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Up, up and away! 28 cities in 31 days

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Author Topic: Up, up and away! 28 cities in 31 days  (Read 15 times)

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« on: September 07, 2009, 07:31:59 am »

Up, up and away! 28 cities in 31 days

Buddies take off on trip on JetBlue's travel pass

By Stephen T. Watson
News Staff Reporter
Updated: September 06, 2009, 11:34 PM

When JetBlue offered a one-month-only, all-you-can-fly travel pass, two friends from Buffalo decided to take the airline up on its offer.

They put together what might be the coolest road trip ever, except they'll be spending way more time in the air and at airports than on any roads.

Here are the numbers: Four guys. Forty-four flights. Twenty-eight cities. Thirty-one days, starting Tuesday morning.

"We're looking at it as a snapshot of the United States," said Clark Dever, a 25-year-old Elmwood Village resident.

Dever and Joe DiNardo recruited two more friends to accompany them on the whirlwind adventure, which the public can follow on their blog, Twitter and Facebook.

They plan to spend about 12 hours in each city, flying back and forth across the country through the airports serviced by JetBlue over the 31-day "All You Can Jet" promotion.

"It's a horrible idea," said friend Jon Mirro, owner of the Hand of Doom tattoo shop in Buffalo, citing the trip's logistics. "But I think it will be a lot of fun."

The guys are trying to attract sponsors to help offset the cost of the trek, and the wide-ranging list of backers includes a national doughnut chain and Mirro's tattoo shop.

They're also using social media to connect with people in every city, in order to scrounge up rides from the airport, couches to crash on and tips on the best things to do in town.

"I'm pretty excited for Los Angeles," said DiNardo, also 25, of North Buffalo. "I can't wait to go in In-N-Out Burger."

It was DiNardo who first noticed the $599 "All You Can Jet" promotion when he was on JetBlue's site looking up flights for a business trip.

He said it would be fun to fly as much as possible for a month, but it would be even better to go with someone else.

DiNardo called Dever, his friend since their days at the University at Buffalo, and Dever quickly agreed to come along.

"We basically decided in a five-minute conversation," Dever said.

The pair later recruited two other guys, Jeremy Grodek and Steve Micciche, to join them on the adventure.

Dever quit his job at an e-commerce company in Rochester to do this, while DiNardo had enough vacation time saved up he's vice president for marketing at Counsel Financial to take the days off from work.

"I'll miss my dog, but she'll carry on," Dever said.

The harder part was planning their itinerary.

They wanted to squeeze in as many flights, and as many cities, as possible in the 31 days of the promotion.

They liked the name "12 Hours in a City," and no one else was using it for a Web site, so they grabbed the domain name and it ended up shaping the trip.

Dever and DiNardo thought they would follow an orderly path around the United States, but JetBlue's flight patterns made that impossible.

So the guys have to crisscross the country and take a lot of flights into and out of JetBlue's hub at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Over two days, for example, the guys are flying from Salt Lake City to JFK, from JFK to Houston, from Houston to JFK and from JFK to Long Beach, Calif.

"After a couple [of cross-country flights], we'll be in our own world of time," DiNardo said.

They're trying to take advantage of the time difference between the East and West coasts and flying overnight, where possible, in order to maximize their waking hours in each city.

It took about 12 hours to figure this out, a task made more complicated because JetBlue lists flights by the local time zone.

"I made a mistake once, where we were taking off [on their next flight] one hour before we landed," Dever said.

They spent three or four hours booking the flights by phone with JetBlue customer service representatives.

"They were very amused," DiNardo said.

The guys said the flights would have cost $10,000 to $15,000 if they were purchased separately, depending on how far in advance they were booked.

A JetBlue spokeswoman said the company is happy with the reaction to the promotion, and the amount of attention it's gotten on the social Web, though she wouldn't release figures on how many passes were sold.

"We think [12 Hours] is a great idea, and are definitely intrigued by it and we're looking forward to seeing what happens next on their adventure," said Alison Croyle, spokeswoman for the airline known for its Terra Blue Potato Chips.

Air travel can be no treat these days, with crowded flights and lengthy security lines.

Dever said it's all about the intelligent packing they're both carrying their bags, of course and leaving a little more time to get to a flight at a large airport.

DiNardo is an experienced business traveler, but the start of the flight is the worst for him.

"Take-offs terrify me," he said.

"It's immersion therapy, that's what I tell him," Dever said.

Dever is a dedicated photographer and he's looking forward to taking a lot of pictures and shooting a lot of video.

They have their Web site, www.twelvehoursinacity.com, and they'll be blogging and recording the trip on Facebook and Twitter.

Dever and DiNardo have friends in many of these cities who will give them rides and put them up for the night.

But a big part of the trip for Dever and DiNardo is the chance to meet new people, and they're using the Web to make these connections.

They want to find the most interesting local sites, restaurants and bars and find strangers willing to host them.

The "12 Hours" guys set up a Wiki a Web page that can be updated by users seeking travel tips and insider knowledge about the cities.

"We joked that our goal was to find the Pink in every city," Dever said, referring to the Pink Flamingo, the Allentown watering hole famed for its steak sandwiches.

They had a fundraising party last Thursday, and they're soliciting support from sponsors to help offset the cost of the trip.

"12 Hours" has gotten some attention from local and national media, and Dunkin' Donuts got on board as a sponsor after a staffer spotted a note about the trek on the Web, said David Puner, communications manager with Dunkin' Brands.

The company, which provides JetBlue's coffee, gave the guys $100 gift cards.

Puner said it's the dream of a lot of people to be jet-setters on the cheap.

"Wouldn't you want to be doing it, too?" Puner said.

Mirro has pledged to give the guys free tattoos commemorating the trip, which he thought sounded like the kind of thing people propose late at night while drinking at a bar.

"Everybody has great ideas at 2:30 in the morning, but not very many people follow through on them. I was impressed with that," he said.

The guys said they're lucky they're at a point in their lives where they aren't married, and they don't have kids, so it's easier for them to take off for a month on a trip like this.

"[Friends said] 'Ah, that's a great idea. I wish I had the time. I wish I had the money. I wish I had the freedom,' " Dever said.

Dever and DiNardo said they think their friendship will last through the one-month trek, though they know some rough patches are inevitable.

"I think, ultimately, it'll survive," DiNardo said.

"We're dudes," Dever explained.

But by the end of the trip, DiNardo said, one thing is a very high probability:

"I'm pretty sure I'll never want to see a blue chip again."

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com
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