Tag Archives: trip planning

Newly discovered travel resources

Summer is officially on in Istanbul and I’m in high travel-planning mode, with trips planned to beach town Bodrum tonight, Kosovo (long story) next weekend, a weekend in late July to a neighboring country, and a weeklong TBD trip in August for my 30th birthday. In addition to my usual methods of obsessive research (see this Jauntsetter post I wrote last year), I’ve found a number of new resources enormously useful:

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One week to Istanbul!

Many thanks for the many comments, emails, tweets, etc, on this blog, all very valuable and helpful! Some updates:

  • I leave for Istanbul on Tuesday, April 27! Flying Turkish Air, hoping for an upgrade since I’m flying a fully refundable coach ticket.
  • I’ll be in Milan May 6-10, staying at my cousin’s place and possibly our fabulous client Principe di Savoia with daytrips planned to Venice and the Lakes region.
  • I bought a Kindle and started loading it with Turkey travel guides, Stieg Larsson novels, and looking for epic novels.
  • My NYC fun list has been cut down due to the mammoth workload I have in my apartment, though I’m still planning on lunch at Peter Luger’s, Tim Burton MoMA exhibit, and a few others.
  • Why is my NYC fun list cut? I’m going through ANOTHER bed bug hell, this time in my living room. This means all the hundreds of books, winter coats, and unfinished projects have to be bagged and stored in another room. AHHH, it’s hard to contemplate, but it will get done somehow.
  • To my dismay, YouTube and WordPress are BANNED in Turkey. I have learned of a number of ways to get around this, including H’s VPN and numerous proxies, but I’ll update (hopefully) once I’m on the ground.
  • Due to the ash cloud, H had an interesting experience getting to Turkey. Original flight was routed through Kiev to Istanbul, but he ended up stranded in Moscow, unable to leave the airport due to lack of visa though he was born in Russia. On the plus side: he found himself drinking beers in the airport with Jeff Koons and Onyx!
  • We finished watching season 2 of Breaking Bad and started season 3, so good! I can continue on iTunes, any tips on watching Showtime/HBO shows online? I’ve resisted watching Treme so far because I know I might not be able to watch the whole season, but want to continue with Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara.
  • Lots of friends plan to visit me in Turkey over the summer, let me know if your plans take you there!

Back to the purging and packing..

A trip to Byzantium/New Rome/Constantinople/Istanbul

As alluded to, we spent the last week of 2008 trompsing around Istanbul.  Why Turkey?  We had one more SWU to use on American and wanted to go as far as possible on it to soak up all the business class goodness but Asia was way expensive and Western Europe not far enough.  Istanbul was a good compromise, straddling two continents and with a favorable exchange rate (though see my previous post).  I’ll recap in detail but here are some general notes:

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium

We thought that the answer to the mileage run conundrum would be Alaska, as it's a cool 7,142 miles round-trip with an obligatory stop in Chicago.  H has always wanted to go to Anchorage, while it's not high on my list, so it seemed like a good choice for our purposes. However, the only flights arrive Anchorage at 11:15pm with a red eye (and stopover!) on the way back, the bulk of the journey on the hated Alaska Airlines.  But, for a few weeks, we played the hold and release game, holding the same flights over and over to buy time before actually buying the tickets.  Eventually, though, the tickets went up to over $600 and it seemed less and less worthwhile for a two day trip.

Over the holiday weekend, I tried another tack and looked at Europe flights, after reading this Portfolio Seat 2B column. Not wanting any flights that involve London Heathrow even as a layover stop, I compared fares in continental Europe.  Amazingly, the cheapest and least painful tickets were to Brussels, for a 3 night trip.  The irony here is that Belgium is just where I wanted to go for Christmas originally.  I am massively jealous, and am insisting that H bring me Belgian chocolate (I imagine the fries and beer wouldn't travel so well) and visit the Christmas markets.

H and I have sort of started watching The Amazing Race, as we watch Cold Case on Sundays and TAR often runs into the Cold Case's start time.  If the application deadline weren't today, we would totally apply for the show. How awesome would a hotel publicist and a business traveler be on that show?!  H can be the expert in packing for an around-the-world trip in one carry-on and bitch about how it's like these people have never flown before, and I can help local hotels to create "newsy" items and packages around their village ceremonies and customs ("After a day at the market, bring in a chicken for a complimentary welcome cocktail!").  We can't lose!

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Who knew making travel so painful would be so fun?

Generally when booking a trip, I try to find the least painful flights with no connections or at least the easiest connections.  I never check bags if possible and try to fly at the least congested times.  For my theoretical summer 2008 trip, I'm trying to find flights to Europe that don't go through Heathrow, so I can avoid that kerfuffle.  But right now I'm dealing with something different: the mileage run:

Husband is/was a frequent flyer; he was flying to CA back and forth every week until April, now he's working more locally.  As of today, he has
89,137 elite-qualifying miles, 10,866 miles shy of the all-important Executive Platinum status.  Our upcoming trip to Nicaragua will add another 4,240 miles, leaving 6,626 to go.  Why is this so important?  Well, aside from being automatically upgraded on domestic flights when available, getting bonus miles on all flights, and generally being treated like a human being: there are the eVIPs.  These are systemwide upgrades you can use to fly first class at coach prices.  These precious things have allowed us to fly to Chile and Ireland in first class for a few hundred bucks a ticket and get miles at the same time.  There's also the skip the line element: at Heathrow for one, we were able to totally skip a line like this.  But beyond that, it's just a matter of pride.  H will be damned if he flew 90,000 miles just to barely miss out on the EXP goodness. 

We kept hoping he'd be staffed on another project that would require flying by year's end, but now that it's November, we are starting to sweat those last 6,626 miles.  I've been spending more and more time each day trying to figure out the most horrific flights that will bring him closest to the 100k goal without costing us a fortune.  Unless tickets are very cheap, this will probably be a solo trip, so I am taking great joy in finding the most painful flights for maximum miles.  Some contenders, all over Thanksgiving, may I add:

La Guardia to Boston to LA to Reno: 3175 miles, 14 hours including layovers
Return via LAX to Newark: a piddly 2,841 but pretty good for $579

LGA to Chicago O'Hare to Dallas to Calgary: 3,052 miles, 13 hours including layovers
Return through Dallas: 2,890, still nearly 700 miles short

So the key, I think, is to choose cities as far across the country as possible that don't offer many direct connections.  American Airlines in their infinite wisdom, makes it impossible to get to Reno without flying to California.  And Calgary is north of Seattle, why wouldn't you fly to the southwest first?! Sucks for anyone who might need to get there in a convenient way, but great for us.  I'm going to have to spend much more time studing the boards at Flyertalk.com and searching American's website if we are going to be serious about getting these miles, but I'm enjoying the journey.  Which H certainly won't.

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