If I had not been hamstrung by some uncertainty regarding dates, the way out and back would have been clear: Southwest from Birmingham, direct. We probably could have done it for around 200 bucks a ticket. However, that uncertainty meant that by the time I could commit to dates, the cheapest tickets on Southwest were no longer available. Darn. Then none of the timing for the other Birmingham-based flights were good (You know how it goes – the decent outgoing flight is never paired with doable return flights.), so I turned to Atlanta.
(The Atlanta airport is about a 2-hour drive away from here. It seems as if, with fairly good air connections from Birmingham, you wouldn’t even consider Atlanta anymore, but believe me, it has its attractions When we came back from Germany last year, the complications and delays on the connecting flight from Atlanta to Birmingham meant that we would actually have gotten home sooner if our flight had ended in Atlanta, and we’d been able to simply hop in the car and drive 2 hours home, rather than waiting around, re-checking our luggage after it went through customs, waiting for a delayed flight to Birmingham…)
Again, because of scheduling (since we were flying out of Atlanta, I didn’t want a super early flight out, nor a terribly late flight back), I ended up booking two 1-ways on 2 different airlines – total cost around $200 a ticket.
The first airline was Spirit – a super budget airline that sells itself based on the “bare fare.” The fare is for your seat and then everything else – even carryons and water on the flight – is extra.
Which is fine, because they are up front about it. We had two carryons that I paid for ahead of time..
(Oh, another thing. What did we take? For a ten day trip, each of us had a backpack kind of thing, plus we took two suitcases. If we hadn’t had to pack jackets for chillier temps at the Grand Canyon – we would be there from May 24-26, and the North Rim had only opened on May 15, and it had snowed that first day – we could have gotten away with just one, I think. I planned on doing laundry (which I did, twice), and none of us are averse to wearing the same thing two days in a row.)
….and we didn’t pay $3.00 for Cokes or what have you on board, so it worked for us. Yes, the seat pitch was the smallest I’ve ever experienced, but none of us are big people, so it was okay, if weird.
The couple heading for a two-week hiking/camping vacation in Zion sitting behind us, however, wasn’t as accepting. Apparently they hadn’t read the fine print, which is actually in big bold font all over the Spirit website, and were totally shocked by the extra costs – didn’t know they were going to have to pay for carry-ons, drinks, etc, and were prepping for Big Protests.
Anyway, our flight left Atlanta at 9:30pm – I parked in one of those off-airport parking lots, and the service was amazingly prompt – the van to take us to the airport pulled up even before we could get ourselves fully out of the car. As I said, the quarters were tight, but it was mostly fine, except for the loud, continual complaining from behind us.
Got to Vegas on time – around 11, despite some delays on the ground in Atlanta.
Caught a taxi to the hotel, which was this one – the McCarran Best Western – super cheap at $50/night, and a very good value. It was clean, close to the airport, had free breakfast. They also have a free shuttle to and from the airport, but it only runs until 11, so we couldn’t catch it when we arrived. I did, however, use it the next morning, when I got the rental car.
I knew I wouldn’t want to bother with getting the car right when we arrived so late at night. Hauling the kids with the luggage onto the shuttle that takes you several miles away to the off-airport car rental facility, dealing with the inevitable high pressure from the counter agent, and then driving through a strange city back to the hotel at midnight didn’t seem like a fantastic end to that first travel day. So instead, I booked the car for Wednesday morning, got up early, got the free hotel shuttle to the airport, found the shuttle to the car rental facility, walked right up to the counter (no line at 7am), got the car (Nissan Rogue SUV, Hotwire rate, less than $300 for ten days), drove back on largely empty streets, and was back by 7:45. With Me Time inhe car as an extra bonus. Hey, I take what I can get
Next…off to Hoover Dam!