their unexpected adventures and encounters. The purpose of their journey is to spread the cremated remains of their friend Paul along the way and their final destination is Thailand's famed Full Moon Party. I almost spit out my popcorn when they posed as writers for Frommer's guidebooks so they could score free accommodations. Too funny. Last Stop For Paul hits select theatres on March 7 but the DVD is for sale online for $19.95.



DELRAY BEACH
I've written about Delray Beach so many times that the only thing I'm going to mention is a new Italian restaurant I tried. Carolina's Coal Fired Pizza and Pasta (Tel: 561-278-1913) is on the corner of 7th Avenue and Atlantic and serves pretty tasty pizza. Obviously, nothing compares to New York or Naples! The best part about this place is that everyone who works there is ... get this ... Italian! What a concept. Also worth mentioning is that while I was at dinner, my buddy Pat Colaianni introduced me to his new line of anti-aging suncare products. The brand is Brazilian Bronze and they're definitely worth checking out!

SPIRIT AIRLINES
I thought the easiest way to get to Florida's Gulf Islands was to fly into Tampa (TPA) from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and drive 40 minutes south to Bradenton. To fly into the closer Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) cost more and requires a stop. So foolish me, I purchased a last-minute, one-way ticket on Spirit Airlines for $120. Spirit offers two flights a day and they are not only the cheapest but they're also the only airline flying a decent size plane (A319); the other airlines were using turbo props or regional jets. When I checked in online 24 hours in advance, I quickly became versed with Spirit's draconian baggage policy. They only allow one carry-on and they charge for any checked luggage: $10 per bag online or $20 at the airport. Yikes! Rarely do I ever check luggage because it adds way too much time to the trip. Nor do I want to risk having an airline lose my bag. As always, I tried to find a way around it. So before paying Spirit's baggage fee, I opened a new browser window and surfed on over to Yahoo's maps and directions service to search out an alternative route from FLL to TPA.

FLYING OR DRIVING TO TAMPA
It turns out that I didn't know Florida's geography as well as I thought I did. The trip to Tampa is just a four-hour drive and my ultimate destination was even closer. That means it would equal the same amount of travel time ... assuming the flight was on time and my bag came out as it was supposed to. Even though Spirit wouldn't refund my money (that's what I get for buying a non-refundable ticket), I decided to drive. It turned out I made the right choice ... finally! Not only did the Spirit flight end up being delayed 90 minutes (I checked later) but my buddy Kerry Morrissey from Ocean Properties offered to drive me up so that he could check in on one of their hotels in Longboat Key.

DELRAY BEACH TO SARASOTA
The drive to the Longboat Key Hilton Hotel was 244 miles from Delray and it took exactly three and a half hours. There are two ways to make the state crossing and we opted for the more exciting Alligator Alley. Alligator Alley is about 80 miles long and goes right across the lower portion of Florida through the Everglades. Alligator Alley is appropriately named as there really are a ton of alligators. I saw 10 and I was driving. Plus, there are deer and a bunch of other animals. I truly had no idea how much wildlife lives in the 1.5 million acres of the Everglades National Park. Did you know that there are over 50 distinct kinds of reptiles, 360 species of birds, 300 species of fish and 40 species of mammals? And that includes black bears and bobcats. Don't worry; these days it's all fenced in so you don't have to be too concerned about running into or over any of these creatures on the road. (FYI: The pictures of the animals were taken at the South Florida Museum. Sorry, I didnít have time to go on a photo safari this time!).

FREEZING IN FLORIDA
WEATHER UPDATE: I must have brought the freaky weather with me from Hawaii to Florida. We didn't have Hawaii's storms but rather an arctic chill. The week I was there, we experienced record low temperatures. I'm talking 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I was seriously freezing. But don't worry! Those temperatures are long gone and they probably won't be seen again until ... well, maybe the next time I return.

FLORIDA GULF COAST
The moment we reached the west coast of Florida, I felt like I was in a new country. Actually, an old country. It was as if I had stepped into a time machine and the dial was turned to the late '70s. You see, things are much different on the west coast. First of all, people have mullets. Just kidding! The coastline water changes from the Atlantic Ocean to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But primarily, it's because the land hasn't been built up as much and there's perhaps a fraction of the tourists. It's much slower, calmer here. Folks are on a different pace here, not frenzied like in Miami.

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Copyright 2008 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

British Columbia Story

 

Philippines Story

 

Gulf Florida Sand

 

Hawaii

 

Driving to HNL Airport

 

L.A. Times Travel Show

 

Carolina's

 

Carolina's Pizza

 

Spirit Airlines

 

Alligator Alley

 

Spot the Alligator?

 

Deer

 

Black Bears

 

Bobcats

 

Fenced In

HOUSEKEEPING

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