Some trips make more sense than others. This one can reasonably be seen as standing strongly in the “others” category. From approximately 5pm on Wednesday until around 2pm on Monday – nearly 120 hours – I was traveling “in transit” across Europe. But I was not just flying around. Each stop – there were four along the way – was 20+ hours in a different country. I was maximizing my time and travel budget. At least I think I was. The routing I took offered me opportunities to try out two new airlines (Finnair and Air Baltic), fly seven new routes and visit four new countries (I’m up to 75 now).
The main event for this trip was dinner with 16 friends in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday night. A quick trip to Vilnius is actually pretty easy to book, though air service is rather limited to bad flight times when trying for connections to or from North America. That mattered less for me, however, as I wouldn’t be arriving from North America, at least not directly. A few months ago when planning my trip on the inaugural British Airways A380 long-haul flight I had to make a choice about this trip. Because of the idiocy of airfare pricing it turned out much cheaper to buy the BA flight as a round trip or an open jaw rather than just as a one-way. That forced me to make a decision months ago about this trip. Ultimately I booked that flight at Rotterdam-Los Angeles + New York-Tallinn. I figured that Tallinn was close enough to Vilnius that I’d get there eventually and this would let me explore a bit more. Plus, I saved hundreds of dollars on the A380 trip.
Just a few weeks ago I finally decided to fill in the gaps in my trip. That meant the “local” flights as well as finding a way home from Europe. Air Baltic is a regional low cost carrier with decent fares and, more importantly, a decent schedule of flights within the region. Train service is nearly non-existent and buses, while reasonably frequent, are slow and not all that much cheaper than the Air Baltic fares I found. And so it was settled: I’d fly from Tallinn to Vilnius via Air Baltic’s hub in Riga. As an added bonus, the fares allow for the typical international standard of up to 24 hours at an airport whilst still being considered a connection. In my case, thanks to the Air Baltic schedule, that meant 20+ hours on the ground. That was more than enough time to get in some trouble and explore the city.
From Riga it was on to Vilnius where the expected crazy day of touring happened, though there were a few unexpected bits as well. Among them, the part where I nearly slept through my flight out thanks to drinking a bit too much the night prior and not properly using the snooze button on my alarm. Fortunately I was awake at 7:10 for a 7:50 flight and the cab driver took credit cards. I was mere moments from missing that flight (an agent escorted me from security screening directly on to the plane and they closed the door behind me) and it was quite a nervous few minutes while en route to the airport. The part where I was still drunk from the beer and rum tastings we did the night before both helped and hurt at that point.
Leaving Vilnius I put my itinerary in the hands of you, my trusted readers. I ran a poll a few weeks ago asking which return trip I should take. The voting was tight between a revenue ticket on Norwegian Air and an award via American Airlines. The AA option won in the end, both with more votes and a slightly better schedule for me. I’d get to also visit Helsinki for a few hours as part of that trip, plus it was significantly less cash out of my pocket. As an added bonus, I worked in a stopover at my North American gateway (NYC) adding on flights to Los Angeles later this summer as part of the same 20,000 point award. That means another opportunity for adventure as I figure out my plans to get home from California.
Also, this is not the first time I’ve flown such ridiculous routings. A couple years ago I did a similar adventure through Europe as part of the same drinking weekend. In that case it was all about maximizing United’s one way award rules. And last year I spent a similar week in transit though less time at the stops and more time in planes. I made it to Perth before turning around and coming home.
Anywho, more from this trip to come in the next several days as I put the stories together.
- Reader Poll: You plan my next booking!
- In-flight: British Airways A380 inaugural LHR-LAX
- And where are you in transit to?
- Maximizing award redemption value. Sortof.
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Fantastic! Love the routing!!
American allows some great in-transit award routings. In March 2013 I flew an AA award from LAX to Berlin with a day in Zurich on the outbound and on the return 23 hours in Oslo, 23 hours in Helsinki, 20 hours in London and 12 hours in Chicago with hotel stays in each city.
Labai Gerai!!! Awesome trip, keep them coming!
Great, I’ve been wondering about AirBaltic. Please write about your experience with them!
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