December 1, 2015
1 month to go. I have been spending my last month working on logistics of a big year and I don't think most birders even know much work this takes, or is appreciated by birders. It certainly isn't for the non-birders. You really just can't go on a big year, maybe Neil Hayward did, although nothing is truly accidental, and even with unlimited funds, sometimes you just can't go to certain venues or trips. Here it is December 1, 2015 and already stuff is full up or really really tight to get anything...or worse, no one will take a reservation.
1) There are no open tour slots for Gambell in June, at least that I know of., I have scheduled a Wilderness Tour for a couple of days but that is now full, too. There is also no way to stay there on one's own as rooms are full during that period.
The fall WINGS tour may still have an opening, but the people who schedule Gambell are unwilling to commit to giving any independent a room pending confirm on what the tour(s) will be needing, and as they wont commit until May, it may be a while. All this and if you go independently you have to ship in food ahead of time...
2) The May Repo Pacific coast cruise tours are full and have been for sometime but I was able to book as an independent, Both my January and February Pelagics are now full and I'm trying to get the May Adak Pelagic full so it still goes. Everyone, it seems wants to go on trips that cuase me the most pain and not on the ones I need them to go on. Even the auto tour going up Mt. Washington is starting to fill up in June. Who says birding is a dying hobby.
I think I also got the last rooms under $300 a night in Key West in April. Last time I was there the only rooms available past Marathon were $1100/ night. I actually joked with the woman at the desk and asked if a woman came with that. She whispered "No, but for a few hundred extra, that could be arranged. Would you have any preference for hair color and you can't add that to the credit card. I guess I could book it as incidentals." I kind of didn't know what to say at that point. Only in Key West can an escort be a rounding error in the price of the room, wait, that isn't just Key West..........
3) Nome in June. Nome is another game of chicken. The Aurora Inn won't confirm a room or for that mater even acknowledge you sent an email asking for one. They will wait on the tours for early June. So there may be a room with a couple of weeks left. The Nugget doesn't always have towels and when they do, there may not be hot water and they don't take your name for reservations only a number, no number, sorry. This year, they had 6 no shows and I know three of them was me (and I was there..I kept loosing the numbers). The Dredge #7 is between the two. Last year, I fought and fought rental cars, even thinking of shipping a car in, I got one with help of the new Mayor Richard Benneville, then I arrived and found 20 unused cars. I got the last open rental for June for next year at the end of September, again, I suspect, they'll have empty cars. I got sick of awaiting on the Aurora Inn manger to alot rooms so Dredge had their last room available and so I took it,
4) The most expensive "super-saver" scheduled flight in North America is the Anchorage to Adak flight, listed as of this writing at $1250 round trip. So I guess a guy should just pay that right?
Now I don't have any Alaska Air miles, but last time I went, i could book it on their code share partner...Delta. I have tons of Delta miles. But alas NO! Every other Alaska flight but not this one..
Plan B: However, you can book it on America using American miles. But alas I don't have miles there either, but I could buy American miles and it would take just 25,000 miles for the flight. Cost $635 for the miles and then $10 for the flight. Total $640
Plan C: I also have tons of AMEX points. I can switch them to all kinds of miles, Delta, Aeroplan, but alas Not American and especially NOT Alaska. However, at a ratio of 12 points for ten miles, I can switch them to British Air Avios miles. AND because they are a partner for American I can buy the flight for only 15,000 miles...YEA!...?.....Unfortunately, you can't book Alaska Air directly on BA, you have to call them. I read the internet that said British Air has the worst phone customer service in the industry worldwide. They (like British Air) recommended calling Singapore office....really Singapore? Their office is open 9-5, and what time is that in South Dakota. I called the listed number for here. In a very pleasant British accent..."Your wait time is 95 minutes." Really? then after 40 minutes I got cut off. Sh&&t
Plan D: I opened an Alaska Airlines miles account. So far so good. I can buy enough miles (I only need 15,000) too. The cost...$420. Wait, I can buy miles for $420 or just buy the flight for $1250.....what kind of f'd up system is that? WHY WOULD YOU EVER BUY THE FLIGHT? I plugged in my new number. I got the "Account not eligible to purchase miles" response....really? I now have to wait to 10am to be able to call customer service.....apparently one can't buy miles unless they've been a member for a period of time,....so I don't know what to do?
Probably take the American air price? Bird in the hand?
I cashed in my hotels.com for a hotel in Anchorage at least that saved some money. I get a free night but only worth $73.....where can a guy stay for that? I still had to pay $100