Tuesday and Wednesday
May 29 & 30, 2012
I’ve put down a deposit on the trip, started training and testing gear, and booked myself out of work for five weeks. But there’s one major piece of the puzzle still missing – booking my flights to and from Kathmandu.
I’ve waited this long because the trek isn’t the only element making up my trip to Nepal. Although she won’t be trekking with me, my friend Susan will be joining me for the first couple of weeks in Nepal. Or Tibet. Or Bhutan. That’s the hold-up. I’m not 100% sure when she wants to arrive, and what we will be doing for that first couple of weeks. She’ll be returning before me, but we want to book the same arrival flight, so it requires some coordination.
Tuesday, we both review some of our options. A side trip to Tibet is our first choice and there are fixed departure tours from Kathmandu leaving every Tuesday and Saturday. According to the emails we’ve received from a few different agencies, we would need to arrive in Kathmandu by Tuesday in order to get our Tibet permits in time for a Saturday departure. So we look at the calendar and decide that our goal is to arrive in Kathmandu by Tuesday, October 9 at the latest. On Wednesday, I start looking for flights.
Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways seem to be our primary options, but I’m a frequent flyer mile diva so I immediately go with the Star Alliance airline – Thai Airways. I never actually bother to use my frequent flyer miles for overseas travel – it’s a huge pain and takes more of my time than it’s worth – but I fly so much for work that I always want to make sure that I achieve elite status for the following year. I’d rather pay the money and have that elite status than use banked miles for the trip. I go straight to the airline’s website and I’m surprised to find that fares aren’t bad at all. Much less than I paid to get to Africa last summer. I play with several itineraries, looking at a day or two earlier, leaving on weekdays rather than weekends, all kinds of combinations. The key here seems to be to find a way to somehow NOT get stuck in Seoul, South Korea for a 20-some hour layover. It’s possible, but takes some trial and error.
In the end, I find a great series of flights out of LAX through Bangkok, for $1644. I decide that I want to be able to change the date on my flight home, just in case, but that I don’t need to pay $300 more to be able to change the routing. We’ll be leaving Los Angeles mid-day on October 6 and arriving in Kathmandu mid-day on October 8. There’s one connection in Bangkok, with a 10 hour layover. Not really enough time to do anything interesting, but better than delaying our arrival with an entire lost day in Seoul. My flight home is similar, leaving Kathmandu on November 10 and arriving home on November 11. I’m also surprised that Business Class is only $3000 more, and I briefly consider booking it for this terribly long flight. However, I’m not traveling alone and it would be really mean to book Business Class when my friend would be in Economy. So I decide to just let that go. In order to meet a client’s budget, I flew in economy seats for 57 hours straight returning home from Africa – on rather uncomfortable Ethiopian Airlines planes – and I survived. I even got cute little airplane shaped crackers. This won’t kill me.
I double check with Susan, to make sure the departure flight will work for her since our plan is to travel together on that leg of the trip. She says it’s great and I should book it. No matter how much I’m looking forward to any trip, hitting that “submit” button when booking a long, expensive flight is always the moment of truth. My finger hovers over the mouse. I re-read the flight itinerary over and over, just to be sure I’ve got it right. I hesitate. I get butterflies in my stomach. Finally, I click. And it’s done. The butterflies don’t subside, but somehow they change. Nervousness becomes excitement. The trip becomes real.
When I get the confirmation email I notice that my seat selection only registered for the first leg of the flight. On long flights, I always try to get an aisle. On short flights, I prefer a window. I’ll have to call them tomorrow to fix that, since it’s after 7pm and their local office is closed. My vegetarian meals are noted though, and I am happy.
I forward the itinerary to Susan and a few hours later, she forwards me hers. It’s done! We’re really going to Nepal!