The passport has arrived
We read about the delay in receiving passports, but we hadn’t booked any flights. The delay did happen and the passport took about ten weeks to arrive. With our passports current, in hand and in dire need of a fresh immigration stamp or two, we searched high and low for trips that will satisfy both our desire for a short international sojourn and of course the trips within trips of our South American adventure. Although many of the passport backlogs have been resolved, make sure you first know how much time remains on your passport is required by the country/countries you are visiting and how many blank pages you need in your passport for all those immigration stamps you are going to collect.
Different people have different triggers to get them into trip planning and booking mode. Ours was having two up-to-date passports in our hands.
Our thought processes changed from a long trip right from the outset to just taking a short trip as a step back into travelling. We initially thought a short cruise followed by a longer journey would be the way to go. When I started this post in June 2022 we were leaning towards the short trip or cruise. As I am about to post this, towards the end of July 2022 we are now committed to a four and half month, three-continent adventure covering South America, Europe and one country in Asia – Thailand.
This series of blog articles will capture our planning process and then hopefully the adventure itself. This may help some people, but our travelling style and demographic will be the same but different to many folks, so take a look at our “About Us” page for an insight into who we are and the kind of traveller we are.
Research, research and more research
There have been some very good deals presented to us over the June period when we were researching cruises. We were on the cusp of purchasing one such deal when we started reviewing the comments about this provider on one of the forums that offers people the opportunity to comment on the quality of service provided by this travel agent.
To be honest we were shocked by the volume of bad reviews to the extent we have decided not to use that company. It appears they have engaged a social media writer to counter some of the bad press they have received over the last 2 or more years, but it is a little hard to ignore.
There are always two sides to a story which is why I won’t mention the company’s name, but when using the analogy of smoke and fire, there is enough smoke to call the fire brigade.
AFTA, ATAS and ASTA are three acronyms worth checking out. It is worthwhile to see if the folks you are dealing with have some accreditation against the company’s name. I also find it useful to enter “Problem with XYZ company” to quickly float any bad news or reviews to the top.
Typically we were looking at tour operators who offer flight and cruise packages. These companies will want the entire cost of the package paid immediately, even if the trip is months or even years away. The challenge appears to be getting a refund. Getting credit for other trips if the trip is cancelled or you cancel the trip seems to be fine, but getting your money back seems to be the challenge.
Although we didn’t consider that we would be seeking a refund if for some reason cancellations occurred, it spurred us to make sure that we read the fine print. Clearly, lots of folks don’t and then when something goes wrong, it all ends in tears. So, READ and UNDERSTAND the Terms and Conditions. Although it is more exciting to watch paint dry than to read these documents… do it… especially as we just start getting back into travel.
There is a myriad of websites to check out and I am sure I will not capture all of the ones that will help you plan your journey.
So when you enter “cheapest flights” into your search engine, you get the following (in no particular order)
As they say on the label, “mileage may vary” – we were using a return ticket Melbourne (Australia) to Santiago (Chile) price for November as the basis for price comparison. Using the four options above, we couldn’t get a return price below $2000 which in today’s circumstances should be acceptable. This was for an economy ticket. $2300 up to $5000 were the prices quoted for a return economy ticket. [Updated Note 23 Jul 2022: when I drafted this in early June 2022, these were the prices. Fuel costs and inflation has driven these prices up even further.]
I found of the sites above, webjet provided the best price.
Another quite well-known site is Rome2Rio which I recommend you check out. If you want to get from Darwin to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, plug it in and you will get all the bus, train and plane connections to get there.
These links will be included in the “Tips, Lists and Links” menu above.
Round the World Tickets
We had been researching “round the world” for a while and more recently were enticed by flight and cruise packages which seemed like a nice way to enjoy a guided adventure at a reasonable price. More on that later as we haven’t been totally put off by the negative reviews against one travel service provider.
Back to the round-the-world tickets. I haven’t purchased the tickets yet, but the following company has some great prices on round-the-world tickets with the ability to change bookings without incurring penalties. If you have used or thought about using round-the-world tickets, you probably have heard about folks who use credit cards with favourable points to travel the world “for free”. The two websites with information about that process, which probably have some merit provide detailed explanations of the process and then offer up links to credit cards where they receive a cut for referring you to the credit card company. I am not going to put the links in this blog and don’t suggest those folks are doing anything wrong, but it just seems too tricky when all we want to do is go on holiday.
That brings me to my choice where we can secure a business class ticket around the world for let’s say around $7000 AUD per person. (The prices are marked a bit lower, but let’s err upwards and consider that there will be internal flights within both Europe and South America which will be at an additional cost)
I hasten to add that
- We have purchased and paid for the tickets
- I am not getting any kickback for suggesting these folks are good
You can see from the link that there isn’t a long string of numbers after the website address which generally indicates a referral from an account that is receiving something in return.
[Updated Note 23 Jul 2022: We have now booked our tickets “Around the World” and were happy with the choice. More on that in upcoming posts.]
Cruise and Airfares
As mentioned we were scared by the bad reviews provided on one provider and since then we have found another which seems to offer similar trips. We are going to apply the advice I provided above to see if there are any skeletons in the closet in regard to this company and if not, I will share their details. Our plan now is to undertake a cruise in the Mediterranean when we arrive in Rome. Because it will be the “off-season” of early February, we are going to try our luck and if the weather is fine, book a last-minute cruise after we arrive.
In my next post, I want to talk a little about money and how to travel without paying for international currency exchange and ATM costs. It is what we are doing on the trip and not a review of travellers cheques vs money transfers or exchange bureaus. As the good people say – make sure you do your own research. What suits us may not work for you.