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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

When I was living in Norway I saw some really amazing things.  It’s a gorgeous country and because I knew I was only there for a little while I really pushed myself to get out and see everything, be it distant locations or just to a part of the city I’d never seen.  When I would talk to many of my Norwegian friends about where I was going I was always surprised that they had never been to many of the famous landmarks and fjords I was visiting, despite the fact that they hardly had to go further than their own backyard.  I realized though, that there were many places near my own home that I had never been.  Places I have no excuse for not visiting.  I resolved that I would treat wherever I was living as a tourist would, so that I would get out and see the wonders around me instead of putting it off till later.

I wish I could say that I have been a success at this, but I haven’t.  It’s not as easy to do as it sounds, the mountains and coast are close but it’s still hard to keep up the momentum in a place you are so settled into.  I’m going to try to challenge myself to live a bit more like a tourist and take in the cool things that are closer to home, and I want to challenge everyone else to do this too.

My start came this weekend.  I took a trip to Florence (the one on the coast of Oregon, not the one in Italy) to go camping.  I had a lot of fun wandering around on a rainy beach and watching some very brave/foolhardy surfers.  Check out the pictures:

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Getting There Part 1

I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer and I’ve been doing a lot of ticket research recently, and I thought that I could use my own experience as an example for anyone else who is trying to find the cheap international flights.  I’m a student so if I can’t find a dirt cheap ticket I can’t go, so I will look into a variety of options.  I’ve got a few of the basic options in mind, searching on sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Kayak, looking at tickets on the websites of various international airlines, going through a travel agent and maybe even seeing if I could lower the price by finding the cheapest cross-Atlantic flight regardless of the city of departure, and use a point to point airline to get to wherever it leaves from.  Since there is a lot of research involved in finding really cheap flights I won’t do all my research at once.  I’m guessing I’ll dedicate a post to each of the options, make a decision about the best options, and provide some general tips based on what I find and what I have done in the past.

I’ll start with the basics, my criteria:

Where:  I’m in Oregon so I will likely fly out of Portland (PDX) and I want to get to Frankfurt Germany where I will meet up with a friend and begin my backpacking.

When:  I want to go for about a month at the end of the coming summer break, most likely leave mid-August and return mid-September.  I’m pretty flexible about the dates and am more concerned with finding a low price than keeping any particular timeline.  Since I have a long time (Nearly ten months at the time of writing) I’m going to keep my options open.  It can be cheaper to buy your tickets way in advance but it can also, if you are lucky, be much cheaper to buy it shortly before you go.  I would like to have a ticket at least a month before I go, but I won’t buy one unless it seems like it is a screaming good deal.

How:  I’ m not really particular about comfort when I travel, I’m a strict price shopper, and I’m not particularly averse to long layovers, as always, if it keeps the ticket cheap.

What:  I’m a 23 year old male, but I won’t try to live for a month on what I can cram into a carry-on.  I’ll only need to check one bag, which should not cost me extra on international flights, but it may add some expense on point to point flights if I use them for any leg of my travels.

I think it is important to ask yourself what you need out of a flight.  I’m comfortable on any kind of plane and spartan conditions are fine with me, but if you can’t handle riding on small prop-driven planes then by all means don’t fly discount airlines, they’ll make you miserable.  If you are traveling with a child and don’t want to deal with the trouble of being layed over in Minnesota for 12 hours by all means make sure that it isn’t on your itinerary before you leave.  If buying a ticket on your own is to complicated you know you are safe if you go through a travel agents and many of them can get you great deals.  I travel the way I do because I care more about price than anything, I’m poor and will probably spend months saving every spare penny to get ready for this trip and if I can save a few hundred bucks by sitting around an airport and playing my gameboy for 12 hours I will.  When you travel you ultimately have to do what makes the most sense for you given your needs and requirements, so thinking about these things before hand is a great way to get started.

I figure I will kick this thing off with a quick search on Expedia.  I did a search for a round trip departing on Tuesday, August 17th 2010 and returning Wednesday, September 15th 2010.  I picked midweek dates because I know that they tend to be a little cheaper, since a lot of international travelers fly on the weekends which tends to drive the price up a little.  The price it initially returned was $1184.80 which is seems pretty reasonable for a flight from PDX (the airport most convenient for me) that flies directly to where I want to go (Frankfurt).

expedia

screencap of my search results at expedia on 10/31/2009

It’s through US Airways and I’m not really in love with flying through them and one of the stops on my way home is in Chicago O’Hare which is a notoriously bad place to fly through (My own horror story of getting stuck there on Christmas Eve will probably be a future blog post), but overall I’d say this price represents a pretty reasonable baseline.  However, I am pretty confident that I for the price I could find a flight through another airline that I trust more and know is more comfortable (Probably through one of the European Airlines, Lufthansa and SAS both have much nicer planes for crossing the Atlantic).

One thing to take note of is the message in red, telling me that they have raised the price five dollars.  I’m not sure what the deal is with that since I basically went through and selected the cheapest options, I suspect this is just their insidious way of padding their bottom line by sticking me for a few extra bucks.  I’ve heard rumors in the past about airline sites that will remember you through cookies  if you search multiple times and they will increase the price each time you search because they know you are really interested the ticket and they want to manipulate you into thinking that the price keeps going up, so you need to buy now.  The airlines have explanations that involve other factors (shifts in demand/supply do legitimately affect their prices) but I have had the experience where I had two friends online from their homes and we were searching for the same flight on Northwest Airlines at the same times and we all were getting different prices.

I did some research and I found that Consumer Report’s Web Watch have done some research on the issue that confirms that “Dynamic Pricing” is real, not just on travel sites but with many other web retailers.  They haven’t been able to confirm anything as insidious as the “each time you search the price goes up” rumor, but it certainly evidence that you need to be careful when you shop to not get manipulated into paying more than you should.  If you are shopping and the good deal they list has disappeared by the time you are trying to buy the ticket (it often happens that when you go to checkout the deal will be gone and the ticket price will have shot up) then go look somewhere else.  There are too many ways to buy tickets out there for you to get manipulated into buying something for more than its worth.

Looking it over I’m not blown away by the deal through Expedia.  It’s more than I want to pay, it’s on an airline I’ve had bad luck with in the past and it’s bringing me home through O’Hare, and I’m feeling a little upset that they’ve already begun to try to increase the airfair.  I’m going to keep looking, researching and blogging till I find a deal I like better than this.

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I think that Americans have a really interesting place in the world.  We live in what is many ways something of a cultural island.  Our mainstream culture is so powerful that it floods out into the rest of the world and we barely get a trickle of other cultures flowing back in.  I’ve been lucky enough in my life to get to travel, well a whole freaking lot, and I spend about as much time as I when I’m at home talking to people from outside the US.

I won’t make any pretense about knowing everything or having been everywhere, the world is so big and wide that anyone who makes claims like that is either deceiving you or themselves.  I do however harbor a burning love for travel and I want to encourage other people to travel as much as they can, and I think I may know enough to at least point people in the right direction.

Now I hope that as you read me waxing poetic about how much I love to travel and how cool I think it is to experience life in other countries that you haven’t begun to peg me as someone who dislikes America, because you couldn’t be further from the truth.  I love this country a whole damn lot, we’ve got some of the coolest cities and most beautiful forests and wildernesses in the world. Plus, I love that in America you can go to a Grocery store the size of a warehouse at 2AM and do all your shopping and not only is it open, it’s packed full of other people.

I guess ultimately my whole deal is that I like the variety of travel, the newness, the adventure.  Ultimately my experiences at home and abroad have been overwhelmingly positive.  The world is a really cool place and it often disappoints me that so many Americans are ignorant or afraid of the world outside our borders.

I truly believe, to the core of my being, that if we understood each other better, understood that most people the world over live normal, happy lives and are good to each other and their families, that we would find it much harder to bomb each other.  When we read the news (if we do read the news) the headlines are dominated by headlines about wars, famines, drugs and crime.  When we read about bad things happening here in America or in our own towns we don’t take it too seriously, we know that most people’s lives are never touched by those things.  But when we read about it happening in Colombia we are terrified to go there and can’t imagine how bad it must be for people there.  We never get a chance to go to see the real Colombia, the honest hardworking people who don’t have anything to do with the shocking headlines.  What my goal is, what I want to do is show people (and in particular my rather sheltered countrymen) the other 99% of things that are positive and even beautiful, things that you never hear about if you don’t get a chance to go there yourself.

My goal in life is to travel as much as I can and share my experience with other people, in hopes that they too will go out and experience life themselves. I haven’t really found an outlet for it, yet, so I started this blog to create my own outlet for that passion.  I’ve always loved photography and writing and I’m hoping to become a photojournalist in some field that would keep me traveling a lot.  I’m also keeping this blog so that I have a place to share what I’m learning in school as I try to develop the skills that I will need to become a professional journalist  and as well as talk about my personal experiences adventuring and traveling.

I’m hoping that anyone who reads this will give me feedback on the writing and pictures I post and that I can encourage everyone who isn’t experiencing enough of life to get away from their computer for a while and go out and enjoy the world we live in.

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