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by Stefka Gerova

Have you ever been frustrated or confused when traveling in the United States? Too many unfamiliar things all at the same time? Come along on a short trip with us in order to learn how to have fun with all the U.S. traveling confusion!

Once upon a time I decided to travel to the other end of the United States of America, all the way from Los Angeles to New York City. My biggest dilemma, therefore, was whether to do a cross-country journey and thus see more, or to simply take the red-eye flight and be there overnight. Hitch-hiking came to my mind, too, but only as too dangerous (and also illegal) of an option. The more I thought, the more convinced I became that hitting the road is the wrong option unless I had ten extra days to spend traveling in each direction. On the other hand, I would still have this horrendous jet lag from moving to a different time zone so fast.

So I finally decided to take a flight - nothing special like a jumbo jet - from LAX to JFK International. The check-in area was all packed and boarding on most planes was heavily delayed. At this point I only wished I could go to a V.I.P. lounge or have at least enough frequent-flier miles to upgrade my ticket to business class. Alas, no upgrades or yacht-cruises for me! My carry-on could hardly fit into the small overhead compartment, and I had to get up from my aisle seat a million times to let the fellow next to me get out. To make matters worse, I didn't have a non-stop flight and therefore had to change planes in St. Louis, the hub of TWA which I was flying with. With so many people on board, the flight attendants were preoccupied and couldn't tell me which gate to go to next. And to make matters even more confusing, there were so many terminals at the airport, that I almost missed my connecting flight! What a night, what a flight! Perhaps I'll hit the road the next time, after all.

  • cross-country journey - a trip across the whole U.S., from coast to coast, usually done by car so that more places can be visited
  • red-eye flight - a flight that leaves late at night and arrives at the destination site early the next morning so that you sleep through it; yet, because of the inability to sleep one gets red eyes in the morning
  • Hitch-hiking - the illegal activity of attempting to stop moving vehicles and trying to get a ride with them; also an extremely dangerous undertaking these days
  • hitting the road - a slang expression for starting a road trip; getting moving
  • jet lag - a time during which your biological clock says it's morning and people around you claim it's midnight or evening
  • time zone - a longitudinal stripe of the globe with the same astronomical time
  • jumbo jet - a big, double-decked airplane, typically used for trans-atlantic flights
  • LAX - the international abbreviation of the Los Angeles Airport, the busiest airport on the West Coast; should be avoided at all times if possible due to the heavy air-traffic
  • JFK International - the John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City, the biggest airport on the East Coast; should also be avoided at all times unless one wants to go crazy
  • check-in area - a place almost immediately at the airport entrance where tickets and identification are checked and luggage is taken to the luggage compartment
  • boarding - the process of getting onto a plane; it's still not clear why it is not called planing
  • V.I.P. lounge - a lounge for "Very Important Passengers," that is, diplomats, businessmen and others of the sort who have the money to pay ridiculous premiums for the privileges of having a quiet place for fifteen minutes
  • frequent-flier miles - bonuses offered by airline companies in order to induce more flying; these miles can then be used towards an airplane ticket purchase or a ticket upgrade
  • upgrade - use frequent-flier miles in order to have a more spacious and comfortable seat; although it makes more sense to call it "upclass" since you travel with a different class
  • business class - the better option of traveling, if affordable, due to the more space and better service provided; it is the highest possible class within the U.S. and only surpassed by first class on international flights; typically students are known to fly with economy class
  • yacht-cruises - an expensive and slow way to see parts of the world: traveling by means of a yacht; typically used as leisure and not as means of transportation
  • carry-on - a piece of luggage, sometimes two, that is allowed to accompany you on board; the rest of your luggage goes to the cargo compartment that passengers don't even see
  • aisle seat - a seat right next to the passageways on a plane, as opposed to a window seat - be prepared to get up and sit down a lot if you like aisle seats!
  • non-stop flight - a flight that reaches its destination without having to land and take off again, or do that a few times
  • hub - the official headquarters and depot of an airline company
  • on board - inside the plane
  • flight attendants - formerly known better as stewards and stewardesses, but still the people who help us have a pleasant flight and bring us food and drinks; their job is to attend to our wishes
  • gate - an opening at an airport that leads you directly to the airplane
  • terminals - a major portion of an airport, typically situated in a different direction from the rest of the terminals, and leading to the airport gates and airplane runways
  • connecting flight - a flight that brings you from a (middle) point of your journey to the end destination, implies a previous flight

    Stefka Gerova is a Pomona College student from Bulgaria, majoring in International Relations. (She spends most of her spare time at International Place of the Claremont Colleges and enjoys escaping in the mountains whenever possible.) She is currently on a semester abroad program in Berlin, Germany.

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