We just returned from our first real vacation in more than two years, a visit family and friends in Arizona, mostly in the Tucson area (aka the sane part of the state).

Photos are coming soon but this rant is just a some random reflections on the travel experience.

The old saying goes “getting there is half the fun”. That’s certainly not true of flying. But to be fair, the airline service has been on a steep decline since way before the pandemic. The companies need to take a detailed look at their products and put in a lot of work to improve them when the world returns to something approaching normal.

Fortunately, we didn’t have any of the kind of obnoxious passengers who have received far too much visibility on social media. More than a few people still haven’t learned how to wear a mask properly but at least everyone was nice to the flight attendants. Those folks had hard jobs before the mess of the past couple of years.

Airports also still need a lot of work, but at least National is improving, with the new security setup (which opened the day we left) and elimination of the infamous Gate 35X. If you’ve ever been through DCA, you know what I’m talking about. Otherwise, never mind.

For this trip we gave ourselves the luxury of first class seats, although I’m really not convinced they’re worth the higher price. Greater distance from other passengers is nice, especially during this time of COVID, but I would rather spend the money on experiences at the destination.

I was surprised that we actually got a meal during the flight, so that part of the service is returning.1 But the big shock was that they gave us metal utensils to eat with. I thought those things were still banned as a consequence of 9/11.

Some budget airlines have started charging a fee for carry-on luggage, especially in Europe. I think they should all do it. Maybe it would discourage people from lugging near-full-size bags down the aisle (while juggling their “personal items”) and trying to force them into the overhead bins while holding up the boarding process for everyone else.

The rental car companies seem to have more than enough cars available after the reported shortages earlier in the year. What they lacked in Phoenix was people to distribute them. I’ve usually had a little wait to pick up a car but never a nearly two hour line.

Finally, slightly unrelated, I managed to stay entirely away from Twitter and other social media during the time we were gone, plus the few days after. It feels pretty good. I should take more sanity breaks like this even while at home.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting about the travel process. I’m already planning for, and looking forward to, more of these experiences in 2022.

For now, please keep your distance, continue with the masks a little longer, and by all means get your shots. Maybe we can finally bring this mess to an end early in the new year.

Some beautiful views of DC are possible when seating, heading, and weather are all well aligned, as they were for our takeoff from National (never the R word) Airport.

1. Not in the back of the plane, of course, where they got the usual packet of pretzels but still no alcohol.