Hey there friends, it’s great to catch up with you! I’m here in Jakarta on my way back to the States for my favorite day ever, Thanksgiving. And while I’m in the mist of the first chunk of my upcoming 27 hours of layovers/stopovers, I figured what better time to talk about all the things that went right on this leg of the trip..and the things I’ll re-think for next time.
So the itinerary of this major chunk of the #Cescapades went a little something like this:
- 10/25 Bus from Indy to Chicago
- Fly Chicago to Amsterdam (13 hour stopover)
- Fly Amsterdam to Nairobi
- 2 days in Nairobi
- Fly Nairobi to Zanzibar
- 2 days in Stonetown
- 2 days in Matemwe Beach
- 1 day between Nungwi and Stonetown
- Fly to Nairobi and immediate safari pick up
- Safari in Maasai Mara (3 days)
- Safari in Lake Nakuru (1 day)
- 1 night in Nairobi
- Fly to Amsterdam
- Fly to NYC (13 hour stopover)
- Fly to Chicago (36 hour stopover)
- Fly to LA
- 3 days in LA
- Fly to Tokyo (13 hour overnight)
- Fly to Jakarta (15 hour overnight)
- Fly to Bali
- 6 days in Bali between Kuta and Ubud
- Fly to Jakarta (10 hour layover-not by choice)
- Fly to Tokyo (16 hour stopover)
- Fly to LAX (4 hour layover)
- 11/25 Fly to my bed in Indianapolis
Yeah. That’s a lot for one month.
And so let’s talk about the things I did right. Well, first of all the price was definitely right. The round trip flight to Africa was COMPLETELY free thanks to my Chase Sapphire Rewards Card. I used my points to book what would have been a $600 great fare for only $480 worth of points! Major score! And my flight to Bali came in right around $500. There was a flight deal for a RT flight to Jakarta in and out of LA for just over $400. The domestic flight from Jakarta to Bali was about $60. I booked a good deal on Virgin from Chicago to LAX and I had enough points thanks to my Delta card to book a flight from LAX to IND for free. The flight from Nairobi to Zanzibar was about $250 so I paid $1240 if you include the potential cash back from Chase, but really only $750 out of pocket. More on this stuff later. But overall, it was a really good deal!
Although I would have taken twice as long everywhere I went, I’m glad that I gave myself enough time to get adjusted to the new cities without having to be overwhelmed. Europe was so fun to do and see, but I was literally moving to a new city every two days and truthfully, I was exhausted by the end of it. I’m so thankful I had a little breathing room in this trip! And even thought it wasn’t my home, being able to be in the States was nice! I did laundry, I recorded a 5 Minute Call, I got to see tons of friends, it was great to reset!
TIP #1: When a great deal shows up to a place you’re not particularly interested in going, check and see where you can get from there. Cheap flight to Europe? Check out the routes to other cities you want to visit! Find a good rate to China/Japan? It’s easy and cheap to get to Thailand from there. And the same goes for departures. Is there a cheaper flight from a city near you? Could a $20 Megabus ticket save you $300-500? Thinking outside the box can keep your money inside your wallet 🙂
TIP #2: It seems obvious, but pay attention to your flight departure and arrival times. An overnight flight not only saves you from wasting a full day of vacation, arriving at the crack of dawn can also save you a lot of the traffic hassle that comes in the middle of the day. And the redeye means you don’t have to spend money on your hotel room that night. Sometimes those factors, plus any savings on the flight really add up.
Now there are certainly a few things I would have changed up if I could. Starting with the lay/stopover. A layover is anything shorter than 4 hours domestically or 24 hours internationally. Airlines usually allow layovers for free and will charge around $100 for stopovers. On the way here, there was nothing I could do about the stop in Tokyo, it was part of the flight. But I do wish I had purchased my second flight to Bali for the same day. And perhaps if I had done more research on my connecting airport, Jakarta, I would have known that. Jakarta is a big city, but along with the big city action comes the big city traffic. The airport is between 90-120 minutes to the city and landing at 6, going through customs and trying to get to my hotel, checked in, and in a cab to the downtown area was just too much work! I would have rather saved the money I spent on my hotel in Jakarta and spent it on a hotel in Bali a day earlier.
However, I did a good amount of research about my hotel choices in both Tokyo and Jakarta and I was pleasantly pleased with both of them. Both had airport shuttles, free breakfast and wifi, and were extremely comfortable for one overnight.
TIP #3: Play the layover game if it works for you. I’m excited to get to see Tokyo for free thanks to this itinerary! If you have time that you can sacrifice from your intended destination, you can actually fit in a free stop on the way there and maybe even a different one on the way back. I recently found a flight from LA to Phuket, Thailand with a 20 hour “layover” in Australia for under $1000! Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
Tip #4: However, be realistic about the journey to and from your hub. Certain airports, especially some “budget airline” hubs in Europe can be REALLY far from the city so just make sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of time to be back to the airport with plenty of time!
I’m quite the planner. Before even starting on this trip, I had a fully color coded (in ROYGBIV) itinerary with each continent chunk, hotel addresses, confirmation numbers, notes and more in a file on my computer! It was and is my bible for these 24 weeks. But I wish I left myself a little more flexibility in Bali. It turns out the hotel I booked there was ok, but I wanted to discover more. And since I had paid for it in full in advance, I ended up paying for another place in Ubud although I had a fully paid place in Kuta. A similar thing happened in Zanzibar. The days leading up to my stay were filled with political unrest on the island. The ruling party had been outvoted by newcomers and the possibility of a re-vote brought the possibility of riots breaking out basically in front of my hotel. Frazzled and worried, I decided to book a separate hotel for a few days just in case anything happend. Nothing did, and I loved the second place, but again, there was money down the drain.
Tip #5: Try to book only refundable hotels. Or better yet, ones that allow you to check out early. Or if it’s a big hotel that you expect to have rooms, only book a few nights and then try to extend. They’ll almost always give you the price you paid for the first nights so it’s a good way to go!
But no matter how much your plan or prepare, there are things you just can’t predict or fix. Although I built in 4 hours of time in Jakarta between my arrival from Bali and departure to Tokyo, I could have never imagined that the airline would email me at 10 pm to let me know that they had changed my flight to leave an hour later. Because I had been through the baggage claim process and had experienced the lack of timeliness on the part of this certain airline, I decided it was best not to risk it. And although leaving 7 hours early meant I had to sacrifice on more $6 massage from Bali, not missing my connection makes it totally worth it.
Tip #6: Make sure you know what protection you have. Rules differ country to country, but generally speaking, if you’re going to be put out by something the airlines did, there should be some consideration for your needs. When this airline tried to tell me they wouldn’t put me on an earlier flight, I demanded they speak to their supervisor. And when he did, it was clear that I had permission to change my flight due to their schedule change. Same thing if they have technical difficulties and have to ground a flight overnight or leave you on the plane for an extended amount of time. Know the rules! And request compensation for the hassle. The worst they can say is no!
More tips to come, for now, I’m going to enjoy the last of my $10 massages here in Indonesia!