Flying is more of a hassle than ever this summer, with travelers reporting long waits at Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) checkpoints. It's gotten so bad in some cities that earlier this month a Minnesota man filed a federal lawsuit against TSA and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, claiming wait times made him miss his flight and forced him to buy another ticket.
Currently, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport recommends passengers plan to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight to allow enough time to pass through security. That's longer than many flights last.
If driving isn't your idea of a great vacation, you've got two good choices for getting out of town for a couple of days: board a bus or a train at Union Passenger Terminal (1001 Loyola Ave.), where the fantastic Conrad Albrizio murals on the walls were restored after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. You actually can get to some nearby destinations in less time than it takes to wait in a security line at the airport — and the prices are right.
Amtrak: A reserved coach seat on the City of New Orleans costs $16 and gets you to Hammond in an hour, while the Crescent delivers you to Slidell in about the same amount of time for $11.
For an even better option, the cheapest seat on the Sunset Limited is $21 and the train takes you from downtown New Orleans to downtown Lafayette in a little more than three hours. The three trains, of course, continue on to points north, east and west, respectively, if you've got the time and the pocketbook. More info: www.amtrak.com
Greyhound: Taking a trip to Lafayette on the Grey Dog over the Aug. 12 weekend is just $22 each way, with three hours of travel time from gate to gate.
Similar bargains are available to other nearby destinations in Mississippi: Biloxi is just $16 each way, while the five-hour, 35-minute trip to Jackson is $27 each way. Students, veterans and children traveling with adults get discounts on Greyhound, which can save you even more money. More info: www.greyhound.com
Megabus: If you're looking for Atlanta, Miami and Houston, the big purple-blue bus may be the way to go.
Megabus is known for its on-demand approach to pricing and its bargain $1 tickets, though they're hard to find. (Search for a date far in advance; midweek trips tend to cost the least.) A recent search for a round-trip ticket to Houston over the Aug. 12 weekend, for instance, found all outbound tickets at $31, but some return tickets were only $5 — making it a $36 round trip. In comparison, the cheapest round trip on Southwest Airlines in the same time period was $206 — before taxes and fees.
By the way, all Megabus pickups now are made at the Union Passenger Terminal — the stop at St. Claude and Elysian Fields avenues no longer is operating. More info: www.megabus.com