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The shortest distance is behind a band of coatimundis: Costa Rica Spring Break

Updated: Apr 11

We made a critical error, a novice mistake — our bags were going past security and we were not.

“Do we pick up our bags here?” I asked the United flight attendant as we disembarked the first leg of our three-leg flight caravan. Our flight had been smooth and fast from Montrose to DIA. We spent more time de-icing the plane than we did in the air.

Large planes made a big difference between point A to point B.

“Big planes send gate-checked bags to the carousel. You can find them at number nineteen.”

“But this isn’t our final destination and our next flight is on Delta. We need them with us.”

“Please go speak with the gate agent. They can help you.”

Normally, we game the bag-system by not paying bag fees up-front and gate check for free (thereby freeing up overhead space). On small hoppers, we pick up the bag at the other end’s gate — not the carousel.

Two weeks prior, we re-planned our travel path to Costa Rica, a trip that we had booked for months. They had moved our DIA to LAX leg to an earlier time, so instead of driving the six-hours from Ouray to Denver, we booked the earliest flight on a Saturday out of Montrose — 6am. We had absorbed our flights and VRBO costs several months ago; therefore, it seemed like the more time-effective option to add a flight (always weighing whether we have more time or money.)

Thankfully, we had four-hours to kill before our next flight: DIA to LAX. The bag hiccup meant we had to go through TSA a second time. Years ago, we invested in Pre-Check and for the most part it has been a hassle-free travel pass well worth the price. At least, in the beginning. Walking through the arched scanners with our shoes on and our little liquid bottles safely packed made us VIP persons with implied TSA immunity. But now, everyone has it. So what’s the point?

After eating a slapped-together, triple-the-price, Sausage Mc Muffin, we left our son with our smaller carry-ons at the next Delta gate, and John and I disembarked the concourse and found our bags on Carousel 19. Knowing our next gate was in Concourse A, we snaked our way up to the walk-over security bridge. Much to our chagrin, this traveler’s secret had been discovered with a line longer than Space Mountain, and no fast-pass, pre-check option. John and I went to the regular Pre-Check and saw the line looped around the regular line like a den of snakes. We were not happy.

My father always said “coupons are for people who have more time than money” — I will pay a little more to get through lines faster, and sometimes I cut coupons. I still look for the best deal. But, Pre-Check is a deal for couponers now. I pride myself on managing (in fact, out-witting) the shortest distance between two points (whether it’s picking a line at the grocery store, gas pump, or taking the by-pass routes in cities). And when I travel, my situational awareness is acute.

There’s a line in “Up In The Air” by actor George Clooney about which line to pick when going through security (Up In The Air Hacks #10), my version is to look for the line without strollers, and with professionally dressed passengers. Business travelers already have their coats and belts off before entering the queue and do not re-dress at the conveyor.

We followed one such lady; she entered the short Premier line — we had not paid for Premier. She sized us up (my belt was off and our jackets with our son) and told us she’d tell them we were with her. Unfortunately, this was also the line for families with wheelchairs (that’s as bad as families with rogue sippy cups). It was short, it moved, but at a snail’s pace. After a few trudges forward, we noticed that those with able-body Premier passes were getting waved over to cut ahead of the Pre-Check line (without a grumble from the obedient Pre-Checkers who trudged the distance). We waited until we came to a gap in the stanchions and jumped the queue. No one questioned the transition. Unscrupulous, maybe… time-efficient, definitely.