It all started with a deal on a ticket to Vancouver that I posted about here, in February. I had never been to Vancouver but many of my friends and co-workers who had told me I should visit, and that they thought I would like it. I bought a ticket, and here’s my trip report for a visit in April 2016.
I made an early morning drive to the Orlando airport because this is where the cheap ticket was available. I typically check fares from Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Jacksonville, Florida. Some of my fare alerts are generated by AirfareWatchdog, which is an advertising affiliate of this blog.
In Orlando I use an off airport parking lot that is equipped with EV chargers. My car is usually re-charged before my flight leaves, if I arrive more than 2 hours prior to departure. In this case the Chargepoint app on my phone shows charging beginning and then dropping to a very low rate.
This early in the morning the airport isn’t too busy. I think it’s because many families don’t book 6:00 AM departures. After clearing security, I stopped into the Orlando airport Delta Skyclub and had a Bloody Mary while waiting for boarding. If you fly enough miles as a frequent flyer with an airline, they may grant you access to their clubs on international flights. You might also receive access via a credit card as one of the benefits for the annual fee.
They are using Ballast Point Bloody Mary mixer now with Stoli as the complementary vodka. I liked this spicy mix. You can see that I was travelling with just a small Briggs and Riley roll aboard and a small Swiss Army pack. That’s my default travel luggage combo when I don’t have to take suits or a notebook with me. I’ll even use that for trips over a week as long as I have some way of washing clothes while I’m away. Not checking bags and having easy to move and store carry on luggage is liberating.
I’ve used a variety of travel software to help me, and although I still use TripIt I am really find of how well Google Now works on my Android and Androidwear devices. By forwarding mobile boarding passes to my Gmail address, Google Now can automatically create reminders and a Google Now card. The screen below showed up on my phone and tablet, and reminder messages also popped up on my smartwatch.
I cover technology in more depth on my Technology Blog, but mentioned this here as it is travel specific.
I flew from MCO to SEA on a updated Delta 757-200 which is an older twin engine jet that in this case had been updated with some new interior lighting, entertainment systems, and additional coach seats forward of the 2nd door. I had aisle seat just behind the coach forward lavatory which meant great legroom with an occasional whiff of whatever they use in waste storage tanks. My seatmate was from Denmark and when he spoke it sounded like Dutch to me. I bought a GoGo smartphone pass for on board WiFi for 24 hours for $8 which worked well for my stock market monitoring and checking email. The pass to do the same thing on my tablet or a notebook costs twice as much. This lower cost option can be hard to find. I had to go to the GoGo website and log into my account, and then select “all passes” in order to see and purchase it.
The Seattle Delta Skyclub in the terminal of my arrival and departure was crowded. There was a line to check in and line to use the bathroom.
I was upgraded for flight to YVR on smaller regional jet. My carry on bag fit in the overhead. It was a short flight and GoGo Inflight worked well. After landing in Vancouver there was a long walk to the Immigration hall, followed by a long line. Eventually I used a kiosk and then was only asked where I flew in from by a person as a final check. No stamp was placed into my passport.
My Google Nexus 6 smartphone took a while to find a signal. I wrote a blog entry on my Technology focused blog about roaming with Google Project Fi service in Vancouver B.C. You can read about it here.
I went to train platform and got a Compass card with a day pass for the Vancouver train system. I used a credit card in an automated machine to purchase and place credit on this card. The train station was at the airport and it was easy to do.
I took the train from the airport into Vancouver to the Yaletown stop. I must admit the 1 kilometer walk to my hotel was all uphill and it kicked my out of shape ass. I like that my smartphone and smartwatch are tracking my activity and that I can look at Google Fit or their displays to see how many steps or miles I have walked in a day. When I travel, my activity numbers shoot way up compared to an average day sitting in front of my computer at home.
I found a nice non-corporate hotel to stay in for this trip called The Burrard. I found it on Expedia and that’s where I also booked it. I checked into The Burrard around 2 pm with no problems and then unpacked in the room. I wrote a post about the technology in my guest room over at my technology focused blog. You can read about it here.
The hotel’s free WiFi worked great and I used Google Maps to search for places to walk, visit, eat, and drink. One day I went to Joe’s Grill for breakfast and it was very good. This place had a high review rating on Google and it deserves it. I got there before the morning rush, I think since I was on east coast time.
You know a it’s a good place to eat when a bunch of cops meet there to eat and drink coffee. There were also a lot of other customers but you have to figure these guys are locals, and could take a meal break at any number of places, but they pick this one.
After walking during the day I’d usually end up at a place called Scores on Davie for drinks. They have good beers and mixed drinks at Scores on Davie. I had also used Google search and ratings to identify this as a place I might want to visit for beer and was not disappointed.
I got a to go pizza from Megabite on the way back to the hotel one evening. I was not familiar with this pizza chain but the toasted sesame seeds they use on their crust and the rest of the pizza’s toppings was pretty good and also pretty cheap.
It was overcast and threatening to rain most of the time I was in Vancouver. Of course the sun was predicted to be coming out after I left town. At least the USD to CAD exchange rate was in my favor.
I went out for brunch and stopped at Korean BBQ place called Ribs that I just happened to see. I love Korean BBQ and this was a no brainer for me to pick.
I had a really good meal. I liked that I was able to get a lunch sized portion of ribs and not be too full. I could have easily eaten a full size meal of these and gone back to the hotel to just sit around, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
I walked back over to Scores on Davie to return an umbrella they let me borrow the day prior, and then had some mixed drinks and beers.
I tried a Bloody Caesar for the first time. It’s a Canadian twist on a Bloody Mary. They use Celery Salt on the rim and there’s some Clamato juice in the mix. They also make them with a bunch of fried foods on top.
Some folks next to me were celebrating a birthday and started with some shots. It’s a sports bar kind of place that also does a pretty good business selling food for brunch, lunch, and late night.
I found a listing for Peppered Oysters at the Banana Leaf restaurant on the way back to my hotel and thought I’d go back later for dinner but it turned out that I didn’t get a chance. That’s on my list of things to do the next time I return to Vancouver. Instead I bought a 6 pack of beer at the state store. Alexander Keith’s ISB or something and I must say that I was very UNimpressed.
I spent some time in my room working on blog updates using a small portable Bluetooth keyboard which I’m going to review soon enough on my technology blog. I’m really keen on not taking a notebook along when I travel but being able to use a tablet for everything I want to do, including things that require a good bit of typing. On my last day’s morning, I found that it was easy to check out of the hotel and walk down hill to the train station.
I used my credit card to put $10 CAD onto my transit card, the smallest amount possible. Fare to airport was only 1 zone instead of 2 due to the weekend. Ending balance after ride was $7.xx. I have a mass transit card which I paid $6 CAD for and a balance left on it. That’s enough of a reason (and the oysters I missed eating) to return to Vancouver again, isn’t it?
When you have troubles checking in online, it might mean that you have been selected for extra security screening. Don’t try to apply reason here because the airline computers aren’t using it when selecting people for the “SSSS” status in most cases. Babies get selected along with grandmothers and other folks like me.
I got an SSSS indicated boarding pass for my first flight, from Vancouver to Seattle. I’m a trusted traveler which means my bio-metrics are on file, and I have passed some form of a background check and interview. I was able to use the Nexus/Global Entry lines to skip a lot of people that were waiting in the security queue but once I got to the front, I still had to get swabbed, patted down, and my luggage searched. After security I went through the US CBP pre-clearance facility and had no issue using the Global Entry kiosk to skip those lines. This is one of those places where you sort of “re-enter the US at the airport while still in Canada”. It works almost the same as a re-entry in a US airport, except by doing this in Canada, your plane can arrive at any domestic gate in the US since you are pre-screened and isolated from the rest of the airport before you board your flight.
There was no Delta Skyclub in YVR but I stopped at the Priority Pass club which I was granted access to due to my AMEX Platinum card. It’s food offerings included Sweet and Sour Pork with Garlic Rice which was actually OK. I had a little of that prior to my flight back to the US.
The flight from YVR to SEA was short and uneventful. I used my Gopro Hero 4 Session to take some video when taking off from the Vancouver airport and climbing out. It’s pretty much raw footage with ambient sound and the first time I’ve used this camera this way.
Once I was back in Seattle I saw that the Delta Skyclub locations in the airport were no where near the gate of my departing flight. There was a United Club and a Priority Pass club that were in terminal A but I walked over to terminal B where my next flight was due to depart from. Boy was I glad that I did.
I went into the new American Express Centurion Studio which is an more exclusive airline club for Black and Platinum AMEX cardholders. Folks with other kinds of AMEX cards can also purchase admission for the day. It was sort of small and didn’t have a full sized buffet when you compare it to the other Centurion Clubs around the world but otherwise it was nice and close to my gates. I hung out here for a couple of hours until my red eye flight back to Orlando was ready to board.
I was fortunate again and I got an upgrade on the flight. I settled into my First Class seat and tried to doze off during the overnight flight, without much luck. My arrival back into Orlando was at about 5 AM in the morning, which was great timing to allow me to get on the road and back home before the morning I-4 commute got busy.
I had a great time on this trip and would definitely recommend Vancouver as a good place to take a trip to visit. My flights with Delta airlines went well, and my frequent flyer status paid off with 3 out of my 4 flights being upgraded to First Class despite the fact that I purchased an inexpensive ticket. I would stay at the Burrard Hotel again if my plans took me to that part of the city again. All in all this was a really nice trip for me.
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