Column: The art of getting there from here

  • Shawn Braley illustration

  • Becky Sabky. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 5/4/2019 10:40:18 PM

I like having options. Thirty-one flavors of ice cream are not enough. But when it comes to options about travel from the Upper Valley, I become paralyzed with too many choices.

I recognize I’m fortunate to travel. I have the means (at least for domestic travel). I have my physical health. And I have no fears of flying. I know that it’s a privilege to arrive in Las Vegas only four hours after takeoff in Boston. Air travel is magic. And I’m grateful I can be a passenger.

But booking a flight out of the Upper Valley gives me a headache.

Should I buy the cheapest flight from Boston and spend extra cash on a bus ticket (and extra time on the highway)? Should I purchase a more expensive ticket out of Manchester and deal with layovers? Should I drive north to Burlington? Or south to Hartford, Conn.? What about taking a commuter jet from Lebanon?

Growing up in New Jersey, planning travel was simple. Newark Airport, just 20 miles away, was my family’s best and easiest option. There was no checking and rechecking fares from different airport locations. There was no factoring in different airport commute times. We simply picked a day for departure, and booked our flight accordingly.

In the Upper Valley, travel planning requires more skill. While booking a trip to Florida this winter, I had a meltdown. I spent hours on my computer, searching for deals and direct flights.

The most efficient round-trip flight from Manchester included a tight layover in Charlotte, N.C. (With two toddlers in tow, quick layovers are risky business.) The cheapest flight out of Hartford required a three-hour commute each way.

I ended up booking a flight from Boston. which wasn’t the least expensive, wasn’t the quickest route, but offered the best overall option.

For years, I worked as the director of international admissions at Dartmouth College. I traveled eight weeks of the year, flying from here and there to there and here. My colleagues and I complained about planning our own travel, but then protested when it was suggested we hire agents. (We wanted to make our own decisions about the best way to get to Seoul.)

In an effort to cut costs but save sanity, we’d fall down the rabbit hole of multiple search engines, coupon codes and travel reviews. But was spending a half-day at the office on travel planning really worth the $40 we’d save overall?

I have friends who are airport loyalists. One friend swears that flying out of Manchester is worth the extra cash to avoid the “mice maze of Logan.” One friend flies out of Montreal for her European work trips, claiming the simplest international routes. I haven’t quite figured out my home airport, either. I’ve flown in and out of airports all over New England, seeking the elusive perfect travel match.

Many of my friends and family are taking trips during spring break. They’ll be driving to Hartford to catch the early flight to West Palm Beach. They’ll be shuttling their cars to the economy parking lot in Boston before jetting off to Bermuda. They’ll be grabbing a beer at the Sam Adams Brewhouse before boarding their two-stopover flight from Manchester to San Diego.

I have no plans. I’d love to be taking off for Caribbean shores. But this year, the trip isn’t in the cards.

The silver lining is at least I don’t have to figure out how to get there.

Becky Sabky lives in Norwich.

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