Travel Tips & Adventures

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International Travel Planning … on your own … without a net…Part 9

Scotland: Fall 2009

A Sale Is A Sale, Unless It Isn’t …

We had a real scare around here last week. We got an e-mail from Qantas Airlines touting incredible fares to Australia from L.A.!!! And guess what? They were during the same time we planned to go to Scotland! There was even a free stopover thrown in.

Of course there was!

As Australia and New Zealand are our number 2/3 destinations after Scotland, we decided to take a look. I even got out the Australia/New Zealand travel brochures I had been storing, some for over five years!(We won’t even get into the wife asking, for over five years, “Why are you keeping that junk? Because now you can finally reply, “Because I knew I would need them!”)

Well, I did need them, briefly.

During this several day bout of insanity, we even drew up an itinerary to see what we could actually accomplish in two weeks. And although we have finally decided to stick with our original Scotland trip …

We learned three things:

Procrastination doesn’t pay in the travel game.

There are about 37 seconds from the time that you receive an e-mail from an airline and when those two special fare seats get scarfed up! This is either by people who have nothing better to do than sit in front of their computer and hit the “receive” e-mail button constantly, or, those with nothing better to do than sit in front of their computer hitting their “receive” e-mail button constantly …

Some of these people are even at work … probably MOST of these people are at work!

And of really great interest to me was, that after a few days, the “free stopover” seemed to disappear from the advertising even though the “sale” was not over.

Airlines don’t play fair

When I first saw the fare to Australia, it was incredibly low – until I saw the catch: it was ONE WAY! Now, let me get this straight … it’s too difficult for airline marketing departments to reach for a calculator then double the fare so we can see the real thing?

Of course not! Did I mention it’s the marketing department? It’s a marketing ploy! “Wow! That’s cheap! Let’s book this!” Then you realize it might not be that cheap after all. But now you’re excited and …

As a former travel agent, I perfectly understand the first two learning experiences, as I learned those years ago.

But the one they don’t teach you at travel agent school … yes, there are actually travel agent schools. The one that’s not in any of the books is …

Decisions based on someone else’s currency are extremely difficult

We then had to comparison shop three different currencies to see who had the best exchange rate.

But wait, that’s not all! How about getting some apples to apples comparisons on good and services? Try finding out where those comparisons might even be.

The price of a restaurant steak in Sydney/Auckland and London
The price of a hotel (within the same chain). (Actually, the latter is more difficult than you might think).
The price of a meatball platter at Ikea …

Yes, we even checked the price of an Ikea meatball platter! But, that wasn’t even easy! Although each country did actually show prices online, not every country had the same amount of meatballs per platter! Do you want 10? Do you want 15?

The US stores have three sizes of platters, Britain has one, and Australia has one … but they are not the same quantities!

So, since we weren’t going to Scotland or, Australia/New Zealand for Ikea meatballs, we decided to finally make a decision with a very scientific method our dads taught us …

A Coin Toss!

So, with heads facing up, I’m back to telling you about our itinerary in …..


BUT, first and foremost …

The Answer to last week’s Trivia Question:

Last week I asked a trivia question about funicular railways.

Yes, it sounds like some exotic disease, but it isn’t! It’s just another name for an incline railway.

Question: Which U.S.-based incline railways claim to be the steepest in the world?

Answer: Johnstown Inclined Plane – Johnstown, PA 71.9%
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway – Chattanooga, TN 72.7%

Who really has the steepest incline railway?

Well, according to the Guinness Book of Records, that distinction actually goes to the Katoomba Scenic Railway in the Blue Mountains of Australia, just outside of Sydney. The railway reaches a whopping 122% before reaching the top of the mountain!

I’m no mechanical engineer, but doesn’t that put you upside down?

(Guess what? I even had the Katoomba Scenic Railway on my Australia itinerary!)

So, we’re leaving Aviemore and heading down to Edinburgh to finish off our trip.

Come back tomorrow and find out how we’ve decided to spend Day 12 of our itinerary…

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