Planning an Adventure is an Adventure

My colleague and I are taking a Travel Writing class to Asia in less than four months.

We’ve long since passed the early significant hurdles in this process: planning a two-week itinerary, creating a responsible budget, getting approval from my academic department and the Study Abroad Office, and then finding at least 10 students willing to trade some cash for a much more valuable item — a travel experience in Seoul and Tokyo.

With that out of the way, we’ve been free to plan the details. I’m having a terrific time with this.

I still dig printed books, so I like to purchase updated travel guides. Because this is a travel writing class, we’re currently discussing that format using a cool book I found from Lonely Planet. I hadn’t intended for this to be a Lonely Planet trifecta, but it is what it is. (Hey, Korea buffs — notice the Youngpoong Bookstore bookmark?)

We’re also using the website Airbnb.com to take care of our lodging. This gives us some significant advantages. For starters, we want to live in Seoul and Tokyo while we’re there. I don’t feel as if I’m living somewhere when I’m staying in a hotel. Secondly, the apartments we’re renting have wonderful amenities. We really wanted wifi, a kitchen, a clothes washer, and television (for cultural studies, of course). We got all of them.

Here’s the kicker: I’ve seen study abroad budgets that list hotel costs for an individual student in the vicinity of $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the length and location of the trip. Our students will be living in great apartments for two weeks, in two of the world’s major cities, for less than $500 apiece.

As for the airfare, we ended up needing some help on that one. I’m sad to say that, in my experience, dealing directly with an airline for group travel is a bad way to go. “Sure, we’ll charge you twice the ticket amount that is currently listed on any given travel website. Just sign the contract.” No thanks.

STA Travel has stepped in with praiseworthy results. The representative assigned to our trip found group tickets from Texas to Seoul, then Tokyo to Texas on an American carrier. Then she hooked us up with an Asian carrier for the trip from Seoul to Tokyo. The airfare is a bit higher than what we were hoping for in the budget, but the difference is less than $200. Combine that with the convenience our super friendly and responsive travel agent is providing for us, and I consider it a pretty good deal.

Now I have a little more time to study my 한글 lessons.

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