Travel Planning – the Ups and Downs

I haven’t posted in awhile, mostly because I started a new job in May and I get tired easily. It turns out blogging is exhaustive work, there’s all this writing stuff involved and it’s crazy. But with a new job comes new PTO so, although I haven’t been posting lately, I have been constantly thinking about how to spend all this PTO. Legit, PTO burns a hole in my pocket more than money ever will.

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to travel. I even went to Turkey for Thanksgiving one year – just so I could say I went to Turkey for Thanksgiving. No other holiday reliably offers two days off of work (for us office drones, anyway) and right before a weekend! So it’s always a great time to squeeze in a longer trip with minimal use of PTO. Now, I realize that some of you would never dream of not spending Thanksgiving with your extended family. I don’t have that problem. I can see my family anytime. What I can’t do anytime is take a 9-day vacation with only 3 days of PTO. Later for you, family!

So I started my new job on May 8th. By May 9th I was searching for flights for my Thanksgiving trip. I was shooting for Central America. Maybe Guatemala or Nicaragua. Somewhere down there. I only knew I wanted to keep the airfare under $600. For some reason, $600 is my magic airfare cut-off amount. I just needed to sit back and wait for the deals to show up.

I’ve said before that I’m a huge fan of Secret Flying’s page on FB. It’s my everything. It has higher priority on my feed than my husband’s page. Without Secret Flying, my world would be filled with misery. I’m not even joking. So every day I’m going through the fares they post, waiting impatiently for a flight from Minneapolis (or Chicago! I’m open-minded) to somewhere, anywhere, in Central America.

That’s when it showed up. The most amazing fare I’ve ever seen. Only $400 for an overseas flight! $400 for an overseas flight from Chicago to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! I had to make it mine. I had to make this thing permanent. I booked that flight within thirty minutes of laying eyes on it. It was love at first sight.

2011 Cambodia. My last trip to SE Asia

So! What happened to my dreams of Central America, you ask? Who cares? $400 from the American Midwest to Southeast Asia?! Dude. Central America, sorry to sound harsh but please go have a seat. I’ll be back to deal with you later. Love you!

Cheap travel tip #1: be flexible in your destination

I booked airfare from Chicago to Ho Chi Minh City, but I’m based in Minneapolis. Chicago is only a 90-minute flight away though. No problem. Time to buy airfare to Chicago.

Uh, there’s a problem. While one can almost always find a flight between MSP and Chicago for $100, I couldn’t find one at that price for my specific travel dates and times. This is exactly why I’m such a huge of being FLEXIBLE when buying airfare – because when you’re stuck to specific dates, things can get hella expensive.

Transiting through ORD for Bangkok, 2011

You see, the flight to Vietnam departs Chicago in the afternoon and returns in the morning. So I need to get to Chicago in the morning, and return in the evening. I’m not trying to stay overnight in Chicago on either end of the trip – the hotel costs would eat up any savings I got with that original low airfare.

So I had to splurge. $200 for a round trip flight MSP-ORD. Is it worth it? HELL YES. Because I’m still going from Minneapolis to Ho Chi Minh City for a grand total of $600 (a normal flight would be upwards of $900). But remember what I said earlier? Of course you don’t. I said that $600 is my magic airfare cut-off amount. Bam! *fairy dust*

Cheap travel tip #2: be willing to fly out of other airports if you can get to that airport easily and at a low cost

Up next: Do I really want to hang around in Ho Chi Minh City? It looks like a lot of city and I’m not interested in huge cities these days. Hanoi looks dope, but still more city than I’m looking for. And Halong Bay is out – I need more time for those boats. I only have 7 days total to spend in Vietnam.

I’m looking for quiet villages with tourist infrastructure and upscale lodging – YES Y’ALL, I’m traveling fancy on this trip. I have no choice.  My 40 year-old back put in a special request for a posturepedic mattress and a pillow menu. I have to give it what it wants.

Who’s on a boat in Cambodia? THIS GIRL

I’m still researching where to go, but starting to narrow it down to Hue and Hoi An. If you have any ideas, drop me a line. I probably won’t take your opinion into account because I’m kind of an asshole like that, but I enjoy hearing from you anyway!

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