Are we there yet?

17 Mar

I’ve been avoiding this blog for a few days now because I didn’t want to talk about how stressful it’s been trying to “travel on a budget” as well as trying to coordinate plans with a travel mate that’s been in Barbados, Las Vegas, and Texas for the past month (I guess that happens when you work with a spirits company).

We seem to be closer to a definite plan now.

I knew we made a mistake in February when we booked our flights flights from NYC to South Africa with a transfer in between from Capetown to Johannesburg without knowing where we were staying for safari. So after many phone calls to the reserve we found out a few things: (1) a charter flight from Johannesberg to our safari reserve costs $400 EACH WAY. (2) Hiring a car would cost us $850 EACH WAY. (3) It would take 6.5 hours for us to drive ourselves. So now what?

Book another transfer flight from Capetown to Nelspruit, the airport that’s near the game reserve for $230… then drive ourselves 2.5 hours to the safari. Yay, for Hertz. I wonder if I can get a discount, I’ve done enough print ads for them!

So here it is:

4/7-4/8
AIR: JFK to CAPETOWN, arrive 12:15pm
LODGING: Wynburg, Sheila’s boss’ house.

4/12
AIR: CAPETOWN to NELSPRUIT, arrive 12:35pm
DRIVE 2.5 hours to the game reserve
LODGING: Rhino Post Safari Lodge : Kruger National Park – Sabi Sands Bush Lodges for 3 nights

4/15
DRIVE 2.5 hours to the airport
AIR: NELSPRUIT to JOHANNESBURG, arrive 1:35pm
LODGING: One night in Johanesburg at the Radisson.

4/16
AIR: JOHANESBURG to JFK, arrive home by 7:40am

*Edit: As I was typing this, Sheila called me in panic and told me she couldn’t book the transfer flight from Capetown to Nelspruit because there website is retarded and the prices went up. Looks like I’m going alone – for now. Why is this so hard?

Insect Shield

11 Mar

I laughed when my GP suggest I buy clothing with insect repellent already built into the fabric. Then after hearing Andy from work might’ve gotten malaria from Cambodia, it might not be a bad idea.

Time to look like a tool!

50,000 points to LA!

8 Mar

I finally earned my 75,000 miles through my new American Airlines Visa credit card (thanks to charging most of my household bills to the card) and I’m already out 50,000 miles.

I always assumed from AA banners that it only costs 25,000 miles to LA so I was pretty psyched that with my collective 122,000 miles, I can go across country almost 5x! Wrong. Apparently the fine print reads, “25,000 miles to LA… ONE WAY. Want to come home? Spend another 25,000 miles.” And you know what the kicker is? Going to Argentina only cost 30,000 miles each way! I don’t get how they justify that.

But I guess I shouldn’t complain. While reading over someone’s shoulder this morning on the train, this trip in July would’ve cost me $600.

Is it weird that I’m equally excited for this trip as much as South Africa?

No Permanent Structures = Mosquito’s Heaven

7 Mar

So I think we’ve made our first safari decision after 20 emails sent by yours truly, harassing Sheila that we book a safari or else I’m going to lose my shit because we are leaving in less than a month.

Her boss was still pretty adamant that he help us out with the travel arrangements because the cheaper we get with safaris, the more likely we’ll be sleeping out in the wilderness with nothing but a fly swatter. God bless him for looking out for us.

The first option he gave us was way out of our budget so he came back to us with a more reasonable lodge called the Rhino Lodge. I looked them up on Trip Advisor and they had some pretty great reviews. Sold. Book em. Do it.

Sheila still wants to stay at another lodge because she thinks staying at one for more than 2-3 nights might drive insane. So the search continues on to drive me even more insane… but at least we have a place to stay for the first few nights!

I also love that their crafty copywriting. Notice how they mentioned that, “The nature of a wilderness area is that there are no permanent structures, so Rhino Post Safari Lodge was built using natural materials of stone, wood, thatch and canvas to create an authentic bush ambience,” which reeeeeally means prepare your ass for an invasion of mosquitos. Mosquitos and I are not friends because I’m severely allergic to the point where I develop welts like tick bites.

I’m going to bathe in DEET every night. I’m going to smell delicious.

“Fauntleroy, I don’t bleed gold.”

28 Feb

As I get older, I’m starting to understand what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not in terms of budgeting. I’m no longer the college student that would be ok squatting in hostels to extend my budget (but truth be told, I’ve never actually stayed in a hostel) but I can’t holiday like Jay-Z. That was actually a really random example, I couldn’t decide between calling out Paris Hilton or Donald Trump but I’m neither a slutty, party girl or an old man with a mid-life crisis. At least Jay is a little hood… like me!

Anyway. Safari research.

I’ve been given a few recommendations from people at work on safari lodges. Mala Mala being one of them and also Tinga Safari. Both I believe are mid-level priced safaris. Sheila was checking into some corporate safari lodges and came back to me with the Tintswalo Safari Lodge. Apparently it’s a 5-star hotel. Their “Rack Rate” is R5,600.00 per person sharing per night including accommodation, meals, game drives and local house drinks. Sheila’s corporate rate came out to be R3,920.00 per person sharing per night with the same inclusions listed above. That’s $560US per night. What the hell, give me the money and I’ll hold the rifle and Sheila can drive the car!

Now, I checked out all 3 safaris and they all list the same thing. Nice lodges, big game, food, etc. I mean, you’re in SOUTH AFRICA, how are you going to miss seeing a lion or an elephant while you’re staying at either lodge? You’re in the biggest, unfenced ZOO in the world. I don’t really know how to judge these places.

For $560 a night, there better be a good show:

“Oh but Fauntleroy, I only fly American.”

24 Feb

This post is unrelated to my South Africa planning but still travel related since will affect my future flight purchases.

My beef is with American Airlines. After years and yeaaaaars of mail from Citibank trying to make me sign up for their American Airlines card, I finally jumped on it this past December. I was secretly hoping they would up the ante on award miles. It was fun watching all the letters come in: 10,000 free miles! 20,000 free miles! 25,000 free miles! 30,000 free miles! 45, 000 free miles! Still not good enough? Ok, ok! 75,000 free miles! BOOM. Sign me up.

So the deal is that I have to spend $4,000 in purchases in 4 months and I will be rewarded with 75,000 miles. That seems doable, I just have to throw every house/food/clothing expense at it, no greenbacks. The shitty part is that eventually there will be a yearly card fee but I’ll deal with that in a year.

But now, here’s the problem. I do a lot of my flight searches on Expedia, Orbitz, etc., and now I’m getting these warning signs: American fares no longer offered on Orbitz, Expedia and its subsidiary, Hotwire. What’s up American?

The interwebs tell me this and American has issued this.

I mean, I get what American is trying to do (screw me over) but sometimes I like the option of traveling two airlines for the cheaper package fare. I’m not one of those annoying flyers that say crap like, “I only fly American.”

Now I need to creatively spend 75,000 miles and cancel my credit card.

I am going to South Africa!

21 Feb

After a pretty horrible 4 days, a personal tragedy and then food poisoning, I thought well what the hell else can go wrong.

Sheila and I were determined to buy our tickets by Friday but Friday came and went. Then she said Saturday but Saturday came and went. So during a brief moment of food poisoned consciousness on Sunday, I texted her, “We’re not going to South Africa?”

I had pretty much given up on the idea of this trip. I had other things to worry about, bigger picture things I needed to focus on, what’s another trip dreamt that can’t be realized? It can happen again right? Great, now what am I going to blog about?

Monday afternoon. 5:30pm. I am sleeping. Yes, I still have food poisoning and I haven’t eaten in 50 odd hours. My phone rings with a unrecognizable number and I thought it was from a boy I’d rather not deal with. Ignore. Voicemail. I stupidly check the voicemail and deleted it before I even heard it. Guess I have to suck it up and call the mysterious number, I’d be damned if it really was the boy. Turns out, SHEILA! Her new house number.

“Marilyn, get your credit card number. We’re ready to book.”

Itinerary to come soon and then, more planning.

Aaaaand, back to bed.

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