Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wow 6 Months to Go Until Our South Africa Trip

Warren and I were talking about our South Africa trip as we do and were shocked to realize that we only have 6 months to go. When we booked our flights we had almost a year! Time goes by way too fast!

What does this mean? Well since we chose the busiest time of year (Christmas and their summer) things will book up quickly. That means that we better get moving on booking hotels and safaris and activities that we would want to do!

I bought Fodor's See it South Africa and the Eyewitness Travel Guide for South Africa, and have spent some time thumbing through them to get a sense of what we want to do while we are there.

We are flying into Johannesburg, and have friends that live there that have invited us to stay with them for Christmas (Thanx Antoinette and David!). We are really looking forward to a South Africa Christmas!

Other than that we know that we want to take a safari in Kruger National Park, See Capetown and the Penguins (we missed them when we were in Melbourne, Australia as the weather was too bad) and stay at a Fairmont Hotel (we have free nights and upgrades from their loyalty program). We were going to check out Sun City at one point, but the casino is small now as they have since allowed casinos in other parts of South Africa. So it isn't a casino destination anymore. We would rather spend our time on Safari or in Capetown than in Sun City.

So when planning a big trip like this, we start with working with what we know for sure that we want to do. Since we know that we will be staying in a Fairmont for at least 5 nights, the next step is to look into which one. There are 2 in South Africa, The Fairmont Zimbali Resort on the East Coast near Durban, or the Fairmont Zimbali Lodge on the Dolphin Coast.

We decided that we would spend this weekend looking at the Fairmonts, doing some research on TripAdvisor and starting to sketch out our itinerary. So next week look out for that!

If there is somewhere that you think we shouldn't miss in South Africa, or something you highly recommend; or on the other side, think we should completely avoid, please comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our First Snag in Planning our Trip to South Africa

Welcome to my weekly summary of how our trip planning is going for our upcoming family trip to South Africa in December of 2012. Please look for it every Tuesday morning. I started it last week as I realized that while I preach that people should "think outside of the box" when choosing a great family vacation, many people may not know what goes into planning one.

So we are going to share our experiences of planning this trip with you, and to be honest it will keep me on track for planning and booking our trip.

As I said last week, this is a graduation trip for Montana. She will be graduating from High School in June of 2013 (we can't believe it!) It will be our last big family trip for a while we guess, so we want it to be great.

We booked our flights in February as we used more than half of our airline loyalty points with Air Canada. Warren flies a lot for our regular bricks and motor business and has racked up quite a few. Usually when people from our side of North America (we are in Toronto, Canada) fly to South Africa, they fly East to Europe and then south to South Africa (to Johannesburg or Capetown).

Because we are flying over the Christmas holidays, and South Africa is a popular destination for Europeans, the only flights that would work out for us using our points was for us to fly south first to Sao Paulo Brazil and then east to Johannesburg. This will give us a 15 hour layover in Sao Paulo.

Here is the Snag:
After reading a post from a friend of mine that is going to Brazil next week, I realized that we will need visas if we leave the international transit area of the Sao Paulo airport! Our plan was to rent a hotel room, have a nap and a shower and then go back to the airport for our next flight that night. My initial research shows that a tourist visa will be about $100 each! That just increased our "hotel" bill by $300! We can't apply for our visas until 90 days before we plan on leaving, so we will have until then to decide if a shower and nap is just worth $300. Otherwise it will be a long day in the airport!

I guess one of my "things to do" will be to research the Sao Paulo airport and see what there is to do there if you have a long layover! Maybe there is a loyalty lounge!

Montana at the Air Canada Lounge in Toronto

So our lesson learned: Do you research on visas for stopover countries as well as the country you are visiting!

Look out for our next update next week - we are looking at our itinerary next...

What would you do? Please comment below and share with us what you would do if you have a 15 hour layover and it will cost $300 for visas, just to stay in a hotel?