3 Trips, 5 Months, Pt. 1

Three Trips in Five Months. Less than $1,000 for each trip across the pond to a European Country.

It started with me taking to heart my Proper Jaunt credo: Do One Thing, in another city.

I read about a play that I thought it would be worth going to see— Bryan Cranston in a theatrical reworking of the movie ‘Network’— and I bought a ticket.

 

Yep. Just bought it. I get newsletter from the London theatre scene, read about the play, it seemed to be selling out pretty fast, so I just bought one ticket.

At the time that I will have completed the three trips mentioned above, it will be just a year since I bought that ticket.

I guess the question is: how did buying a theatre ticket lead to three trips?

It wasn’t a direct effect; it was definitely a process.

After I bought the ticket in June of 2017, I started looking around for cheap fares. Thanks to booking my rooms for my last few trips through the same website— hotels.com— I know at that time I would have a free room in London when I went to see the play.

The more I thought just going to London for one night, though, the less I was able to stand behind it. I could buy more theatre tickets; but I already had an October trip planned to see a few plays. Why go do the same thing three months later? I mean, sure, it seems nice to be able to say that I just jet across the pond, whenever I feel like it, to see plays but I was not yet at a place both mentally and financially where I could make that claim.

Thinking about making it a Proper Jaunt, though, made me think of other possibilities. Maybe I could incorporate the trip overseas with another little trip. Hopefully someplace I had yet to go.

Because I was looking at this about six months before I was going to see the play, many of the Low Airfare sights were just starting to show flights for that time period.

I live in Portland, and travel in the winter months has proven to be more expensive from there. It’s a major airport, but just small enough to have some airlines only fly in and out during peak times. I usually take most of my trips from Seattle, which is a $20 bus/light rail ride right to SeaTac International, and tends to have all the options a Big City International Airport has.

As I searched, I found a few interesting things worth pursuing. Many companies were trying to compete in the low-cost travel to exotic places, like WOW Airlines, based in Iceland. From what I can piece together, WOW saw what IcelandAir did with free stopovers in Reykjavik, and came up with a way to do it on the cheap. On the SERIOUSLY cheap, like paying for your seat and any bag beyond a small, “personal item” carry-on. You can buy more legroom, a larger carry-on. You can also stay-over in Iceland, as WOW is based there. So, that made it possible to get across the pond for around $400, which fits nicely into the ‘under $500’ guideline I have for a Proper Jaunt.

Then a relatively new player in that game— Norwegian Air Shuttle— showed up on the radar. They are flying from mostly major hubs, using those huge, beautiful 787 Dreamliners, and offering seriously low fares (by having you pay for extras).  They fly from mostly major hubs— not Portland (yet)— but they were only slightly more expensive than WOW. I found out about them by a deal they were offering from LAX to Copenhagen: $420, with a layover in London. Where I was trying to get to. At the time, that was the cheapest fare I could see to get me where I needed to be.

A few obvious challenges: layover only in London, getting down to LA. I’ll tell the story of the layover in a bit. I needed to get from Portland to LA.

I had some frequent flier miles on a few credit cards, but not enough for a round trip.  Then I get an email from Alaska Airlines, offering a one-way to LAX for $69. I had enough miles on Alaska to pickup the other one-way trip.  Well, as they say in London, that leg of the journey was sorted.

The layover thing was, I thought, going to be much trickier. In the airline biz, they call it “hidden city travel”. It’s what you do when you ‘accidentally’ miss your connecting flight because your actual destination was really the first city you landed in.

In doing research on it, it began to seem like a horribly risky thing to do. Half a day spent doing searches and reading forums lead me to believe that doing it overseas could get me put on a ‘Watch List’, or blackballed from that airline, or even just stuck and unable to get home without buying a full-priced ticket. I got pretty freaked out. I started checking around for other alternatives, and (at that point at least) there wasn’t much to choose from. I decided I was just going to have to do it; maybe I’d buy a ticket for the same connecting flight on the next day and hope they wouldn’t notice. I read more about that, got MORE freaked out, and decided to do what I should have done all along.

I called Norwegian Air Shuttle.

I told the dear lady with the lovely accent what I wanted to do. She didn’t miss a beat. “Sure, no problem. You might be able to go standby the next day, but it would be better if you just buy the one-way ticket from London to Copenhagen. I’ll attach a note so that they’ll know what you are doing and won’t expect you on the second flight.”

I wanted to go through the phone and give her a big hug, which I judiciously didn’t mention. So, for Norwegian, at least, doing what I wanted to do was no problem. I would fly from LAX to London Gatwick, ‘miss’ my connecting flight, stay in London overnight, and fly to Copenhagen the next morning.

The ticket to Copenhagen was about $48 bucks, which, with the one-way to LA did put me over my $500 goal. But because my hotel room in London was free, I felt it acceptable, considering that I was going to see Bryan Cranston onstage. So I purchased the ticket from Norwegian Air Shuttle; the LAX-Copenhagen roundtrip AND the one-way from Gatwick.

It was right around then that I realized: holy crap, I’m going to Copenhagen.

After the initial fear— many sites and sources say all of Scandinavia is very expensive— I began to think about how I would be able to do a Proper Jaunt to Copenhagen. I would search for cheap places to stay, things to do. And for the Proper Jaunt dictum  of ’Do One Thing or Do Nothing’, well, I was already doing One Thing by going to see the play. My guess was that Doing Nothing in Copenhagen was going to be all right.

The more I researched the trip, the more I thought about this whole Proper Jaunt idea itself. Wasn’t the idea of a Proper Jaunt to go someplace that was exotic to you? That you had never been, and maybe had no (obvious) reason to go? Wasn’t the idea that if you could cheaply go someplace you have never been, shouldn’t you go for that reason? You could even posit that the other side of the Proper Jaunt is that, if money is no object, there is actually less reason to travel. Or rather, if money is not a concern, you would have to find a reason BEFORE you went on a trip. You would go specifically to see the wine country of a region, or to climb a mountain, or whatever it was. You would have a reason, then buy the tickets, etc. With a Proper Jaunt, the cheap ticket is the very first domino to be knocked over. It sets everything in motion.

So, I began to research Copenhagen. Turns out it is expensive, but only if you travel there when everyone else wants to travel. Hotel costs in the winter was far less than in the summer, or even spring and fall (what they call the shoulder seasons).

Sure, it’s cold. For me, that’s a bonus. For some people it’s not. Some people want a vacation in the winter to be going somewhere hot and sitting on a beach. And I say, good for them. That’s an absolutely valid reason to go on a winter vacation. Personally, I grew up in Southern California. Sitting on a beach holds no attraction for me; honestly, it never really did. I’ve also had a few skin cancer scares, and so now, in addition to seeing a dermatologist every six months, I possess very little desire to find someplace where I can be continually exposed to the sun.

Again, that’s just me. I like Iceland in winter. I’m dying to visit Antarctica. I’d love to go to Siberia. It’s possible that I’m not a well man.

However, I don’t have to manufacture an interest in the Northern countries. I’ve done two of those home DNA tests, and they both state that: 1) 0.1 % of my DNA can be traced back to Africa, in the cradle of the civilization, and 2) pretty much everything else points to me being Northern European and Celtic (I do wear a kilt, after all. Even to these cold places). My reading habits have, in the last few years, included extended reading about how influential Viking Culture was to not only the Celts, but all of what is now Great Britain. So, yeah, it has interested me even before I thought about going there. A Proper Jaunt seems like the perfect way to scratch those particular itches.

Plus, I’d be flying a new (for me) airline. One that offered many more places to visit. Sure, there would be a one-bag limit, and that bag had strict measurement requirements, but for me that’s like the Briar Patch is for Br’er Rabbit. I love packing light like a mountain climber likes reaching the summit. The smaller the bag, the bigger the accomplishment. Besides, the travel part usually takes less than a week. I can think about how to pack for months.

So far, the best experience(s) I have had with an airline have been flying with Iceland Air. For a wide variety of reasons I’ll probably go into in another post. In fact, when I find a low fare on one airline, I immediately go check Iceland Air’s website, to see if they are comparable. Usually not.

So, Copenhagen coming up. In January. That’s Trip No. 1.

Trip No. 2? Stockholm. In March.