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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time passing, new Italy trip

Since I last posted here, Margaret has visited me twice, the second time to see an opera at the new Performing Arts Center in Kansas City, and we arranged to go to Los Angeles together to join a SlowTrav get-together. Things are well affirmed between us.

I went to my parents' for Thanksgiving when they essentially ordered me to go. Booking relatively late around peak dates, I did a non-Southwest trip on regional jets, on Continental to Manchester via Newark, returning on Frontier from Boston via Milwaukee, opting out of Boston's body scanner, and gate-checking a bag on a full flight.

I generally reactivate the blog when planning for an international trip is under way. When I was with my parents, I established that the house in Italy was available for most of next year. I've been wanting to have Margaret join me in Italy, using my United miles. We've been looking to plan it around a reunion of the school in Rome that we attended, but enough time has passed with no announcement that I was ready to make a booking without regard to a reunion.

Margaret was willing, and I asked the SlowTrav board a planning question based on my general thought that the trip should include Capri, and for a trip in May, which was showing decent award availability. For most United awards, there's better availability if you go through Germany on Lufthansa. I was looking at having Capri at one end of the trip, and so using Naples airport. With Margaret going from Sacramento, many options had flights from the West Coast to Germany, but I was looking for places were I could more easily join her for the transatlantic flight, Chicago in particular. If we had Capri at the start of the trip, I was looking at a flight arriving in Naples at 4.15 p.m. Then I got to think that getting to the port and ferry to Capri after that long overnight series of flights could just strain us too much. It could be better to have Capri as the culmination of the trip, but a 6 a.m. flight out of Naples would mean staying on the mainland.

For my first choice of return date, flying out of either Naples or Rome would mean going through Germany. Some people on the boards were urging me to try for a transatlantic flight out of Rome. The United site wasn't allowing open-jaw booking if partner airlines were involved; I could pay to go through a phone agent or, as the merger gets closer, transfer the needed miles to Continental, which allows this open-jaw online booking.

Before I did this, I tried a round trip to Rome on the United site. By changing the return by a day, I was able to book Margaret on the Rome-Newark flight. That calls for a long Newark layover and a connection through Houston; these are all current Continental routes; I don't know if, once the airlines are fully merged, she could make a more logical connection through the United hubs of Chicago or Denver. I'm guessing the Houston-Sacramento flight has award availability because it isn't so much in demand.

Margaret certainly shows excitement at this trip; I'm hoping I can wait a bit to book my paid trip on the same transatlantic flights. Wanting specific flights might limit my search for the best fare, but I've signed up with Yapta to monitor the fare. My mother may also go, so there's much to work out about details of the trip once everyone's booked.