Monday, March 28, 2016

Travel Travails

     There was a time when air travel was fun. Even booking hotel and air travel was fun—part of the anticipation. And affordable. I miss those days.
     All it used to take were few phone calls to the airlines, hotel, or travel agent, perhaps a trip to an agent or local airlines ticket counter to pick up tickets and all was set. Lots of human contact afforded easy assurances and clarifications—never had a problem with botched dates, times, amounts, flights, overbookings, or anything, really, just be careful, reconfirm, get everything in writing and all was fine.
     Now, as I've been attempting a trip to Asia these past several years, booking air tickets is all on-line (or get reamed exorbitant extra fees to do it over the phone) and expensive, expensive, expensive, which is mainly why we haven't gone in over eight years. A year ago we might have gone to visit Deanne's mom and brother, but it fell through when Mom nixed the idea for various reasons. Recently, ticket prices have dropped enough for reconsideration again but this time obtaining affordable hotels in Japan for a family of five has been the big hurdle to jump through, and we had to cancel a trip to Osaka when airfares rose before we could even find a room (one hostel only allowed reservations a month prior to arrival).
     Then fares dropped to Narita (Tokyo), but again, finding a room for five was a huge problem. One potential hotel required everything to be done on-line in a three step process: enter all your information to request a room. Wait for an e-mail reply that might take a day or two. Let the hotel know if you're still interested. Wait another day or two for an e-mail offering the room, which must be then reserved using a credit card. Wait a day or two for a confirmation that the room is reserved. By the time I reached step two, air fares had already risen too high, and I had to cancel our request. A month later airfares dropped and I requested the identical room, but then before I received a reply, airfares rose again for those dates, but remain low enough for slightly different dates, so I had to request those different dates with the hotel instead. Since then we got those dates, I reserved it via my credit card, got the confirmation of the reservation, and then when I was about to book the airfares, they'd gone up by a bunch, so we had to cancel those plans again—so complicated!
     Airlines and travel agents (who uses them anymore? I can't even find a telephone listing for the major airlines in the yellow pages...) used give courtesy holds of tickets for three business days—very reasonable. I only later realized on one airlines' website that ticket prices could be held for three days at fifty dollars or seven days at sixty-five dollars. Airlines are turning record profits due to rock bottom fuel prices and they want to gouge us more?
     And what's with these casino/stock-market type airfares postings? It's like gambling when's the best time to buy, on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. (Reminds me of futures investments in commodities—betting on the future price of oil, gold, or pork-bellies, etc.—very high risk.)
     Oh well, we can always choose not to go, which is what we've done for quite a long while. But then again, if we wait too long, we might not get to go at all.
     I felt it desirable to go now as Braden is sixteen and still willing to hang out with us. By next year, I'm not so sure, and by the time he's eighteen, he'll be too busy, if not away at school, military training, or working, so I don't expect that. The Japan trip may or may not happen. If not, an around-the-island tour with stays at the gold coast and Turtle Bay or Ihilani may be relaxing and fun—it's been over a decade since we made the north shore circuit. It's not worth fighting the ticketing/hotel reservation system or getting exasperated about, it's just tons of money we could better spend on more productive things anyway...

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