Subject: Trip planning for beginners
John and Ziners:

Two terrific questions.

One traveler's opinions:

We book our flights or accommodations first depending on (1) award travel plans, (2) ongoing airfare sales, or (3) availability of accommodations or timing of events on the other end.

Recently, we've been trying to use up accumulated frequent flier miles. Normally, a mile is worth about two cents. Because of sales and low-fare carriers, award tickets are no longer attractive; award upgrades, particularly to UK/Europe, are. Availability is limited, so we call up the airline and buy our upgradeable tickets to where we want to go and do the upgrade at the same time. Costs us extra to do it on the phone but there's no way we've found to do it on-line. Then we look for a place to stay. We travel mostly in the shoulder seasons so have had no problems so far.

Deep airfare sales are another opportunity to buy a ticket and then work out the ground arrangements. Case in point is around Thanksgiving when Biz Class tickets to London/Paris are offered for little more than the cost of Economy. Dates and seats were limited, so we bought the tickets and then found an apartment.

In contrast, there was this birding event on the TX Gulf Coast. We paid our fees and booked our room and then figured out how to fly there. Worked out nicely because we were able to fly to a hub city, rent a car, and spend a few days with old friends in a nearby town before driving on to the birding event.

As to time of day and day of week, we try to get on the first flight of the day even though it means getting up at 0-Dark:30 to get to the airport. Delays cumulate and later flights can be disrupted. Once, we were trying to get out of DTW late in the day on the last day of the month and NWA's feeder line ran out of aircrew. NWA fed us and put us up for the night but we do prefer our own bed.

Red-eyes, long ago a great way to fly from W to E at a lower fare in an uncrowded cabin, are now just as congested as prime time.

For domestic flights, we've found the lowest fares Tuesdays through Thursdays and occasionally on Saturday mornings. International flights, fares seem to be lowest and seat availability highest midweek. Most folks from here seem to fly out on Fridays and return on Saturdays and Sundays. Reason may be that most self-catering apartments in UK/Europe rent by the week, Saturday to Saturday. My business friends mostly flew to UK/Europe on Sunday or Monday and returned on Friday or Saturday.

Jerry in E TN