The Missed Connection

It happens. If you travel, every now and again, you’re going to miss your connecting flight, and yesterday, my number was up! A cheap airport hotel in Atlanta and a little travel humor :-).

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
Missed Connection and an Overnight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.

It happens.

If you travel, every now and again, you’re going to miss your connecting flight, and yesterday, my number was up!

I was headed home from an anniversary party in Ohio, and the Delta flight to Atlanta was late arriving to the Akron-Canton airport. We were due to leave at 5:59 p.m., and I was at an itty-bitty concourse bar having a burger and a drink. The bartender knew about the delay first — we were set back to 7:00.

I looked at my watch, then my boarding pass. I was still good — I never fly through Atlanta with less than a two hour layover.

USA-drinking-team-tshirt
If you feel the need to join Team U*S*A, Drinking Division, here is their official t-shirt. I’m warning you though. If your silver-headed team mate from Detroit finds you, you may never get away!

The group at the bar was fine and companionable until an old woman walked up sporting a USA Drinking Team shirt. It was evident this team member had been training hard earlier in the day. Her speech was slurred and she was loud.

I finished my supper, paid my tab, and headed for the gate — the drunk’s voice seeming to go up another few decibels.

I felt sorry for the person who’d soon be shut up on a plane next to her. Thank god Team USA was heading to Detroit, not Atlanta, and her flight was on time.

When I took a seat at Gate 5, the Delta agent announced our flight time was pushed back to 7:42. That was it — we’d hit no-go. I wasn’t going to make the Houston flight.

Here’s where you have a decision point as a passenger. Re-book yourself now and find a hotel, or wait until you miss the connection and stand in line with everyone else to do the same thing — with fewer seat options. I chose now, no line, and an earlier bedtime. The Delta agent at Akron-Canton got me on a 8:00 a.m. Atlanta-to-Houston flight the next morning, and I got on Expedia to find a room near the Atlanta airport — figuring I’d see whether I could get a room credit from Delta the next day. One way or the other, I was not sleeping in the airport.

With this in mind, I looked at the options. There were everything from flea-bag motels, to Hyatt and Westin, to a Renaissance Hotel on the tarmac in Atlanta with mixed reviews and a high price tag. I went cheap/middle — the Red Lion for $104 — they had a restaurant, an airport shuttle, clean but basic rooms, and good reviews.

By the time our flight was finally wheels-up, it was after 8:00 p.m., and I was feeling self-satisfied about my decision.

I make it to my Atlanta Airport Red Lion hotel room — clean, very comfy bed, but thin walls, and my neighbor’s television is blaring. I settle in to do email and a little social media.

Blam, blam, blam — on my neighbor’s door. She is not pleased. “F*@k you, Tyrone! You go back to your room! I don’t wanna see your ugly f*@+**g face again tonight!”

It’s eleven o’clock. I sigh. Tyrone leaves.

I edit a few photographs, do a little writing, and finally turn off the light around midnight. Thirty minutes later, another loud knocking out in the hallway.

“I done tol’ you, I don’t wanna see your face again . . . go AWAY!”

I look at the clock and consider calling the desk. And I’m thinking, “F*@k you, Tyrone. GO to BED!”

Yeah, the $104 hotel was a mistake, but there’s no whining on Team Fisher.

That wake up call to make the 8:00 a.m. flight came mighty early, but I was on it.

Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.
Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Do Airlines Have to Pay for a Hotel If I Miss a Connecting Flight?

The answer to that question is NO.

I did get $100 credit for use on a future flight with Delta. When I called the following day, the agent put me on hold, researched the reason for the delay of my flight, and then issued the credit to my Delta Skymiles account.

Be aware that airlines are NOT REQUIRED to cover hotel expenses AT ALL, even when a delayed flight/missed connection is considered their company’s fault. 

D.O.T. (Department of Transportation): 

  • Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting in the airport terminal.
  • There are no Federal requirements regarding these amenities or services.  If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or phone calls.  Some airlines may not offer amenities if bad weather or something else beyond the airline’s control causes the delay. — from the D.O.T. web site

You must refer to a specific airline’s contract for carriage (also called conditions of carriage) for accurate information concerning what that company will do in the event of a flight delay. Policies vary widely. Delta’s domestic contract for carriage is over fifty pages long. You might want to read your airline’s contract — so that you understand exactly what their policies are.

Links to Airline Contracts of Carriage
Alaska American
Air France Alitalia
British Airways  Delta
Frontier  JetBlue
Iberia  KLM
Luftansa  Qantas
Southwest  Spirit
United  Virgin Atlantic
Minute Suites in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Minute Suites in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. An option when you want to crash for a couple of hours.

Parting Thoughts

Stuck in the airport, but not long enough to get a hotel?

I did see an interesting option at the Atlanta airport on my way to Ohio called Minute Suites: The Traveler’s Retreat. At Minute Suites, you can rent a room with a daybed, a pillow, and a desk for as little as an hour. I was intrigued, and stopped to chat with the man at the desk. Currently, Minute Suites are only in three airports: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Fort Worth, but they are expanding to others.

This is not an inexpensive option, as you’ll see if you click through to the Minute Suites website (Minute Suites Pricing). The first hour will run you $42, and then another $10.50 for each fifteen minute increment. Eight hours? That’ll be $160, please.

My $104 overnight at the Red Lion, even with soundtrack by Tyrone and Friends, is looking like a bargain. After all, I did get about 5 hours of quiet sleep, once the ruckus was over :-).

But you know, when you’re dead tired, and you only have a couple of hours — a solid nap can be priceless . . .

John Drew Wins Summer Luggage Drawing

John’s Travelpro suitcase arrived at his home last week. Thank you for subscribing to my blog!

Congratulations to John Drew, winner of my Summer Giveaway!

As a thank-you to my followers, in April I announced a second quarter drawing for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase, and I conducted the drawing on July 9, using a random number generator, and notified John Drew that he had won. Amazon delivered his Travelpro spinner last week.

John is a voice actor, and you’ll find his website, JohnDrew.com, an interesting look the kinds of projects he’s worked on — like playing Edward Abbey in the animated film, Line in the Sand.

I’ll do another giveaway in the fall — a piece of luggage again, since it’s a gift that works well for anyone who travels.

What do you need to do to be included in the next luggage drawing?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me. I typically publish posts four times a month, so you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

When I emailed John, he wrote back saying — “I didn’t know I was entered in anything. What a nice surprise!”

 

A big thank you to all of my email subscribers!

 

 

Our African Safari in Zambia

Male Leopard in South Luangwa National Park.
Male leopard in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. We spent more than an hour one morning with him and his mate. We were the only people there. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

So, you want to go on safari in Africa. But where?

To say that the continent is vast is a gross understatement. Africa holds more than 20 percent of the Earth’s total land mass. Only Asia outstrips it in size, at 30 percent. In comparison, North America is third, with 16 percent, while Europe is sixth, with just under 7 percent of the world’s land.

Kenya, the Serengeti, the Masai Mara, Mount Kilamanjaro, and Victoria Falls rate as some best-known parts of the continent, but it also makes them some of the most heavily traveled.

I knew one thing.

I did NOT want to spend the money to go to Africa and feel like I was on some domestic game drive in the United States.

ten vehicles and tourists follow a lion in Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania.
Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania. A herd of cars and tourists follow a lion. This is NOT WHAT I WANTED! Photograph from Shutterstock.

Choosing Zambia and Robin Pope Safaris

I was fortunate to know a couple who have traveled many, many times to multiple parts of Africa. Bob and Andrea both recommended we look at Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia for our first trip. I’d subscribed to Robin Pope’s It’s Monday Newsletter several years ago, and have been regularly entertained with their photographs and stories.

Getting our business wasn’t a slam dunk for Robin Pope though — whenever I go someplace new, I do a LOT of research.

Yellow baboon mother and baby near a lagoon, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
Yellow baboon mother and baby spend the late afternoon with their troop near a lagoon. Photograph, Ann Fisher

When my sister and I started discussing this safari trip we did homework on Abercrombie and Kent, Tauck, Smithsonian Journeys, National Geographic travel, and several African safari operators, one of which was Robin Pope. We read about Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zambia.

In the end, we chose to book with Robin Pope based on the kind of experience we wanted to have: high end, very small and personal groups, and the kinds of animals we were likely to see — and — for what we found to be competitive price, based on the level of service and accommodations.

If you are thinking about a safari, I’d recommend the same process. Do some reading, watch documentaries of different parts of Africa, make a list of animals that are must-sees for you, choose several potential countries that match your desires, and then dig into the range of tours that are out there. Decide on your budget and trip length. See what fits with your budget and your priorities — and as we all know, this is a very individual thing. Several of our camp hosts also recommended reading the web forum Safari Talk as a much better place to read safari reviews than Trip Advisor.

If you’re looking for the best safari companies in Africa, it’s not unusual that Americans look for either American or at least European tour companies, just out of a sense of comfort. The reality, though, is that you’re going to find the best safaris through local operators — and that’s what the big companies are doing. They put together experiences with local companies, repackage them, and charge you a higher price.

This blog article is the second post of a five part series on our experience on safari in Zambia, and I shall do my best to give you a complete overview of our trip. The first part of the series was Preparing for an African Safari.

Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa. Once a colony of the United Kingdom known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia gained its independence in 1964. Image: Harve Pino, 123RF Stock Photos.

Our Safari Itinerary

Robin Pope  has a list of standard safari packages that should please a wide range of plans. You’ll find thirty-five different options that give lots of combinations — time in the South Luangwa National Park, visits to Victoria Falls, combination safari-beach getaways, and special focuses like honeymoon or family-oriented safaris. They put together a custom itinerary for us. We decided we wanted to stay in the South Luangwa National Park for our entire trip — to focus completely on maximum time with the animals there.

Our itinerary:

The RPS camps each have an outstanding video that will give you a very accurate view of the feel of that camp. You’ll find it on the right on each camp page — see the red arrow.



Our first camp — Tena Tena

Our first home in Zambia was Tena Tena, the flagship camp of the Robin Pope company. Roughly translated, it means “temporary home.”

We arrived around 7:00 p.m. from the small airport in Mfuwe, and were greeted  by our camp hostess, Shannon, with warm cloths to clean off the dust from the road. We stopped at our tents before heading to the bar for a drink and orientation. Of course, it was completely dark. June is winter in Zambia, and the sun goes down around 5:20. We saw our tent-rooms by lamp-light and then one of the night watchmen walked us over to the bar.

Your home at Tena Tena. Photo courtesy of Robin Pope.
Your home at Tena Tena. Photo courtesy of Robin Pope.

Daily Schedule:

  • 5:30 a.m. Wake up knock at your tent flap 🙂
  • 5:45 a.m. Breakfast
  • 6:15 – 6:30 – Leave for morning game drive
  • 8:30 – 8:45 – Stop for morning tea
  • 10:30 Arrive back in camp
  • 11:30 a.m. Lunch
  • Siesta
  • 3:30 p.m. Tea
  • 4:00 p.m. Afternoon game drive
  • Stop at a beautiful location, enjoy sundowners
  • Night game drive
  • Arrive back in camp in time to freshen up, normally 7:15 – 7:30, and go for a drink
  • 8:00 p.m. Dinner

Tena is on the banks of the Luangwa River in an area with multiple hippo pods — and man, do they talk!

When we first arrived, there were so many LOUD noises. We were exhausted from two days of traveling, it was dark, and we were constantly thinking, “what is that?!” and “What was THAT??” The night was full of hippo calls, and then came the lion later, not long after we’d gone to bed.

Hippo Vocalization – hit play!

Frog in the Tena Tena bathroom
This little frog shared our bathroom at Tena Tena. Photograph, Ann Fisher

After one day, we were used to it, and the sounds became a normal part of life, no longer alarming.

We loved our tented homes at Tena Tena. The bathrooms are outdoors, surrounded by a wall that varies in height, and covered by a draped mesh top. There is a lot of space between the tents, and the brush around you creates plenty of privacy. You will have a few bathroom visitors: tree frogs and a preying mantis came to see us.

There are only six tents, which means that the camp has a maximum capacity of 12 people. Small, private, and personal are all good words to describe Tena Tena.

Bathrooms at Robin Pope Safaris Tena Tena camp
My sister, god bless her, captured the bathroom at Tena — wonderful experience, private, yet outdoors. You do need to be okay with a few visitors! You’re looking out of the tent at the sink area, then you can see the sink and the edge of the tent, and then the toilet. The shower is out there, of course, as well. Photographs, Carolyn Fisher.

The design work at Tena is stunning. Natural wood, bark intact, edges the undulating plaster walls. Fabric for bed covers and cushions is cotton or wool in natural colors of dusty greens, greys, creams accented with bright splashes of burnt orange or blue for contrast.

Each afternoon, guests gathered at the bar for tea before heading out on the afternoon game drive. Don’t worry coffee drinkers — which would be me! There’s plenty of good French press coffee as well! As we visited with other guests, our guides would prepare the kit for the game drive: the all important question, “What would you like for sundowners?”

My sister Carolyn and daughter Cat enjoy a cup of coffee before heading out on the afternoon game drive. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Stopping for mid-morning tea (or coffee) break. The Toyota Landcruisers used for the game drives were tough but comfortable.

If you have four people in your group, you will always have your own vehicle. There were three of us in our party, and over twelve days, we had other people join us on just four game drives. Almost all of the RPS game drive vehicles are roofless Toyota Landcruisers. The seats are comfortable, and always covered with a clean fleece blanket. Roofless vehicles — this is VERY important. No photographer wants to have a vehicle roof screwing up shots.

Animals that we saw on the Tena game drives: Many, many impala, puku, elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, hyena, several types of mongoose, African water buffalo. So many different kinds of birds, I can’t list them all! Big cats: Lion — two evening sightings, and leopard — both by day and at night — this was in just two days of drives at Tena Tena. Over the whole twelve day trip, we saw lions and leopards many times over!

And the biggest thing of all, the most important thing to me, is what we didn’t see. We didn’t see many people, at all. It started in Africa for us: we have fallen in love with safaris — hopelessly, amazingly.

I’ll end here with a video overview of our time at Tena Tena. It was magical!

Nsefu pride of lions on a night game drive from the camp at Tena Tena. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
On one of our night game drives at Tena Tena, we ran across six members of the Nsefu pride of lions. Amazing to be so close to these mighty cats! Photograph, Ann Fisher

This is the first in a multi-article series on our safari in Zambia. Find the second part, Walking Safari: Day One, here: