We are headed to Bhutan (via Thailand) in early September 2014. But the planning saga stretches all the way back to November 2013. While I love to plan, and plan ahead, this was way way ahead.I decided to start planning for Bhutan while finishing the planning for our destination wedding–that probably was a sort-of-bad idea. Planning overload. I might as well have permanently adhesived my laptop to myself. But there were a few good reasons we really needed to start planning in advance:
1. Rooms book fast during the high season in Bhutan.
2. We were pretty sure we wanted specific hotels that have very few rooms.
3. We were trying to use miles for nearly all of the trip.
When I say “nearly all” the trip–we wanted to use miles for 3/4 legs: on the way there, I was going to pay for a ticket to earn miles (if it was reasonable), DH was flying on miles from his account. On the return, we were going to use miles for both of us from my account.
I’m sure that someone out there has a far easier way to do this with a nifty app, a ninja, something?
Thus started the wonderful “I’m so frustrated that I’m sweating like I’m already in Bangkok” cycle. It goes something like this:
1. Look at miles tickets for DH from Dulles (IAD)-Bangkok (BKK).
2. Look at cost of one-way ticket for me IAD-BKK.
3. Look at other miles tickets for DH from IAD-BKK, as the same paid one-way was too expensive.
4. Realize one of you was on an ANA flight while the other was on a United flight leaving three minutes later. Return to start.
5. Look at miles tickets Chiang Mai (CNX)-IAD (we ended up with CNX-Reagan (DCA) which is even better for us).
6. Contact hotel to check on availability for these dates.
7. Hear that those dates are not available.
8. Repeat steps 1-7 with new dates (this happened more than once).
9. Realize that the great one-way fare you found 3 days ago is gone. Return to start.
This cycle went on for several weeks, in part because I had a very limited amount of time to work on our plans due to work and–oh yea–wedding planning (again…whoops). I have to give credit to the reservation managers (Dorji and Sara) at Uma Paro who graciously replied to I don’t know how many emails from me to find dates with availability at their two different properties in Bhutan.Part of the issue was the need to build in at least 24 hours on either side of our arrival/departure to Bhutan. We didn’t want to miss our flights to Bhutan if we were delayed leaving the States, because we knew that getting another flight to Bhutan–at the start of their high season–would be nearly impossible. And flights leaving Bhutan are also delayed frequently due to weather; so booking return flights to the States within 24 hours was also out.
We also wanted to travel over Labor Day, as that gives us another “free” day that doesn’t require annual leave. Gotta use your time off judiciously, it doesn’t grow on trees!
Eventually, even without a ninja, we (well I, DH let’s me handle airline arrangements as he has this troubling propensity to book things on the wrong date) broke through the cycle of frustration, and found dates and tickets that worked. And on the upside, if all goes as planned, this gives us nearly 5 days to explore Thailand–something we are absolutely thrilled about. It may be hot and rainy, but we’re ready to see as much as we can soak in and enjoy.
Also awesome is that we found saver-award tickets in business class back from Chiang Mai to Washington, DC. That’s a haul (29 hours with layovers), and worth over $14,000 if you purchased the tickets outright (2 people). That means our miles were worth 11.6 cents per mile, which is pretty good redemption (and if it’s not, shhhhh, don’t ruin it for me!).
So we are all set. We have two one-ways to BKK and return flights home from CNX. We have flights from BKK-Paro and return. And, we have hotels in Thailand and in Bhutan.
The rest really is easy peasy.