February 20th, 2020

WSFS Crew

Bullet Bitten

Last night, Lisa and I bit the bullet and bought our airline tickets to New Zealand. Our plan is to fly to Auckland, spend a couple of days there recovering from the flight, take the train to Wellington, arriving two nights before Worldcon, attend Worldcon, spend a couple of nights after the convention, take the train back to Auckland, then use a bunch of my IHG points and offers to spend five nights in Auckland before flying home. Lisa is Business Meeting Videographer, and I'm her flunky ("you carry the tripod"), so we were fortunate to get a room in the West Plaza Hotel, and they were very obliging about adding a night to our hotel reservation yesterday. The train between Auckland and Wellington doesn't run every day, so pieces of our trip depend upon the train's schedule.

Part of the bullet-biting was to purchase Air New Zealand Economy Skycouch, which allows the two of us to have three seats. I don't expect either of us to be able to stretch out across the seats, but it does mean we will have the extra space. Skycouch costs less than a third coach ticket would cost, but as Lisa points out, it's a bargain for the airline because they get the revenue without having to carry that extra passenger (including their weight and luggage, as we don't get an extra bag even though we're paying for an extra seat). After pulling the trigger on the purchase, I looked at Kuma Bear and said, "You'd better be appreciative! We just spent an extra $1000 on a seat just for you!" It's still cheaper than a pair of premium economy (more legroom, apparently slightly wider) seats.

We'll be starting and ending our trip in Reno, not San Francisco. The fare is a little bit more, but based on the flight times, it makes more sense and costs less overall. That's because we will leave Reno at 5:50 PM on a United hop to San Francisco, changing to an AirNZ flight that leaves at 9:50 PM (arriving Auckland two days later at 5:45 AM thanks to the International Date Line). That means I can work on the day we leave, saving a vacation day. The return leaves AKL at 7:35 PM, goes to LAX where we have about 2 1/2 hours to clear customs & immigration and transfer to our short flight to RNO, arriving about 5 PM on the same day we left (regaining the day we lost on the way out). I plan to take the day after we get home off to rest. Even so, I save two vacation days and two hotel nights in SFO. Also, parking is much less expensive at Reno than at SFO.

Unfortunately, the discounted fare on AirNZ doesn't earn me miles on their partner airline, in this case United. I might get miles for the two UA flights (RNO-SFO/LAX-RNO). We had to move money around so that we could pay for the trip with my United credit card; otherwise, we'd have to pay extra for our checked bags on the short legs. Annoyingly, while the international flight has a one included bag allowance, the connecting flights do not, but if you pay with your United card, you get the checked bag.

We still have to book our train trips and at least one of the tours we want to make. It would be easier if we stopped over at Hamilton, but the trains don't run often enough as far as I can tell, and also, the way my IHG points work, I get four nights for the price of three, so if I want to take full advantage of them, I need to put four days in a row.

Last year, Lisa was a wreck because we followed the siren song of eight hotel nights for the points cost of six in central Dublin but had to spend way more time and effort commuting back and forth between the convention center and downtown. For New Zealand, being in the same hotel as the Business Meeting, as we were in Finland and (in effect; we were in the Hilton) San Jose, was a high priority. It's harder work recording the meeting than you might think.