Counting Down to Christmas

Children all across the country are counting the days to Christmas Day.

I am counting the days to Christmas too! But it’s not what you think. On the 25th of December we will make our way to Portland International Airport and head out on a new exciting adventure.

Several months ago the travel bug had begun nibbling. So when my husband said, “Let’s cruise over Christmas break” I immediately began searching for cruises over the 2-week-long Christmas vacation. I found, of course, that prices skyrocket over the holidays and my airfare searches turned up expensive $1000 airfares to the cruise ports of Florida.

When one door is shut, look for another. 

I kept noticing one less expensive cruise sailing from NYC, which I ignored since that didn’t fit my idea of a “warm weather” destination. On a whim I searched airfare to NYC. Surprisingly, I found convenient non-stop flights that cost less than flying to Florida. I booked it knowing we could not only endure the cold weather, but really enjoy a few days sightseeing in Manhattan before cruising south to a warmer climate.

They say Manhattan is a wonderful Christmas destination. Anyone remember, Home Alone: Lost in New York City?

I score deals for a Christmas vacation.

Score! Delta non-stop flights PDX to JFK for $150 each.

Score! Alaska non-stop flights JFK to PDX for $198 each.

Score! A balcony cabin for a 9-day cruise to the Caribbean for $150 per person per day plus a $200 airfare credit and large bonus of United Airline miles.  (The upgrade from an inside cabin to a balcony cabin was only $100 each.) I also bought travel insurance.

We will have three nights in New York City before boarding our cruise ship to sail down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty, to the Atlantic Ocean. The itinerary includes stops at Port Canaveral, Florida; Miami, Florida; Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; Nassau, Bahamas, and 3 At Sea days.

This will be loads of new adventures for us: first time for Steve to visit New York City, first time for us to cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line, first time to have a balcony cabin, first time to be cruising on New Year’s Eve, and the largest ship we’ve ever sailed on.

15 days and counting…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Alaska Airlines changed the departure time of our return flight and the earlier time wasn’t going to work. I found a new flight home, but began to think, “What if we don’t have to go – so many possibilities!” In the meantime, my husband began to consider changing jobs. (Note: When airlines make a schedule change, you have the right to cancel for a full refund.)

How do we make this work for us?

After the cruise we’ll be in New York City – so close to Europe – how tempting! OK, maybe not so tempting in January. A quick Google search for the warmest winter European destinations turns up Cyprus, Crete, Malta, and the Canary Islands. Will the husband quit his job? Can we do it? Should we do it? Where should we go?

Yes! We decide to give ourselves three months to travel. I cancel the return flights to Portland for a $396 refund and look at flights to Europe. Europe is exciting, but I really want to return to Southeast Asia where we stayed 2 months (February and March 2016) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our traveling friends at the blog Simple Travel Our Way told us they loved Chiang Mai, but that they loved Vietnam even more. Sounds like a challenge to me!

Is it feasible to do Greece and Asia in only three months?

I wanted to return to where we found sunshine, happiness and a budget luxury lifestyle in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I feel rich. Having Mileage Points is like money in the bank! I started out with 80,000 United miles, 90,000 American miles, 192,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

We’re going to fly completely around the world again for a grand total of $1036.

#1:  Delta flights to NYC: $100.40 cash for 2 after ($200) cruise line airfare credit.

#2:  United flights from JFK to Athens for 2: 60,000 United miles and $72.60

#3:  Ryan Air to Thessaloniki: $54.23

#4:  Business Class for 2 to Asia! Whoo hoo!!! To fly at the front of the aircraft was my goal when I opened the Chase Business Ink Visa card – so I splurged and transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards miles to Singapore Air and booked flights on their website with partners Aegean and Thai Airways. It’s going to be worth it for 20+ hours of travel on 3 flights from Thessaloniki, Greece to Munich and the long 11’50” flight from Munich to Bangkok before continuing to Hanoi.  170,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points and $327.62

#5:  VietJet: 3 one-way segments from Hanoi to DaNang, Vietnam to Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand:  $337.23

#6:  We’ll be roughing it again back in Economy for our return flying Cathay Dragon from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Hong Kong, and Cathay Pacific to LAX, and American Airlines to Portland.  67,500 American Airline miles and $143.66

We now have an itinerary:  3 nights in Manhattan, the 9-day cruise, 3 weeks in Greece, 3 weeks in Vietnam and 4 weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Knowledge is key

Warning: Booking air is not the first step. So many hours of research occur before making bookings. Dominican Republic, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Medellin, Europe, Southeast Asia were all considered and researched, if only briefly. Airfare is only one component to consider. The cost of accommodations, a per diem budget, availability of attractions to do in the off-season as well as the weather. It takes time to read guide books, blogs, forums, reviews, maps, etc. After doing all that and booking the air, the itinerary starts to fall into place.  Knowledge is key.

Read my other post about travel hacking here “Almost-Free Airfare”

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Heading back to Greece. We’ll cross the Corinth canal on our way to the go explore some of the Peloponnesian peninsula.

Dear friends, if you’ve read this entire post, and it makes you to want to travel too, I encourage you to go for it! I have shown you how we will do it – and how you can too! There’s a big, beautiful world out there waiting for you to discover its people and places. Make it happen. Where do you want to go?

Next time I will Meet You in the Morning from some place other than home!

8 responses to “Counting Down to Christmas

  1. We took a four month round the world trip this past year. Ours included a month on the island of Corfu in Greece – and Asia as well (but we stayed in Laos for a month and Cambodia for 3 weeks). Instead of a cruise like you (and that does sound lovely!) we spent 1.5 months in Italy. Ours was a really GREAT trip and I expect yours will be too! We’ll look forward to the details.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re looking forward to all of it. Like I’ve said before, we learn a lot from you – and may be following in your footsteps! We don’t want to rush all over, so we’re just checking out Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hoi An this time. Next time to Asia we will check out Cambodia, maybe Laos, and more of Thailand – or Bali, Malaysia, or Sri Lanka…

      We’re already talking about the next trip – a return to Europe – and that we need to give Mexico a real look as a place closer to home!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Merry Christmas, Merrill & Steve!
    Have a wonderful trip! Sue & Rich
    PS I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog the last couple days

    Like

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