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Trip report : The bargain flights of a lifetime

scubabe

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Joined
Aug 19, 2015
Messages
229
Chapter 1 : The bargain flights

Mr Scubabe normally works from home
In late 2017 he had to travel to the office for the first time in months
He was sat in the car driving in and listening to Spotify
This all happened 3 days before we got Spotify Premium, so sadly for his ears but luckily for our passports, he had to listen to ads...

"Fancy a holiday in New York City? Have you considered a stopover in Vancouver? Flight centre have specials on flights with Air Canada, with flights to New York from $619"

Mr Scubabe is all "wow, $600, that's SO cheap! When I get to the office I'll check those out..."

He gets to work and the Flight Centre website clearly shows the advertising banner as "flights from $1619"

So he's all "oh, I must have heard it wrong. Never mind." and goes about his day. Still listening to Spotify in the background.

The ad comes on again. It says $619 again. Oops! It's an advertising error!

So at 9:30am he writes Flight Centre a very nice email, politely pointing out the discrepancy and asking simply if they would be prepared to honour the advertised price.

And to our huge surprise, at 2pm they reply... "Sure, as long as you can get your flights booked by COB today, yes we will honour the price".

Call to action stations! We're off to Canada & the USA! We have 3 hours to design a trip that we didn't know we wanted to take...

Now, remember that wording clearly said "flights *FROM* $619"... Meaning that if you choose popular dates or times, you'll pay more than that... So we pop into our local Flight Centre to finalise the flights and the customer relations team had worded their email to the store a little ambiguiosly, and again in our favour. We assumed we would be getting a $1000 discount on our flights, however when we selected our actual dates and flight times with the consultant it came out at $2400 per person. So we thought we'd be paying $1400. Ummmmmm. Nope. We got the $2400 flights for $619 :) Quite the saving, we were very happy!

Now... what on earth were we going to do with a week in Vancouver (a place neither of us had ever considered visiting), and 2 weeks in New York City?
 

scubabe

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Joined
Aug 19, 2015
Messages
229
Chapter 2 : One more adventure...

So, we spend 10 months putting a dream vacation together. We decide to have a relaxing holiday in Vancouver; followed by a week roadtripping in New England in the fall (perfect timing for leaf-peeping!), which is where Mr Scubabe spent the first 7 years of his life; and we'd finish with a week living it up in New York City. We decide to AirBNB most of the time, with some hotels scattered through.

I find a deal with Wyndham Hotels where if we stay 2 nights in any property, we get enough reward points to have a free night in any of their properties worldwide. So we score 4 super cheap nights at a local hotel, and we have 4 staycations in our own city, enjoying a night in town barhopping or eating our way through Chinatown, or bringing our camera gear with us and doing some nighttime cityscape photography. We have a great time, we reconnect, it's romantic... and it's so cheap! Especially when we then consider that we've now earned ourselves 2 nights in a very expensive hotel in Boston, so we've saved ourselves about $500 in the process :)

Mr Scubabe spends approximately 6 months referring to this trip as "our adventure". He drops that word into every conversation about this trip, but I barely notice it. It's surreptitiously slipped into conversation without me ever picking up on it.

The day before we fly, I spend most of the day at the salon getting pampered. I come home and model my new hairdo for Mr Scubabe, who looks a little nervous but I don't know why. He admires and compliments my new 'do, and then gives me a hug and asks "Are you ready to start packing for our next adventure?" I nod, yes I am, and I'm so excited! Then Mr Scubabe follows up with "Before we do that, I'd like to invite you to join me on one more adventure..." and opens a ring box to the most delightful engagement ring I have ever laid eyes on!

Cue much tears and giggling and more tears and more giggling and... well, packing took a lot longer than expected, because I had to stop every 30 seconds and gaze upon the ring!
 

scubabe

Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2015
Messages
229
Chapter 3 : Vancouver


Sunday 30th September
So our pre-booked car service collects us from home at 7am, and delivers us to Brisbane Airport at 8am.
We attempt to check in at the self-service area, but of course we need manual intervention because Mr Scubabe is travelling on 2 passports, and the computer picks up that his Aussie passport doesn't have a Canadian ETA in it. So we get "assisted" by a dragon who's actually really rude and abrupt, and it puts a bit of a dampner on things, but oh well never mind!

We get through departure immigration really quickly then stop by the TRS desks to get the tax back on the 2 pairs of Bose QC35's we bought on a superb OzBargain deal a couple of weeks ago. Next we head straight to the Plaza Premium lounge with my Priority Pass (free with one of my credit cards). We pass the time sipping bubbles and snacking on food (the selection here is nothing special, but it hits the spot and is kinda what you expect from lounge snacks).

10am Our flight is called so we head down to the gate, we board instantly and head to our seats - sadly we're in Y but heck, the flights were dirt cheap so I can deal. Luckily we have 3 seats between two, so we get to spread out a bit. A cabin crew member sees me gazing lovingly at my new bling and gives me a funny look. I tell her it's only been on my hand for 12 hours, she gets all excited with me, and brings us some champagne from J to celebrate :)

It's our first ever AC flight and everything is fine, drinks service was good, the meals were a little small but tasty, the entertainment system looked like there was a lot on it (I personally settled in with my iPad and a bunch of pre-downloaded Netflix).

I have a little nap, watch some more movies, have a snack, watch some more Netflix, then finally it's breakfast service, 2 more TV shows on Netflix and finally we land in YVR at 7am Sunday morning (3.5 hours before we departed BNE - I love the international date line!). I've crossed the Pacific many times, and I don't know why but this flight felt like the longest flight EVER it just seemed to drag.

Immigration in YVR was super simple just self-service, get your pic taken, then see a bloke at the desk and you're done. We grabbed our bags and headed out to the taxi rank for the cab to our AirBNB for the week (Main & King Garden Apartment - Guest suites for Rent in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). We grabbed our keys out of the lockbox and let ourselves in to our apartment, it was super cosy warm and the bedroom was nice and dark so we grabbed a 2 hour nap to refresh ourselves. Back up at 11am and we headed out to explore. After a coffee and a snack, we ended up at a huge local park and spent an hour or two in the Bloedel Conservatory admiring all the tropical plants and birds. Then a nice long walk back to Main Street with its bars and restaurants, we propped up the bar at Nomad for a few hours, sampling local beers and drinking cocktails and nomming on their delicious snack menu. A relatively early night as we were both exhausted.

Monday 1st October
Jetlag day. It hit us both hard. We didn't do a lot today.
Went out for dinner at a place called "Bob Loves Thai Food" on Main Street as it came highly recommended by our hosts, and they weren't wrong, it was delicious!

<will write more later, sadly work calls!>
 

Major

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Jan 21, 2011
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Qantas
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My Map
Congrats.
Along for the ride
 

kermatu

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Stowing away for this too.

And congratulations!
 

carls888

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Joined
Sep 14, 2010
Messages
234
Wow, what a beginning to your adventure... I'm along for the ride... Congratulations!
 

scubabe

Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2015
Messages
229
Chapter 3 : Vancouver (cont...)

Tuesday 2nd October
We woke up to a note under our door from our AirBNB host - she'd left us cinnamon rolls for breakfast! So kind of her. Today we headed into the city and we did so much walking - according to my app, 22km worth of walking! Weather was cold for us soft Queenslanders (max of 12C today), so we were rugged up with jumpers and coats.

First we walked 6 blocks from our AirBNB down to the King Edward metro station, grabbed a coffee for our jetlagged souls at Tim Horton, then we caught the train 2 stops up to Olympic Village and got off for a look around. We walked from Stamps Landing ferry terminus all along the waterfront of False Creek, through Charleson Park, and over to Granville Island where we wandered the island for a few hours and bought some treats at the markets.

We then walked along Mariner Walk through Creekside Park and over to Burrard Marina, had a look around there, and then crossed the Burrard Street Bridge. We walked up the hill to Davie Street and dropped into Little Sisters Bookshop which was well worth the visit. We got T-shirts from there as souvenirs and took photos of ourselves on the rainbow street crosswalk outside the shop (we're both members of the LGBTQ community and it had a lot of personal meaning to visit there).

From Little Sisters we walked down to English Bay and then up toward Stanley Park just as Golden Hour hit and our photographer's hearts were happy. We didn't have our DSLRs with us today but the light was so beautiful it was just a really redeeming time, wandering about this gorgeous city and park and water views with the light just perfect. From Stanley Park we walked up to Gastown and by now I was totally exhausted.

Luckily, it was now 7pm, and we found ourselves at Wildebeest for dinner, a restaurant I'd had recommended to me by a friend before our trip. If you're a foodie like we both are, then you HAVE to add this place to your bucketlist! We handed over control of our meal to the chefs and let them bring us what they felt was the best dishes they had on offer. We weren't disappointed! Smoked olives. Devilled eggs with caviar. A charcuterie platter with exotic meats and cheeses and house-picked vegetables. Veal bone marrow (with a sherry luge). Horse tartare (yes you read that right. Horse. Raw horse). Bison and huckleberries. A white chocolate souffle with thyme icecream. Absolutely every dish was delicious, we went back to the kitchen to personally thank the chefs and they made us feel so welcome and chatted foodie stories with us. A lovely evening!

Then with full bellies and after a lot of cocktails, we wandered back to Waterfront metro station and made our way home to sleep the slumber of a pair of jetlagged and exhausted walking tourists.


Wednesday 3rd October
We had a bit of a sleep-in and then headed off for our photo tour. I booked this through AirBNB with a local who takes you to a bunch of street art in Mt Pleasant and South Main. She normally takes photos of you with her own camera and then edits them and sends you 15-20 shots... but we booked a private tour because we wanted to run things a bit differently. We just wanted her to show us the street art so that we could shoot it ourselves :) She was quite confused that we didn't want her to shoot us, but she soon got with the program and it was fun, three photographers all nattering away about our hobby. We had a wonderful few hours with her, and then mid-afternoon we parted ways.

We then walked from Mt Pleasant up to Chinatown, took some photos in the oriental gardens there, then walked down East Hastings to Commercial Drive. So many people and guidebooks had all said "you have to visit Commercial Drive it's amazing"... but we weren't very impressed. It was actually kinda dirty and dodgy, no shops that we were interested in visiting etc.

The only good thing about this part of town was that we were headed to a very specific bar... being a pair of geeks, we were headed to Storm Crow Tavern, gigantic nerd heaven with board games and scifi movies playing on TV screens and really interesting (and delicious) food and aptly named cocktails. We spent a few hours here playing games and drinking cocktails and eating dinner. We even bought a very theatrical drink where they dimmed the lights in the whole bar and played special music while it was being delivered and poured for us :) So much fun, we had a great night and rolled out of there nicely merry :) Caught the bus home, public transport super easy to use in YVR.



Thursday 4th October
Another AirBNB excursion today, but this time it was a full-day excursion. We got up and popped to the local cafe around the corner to Solly's Bagelry (a little cafe selling jewish pastries and snacks) for coffee and bagels - verdict : scrumptious! Then at 10am we were collected in an SUV by our tour guide and taken on a fabulous daytrip on the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler, stopping at a bunch of waterfalls enroute for photos. We even lucked out on timings and managed to get some phenomenal shots of the Rocky Mountaineer from right up close (railway crossing at a walking track to one of the falls we visited).

We spent the afternoon in Whistler, walking about and exploring the village, and we've decided that next time we visit Vancouver, we'd like to come in the winter time so that we can stay up here for a few days and go skiing. The village just had the most gorgeous feel about it and we were sad that we only had 4/5 hours here. When we'd originally been planning the Vancouver week, we contemplated coming up here for one night, and doing one of the black bear trips in the area, but we knew we were pushed for time with only 6 days in YVR so we didn't want to try and spread ourselves too thin. Definitely a spot to come back to and visit!

It was absolutely freezing though, a top of maybe 6C and being photographers we *really* felt the cold today while standing about with tripods doing long exposures of waterfalls etc - brrrrrr!


Friday 5th October
Weather was rancid today, raining most of the day and overcast. We had planned to go to Stanley Park for the day and shoot all day long, but there's no point dragging camera gear out in the rain, we didn't have adequate wet weather gear, and we didn't want to pack wet clothing for our flights the next day, so we decided to nix that idea and find inside stuff to do.

We checked out of our AirBNB and took the train back to the airport, then found the hotel shuttle bus area and caught the free shuttle to our hotel for tonight, the Ramada Vancouver Airport. I am so grateful that we didn't pay money to stay here, that I paid in points, because it's a gross hotel and not what the standard I was expecting from Ramada. Room was small and dark, bathroom was very old and had cracked tiles and loose electrical wires, common areas were worn and rundown with lots of holes in carpet in hallways etc. But, we only needed a bed for the night and a free early morning airport shuttle, so it served its purpose.

We dumped our bags and headed back into the city on the train, and spent some more time pottering about in areas we hadn't done justice to earlier (Gasworks, Yaletown) and then headed over to the World of Science and spent a couple of hours there.

Caught the metro back to Richmond-Brighouse. I was so enamoured with the driverless trains on the metro in Vancouver that since this would be our last train ride in this city I was determined... I was going to get the awesome front seat, and pretend I was driving! Hehehe would be a cute thing to do if you're visiting and you have kids, I reckon they'd love it. As we were heading back to the hotel we went via the Richmond Centre (like a Westfield) and found a department store to buy photographers gloves in (you know - those fingerless gloves that have mitten flaps?). Then walked back to the hotel and had a quiet night in catching up on emails and things.


Saturday 6th October
Up at sparrowfart, free hotel shuttle to airport. Checked in at automated kiosks, dropped off our bags, and proceeded straight to US immigration. Man, that is the *best* system! We got to clear US Border Control while still in Canada, then moseyed on over to the lounge and had breakfast and some bubbles, then wandered down to our gate.

This was our only leg of the 4 on this trip where we weren't lucky enough to score a row of 3 for the two of us, so it was a little squishy. I am reminded of why I hate economy... on a 5-hour flight, I was offered one plastic cup of water. Not even a whole water bottle, not a cup of tea, nothing. Just one plastic cup of water. I didn't see a crew member aside from this one measly offering. Man, air travel in the US sucks!! Thank goodness for our new Bose QC35's, love them. Have worked out I need to remove one of my ear cartilage piercings that is just in an odd spot and was hurting after about 4 hours, but once I've done that they're perfect.

We land at Newark no dramas. We had considered taking an Amtrak from EWR-BOS but the connection time was a bit tight (last train of the day left at like 6:30pm and we were scheduled to land at 5:15pm) and we weren't 100% certain we'd make it, so we booked onto a later United flight instead. Collected our bags, took the airport train to another terminal and re-checked in. Through security and propping up the bar in the next lounge within 45 mins of landing!

Our United flight from EWR-BOS was fine, it was only an hour or so and we got a cup of tea and a biscuit which was unexpected but welcome! Landed in BOS and had our only luggage issue of the trip - in fact my first of my life! My bag never came... Eventually realised that it had, but I just hadn't recognised it! :) I usually have 2 identifying things on my case - a luggage tag and a coloured bag strap. Apparently the luggage tag had been torn off, TSA had inspected my case (likely trying to confirm that the big bag of white powder in my case was indeed washing powder LOL) and put my brightly coloured bag strap *inside* the suitcase and then locked it back up, so I'd been watching it go round and round the carousel and didn't even know it was my bag because it was missing my two personalised locators :) Also, somewhere in between YVR and BOS one of my wheels had been caught in something and half of it was sheared off, so it doesn't roll evenly now... looks like I'm getting a new suitcase before our next trip then.

Made our way outside and BOS has an awesome area dedicated to Uber and Lyft drivers, our Uber arrived within a minute of requesting it and he dropped us at our home for the next couple of nights - Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill. A lovely hotel, this was the one we got free on hotel points, at only 15,000 points per night it was a great deal. We also got an email a couple days before with an offer of an upgraded room for just $5USD/night which we took them up on - and so our hotel room ended up being a huge Executive King and would have run $700USD a night (we were there over the Columbus Day long weekend) so it was a super bargain, just like our flights :) I do so enjoy points collecting!


<next chapter coming after my uni exam on Friday!>
 
Last edited:

Cossie

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Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
2,034
Great stuff, Vancouver is a wonderful city and Little Sisters Bookstore is one of my favourites.

Really enjoying this, thanks.

P.S., hope you do well with your exam. :)
 
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LadyC

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Feb 21, 2012
Messages
2,540
Congratulations on the engagement and you definitely snagged a great deal with Flight Centre on those flights!
 

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