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An Irish Spring

Taking a chance with Great Value Vacations

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View Southern Ireland, April 2019 on darrenesl's travel map.

Alaska was an incredible albeit cold summer vacation for 2018, so when it came time for 2019 trip planning, warmth was on the docket. Shorts, warmth and sun were in the plans until an advertisement for Ireland caught our attention. $699 for 8 days with lodging, airfare and a rental car. Really?

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The reviews for Great Value Vacations(GVV) who offers this special on Groupon appeared to be good. Not great, but a majority of people only leave negative reviews. Some of the issues were long wait times to get in contact with GVV and their call center. Other complaints included vouchers arriving just before people left for their trip. None of the reviews included people with flight, place-to-stay, or rental car issues that kept the traveler from making their destination. After more careful review and due diligence, we pulled the trigger and bought the Groupon.

Once you purchase the Groupon, the process is simple to book your trip. First off, select the dates you want, next go to the Great Value Vacations website and redeem your voucher. You will see your air tickets, rental car voucher and more. Two tips to make travel a little more convenient include upgrading your seat selection to a preferred location. This was a slight up-charge on Air France, however Terri and I will get our preferred seat for the lengthy portions of the flight. One other upgrade was choosing a rental car with an automatic transmission. Neither of us are wanting to drive a manual on the opposite side as we are accustomed to.

So far all has gone well with the initial process. Let's hope the rest goes as smoothly.

Posted by darrenesl 14:39 Archived in USA Tagged cities paris coast amsterdam city ireland dublin holiday fun air klm airlines fare darrenesl air_france 2019 Comments (0)

Sunset to Sunrise - Travel Days Merge

Traveling from Los Angeles to Warsaw via stop in Frankfurt

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View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

The time has finally come to depart on our adventure. The day began with the trip to LAX from San Diego being uneventful. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a dilemma. Luftansa was looking for people to give up their seats and leave on Sunday in exchange for $800 per person. A very tempting offer, but we have activities planned for Monday in Warsaw befor departing Tuesday morning for Krakow. So, we declined the $1600 USD deciding to go for the adventure instead.

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Luftansa is great as always with two warm meals and personal inflight entertainment. As the sky turned to dusk, moments later we were greeted with a gleaming orange sunrise before night could come. Looking down we could see brilliant white polar ice fields. The views as we continued on were incredible flying over Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands and more we watched a beautiful multi-shaded green patch work quilt below us until we spotted the Rhine river and followed it towards Frankfurt.

Now we sit here in Frankfurt awaiting our final 1 hour 20 minute leg to Warsaw. The excitement has definitely helped us overcome our five hours of airline sleep.

Cheers,
Darren and Terri

Posted by darrenesl 03:47 Archived in Germany Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises air europe airlines darrenesl tljohnson darren_johnson terri_johnson Comments (0)

3 Days and Counting

Time is near, how's that packing list coming?

sunny 23 °C
View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

Suddenly we look up and the calendar says its the middle of June. Oh my, where has time gone? As we finish the preparations for our European journey, it is time to make the final reservations on airbnb, check all of our needs, and start pulling the traveling pack together.

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Yes, we have the hybrid Caribee Skymaster 70. The exact pack, filled with 30+ lbs., that we have been walking about two miles a day with to prepare for the upcoming adventure. As we talked about before, the pack offers the best of both worlds with a combination backpack and rolling bag. Sure, we most likely will not be having to carry it on our back for 2 miles, but taking a line from the Boy Scouts, we are going to "be prepared."

Along with the whole travel planning that has been going on since last year, plans for some special happenings on this trip have been in the works as well. Celebrating ten years of marriage, Terri and I have a couples massage booked in the Hungarian baths, a dinner on-top of the tower in Vienna, and a night on a private boat in Croatia. Part of the fun of this adventure has been finding some things to do that would not be on our regular list of activities here at home.

We also have several cathedrals on the list. For anyone going to Europe and wanting to let the imagination soar ahead of time, I highly recommend reading Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.
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The book shares some of the design elements used to build these magnificent structures, with a thrilling storyline that will capture the mind of the reader.
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Many more thrilling items fill our agenda, as well as plenty of time to explore areas and get to know the locals as well. How's that packing coming you ask? Well the bags are full and we are under our 44lbs. limit. Have we forgot anything, hopefully not, thanks to the travellerspoint.com packing list. Yes, it is extensive, but it is good.

We have been months in the planning stages and now the trip is upon us, we look forward to sharing our journey with you over the next couple of weeks. Keep watching here for our story and pictures and we will try to update it regularly. Please leave us your feedback and comments, we want to hear from you!

Signing off until we hop on board that plane,

~Terri and Darren

Posted by darrenesl 18:47 Archived in USA Tagged boats budapest prague vienna eastern austria warsaw poland fun air hungary croatia europe czech travels split republic krakow airlines darrenesl Comments (0)

Taking the Plunge

There comes a time when it gets real, that time has now arrived.


View Eastern Europe on darrenesl's travel map.

There is a knot in the stomach, palms are sweaty, it is hard to concentrate and wonderment surrounds. That is the experience that surrounds the moment of no return, that moment when dreams become reality, when there can be no turning back. That is the moment when you actually purchase your airline tickets for the journey.

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Deciding to fly into Warsaw, Poland may have been the easiest part of the decision. What proved to be much more difficult was determining when and where to buy the tickets for our trip. You may wonder why Poland was an easy decision? When we first started discussing a trip to Eastern Europe (Yes, I know it is actually Central Europe, but as an 80's youth, when communism and the cold-war still existed, it was Eastern Europe to millions of Americans, myself included), we looked at tickets to Hungry, Croatia, Czech Republic, and some of the larger Western European countries. The average RT flight from Los Angeles (LAX), California, to the destination cities that I looked at were $1,500USD for airfare in June 2014. However, as we continued looking at the map we decided to check Poland for flights, sure enough $987USD.

Once we discovered the difference in prices, the decision was made. We will fly into Poland and travel via train from there. The whole process seems easy enough, where does the previously mentioned angst come from you ask? Let me tell you, curses on that little "roaming gnome," I mean really does anybody know what he does for Travelocity? Or Hotwire, Kayak, WebJet, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, these companies quickly became a thorn in my side.

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All of the companies have handy fare alerts that will tell you when the prices are going up or down, and it is as bad as watching the stock market rise and fall hourly. Really, how often can the airfare rise and fall during a single day? And Orbitz, well, they have all these great fares, but a "this fare is no longer available comes up on all of their lowest flights," what's that all about?

Information abounds about where to get you tickets and when to buy them. We researched and continued to watch the numbers rise, rise some more, and fall a bit. Again, they fluctuate, day-in and day-out. Eventually, you have to take that step and we did. Finding a $1000USD fare among the prices of several others that had now risen to $1100+, it was time to jump.

Yes, I hit that purchase now button and won't be looking back. We will be traveling on Lufthansa from LAX to WAW. That's right it is now official Eastern Europe 2014 is no longer a dream but a reality for Terri and I!

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The stress of choosing a flight is gone, now it is time to plan some activities!

Posted by darrenesl 14:03 Archived in USA Tagged travel vacation eastern austria poland holiday air hungary croatia europe czech republic planning airlines fare Comments (1)

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