Monday, February 22, 2010

Trip Planning

Vacation planning. I have a lot of empathy for travel agents! But where are they? In the turmoil of on-line bookings and an ever-increasing number of vacation companies, figuring out a holiday is a task for the non-weary. Which is why you need a vacation in the first place. It is a Catch-22, but if one wants a holiday, the energy must be found.

The problem, according to my travel agent (#2) is that there are so many choices. So much of my time in the last month has been in front of the computer screen - others made it sound so easy. I ran to Travel Agent #1 when I became blurry from vacations that were selling off, airfares equal to my monthly income, and not having a clue about where to leave from. Not Vancouver - the Olympics are keeping that place occupied, and one of the busiest places is the airport. Not the local airport - in winter weather, flights are cancelled frequently. Leaving from Toronto means a high probability of two overnight hotels in Canada - Toronto is the preferred departure city for going to Havana, Cuba.

Okay, I am going to make a decision. I am going to do a tour with GAP Adventures. Cuba sounds great. The GAP Adventure people do all the arranging, and on top of that, they are committed to sustainable tourism (a portion of the fee goes to the country where you travel). Perfect. The tour begins in Havana. Flights from my closest largest airport (Spokane) do not go to Cuba; I could get routed through Mexico City at a cost of $1,200.00. Nope, I would need to leave out of Toronto. On the west coast, the flights go to Veradero.

Okay, forget the tour - I'll go to Veradero. A couple weeks on the beach; Cuba is well known for its beaches. My colleagues at work suggest Trip Central; I check it out on line. Yep, sounds like some possibilities - now I am in the last minute club. I look up the price, and am introduced to a phrase I never heard before - single supplement. What this basically means is don't travel alone. You get charged an additional 40 to 70% because you are not double occupancy.

I am back to GAP Adventures - the Mayan World in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. The trip begins in Antigua and ends in Cancun. I can get a plane fare from San Francisco return for $490.00. Not too bad. And I can get to San Francisco for $235 return. I add up all the extra costs - $2,000 for 7 days. Too much for a working girl.

So I am back to the drawing board - what do I want to do on my holiday ? Very little. A beach would be nice. And a place where I can get used to my travelling-alone legs.

Hawaii! Yep, $325 from San Francisco. Sounds grand! I look up places to stay, and then send out a distress flare in the form of an e-mail to my friend who has a friend who goes to Hawaii all the time. She writes back immediately with many suggestions of places to stay. Lovely B&Bs. I find Trip Advisor and find an interesting detail. If you come to Hawaii, you must rent a car. Back to the e-mail - yes, the friend of my friend says; she is going there soon; she found a rental car for 12 days for $650.00. I do the math. $650.00 for one person or two (or 3 or 4 for that matter), plus this plus that. Yikes! This may be a trip to do with someone else.

Back to the websites - Caribbean Mexico sounds great. I'll find my own hotel, thank you very much. I search the flight broker sites, and I am awash in choices - 574 flight choices, ranging from $500 to $5,000 and from about 8 hours to 36 hours. (36 hours! Could I drive there faster? Where do you go for 36 hours?)

Somewhere in those many, many website pages, I find a detail of the airlines that travel out of Spokane, and then I visit their sites, one by one. There is an affordable flight - $475, and here's the deal - it's a Tuesday thing. If I leave on a Tuesday and come back on a Tuesday two weeks later, that's the deal. I am back in the office requesting a date change for holidays.

I am exhausted.

Which brings me to now. Looking for a cat sitter... *sigh*

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