Friday, April 20, 2012

Juggling trips...

Can there be such a thing as too many trips in the mix?  I'm starting to wonder.  Just as the books on Germany start to pile up...a couple on the sofa, one next to the bed, a map on the side table, I get thrown the curve ball that my sister wants to go to Cleveland at the end of May, do I want to go?  And who am I to say  no to a trip anywhere?

The draw in Cleveland is the exhibition Rembrandt in America, which we both want to see, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which neither of us has ever seen, but as music lovers, feel it's on the must-do list.  Other than that, Cleveland has never hit our radars.  So all of a sudden, I found myself temporarily ignoring all things German and thrusting myself into the midwest of my own country.  I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about Cleveland; not how to get there, what area is good to stay in, what Cleveland has going for it.

Wise travelers going for an "event" or a big attraction look into hotel deals that get you there at some sort of a discount.  On the Rock Hall website, I found "preferred hotels" with packages that include room, breakfast and entrance to the museum.  For $150, we'll be staying in the theater district in Cleveland, within walking distance of the Rock Hall, which we will have paid entry for.  Cool.

Airfare however, proved to be a challenge.  I've always prided myself on managing to catch a bounce in airfare or at least get the best deal I can find.  I figured Cleveland isn't that much of a draw, right?  (Although my sister noted that the weekend she originally wanted to go, that of the annual Rock Hall induction ceremonies, airfare was over $700 from Boston!)  I found out that United flies direct, so YAY ME, more frequent flier miles accumulating.  An initial look-see a mere week ago showed that air from Boston to Cleveland was $388 round trip, which is really more than what I wanted to spend, but Bing's fare predictor said that a $50 dip was coming in 7 days.  So I waited.  And waited.  By Thursday (the day after I traditionally see a dip), airfare was going up.  $399.  $417.  We talked and decided to try to connect through Newark to get the $348 airfare.  By the time I decided, there were only economy plus seats left on those flights, so that would be the same fare as flying direct.  So I switched the fare back to flying direct, only to find only economy plus left there as well.  So I tried a later flight, same deal.  In the end I just bit the bullet and paid the $417 to go direct, plus $12 more each seat for Economy Plus.  But we're front row on the plane, and because it's only overnight (YES, one night!) we'll be going carry-on only, so hopefully we can make up time once we land.  Frustrating is an understatement.

Meanwhile, the group of folks I traveled to China with started a discussion somehow about lions and safaris, and it turns out that some of us want to do a safari.  The discussion got very carried away to the point of narrowing it down to the great migration in February in Tanzania.  I even made contact with one of the safari providers I met at the Boston Globe Travel show to scope out what he could do for us price-wise and itinerary-wise.  We agreed to wait to decide until we all have time to focus and commit, probably early summer.  But HOW EXCITING!  Because of this discussion the Fodors Ultimate Safari Planning Guide has now joined the pile of guidebooks on the sofa.

And finally, the initial phases of scoping out a return to China in late 2013 have begun.  Access China gave us an initial itinerary that seemed ok but for an exorbitant cost for three day cruise through the gorges.  I'm hesitant to return to China and do anything I'd done before, but for working with the pandas, so we'd really have to have a different non-panda itinerary to pique my interest.  But there's time to work that out.  And to think about how realistic a safari AND a return to China is all in the same year.

There are worst things that could be happening to me than just having four trips in the works.  But I feel like I need an organizer to keep it all straight.

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