Monday, June 3, 2013

Two Tickets to Paradise ... with a layover in Reykjavik?

Monday, June 3.

Plane tickets have officially been bought. There's no going back now. (Just kidding, there was no going back once my mom paid the $1000 deposit a couple of months ago.)

I'm supposed to arrive in Montpellier on August 17 for my pre-session and orientation. Because the trip takes so long, I'll be leaving on Friday, August 16. I'm flying out of Dulles airport at 4:15 pm (our time) and should be in Pairs by 5:45 am on Saturday (their time). It'll be nearly midnight in Virginia by the time we land, so fingers crossed that I can fall asleep on the plane! It's kind of crazy to think about, because I've flown so many times with my family, but this trip will be my first ever solo flight. I don't think I'm nervous ... mostly because I'm usually the one dragging my mom and Madeleine through the airport anyhow! Besides, Molly's flight from Florida is set to get in less than half an hour after mine, so we'll hopefully be on the same short flight from Paris to Montpellier.

I even have my return flight dates picked out -- although it's possible we'll have to change them, depending on my final exam schedule (which I don't find out until partway through the semester). I'm due to leave Montpellier on the morning of December 22 and get into Dulles that afternoon -- because of the time difference, my 9-hour flight from Paris to Washington will only take up three hours!

The long-reaching arm of Air France.
I'm relieved to have my flight taken care of and even more relieved that it'll be such a simple trip. Making one stop with a three-hour layover in Paris is nothing compared to some of the other trips I was looking at. Case in point: Icelandic Air. It was pretty inexpensive to get to Paris (at least, compared to some other airlines) but the flight would have routed me through Boston AND Reykjavik. Although I'd love to visit Iceland, I think I'd rather not do so with two giant suitcases during an impossibly short one-hour layover!

Here are some of the things I've learned during the past few days of frantic flight searching:
  • Even if you're not sure about your return date, it's a good idea to buy a round-trip ticket. A one-way ticket to Montpellier on Air France cost over $2400, while the same ticket was only $1600 round-trip! If I have to change my ticket, I'll end up paying around $200 or $300 ... but it's still cheaper than trying to buy two one-way tickets. Additionally, some airlines won't let you fly unless you have a return flight booked! (I guess they don't want you to get stuck in their country?)
  • Start looking for flights WAY ahead of time. The jury appears to be out on the exact best time to purchase an airline ticket, but you definitely don't want to wait till the last minute! Also, the prices will definitely fluctuate over time, so you should use a site like Expedia or Travelocity to receive notifications if a potential flight goes on sale!
  • Be wary of discount websites. As a college student with a limited income, it's hard to justify buying a full-price ticket from an airline when a discount website promises it for half the price. But my travel agent (fancy, I know) pointed out that discount websites don't come with the same customer service as buying a ticket directly from an airline. If something goes wrong, you might have to deal with a call center in the middle of nowhere instead of being able to ask the airline to directly fix your problem! It's up to you to decide if the savings are worth the risk. (And hey, they totally might be!)
  • If at all possible, be flexible. My program requires me to be in Montpellier on a certain day, but some are more flexible. If your program starts on Saturday, can you buy a cheaper ticket and fly in on Wednesday or Thursday? Would you be willing to fly through Reykjavik?
Now that I've purchased plane tickets and paid tuition, actually studying abroad is closer than ever! I've known that it was happening for so long now that I guess I'd begun to think I was never actually going to go, but there's something about buying plane tickets that makes it just feel so real. 

1 comment:

  1. It is definitely feeling more real now. Not sure I like it -- haha! seriously, I'm excited too!