Hawaii!!!

My awesome cousin James is getting married in February in Kona, Hawaii. He is marring a lovely lady named Katie and my whole family is flying out to the Big Island for the wedding. Yay for James for landing an awesome girl and Yay for me for getting in more travel!

I spent the last several days trying to determine the most cost effective way for my family and I to travel to Hawaii. I was trying to book for myself, my mom & dad, and Katy & Evan.

Originally we considered renting a house, but after a lot of research I determined that renting a house did not save us all that much. We would want a place with a number of bedrooms, and my mom wanted something nice. All the really nice rentals were not actually that much cheaper than hotels and do not come with maid service, pools, etc. Plus a lot of the rentals are on golf courses, not at the beach, and we want beach access.

Next I considered arranging the trip ourselves (flights, rental cars, hotel, etc.) or going with a tour package. The tour packages are a significantly better deal, but you have to be careful who you book with. I originally tried to book through United.com because I get miles, except the competitive price package United offered insisted that I share a room with my parents. Whereas with Expedia.com, I was able to get a better hotel for a little cheaper, and I got my own room. The only difference is we are flying Alaska Airlines rather than United.  I tried to point out that I was getting two bedrooms at a better hotel for cheaper to the travel agent at United, but they still refused to try and adjust their package to give us more than one bedroom.

My parents and I are only going to Kona, and we will be staying at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. Katy & Evan are going to go to Kauai first, and they are staying at The St. Regis Princeville Resort. They will be there for a few days and then come and join everyone in Kona.

Katy and Evan got their scuba licenses this summer while they were in Brazil. I am hoping to take a few scuba lessons in Hawaii and get my license. That way I can scuba with them. It should be an excellent trip and I can not wait to go.

Another S. America Trip

I am now trying to plan two S. American trips simultaneously. There is the trip next month to Galapagos & Santiago, and now there is a trip in July/August of 2013 to Machu Picchu. For Galapagos I am the one in charge of planning and it is a huge pain. For Machu Picchu, I am going with the Vegas Girls, so while I am providing input, I do not have the plan the entire thing myself. This is a lovely change.

For Machu Picchu I think we are going to be using Llama Path (LP) as our tour company. One of the Girls’ coworkers used this company before and really enjoyed it. Plus LP has an emphasis on sustainable tourism, so even though we will be hiking the Inca trail, our impact on the landscape and ruins should be minimal. Every year there is talk of closing the Inca trail and Machu Picchu because all the tourists are having a negative impact. I want my contribution to the destruction to be as minimal as possible, and LP appears to have that same conservation focus.

We are going to be a huge group. As of now, it appears that 11 people will be going. It is the Vegas Girls and everyones significant others. With such a large group we are thinking of doing the private Imperial Tour that LP offers. The private Imperial Tour isn’t significantly more expensive than the group tours, especially since the group tour adds an additional $70 a day if you want to rent half a porter. Here are the details for the Imperial tour. Nothing has been decided on yet, but I think we will likely go with this tour.

OPTION 2 – PRIVATE SERVICE (Imperial service)
   In this service no one else will be allowed to join you  so there will
be only you and your guide, the cost of this trek is 670 USD  per
person .
 This price already include a half porter per person
Also, it looks like I am going to be going to Tahoe in two weekends with a group of friends. I will post about that trip if we actually go. I love having so many travel plans in the works.
Cheers ya’ll!

Flights Booked!

Greetings Travelers,

My South America trip is falling into place. I have the Galapagos cruise booked and paid for (GL finally got the check), and I have my flights to and from S. America set up. I used Fly.com to book the flights, and I came up with a pretty decent price.

I first started looking at prices several weeks ago and the Fly showed the price of tickets from SFO -> Quito, Quito -> Santiago and Santiago -> SFO to be about $1,400. Over the last several weeks the prices for tickets went up to around $1,900, but then stayed at that range.

Last Wednesday I was ready to book the flights for $1,900 a person, but Katy asked me to delay until she had her flight from Santiago -> Quito and back booked. I am not sure why she wanted me to wait, but I agreed to this. Turns out this was a bad idea. The very next day I went to book my flight and the same itinerary had increased in price to $2,550 a person! Initially I started to freak out. I was booking tickets for three people and did not want to be paying an extra $650 a person.

I assumed that it was the initial flights that were the catalyst for the price increase. I re-ran my Fly and Kayak searches over and over, trying different days to depart from SFO and Quito -> Santiago, but the prices always came up in the $2,550 range. Finally I tried switching the return date, and that was when I got my price to drop back around $1,900. I had the misconception that flight prices were generally determinant on the departure date & price, not the return date. This was apparently wrong. By delaying my return date, I got the price to drop.

We will be flying mainly on Lan Airlines. This makes me very happy since I have found that foreign airlines tend to have more leg room and much better service than US airlines. Fly found the best price for Lan coming from Orbitz. I even re-ran the flight search directly from the Lan website, and the Orbitz price was better.

I am almost done with all the booking for the S. America trip. I still need to get a hotel in Quito and to plan day trips/over night trips from Santiago. I hope to have all that figured out by the end of this week. Katy sent me a list of the fun things to do in and around Santiago, so now I just need to pick some. Life is so hard. ;)

Cheers.

Galapagos

Greetings Travelers,

I am currently trying to plan a vacation to the Galapagos. The limiting factor in my vacation planning is dates. Katy is only available starting December 21st, and we are scheduled to be in Valparaiso, Chile Dec 29th. This gives us a very tight window to actually make it out to the Galapagos, and to make matters worse, most Galapagos cruises leave at the start of the month or mid-month.

After about 2 weeks of research and contacting travel sites, I finally found a tour that worked. I booked through www.galapagosislands.com (“GI”). What I like about this site was that I was able to email them describing the kind of tour I wanted and the date limitations, and someone emailed me back within 24 hours with a list of all the cruises they offered that fit within my range. The prices, while not the cheapest, are not totally unreasonable either. For instance, they are significantly less expensive than the National Geographic tours run by Lindblad Expeditions (I am sure the Lindblad trips are amazing, but not within my price range).

The tour company suggested several options that might work, with only one fitting within the exact range I needed. I would have liked to book a slightly higher level cruise, but one option is better than none. We are going to be taking the Monserrat Yacht, itinerary C.

Booking the cruise with GI started off well, but I have now reached a hiccup in paying. GI charges an additional 4% of total sales price when you use a credit card. I am unwilling to pay the extra 4% just to use a credit card, so I mailed in a check return receipt to their location in Miami. It has now been over a week since I mailed the check and the company has not received it. I am considering stopping payment on the check and paying by credit card, but I have a problem paying the 4% service charge. I have emailed the cruise company and offered to pay by credit card if they waive the 4% charge, but no one has gotten back to me.

That is about all I have for now. I will post more when I know about the payments and book our flights.

Cheers!