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120x60 - Hotels JOHNNY JET'S
November 3, 2004
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    This website is handy for any world traveler. It provides free translation in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Russian. Now you can read foreign websites, emails, menus or whatever. Just type in a word or phrase -- or better yet, just cut and paste whatever you want translated and, voila! You'll be speaking and writing a foreign language before you know it. I love Johnny Jet.com! ĘģMe gusta Johnny Jet.com! J'aime Johnny Jet.com!, Ich liebe Johnny Jet.com!
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Greetings! Last week we flew from New Yorkís LaGuardia Airport on Song airlines. As is always the case with flying to South Florida, itís smart to price fares into Fort Lauderdale (airport code: FLL) as well as Miami. FLL is only 26 miles north of Miami International (MIA), and is a great alternate airport -- itís usually a lot cheaper and less hectic than flying into Miami. Another alternate airport is West Palm Beach (PBI), but thatís usually more expensive and is 70 miles north of MIA. Before I buy I always check alternate airports for departure and arrival cities, to see if the drive there is worth the savings. To find alternate airports in the U.S., click on AlternateAirports.com .

This was my second trip to Florida in October, and I was not even running for office. Instead of writing about those trips twice, Iíll combine the pictures and stories. I was in Florida both times to visit my sister Carolís family, who had moved there in late August. I know -- perfect timing for the move, huh? They were evacuated three times in three weeks because of hurricanes. Luckily, their neighborhood in Delray Beach did not sustain serious damage. The first time I visited was a week after Hurricane Jeanne. Plenty of cleanup was taking place -- mostly bush and tree removal -- and the weather was not great. The second time was this past weekend. I saw the kids trick or treating, and both the scenery and weather were much more desirable.

Delray Beach is 54 miles north of MIA, 33 miles north of FLL and 18 miles south of PBI. The first time I arrived in Fort Lauderdale, I took a taxi to my sisterís. She told me it would cost around $35, but I found out that was the price from PBI, not FLL. The taxi dispatcher told me the fare is more like $70. When he saw me wince, he said I could try to make a deal with the driver to not use the meter, and just do a flat rate. I did, and paid $60.

My sister and her husband Tom left Erie because they couldnít take any more harsh winters (I donít blame them). Theyíre now renting a pad while they try to find their dream house (my childhood neighbor, Todd Wilson, is their realtor). Their rental house is a sweet 4-bedroom, 5-bath place, with a pool the kids love. Itís right on the Intracoastal Waterway, so the kids have become quite the fishermen. They not only catch everything from minnows to barracudas; they also catch other wild things like lizards and crabs, using either a pool net or bare hands. My niece Amanda is not afraid of using her hands, but she wonít put bait on hooks, or take fish off when she catches them. Uncle Johnny gets stuck with those lovely jobs.

These past two trips I didnít go to the beach to swim. However, I did go to the beach to take a few pictures, and for some early-morning walks. The water was not its usual beautiful blue (the ocean floor is still settling from the storms), but the beach and water are still pretty to look at. Iíll never get tired of listening to the sound of the waves crashing, and the smell of the fresh ocean air.

We dined out a bunch of times. Here are some highlights. The first place we ate at was the Pineapple Grill. My sister says the food is usually better than the night we went, so Iíll give it another try and let you know. What was really different about this place was their prices. They were bizarre: Everything ended in a different number. Instead of listing the pear salad at $8, they charge $8.54. Why they add the cents, I donít know. Pineapple Grille: 800 Palm Trail, Delray Beach, FL; tel.: (561) 265-1368.

The best place we went was with my Uncle Joe and Diane (his other half). Paradisoís is about 20 minutes away in Lake Worth, and well worth the drive. My uncle knows the owners, who are originally from Positano (in Southern Italy, very close to where my grandparents grew up). The food at Paradisoís is very similar to my grandmotherís cooking, so you know itís good! Paradiso Restaurant: 625 Lucerne Ave, Lake Worth, FL; tel.: (561) 547-2500.

The most memorable was a place where Carol, the kids and I went on Halloween afternoon. While we were window shopping along Atlantic Avenue (the heart of Delray Beach, where people come from all over to shop and dine), the kids became hungry. Carol suggested Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, a greasy spoon place. We agreed the kids would love it, but I said I wasnít going to eat. I was not feeling well from all the Halloween candy I ate while carving pumpkins and decorating the golf cart (Iíll tell you about that in a minute).

After I ordered my child-size cheeseburger, my sister was talking to the waitress. Carol asked why there were Polaroid pictures of customers all over the wall, and how could we get our picture on it? The waitress said one of us had to eat their famous one-pound burger. At that moment I knew that Carol and/or the kids would egg me on. A second later, just as I imagined, Carol and the kids screamed, "Uncle Johnny, you have to do that!" I told them that if I was feeling hungry I could guarantee our picture would be on the wall, but not that day.

The waitress returned a few minutes later with Carolís chocolate peanut butter milk shake. Despite an upset stomach, I had to try it Ė I have no control for peanut butter OR chocolate. It was so good I ended up drinking most of it (make that "eating" most of it -- it was so thick I had to use a spoon instead of a straw). The waitress heard the kids and Carol trying to talk me into getting the giant burger, and said with a smile, "Itís not too late to change your order." I said, "Thanks, but Ö" Then I made the mistake of looking at the kidsí faces. They said, "Uncle Johnny, do it for us!" Uggh! I told them Iíd give it a shot, but not to be disappointed. The way they were carrying on, we had an audience around our table. I really didnít want to eat that thing, but somehow Uncle Johnny Jet found a way to pound that one-pounder. If you thought I wasnít feeling well before, imagine how I felt after swallowing that thing (along with a milk shake that was more like cake batter). I felt and looked as pregnant as a man could. Cheeseburger Cheeseburger: 450 E Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL; tel: (561) 265-1959

Back to the golf carts: Delray Beach is next to the town of Gulf Stream, a very upscale community where everyone cruises around in golf carts. On Halloween those golf carts are the centers of attention. Everyone decorates their carts, and takes their kids trick or treating. Many of Carol and Tomís friends live there. They decorated their carts too, and took the kids trick or treating. Golf carts are so popular during Halloween that a company actually rents them for 24 hours (for $112).

I must admit it was fun cruising around in a golf cart in balmy 75-degree weather. However, nothing beats trick or treating in New England. I still remember vividly those cool, crisp autumn nights I spent running up and down my street with a pillow case to hold my candy. To this day, the smell of a wood-burning fireplace and fresh fallen leaves brings me back there.

When the night was over the kids said they had their best Halloween ever, as they dragged their bag on the ground. When they were told to pick it up they said, "But itís too heavy to carry." Thatís when I knew the kids received way too much candy. Donít worry, though: Uncle Johnny Jet took care of lightening it up.

When Halloween was over, so was my trip to Florida. Both times I flew home to Los Angeles. However, I used two different airports and two different airlines. The first time was out of Miami on United; the second was out of Fort Lauderdale on Northwest.

Instead of spending over $100 on a taxi from Delray to MIA, or asking my sister for a ride, I found a convenient and inexpensive alternate transportation. The Tri-Rail is a double-decker train that travels from Miami to West Palm Beach. It stops at all the major towns along the way, including all three major airports (MIA, FLL, PBI). The best part is that it costs only $5 one way from Delray Beach to Miami, and takes an hour and a half. TIP: Make sure to buy your ticket before getting on, by using the machine in the station. Tickets cannot be purchased on board.

My flight was at 9:25 a.m. I said my goodbyes at 5:30 a.m. My brother-in-law Tom was nice enough to take me to the Delray Beach train station, so I could catch the 6:11 train to Miami. The train was comfortable, and everyone was very nice. I sat next to a man who informed me I couldnít put my luggage on the seats or even in the aisles, because the conductor would yell me to use the luggage racks. He was right. However, as a precautionary measure I didnít take my eyes off my bags. I wanted to make sure no one walked off with them. (NOTE: Passengers are allowed no more than three bags each). Miami Airport is the last station, about a half a mile outside the airport. A free bus shuttle travels from the station to the airport. It left two minutes after we arrived. It took four minutes to get to the airport. The entire trip from Delray Beach was $5 well spent.

If youíre planning a trip to South Florida (or Orlando), you can find great deals right now. However, high season starts December 15th, so hurry. Tourism is nearly back to normal following the hurricanes, but it canít hurt to call your hotel directly before booking just to make sure everything is A-okay.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet
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  • I've been reading your website now for a few months and I have to say I just LOVE it! You're very interesting to read and the pictures are great. Since I work for one of the "legacy carriers" my perspective is a bit different than your other readers, but just like everyone else out there who loves to travel, I'm always looking for a deal! Keep up the great work! I'll be reading!! Amanda:) - St. Paul, MN
  • I saw you on WTTW on the 27th. Have put your website on my favorites and advised my 4 kids to do the same and also some traveling friends. Will book my fun trips with you. Thanks Charles K - Chicago
  • Glad you liked Song. I, too, enjoy flying them, although my overall opinion of the airline isn't as rosy as yours. That's because Song's low-fare image is a total farce. On airport city pairs where Song competes directly with JetBlue, they indeed price their flights to compete with JetBlue. In other cities, however, Song's prices are simply the old-world (i.e., Delta) formula for charging highest they can get away with. Case in point: Newark. There are no true low-fare carriers flying nonstop from Newark to Florida. With little competition, Continental dominates this market and sets appropriately high monopoly fares (typically $250 and up for a round trip). If Song truly were a low fare carrier, they would price their flights as JetBlue does, and win loads of customers in Newark. Instead, Song sets their prices out of Newark at exactly Continental's (high) fares. As a result Song can only sustain 2 flights per day there, and it looks like those plane are rarely full. I fly to Florida often. And even though I live only 20 minutes from Newark, I drive right by the airport every time and go an hour further to JFK where I can fly for half the fare on JetBlue or Song. So even though Song's planes are new and their entertainment system is cool, in the end Song is really just Delta. Their fares out of LGA and JFK are low not because Song is new and innovative, but only because JetBlue is there. Look at American and US Air's nonstop fares from NYC to Florida. They're just as low as Song's fares. If the majors (including Song) truly want to compete with JetBlue, they're going to have to lower their costs overall so that they can offer competitive fares on all their routes, not just the ones on which they compete with JetBlue.
  • Re your "Song" newsletter, I liked it! It was folksy and interesting, not just raw data. Any account based on real-life experience tells as much as any brochure, maybe more. Cheers, Steve C - Montreal
  • This is the first newsletter I've read and - quite frankly - being a Connecticut resident, I was disappointed. I thought you were going to cover our airports and offer some travel hints for Connecticut residents, other than LaGuardia Airport. Susan G - Connecticut. REPLY: Johnny wrote about Connecticut last week
  • Was curious with your expertise what's the farthest one could fly between any two "official" Airports. For Example, JFK - CPT? JFK-SIN? I have been trying to use the Great Circle Mapper to get the farthest two airports. Thanks, DAVID. REPLY: Johnny took the inaugural of the world's longest flight this year- SIN-EWR. Here's the story
  • How did you get upgraded to first LAX-JFK, Johnny As a 1K million miler, I always get upgraded to business, but never first. T - Los Angeles
  • I've enjoyed reading about your trips since I've been a subscriber to your website for the past year. Have you gone to Alaska? We plan to go next April or May. Any hints or advice? Paula N - Cumming, GA REPLY: Thanks for the kind words and support! I have been to Alaska a bunch of times check out our newsletter archive
  • I happen to come across the page dedicated to your mom. Your dad's poem about her was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Meaghan - Chicago
  • I don't much care for offering free advise, but as a very frequent flyer I have been reading your newsletter for I guess a couple of years now and you are asking for feedback. Without anything more than the newsletter to go by, I have only these few simple words of advise: Go get Amber back. Free advise, and worth every cent. George from Boston

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Don't fly into Florence airport directly- it's really really expensive. You can fly into Pisa and Bologna for much cheaper prices, and they're only 45-1 1/2 hrs. away by train.
Joe - Alaska

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