Friday, December 26, 2014

To Book Ahead, Or Not To Book Ahead?

Before I took my trip to Greece last summer, I planned everything out. I booked flights for the whole trip, knew where I wanted to be on what days, and Couch surfing requests were sent out as soon as I knew what city I would be in (most of them sent months in advance). About 3 weeks into my trip, I was scheduled to fly from Athens to Istanbul (and had a whole itinerary arranged for my month traveling around Turkey). I also had flights booked from Istanbul to Bucharest, then Bucharest back to Athens... Aaaand I did not make a single one of those flights!

The night before I was supposed to leave Athens, I went out with friends for what ended up being a spectacularly epic night... We were drinking and partying like it was our last night on earth... and last morning, too! I woke up shortly after noon (after perhaps an hour of sleep), thinking I had plenty of time to make it back to my host's place to pack, eat, maybe grab a nap, and hit an internet cafe before I was scheduled to meet my first host from Athens at five, so he could help me get my glasses from customs (another story for another time) on the way to the airport. 

I arrived at my hosts home, looking forward to a bite to eat and a short nap before I continued my travels. But, the first thing my host told me when I walked in the door shortly after one, was that I was meeting my friend at three, not five, that afternoon. Oh shit!!! Shower, inhale a little food, throw everything in my bag and out the door! Exhausted, rushed, but still pleased with the wonderful time I had had in Athens, I ran out the door to meet my first host, and then onto Turkey!

Because of the time change for meeting my friend, I was unable to stop by an internet cafe to get the contact information for my host in Istanbul. After a couple hours of running around, I had my glasses in hand, and was on the bus to the airport. My flight was supposed to arrive in Istanbul at around ten thirty that evening. Aaaand I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. The thought of landing alone at night in that city with no contact information for anyone was terrifying, especially after my crazy first night in Athens (another great story for another time), which was a much smaller and safer city. 

I was completely in love with Athens, and extremely reluctant to leave the city, but I was determined to continue my adventures in Turkey. It would be silly to let a whim ruin the rest of my plans. Hmmmm... what to do? Give up on the next part of my adventure and stay in a city I loved, or travel to a more dangerous city, alone, at night, with no information? I knew there was a Couch Surfing meet up in Athens that night, and I knew where some hostels were if for some insane reason I failed to find a host at the meet up. Well, I am brave, but not stupid. I decided if I couldn't get any information, I should postpone Turkey. I could always fly out next week.

When I was unable to connect to the internet in the Athens airport (as expected), I joyously made my way to the metro to get back into the city and head to the meet up to find a host (which I did with no trouble). 

So that is the story of my first missed flight. In the next few days, I booked a ticket to Izmir, and a round trip to Prague from Romania (why not add another stop?). I certainly wasn't going to just throw away the rest of my trip because of one missed flight... or so I thought! 

 My first day in Izmir was terrible, and I instantly decided I needed to leave the country for a while. I had to get back to Greece, I hated this place! I could still make my flight to Romania if I went to a Greek island for a few days or a week... Two days later, I caught a bus to the port town, and arranged a round trip ferry ticket. I was NOT going to miss the rest of my trip! 

Buuuuut I was on an island. And I was in heaven. White sand, clear waters, kind people, and big parties... Totally stuck. I stayed for two weeks on that little beach, wasting away my days in a paradise of beach bum bliss. After my island dream, instead of going back to Turkey (and onto the rest of my destinations) I made my way back to Athens by ferry. It was suggested by a number of people that I buy the cheaper ticket to Mykonos, and just stay on the boat until Athens, so I did that. It turns out that they check tickets after Mykonos, and I had to pay for a ticket from Mykonos to Athens (almost the same price as getting there from the island I left from, so I ended up paying an extra 20 euros)...  Learn from my mistake on that one if you are ever island hopping. I will never again book a Greek island ferry round trip, or in advance. These prices are stable, and you don't save more than 2-5 euros booking round trip.

I had soooooo many wasted tickets! Sooo much extra money on things I didn't use! I vowed never to book my in-between tickets in advance again. 

Now here I am, preparing for my next trip in February. My one way to Stockholm is booked. I plan to visit France, make a stop in Greece, then spend my spring in Ireland before I spend my summer in Greece again. Because this is such an extended trip, I have to be careful of how many days I stay in each place, and may be in a position where I have to leave by a certain day. So, sometimes last minute flights are cheaper. But sometimes they are significantly more expensive, and I can't afford to be put in a position where I am spending twice as much as I need to for a flight that I have to take. To book ahead, or not to book ahead?!?!  

I keep track of different prices for the flights I want, and check them regularly. Some of the flights I want have varied in price up to about $30, depending on the day. One day, I saw that the ticket I wanted from Stockholm to Paris had dropped $15 in price, to only $30! So I booked it. I am looking at some other flights (Paris to Athens, and Athens to Dublin), and am so torn if I should book them when the prices drop, or if I should wait. I know, I know... I said I would never book in advance again. But this is a little different... I am on a long trip and have to be in certain countries on certain days and can only stay for so long in each place. I think I will book my flights through Dublin before I leave, and wait on my flight back to Greece until the time gets closer. 

I will keep you posted on how the booking ahead works this time... Maybe I will actually be able to stick with a schedule! I am learning every time I travel. I learned not to book in advance, but I also know what it is like to have to leave somewhere, need a flight, and end up paying way more than I could have. Flight prices change a lot, but if I wasn't traveling for so long on such a strict schedule and budget, I would not book ahead. But I am, so one more time, I will try booking some flights in advance. Wish me luck, we will see how it goes! 

Peace out and adventure on! 

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