October 21, 2008

Good thing I had already wanted to change my plans

Ever since early 2005, I've been flying on Air India to get from Newark Airport (one of the 3 NYC area airports) to Charles de Gaulle, in Paris. The flight has never changed - it leaves from either 9pm or 10pm from Newark every day, and at 2.30pm every day from Paris. So when I moved to Europe this past April, I bought roundtrip tickets. I left from Newark Airport on 20 April, and my return ticket was for 22 December.

Over the past several days I had been thinking a lot about travel, money, holidays, etc., and decided that rather than go home for Hanukkah/Christmas/New Years, I would stay here in Europe. A huge part of that decision is due to financial reasons - even though I have (well, had) a ticket to the US, I would still have to purchase one back to Europe and fly at a very expensive time. Being in the states over the holidays would mean running all over the place on trains or buses or renting a car - also expensive. Then the major deciding factor came - there were some schedule changes in weddings and events that I'm planning to attend in the spring/summer of 2009, and basically I know that I'll be taking a trip to the states in both May and August. It started to not make any sense to have 3 trips to the states planned for an 8-month period, all at peak travel times. If I have to let one of those trips go, the winter trip makes the most sense. I would rather be in the states when the weather is nice, when I have more money saved up, when the rest of the world isn't all trying to travel at the same time, and so on. So having made that decision, I called the Air India office in Amsterdam to find out the best way of changing my e-ticket. I have done this with Air India in the past and it wasn't complicated.

Well, it wasn't very complicated when Air India was still flying from Paris to New York. Turns out that daily flight has gotten the ax as of this month! Wow, good thing I wasn't planning to use my ticket home, huh? I wondered if they would have bothered to tell me anything if I hadn't checked. I talked to a few different people yesterday, none of which could really help me, except to say that there were no other flights available for the 22nd of December. I was advised to send an email, since I purchased the ticket online - anyway, to make a long, confusing story much shorter, I was pleasantly surprised to actually receive an email back from the airline about 12 hours later. They told me I could change the ticket to fly in late April 2009, re-booked on continental airlines, for a $75 USD charge. That's exactly what I was hoping for, and that $75 USD charge is the same price I paid about three years ago to change a ticket. I mean, I still wish the airline had contacted me to let me know about this pretty major detail, but in the end it all seems to be working out (assuming Continental doesn't go out of business before April 2009).

And now I'm left to my own devices for a winter holiday in Europe! I have a lot of time off work between Christmas and New Years, and I'm pretty excited about making some travel plans. I've been feeling pretty anxious to travel somewhere new lately, but between financial reasons and having so many visitors in Amsterdam, it seemed like I wouldn't get more than a weekend away. Now I have sixteen days to work with, and since I have plenty of time to plan and I'm just sticking to Europe, I can keep it all very affordable. Right now I'm thinking of taking that time to travel slowly from southwest Austria (starting in Innsbruck) to southern Italy (maybe going all the way to Sicily). If I think about all the things I'm likely to be missing by the time December rolls around, it's snow, mountains, and sun (well, I already miss the mountains). With 16 days in that area of Europe, I could get all of that! I'll have to do a little more research into it, but I remember that train travel in Italy isn't very expensive. I'm looking at flights right now that are priced between €7 to €55 - a whole lot cheaper than flying to or from New York City! I might stick to Amsterdam through Christmas and then travel from the 26th of December through the 6th or 7th of January, which would make things even more affordable ... can you tell that as I write, I have five different airline and train websites in the background? I love this part of the planning process, when everything seems like a good idea. The only place in Austria I ever spent time in is Vienna, and in Italy I've just been to Rome (twice) and spent many hours sitting in a park in Bari, so this would all be fairly new for me.

So, if anyone reading has advice/tips/recommendations for what to do with two weeks in Austria and Italy in late December and early January, I'm all ears. I wouldn't even normally plan this much in advance, but traveling around the holidays - even at "off" times or days - well, things do get booked. If anyone else is in the same position as me, let me advise you to check in with your airlines and confirm your plans now! Hopefully the next time I use Air India, it will be to actually go to India. Too bad, I'll miss having some decent food on my cross-Atlantic flights.


Bicyclemark said...

my 2 cents. avoid low cost airlines: Ryan Air, Wizz, and maybe Sterling.. like the plague. It looks cheaper but you lose hours going to obscure airports and extra fees on special buses and then you get on and its like a shitty bus and everyone is a douche and blaa... fly KLM or something quality. Transavia is acceptable.. depending on what airport theyre going to. Skyeurope.. also a maybe. but thats it!

Another American Expat said...

I've never had a problem with Sky Europe, and the two times I've used Transavia it's been fine, so yes, I'll stick to those. I've never heard of Sterling, but have gotten screwed over by both WizzAir and Ryan Air enough times in the past to feel wary of ever using those again.

KLM is probably one of the nicer airlines I've flown for short trips. wonder what kind of prices they have... off to check!