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From Chicago I took a 1pm flight from O'Hare and landed at LGA at 4pm.  I walked no more than 100 feet where I conveniently met my Dad and brother at the Spirit Airlines gate.  How nice was that?

We were going down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to visit my Uncle Einar who is really ill.  We were supposed to go two weeks before but, well, let’s just say I had a bad experience, so we had to postpone the trip.  Since, I don't like to be negative in my newsletters; I will put the long story about Travelocity on a separate page. Click here to read it .  

Well, we weren't going to let Travelocity bring us down or prevent us from supporting my Uncle. So, the following week I avoided the middle man and went right to Spirit Air (using of course) and booked us the tickets with cost coming out to $191 roundtrip.  Not bad for a one night, mid-week stay.  My brother, who is notorious for waiting to the last minute lived up to his reputation and bought a ticket the day before departure, for the same price! We were all set except we needed a car and hotel.  I logged onto Johnny Jet and booked a car through Hertz and a hotel through .  I found a four star Wyndham Hotel right on the beach for $55 a night.  Wow! I thought, but before, I booked it, I called the Hotel direct just to make sure it was "Wow deal". The best deal the hotel was offering was a room for $99, therefore, I clicked the purchase button and saved almost 50% through Johnny Jet!  Yeah baby, I love getting a bargain!

I called my Dad the day before to give him the itinerary and where to meet me (at the Spirit Airlines gate) and he said "Who ever heard of Spirit Air?"  I said "Dad, they are a good low fare airline".   He then asked "do they run on alcohol or fuel"?  Get it: Spirit Air... You need to know my Dad to laugh at his humor.  He said "It seems to be too good to be true, what's the downside?"  I said "That they fly old MD 80 's".  That didn't faze him, but it did me, because I prefer to be on a newer plane. 

Spirit recommends that passengers get to LGA 2-2.5 hours before your flight.  Off peak times, I don't believe it, but during the 5 O’clock rush hour (as I witnessed when we returned) that line was long, I mean really long!  I told my Dad and brother that our flight was thirty minutes before it actually departed because I knew they wouldn't listen to SpiritAir recommendations or me.  Since this was the last flight to Myrtle Beach, I didn't want to play the waiting game with my Dad.  They showed up with time to spare!  After my Dad found out what time the plane really departed, we had to give him a lecture so he wouldn’t go wandering off to buy Hot Dogs or books.

He didn't listen as usual, but we kept a watchful on him just to make sure he boarded the plane .  Spirit Air doesn't pre-assign seats so I wasn't sure we were going to sit together, but since the plane was only half full we all were able to sit in the same row and the emergency exit one to boot.  I know my Dad shouldn't have been in the emergency exit row because he can't hear too well, but Frank insisted that if something happened he would take care of my Dad, while I took care of the door.  Besides, the emergency exit has three times the amount of leg room as the regular rows and we're three big guys who really wanted to be comfortable.  It's actually a pretty funny story:  The flight attendant came by to give us the safety demonstration and get a verbal "yes" from each and everyone of us.  We thought we were all set because we prepped my Dad on what to say, but he still said "What?" to the flight Attendant.  Then Frank gave my Dad an elbow to the ribs and he replied "Okay, I'll take a coke".  The Flight Attendant asked him again and this time Frank hit him a little harder and he said "Yes, Yes I understand".  I just sat there shaking my head thinking even though this is a 24 hour trip; it could be a long one. 

The plane was filled with mostly golfers, who were all going down to hit the links for an off season bargain.  The one hour and twenty-eight minute flight went by quickly because my brother (as usual) shared some of his wisdom.  Frank is all about self improvement and he told us about James Patterson's lesson of 5 balls.  I thought it was really interesting, so I will share it with you. He said life is a game in which you are juggling 5 balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity.  They are all made of glass except one is rubber and you decide which one is the rubber one.  Remember they are constantly in the air and you can only afford to drop one. If you drop it, it will bounce back. If you drop one of the others, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shatter. Hopefully, you will understand that work is the rubber ball. The other four balls — family, health, friends and integrity — are made of glass.   And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life."  Pretty profound wouldn't you say?

We arrived in South Carolina excited to be somewhere warm, and new. Not to mention with a bit more wisdom.  It was too late to go visit my uncle so we went right to the Wyndham Hotel.   The hotel was twenty minutes away from MYR and not easy to find with all of the back roads.  As I said before, it's the off season down there and even though the weather was perfect, our hotel was quiet.  I think we saw only 10 guests the entire time.  The hotel was great, right on the beach, the elevators were quick and the service was just fine.  The only bummers were; no valet parking and the first room they gave us smelled like paint, but they moved us with no problem.

We asked the front desk where the locals go to eat and she directed us to Bimini's (pretty funny... Bimimi's sign says, "The locals eat here").  The food was good and the service was great but everyone in there smoked...must be a Carolina thing.   We took a drive down the main strip (Route 17) and we all agreed it looked like Vegas at night.    We were later told by a local that Myrtle Beach is indeed like Las Vegas because of all the neon signs, golf courses, and strip clubs. But instead of gambling, they have a beach.

Speaking of the beach, we woke up early and Frank, the drill sergeant he is made us workout .  We first hit the gym and then took a stroll down the beach where we found the sand to be nice and soft, but the water didn't look to enticing with its dark colors.   I guess we have been spoiled with South Florida's crystal blue water.  We walked along the shore and found some amazing sea shells , crabs and sand dollars.   On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the pool to see how it looked and if I had one word to describe it would be; inviting!  I just wish we had more time to spend lounging around but we had more important places to go and people to see.

My Uncle, who is a Korean War Veteran and the last of my Mom's siblings, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  It was real tough to walk into his hospital room and see my Uncle 50 pounds lighter and not even be able to sit up in his bed.  He's a good man, so please remember him and all of the other cancer patients suffering in your prayers tonight.  If you would like to donate to the American Cancer Society, click here .  

It was great that we were able to go down and visit him and to be able to take my Aunt Dorothy out to lunch.  We went to a fine restaurant called The River Town Bistro Grill  (1111 Third Avenue) in Conway.  My Dad has his ways of cheering people up and when he read his poetry over dessert he had everyone  laughing.  Speaking of dessert, this was by far the best Banana Chocolate Caramel Cream Pie on earth! Oh My Gosh, it's worth a trip to SC alone!

After such a nice meal, my Aunt showed us around historic Conway which is located about 15 minutes northeast of Myrtle Beach.  It's a nice town and I just love the look and feel of their southern homes .
After our quick tour we went back to say goodbye to my Uncle and tell him how much we loved him.  We were running late for our flight as usual, so we had to cruise to the airport.  We arrived at the airport 45 minutes before departure.  Luckily, the airport was empty because there probably would've been a long line to get in, because the police check everyone's trunk.  We dropped off the rental car which was conveniently located next to the airport and got to the gate just as they were boarding.  Of course my Dad says, "See! You don't need to be at the airport 2 hours early".  I just shook my head and said "You are so lucky!"  Upon landing we had a terrific view of the NYC skyline at sunset .  When my Dad asked me where I was going and I said "I have to go to NYC to work, then back to L.A."  My Dad who is Italian and not afraid to show his emotions began to tear up as he kissed me goodbye.  He's always cried whenever he would drop me off at the airport (I would get a bit emotional too).  That's definitely the worst part of traveling, saying goodbye. 

The taxi line at LGA was long, and it was cold out.  As I stood in line and watched from a distance my Dad and brother wait for their ride to Connecticut. I began to think about those damn balls.  As they were driving by me, I quickly jumped out of the line and jumped in the car with them.  Who needs to work?

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Surviving the Red-Eye By Ed Hewitt, The Independent Traveler 
A red-eye flight can be one of the most grueling travel experiences, even on shorter flights. Sleeping on a plane, especially in coach, is a little like staying awake during an Italian film festival, or standing still during a James Brown song. These tips for surviving a red-eye flight should help you weather a night aloft, and help you cope much better upon arrival at your destination.

It's The Sleep, Stupid
The secret to surviving a red-eye is simple: sleep. Despite all your machinations to prepare, adjust, recover, and merely endure before and after your flight, surviving the red-eye is mostly about catching maximum winks en route. Some folks can sleep anywhere, others are kept awake by a pea under 24 mattresses. It helps if you're not a princess when it comes to sleep, or if you arrive at the airport a little tired to start. Wake up early, exercise, and avoid naps on the day of your flight.

Request a Window Seat
A window seat is more conducive to sleep, since you can lean over against the interior wall of the plane without annoying fellow passengers. The head support helps avoid a strained neck upon waking up, and you have more control over the window shade so you can ration sunlight to your own ends.

Also, no one will have to wake you up to climb over you to get out of their seat. Note, however, that most window seats have slightly less legroom than other seats to accommodate the curve of the plane fuselage. In most cases, the tradeoff is worth it.

Request a Seat Near the Front of the Plane
Seats toward the front of the plane are quieter, and less sensitive to turbulence, than seats toward the rear of the plane.

Make Sure Your Seat Reclines
Some seats, especially near the emergency exit rows, do not recline. When you book your seats, or at check-in, ask the agent to make sure your seat reclines.

When Traveling with a Companion
If you're traveling with your spouse, child, other family member, or close friend, put the smaller of the two in the "middle" seat, the larger against the window. That way, if the smaller person wants to lean on the larger person, everyone's more comfortable.

Stake Out a Pillow and Blanket
Airline service absurdity # 134: There are never enough pillows and blankets to go around. Why airlines believe that a pillow per row is acceptable on a red-eye, I can't explain. It's bad enough that some seats don't recline, or that a middle-seat makes it all but impossible to sleep; to be forced to go without a pillow or blanket verges on abuse.

Look for a pillow and blanket in the overhead bins as you board the plane; if you can't find any, ask an attendant to get them for you.

Bring your own pillow (a good inflatable neck pillow is even more comfortable than they look). Also, bring a sweater as a stand-in for either a pillow or blanket in a pinch.

Fasten Your Seat Belt
A loosely fastened seat belt will prevent flight attendants from waking you up if the plane hits some turbulence. If you are wearing a blanket, consider buckling the seatbelt over your blanket so the attendants can see clearly that you are buckled in.

Lower the Window Shade
On an eastbound red-eye, you are traveling into the rising sun. At an elevation of 30,000 feet, light will be pouring in that window before you know it. Lower the shade, and leave it down.

A practical form of light therapy to beat jet lag is gaining proponents among researchers. The simple explanation is to expose yourself to light according to the time zone at your destination. So, on the classic west-east red-eye, you don't want any light until you arrive. On an east-west red-eye, you want light early in the trip, then as little as possible.

Fall Asleep Immediately After Takeoff
Don't wait for the meal, watch the movie, listen to the music programming, or even attempt to read (although some reading material can help you fall asleep if you're willing to put it down as soon as your eyes droop).

Also, cabin oxygen levels are low from the time you leave the gate until takeoff. This may make you feel sleepy; don't fight it.

Food and Drink
Eat on the schedule of your destination
This usually means a late meal on west-east trips, and no food until you arrive on east-west trips. Skip snacks or meals served at any other times, and sleep instead.

Eat lightly before the flight
This is a personal preference, but many fliers will find that a light meal, with no booze, will let your body reset itself more willingly come touchdown, and makes it easier to sleep on the plane. Your mileage may vary.

Additionally, as a rule, carbohydrates make you sleepy, proteins and fats keep you awake. Bananas and milk are especially effective sleep-inducers.

Alcohol and caffeine
If you're trying to sleep, neither alcohol nor caffeine help the cause. Avoid both.

Water helps the flier's cause in all cases. However, if you're trying to sleep, chugging a quart of water just before takeoff is going to require a mid-flight trip to the toilet. Moderation is the answer here; drink enough water to stay hydrated, but not so much that you're traipsing up and down the aisle of the plane all night.

Eating is not advised, (see above) but you should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. My approach is usually to brush my teeth, then head toward the gate, sit near a speaker or the agent, wrap my luggage handle around my wrist or ankle, and put my head back and try to sleep some more. You might ask a gate agent to make sure you don't sleep through the flight departure.

Skip the Movie
Most movies won't put you to sleep, but rather keep you awake. Pass on the headphones, and close your eyes.

Sleep Aids
An eye mask, inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs, and other devices can help the cause greatly. Don't worry about looking funny; bloodshot eyes at your morning meeting look much worse.

If you can fall asleep without the use of pharmaceutical sleep aids, you'll be much better off upon your arrival, as drugs can cause lingering drowsiness or sluggishness that make it hard for your body to reset its internal clock. Gentle aids, such as the motion sickness treatment Dramamine, can dramatically assist you in falling asleep, however, if you have serious difficulties sleeping on planes.

When You Arrive
Raise the window shade when the plane lands
On an east-west flight, that first burst of light will have you blinking hard and miserably, but it will help mightily to reset your internal clock. The last few minutes of shuteye aren't worth stumbling off the plane into an unfamiliar airport before you wake up.

Take stock of your carry-on items
A groggy, half-asleep traveler is much more likely to leave belongings on the plane. Check the back of the seat in front of you as the plane taxis to the gate. Check especially for important items such as your wallet or purse, connecting or return air tickets, identification, keys, and other similar essentials.

Reset your watch
You need to start living by your new time zone. Reset your watch before you get off the plane. In fact, I prefer to reset my watch immediately after I board the last leg of my itinerary, as arrival times are always published in the destination time zone, and I know how long to my destination if I wake up and check the time. This can permit me to grab a few extra precious minutes of sleep.

Begin your day with familiar routines
Rather than indulging your body's clock, live by your watch.

If it's 7AM after an eastbound flight, have breakfast, coffee, whatever you usually do at 7AM. Grab a newspaper if you typically read one every morning. You probably won't feel hungry yet, and the coffee might not go down as smoothly, but soon enough you'll be glad you're on schedule.

If it's 2AM after a westbound flight, head straight for your hotel or home and go to sleep.

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