Tag Archives: homer simpson

Cincinnati to London Wow Air review

16 Jul

I remember when they first announced that Wow Air was going to offer low-cost flights from Cincinnati to Europe. According to my mom, everyone was talking about it.

“Do you think all the American riff-raff will go to Europe now that it’s cheap?” my mom asked.

“Have you been to Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Street?” I replied. “The American riff-raff is already here.”

Wow Air describes itself as low-cost, which we all know means no-frills and this:

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“It’ll be like riding Easyjet or Ryanair long-haul!” I said. “Do I really want to fly for six hours with no food or movies?”

The answer, I soon found out, was “maybe… when I have no other options.” Because last month I had no other options.

I had planned to fly to London using United miles, but it turns out Saver awards are hard to come by in the summer, especially when you wait until the last minute. BA and Virgin also had no mileage flights, so I decided to give Wow Air a go.

wow air cincinnati to london

These prices are for another date, I just wanted to show the different ticket categories

My one-way ticket from Cincinnati to London Gatwick cost $378. I opted for the Wow Plus ticket because it came with a personal item, carry on bag, and checked bag, plus I got to select my seat. Had I chosen Wow Basic I think I would have paid something like $269, which is stupidly cheap, but it comes with only an under-the-seat personal item. So if you’re one of those people who backpack around Europe with an actual school backpack that fits under an airplane seat, you can really get a deal with Wow!

The Wow Air flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik leaves at 12:50am, which is tricky, because it means you have to head to the airport the date before your flight. Wow sends multiple text messages and emails to remind you of this. CVG airport is an eerie place at 11 at night — everything is shut down except McDonalds. I mean everything — even the machines that whisk your luggage away at check-in, so they were just stacking the bags up and a guy was loading them onto a cart to take them to the plane.

Even though the airport was dead, Wow check-in was busy. They only have one flight a day, so we were all on the same flight. I read online that they weigh your carry-on and hand luggage, which made packing a stressful experience for me. My carry-on was exactly at the allowed 12kg/26lb and my checked bag was really riding the line of the 20kg/44lb limit. They did not ask me to weigh my wheeled carry on, but they did make me put it in the size gauge, which made me nervous, because I knew it was a half inch off the 22x18x10in limit. It fit, but barely — it actually got stuck and I knocked the entire gauge guide over when I tried to remove it. I placed my checked bag on the scale and it weighed in at 20.8kg. Perhaps because she was nice, or because the queue was so long she wanted to get me through, or because it’s not technically overweight until it hits 21kg, the check-in lady didn’t say anything and merely slapped a tag on it. Wow Air’s policy is to charge an extra $19 per kilo that your bag is overweight, which is better than United’s flat $100 for an overweight bag, but I’m still happy I didn’t have to pay it.

I got to the gate only to find the flight was delayed. This was not a surprise to me, as I had checked flightradar24.com before I left and saw that the flight had not left on time all week. I had a 4-hour layover in Reykjavik so I was in no rush. The plane finally arrived, we boarded relatively quickly, and were off the ground about an hour after they said we would be.

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The seating arrangement is three by three with no TV screens

Normally I can’t sleep sitting up, especially on planes, but because it was two hours past my bedtime already, I immediately passed out and faded in and out of consciousness the entire 6-hour flight. It was by no means good sleep — I kept waking up because my neck hurt or because I could feel my mouth drooping open, but it made the time go by quickly, which was great considering there are no TV screens or free food or beverages.  I didn’t even hear the cart come by with food for purchase or duty free items. When I did get up to go to the bathroom, all the flight attendants were in the back giggling amongst themselves and speaking Icelandic. The red-eye must be an easy flight for them!

When we touched down at Keflavik Airport, the signs pointing towards passport control weren’t very clear, so I ended up queuing at a gate and almost boarded a flight to Edinburgh, but other than that, the arrival process was easy. I got an Iceland stamp in my passport even though I was only there for 4 hours.

That is one of the downsides of taking Wow Air from Cincinnati to London — you have to kill 4 hours at Keflavik Airport. Though as far as airports go, it’s one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. The whole place has a Nordic vibe like it was designed by IKEA (which of course means most of the seating looks nice but isn’t very comfortable). I got a vegan sandwich from Mathus along with a cup of skyr Icelandic yogurt. As much as I’m trying to reduce my dairy consumption, I couldn’t come to Iceland and not try authentic skyr! And I’m so glad I did, it was 10 times better than the Arla brand skyr I used to buy in the UK. I grabbed a table and used the free WiFi to get some work done.

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Keflavik airport skyr.png

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I wish I had bought this candy!

Another perk of Keflavik Airport — the best-tasting tap water I’ve ever had!

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The time actually went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, it was time to board my flight to London Gatwick. The flight from Reykjavik to London Gatwick takes about 3 hours, and goes by quickly if you pass out, listen to good music, and play on your iPad. I did a combination of the three. We landed around 8pm, but by the time I got through immigration, took the Gatwick Express to Victoria, then took a bus to my flat, I got home around 10pm London time.

Now that I wrote entirely way too much, I’ll try to sum it up with some pros and cons:

Pros:
-It’s the cheapest way to fly to Europe
-You arrive in London in the evening so you can immediately pass out. Most other airlines’ flights arrive early in the morning so you have to struggle the whole day to stay awake (or take a 4-hour nap like I usually do and be jetlagged for a week)
-The Icelandic flight crew are very friendly and begin every announcement with “Dear guests,” which while proper English, always sounds funny. They’re also good looking, or at least they were on my flights, if that kind of thing is important to you
-If you have to have a layover, Keflavik Airport is a nice airport to spend time in, with free WiFi and lots of healthy food options
-My flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik had a power outlet so I could charge my phone (though there wasn’t one on the flight to London)
-The tap water at Keflavik Airport comes from a glacier and is the best tasting water you’ll ever have
-Wow Air has a sense of humor!
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Cons:
-No free food — you have to pay for everything, even drinks
-No movies or entertainment. This may not be a problem with the Cincinnati to Reykjavik red-eye, but could be on the return trip, which leaves London at 11:40am
-Your flight is probably going to be delayed
-The seats barely recline and you don’t have much leg room
-Bags cost extra, only an under-seat bag is free
-Checked bag weight limit is 20kg/44lb, while every other airline is 23kg/50lb
-You have to kill 4 hours at the airport if you’re traveling on to London
-The flight might be cheap, but Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit
-You waste an entire day of traveling, though that’s hard to avoid since there are no direct trans-Atlantic flights out of Cincinnati

Now the important question: would I take it again?

Maybe. While I had a good experience, the bag weight limit could be a deal breaker. I did not go crazy shopping this visit and thought I did not have much stuff, but I was still slightly over the limit. In the winter when I have heavier clothing and am carrying Christmas presents, getting my bag under 44 lbs would be nearly impossible. I’m glad Wow Air is an option, though, and I really would like to actually see Reykjavik beyond its airport sometime!

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Seen in the in-flight magazine. All the reason to visit Iceland!

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Why I decided to get LASIK… and then backed out

9 Apr

homer lasik

I feel like every good LASIK post begins with “I’ve worn glasses since I was ::insert age here::.” I never wore glasses as a child. I used to brag about my perfect vision… until I was in high school and had to squint to read the orange ink on the overhead. Then after about an hour of tearing up at the eye doctor because I was trying to insert a polymer sphere onto my eyeball, then some actual crying because I couldn’t get the polymer sphere to stay on my eyeball, suddenly I saw the world in HD. We immediately went to Burger King so I could marvel at the menu and a Whopper in HD.

Wearing contacts during the day and glasses at night soon became just part of my daily routine. I vaguely remember my eye doctor saying I’d be a good candidate for LASIK once my prescription stabilized, but I tabled that decision for when I became an adult. Flash forward to three months ago. Likely due to a combination of wearing daily contacts for more than one day, wearing too much eye makeup and consistently rubbing and itching, my eyes became very irritated. One day I even had to go without contacts or makeup, and I really hate wearing glasses and really like wearing makeup. That’s when a little voice spoke up in the back of my head — “LASIK?” Maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with the yearly costs of more polymer spheres and the irritation that comes with trying to milk a pricy six-month supply of daily contacts over two years.

So since I’m back in Cincinnati, I made a free consultation appointment at LasikPlus last week. Dr. Marino there has performed more than 81,000 procedures, so I knew I’d be in good hands. I wasn’t really thinking that far in advance, though — my prescription has changed a little bit each year, so I figured the consult would just tell me whether I’d be a good candidate down the road. They performed a variety of tests, then the tech slid a piece of paper in front of me with the final cost of the procedure.

“Should we schedule it for later this week?” He asked. I told him I needed some time to think about it. I knew my mom was off the next week and could drive me to the appointment, but was I really ready to have such a permanent, expensive, life-changing procedure?

“We can just book a date to hold it, you can always call to cancel or change it,” the tech suggested. So I did it. I booked the surgery. My reasoning was that if I was going to have the surgery, I should have it now before I waste any more money on contacts or glasses.

I left my consult bright-eyed (or rather dilated-eyed) and bushy tailed — they said I was a perfect candidate! I was approved for the 12-month, no interest payment plan! In one week I wouldn’t need contacts anymore!

I went home and started doing more research. First I read thorough first-person accounts of the procedure, which made it seem like a piece of cake. And then “LASIK ruined my life” came up, so I went back to “LASIK was the best decision I ever made!” Then I found a story about a guy whose eyes were so dry and painful after LASIK that he eventually committed suicide. I immediately switched tabs to “I wish I had gotten LASIK sooner!” I convinced myself that every botched surgery was because the person wasn’t a “perfect candidate” like me. I read success story after success story, feeling confident in my decision, until I read this sentence by Joe Tye in his “Before You Have Lasik Eye Surgery” guide:

“If you knew there was a one-in-twenty chance that an operation you don’t need except to not have to wear glasses would permanently impair your eyesight and cause you serious and ongoing physical and mental distress — would you take that risk?”

Everyone — LASIK doctors included — tells you to do your research and understand the risks. (Patients must sign a waiver that basically says “I won’t sue, even if you completely ruin my vision.”) Most people who are happy with their LASIK procedures say they weighed the risks and benefits and the benefits won, even if they have to battle dry eyes and nighttime halos for a while. That’s when it finally hit me:

What makes me a perfect candidate for LASIK actually makes me a bad one: my prescription isn’t severe. I didn’t require corrective lenses until I was 13. I can easily read my alarm clock at night without fumbling for my glasses, and if I somehow broke my glasses or lost a contact, I would not die trying to exit a burning building (hopefully). I already see in HD thanks to contacts. I merely wanted LASIK because I thought it might save me money over years of contacts (which is unlikely, as LASIK is pricy and still requires yearly eye exams. Plus I’ll still likely need reading glasses when I hit 40, regardless of LASIK). Most people, even those happy with their surgery, say they suffer from dry eye and need to regularly use eye drops. One of the reasons I was considering the surgery was because I was tired of dry contacts, but it seems I’d merely be trading in popping in contacts once a day to dropping in eye drops several times daily.

In short (although this post has been anything but), LASIK seems to have worked for many people, and probably would have worked for me, but it’s the “what if” that made me eventually cancel my appointment and instead book an appointment with my regular ophthalmologist to try out a new brand of contacts. You only get one pair of eyeballs in your life, and there’s no undoing cutting a flap in your eye (which never fully heals) and lasering off some of your cornea. For some, the thought of waking up with 20/20 vision outweighs any risk, but for me, contacts are just not that bad.