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How did it get so complicated?

Scarlett

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Jun 27, 2011
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So, it seemed a fairly simple exercise at the start, but at some point along the way I realised things might have gotten a little out of hand, or maybe I'm just channelling a number of different threads on here. This post is probably part planning stage for a "Trip Report", part "You know you're a FF when...", part "Mistakes you've made", part "why fly direct..."; part recording what I've managed to organise thus far; and part requesting info from the many worldly travellers on here. (Mods, please move if this should be in a different area)

I have three weeks in which I can take some time off during June/July, but it's not all in school holidays so the minister of war and finance cleared me for a solo trip. I'm lucky that our finances are sufficiently in order, so I can follow my long-term goal of trying to holiday in and play golf in, every country/nation/state in the world that has a golf course. Not quite: "Jeeves, fuel the jet for <insert country here>"; more, how can I maximise $, points and status to go somewhere. Plus, I've already been to most of the usual suspects you might think of for a golf holiday, so it was time to get out the world map and spreadsheets and (with apologies to Top Gear), cue the music (the A Team theme)!

We currently live near CBR and at that time of year it's rather chilly, so I statrted by looking at places to go that wouldn't be overly warm and that naturally led to other places in the southern hemisphere. A visit to Victoria Falls would have been useful for getting to see parts of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and potentially Namibia. But after a bit of planning I've decided to save that one for a trip with the family. Next consideration was South America, but for whatever reason, I just couldn't work a plan I was happy with. Flying into La Paz and then travelling around some of Bolivia, Peru and Chile was an option, but I've put that at the back of the mind for future work. Instead, I ended up deciding to head to Latvia and Lithuania. We've visited Estonia and Finland in the past, as well as Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria a few years ago, so these Baltics countries might be slightly familiar, or might be completely different: the only way to know is to go and find out.

To get to Europe (return), I decided to use a standard AFF tactic and fly from Asia to Europe return and then add on the Aus-Asia pieces. I'm TK E+ (the top tier in TKs Miles & Smiles program) and have access to some complimentary upgrades which will expire at the end of the year so used those. I found a nice Y airfare that had the necessary upgrade space available and rather surprisingly, actually got it all booked and upgraded over the phone with TK, over the space of about 4 calls. (I say about 4 calls, as there were the usual false starts and road-blocks associated with anything TK, but quickly found helpful and knowledgeable agents) Even more surprising seeing as it is double open-jaw:
outbound: CGK-IST-GVA
inbound: VNO-IST-BKK
So J all the way for those flights, including proper narrow-body regional J within Europe, not the standard EuroJ found on most other airlines. And accruing TK miles with a view to hopefully requalifying status if things fall into place. Plus getting to transit through the new Istanbul airport a couple of times and check out the new TK lounges there. I've been through the old lounge at Ataturk a few times, so it will be interesting to compare. I believe E+ (as a sort of WP equivalent) have access to both a J lounge and the standard *Gold Miles & Smiles lounge.

Next I decided that seeing as I was going to be in Switzerland, I should try to play golf at Crans-sur-Sierre (an alpine course at 1500m elevation in the middle of the Swiss Alps) having seen the spectacular course feature as the site of the annual European Masters tournament and I think the ladies have played tournaments there regularly too. That meant a couple of nights in Geneva and then getting to the Baltics from GVA. LOT Polish Airlines (LO) have decent J class prices and I looked at that and they also sell Y+ on the same flights which is really just the seats immediately behind J with better meals. In the end I decided to just go:
GVA-WAW-RIX with LO in Y
Seeing as *G already gives me priority check-in, boarding and lounge access and allowed me to select exit row seats, so for the short flights it's not a problem.

After a few days having a look around Riga and surrounds, in Latvia, I'm going to head to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. This is a quick 55 min Dash-8 flight with AirBatic and they had some cheap headline fares, but most were more expensive than expected for such a short flight. It appears that AirBaltic follows the LCC 'nickel and dime' approach with a charge for everything, including an expensive charge for golf clubs. So, using the mantra of why fly direct when you can connect, I decided to do it in a little style and used some TK miles to fly intra-Europe. Instead of 55mins RIX-VNO, I used 15K TK miles (most of which were expiring in July anyway) to fly:
RIX-IST-VNO in J.
3 hrs outbound, 2 hours transit and 2 hours back. Should be a nice comfortable day... (I did seriously consider just catching the train, but the thought of miles expiring unused is anathema to me)

Now back to the title of this post: I then realised how close Vilnius is to Belarus and to its capital Minsk. So I decided on a few days there as well and rather helpfully a few years ago they opened Minsk Golf Club, as the first club in the country. So I figured I'd take a hire car from Lithuania over for a few days. But the border crossing and Visa situation made that far more complex than I'd like (basically, I'd have to pay EUR60 for a visa), so decided to fly over and get a free visa on arrival. Therefore I'll be taking Belavia (B2):
VNO-MSQ and return in Y.
This flight is scheduled to be a grand 35mins each way using a small CRJ-200 outbound and a much nicer ERJ-175 on the return to VNO.
One final night in Vilnius, then I commence the return journey back to Asia with TK.

To and from Asia.
After sorting out all the main holiday pieces, I had to get to/from Asia and it took me a few days to work out what I think is the best option. Straight up J fares would have cost three times more than the Europe tickets, so I looked to use a combination of points and cash, to try and get best value on expensive flights, but also to take advantage of my VA WP upgrades which most years go to waste. After searching around I found a combination of timings and availability that I was happy with. Plus it will earn VFF SC and squiggles which will get me closer to requal WP. Outbound I'm flying:
CBR-SYD-DPS-CGK in a combination of Y and J.
CBR-SYD-DPS was booked on VA as a Freedom fare (Y) and then a WP upgrade was applied to the SYD-DPS segment so that'll be 6.5 hrs in J. (and I'll need it after coming off a night shift at the start of the holiday!). I'll book GA for the DPS-CGK leg in Y and then either upgrade via bidding or maybe wait and take my chances for availability at the airport. GA flies the route pretty much every hour or two and although most services are via B737, there are a couple of A330's also scheduled. So I'll be using one of those with their larger J cabin to maximise the chance of upgrading. I will not consider flying Indonesia Air Asia or the Lion group. Should have enough time for a game of golf at New Kuta GC in Bali whilst transiting too.

Coming back from BKK to Aust, I had considered:
1. UL. BKK-CMB-MEL in J for about $1.5K
2. HX to HKG and then SQ Y+ onwards from there
3. But in the end the helpful Velocity contact centre staff allowed me to combine two award bookings I could find online, but which the computer would not allow. Effectively, the problem seemed to be that VFF will only allow a 3-leg booking to be made online. I could see BKK-SIN and then separately SIN-ADL-MEL-CBR, both as J awards, but BKK-CBR wouldn't work. Phone staff were able to manually make the booking all the way through from BKK to CBR, so I'll have a nice relaxing journey using SQ and VA, all in J, including the A350-900 SIN-ADL overnight, which is too short a flight for ideal sleep but will get me a snooze at least.
BKK-SIN-ADL-MEL-CBR on SQ & VA in J.
This 4-leg, partner and VA, one-way booking cost 88K VFF points and about $120 in taxes, which was less on both accounts than what I was expecting to pay.

All up, I think this totals 18 flights in 22 days. (must draw it up on gcmap or the like and see if I can post the result)
13 in J, 5 in Y (3 of which are < 1 hour).
About AUD3000; 88K VFF points and 15K TK miles total.
9 games of golf planned.

I'm exhausted just writing that.

Is it too complex? Is this an entry in the Mistakes I've made thread just waiting to happen?

And for those who have read this far: recommendations for something special to see, or your own personal favourite attraction/thing in or around Geneva, Riga, Vilnius or Minsk? I generally like to visit the local museums to get a feel for the local culture as well as just walk around and see what I stumble across. Generally works pretty well.

As always, thanks to all the contributors to AFF who provide the ideas, knowledge and tips to allow a trip like this to be pulled together.
 

pagingjoan

AFF Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2009
Messages
1,737
Wow!
I’m exhausted, too, just reading your post, Scarlett.
Wishing you an absolutely boring set of logistics - in the nicest possible way! :)
Save the adventures for the golf courses.
(Not that I can imagine those parts of the trip being anything other than torture! :):):))
 

Blinky

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Oct 5, 2012
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No time to get bored on that schedule Scarlett.

I was never much of a golfer even when playing weekly. Having just two rounds in the past decade, I would be appalling. The image of me chopping up new and beautiful courses is quite chilling....
 

Anna

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Jan 17, 2005
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I confess I skipped straight to the end to see what your question was ;)

In Geneva, if you book ahead, you can do a tour of the Large Hadron Collider complex at most times of year. It was really interesting, and I say that as someone who hated physics at high school.
 

Quickstatus

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Oct 13, 2013
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@Scarlett
It got complicated because thats the nature of bespoke travel using non cash alternatives.

"Complicated" open up possibilities both good and bad.
There is nothing wrong with "why fly direct when you can connect". The journey is even more important than the destination.

To mitigate against the bad especially with complicated itineraries, it is often best practice to build in some spare days. While it is impossible to completely mitigate against the "@JohnK streak of multiple delays", spare days can greatly relieve any inevitable problems that accompany travel.

Also make sure that you have enough time in transit during your multi stop itineraties
 

Scarlett

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I confess I skipped straight to the end to see what your question was ;)

In Geneva, if you book ahead, you can do a tour of the Large Hadron Collider complex at most times of year. It was really interesting, and I say that as someone who hated physics at high school.
Thanks Anna, that's an interesting suggestion.
But, what do you get to see? For a 10-20Km diameter circle, what can you see other than a large conduit or lots of piping? Or is it more a visiots centre displaying why they built it and the kind of experiments they conduct? I studied a bit of physics during my B.Sc many years ago, so yeah, could be an idea!
 

Scarlett

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Following along as a Golf Hack travel tragic ;)
I'm hoping the games of golf look a bit like this:
New Kuta GC - 13th best course in Indonesia.
Domaine Imperial - Best course in Switzerland
Crans-sur-Sierre - 5th best in Switzerland
Ovo GC - Best course (of only four) in Latvia
Jurmala GC - Second best in Latvia
V golf club - Best in Lithuania (of only six)
Capitals GC - Second best in Lithuania
Minsk GC - The only course in Belarus
Laem Chabang GC - Seventh best in Thailand

I figure if I'm going to be on holiday in another country I'm going to try and go play the best golf course I reasonably can! Should take me to 67 countries I've managed to get a game in.
 

Scarlett

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Scarlett

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
265
Flights
My Map
@Scarlett
It got complicated because thats the nature of bespoke travel using non cash alternatives.

"Complicated" open up possibilities both good and bad.
There is nothing wrong with "why fly direct when you can connect". The journey is even more important than the destination.

To mitigate against the bad especially with complicated itineraries, it is often best practice to build in some spare days. While it is impossible to completely mitigate against the "@JohnK streak of multiple delays", spare days can greatly relieve any inevitable problems that accompany travel.

Also make sure that you have enough time in transit during your multi stop itineraties
All good advice @Quickstatus and true about the good and bad: but I'm always a book my own kind of guy. I find the planning and booking part an enjoyable part of the whole process too. It's difficult getting all the pieces to line up, but great when it happens!

I've got a spare day in between the flight to Asia and my onward travel to Europe, and then a number of days between all of the other pieces, so hopefully can absorb any delays. I've travelled too much to want to introduce extra stress of making tight connections or booking separate tickets over connections! Maybe that's why it takes longer to bring all the pieces together, but better in the end.
 

Anna

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Jan 17, 2005
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Thanks Anna, that's an interesting suggestion.
But, what do you get to see? For a 10-20Km diameter circle, what can you see other than a large conduit or lots of piping? Or is it more a visiots centre displaying why they built it and the kind of experiments they conduct? I studied a bit of physics during my B.Sc many years ago, so yeah, could be an idea!
There is a visitors' centre which IIRC is open during business hours and is free, no need for a ticket. It has some interactive exhibits and was infested by French schoolkids when I was there.

If you book ahead and can get a ticket, you get to go across the road into the 'real' work area on a tour led by someone who works on the LHC. They show you all the different buildings and explain a lot more about what is happening than you get to find out in the visitors' centre. There is more than one project going on, it's not all about the Higgs boson. Yes I think we did get shown some conduits and piping but there was more to the tour than just that.
 

RooFlyer

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Nov 12, 2012
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Apologies to @Scarlett for the intrusion, but @Anna , could you send me a PM ('conversation'), please? I'm having difficulty sending one to you and would like to ask you further about the LHC tours.
 

scaredeycat

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Domaine Imperial looks beautiful - have added it to my list of courses to play. Yet another reason to go back to Switzerland...
 

Anna

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They are called CERN guided tours. I found them just by googling it.

For the dates I was in Geneva, I missed out at first on the advance booking :( But when I arrived in Switzerland I kept checking each morning on the internet and in the end I was lucky enough to get a returned ticket for a time that I could make. I remember I was in Geneva at the time of the Brexit vote so that's how old my info is. Was that 2016?
 

Aus ATC

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Sounds like a great trip. I was fortunate enough a few years ago to have a work trip which included a day in Vilnius. We managed a couple of hours at the Trakai Castle, maybe 1/2 hour west of Vilnius, with a nice lunch at the waterfront restaurant than some time to wander around. Quite interesting. Trakai Island Castle - Wikipedia
 

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