Tag Archives: flight

All Flights and Tours Booked

Within the past week, mainly around the weekend, I finally booked my remaining flights (first and last legs) of the trip, as well as the two tours that I will join to see Machu Picchu and African safari.

I had been getting flight price alerts from Kayak for three months, and only last week did I put the prices on a spreadsheet and chart the trends.

Based on this article, they say the best time to purchase domestic flights is three to seven weeks before the flight. But I just wanted to get some of these big necessary tasks out of the way. Also, the day I charted the numbers, the price for the first leg dropped significantly in price. So I took advantage and booked it. It was with US Airways, but I don’t really care. I’m starting to get a sense of how much I’m spending this trip, and I’m okay with saving money on a part of the trip that has such limited range for enjoyment anyway. With the last leg, I noticed that the price had been pretty stable and never dropped below a certain point. I figured now is as good of a time as any other, and I booked that as well. Only afterwards did I have a little bit of buyer’s remorse when I realized that I would arrive at the airport 46 miles away after 10pm. I would have a lot of trouble finding efficient public transportation to get me home, which means I may have to spend more money on a taxi, which I might be able to save had I booked a flight at a higher place to a closer airport. But I’ll survive.

With the two tours, I went on gadventures.com to book the Machu Picchu trip, and then I went on intrepidtravels.com to book the safari trip. I read through the complete trip notes to make sure nothing questionable jumped out. As I did brief research on the safari pickup locations, I inevitably started looking into the best hostels to stay at. That’s going to be my next task, after I deal with my giant shopping research spreadsheet I had set up and started buying these things I need/should have for the trip.

(79 days)

(Weird Al came out with a parody music video for Happy, called “Tacky”. It’s well made and full of cameos.)

(German soccer team had a homecoming party after winning World Cup. Good for them. Also, I like their “1” shirt.)

Trip Planning Progress: Mid-June 2014

Flight and Travel Insurance

After booking my Round-the-World ticket (the first time), there was an issue with my credit card authorization process. I didn’t find out for about a week, and I had to do it again, calling the credit card company to make sure the previous reservation is not being paid for, and to let them know about a purchase that I was about to make.

But by the second time I made the reservation, the shorter set of flights from Lima to Johannesburg were sold out, and I had to take a longer route.

Soon after booking the trip the second time, I started shopping for travel insurance. The advice I got from the Internet for travel insurance is that everyone’s needs are different, so I should figure out my needs and prioritize based on that. In the end I decided to go with WorldNomads.

About a month after booking the trip, I was contacted by Star Alliance saying that I had duplicate bookings, and if I don’t cancel one of them, both would be canceled and I would be charged with cancellation fees. I was confused and a little upset that there are more problems with my reservation. In the end, the issue was resolved and I wasn’t charged any extra fees, but I still don’t understand the issue exactly, because I thought since my first reservation was not paid for, the transaction isn’t complete and therefore not a “duplicate” booking.

Moral of the story: If you want to book a round-the-world trip, call your credit card company that you’re about to make a big purchase and they should do everything they can to make it go through correctly. It’ll save a lot of headache.

Next tasks:
  • Book flights for the beginning and end of my trip (San Francisco to Albuquerque, Hawaii to San Francisco) because the round-the-world trip actually starts from Albuquerque and ends in Hawaii to keep me under the next distance/price tier.

Immunization, Visa

I looked up the CDC website and consolidated a list of shots I may need to get based on the places I’m going to. I think they’re pretty standard as far as traveling goes. I’m most concerned with malaria in South Africa, so I’m going to make sure to cover my bases there. And I’m going to make sure I have a good first-aid kit and medication if I get sick on the trip.

Regarding visas, I want to say the only place where I need a visa is China. There’s a lot of conflicting information regarding layovers in Brazil. I will be at the Sao Paulo airport for a few hours in the same terminal that houses the two airlines that I arrive in and depart from (I checked the airport map). I need to check with the airlines and the airport as it gets closer so I could have enough time to apply for a visa that I would only be using for a few hours.

Next tasks:
  • Make appointment to get immunizations two months before trip.
  • Contact airlines and airports regarding Brazil visa.

Accommodations

I looked into my options: hostels, AirBnB, couchsurfing, hotels. I looked into the whole couchsurfing culture and feel that it might be too limiting of an experience for me for this trip. I’m still open to AirBnB and hotels, and I think for China, since my visa will require me to submit the location of my stay, I’m going to be safe and book a hotel room. But for most of the trip, I think I’m going with hostels. I’ve never stayed at a hostel before, but I watched “A Map for Saturday” and realized the potential of staying at a hostel and meeting so many travelers.

Next tasks:
  • Make reservations for at least most of the 40+ nights that I’ll be spending.

Packing

About a month ago, I started looking up packing lists for traveling to my destinations. I logged the advice in a spreadsheet (as I have for so many other aspects of my trip), and consolidated them into one long list. Then I ranked them by necessity and whether I need to buy them. I’m still aiming to bring one carry on, and since I will be going to places of different weather, every item I put in my bag must be essential.

This is my current project. Specifically, I’m shopping for clothes. I realized that I pretty much can’t bring any of my cotton-based clothes. The advice is to wear lightweight, quick-drying, wrinkle-friendly, culturally blending clothes. So I’m looking at companies that make products for travel, like REI, Patagonia, and Icebreakers. The good news is that they have a lot of high-rated items that I like as well. The less good news is that they’re much higher than my price range for regular clothes. Nonetheless, I think they will be worth it.

Next tasks:
  • Shop and buy travel-optimized clothes
  • Shop and buy travel gear (day pack, security items, etc.)

Languages

I’ve been updating my progress on learning languages. Currently, I’m two-thirds way through first level of Spanish. Previously, I had done one level (30 half-hour lessons) of Italian and one level of Japanese. I review the previous languages once a week by going through one of the lessons, but I realize that I’m forgetting a good amount still. By the middle of each review, I could slowly pick up and remember some phrases, and speak at about the same pace as when I was learning it, but I wouldn’t be able to recall everything I learned.

Still, I think it is a really effective way for me to learn. I may not be able to carry on a full conversation with native speakers, but I believe I can put together basic phrases and short, simple sentences in common situations. I wish I had more time and learn more in each language so I could be more independent in my travels. But most travelers don’t learn the languages of the places they visit, and they survived, so I will too.

After my trip (meaning next year), I’d love to resume learning one of the languages, with the intent of returning to the country (or countries) that speak it, either to travel or to live for a short time. It’s a fantasy that I have right now, and I believe it’s very doable.

Next tasks:
  • Finish Spanish Level 1
  • Learn Norwegian Level 1
  • Learn/Brush up Mandarin Level 1
  • Review all languages

It is unbelievable that it’s already almost late June, and I have a little over three months (or 100 days!) before the trip. I had been busy at work, and I had been behind on planning this trip. I wanted to take care of the logistics of the trip early on (like by now) so I can spend the rest of the lead-up time to learn about places I could check out and the culture of my destinations. The things I have left to do are starting to create stress, though I am grateful that I still have this much time to prepare, and that it’s actually mostly fun planning and fantasizing as well, since I have a planner personality.

(103 days until start of trip)

(The World Cup is in full gear, England is eliminated yesterday, and the US’s fate is yet to be determined tomorrow when they play Portugal. Interesting that Germany and Ghana (who are in the same group as USA) tied)

(It’s the summer solstice!)

Round-the-World Ticket Booked

It’s pretty official. I finally booked my round-the-world ticket.

There was a lot of checking and double checking, and I may write about this more in detail later on. But I actually went back and included the round-trip flights between Lima and Cuzco into the RTW ticket itinerary instead of buying them separately (because apparently there was practically no change in cost whether I include it). And more importantly, I also included my flights within Europe instead of using Athens as a hub. No more Greece, and slightly less time in the air.

Quick advice, if you know you’re going to make the purchase, it may help to tell your credit card company that you’re going to make a huge purchase. My credit card company emailed me (as they should, I’m glad) right after I click the order button about potential fraud activity. Fortunately, I was able to approve the purchase from the credit card’s site and I didn’t have to call anybody (it’s getting late right now also).

Now that that’s done, I get to move on to a million other things I have to do to plan this trip. That’s another post.

(The first of four “Blood Moons” is about to start soon)

(It’s my cousin’s birthday today)

(I think I can handle saying that you would like to drink something later at my house in Italian now.)

(171 days before start of the Big Trip)

And Enters Greece…

 

I’m working on getting the Round-the-World (RTW) ticket right now, and I’ve been using Star Alliance’s trip planner tool for the past month, and I have to start making the decision and buy the ticket so I can move on to other parts of the trip planning. The leg that’s causing the most debate is Europe. Depending on the way I order the itinerary and opt for separate flight tickets, I could potentially lower my cost overall.

Star Alliance Round the World Trip Planner

 

Being the logical person that I am, I must figure out at a basic level which option costs the least and what the benefits and disadvantages I may encounter are. This table started out with only a few columns and rows last night, and in a few hours it exploded.

Round-the-World Fare Europe Leg Research

Since Round-the-World tickets are usually priced partly in mileage tiers, I’m trying to arrange the route a certain way to get it just under the next mileage tier. In some cases, I save a couple of hundred dollars.

Then I had the idea to try to shorten my overall trip as much as I can and see how low in mileage and price I could go. The only other places I could do it were to the starting and ending points, where I could reduce the mileage within American soil and book separate domestic tickets for cheaper. So instead of flying from Albuquerque, I moved my starting point to Houston or Miami, where there are direct flights to Lima. And instead of including the Hawaii-to-SF leg in the RTW ticket, I stop at Hawaii and would fly back to SF separately. So I started logging that and re-ran the numbers for every route I had previously planned.

Somewhere along the way, many hours have passed, I had the idea to shorten the Europe leg of the RTW ticket down to Athens, Greece. Maybe I could train it through Europe or get cheaper flights within Europe. To my surprise, my route got below another mileage tier, and so did the cost ($1500-2000 less!). By then, it was too late in the night for me to do more price checks, so this morning, I resumed work and ran quick numbers on Kayak. If I fly separately within Europe starting and ending at Athens, and I include the Hawaii-to-SF flight, it would still cost a couple hundred dollars below all the prices I had logged earlier that night!

(If you were wondering that maybe booking all of your flights separately may be cheaper than a RTW ticket, which I also wondered, it’s not, at least for my trip. The long flights between continents still cost a lot, enough to be beat by RTW ticket when added up.)

So now, I have to rearrange my dates to include Athens in my itinerary. But that could be another post. This is starting to become a tour of capitals (except South Africa, which has three capitals and “Jo-burg” is not one of them), and also a tour of Olympic cities!

(“Before Midnight” (coincidentally took place in Greece): there’s little relevance to traveling here, but I wanted to follow up. It’s good just like the other “Before” movies, but it’s sort of become a “hyper”-reality (even though it’s the most current) where it’s gone so far into the future from the first two movies where now they’re middle-aged parents with more problems, to a point where part of me prefer to “go back to simpler times” of “Before Sunset” where we’re a little older and wiser but still have enough hope for the future.)