Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ticket(s) to Ride

We've already established that I'm a bit of a planner - and, I know, it's my own fault. I've learned over the years that I am most comfortable when I have something fun to look forward to. This can also be interpreted as an inability to firmly live in the moment, but let's consider the cup to be half full today, ok? So, I've been planning a trip to Italy to celebrate Tom's 50th birthday for about 4 years. Well, mentally for 4 years, but in reality about the last 10 months. Last May I found the perfect villa in Tuscany - it had plenty of room for everyone who said they wanted to join us, and also was divided into separate units to provide some privacy and space to the various groups. Once this major portion of the trip was decided (or so I innocently thought), airfare became the next focus of my attention.

Beginning last fall, I started trolling for airfare for our family of 5 ,with an ideal budget of $4000 for plane tickets. As I started to monitor various travel sites for airfare prices, I had to resign myself to the fact that our plane tickets were probably going to cost us $1000 more than I had previously anticipated. Since we were interested in expanding our trip a bit to include a couple of days in London (Liam's request), I thought I'd find the best deal by flying in and out of London. I've heard of "open-jaw" tickets, but don't really know much about how that works. I instead decided to buy round trip tickets to London and then book tickets on another carrier to take us from London to Pisa return. I went completely out on a limb 2 months ago and snatched up tickets for the London-Pisa segment on Easy Jet for the sweet price of $700 total. Purchasing tickets piecemeal like this is not for the faint of heart. I was pretty comfortable taking this route since our flight out of London wasn't until early evening and I am familiar enough with trans-Atlantic flying to know that most international flights arrive in Europe in the early morning, thus giving us plenty of time, if necessary, to travel between London's 4 airport choices.

Yesterday morning, after weeks of seeing no fares below $4300, I got lucky. Vayama came through with a price of $3400 on Swissair out of JFK. I ultimately booked the flight directly with Swissair becuase it was even less money - $3300. Now this flight is not ideal - we have to fly out of Kennedy rather than Boston which means navigating around the city and out on Long Island on a summer Friday afternoon. We also have a layover in Geneva, which I can accept much more readily than some of the domestic carriers' options of flying to Philadelphia or Chicago prior to heading East. We're also flying into Heathrow while our Pisa flight is out of Gatwick, but we have 5.5 hours to manage that transfer and, honestly, after being penned up for 8+ hours on a plane, I think the boys would do well to stretch their jet-lagged legs a bit. The coolest thing (other than the price!) is that on our way home, we depart from London's City Airport which will be very convenient since we are trying to find accommodations in Central London.

So - our trip to Italy/London is shaping up nicely. I was able to find airfare within my budget and have a couple of major components of the trip decided. The folks who originally committed to sharing our villa have been less easy to pin down, but I will do my best to ensure that this is a family/friend trip that will long be remembered. Incidentally, we do have room for one more couple to join us so if you're interested in spending a week (with the Lillys!!) drinking wine and soaking up the sun in Tuscany, get in touch.

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