Planes, trains and trams (from Austin to San Fran)

Chris Quigley - March 23rd, 2012

Over the last few years I’ve kinda perfected the art of work travel, however the last few weeks taught me a few new lessons. Here’s what I learnt:

Don’t miss your flight (or listen to Tim)

The first plane I’ve ever missed was from Austin to San Fran (thanks to Tim). Unlike in Europe where if you miss a plane you have to buy a new ticket, in the US if you miss your plane they just put you on stand-by for the next flight(s). What we learnt was that lots of other people are put on stand-by too, which means lots of waiting. With 8 hours of waiting for airplanes practice under my belt (special thanks to Tim for that) I now consider myself quite an airplane-waiting-expert. FYI I don’t recommend Austin airport for waiting experiences 🙁
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Sending emails at 10,000 feet is pretty slow
American Express not only put on free Jay Z gigs at SXSW, but they also give you free wifi on American Airlines. The trick is the wifi only works at 10,000 feet, and when your flight is only 40 minutes long – as it is between Austin and Dallas – that means you only have a 10 minute window to use the service, which equates to pretty much x1 email download. Nice idea Amex.
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San Francisco airport is the best (and most mediocre) airport in the world
San Francisco’s domestic terminal is possibly the best airport I’ve ever been in. With it’s white interior, open spaces (with jelly fish sculptures) and selection of *egg chairs*, I was pretty impressed. In fact, I was so impressed that I decided to get to the airport 4 hours early so I could enjoy it on the way back (to London), only to find that the International terminal wasn’t so good. Oh well . . .
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Stay in Airbnb wherever your can is a real travel game-changer. Since using the service, I’ve stayed in some amazing people’s houses / flats across the world, as a posed to spending endless nights in mediocre business hotels.
The place we stayed in in San Francisco is pretty high on the awesomeness list. Perched on the hills next to Twin Peaks (of TV series fame) Tim and I stayed at a pretty pimp modernist house with amazing views across San Francisco. Sadly due to clouds and rain, the view on most days was obscured. The nighttime view was pretty epic though.
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Americans can do trains surprisingly well
I’ve always associated US travel with cars. However, from my experience travelling out to Silicon Valley from San Francisco opened me up to the joys of American trains – which were surprisingly good. The Caltrain, which heads up to San Jose from San Fran is a (and efficient) service, which beats the trek up the freeway any day.
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San Fran-ers love their trams
San Francisco has lots of (very steep) hills, so very early on the San Fran-ers (thanks to an Englishman called Halliday) designed a revolutionary tram system. Most of the old system is now gone, however there are still 5 or so routes you can take around town using the old-style trams. I now know a fair bit about trams, thanks to the Tram museum I stumbled across. Impressively the whole old-school system is powered from one set of motors, linked together by an ingenious network of underground cables.
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So there you go. My top business travel tips are: ignore Tim’s advice and trains are good 😉

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