Airline Review: Meridiana

Our recent vacation to Italy hinged on the fact that we found insanely cheap airfare direct to Naples from JFK.  The airline?  Meridiana.  I had never heard of it, and it seemed that much of the internet hadn’t either when I went to do my due diligence before clicking “buy now”.  Well, for anyone who’s found similarly cheap airfare, here are some things to know before you decide to close your eyes and check your credit card statement later.

The basics:

  • Comfort – solid leg room in economy class
  • Amenities – No personal TVs at each seat, a few “larger” TVs in the aisle, 80s/90s style
  • Food – Totally frozen (I’ll get to that later)
  • Timeliness – On time arrival in Naples, early in to JFK, but no gate for us for an hour!
  • Friendliness – Unique

The stories:

When we boarded our flight at JFK the air conditioning was not and had not been turned on in hours.  The flight was sweltering hot.  As someone who is always cold, I was fine. Scuba Steve on the other hand, not so much.  Paranoid that the entire flight would be a fire ball he was in a panic.  At one point he may or may not have threatened to disrobe if this kept up.  Fortunately, as the flight got underway the air conditioning did turn on.  Crisis averted.

During dinner on the flight, the staff was incredibly rude.  One flight attendant missed the glass when pouring drinks completely and poured water all over Steve.  Instead of apologizing, providing napkins, offering any show of empathy, the flight attendant glared at my husband and then kept serving.  It was really bizarre behavior that was indicative of the overall attitude the rest of the staff as crossed the pond.

Since our flight was a red eye that left at 3pm, I popped a few Nyquil in the hopes of passing out (which I did, hallelujah!) and woke up just in time to reach Italy raring to go. Because I was comfortable, with leg room.  Even if the person in front of my put their seat back, my 5’5″ frame was unobstructed. On the other hand, Scube was left watching movies on the TV they had in the aisle on this circa 1970s airplane.  Could have been worse, but could have been better.

On the flight home, the sentiment of the staff improved, and the food got worse.  In fact, the pasta salad served on everyone’s plate was frozen completely solid.  WTF?  How can an airline do that?  When Scube pointed this out to the flight attendant, she was incredibly apologetic and said everyone’s food was frozen.  How is that right?  Or possible?

So here’s the deal with Meridiana.  If you want to get from Point A to Point B with zero frills, frozen food, and a piss poor attitude, book this flight.  You’ll get all the way to Italy for really cheap ($600/rt), but if you prefer to pay for a bit more amenities, smiles, and warm food, go elsewhere.  Would I fly Meridiana again?  Possibly, but at least I’ll have both eyes wide open if I do.

Sidenote:  For those that love reality tv the way I do, Caroline Manzo, of Real Housewives of New Jersey fame, flew Meridiana with her family to Naples en route to Positano.  So, the airline is in fact “celebrity” approved.

Perfect packing – the art of the roll

I fashion myself a bit of a packing connoisseur, not nearly as great as this guy, but pretty damn good in my own right.  I’ve managed to fit 2 weeks worth of clothes, shoes, plus snorkel fins in a carry-on.  Applause welcome.

Packing is a gift, and it starts with the very simple question, what do you need?  Not want, but need.  Laying out everything you need gives you an idea of how much room you have left for the “want”.  As a woman, I carry no less than 4 pairs of shoes with me at all times, in my carry-on, with all of my other clothes, accessories, toiletries, etc.  It can be done.

  1. Pack multi-purpose things.  There is nothing worse than realizing you packed a top or a bottom that can only be used once in conjunction with all items that you packed.  Based on the weather, make sure you can mix and match appropriately.  Also, as a woman, pack dresses, they take up less space.
  2. Do you really need those shoes?  Again, I just mentioned I pack with no less than 4 pairs of shoes wherever  I go.  But here’s a tip.  Going on a vacation where you’ll be active?  Think running, hiking, etc.  Buy a new pair of sneakers before you go and pack your old ones.  Then leave your old ones behind, making room for souvenirs.
    1. Also, pack shoes last, as they can be stuffed in random corners of your suitcase
    2. Bringing socks?  Put your socks in your shoes so that socks do not take up extra space in your suitcase.
  3. Roll, roll, roll!  There is something to be said for rolling your clothes.  When done right, your clothes will not wrinkle, and you will be able to squeeze in more with less.
  4. Wear bulky items on the plane.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always freezing.  While you might not be the most fashionable person on the flight, if you intend on bringing a large sweater, hoodie, whatever to your destination, wear that on the plane, don’t pack it.  That goes the same for sneakers.  My husband just went on a live aboard boat experience and everything needed to be in a medium duffel bag.  You bet he was wearing his cargo shorts, sneakers, and hoodie on that flight in both directions to save space.
  5. Packing cubes.  I have a love / hate relationship with these.  I used them for Australia and found them very useful, but on shorter trips, I don’t really use them.  Packing cubes (roll your clothes in them) help you segregate your items, i.e. a cube full of just tops vs. workout clothes vs. fancier items etc.  But I find that they may take up more space in the long run when used.  So if you’ve used packing cubes before, leave your feedback in the comments, I’m curious to hear from you!
  6. Never check these things. Seems obvious, right?  But never check anything you would need if your luggage got lost or stolen. Of course you can replace most of these items while on vacation, but why should you have to?
    1. Underwear
    2. Pajamas
    3. Tooth brush
    4. Make-up
    5. Jewelry
    6. Electronics
    7. Two full mix & match outfits

In sum, pack smart.  Packing light does not mean fashion is being sacrificed, but quite the opposite.  If you pack smart, you can get a great diversity of outfits in one, tiny little carry-on.  Makes it so much easier.  But like I said, make sure you leave yourself with a little room for some souvenirs. My keepsake of choice, a Christmas tree ornament.

We spend 2 weeks in Europe, I get my life in a carry-on (Giants luggage tag), the hubs check his bag.  I'm a machine!
We spend 2 weeks in Europe, I get my life in a carry-on (Giants luggage tag), the hubs check his bag. I’m a machine!

And we’re off!

Hi all!  We are off to Capri and the Amalfi Coast for the next few weeks.  I’ve scheduled a few posts, but you can follow our adventures on Instagram @appetite4travel.

Thanks for sticking with us, and new adventures will be posted soon, including a guest blogger’s scuba diving adventure, our trip to St. John, and many others.  Obviously, Italy included!

I want to fly in that heart plane with a dancing bear and monkey

Cheap Flights – How to find ’em

When not booking with miles (which we never did until recently, silly us!) finding cheap airfare is seriously one of the most gratifying experiences around.  Below are some tools that we use to help us get there, and trust us, the extra time is worth it.

Keep in mind, once we find the airfare, if we’re member of their frequent flyer program, we always book directly through the airline’s website.  Or at least that’s just us.

The Matrix – Nope, not about the red pill / blue pill but if your travel is flexible will show you the cheapest flights around for your destination.  It’s pretty much the best tool out there.

Airfare Watchdog – Follow these guys on twitter too as they post crazy flight deals that they find throughout the day.

Kayak – beloved Kayak.  Still our first go-to for a quick browse on what to expect.

Flight Fox – Never used it but it’s a pay for service to take the legwork out of the above.  Would love to know your thoughts if you’ve used it!

And finally, a really great article on how to get the cheapest airfare possible or “hacker” fare.

Happy flying.

A love note to Qantas

I travel a lot for my job.  In fact, in my previous job I flew every single week, I left early Monday morning (ugh), and returned Thursday evening.  So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about flying, and while usually it’s with the same airline over and over and over (I love my miles), flying Qantas was a borderline religious experience.

Flying in the US is dogged by well, the lack of everything.  Service, food, snacks, nuts.  You get what you pay for you, and even what you pay for you don’t always get.  So when my husband and I decided to honeymoon in Australia (many posts on that later), flying Qantas was an actual dream come true.

While some Aussies (well one we encountered) feel that Qantas has gone down hill in the last few years, I dare them to come the US, fly domestically and then tell me Qantas isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread.

qantasSo why is Qantas so fabulous?  WELL.  Let’s talk free food.  And not just at meal times.  There were copious amounts of food and snacks to be had, everywhere.  Pouring out of every orifice in the air you’d find a free snack. On our flight from LA to Sydney, we boarded around 11pm and immediately were met with a free dinner.  Granted ,I just wanted to sleep but, in keeping with American air travel, I assumed this would be on par with the Last Supper.  WRONG.  WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.  After finishing my meal I immediately crashed.  Overcome with exhaustion I fell right to sleep.  I was awoken a few minutes later by a lovely flight attendant giving me a backpack full of food, treats, and other goodies.  If that wasn’t enough – there were granola bars in baskets at varying points in the plane, and flight attendants in the pitch black walked around with apples, water, and juice.

As we approached Sydney, a full blown breakfast was to be had with more snacks, including, but not limited to Cadbury hot chocolate.  I honestly wondered if it was worth deplaning?  Why leave when everyone is so nice with wonderful service and treats?  It was a legitimate question, but I was thrilled to know that we were flying Qantas within Australia a few more times, but assumed due to the shortened time of the flights (~2-3 hours in length), the service would be different.

WRONG AGAIN!  On our 2-3 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns, we got a full blown lunch, a popsicle snack and anything else our little heart desired.  I couldn’t believe it.  You fly 2-3 hours in the US and you’re lucky to get a smile.

Needless to say, Qantas is the greatest airline I’ve ever flown, despite my small sample size.  It made coming back to the US that much harder knowing that my flight a few days later would be devoid of backpacks full of snacks and popsicles.