April 17, 2024

Opinion: Vacation thoughts

Erin' it Out

I spent all of last week on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and New Orleans. It was a wonderful experience and I got to see plenty of exciting things, along with spending time with family. However, as every trip will do, it left me with a few thoughts and questions. Let’s start at the beginning of the trip.

I flew from the Kansas City airport, meeting my family in New Orleans. Because I am very lucky, this was a trip paid for by my parents. Therefore, I won’t complain too much, but I just want to question why Southwest Airlines is the way it is. For some reason, it seems to be my dad’s favorite airline, though I think it’s my least favorite.

For those that don’t know, Southwest does not assign seats. Instead, passengers can check-in starting at 24 hours before their flight time. You then get to line up at the gate in the order of which you checked in and chose your seats as you board.

This results in impatient waiting on the Southwest website, checking in the second the time changes, yet still somehow being 50th in line. It also results in people being squished like sardines at the gate, trying to figure out where you belong in the line, hoping you get to sit with the people you are flying with. Luckily for me, at least the first flight, I was on my own. I didn’t have to worry about getting three seats together, I just found the first empty seat and sat down.

Southwest’s whole procedure wasn’t so bad the first time around. My flight was at 11:55 a.m., so I just made sure to watch the time while at work the Friday before. However, going home was a different story. To get back to Kansas City, I flew from New Orleans to Dallas at 6 a.m., and from Dallas to Kansas City at 9 a.m. Waking up for a 6 a.m. flight when you’re leaving for a flight isn’t so bad, but waking up to check in to the flight the day before is the opposite of fun.

But let’s depart from the topic of Southwest. From the New Orleans airport, we rented a car and drove to Gulf Shores. Despite being Alabama, this part of the state is beautiful. There are a couple of big beach towns all next to each other there.

We were surrounded by Orange Beach and Oyster Bay. Despite having only heard of Gulf Shores before, the other two cities seemed much more built up in terms of touristy stuff, which was just fine by my family. Gulf Shores had shorter buildings and less crowded beaches than the other two, so I would absolutely recommend checking Gulf Shores out.

For those who do take vacations to these warmer areas, just a reminder to always wear sunscreen, no matter how cloudy it is. I definitely made this mistake last week and am still paying for it.

After a few days in Gulf Shores, we made our way back to New Orleans. On our way there, we stopped in Mississippi to take a kayak tour of a local bayou. To those that know me, yes, I most certainly was singing songs from “Princess and the Frog” the entire time.

We used a small, family-owned tour company called Honey Island Kayak Tours. The trip was just the four of us and owner Jessica, who was full of historical and environmental knowledge. Despite being so early in the year, my dad and I even spotted a baby alligator next to our kayak. (Jessica’s even writing a romance novel involving the Honey Island Swamp Monster, so I’m keeping an eye out for that!)

Once in New Orleans, we took a number of tours - a cemetery tour, a ghost/vampire/voodoo tour, a beignet tour (a fluffy, French-style fried square donut covered in powdered sugar and famous in New Orleans), an airboat swamp tour and a French Quarter history tour. Each tour guide was very different from each other, but all perfectly fit for the tour they were giving. While I thoroughly enjoyed each tour, we did miss out on one of the major cemeteries.

Owned by the Catholic Church, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is home to Nicholas Cage’s and voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb, only allows one tour company to give tours there. That is the only way to get into the cemetery at all, unless you have special permission from the church as a family member of one of the deceased or as a researcher.

I find this slightly annoying, not only because I’m a fan of spooky history and didn’t get to visit, but also because it creates a monopoly for that one tour company. I’ve been told that since the one tour company gained sole access to the cemetery, the tours have gone downhill.

The cemetery tour we did go on was enjoyable, despite not seeing the aforementioned cemetery. We got EMF detectors (electromagnetic field detectors are meant find unexplained fluctuations, aka ghosts) for a little bit of ghost hunting, and were able to stop and see the Hurricane Katrina memorial.

While this trip wasn’t the same time as Creston’s spring break, it was over my sister’s college spring break. This is the first time I’ve ever flown somewhere for a spring break trip, and it wasn’t even my spring break! I hope everyone’s trips went as well as mine did!

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.