Being a teacher means Spring Break. Spring Break means vacation. Vacation means traveling somewhere exciting.
Spring Break week is March 21-March 29. The last several weeks has involved frequently checking Google Flights (which according to news reports apparently began two weeks ago, even though I’ve used it for two years) and TheFlightDeal.com, which curates and posts insane flight deals that would otherwise be hard to find. I really had no set destination for Spring Break but preferred to visit somewhere I had never been before.
Google Flights has a great interface where you choose your departure location and then the cheapest flight to each location is overlaid on a Google Maps image. One can scroll from one day to the next, or choose a range, and see how the prices change.
The beauty of my situation is that 6-8 days is perfect for a US getaway. I would feel totally restricted and confined knowing I was headed to Europe for only 6 days. Okay, that’s not true, I guess. I would still enjoy it immensely but I’d be more likely to delay such a trip until I could spend 10 or (significantly) more days there. Additionally, I received permission to come back from Spring Break two days late. Apparently, that was a union bargaining issue. Additionally, one of my favorite bands – The Gaslight Anthem – is here in Portland on Saturday night and I would really prefer not to miss it. Flashback: Two years ago, my brother and I were in NYC, read this band was playing a show later that night, showed up, and I got the security/ ticket taker to let us in.
One of the first things I noticed in studying (truly!) the flight options was that Aruba, Moscow, and China are exceptionally cheap. We’re talking $600 roundtrip to Moscow. My philosophy for this trip, though, is to find a budget location and make an adventure out of it. That’s the typical sort of mindset I had in Europe – finding a cheap destination that was new to me, finding cheap lodging (Airbnb, Priceline, booking.com, etc.), and living as much like a local as possible. $600 is too much for this trip. Besides, Russia requires a tourist visa and that all lodging be pre-planned before you arrive – the lodging must apply for your visa. Denver, possibly, but I’ve been there. Chicago, possibly, but I’ve been there. Minneapolis, weather might be a problem. Austin/San Antonio, yes please. New Orleans, yes please. Those were my preferred travel spots.
Portland is not a travel hub, except possibly for Alaska Airlines. That substantially limits the number of affordable options for flying. Up until early last week, I though I might end up getting to the start of Spring Break week and settling for a drive to … I don’t know where. It still would have been wonderful, but not what I hoped for.
Then, I realized the beauty of Seattle. Seattle is beautiful in many ways but it is also a major domestic and international hub for several airlines. I opened myself up to the possibly of flying somewhere from Seattle. It is three hours north of Portland but if I were to fly from Seattle, I could drive there or take the Amtrak up. Depending on the flight options, I could even go up there the day before.
Back to Google Flights, I went. Departure: SEA. Destination: any. Leaving March 22-24. Duration: 6-8 days. ENTER
Seattle to New Orleans is $275 on Delta. That is almost half of the cheapest flight from Portland. Yes, it stops in Salt Lake City on the way there and (unfortunately) in Los Angeles on the way back. I can deal with those. The SLC stop is around dinner time and is 3+ hours which I’d prefer over a shorter or longer stop. It lets we wander a bit, stretch my legs, get some food, and I can go to the Delta Sky Club.
So that’s the plan. New Orleans – March 24-31. People are telling me than five days is a good amount for the city so, as I always do on travel, I want to explore a bit. I think I would like to drive over to Mobile, Alabama. It’s only a couple hours, the drive is supposed to be nice, and I’m not sure when else I might be able to visit Alabama and Mississippi. It would help me in my quest toward visiting all 50 states. I could be at 37 after this trip.
My tax refund is in the bank and I have been working Saturday school (at $150 a pop) a lot lately to have some extra travel money. I also signed up for the Delta Skymiles credit card – no fee for the first year) – because it offered $50 off that $275 ticket, plus enough miles for a free future flight. It also offers free checked baggage, priority boarding, and discount Club access. In my first splurge on this trip, I upgraded my Salt Lake City – New Orleans leg to “comfort+” class. Unlimited free alcohol, free entertainment, and better seats. Time to start planning.