January 26, 2011

Jetsetting again!

While I’ve always been fascinated by travel and the airline industry, this week I picked up a new skill as part of a new hobby: learning how to specify advanced fare routings as part of my searches on ITA. While this may seem totally geeky and useless to anyone who’s not a travel agent, it’s actually quite helpful and lucrative, in that it helps me find so-called “mistake fares” and exploit routing loopholes that allow me to book trips at very inexpensive prices.

For example, if you look at the advanced fare rules and the list of taxes and fees for a booking, you’ll soon see that different airports charge different arrival and departure taxes, and different airlines have different ways of calculating the YQ (international taxes). The trick: pick airlines that minimize the YQ, and minimize layovers/stops in airports where the departure/arrival taxes are high. Using these rules and finding a ridiculously low base fare, I’m now becoming even more of a jetsetter than I already am: I’m off for a weekend ski trip to the Alps!

I am so excited about this trip. You all know that Valentine’s Day is my absolute favorite holiday (second is Thanksgiving – I know, I’m atypical), but this year I was at a bit of a loss for how to spend the big day. I’m not dating anyone, which is of course the traditional route, and I’m actually going to be in DC on Valentine’s Day proper, so I don’t even really have friends to hang out with or make dinner for, which has been my fallback in the past. But I couldn’t just let Valentine’s Day go uncelebrated, so I decided I ought to take a fun trip Valentine’s Day weekend.

When I heard about the mistake fare, I was pumped. With taxes and fees and everything, it worked out to only $399 to go roundtrip to Geneva, Switzerland! While not a really cheap trip, it’s an incredible deal to get all the way over the pond to Europe. I toyed with the idea of staying in Geneva or the surrounding area, but while doing research on various hotels/chalets, I found one that got incredible reviews just an hour away from Geneva: in Chamonix, home of some of the best skiing in France. So the plan is to head over to France as soon as I get in, work all afternoon/evening Friday (since the time zones are different), ski at Brévent-Flégères all day Saturday, then head back to Geneva on Sunday for a bit of exploration before starting my trip home Sunday night.

The trip now became a multi-win. I took French for 8 years in school, and have always wanted to visit, but never quite made it there. I am so excited to get to speak French all weekend, ski the Alps, and visit two new countries to boot! Furthermore, on the way home, I’m doing an overnight in Madrid… which will hopefully give me just enough time to enjoy some paella and Rioja. Since I already visited the Bahamas earlier this month, this three country trip will accomplish my New Year’s resolution #4 (visit four new countries this year) right then and there!

Now instead of wondering what to do for Valentine’s Day, I can’t wait for it to come! This is going to be pretty darn awesome.


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