I have once again delayed far too long in getting plane tickets for WisCon.
It's the usual problem: I always think I'm not quite sure about my travel plans. Will I want to stop in Chicago for a few days beforehand? Or maybe afterward? Do I want to try to avoid traveling on Memorial Day itself, figure out someplace to stay 'til the next day, to avoid the usual travel hassles? Do I want to fly out of San José or San Francisco, and via Chicago or Denver? And so on. It all seems like too much to deal with, and I know that making changes later will be expensive if I buy tickets before I'm sure of plans, so I put off dealing with it. And then two or three weeks before Memorial Day I finally go look at plane fares, and they've gone way up, and I wince and grit my teeth and buy the tickets. And going through O'Hare is usually a little less expensive than other options, so I do that, which means that when it comes time to actually do the travelling, I'll almost certainly end up with various weather delays and general travel unpleasantness.
So last night I looked at fares on United, my usual carrier of choice, and though they were high, they weren't quite as high as I'd feared. So I told myself, "It's late, and I'm sleepy, and I should probably sleep on this and deal with it in the morning." Only of course I didn't deal with it all day, and when I went back tonight, the lowest available fares were $100 higher than they'd been 24 hours earlier. Sigh.
I tried using my free-ticket voucher (left over from volunteering to be bumped on some flight to somewhere last year), but that's only available for certain classes of seats, and the flights that I liked best didn't have any openings in that seat class.
I was all set to just pay the fare and deal with the usual travel awfulness, but it occurred to me to check and see whether flying via Denver was worth another extra $100 just to avoid O'Hare's inevitable backups and cancellations. So I looked at my WisCon travel entry from last year--and found a comment from hhw recommending travelling via Minneapolis, on Northwest. She said she'd never run into any significant delays going to or from WisCon on that route. (I also found my WisCon travel entry from 2004, when I was scheduled to return via Denver but the flight out of MSN was delayed enough that I couldn't go home that day. So travelling via Denver is not the panacea I thought it might be. Although as I recall, I had quite a nice evening that night in Madison (staying with a friend who no longer lives there), and a nice morning the next day seeing Karen (and Pär?) and Jeremiah, so I can't really complain about how that turned out.)
So I figured it couldn't hurt to take a look at Northwest and MSP. So I bopped on over to nwa.com, where I found:
- There were flights at more or less exactly the times I wanted, from and to San José.
- Those flights, while not cheap by any means, were significantly less expensive than the least expensive remaining United flights.
- They would get me to Madison on Thursday night around 8:30, instead of 11:30.
- They went through Minneapolis instead of Chicago.
- There were even window seats available on the return flights I wanted. (The outbound flight has seating under airport control at this point, but it wouldn't be a disaster if I ended up in a middle seat; that was almost certain to happen on United in both directions.)
So I immediately booked the tickets. And the reason I'm telling you all this is that if anyone else has waited 'til the last minute to get WisCon plane tickets, you may want to consider flying through Minneapolis on Northwest.
I have a lot more frequent flyer miles on United, so I'll probably stick with them for most other travel. And I do more or less like them, despite various unhappinesses with them over the years. But I'm very pleased to know about this other option; thanks again, hhw!