In my last blog post, The Jews of Kochi, I described our visit to the historical city of Kochi, the capital of Kerala State in SW India. However, I didn’t say anything about how we got there. One obvious answer is that I went on-line to a discount site like Orbitz, located the best deal (currently about $1,900 per person), and shelled out almost four thousand dollars to purchase tickets for my wife and myself. Fortunately, the real answer is far more affordable and represents yet another benefit of working vacations–the concept of a twofer.
On every one of my working vacations (fifteen and counting) I was given a complimentary round-trip air ticket, purchased by my hosts, from my home in Minneapolis to the city where I would be working. If you don’t provide your hosts with suggested routings they will almost certainly select one with the least number of legs and the shortest airport delays, thinking they are doing you a big favor. However, that may not be the case. Nothing says your travel must be on a direct flight and without long layovers, so long as you arrive and depart the host city on the required dates. Once you realize this, you will begin to appreciate the many interesting side-trip possibilities that have fallen into your lap.
A great way to turn a working vacation into an even more enjoyable holiday is to take your free ticket from A (your home) to B (your destination) and convert it into an “almost-free” ticket from A to C to B, where C is any destination along the way to B that you would like to visit for a few days or weeks. Essentially, what you are doing is converting that free ticket into a twofer by adding a second stop, either on the way there or on the return. For example, when I was traveling to Mauritius, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, our hosts assumed we would prefer the most direct route: Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Mauritius. Instead, we asked them to route us home via Mumbai and London, with a three-week layover in India. I gladly agreed to pay the increased $150 ticket cost per person since $300 is far less than the $4000 required to reach India from the central U.S. We had a glorious time in Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, and Cochin before returning home. We repeated this gambit on subsequent working vacations to Turkey (via Athens and the Greek Isles), Australia (via Fiji), Mongolia (via Beijing), and a threefer to Harare, Zimbabwe–via Lisbon, Portugal and Cape Town. In all cases the cost of extending our stay in the layover city was small compared with purchasing a full-fare ticket from Minneapolis to that same destination. In three cases (Turkey, Japan, Malaysia) my employer agreed to cover the added expense since the ticket costs still fell well within their overall travel budget.
The moral of the story is that when planning air travel don’t inquire into only direct flights, unless you are traveling with small children and that is the most important consideration. Instead, see what airlines fly to your destination, where they stop, and what the added expense would be for extending your stay in that stopover city. You might be pleasantly surprised at how little it costs to add a few days or weeks in some attractive getaway to your already attractive working vacation.
(Read about our travels to Mauritius, India, and many other exotic destinations, at virtually no cost in On The Other Guy’s Dime.)