Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh! Britannia: Preparations from March 28 - April 28

Q: If one wishes, how fast can one conjure together a passport and full travel plans to an international destination?

A: 14 days at absolute minimum (barring the outlay of exorbitant amounts of funding to a 3rd-party expediter - at least $200 in addition to the expedited passport fee - who can provide such documents in 24-48 hours); 25 in my case.

Rather than spending months glancing over various sources of information, deciding on a destination, and then carefully planning the pursuit, I decided to act with some promptness when I learned that international travel (and national air travel, for that matter) was suddenly very, very cheap.  Not so sudden, I suppose.  Perhaps, as is likely and is the theory to which I subscribe, the cost of travel has declined in a manner similar to the world markets.  

Frankly, it was unhealthy for me to learn of this.  My formerly vacant calendar now seemed to desire company; an entry etched in the future, to which we could both count down.  Former monetary plans now seem irrelevant as I believe the prices will not remain at these levels.  And so, as March was coming to a close, my recently traveled mind (Arizona-California-Utah, as devotees will recall) desired to be more recently traveled.  

What are some of these prices, you ask?

Here are a few samples of air (from Des Moines, IA) and hotel packages (9 nights stay), priced per-person assuming a 2 people splitting the hotel, viewed over the last month (note that all were for an end-of-April to beginning-of-May timeframe):

London: $900
Paris:     $1100
Athens:  $1200
Rome:    $1100
Sydney: $1200

I even tried some fares for later in the year (the end of August) and found these to be nearly the same price.  I reasoned, "If world economy continues to falter, or at least hastens recovery, these prices will remain cheap."  Many sources are pointing to 1st Quarter 2010 as a probable and noticeable recovery timeframe.  So, travel should be this year, I thought.  In addition, I had to take into account my Master's program at ISU (began January 2009 - ends roughly Spring 2012), which was conveniently on break from the middle of April through the middle of May.

And so it is time to go...again.  But this will be very different from any prior travel; this time, an ocean will be crossed, an island nation on a different continent will be visited; a years-long dream will be realized.  And not just any island nation; rather a journey to the land of my forebears, from both sides of the family - a United Kingdom whose history is rich, varied, and directly connected to the series of events which allowed me to exist on this world today.  

With such lofty ornamentation, how could this voyage be anything less than exhilarating?

So, within a week of returning from California, I suggested to Dan Dudley (who clinched the other lead part for the previous trip, and whom I was still, after 10 days of car travel, able to stand) the prospects of travel to London, by way of quoting the rock-bottom package prices returned for nearly every online query.  Through the combined, tactical persuasion of low prices and my rushed, excited "impending possibilities of travel" tone, Dan was evidently convinced enough to come along once again.  

Suffice it to say that a whirlwind of action allowed all preparations to be in order leading into the week of April 19th; Dan had already received his passport, I would receive mine on the 23rd.  Also on the 23rd, a hotel and flight package was booked for 9 nights in a 4-star hotel within a 5 minute walk of the British Museum (and about a 5-45 minute walk to nearly anything else one would like to see in London) and 2 minute walk of Russell Square Underground station.  The final price, which included roundtrip flight (from Des Moines!) and hotel, was $1016 per person.  If you aren't ready to go yourself after reading this price, you should be.  Typically, this would be at least 2-3 times costlier.  

We take off tomorrow, April 29th, for London.  

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