San Diego to Dublin for Under $70 Each!
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Ireland, Here We Come!
After much time preparing and planning, the time to take off on a jet plane is finally here! We’re absolutely thrilled, overwhelmingly excited and a bit nervous about having plane tickets in our hands, figuratively of course, as they’re e-tickets.
As said by Eugene Cernan in the documentary Last Man On the Moon (paraphrased), this is no longer something we’re going to do, this is now something that’s happening to us! Even more accurately, we’d say that it’s now something we’re actively doing. Now, we have to caution ourselves and make sure we slow down and hold back the temptation to rush from one thing to the next. It’s all too often that something you’ve been dreaming about comes true and passes in a blink of an eye. You spend too much time in anticipation of each event within a goal, that you run the risk of rushing to experience it all, never really embracing any moment of it.
So Now We Remind Ourselves, To Slow Down and Enjoy Right Now
For the good and the bad, we must be in the moment. Living and remembering as many moments as we can, otherwise, they pass before we have a chance to embrace them. So, as we walk through the airport exhausted between flights, we’ll register the feelings, the place and the time, instead of wishing to be at our destination already. Once in Dublin, we’ll enjoy the time there and not let it escape us while thinking of our next stop and the amazing things we’ll see and do. We’ll enjoy the spot we’re in, rather than rush through it with the intent of getting to the next ‘bigger and better’ destination. Even our fights, or rather ‘discussions’, will be worth the aggravation, since we grow and learn from them. Not to mention, that quite often they’re something we later laugh about.
Decisions in Our House Are Never Simple and Done
Since we started sharing with others our plans to travel, we’re often asked what our first stop will be; so often so, that Shannon got tired of not having a solid response and strongly considered just making up places when she was asked. After reflection, she realized that most people were simply excited, while others wanted to live vicariously through us and our plans. If you’re wondering if she made up destinations for an answer, she won’t actually say.
The inaugural first place was not chosen on a whim, or on a desire. It was, like most things we do, well thought out and planned quite logically. This decision wasn’t made lightly. We often thought we had the answer but would end up reconsidering due to additional information or new ideas. It’s helpful to know that we usually sit on a decision (choice, purchase, trip, etc.) overnight to a few days* when we’re at about 90% sureness. This lets us consciously and subconsciously evaluate it. When we’re early on in the process, more often than not, one of us will put a wrench in the plan and cause a reconsideration or hold-off on a decision. Generally speaking, after serious consideration and a length of time appropriate to the degree and impact of the decision we’re making, we come to a conclusion, and the day or so of letting it rest only solidifies it. However, once we make a decision, we’re very confident in it.
In no particular order or weight, here are some of the things we took into consideration:
Cost (in Points and in Cash)
It’s safe to conclude that cost is a decision factor for just about everything, including travel. In our case, it’s more than just cash, we must also consider airline miles and reward program points, like hotel and rental car. We’ve been earning and saving points (and using of course) for almost a decade and hold balances in most major airlines or alliances. There are a few key leaders in the point and mile earning world that we strongly recommend following if you want to learn more (The Frugal Travel Guy, One Mile At A Time). In general, it’s important to note that there are three types of point and miles people; those who horde them, those who spend them extravagantly, and those in the middle, who are value driven. There’s no right or wrong way, the choice is a personal one. On one end, the extreme is to save them and never spend them, which begs, “why do you have them in the first place?” Not to mention, they devalue over time. The other extreme is to spend them like they’re going out of season, redeeming only for top destinations and a few select opportunities. Of course, the third method is right down the middle and generally is about spending points earned based on need and value. Again, the choice is a personal one, only you can make the call.
We’re without a doubt the type that spends points and miles cautiously, wanting to receive the highest value for each and every point. So, when considering where to go first, we wanted to find the airline and destination that had the best redemption value; the highest value ticket for the least amount of points. It’s common to value points at cents per dollar (for more detail, visit The Points Guy). Different airlines are known for having the best point value depending on the departure and destination locations. For example, the East Coast of the US is known for great travel value with Jet Blue because of their great promotions and sales. Southwest is good for US travel when you have the companion pass (Companion Pass explained below). British Airways is distance based (for more detail, visit Upon Arriving) and is good for the US West Coast using an airline partner like Alaska, or in Europe where major world capitals are so close together.
Flying directly with British Airlines is great for domestic US travel, but is terrible for transatlantic travel. This isn’t because of the points but because of the taxes, fees and fuel surcharges. No matter how few points you spend on a ticket, if flying on British Airways transatlantic, you’re stuck with $600+ in additional charges. This is a deal breaker for us. We want a good value in points and in out of pocket costs.
Typically, your travel style can go one of two ways. One, suck it up and travel hard and fast. This means that the most important thing is getting to the destination fast and/or cheaply. It can be a 16-hour one plane, few stops trip to get it done and over with; or, it can be a cheap 28-hour trip with countless layovers and plane changes to get the least expensive travel cost. Option two is a relax and don’t kill yourself type of travel. This is a non-stop flight in business or first-class, to travel fast but in comfort; or it's a few key flights with moderate layovers to get up and walk around, stretch and breath fresh air between planes, with the idea of caring for the mind and body along the way.
We as a couple differ on this. Shannon is a type one, suck it up traveler. She knows she may be miserable doing it, but the flight isn't the trip, so she’ll get over the discomfort after a recovery period. Sergio is a type two, don’t kill yourself traveler. He holds his physical and emotional health at high standards, at all times, and would rather limit discomfort and stress for overall satisfaction and happiness. Ultimately, we meet in the middle, but Shannon will often err towards Sergio’s travel style, claiming it’s to keep him happy. In reality, it’s because balance in life is key.
Overall Travel Route Synchronicity
Although this possibly was just a ruse to use the word synchronicity, our landing location will largely play into the complete travel route we take over the next year. We don’t know where we’ll go along the way, but the last thing we want is to back ourselves into a corner by landing in an awkward place to start our journey. So we have to ask ourselves:
- Do we land in the middle and spiral out?
- Do we land in a ‘corner’ and travel a logical line between successive cities?
- Do we land in far side of a specific region and work our way across?
Sadly, none of these options apply in a clear black and white fashion. To our dismay, Europe isn’t laid out in a grid like plan. Even something as simple as exploring just Ireland, let alone the rest of Europe has led to a few controversial opinions between the two of us. One of us says this way, the other says that way, each believing we’re being more logical.
Realistically, our route will be a matter of some logical semblance of most wise/logical travel patterns combined with opportunities that arise along the way. So what did we really take into consideration here? Well, heck if we know. But at least it fueled a few interesting conversations.
Time of year
Just look up weather in Russia during the dead of winter and weather in India during the middle of summer. Need we say more?
When traveling outside of your home country it’s imperative to be cognizant of countries that require a visa for entry. Visas can be required depending on the reason for visiting the country, for the length of time you'll be there and/or required by default. The rules vary mainly on what passport you hold, and your planned country of destination. Check with the country yo're visiting as well as your embassy to see what the regulations and requirements are. For US citizens, the State Department’s Website is a great planning resource. Some visas are relatively simple and cheap to obtain, while others are expensive, time consuming and complicated to acquire.
To simplify our travels, we’re focusing on countries that don’t require a Visa for entry. Although, this is a good place to mention Schengen, a group of 26 European countries that have agreed to allow free flow of their citizens within the area as if it were one country. Countries that are a part of Schengen allow US citizens to visit for up to 90 days within a 6-month period. Our understanding** is that you can only spend a cumulative 90 days within any of the Schengen countries. Once you've reached 90 days within Schengen borders, you must leave and wait 90 days before coming back. Schengen Visa Info and the US Department of State are good resources for more detail and a list of countries that are a part of Schengen.
Choosing Dublin, Ireland
Drum roll please! After much contention and serious deliberation, the winner is…Dublin Ireland!
(Shannon here! I would like to mention, as I do in almost all conversations on this topic, that my first choice was to land in Shannon, Ireland. As I always say, “How fitting and epic would that be?!”)
But logic wins, and here’s why…
BOS to DUB
As mentioned earlier, transatlantic flights can be costly in fees, fuel surcharges and taxes. There are a few airlines that have minimal fees and surcharges, leaving these as prime candidates for our airlines of choice. When considering airlines that we have points with, as well as the best redemption values for each program (for more details, visit The Points Guy) we settled on British Airlines Avios points. Most airlines redeem points by seat class and region of destination, however, BA Avios are redeemed based on distance (for more details, visit Upon Arriving) With this in mind, most airlines charge between 30,000 and 80,000 points to fly across the Atlantic. However, if you leave from the East Cost of the United States and land in Ireland, the flight distance is minimal (relatively, of course). However, this is where it pays to know the rules and hacks in award redemption. Traveling with British Airways from the US to Europe is too expensive in out of pocket costs. So, the ‘travel hack’ is to use BA Avios with a partner airline that doesn’t charge nearly as much in out-of-pocket costs. In this case, Aer Lingus is the winner. We can fly from Boston (BOS) to Dublin, Ireland (DUB) one-way, for only 12,500 miles each way, per person. In our case, this is a valuation of nearly 5 CENTS PER POINT! Pardon the all caps but it’s a known rule (there are exceptions like Starwood, Hyatt, Jet Blue, etc.) that most points are valued at one point per cent (for more details, visit The Points Guy). So getting upwards of five is insane! Our out of pocket cost per ticket was under $60 all inclusive (taxes, fees and fuel surcharges).
To put the cost into perspective lets’ compare it to a quick search on Kayak. Using the same date and flight type, non-stop (just as our ticket is booked) the cheapest flight is $620. That’s a factor of 10 compared to what we paid.
Update: Reward programs change their programs from time to time. Recently Aer Lingus launched the AerClub Avios program and their award charts have been updated. When traveling during peak times (mainly summer and around holidays) the flight from BOS to DUB is now 20,000 Avois points one way. That's an increase of 7,500 points. Plan ahead though, and travel during off peak times, and it's only going to cost you 13,000 points one way. That's an increase of only 500 points. (See the Aer Lingus Peak and Off-Peak PDF. For more detail on the changes, visit Upon Arriving.)
SAN to BOS
We’re starting off in San Diego, California (SAN). As you may have read in We Planned To Be Homeless, we first opted to do a road trip from Idaho to Washington, Oregon, and down through California. Conveniently enough, SAN is a much easier (read a larger) airport to travel out of than Boise, Idaho (BOI). This left us with more options and likely a lower overall cost***. So now that we know we’re leaving from BOS to get to DUB, we now need to get our butts to BOS.
This was a no-brainer for us. We recently earned the Companion Pass from Southwest. The Southwest Companion Pass puts most other companion passes to shame. From the time it’s earned, through the rest of that year and the entire following year, the holder of the Companion Pass can elect one person (this person can be changed up to three times) to fly as a companion on their itinerary for free. The pass is a gem if you travel regularly and it’s achieved by earning 110K points within one calendar year with Southwest. Because we have this pass, anywhere Shannon flies, Sergio flies for free (excluding security fees and taxes of course). It should be no surprise that we’re flying from SAN to BOS on Southwest.
We purchased our tickets, two for the price of one, with 9,336 points and $5.60 cents in fees and taxes for each ticket. The cash value of these tickets were $162 +$5.60 each, for a total of $335.20. We paid a handful of points and $12.20 total. Again, that’s a value of 3.6 cents per point thanks to the effective doubling of the Companion Pass.
To accommodate healthy mind and body travel, we opted to stay overnight in BOS. The travel time from SAN to BOS is seven hours, leaving at 6:20 AM PST, a plane change in Baltimore (BWI) and landing in BOS at 4:40 PM EST. We could hop on a direct flight from there to DUB, but that's another 5.5-hour flight, landing at 8:30 AM local time. Instead we decided to take a 20-ish hour layover to save our sanity.
Boston isn't a cheap place to stay. Plus, we wanted to stay very close to the airport, preferably within walking distance or within the distance of the complimentary Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit bus. Boston Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has a free bus line from the Logan Airport to South Station. This then branches off to other lines throughout the city that generally cost a few bucks. Using the common hotel booking/aggregating websites, we found that the low end cost of a hotel was about $100. However, we did find a hostel that was $83 for a private room. We then looked on Airbnb, and while there were some $50 hostel type rooms in the area, they weren’t available on our layover date. We found a decent room with a shared bathroom for $88. We booked it using a link that gave us $35 for being a first time Airbnb’er (Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay, thank you sincerely for using our affiliate link!). Out the door we paid $53 for the room. Not bad.
Airport Lounge Access
$450 recurring annual fee for a credit card!? That was our response to the Citi Prestige. We’d never paid more than $95 in an annual fee for a card (we did however get more value out of the card than the annual fee we paid). But so many blogs we’ve read recommend the Citi Prestige for heavy travelers. So, we looked into it. Any card with an annual fee needs to pull its weight/value in amenities. The Citi Prestige has a yearly $250 airline credit, membership elite status with a variety of programs and an assortment of other perks and benefits (for more details, visit Value Penguin). The amenities for the Citi Prestige had us drooling (just a bit) and we sucked up the sticker shock and applied for the card. One of the genius amenities of this card is the Priority Pass Select membership (for more details, visit Lounge Buddy). This pass gets the holder of the card into over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. The benefits of each lounge varies, from fresh food and snacks, private Wi-Fi, alcoholic beverages, to showers. These lounges can be great for resting and recuperating between flights. Most Priority Passes allow the holder of the card and possibly a companion to get in, but usually the companion is still $27 for entry. The Citi Prestige ups the game by allowing the holder of the card, to bring in two guests or their immediate family members (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age). Not to mention, that if you add an authorized user to your Prestige account, they too will obtain the Priority Pass Select membership.
We’ll be using this feature to rest and fuel up along our way from SAN to DUB. Naturally, we downloaded the Priority Pass app, but to find additional lounge details and reviews, we also downloaded the app Lounge Buddy (Get $10 credit towards your first lounge experience by entering the code SDj4d0G0IH. Enter it by launching the Lounge Buddy app, going to your profile, tapping options and then credit.)
San Diego to Dublin, Airfare and Hotel for Two for Under $190
Total cost: $183.83
That’s under $92 per person to get from San Diego to Dublin, including a night at a hotel! If you look at just airfare, going straight from San Diego to Dublin, it's under $66 each!
Off the shelf options for this trip are roughly $1,100 on the low, end but realistically will cost about $1,500-$1,600 per person, for a total bill of about $3,000. That’s a hefty chunk of change!
Now that we have our travel tickets, we need to figure out what we’re doing in Dublin, at least for the first few days. We’re going to explore Woofing, HelpExchange and House Sitting opportunities. We also know that once we’re feet down in Dublin we’ll walk and explore, trying to get to know local places and people. This will likely open up doors that sitting in front of a computer in the US just can’t do. We’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, if you have any Dublin travel ideas or recommendations, we’re all ears!
*The time frame we ‘sit’ on a decision is always relative to the impact/consequences of the decision. The greater the consequence, the longer we may choose to wait before settling on a final decision. While a decision of our overall financial investment plan may take weeks of back and forth, the decision of purchasing a laptop takes a week, the decision of a travel jacket a few days, the decision of what shampoo to buy takes a few minutes.
**This is your typical disclaimer. We understand Schengen to work this way, however, please do your own research to make sure you're following the guidelines and regulations. We like to think we’re informed, however, we find that sometimes we're wrong. Please, don’t let it be at your own expense.
***Yes, SAN is an easier airport to travel out of, but we don’t discount the amount of driving we did to end up in San Diego. Our reasons to road trip it to San Diego had little to do with traveling convenience and more of personal and business needs. If it was based solely on leaving BOI versus SAN, we’d never consider driving roughly 1,700 miles to get to a more convenient airport. The cost of the wear and tear on the car, gas, and time, well out-weigh the savings of the better flight options.
****A ‘good’ valuation for points/miles is generally 1 cent per point, depending on the program of course. (for more details, visit The Points Guy)