That’s me, all over.

Suitcase of doom © by BryanAlexander

Getting to Anchorage was an episode of “Revenge of the buddy pass.” Between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. I was bumped from every single flight. Fortunately I didn’t collect the whole set, i.e., I got a seat on the last plane of the day, at 11:45 p.m.

Fortunately that wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

Sure, I left my apartment at 8 a.m. and spent the next 11 hours trotting from gate to gate. But a couple of dozen other people – other “non-revenue passengers,” each hoping for a cheap seat – trotted along with me. It got funnier and funnier as we were bounced from flight to flight, the sort of exhausted hilarity of finals week.

I had bagels, an apple and other snacks with me, although I eventually had to spring for dinner (teriyaki chicken, rice and salad for $10). I even found an airport rarity: a refillable soft drink. Thus an excess of caffeine might have made the experience giddier than it might otherwise have been.

I was surprised the flights were so full, since tourist season doesn’t usually start until mid- to late May. One of the gate agents said it’s been that hectic for the past two weeks. Maybe they weren’t tourons, but rather optimistic folks who’d heard about Anchorage’s unemployment rate (lower than the national average).

Paying about $120 round-trip was quite the deal, given that the current price is just under $800. That said, the next time I want to travel anywhere close to tourist season I’ll just buy a regular ticket. Even though I got a fair amount of work done, and even came up with another topic for my MSN Money gig, I’d like to avoid spending so much time at the airport.

More from elsewhere

Last month at Get Rich Slowly I explained “Why it’s okay to buy a Mega Millions ticket (even after you’ve done the math).” Judging from the comments, a lot of people agree – which, frankly, surprised me. I expected to be told I was paying the Stupid Tax.

Then I took a two-week hiatus from writing for GRS, in part due to extreme busyness and in part because my new contract specifies 24 columns a year vs. biweekly ones. Today, I’m back: “How to do a wallet audit,” advice on reducing the impact of street crime (or even a lost billfold).

Also on the topic of busyness: I did another short piece for the Daily Worth site. “Be ready for the worst-case scenario” asks what you’d do if the first thing the boss said to you tomorrow were, “Clean out your desk.”

Any ideas?

If not, read the above to learn how to stage your very own financial fire drill, i.e., to learn exactly how much you need to live on until times are better. Or, rather, how little you can manage on if necessary.

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  1. Wendy

    A lot of the college kids at WSU and the University of Idaho are getting out of school these past two weeks. They have a lot of Alaska transplants due to the WUE program. You may have been hitting the mass exodus.

    • admin

      @Wendy: Hmmm….Most of the travelers didn’t look young but maybe they were non-traditional students. I bet some of them were.

  2. I am glad that you made it and that you even got a caffeine-giggle out of it.

  3. Heather

    As the child of a Delta Employee (32 year old “non dependent” child) I dont use my passes anymore. Its just too much troubleThe airlines have cut capacity so much that all flights are full. Domestic travel is essentially impossible on a buddy pass these days if you have a traditional office job with limited days off. International used to be possible on a buddy pass-actually quite easy. Even that has changed. I missed out on a trip to Switzerland last month. (and my father has 33 years seniority) Its WONDERFUL when it works and miserable when it doesnt. They typically call them “enemy” passes now.

    • admin

      @Heather: Which is another reason I keep freelancing — the ability to work from wherever I am, including an airport. (Yay, free wi-fi at SeaTac!)
      And if you’re not using your enemy passes, can I have them???
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  4. I really enjoyed your “wallet audit” article – great idea. And moose are amazing – they’re huge, but they’re just so darned cute too!

    • admin

      @Ellen: They’re darned cute, but they pack a mean wallop. I stay as clear as possible. This one walked out of a small wooded area when I was about 30 feet away. I crossed to the other side of the road, planning to stand behind a lamppost. The moose started to cross, too. When it was nearly done, I went back to my original side of the street.
      Its hackles weren’t up and its ears weren’t back, so I figured it was just an “Oops, sorry, didn’t see you there” moment.
      Could be worse: My great-nephew’s class is doing a three-day nature “intensive” at a scout camp and at least one grizzly has been sighted. Whee!
      Yesterday I got an e-mail from my niece

  5. karla

    Hearing about your adventures with moose cheer me up. I think all of us love your time in Alaska.

  6. Carol

    “….moose…(are) just so improbable.” Once more, your writing tickles my funnybone. Thanks for the LOL moment.

    • admin

      @Carol: If you’ve ever seen alces alces up close, you know that “improbable” is pretty accurate.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  7. A good friend listed me on his ‘buddy’ list for years. In general, it worked well — except for one hellish trip, when I was stuck in Chicago for two days. Stayed all day, and when the airport closed, luckily got asked to share a hotel room with one of the airline employees. There were two others stuck in this position — I got the floor, another girl got a mattress, and the third actually got a bed. Bless that kind hotel employee…
    After waiting all day the second day, I finally gave up and bought a ticket on another airline. Because I actually wanted to sleep in my own bed, instead of an airport floor. Or hoping that some airport employee would take pity on me again.
    That whole experience pretty much soured me on using the buddy pass too much.

  8. I love the new look of your blog! (I know you updated it a while ago but I haven’t been blogging as much lately due to my own busyness.) If my boss told me to clean out my desk I’d go someplace private and cry or scream (or both). And then I’d start looking for a new job. I admire you for being able to stay at the airport for so long. I have a slight fear of flying, so even being at the airport for a little while makes me feel sick to my stomach.

  9. You’re a stronger woman than I am, Gunga Din! That adventure would have made me snarling crazy, not hilarious. I hate airports. Not as much as bus stations, but still…ugh!

  10. That sounds like quite a trip. Hope you had plenty to read and do during the plane debacles. Travel is great, once you get to your destination.

  11. I have been doing some standby trips in the past few years thanks to my son’s job. Usually summer is very busy and holidays but otherwise it was ok. However this year it has got just crazy….It is almost impossible to get on a flight from here…Honolulu…to go to the mainland. It is such a bottle neck now.


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