25 September 2010

Where in the World to Go

Planning is at least half the fun of travel.  Typically reservations are made within three months of departure.  I wait for that window to see what the fares will be for various destinations.  But before that, I'm thinking about  where would be a good place to go.  I usually try to have a purpose, if even only a little one, so as to have some focus to the trip (something to look forward to exploring).  Last December, after Christmas, for example, I went to Germany (flight destination Frankfurt) to continue exploring the Christmas markets of Germany -- some were still open after Christmas Day.  That trip was memorable and not just for the sights.  There was a fair amount of snowfall during my stay in Berlin.  My plans had me flying from Berlin to Munich to catch a Lufthansa flight to JFK.  To help make sure I made that connection, I went to the Berlin Airport early and hoped to get on an earlier flight to Berlin.  Turns out, you can't just show up at the Lufthansa gate and try to get on an earlier flight.  Unlike United gate agents in the States, Lufthansa gate agents cannot just move you to the flight or even put you on standby.  I had to first talk to a Lufthansa ticket agent, who had to move me to that flight officially.  That's the only way I was going to show up on the earlier flight.  It eventually worked out and it was a good thing -- had I stayed on my original flight, it would have landed just as the flight for New York was departing.

January's trip was to London (inexpensive fare and easy upgrade).  February was Singapore, with the hope of checking out the new Marina Bay Sands Skydeck and shopping and casino complex.  Turned out that it was behind schedule and not open yet, so I went to check out the brand new casino that just opened on Sentosa Island.  That trip was also memorable because it was the first time I had ever gotten stuck overseas.  My trips to Singapore require a plane change in Hong Kong.  United has inbound flights from Chicago and SFO and the Chicago plane goes to Singapore and the SF plane goe to Vietnam.  The return follows the same pattern, so even though my plane got to Hong Kong on time, I was subject to the whims of the Chicago plane, which decided to have a mechanical problem that could not be fixed within the allotted time for crew validity.  So they eventually had to put all of us up overnight (at their expense). 

That's one thing I do not like about the Singapore destination -- I am dependent upon a flight from Chicago and it is subject to delays and problems often associated with O'Hare.  The other thing that makes the trip a little tough is the schedule.  You get into Singapore (if on time) close to midnight.  And the departure for the return is very early in the morning.  This year, however, I discovered melatonin, which seem to work for me and helps to ensure I can sleep on the plane (if in business class) and also overcomes some of the jet lag.

May was a trip back to London and a short stay outside of London at a hotel castle (Thornbury Castle).  June was a trip back to Frankfurt and a stay in Baden-Baden and a visit to Strasbourg in Alsace.  That trip was more of a short vacation than a mileage run, but the destination was selected because I had plans to go back to Germany in early July with some friends and I decided I wanted to leverage a Eurail pass over both trips.

The July trip was back to Germany with friends for a real vacation.  But the trip did not count because it was on a free ticket.  I'll discuss my approach to free tickets and using miles in the next post.

September was a trip back to Singapore and the Skydeck was open, as was the casino.  Trips are tentatively set for November and December to finish off the year with flight destinations I've been to, but with intent to see places that I had not yet explored.

We are now caught up with the big trips.

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